Google+ A Tangled Rope: 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Gravity of a Kiss

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From all those possibilities, it came down to one single moment when what happened seemed almost inevitable. It was as if some force akin to gravity pulled us into orbit around each other, pulling us closer and closer until my hand touched her face and then we kissed.

There was nothing either one of us could do about it; despite the lives we both had, waiting there for us to return to them. Neither of us was free, neither of us could afford to risk everything on this one accident of fate that could destroy both of us and the lives we had created around ourselves.

Stronger, though, than any of the reasons why not, was this force that pulled us together. A force that pulled us out of our ordinary lives and into a new world that neither of us knew before.

We knew it would not, could not last, but when we were there together it seemed as though our real lives were just the fading wisps of dreams left behind in some fantasy world beyond the door of this room and this was the real, the solid, the actual.

Nothing else seemed to matter.

Live Celebrity Woodworking

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Every Saturday evening it seems record-breaking numbers of TV viewers are sitting enraptured by the spectacle of Live Celebrity Woodworking. The craze has taken the whole nation by storm. Not until now has the nation’s desire to see some of the country’s top Z list celebrities wielding a piece of sandpaper to buff up a table leg ever been met with this amount of live prime-time coverage.

Of course, most of the celebrity-obsessed magazines and web sites have shown the occasional photo of a celebrity engaged in a bit of late-night fret sawing or with the latest fashionable designer chisel as they head out for an evening’s woodwork in one of London’s top woodworking venues.

Until now though TV has steered clear of this controversial area, not sure if the nation can come with an entire evening’s viewing devoted to, say, constructing mortise and tenon joints against the clock in front of a live studio audience, all judged by a panel of some of the countries leading joiners. However, the viewing figures for this spectacular have taken everyone by surprise, with the number of viewers actually exceeding the population of the UK. A feat not often achieved by previous TV programmes or even conventional mathematics.

Whether it will continue or whether it will turn out to be another shot-lived TV fad akin to last year’s hit TV game show Killer Sharks V Bankers Live Deathmatch it is hard to tell… yet.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Market Day

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It was market day, so the square was crowded. There were rumours that Old Beachdrift had some new stock. No-one knew where he managed to source new supplies, but every few months or so he managed to bring some new stock to the market. There were rumours that his agents were moving further afield, out beyond the known seas in their search for fresh goods. They made good money and I was wondering if maybe I ought to think about setting myself up as a travelling agent while I was still young enough, at least for a few years or so, get myself a bit more put aside for a comfortable old age, if I lived that long.

Now, though, I was just there at the market to watch, to look, enjoy the spectacle and maybe learn a thing or two. If some chance of enriching myself came along, though, I would probably jump at it, despite the danger. In the busy market day taverns there was often talk of when a young man saw what was on offer at the market place, the sort of thing that only the rich men could afford, then the young man was willing to try anything, do anything, risk anything, to be able to afford something like that for himself.

So, when the first half-dozen chained women were led onto the stage and Old Beachdrift stepped up and asked what he was bid for the first one, while she was led up and down the stage, I was willing to risk it all just for the chance of owning some of that soft flesh myself.

The End of Stories

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She would be there waiting for me each day. I did not want to disappoint her, let her down. She had been through enough disappointments for one life already. I did not want to be another one of those men whose dark shadows haunted her dreams and left her days hollow and empty.

I knew, though, that one day all my stories would be gone. One day, I would have no tale to tell her. One morning, she would come to me, expecting some tale of the woman she knew was her and how – somehow – she overcame the life she seemed destined to live, to break free into some new world where everything was possible once again.

This morning, though, I was reluctant to go to her. My bag of stories was empty. I had nothing left to give her. When I stared off, too, into that distance where the stories come from, there was nothing there to tell her, just the wind blown trees, all winter bare and cold.

When we met, she could see there were no more stories in my eyes, that I did not have any new tale to tell, so she sat me down under our favourite tree and told me the story of the storyteller who had no stories left to tell.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Vital Hallway Enhancement Issues

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Of course, you may very well be the kind of person who has never – once – considered the possibility of enhancing the entranceway to your home with a life-sized plastic Thomson's gazelle. However, pause and think for a moment of the myriad advantages the placement of such a plastic mammal will henceforth have on your lifestyle.

Many poor unfortunates in this poor benighted world have never had the tremendous pleasure of having a life-sized imitation animal in their entranceway or hall. Never once have they had to pause in their progress around their dwelling space to negotiate their way around such an inconvenient obstacle.

Just think of the endless opportunities for reflection and philosophical speculation that having an inconvenience in your hallway offers. Not for you the blithe featureless progress through a place now made uninteresting by bland everyday familiarity. With such an imitation animal inconveniencing your progress you are forced to wonder just why you purchased such a – on the surface – useless item and from there it is just a moment’ speculation to discover other facts about your existence you never questioned before.

Therefore, it stands to reason that having a life-sized plastic imitation Thomson’s gazelle in your hallway is not only desirable but essential for your peace of mind. Don’t delay – order one today.

