Google+ A Tangled Rope: 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Zoo Trip

Just how many penguins have you seen in a chip shop recently?


My point, exactly.

Just what is the matter with penguins these days? Don't they like chips?

Anyway, when someone suggested a trip to the zoo I did ponder it for a while. However, in the end I declined. After all, I am not going to pay good money to be casually and disdainfully ignored by a bunch of disparate animals with - apparently - nothing better to do.

If I pay my money (and zoos are not exactly cheap, are they?) I want a bit of service, a bit of personal attention from the animals. I don't want the lions just lying there, alternately yawning and licking their arses. I especially do not see why someone of my standing in the local community should be subjected to a barrage of primate shit.

No, I'm afraid it is just not good enough. It is now time for zoos to catch up with the 20th, let alone the 21st, century. I want a lion who is interested in me as a person, interactive, willing to do something for its keep. 

A zoo is - and those half-arsed animals living there at someone else’s expense seem to forget this - primarily entertainment. So, what about Strictly Llama Dancing, Donkey or No Donkey, Miss Marmoset 2010, The Cockatoo Show, The Zebra factor? All we want is a bit of imagination, some value for money. That is all we ask.

Oh, and another thing, flamingos, eh? Why only pink? Why not green, blue, rainbow even? Surely in this day and age….

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Aftermath


Sometimes there is only the distant keening of the howling things that stay hidden in the dark-shadowed places. Some say they are dogs gone wild, rabid, others that they are packs of feral bankers running wild and free across the half-deserted streets of what was once a thriving town. There are others who believe they are zombies, the hordes of the mindless undead, but there has been little evidence that any politicians even survived the first wave of the horror, so most of us discount that latter option. The fear though that there could be wild packs of feral bankers out there, organised, preying on the rest of us, fills our nights with fear and trepidation.

At least, though, we console ourselves that they are not tribes of diversity outreach co-ordinators. To have our gang of bedraggled survivors chastised because our ethnic diversity is not within acceptable limits, or that we do not avoid looting abandoned shops that do not offer disabled access, would be more than most of us could bear. To have some officious oaf clutching the half-shredded remains of some official clipboard berating us for not foraging our full five-a–day would, I think, drive the majority over that edge we spend each fraught day teetering along.

Of course, when it happened we all, we realise now, expected the TV news crews to be there dogging our every step asking us interminable questions like: how does it feel to be a survivor? Do you miss the charred heaps that were once your families? Will you be seeking compensation, or a public inquiry? That there were no TV stations left did not seem to faze them at all, as they signed off to hand back to non-existent studios.

All is not entirely lost though, even as we trudge along the burnt-out wasteland that was once a thriving High Street there are some in our group busy organising a list of names of those who will be definitely attending our Survivor’s Group Christmas Party. This is tentatively scheduled to take place in the burnt out function room of the town’s only still-standing – more or less – hotel, providing the able-bodied remnants of its staff can roast enough rats for a full sit-down menu.

EU ‘Needs Your Money Now!’ Plea


A shocked Europe last night discovered that its MEPs, and other members of the EU gravy-train, were suffering from extreme poverty and urgently needed even more of their people’s money if they are not to stave of the tragedy of the EU not being able to meet the vital expenses claims of its MEPs.

In a last-minute fraught plea to help raise these vital funds, Celebrity Moaner Bob Gelded, has urged the people of the EU to give the ‘desperate’ EU another umpteen billions of their hard-earned money.

As Gelded said, using a fresh onion to wipe a tear from his eye:

Some of these poor MEPs are having to make do with lying between the honeyed thighs of only one or two ‘research assistants at a time, and, horror of horrors, they can only afford to have gold-plated fixtures and fittings in the EU parliament’s toilets. I personally know several distraught MEPs who haven’t been on a ‘fact-finding mission’ to a top Bangkok ladyboy brothel for over six months.

These people are desperate; give them all your fucking money now!

Also, Bonio, lead mouth with some other superannuated rock annoyance has vowed that unless the people of Europe pay up to keep his political pals from the EU gravy-train in fresh well-oiled Strasbourgian whores, he will have no choice but to wheel his band out and make them do gigs in several European capitals until the people finally do pay up, just to get the to shut up and piss off.

A spokesperson for the EU parliament dismissed widespread claims that the EU parliament is just a pointless talking shop that makes up absurd rules and regulations for the EU, just to give itself something to do.

However, the EU parliament claims that it urgently needs the extra money in order to develop yet more rules that will guarantee a standard European penguin for all the people of the EU region.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sniggering at the Little Foibles


Now it seems there are fewer and fewer things to point and laugh at these days. As the humourless proscribe more and more things that become out of bounds to those that enjoy a nice little snigger at the foibles of the world. Soon it seems all those foibles that amuse us so much will become protected against the abuse of ridicule and the sheer unmitigated horror of someone having a bit of a laugh at their expense.

Of course, it is almost tautologous that the humourless hate humour, seeing it as some form of thinly disguised ‘hate-speech’, when in fact the opposite is the case and those that see hate-speech everywhere are the ones filled with hate. A hate at and for something they cannot understand, taking joy in life’s unlimited absurdities.

They cannot understand because they see the world as contradictory, unfair, unequal, hypocritical, hateful, pathetic and stupid and, rather than laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all, they want to change it. They want to change it to their way of thinking. A cold sterile place of quotas, and rules, regulations and certain acceptable forms of behaviour that keep people locked in cages of ‘correctness’, looking forlornly out at a bleak, sterile, world devoid of all that makes it worth living, striving for and against, and – most of all – having a damn good laugh at it all.

Local Council Fraud Discovered


The soon to be disbanded Audit Commission has – rather co-incidentally – discovered a vast amount of fraud in the UK’s local councils.

As a spokeswoman for the commission said:

Typically someone comes along to your local council constituency claiming that if elected they will work tirelessly on behalf of local voters to improve the council services for that area. Normally though, once they have conned people into voting for them they then completely ignore those voters and rather than doing all they can to help their local constituents, these self-styled councillors seem to do all they can to bugger those people’s lives up. It covers everything from hopeless local schools that can’t teach local children how to walk on their hind legs or even the secret of fire, let alone rudimentary communication and mathematical skills, through to only ever emptying the bins once every full moon, and then only seemingly emptying them onto the pavement along the route taken by the refuse van, to fining and arresting local residents who have the outrageous temerity to take their dogs for a walk, feed the ducks on the village pond or in any way interfere with the council’s sacred duty to screw as much money out of local residents as they possibly can.

All of this points to a systematic fraud of local communities by these so-called local councils, who promise one thing while trying to get elected and – once they are elected – go about doing the exact opposite of what they were supposedly elected for. Not only that the Audit Commission also found that for a great deal of their time in office the elected officials are not actually in the local area at all, but off on what they like to call fact-finding missions.

As the Audit Commission spokeswoman added:

Local councillors also seem to defraud their constituents by getting their local council to pay for so-called ‘fact-finding missions’ where councillors take a trip to a foreign country in order – they claim – to see how local council services are provided in these - often highly-desirable tourist locations. Councillors will often go on a so-called fact-finding mission to a city that is – co-incidentally – home to at least three of the world’s top 200 filthiest brothels. This is where you can get a pair of teenagers to give you a full hot-oil overdubbing for the local currency equivalent of a can of Fanta and a packet of Pickled Onion Monster Munch, which they still have the egregious audacity to claim for on expenses.

Normally, in such cases we in the Audit Commission would recommend a full Public Inquiry into these fraudulent practices. However, being as this is our last ever report before the Commission is abolished we suggest simply that all such fraudulent local councillors should be hung from the nearest lamppost instead.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesdays Are A Bit Like That


Ah, but, it doesn’t always happen like that, sometimes you find that you do not have quite enough Cornish Pasties as you would otherwise desire, especially on Tuesdays, as we all know Tuesdays are a bit like that.

However, not that you should be worried or anything, but the undercover five-a-day co-ordinators are already creeping through the bushes at the bottom of your garden in preparation for raiding your kitchen and placing you under arrest. They are prepared to use any means at their disposal to prove conclusively that your vegetable portion sizes do not meet even minimum EU regulations and that you must therefore be forcibly arrested and taken to a EU-sponsored Healthy Eating Re-Education facility, which is housed in a former 1950s holiday camp site just outside Cleethorpes.

There you will undergo forcible re-education in the basic principles of healthy eating and made to undergo hard-labour in the camp’s exercise gyms until you reach the optimum weight for your body-size.

Once the camp’s staff are convinced that you have learnt your lesson, and that you look with horror not only on the Cornish pasties, but all savoury and fruit pies, then you will be released back into the community, on parole. Any breach of your parole observed on public CCTV or the surveillance system set up in your house, such as lingering slightly too long outside Greggs, or touching a packet of biscuits in your cupboard will result in your immediate return to the camp for further re-education.

As the government minister for Justice, Law, Order and Healthy Eating himself said: ‘It is harsh, but fair.’

Sitting on the Offence


After an overwhelming flood of… er… two complaints, the Offence-Finders General at media busybody organisation, OffToss… Offcom have charged Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson of the offence of opening his mouth in the vicinity of the terminally-offended, yet again.

As one media expert said:

Yet again, we have to endure these howls of sanctimonious holier-than-thou politically-correct piety in faux outrage at increasingly innocuous utterances. All just to prove that the complainants are the most ‘sensitive’ people out there, ready to rush to the barricades of manufactured outrage as soon as they detect the slightest comment or action that can be twisted into a demonstration of unsanctioned free utterance.

A campaigner against the hideously blatant attempt at thought-control that is Political Correctness added, somewhat forlornly:

Those of us who thought – somewhat naively it now seems – that the slight change to the seating arrangements in a building in Westminster would – perhaps by magic or something – start to bring about an end to this sanctimonious self-serving cock-waffle that is this constantly ‘being offended’ by seemingly everything in existence and every word someone else says, were seemingly far too optimistic.

Being offended is a personal thing, it should be of only moderate interest or concern to anyone else, and claiming to be offended on someone else’s behalf is just – quite simply – a lie because you cannot know whether they are ‘offended’ or not, and – not only that – you cannot know the mind of the person who made the utterance either.

Rather than facing up to what you take offence at, arguing against it, taking issue with it or – best of all – ripping the piss out of it., you prefer to put your hands not only over your own oh-so-sensitive ears, but have the outrageous audacity to want to put those same hands over the ears of everyone else, whether they want you to or not.

All the time of course, never really acknowledging that Clarkson is a master of this kind of deliberate wind-up, watching in glee as you rush towards your highest horse with your step ladder, only to roll about in laughter as fall off that high horse almost as soon as you’ve mounted it.

Yes, you’ve been had – now, go get offended about that you smug git.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Famed Vegetable Killer of Grimsby


‘Put the colander down, and back away from the sprouts with your hands in the air!’

Thus was the famed Vegetable Killer of Grimsby, finally brought to justice, mere moments away from inflicted some heavily boiled sprouts onto her last victim, tied to a chair at the dining table, fork ominously poised next to the dinner plate in from of him.

Throughout the late 1970s, the whole of Grimsby’s manhood had walked the streets in fear, none of them knowing who would be the next of the Vegetable Killer’s victims. Every woman buying sprouts at the market, local greengrocer or - even - supermarket was regarded with suspicion and police were monitoring the sale of vegetable peelers and saucepans carefully, but the vegetable Killer had never been caught and the number of men killed by a excess of very overcooked vegetables slowly mounted into double figures.

So, in 1979, with Christmas rapidly approaching with the threat of sprout-related fatalities seeming almost inevitable the police in Grimsby had no choice but to cut down on their number of tea breaks and try to capture the killer.

All through the summer and autumn of that year, starting after the tenth victim was found face down in a plateful of over-boiled spinach; the killer had been taunting the police. She had sent them a series of messages explaining how she would kill again and again and the police would be unable to stop her as long as there were parsnips on sale in Grimsby.

Eventually, not long after the police canteen had run out of doughnuts, the police decided they could reasonably claim for an undercover operation on expenses, especially if it could also involve plenty of overtime.

So, disguising themselves as a section of root vegetables, the police secreted themselves around the vegetable racks at the supermarket and waited.

It was only the thirty-seventh shopper that they jumped out on and beat up that turned out to be the legendary Vegetable killer.

Unfortunately, just as the undercover police were filling in their overtime forms, expense claims and working out the wear and tear the Vegetable Killer had caused to their truncheons and boots, she managed to slip away clutching a bag containing over a pound of deadly Brussels sprouts.