Toast Aplenty

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Now is not the time to stand aghast in your local dolphinarium, especially if you have been stunned into immobility by an interlocutor with all the perspicacity of a wiper blade and the intellect of an educationally-challenged daffodil bulb. For we may be about to enter upon a new age of wonderment and intellectual fulfilment the like of which this planet has not seen since before the days of classical civilisation, or at least black and white telly.

Now, you would be right to question the veracity of my claim, merely by wandering down your local High Street on any day of the week. There witnessing the legions of moorlocks that gather there to gawp at the shiny things and to paw at their mobile phones with all the dexterity of thumbless simpletons attempting to open a greasy Cheese Quavers packet in the rain.

However, I while not gainsaying your scepticism, will however, point out that even though the world seems at times to be o’er brimmed with the less than endearing and their tendency towards dribbling incomprehension, there is – and there always will – in this the best of all possible worlds, toast aplenty and a myriad of marmalades.

As we know, marmalade exists in order to turn that which is merely miraculous – the buttered toast – into that which surpasses all of mankind’s arts, sciences, philosophies and ladies in the scantiest of possible underwear doing naughty things to each other… possibly in a bubble-filled bath.

So, do not despair, arm yourself with bread , butter and the finest of you marmalades and venture forth into salvation.

Oh, and while I you are in the kitchen, put the kettle on for a cup of tea, would you?

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Holy Spanner of Nhigel

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Well, now. It has often been said – well, it has been said, according to the historical record, twice since the infamous Night of the Teaspoons – that someone in search of the famed Holy Spanner of Nhigel will – unless they find it, come to a rather unpleasant end, including vats of boiling oil and some rather dubious choices in knitwear.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that like all other supposed and purported religious tales the stories of Nhigel and his mates have little or nothing to do with the historical record. For, as we all know, religions distort, twist, deny and invent everything around them in order to make the reality fit their conception of how they would like things to be. In this, the Uttabollux religion is no different from any other religion. In fact, Uttabolluxism is itself far more cavalier about matters of historical veracity and fact than all the other religions combined.

For, as number 217 in the famous Utterances of Nhigel has it: ‘Truth, mate, is whatever you can get away with, know what I mean?’

Anyway, the Holy Spanner of Nhigel was – according to legend – the last tool Nhigel took from his toolbox on the night of the Last Kebab, the time when Nhigel was – according to the Uttabollux religion taken up to heaven on the back seat of an angelic mini-cab. Rumour was that Nhigel had taken the spanner from his toolbox in order to explain some rather tortuous theological concept to Barry the Tosser, one of the mates of Nhigel, when he was suddenly called to heaven because the Uttabollux God – The Skhighhibhoss - needed someone to fix his telly, which was on the blink again.

The next day – according to the legends – no-one could find Nhigel or his holy toolbox, even though they looked in several nearby pubs. The only earthly sign of Nhigel was his spanner, left near the unconscious body of Barry the Tosser.

Soon as the Uttabollux religion spread, the Holy Spanner of Nhigel became the most holy Uttabollux relic with pilgrimages made to Barry the Tosser’s house in order to worship the relic.

However, these days there are several Holy Spanners of Nhigel spread around all the strict Uttabollux countries, with – quite often – intense theological debate, often utilising invasions, heavy armour battles and air strikes, over which is the one true Holy Spanner of Nhigel.

Nibble My Trowel

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This is the helicopter of your desire. I hold it in my hands and pray for rain. How that happens no-one can tell, especially when I have hidden the instructions. I keep my hand in my pocket at all times. I know too how the frog hops.

Shall I show you how to clean out your zebra enclosure, Deirdre? I shall let you become my zookeeper, and let you walk through my life with a bucket full of fresh fruit.

I know now what green means and I will always be your favourite adjustable spanner, right down to the last day of our spring viewing schedules.

Nibble my trowel.

Nibble my trowel.

I don't often ask how you name your own particular Tuesdays, especially not when it is Friday again, so don't ask me to dress up and pretend to be a whippet again, especially not now, now my thighs are so sore.

Let us pickle eggs together, naked in the moonlight. I shall always remember how you held my spatula, and the place where you kept all the interesting chins.

I shall vow, from this day forward, only to wear the clothing that bears the sign of the unwelcome Christmas gift, for I have seen what happens to useless Fridays.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Everything is Everywhere

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Here, there and quite probably down the back of the sofa, or – if you are not careful – somewhere in the midst of Hartlepool. That is the trouble with stuff – it is all over the place. Although, if scientists are to be believed, and on the whole we should believe them, after all wishful thinking hasn’t got a patch on verifiable evidence – then there is stuff throughout the universe (and Wales).

Still, on the whole, it is probably better to be in a universe of stuff, because after all we are stuff too and if there was no stuff there would be no us. Admittedly, that would solve some of Earth’s more pressing parking problems and reduce the queues at nearly all the supermarket checkouts in the known universe, but it does – on the whole – seem rather a steep price to pay, even if it does make the place a lot tidier.

Of course, on the upside, it would solve humankind’s most pressing problem of finding a cure for religion and politics, but it would seem to entail a severe curtailment of existence. Which is always a bit of a bugger, especially if you spend those last few minutes of existence embroiled in some mundanity of existence like putting the bins out, rather than pondering the eternal verities, or doing something very rude indeed with a bevy of naughty acquaintances of your preferred sexual orientation and compatible level of erotic imaginings.