After filling in a Car Chase Requisition From 35b in triplicate, the police joined in pursuit of the killer, finally corning her in her nearby kitchen where she was backed up against the sink, colander in one hand and saucepan of over-boiled sprouts in the other with her next victim tied to the kitchen chair as a hostage.

It took only twenty-three hours then for the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Vegetable squad to finish their tea break and drive up the motorway to Grimsby. Then only another 12 hours of police overtime to bring the standoff to an end with the loss of only three very soggy Brussels Sprouts and some slight bruising to the shin of one of the policemen, and a slight staining of the vest of the killer’s potential victim.

At her trial, Doris Sweatyvest, the Vegetable Killer of Grimsby was sentenced to 17 concurrent life sentences, but in her defence it was pointed out to the High-Court judge presiding that she lived in Grimsby, so the sentence was commuted to 17½minutes of Community Service.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Experimental Politics


There have been a few encouraging signs from the current experiments at the Experimental Politics Collider in Westminster where political scientists have been experimenting with coalition politics.

As even the laypersons amongst us have realised by now, having only one party of whatever stripe in charge, no matter how nominal, of the country results in ideological disaster as the whole experiment grinds to a halt through the build up of contradictions when political ideology and reality inevitably come into collision with each other.

However, political theorists have long predicted that if experimental voters run two parties into each other at the speed of legislation, then there is the –theoretical - hope that a tiny particle of commonsense may result, even if – as the theory currently suggests - that particle only lasts for a split second in the antagonistic media atmosphere that surrounds parliamentary politics. There is hope that the existence of such a rare particle anywhere near the politics field could demonstrate that it may – in the future – be possible to construct some kind of political field that does turn out to cause less damage to the political environment than the current system. Not only that, some political theorists believe that politics could – at least, theoretically - actually be used for the good of mankind, rather than the mere furtherance of political careers.

Although, at the moment, experimental politics is still under a bit of a cloud after the massive failure of the Blair and Brown claims that they could create Cold Socialism in a flask. Claiming they could create a so-called third way without Socialism destroying the hand of enterprise that feeds it, while at the same time getting rid of the boom/bust cycle, and without the consequent heavy pollution that attempts to create communism left all over Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

However, those New labour claims turned out to be about as effective as the old alchemist trick of trying to turn urine into gold*.


*Although, to be fair, one European alchemist in the middle ages managed to perfect the art of turning cat’s piss into lager.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Poem: Dance



Motion, always motion.
Movement is all there is.

The dancer glides
Through the moment,
Shaping invisible air
Into forms of memory.

Frozen by eloquent gestures
Space is altered, changed.
It becomes inhabited
by the reality of movement
Formed through poise and gesture.
The empty air acquires
The possibility of meaning.

The Rhinestone Poshbird – A Life


Daffodil Banjoplucker could well have been the world’s greatest female country music star, if only she hadn’t been born – instead of to a life of poverty and desperation in a rural American State – an upper-class English woman, destined to ride ponies and the occasional bit of rough she picked up in the yard of one of her daddy’s farms.

In certain forms of popular music such as rock, folk and country, however, authenticity is everything, so if you can fake that you stand a good chance of having it made. Unfortunately, however, Banjoplucker - one of the Hereford Banjopluckers that can trace their descent right back to the Domesday Book – did not have the massive breasts, overly-permed hairstyle or the taste for dubiously-authentic ‘country- style’ clothing that would have marked her out as a country singer. There was also - the admittedly minor – problem of her having no musical talent whatsoever, which in many sub-genres of popular music is of little or no real consequence, but in such fields as country and folk, some musical talent is often regarded as being worthwhile.

All of this is why – in the end – Daffodil Banjoplucker never became a country music star, never recorded a multi-platinum album, never played at the Grand Old Opry or any of those other things that the true country stars – and Garth Brooks – achieved. Instead, she settled for a life of marriage to a dull city stockbroker from her daddy’s firm, enlivened by several torrid and deeply physical affairs with a long string of heavily-muscled manual labourers. Then, once she got old and too worn out for all that, took up breeding Labradors and becoming the sternest critic of her local MP at the local constituency Conservative club when he refused to introduce a private member bill to allow the death penalty for those that criticised Willie Nelson in a public place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Before The Day Begins


There is something wrong about walking up in the darkness, getting out of bed before it is properly light. Days should begin with the rising sun, or after, not before. We should begin as the day begins.

The early morning is always the best part of the day, when the world seems fresh and new, as if no other person has walked through it yet. Mornings should also be just emerging from the dawn, still a bit dark as we walk through them, as though we and the morning are starting out on that day’s journey together. There should also be a slight chill to the air, a sharpness, to remind us that we have just escaped the night’s dominion. It will be light, but the darkness will still be there waiting crouched about the shadows, ready to creep back along the edges of the evening to take us under its cloak once the day has fled.

Mornings should be birdsong, and strange swift rustles in the undergrowth as the creatures of the night seek sanctuary from the brightness of the day. Each day should begin with a promise of more to come, even if it is a dull misty raining February morning when it seems spring will never come. Each morning should rise up ready, as we rise up ready, for whatever that day will bring.

So Much Has Gone


There is time. It is invisible, but leaves traces of itself everywhere she looks. It not only changes the landscape from season to season, but from day to day and even down through hour to hour to moment-by-moment. She can see the time passing as she stands up on the hillside looking down into the valley where all her memories lie.

She can see time passing in the faces of those around her. Those that were always young suddenly become old, reminding her of that stranger’s face she sees in the mirror each morning. A face that is not in any of her old photographs but it haunts them like the ghosts of parents and grandparents she sometimes catches in the look of its eyes, or the turn of its mouth, as she stares at it wondering where the old, younger, her has gone.

So much has gone, that endless world she used to run through in those eternal summers of childhood has turned into this small winter world she huddles up in her coat against as she rushes off to always be somewhere else. The world that looked so big against a small sky has dwindled now into this small planet lost amongst so many stars, each one further away than she could ever hope to touch.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If Only


Autumn now.

Another year is slowly drawing towards its close. Where does all the time go? The years seem to slip by so easily and we all get older as our dreams fade into regrets for what once could have been.

If only….

If only….

If only I had done… or not done… such and such. If only she had not turned to look away at that moment. What would be if something once said could be unsaid, or some silence could have been broken in some other way?