Thursday Poem: Where the Time Goes, We Go Too

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Where the Time Goes, We Go Too

We have stumbled across deserts.
We have struggled through forests.
We have seen so many far places,
but still this world remains the same.

Where the time goes, we go too
and look for what can be found
in those places where we remember
days that passed too long ago.

Our lives are racing past now
in these places where time crawled
and the days seemed endless
as the summer sun lasted forever.

Now the winter calls to us
out of those days running towards us.
Fewer and fewer of them each year
and yet, we wait still for life to begin.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seeing her again

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Those were the easy days. I found them there at the bottom of my bag of time. A few days I’d left over from a year I’d created for someone I’d once cared about. I had given us a year together, that was all, because there was some other place that needed my time, and I didn’t have all that much to spare then.

Although, in the end it did turn out that I did have more time than I thought, but still I had to leave her behind when the year ran out. I put those last few days aside, meaning to go back to her, once it was all over. As with many of these things though, the period I left her to go to turned out to last longer, much longer than I’d anticipated - several human lifetimes, in fact.

I’d left her frozen in a moment, her hand reaching out for me as we stood together on her balcony. Human centuries had passed since then, but I knew she would still be there waiting for me, even though the scene beyond her balcony would have changed beyond recognition for her.

I did wonder if it was wise going back to her for those few days we had left and the chaos and confusion the sudden leap through the centuries would bring to her, and what would – inevitably – happen to her when our few days ran out and the centuries caught up with her.

Then I remembered her smile and I knew I had to see her again.

Invisibility Cloak: A Technological Breakthrough

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Recently several leading scientists announced they have moved a step closer to making an invisibility cloak. By using the natural force that makes one sock of a pair sometimes disappear in the washing machine, scientists have developed pairs of invisibility cloaks, which they then wash together. The quantum uncertainty of the washing machine cycle then sometimes makes one of the invisibility cloaks disappear. However, as with socks, which sock or cloak will become invisible, and when, is still very uncertain.

As one scientist said:

Sometimes, as with socks one of the cloaks will disappear in the wash, which means you get an invisibility cloak, other times you get the two cloaks you put in back, other times you get two cloaks back, one of which you’ve never seen before. On a few occasions, we have even found – after washing – that we are left with a cloak that we cannot lose, even if we get a government official to leave it on a train. When that official gets home, thinking he has left the cloak on the train he discovers he still has it with him, even if he has lost the memory stick containing vital top-secret information wrapped inside the cloak when he left it on the train.

As with the socks that become invisible in the wash, scientists believe that the visible part of the cloaks slips through the wormhole in reality that exists inside every washing machine through which socks and other similar items become invisible. The socks – and other items – still exist in this universe, but they simply become invisible and thus remain inside the washing machine until they reunite with their visible part when it slips back through the wormhole and the sock seemingly magically reappears as if from nowhere.

Scientists also believe that this wormhole phenomenon also explains the sudden mysterious appearance in the wash of items never seen before when an invisible sock in the washing machine somehow reunites with a visible part that is not its own, thus appearing as something completely different and never before seen.

All scientist now have to do is develop someway of detecting when an invisibility cloak is in the washing machine before it gets washed again and reunited with its visible part. Therefore, scientists are trying to develop a washing basket capable of holding several invisible cloaks without any of them getting lost or slipping back through the wormhole to re-entangle with their visible part.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Unbounded by Mere Reality

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These days it is only natural that the sudden unwarranted appearance of a WWI-era biplane in the vestibule is enough to cause trepidation, if not out and out consternation. After all, unwarranted fluctuations in the time and space continuum are specifically outlawed in some recent EU-wide legislation and – thenceforth – should not now occur.

It is a matter, surely, of documented fact that once a government of any stripe – up to and including the EU bureaucracy - passes any law then whatever it is that that law outlaws ought to stop happening. As the current success of the Euro shows, once laws are passed even the rules of economics must bend to fit, reality itself must alter itself, to fit the new regime.

For it is obvious by now that if – for example – a governmental body were to, say, repeal the law of gravity we would all, once that law was passed find ourselves suddenly floating free of the pull of the Earth. Well, at least in those areas of the planet that came under the jurisdiction of that new law, while the rest of the world’s population would find themselves still tied to the surface… and probably quite jealous of our new-found freedoms.

For, after all, that is the role of politicians - as they themselves see it - to create the world anew in an image of their own choosing, unbounded by mere reality and trivial universal laws of nature.

New Head of University Average Access Body Announced

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The government has today announced a new head of the University Average Access Body, a quango set up by the government to prevent anyone with any academic ability getting to university. Most MPs of all parties welcomed the move. As a political commentator said on hearing news of the appointment:

MPs, of course, cannot understand the concept of anyone getting any position, including a place at a university, based on ability, rather than just ticking all the right PR boxes. After all, most of them realize they wouldn’t be allowed within 500 miles of being an MP if we chose them on ability to do the job rather than their talent for wearing the right coloured rosette, smiling indulgently at political weirdoes and saying and doing what they are told.