But then, what of life now? Which parts of it would remain, which parts of it would never be? There is much to lose on such a shake of the dice. Who is to say what trivial incident could bring all our worlds to a sudden end?


She walks in silence along the water's edge. The river is calm, cold and uninviting. The dawn light bright behind the big, heavy clouds. The trees shiver in the wind as their leaves fall to the ground.

Who knows what will happen next?

The Shadows of Summer


The slow beginning of a day and the birdsong grows out of the twilight to bring the sun up to the face of morning, while we stand here wondering what the day will bring with it. Sometimes the days are slow, falling slowly like a languid cloud rolling across the bare sky and bringing coolness to a tired hot day that lingers long into the fading evening twilight.

Other days are here and gone like some tree dwelling creature that flits between the shadowed branches deep within the foliage. Something we only get hints of as it moves from limb to limb of these thick, heavy old trees. Something like a flickering shadow deep under the leaves a sudden rustle that does not belong to the breeze.

We have seen so many of these summer days and now there is a growing chill in the air as the dawn creeps further into the day and night begins to gnaw away at our evenings. The air already tastes of autumn and we are ready, ready for the winter, feeling each other’s shivers as the coldness creeps ever closer towards us.

Soon, we know there will be snow and the dark days of deep winter all around us freezing the soul and icing over all our dreams of warmer days.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Modern Sporting Stars


Underwire Treelicker has often been credited with bringing the sport of professional tea-drinking to a wider audience through her use of the sometimes-tricky over-arm teapot technique while pouring from the biscuit end of the tea-pitch. Most people in the UK – of course – have a keen interest in amateur tea drinking with up to seven amateur tea-drinking teams in many of the local leagues.

However, maybe because of this keen amateur involvement, professional tea drinking as a spectator sport has never realty taken off in this country. This is despite the fact that many tea rooms in picturesque tourist locations often have audiences numbering in their hundreds crowded around the front display windows of the tea rooms peering in hoping for a glimpse of some exiting competitive tea drinking.

The women’s sport of competitive tea drinking has – of course – a long history in the UK. It shadowed the development of the tearoom from a place to where men gathered to discuss politics, sport and other such completely pointless bollocks, to a place where women could – almost exclusively – gather. There, they would criticise those of their group who were not there that day, make false compliments about each other’s hairstyles and latest dieting successes, all while engaging in a few rounds of competitive tea drinking.

For those that are not familiar with the sport, the whole idea of competitive tea drinking revolves around appearing to drink the tea with enthusiasm - if not gusto – without leaving any appreciable difference in the level of the tea in the cup. However, at the same time, managing to finish the tea without the other person at the table noticing, and thereby wining that round, and on to win the set and forcing the other person to pay for the next round of tea, until one player admits defeat by claiming to be late for some appointment or other.

Underwire Treelicker, of course, has done more than anyone to bring tea drinking from a participatory sport into the wildly popular spectator sport it now is. Many say it is her exotic Wild North Grimsby-esque good looks, her impressively deep cleavage – often shown in ultra slow motion in replay to its best advantage when pouring the last cup from the pot - rather than her - albeit remarkable tea-drinking abilities that have brought this about. However, as well as a mouth that suggests to most men, and many, many women, that she is well-practiced in several debauched arts that they have only ever read about on some very specialist websites, she does have a deep and profound tactical awareness of the subtleties of competitive tea drinking.

Consequently, many now regard Underwire Treelicker and the rest of the UK’s tea-drinking squad as the country’s best hope for gold medal success in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Monday Poem: I Have Only Time


I Have Only Time


I have only time
And it drips so slowly down.
I have only these
Moments that will remain here
Long after you go,
Reminding me of just how
You can walk away,
Leaving me to watch the place
Where your shadow fell
Across these days of my life
To bring summer back to me.

Our Soft Passing


We are shadows only, leaving no real mark of our soft passing, leaving only hollow echoes fading slowly between then and now. There is silence and only whispers haunting the memories of those who see traces of our lives touching their moments. We are hollow and easily forgotten, left to blow on the wind like delicate curtains caught in the breeze from the open widow that looks out across the endless dark of the night. Only the stars are out, vast distances between each one and the hands that hold onto the window frame as though afraid of falling out into that endless void.

She has the eyes of one who sees too much out there, and so she closes them and turns to lean her head against my waiting shoulder, knowing I will lead her back to the bed and hold her until the dawn edges through those curtains once again. Then, as the warm light begins to fill the spaces around us, we will fade from the memory of this room as though we are ghosts too.

Then we will dress, looking away from each other as though neither of us truly believes the other is anything more than a memory or a dream, and then we will walk out of this building to each go back to our own separate lives.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cheese Diversity in the UK

Pingback Owlstretcher was just an ordinary local authority Cheese Diversity Co-Ordinator, but she felt her role was vital in breaking down the barriers that still existed between native and imported foreign cheeses in her local community.
Of course, there are many in the UK who welcome foreign cheeses, feeling that they add diversity, colour, a touch of the exotic and something beyond what can be found with what they see as rather staid and ordinary British cheeses.

There are some, however nowhere near as many as people like Owlstretcher are ideologically conditioned to believe, who look with trepidation on the arrival of foreign cheese on British shores, feeling that their traditional Red Leicester, Wensleydale, or even the might Cheddar itself, could be overwhelmed and lost forever if the tide of Brie and leerdammer is not halted, and halted soon.

In reality though, for most people cheese is… well, just cheese no matter what its country of origin or no matter how foreign looking its packaging. In fact, most people enjoy the variety on display in there supermarket cheese shelves and delicatessens and would not wish foreign cheese, or British cheeses to disappear and would like to see them having more or less the same amount of shelf-space.

However, such is the need of people like Owlstretcher to boost their own fragile egos by finding other people not living up to their ideal, that Owlstretcher and her ilk will often discover prejudice against these foreign cheeses where there is none, often saying more about their need to find that prejudice than whether or not it actually exists. Therefore, Owlstretcher often took it upon herself to venture out with a packet of crackers and her special multicultural cheese knife in order to discover – as she saw it – any unconscious prejudice against foreign cheese in her locality. This, of course, had the unwanted side-effect of forcing all local pubs in her area to stop offering Ploughman’s Lunches, burger joints to stop offering cheeseburgers and a local restaurant to withdraw its cauliflower cheese from its menu in case any of them fell foul of Owlstretcher’s vendetta.

Consequently, people soon began to think twice before mentioning cheese to each other, in case Owlstretcher or any of her fervent acolytes were within earshot. This meant that soon people began to think about cheese less often, which resulted in less cheese been eaten, and – therefore – less foreign cheeses being imported until, eventually, because there were no more diverse cheeses there was no more need for a Cheese Diversity Officer.

Seeing this Owlstretcher’s immediate superiors could only conclude that their strategy of employing a Cheese Diversity Officer was – indeed - a massive success. Therefore, they immediately put out press adverts to employ a whole team of new Cheese Diversity Officers and promoted Owlstretcher to head of the newly created department, which – of course – necessitated a modest 25% extra to be added to local taxation, but – as the council unanimously agreed, it would be well worth it.

The Slight Singeing of the Quangos

Today the UK government will announce the creation of the Quango Immolation Authority, a quasi-autonomous government-funded agency that will look into ways of reducing the number of quangos in the UK.

Quangos were originally introduced into the UK’s system of government as a way of removing whole swathes of government, or semi-government, out of the reach of political interference and to stop politicians trying to mess with things (i.e. almost everything) they don’t understand.

However, with few natural auditing predators, and with politicians unwilling to cull anything that will divert blame for the inevitable governmental cock-ups away from themselves, the quangos soon spread to infest almost every area of the UK.

Left to itself, the Quango will just sit quietly producing reports and so forth that no-one ever reads whilst devouring vast swathes of government funding in order for it to grow, sometimes to an immense size. Despite having no apparent need even for it to exist, apart from a place of employment for the wives, husbands, partners, friends and relations of the politicians who first set it up, quangos seem almost indestructible. Destroy one and several more rise up to take its place, its staff, luxury office space and its expense accounts.

In the past, attempts to destroy quangos has resulting in them splitting into several smaller quangos and scurrying off into the dense undergrowth of governmental funding, there to gorge themselves all back to the around the same size as their original parent quango, thus leading to the current vast infestation of purposeless quangos now threatening to completely overwhelm this country.

Consequently, the government sees the creation of the – totally independent - Quango Immolation Authority as a way of reducing the number of quangos. However, the new head of the QIA has said that she sees the need for not just one, but several new QIAs. Each QIA should, she added, have the necessary expertise, staff, budget, and – quite possibly - purpose-built new office block in a prime central London location, each new QIA tasked with making sure one particular quango is not a waste of money and resources, and if it is, whether or not it should be split into several smaller quangos instead.

This way, the government believe, they will be able to divert the populace’s wrath at any future cock-up away from themselves completely, blaming either the quango itself for the cock-up, or the QIA for not doing more to prevent the quango from making the cock-up, thus ensuring the government suffers little or no potential electoral damage in consequence.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Celebrity Mastication


Penknife Currypastie first achieved notoriety in a celebrity-obsessed age by openly eating a cheese salad baguette at a gala premiere night for a Hollywood blockbuster – Return Of The Nasty Thing You Thought Had Been Killed Last Time Around VII – staring Gravelly Chinstubble and Pumpkin Dropincentre – at the world-famous Luton MegaSuperDuperReallyQuiteBig Cinema Complex.

Of course, people have been caught on film with foodstuff in their hand before – and people have in the past made a career out of unabashed Celebrity-Ignoring. However, there was something about the insouciance with which Currypastie masticated his sandwich which made the world-famous director of the film about to be premiered, Blackheath Hairyspider, stop in his tracks as he strode through the strobing camera flashes along the red carpet.

There was shock and awe, amongst the heaving multitudes who had gathered to watch a few quite-famous people walk from their limousines across a bit of carpet and into a building, as Hairyspider stopped, turned and walked towards Currypastie.

Currypastie himself was blithely unaware of all this. He had no real interest in the vacuous celebrity cult and had long since given up spending excessively-large amounts of money to have the antics of the rest of the audience ruin what was usually - at best – already a rather mediocre experience in cinemas. He was only standing in the crowd because it was the way he usually walked home from the library, and had halted in mid-chew out of shock at having his way barred.

Obviously, having no interest in the world of film, Currypastie had no idea that the excessively-bearded dwarf in front of him was a world-famous megastar film director.

‘I couldn’t help noticing the way you were eating your baguette,’ Hairyspider said, nodding towards the object clutched in Currypastie’s hand. ‘Have you ever thought about being in films?’

Currypastie, chewed reflectively for a moment and then looked straight into Hairyspider’s unblinking black eyes. ‘Have you ever thought about just fucking the fuck off?’ Without a backward glance, Currypastie turned on his heel and strode off to find a better way home.

Hairyspider stood for a moment in shock… then slowly a smile began to spread across his face. He had an idea now for his next film, all about a man… no, a sexy young woman who – at first turns down the chance to be in films, but, eventually – in a life-affirming and positive role-model for 21st century womanhood way -realises that it is her destiny to become a filthy-rich supermega-film star. Hairyspider turned and waved at the gathered paparazzi as they - in relief that the natural order of their world had been restored – began snapping away furiously again as Hairyspider, arm-in-arm with his current wife, strode down the red carpet and off into the cinema.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Mentioning the Bananas


Of course the bananas, the bananas go without saying. So… please do not mention them again, especially this side of the – approaching faster than you think - Christmas festivities, as it will only make our job here far more difficult than it already is, especially with the current state of the skirting boards.

Now, it often happens in situations like this that someone – no doubt trying to be ‘funny’ – deliberately mentions the bananas and then they act all surprised when all hell breaks loose and the whole edifice we have so carefully and painstakingly constructed here falls about our ears and someone comes away with quite a nasty bruise.

So, don’t say you weren’t warned and do your best to keep all thoughts of bananas – or, to be on the safe side, any fruit whosoever, out of your mind as we go about our task for today.

Of course, it goes without saying that once today is over you can – of course – think about fruit to your heart’s content, you can even utilise the banana in that rather inventive way we all witnessed from the photographic evidence you ex-lover so thoughtfully provided at last year’s Christmas Do. Some who witnessed it said they could never eat another banana again, but for the majority of us, it has made us look at fruit in general - and bananas in particular - in a whole new way.