MPs are concerned that the university sector is not dumbing-down as fast as the rest of the education sector, and that consequently the country could miss its target of everyone in Britain having a First-Class Honours degree by the middle of the 21st Century.

Politicians and educationalist believe that if not enough people of average or lower ability are not awarded top-class degrees, then society will remain unfair. For example, those whose, say, knowledge of history goes back further than what happened last week on Eastenders, or know what E=MC2 actually means, or know how to count beyond ten without taking their socks off, will, MPs believe, have an unfair advantage in the workplace.

Some Conservative MPs oppose these changes. However, the coalition business secretary Vince Cable, responsible for making this appointment, has promised to meet then around the back of the Houses of Parliament later today, where he will explain the advantages of his choice with the aid of his favourite ‘parliamentary debate’ baseball bat.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Return of Hunting

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Anyway, since that last government took it upon itself to make hunting foxes with hounds illegal there have been those eager to see that the grand tradition of the hunt has not become lost to this once-great nation.

Obviously, this requires that there be something that needs hunting. Since anything that is either cute or fluffy – or has the appearance of so-being to those who know little or nothing of its ways – is unlikely to be allowed to be hunted. Because this country seems to have an unlimited supply of those killjoys who cannot see anyone doing anything they find enjoyable without those killjoys having an almost uncontrollable itch to see it made illegal, then the hunts need to find something no-one likes.

Obvious among such creatures are politicians, journalist, estate agents and other such modern-day vermin. Chasing each one has its virtues and the eradication of all such from our society can be nothing but a boon. However, some problems to remain with the possibility of say hunting politicians with hounds. First of all, obviously, is the problem of cruelty. However, experts have proved that the hounds should suffer no great detrimental effects from having too close a contact with politicians, proving elementary hygiene practices are adhered to, so that is one problem solved.

In future, then, it should soon be possible for all and sundry to delight in seeing the magnificent spectacle of their local member of parliament chased by a pack of hounds through the constituency that very MP has done so little to represent. Anything closer to true democracy than that would be much too difficult to envisage, especially in these times of mirthless woe.

Monday Poem: The Distances in the Universes of our Eyes

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The Distances in the Universes of our Eyes

We fall between the stars, and know,
as distances all spread around,
about what it means to be alone.
We stood and watched the arcing skies
above us, turning with the world

looking for signs,
looking for reasons

for why this world is turning still
and why it turns alone each day
we stand and watch the turning stars

looking for signs
looking for reasons

we turn back to each other, search
the distances between the stars
in universes of our eyes

looking for signs
looking for reasons

We will walk back together now
to that small room we know so well,
remove each other’s clothes to lie
together, skin against warm skin

looking for signs
looking for reasons.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is Something Burning?

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In the distance was one of the greatest cities on Earth at the time. However, it was shut. We had set out on our journey across the great wastelands, forgetting that it would be early closing day when we arrived.

We had fought our way through bandits, crossed the swollen river and forsaken the pleasure spots of many lesser cities in order to end up here, stuck outside the closed city gates.

‘Oh, bollocks,’ we wailed at our misfortune and in our grief and mortification set about burning down a few of the peasant hovels that lay outside the city gate. It didn’t help much, but setting fire to things sometimes does help, as the great philosopher Albert the Moderately Singed said upon the occasion his wife set fire to his beard when she refused to believe it was – as Albert claimed – yet another philosopher’s holiday.

Anyway, Albert was packed off out of the house to go and do some philosophising so they could have some money for food, even though his regulation philosopher’s beard still had one or two embers still alight in it.

This all goes to show that things are not really as straightforward as we hope and this world often throws trials and tribulations in our paths and that often the one wise answer is – as wise old Albert said - to find someone else to take the blame for it… and then to set fire to them.

Miss World and Religious Fundamentalism

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Once, a long time ago now, it seemed most unlikely that a woman from the strict Uttabollux religion would be allowed to enter such a contest as the Miss World (& Canada) Beauty contest, let alone possibly go on to win it.

When Pulchritude Shexy-asa-Ghoat first applied to enter the contest, after entering the Miss Tipton 2011 contest, people were sceptical that the judges could consider a woman who spends her life completely concealed inside a cardboard box as a legitimate entrant, let alone her standing any chance of winning.

When the case came to trial, however, the UK High Court ruled that despite the fact that Miss Shexy-asa-Ghoat’s religion compelled her to stay inside her cardboard box, and that the judges, audiences and everyone else was forbidden to look at her, it should not be a bar to her entry into the competition. The judges ruled that disqualification of Miss Shexy-asa-Ghoat from the competition would be a breach of her human rights, especially her right to follow her religion and the demands it places on its adherents.

Consequently, the Miss Tipton contest judges were forced to judge Miss Shexy-asa-Ghoat through the various stages of the contest such as the Evening Dress Round and the Swimsuit Round all while she was completely hidden from their view inside her cardboard box. However, what was more surprising, especially to some of the audience on the night, was that Miss Shexy-asa-Ghoat won every round. Some audience members even complained that a woman ensconced in a cardboard box winning the contest was an insult to the young women of Tipton, saying ‘how would you feel if someone said you were not as good looking as a cardboard box?’ However, the judges, especially those familiar with the women of Tipton, refused to be swayed by such arguments and their judgement stood, leaving Miss Shexy-asa-Ghoat to go on to enter the Miss UK contest.