New BBC Guidelines to Prevent Reality Interfering with their Worldview Introduced


The BBC announced today that it is fully intending to crawl even further up its own self-righteous arse and not allow any of its broadcasters to say anything naughty or nasty about anyone or anything, unless of course it is the evil Tories or anyone who doesn’t share the BBC’s hopelessly naïve and increasingly irrelevant media celebrileftie worldview.

As some media-trained mouthpiece for the Corporation uttered:

We believe that everyone – except evil Tories and their ilk, obviously – has the right to have their opinions and beliefs protected from even the mildest scrutiny. This is in case they decide that such scrutiny is – horror of horrors – found to be offensive to them and their worldview, thus causing them severe uncalled-for stress when they discover that not everyone else in the universe agrees with them and has the sheer outrageous audacity to say so.

Rather than taking the more straightforward step of reminding everyone that no-one has the right not to be offended and that having even our most precious beliefs and opinions brought out to face questioning and even outright ridicule is a good thing, a vital thing, the BBC has decided instead to back down completely from anything resembling confrontation. The Corporation has therefore now decided it will let anyone get away with believing in absolutely anything they like – however mind-bewilderingly hatstand - without fear of the BBC confronting them over those beliefs.

The guidelines have also introduced new rules on preventing the over-promotion of brands, events and other entertainment products such as over-the-hill rock bands, but not to the extent that such stricter regulation would restrict or prevent anyone in the BBC’s higher management from getting access to any freebies available from such promotions.

Monday, October 11, 2010

International Celebrity Underwater Cheese Grating


Even if Plinky Droopystoat had not become the world’s leading celebrity underwater cheese grater, such is her screen presence that many critics believe that she would have had a magnificent career in the media. Possibly as a local TV station weather girl, a dead body in a long–running TV detective series or as one of those women that stands around grinning like a politician on horse tranquilisers in the background of cheap local TV adverts, or draped – bikini-clad -over the inevitable grand prize on a down-market commercial channel game show.

However, recently the BBC’s commercial rivals have snapped up most other sports (and tennis) in watertight exclusive contracts. Consequently, the BBC has had to look elsewhere to find some stuff to fill up its empty TV sports slots, and to give its vast array of sports pundits something to talk to each other about during the interminable periods when there was no sport available for them to spoil the viewer’s enjoyment of. Hence, this is why the BBC became the champion of such minority sports as All-Nude Chicken Intriguing, Standing Around In A Field, Competitive Sandwich Eating and other such wonders of British sporting achievement in the modern age.

Now - of course – we have Competitive International Celebrity Underwater Cheese Grating, regarded by many sports experts as a cultural achievement easily on a par with the legendary wonder of 20th century television – It’s A Knockout.

Of course, getting a celebrity to do something – however inane pointless or degrading - in the presence of the TV cameras is never difficult. However, such is the intellectual rigour, tactical awareness and deep strategic thinking necessary for competitive underwater cheese-grating that – quite simply – well over 98% of those that pass for celebrities these days are not really capable of doing it, especially to International standard. Consequently, those celebrities, like Plinky Droopystoat, who can master the tactical finesse of grating cheese at International level, whilst wearing scuba gear and keeping up their usual level of inane celebrity banter, are richly rewarded, as well as celebrated throughout the world, for their abilities and for making such riveting must-watch TV. In consequence, this has brought the BBC a much-needed boost of as many as almost three extra viewers per show, which the corporation can use to demonstrate that the TV license is still great(ish) value for money, even in this multi-channel age.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Hobbyist


Bargepole Heatsink liked to think of himself as an ordinary man, but – of course – he was wrong. No ordinary man would take such a deep interest in the life-cycle of the newt, or have quite an extensive collection of First Edition Bus Timetables for the Droitwich area, especially if, as in the case of Heatsink himself, they were not a resident of the area covered by those bus services.

Heatsink also had a wide range of bicycle clips arranged on a board by alphabetically-ordered name, suitability for a certain sort of trouser and finally by the weather conditions they were most appropriate for. One day, Heatsink had promised himself, he would buy a bicycle too.

Heatsink, unsurprisingly to those few who knew him, lived alone in a small terraced house in the most unfashionable part of town. Heatsink had – of course – heard of fashion and had – one day – decided to see if he could find out what it was. However, all that was way down on his list of priorities, especially has he had not yet got around to completing his photographic record of all the street drain covers within a 71/2 mile radius of his house.

Meanwhile, he had sandwiches to make, out of the limpest sliced white loaf, the cheapest It’s Fuckin’ Obviously Not Bloody Butter-type spread available in his local supermarket and the fish-style eating paste from the supermarket’s own ‘Miserly Skinflint Extreme-Value’ range, made from the bits the cat food manufacturers rejected. He also noticed that his tea, using that week’s teabag, was ready to drink.

Suddenly there was a blinding flash of light, bright sparks, and a puff of smoke. When it cleared, Heatsink was surprised to see a small rotund old woman, dressed in several acres of shocking-pink taffeta with many seemingly-superfluous lacy edgings and so forth. She also seemed to be holding a stick with a silver sparkling star attached to its end and behind her fluttered a pair of rather un-aerodynamic-looking wings.

‘Oh, hello,’ Heatsink said, uncertainly, not being used to visitors and rather hoping she didn’t expect cake. ‘Er… can I help you?’

‘What…? Yes. No….’ The rotund woman was obviously still flustered by her manner of entry. ‘No, it’s me that’s here to help you.’

‘What? Why?’

‘Isn’t it obvious?’

‘No..’ Heatsink brightened at the unusual experience of having an idea. ‘Hey, you’re not from the Social, are you?’

‘No, I’m you Fairy Godmother!’

‘Hey, hang on… what’s with this fairy stuff?’ Heatsink had never actually got around to having any sexual experience whatsoever, but he was confident… well, fairly sure, that that wasn’t the sort of sex he wasn’t having. ‘I’m no fair…’

‘No,’ the old woman sighed, her wings twitching in annoyance at a mistake that seemed to happen every time she tried to explain…. ‘No, I’m the fairy.’ She said firmly. ‘A… er…. Your Fairy Godmother.’


‘I’m here to grant you three wishes.’


‘Oh? Is that all you can say?’

‘Well.. you know… that’s very kind of you and all that… But….’

‘But, what?’

‘Well, I don’t want anything….’

The old woman took a step closer to Heatsink; instinctively he cowered back away from her. She took off her glasses, polished them and put them back on and stared at Heatsink, drawing closer and closer to his face until he could smell mints on her breath. She stared at him, sighed and then, taking a step back, waved her magic wand irritably.

Nothing happened.

The woman stared at the magic wand, shook it experimentally, tapped on the table with it and then waved it again.

A book popped into existence in her free hand. She flicked through a few pages, said ‘A-ha!’, looked down at the page, he lips moving as she read. She looked back up at Heatsink, then back at the book.

She cocked her head to one side as she looked at him. ‘You’re not Cinderella, are you?’

‘No,’ Heatsink laughed. ‘I can see what you’ve done there, though. No, Cinderella lives three doors down…. Number 32.’ He pointed helpfully. ‘An easy mistake to make… I imagine.’

‘Bloody Sat-Nav,’ the fairy Godmother muttered, shaking her head. ‘Right… er… then. Sorry to have troubled you.’

‘Oh, no trouble at all, Heatsink said, relieved she had not asked for cake.

The fairy godmother waved her wand with a flourish….

Nothing happened.

‘You know I had this on charge all night,’ she said to Heatsink, nodding at the wand. ‘Three spells these days and it needs a recharge. You just don’t get the workmanship, the pride, these days.’ She shook the wand, nodding when the silver star seemed to glow slightly brighter. ‘Right, I’ll be off then…. Er… Bye… er…’


She flourished the wand again. This time there was a flash of smoke and when it cleared Heatsink was alone again.

‘Right,’ he said. ‘That sandwich won’t make itself.’ He laughed – as usual – at his own little joke and turned back to his limp white loaf and picked up his butter knife.

Something like This



It seems so simple: pick out the next one from your big bag of words and throw them out across the page until there are enough of them there to seem to make it all worthwhile. It doesn’t really matter what those words say, as long as you arrange them well enough. After all, no-one is really going to take the time to study them, think about them, admire the way they have been put together so that you can barely see the join.

The art of it, the craftsmanship, all that belongs to another age, one where they had the time to take in such things, when gentlemen, and – possibly – ladies, of leisure had the time, the inclination and – indeed – the wealth to admire a well-turned out phrase, a sentence sitting there primly in its Sunday best, a paragraph posing for its portrait.

These days we have so many labour-saving devices, so many opportunities for leisure, we don’t have time to just sit and stare, ponder and wonder. Already the phone is beeping with appointments, the emails are pinging and that cute comedy quote MP3 that you thought would be a great alert message is really starting to get on your tits.

So all you really want is something, an arrangement of words that tells you what it wants to tell you and then fucks off out of your busy life forever. However, what is absolutely certain is that you definitely don’t want something as inconclusive and inconsequential as this.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Opening the Box


Then nothing….

It is like opening up a beautifully wrapped birthday or Christmas present, to find an intriguing box under the wrapping paper that displays no clue as to what it may contain, then opening the box to find… nothing.

Just an empty box.

There is so much that is like that in life: religion, ideology, and all such dreams of a better life; so many of them turn out to be just a prettily wrapped box that when you open them up there is nothing inside. All the questions about how to live your life are not answered inside any of those boxes that are so often given as an answer to all that troubles you.

Eventually, there should come a time when you learn to distrust all such neatly-packed solutions to anything. There are no simple answers, often there are no complicated answers either, just more questions.

The thing is, though, that eventually it becomes clear that it is the questions that keep us moving on, the answers in the boxes are all wrong because they are answers, because they are not further questions.

Without the further questions to lead us on we stop, stagnate and die. We need the questions, the unknown, the mystery, to guide us on, to see what is around the next corner of this maze of life, and it is the questions that move us on, not the false answers that these religions, ideologies and systems purport to give us.

Thursday Poem: Surface Tension


Surface Tension

Skimming out across the surface,
Leaving it unmarked, unchanging.
Letting time slip right by, floating
On the surface as my steps can
Only dent the meniscus of
Every moment like that summer
Insect, skittish on the water.

Neither breaks the surface, diving
Into the teeming underneath
Where deeper worlds await us.
And, without the grace of wings, we
Cannot soar from leaf to flower,
Nor up towards the moon and starlight.
Trapped below and trapped above, we
Stay between, never belonging.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Smaller Than Expected

It didn’t look much, nothing like she’d expected, smaller, more insignificant. She had the life now that she’d always thought she wanted, but when – like now – she turned to look back at it, it seemed like hardly anything at all. It seemed so small against the size of the world, insignificant when put up against the size of the universe, but she knew one time it had seemed that it would be enough to fill her own world, her own universe.

Her friends, those she had known all her life, all said how jealous they were of her; they had long known of her dreams her ambitions. She had told them all of her dream job, her dream husband, her dream family, her dream life, as they had all told her of theirs. Now, for her it had come true, and all those friends said how happy they were for her, and she – in turn – said how convinced she was that one day they too would have all they ever dreamed of, too.

Now, though, here she was suitcase in hand, closing the door on that life and setting her shoulders to walk away from it all. She had discovered that the only thing worse than dreams that don’t come true, are dreams that do come true – for after that you are left with nothing to look forward to. So she set off down that cold early-morning street to begin her search for something new.

Going Back to the Woods

Which way to go? He turned his face away from the world that he had thought he wanted, turned away from the bright lights and everyone pretending they remembered his name. He headed back down the road to the woods, back where he had come from. He had thought, because he could never remember the names of the plants and that all the birds looked and sounded alike to him, that he was not meant for the quiet woods. He thought he would find his true home amongst the shouting crowds and busy places of the city. A place where he believed he could shout just as loud - if not louder - than all the others.

After all, he knew he did have a bit of a knack for words and putting them in interesting ways; a skill he had perfected on his long walks through the wood, using his solitude to construct elaborate edifices of language that he was sure would stop those on the busy streets in their tracks and make them stand back to admire what he had constructed using those simple everyday tools.

It was not to be though. It seemed that most of what he constructed they just ignored, walked on by, in a hurry to get to something much brighter, shiny and loud flashing away like a beacon on the opposite corner to where he stood, carving his elaborate structures out of the words he found left unused on the street.

He had always loved the words and what could be built out of them, but it seemed the frantic people of the busy city had no time for mere ordinary words when there was the bright and shiny and noisy to see, to hear, to take them away from themselves and the words that only made them think too much.