After wining the UK national contest, Miss Shexy-asa-Ghoat now automatically qualifies for the Miss World (& Canada) Beauty contest and there is a very strong likelihood that she could win it, despite facing entrants from countries where Uttabollux is the national religion and whose contestants will, therefore, all be hidden from public view inside their own cardboard boxes.

However, some critics of the Beauty Contest industry claim that viewers will not be interested in watching a stage show consisting of several ambulatory cardboard boxes, no matter how well choreographed, and that this could destroy an industry that weathered the storm of po-faced feminism in earlier decades.

Still, however, several worldwide brands have expressed interest in the advertising opportunities offered by large woman-sized blank cardboard boxes and so those record amounts of sponsorship could mean that the contest continues well into the foreseeable future.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Island of Good Hope

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The hard part was finding a way in. The community itself was on an island a few miles offshore. The main man, the leader of the so-called community, had some how or other, managed to scrape together the money, supposedly from his followers, to buy the island. Like most of his dealings, just how John Hopegood had managed to get that money, was something of a mystery. Just how and why he had become a leader of the Good Hope Ministry was itself another mystery. What the community got up to, all alone on that island was yet another mystery.

For me, though, the greatest of these mysteries was how and why Jane had ended up there.

When we were together, Jane had probably been the biggest atheist of the two of us. I had never believed in any kind of religion and so tended to just take lack of belief for granted, always being somewhat surprised whenever I encountered anyone who professed to be religious, regarding it as some sort of quaint eccentricity. Jane, though, had come from a religious family. Her father was some kind of high up in the church; I could never remember his proper professional title. ‘Some sort of arch-druid’ Jane spat dismissively once, when the subject came up. Consequently, she was much more antagonistic than I towards the various religions and their sub-branches, sects and cults, often seemingly going out of her way to gratuitously offend and annoy the religious whenever their paths crossed.

So, when I received the rather odd, disjointed letter from her begging me to rescue her from the Good Hope community after all the years of silence between us, I was more than a little surprised… and worried.

Thursday Poem: A Handful of the Possible

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A Handful of the Possible

It was your bright dream;
A handful of the possible.
We thought we could find it.
We lived inside those dreams

And came home to find new times
had taken those dreams away
turned the world around
to face its face to a new day

And a new way of seeing
that grew into new ways of living,
leaving the past behind,
lost and almost forgotten.

And then we found out
the new way was no way at all,
leaving the helpless children

Alone without a home
and a place to run to
while we were out looking
for that one great thing

That makes all the other things
seem pointless and empty.
But there is no new way,
there is only the old way

And we need to return
before those old days
are lost and then forgotten

and we have to learn the art
of how to live once again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Between Dreaming and Waking

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The story began there, in that moment between dreaming and waking. The dream was still there, curled up on itself, waiting to unroll across the sleeping mind. The day too, though, was waiting to begin, ready to bring itself out from under the dark blankets of the night. Each of them was supposed to keep separate; the day should not fall into the dreams and the dreams never to occupy the space of a waking day.

Something went awry though as she awoke. The dream slipped free of its prison and ran free out into the day, while the day fell asleep on the pillow she left behind.

At first, Louise did not know that she had awoken into a dream, or into a world that had become dream, that she had left reality behind asleep on the pillow where her dreams usually waited for her.

Everything about this day look the same as every other morning to Louise, even when she walked trough her bedroom door on the way to the bathroom, without opening the door first, she didn’t really notice. It was just one of those nagging things that seem to tap at the mind when first awake. She was just too tired to notice anything amiss.

However, when the small green dragon handed her the soap in the shower, she began to realise that things were not quite right.

The Weasel Code

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As is often said, especially by those no-one has asked for their opinion, that there are some moments in the affairs of humankind that are just far too dull for anyone to bother remembering.

However, the Weasel Code Incident – as it became known – is not one of them, which is a bit obvious really; otherwise, no-one would have bothered remembering it, let alone giving it such a memorable name.

As for the weasel, Benjy, why he in particular is associated with this particular incident is one of those twists of fate that make reality seem far-fetched and way beyond the imaginings of mere fiction writers.

It all began back in the early years of WWII. As is now well-known, but at the time was one of the greatest secrets of the war, the Allies had cracked the German’s ultra-secret – and they though ultra-secure – Enigma code. However, even to this day, very few knew that the Allies had also cracked the super secret German Weasel Code, through the use of their captured German code weasel, Benjy.

Benjy had been the highly-trained code weasel of a German general captured outside Tobruk in the latter stages of the desert war. Unfortunately for the German war machine, the General, Herr Kaput, had not had the time to feed Benjy the fatal dose of rice and treacle prepared for each code weasel to prevent it falling into enemy hands before capture.

What had not been revealed up until now, however, was that it was a raid on the general’s headquarters specifically mounted to capture a live code weasel by the SAS that brought Benjy into Allied hands.

The SAS, the Special Accountancy Service, had for some time been aware of the number of orders and invoices the German army generated for supplies of rice and treacle and Allied intelligence suspected that this was something to do with the use of code weasels by the Germans.

Before the outbreak of war, some Polish mathematicians had speculated that any code generated by weasels fed rice and treacle would be virtually unbreakable. It was this idea that the German high command had noticed and copied. This made it essential that the Allies capture a code weasel as early as possible in the war, so they could break this code.

AS we all now know, radar was an offshoot of the British search for a reliable rice and treacle detector. The early experimental radar could – of course – detect when a weasel went pop, but by then it was obviously too late to capture that weasel, at least without a dustpan and brush. Therefore, the Allied boffins decided to begin work on the rice and treacle detector (RAT).

To disguise the use of the RAT in the desert war, the Allies started to call their soldiers The Desert Rats, thus hoping to fool the Axis intelligence to think that any mention of the RAT was in fact just a reference to ordinary Allied troops and therefore of no particular vital intelligence value.

Disguised as a German logistic corps rice and treacle delivery unit, a SAS squad managed to infiltrate General Kaput’s headquarters and lure Benjy away from the coding room using an imitation female weasel assembled by the boffins back in Britain.

Once Benjy was in their grasp the British undercover accountants created a diversion to cover their escape by deliberately misfiling several hundred German infantry invoices to keep the German soldiers busy and created a smokescreen to conceal their exfiltration from the German HQ by setting fire to a yet un-reconciled cashbook.

Once safely back behind British lines Benjy was handed over to military intelligence who rushed the code weasel back to the UK , never once accidentally leaving him on the train when they got off to change trains, which was another first for British military intelligence, a feat of diligence that was never once repeated in the post-war years.

Once Benjy was back at Bletchley Park and safely ensconced in the code shed it was only a matter of days before the Allies could decode all of the Germans most secret military intelligence traffic and so the war ended much, much sooner than would have otherwise been the case.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It is Coming

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Then there were the dreams, dark broodings shadowed dreams that seem to hint, to suggest, to portend. Even the most pleasant dream of, say, a summer’s day spent by the river had a dark cloud somewhere in it, a portent of the storms to come. Most dreams, though, were of the darkness itself; of shadows and dark places. There were things people could sense in the dreams hiding there, moving in the shadows, crouched and waiting.

As the time went on, people began to mention the dreams, tentatively at first to each other. Then the media got hold of them and all of a sudden there were seemingly endless TV programmes, newspaper and blog articles, all about the dreams and how – it seemed – everyone on the planet was having them, or at least some culturally-specific adaptation of the dreams.

For some of the religious, of course, the dream presaged some sort of final time, the time when their saviour of whatever it was came back to do what ever it was he - and in some cases, she – had long ago promised to do, but never as yet ever done.

Others made plans to welcome our alien overlords, mapping out landing fields and debating endlessly in their blogs and chat rooms about who would be the best ambassador for the planet to make first contact with the aliens when they arrived.

Scientists too, checked the data on everything they were running, earthquake monitors watched avidly, volcanoes checked for the first signs of eruptions, CERN monitored its sensors and shifts increased in nuclear power stations and nuclear submarines.

Everyone was expecting something, and the longer the dreams went on, became more frequent and more vivid, the more we knew it was coming.

After the Dark Days

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Sometimes it was easy to forget, we could go through our days, and even some of the nights, without something reminding us of the Dark Days. These things, we are told, get easier with time, that the memories come less and less often and when they do, they do not burn so harshly. That is true, I suppose, but it took a long time. With the Dark Days burnt so deeply in our memories, all of our memories, it was hard to escape them completely. Even those later days, when the memories were – most of the time – little more than a dull ache, and a darkness in the memory we taught ourselves to look away from, there was always a sadness, a sense of loss visible in everyone’s face.

We became proficient at recognising the signs: the sudden silences, the laugh that sliced itself with silence as though laughter – which is the best medicine for all that ails the human, we know that now - somehow seemed inappropriate and disrespectful of all those we’d lost.

In time, though, we learnt how to laugh properly and to see that laughter is not inappropriate – it is one of the most human of sounds and one of the most comforting when the pain cuts so deep.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Poem: At Least Forever

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At Least Forever

It takes a moment, it takes a season,
it will take at least forever or longer,
to close the gap between this fingertip
and the soft reassurance of your skin.

But I can wait, listening to you breathe
between each eternity and forever
it takes to get this close to you
and I can wait for the seas of time

to dry up, turn to dust and pour
on down though the glass bulbs
of every single moment that passes
like a grain of sand through that narrow tube

that separates then from now
as it still separates me from you.

Succinct Encapsulations and Underpants

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She may very well be the woman of your dreams, with a complete set of adjustable spanners that make you heart throb with desire. However, even though she may wander unclothed through your dreams clutching a brace of those selfsame spanners and fill your daytime thoughts with thoughts of the nuts you could tighten together, she may not – in the end – come to agree with you that the 1978 AA Road Atlas is humanity’s greatest literary achievement… and that way only disappointment can lie. At least if you have gone to all the trouble of arranging her fruit bowl in alphabetical order and she has dismissed the notion as somewhat unworkable as it places too many kiwi fruit between her bananas and her mandarin oranges.