So, he packed his bag and moved back to the quiet woods where he could sit by the stream and carve shapes out of the words just for himself, and – sometimes - the occasional traveller who passed by, who also had the time to sit and think by the slow stream.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Capture the Moment

Sometimes the moment is hard to get hold of; it twists and turns in the grasp like some untamed beast of time, eager for its freedom and willing to put up a fight for it. It is keen to be gone back into the bushes beyond the reach of now and away, beyond your grasp forever. All that will remain is this memory of something held briefly in the hand and its struggles to escape the now and dive away into the past.

Now, no matter how hard you search the bushes and hedgerows that line the path of your life, you will never find that moment again, even though you can hear it rustling about in the undergrowth of your memory and its plaintive calls calling from a time that will now always be beyond your reach.

Other moments, though, will lie peaceful and still curled in your cupped palms as you reach out to pass that special moment to someone else walking beside you on this path. Both of you will feel the warm slow heartbeat of a moment that you feel you both could hold in your palms together forever as you walk on down this road side-by-side towards whatever you will discover next.

Polar Exploration


We may – just – have enough cheese to avert the disaster of un-becheesed crackerness, but things do not look good. We may have to send someone out from the expedition to the 24-hour corner shop to see if there is the possibility of some Cheddar, or even some Red Leicester out there somewhere in these godforsaken frozen wastes.

Plucky young Captain Sugar-Puffs has volunteered to set out to look for a shop. He – of course – still believes there could be an Asda out there… somewhere. We wished him luck and he replied: ‘I’m just popping down the shops. I may be some time.’ Those could – very well – be his last words.

That is the last entry in the diary of Captain Steve Ireland, leader of his ill-fated and infamous expedition to find the rumoured Midlands Pole; just 12 years after Scott of the Antarctic’s similar mission to the South of Poole had come to its tragic end when his misreading of the map made the expedition take the wrong turning at Wimborne Minster and they ended up in Antarctica by mistake.

Of course, once both the North and South poles had been discovered the race was on to find the next pole. Despite some scientists dismissing the idea that there were more than two poles, the media of the day saw how such expeditions captured the imaginations of their readers – with the subsequent boost in sales and advertising revenue – and so were eager for more poles to be found, despite what they saw as the unwelcome negativity of the scientists and geographers of the day.

The owner of The Daily Bile, Lord Spleenvent Proto-Fascist, therefore announced a prize of £1 million, to the first expedition that could discover the Midlands pole, that was rumoured to be somewhere in the arid frozen wastes somewhere around Tipton in the West Midlands.

Of course, an expedition into such uncharted territory would be dangerous, especially if the expedition team were caught out in the open after Closing Time when the conditions could change from fairly benign (for Tipton) to downright hostile, especially if one of the fearsome creatures that dwelt there suspected the expedition team were about to attempt to steal his kebab.

The team made excellent progress during the early days of the expedition, discovering so many small pubs that several members of the team had to be rescued from the canals at least twice a day. However, as they drew closer to where they assumed the Midlands Pole could creditably be claimed to be for the essential publicity photos, disaster struck the expedition, not only did they run out of money to get the next round in, they also – as alluded to above - ran out of the vital cheese necessary for their late-night post-pub cheese and biscuits, without which the expedition was doomed, especially on those nights the takeaways were closed.

The rest of the team waited for three increasingly-desperate days and nights for Captain Sugar-Puffs to return, but he never did. The team members could only sit there and watch as the cheese passed its Best-Before date. There was wild talk of the possibility of cheese on toast, or even cheese soup, but Captain Ireland dismissed it all as the ravings of an increasingly deluded expedition.

In the end, Ireland decided there was only one thing to do. So early the next morning, equipping themselves with the last remaining re-usable shopping bag, the entire team set out for Asda…. They were never seen again.

Most experts presume that the expedition must have perished one by one as they made their way across the vast tracts of open car park, easy prey to the packs of shopping trolleys that lie in wait there ready to pounce – usually sideways - on whichever unwary traveller crosses their path.

Now all that remains of this fabled lost expedition is Captain Ireland’s expedition log, slightly gnawed at the edges by a rampant shopping trolley, and an increasingly stale and mouldy-looking small lump of Cheddar – somehow a fitting memorial to those brave men.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Monday Poem: A Sign


A Sign

Move slowly down to the sea.
A solemn procession, silent,
Dressed in black, hooded.
They wait at the water's edge
For some sign of recognition.
The waves lap around their feet,
Unmoving as the sea rises up
Higher and higher, they wait.
Then - at chin height - the tide turns
And the sea slowly retreats.
Satisfied, they turn away
Confident they have seen a sign.


[First published in: Cauldron Issue 316 Spring/Summer 2007]

Chasing Strangers


This is what comes of it all. There are traces of it all around us. We see echoes of ourselves in every street we walk down, we hear voices calling out our names, but when we turn there is no-one there. We have looked for each other in all these crowds and down these lonely, empty, streets. We have stared across these people-filled rooms, each searching for that one glance back that is a sign someone else knows that we each exist and, with time, may come to care about that.

We have chased strangers across these tangled sheets of frantic nights, looking for a look that will recognise us as they look back into our eyes. We have woken up on those following mornings wondering what happened and how did we get here, next to someone whose name is less than a memory.

We are out now walking these roads, on the lookout for that one that we know must be somewhere, also out walking down other, similar, roads on the lookout for someone like us.

We hope we will know it when we meet, but live each day in the fear that the one we are looking for has already passed us by on some distant street, long ago, walking on without even a second glance.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Half-Closed Eyes


There were promises made, but that was a long time ago now. Back then we were young, and always, along with being young, there is foolishness. The young know little of this world and how its sharp corners and hard edges press against life and how the vagaries of time and circumstance can seem to conspire against even the best of intentions.

We thought we knew about the world because we had seen it, watched it, like all those growing a shape to fit into the world we had watched carefully and sneered at the compromises the older ones always seemed to make. We knew that in the world we would build out of the fragments those older ones left us, there would be no place for compromise, pretence and hypocrisy.

We were going to build a good new world, built on honesty and trust and truthfulness, even then though deep down we must have known we were already lying to each other, and to ourselves.

Already we were beginning to realise, only dimly at first, that no such world is possible, that truth has hard sharp edges, that honesty can lead to blood flowing into gutters and that this world and human desires and needs will always be in conflict, both with it and with each other.

Slowly we learned how to see - and how to look away - with half-closed eyes.