Still, as they say… or they would if I could recall an aphorism that encapsulates such a quandary in a few pithy words, but I can’t, not whilst wearing these special anti-folk wisdom and popular philosophy-proof underpants anyway. You may well, ask why I have chosen to deploy such protective underwear at this time, however, that is a tale for another day… and – of course – for a pair of anecdote-recounting compatible underpants….

So until that day dawns, I will bid you farewell.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Endless Winter

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The weather was cold, wet, damp. It seemed like there would never be another summer again. The winter seemed endless. Each day we would reluctantly drag ourselves from the sleeping furs and peer out into the damp, misty gloom of another dull day. The cold seemed to have seeped into our bones making us feel weary with the world.

The tent itself was cold, damp and leaking. Everything inside it felt cold and damp too. Everything had a strong earthy smell, from us, from the travelling packs, from the tent, as though buried underground for a long time.

We knew too, if the weather did not change that we would die out here, in the cold and the damp. We needed to move, to carry on. We needed to find somewhere new, some place where we could begin to build a new life. This was not the place, but if we did not leaver soon, we knew we would never find it and we would end here.

Each day we awoke, we dreaded looking out of the tent to see what sort of day it was out there. Each day, we knew would be just another cold and damp day. We all regretted, even though we did not say, coming to this cold Northern land where the days seemed to be over as soon as they’d began.

Then one day I looked out on a bright sunny day. True, it had been snowing in the night, but at least it was dry and I could see further than a few mist shrouded yards from the tent. This was it. This would be the day we would move to some new place and try to make a home.

What a Man has to Do

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If this was going to be the story, I didn’t want to be the hero of it… not again. They often quote ‘a man has to do what a man has to do’, but until you are right up against it, you never truly realise what that ‘has to’ really entails.

Usually, I didn’t mind being the hero, or rather the ‘main protagonist’ in his stories, especially the ones where the naked women emerge into the clearing in the woods, dive into a river or go swimming in the sea. I didn’t mind representing those manly virtues and traits at all then.

The comedy, funny stuff, wasn’t too bad either, sometimes I’d end up looking like a bit of a dick, but often too, there I would get the girl. At least a decent cheese sandwich or some toast, if nothing else. The penguins though were a very different matter, and I did everything I could not to appear in anything he wrote where they appeared.

However, when these stories came along where I had to do the heroic stuff, I began to get a bit worried. I mean, I’m no coward, but some of the enemies, the ‘antagonists’ he came up with in some of those pieces, weren’t even human. In fact, several times, I was pretty sure he had no real idea who, or what, I was meant to be facing. I just know that I often came off worse, especially where he forswore a conventional ending and then had me killed off in some form of unexpected ending with a twist, like….

Hang on….

What is that shadow on the ground?

Why is it getting bigger…?

Oh, fuck, there’s a piano falling from out of the sky!

It’s going to land here….

Right on me….

Aaaarrgghh…!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Hidden Trifle Machinations

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Maybe there will be a new maybe soon to move us on to a new place. Maybe the maybes will be new and shiny and clean, and we will be proud to have known them and to have eaten off the same plates and to have seen the same fish and chip shops through the same windows of the same caravans.

Is that how moistness should be celebrated, with celery and hidden trifle machinations?

I have seen the dark blue clarinets of Wednesday night gathering on the hillsides. I have seen their campfires and I have - once - eaten one of those biscuits you all dream of as the dawn rises above the blue remembered eggcups of a bright new day.

I once met a man with a piece of string.

I said "Is that a piece of string?"

He replied, "Yes, I'm taking it for a walk. It is tied to this other piece of string because it has not yet - it is only young, as you can see - it has not, as yet, learnt obedience. Consequently, it can - sometimes - get a little too boisterous, which can be a little bit dangerous in a busy street such as this deserted pathway along a dangerously sheer cliff at midnight."

Internet Dating and its Pitfalls

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So, anyway…. Well, there I was all ready with the geography textbook open at the necessary page, offering a full explanation of terminal moraines (with diagrams) when she suddenly – out of the blue – said she was no longer in the mood.

You should have seen the look of disappointment on the donkey’s face.

As for the bath full of homemade pasta… well, you try poking a load of Tagliatelle down the plughole at that time on a Tuesday evening whilst wearing full evening dress and a top hat. It was just lucky I had the cane too.

Still, on the whole, it was not entirely a wasted evening. The 10:47 from Grimsby was on time… for once. So we had an enjoyable 12 seconds as it sped past. Although, I am not quite sure that we are fully up to sped with all that train spotting entails. As she said: ‘surely there must be more to it than that?’ She has, however, said that before in the past on some far more intimate occasions, but we won’t go into that, especially as it was fresh pineapple… not tinned.

So, as you can see this internet dating business is not as quite as straightforward as I’d hoped. Still, she has promised to see me again… sometime in the next decade or so, and this time, she says, I won’t have to wear the paper bag over my head for the entire evening… only until it gets dark.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Losing Focus

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There were times, moments, when Jess saw the world slip, stutter and lose focus. Times when it seemed as though the edges of the things that defined the world around her seemed to shift as though slipping out of and then coming back into focus. It felt to her as though, if she didn’t keep an eye on, keep a watch over, this world, then it could easily slip away from her and become something completely different, something new and alien.

She’d already noticed it with people, how they seemed to slip, to change between certain characters, as though they all had a different face for different circumstances. She knew that if you watched someone carefully, especially when they thought no-one else was watching them, then they would slip into being someone else. They may still look the same, at least superficially, but she knew they had changed into someone else. There was the way Mrs Peters from down the road changed when she knew she was about to get a visit from the man who drove the green Ford, who turned up every couple of weeks on Wednesday mornings.

Jess had seen just how different Mrs Peters could be, from the lady who arranged flowers down at the church, when the man with the green Ford took her up into the bedroom that Jess could see right into, from her secret hiding place in the old tree high on the hill behind the village.

After the End

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There were so many of them we didn’t know what to do. Since the End Times they had gone feral, breeding uncontrollably, despite all their chants of ethical responsibility and sustainability as they held progress meetings around their camp-fires at night, sheltering amongst the ruins of what had once been the local council offices.

Some of them would hunt at night too, taking their hand-carved clipboards out into the darkness to catch one of us unawares.

When we were out scavenging or hunting, we always had to be on our guard in case the feral council officials had set one of their traps. They caught three of our tribe once as we were scavenging in the remnants of a supermarket, searching for canned goods to supplement our meagre diet.

The trap had been set in the tinned vegetable aisle, a net suspended from the remnants of the suspended ceiling, hidden under a spread of desiccated supermarket loyalty-card application leaflets. We heard the yell as the trap was sprung, then realising there was nothing we could do for our comrades as we heard the council workers emerging from their hiding places and the fearsome clicking of their pens and the tell-tale sound of compliance forms being snapped into place on the crudely-carved clipboards.

In my nightmares, I can still hear the desperate screams of our comrades as the compliance surveys began.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Waiting for Her

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When the time comes, she will know. She has stood at the window watching everything that happens out there. One day, and she feels it will be soon, it will be time for her to step out, back into that world she has watched for so long.

There was a time when she used to go out in that world; there was a time when she thought it was all there, waiting for her.

There was a time….

Now, though, there are only the slow days that pass outside the window, the shadows turning and passing as the sun moves from one side of the window to the other, and then the darkness comes and the street lights flicker into life.

She watches the life of the street outside: she knows the regulars and the strangers, the dog walkers, the traders, those who think they are secret lovers and use the room opposite hers, the old woman across the street, who watches too.

One day, she knows she will go back out there, but for the moment, she has work to do, making sure the street out there carries on as normal. She has to bring the characters that inhabit the days on from the wings where the edges of her window lie. She has to set them about their business, opening their shops, tugging or tugged by their dogs, meeting with a secret kiss out from under the glow of the streetlights, selling themselves to strangers and all the routines of the day that she has created out there so the world can turn around her.

New Book Out Now: This Brief Life of Sparks - Poems

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This Brief Life of Sparks

A Collection of 100 poems by David Hadley.

David Hadley's poems have been published in Stand, Eclipse, Envoi, Poetry Nottingham International, Raw Edge and several other magazines in the UK and US.

Several of his poems have also been cherry-picked by the editors at abctales.com.

Available now.

Fireworks

These times take the shape
Of beginnings for you.
But I've lived a life
Like this before.
The sharp sudden colours
Of fireworks exploding
Into instances of creation
Are so new to you, so you
Bang on the window
And clap and yell.

I have been here before
And every now is tinged
With memories of my first times
And how each bursting memory
Lasted longer, far longer
Than this brief life of sparks
Tumbling down onto damp ground.

Times like this are gone
So suddenly. We forget
So much about transience.
But this - it is your first time,
It will always last forever.

New Book Out Now: This Brief Life of Sparks - Poems

clip_image002

This Brief Life of Sparks

A Collection of 100 poems by David Hadley.

David Hadley's poems have been published in Stand, Eclipse, Envoi, Poetry Nottingham International, Raw Edge and several other magazines in the UK and US.

Several of his poems have also been cherry-picked by the editors at abctales.com.

Available now.

Fireworks

These times take the shape
Of beginnings for you.
But I've lived a life
Like this before.
The sharp sudden colours
Of fireworks exploding
Into instances of creation
Are so new to you, so you
Bang on the window
And clap and yell.

I have been here before
And every now is tinged
With memories of my first times
And how each bursting memory
Lasted longer, far longer
Than this brief life of sparks
Tumbling down onto damp ground.

Times like this are gone
So suddenly. We forget
So much about transience.
But this - it is your first time,
It will always last forever.

MPs Stalking Concerns

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UK MPs are becoming increasingly concerned about the threat of ‘stalking’. As the motion before the Houses of Parliament says:

MPs should not be subjected to excessive harassment and scrutiny by the general populace as they go about their vital business of helping themselves… serving the country. Ordinary members of the public should realise that once they have done their public duty of voting someone into the House of Commons then that is where all involvement with their elected MP should end – until the next election. MPs should not be harassed and stalked by constituents demanding that they ‘do something’, especially when such an act would run counter to narrow party benefit or confer no short term political advantage over opposing parties.

MPs are also concerned that some ’stalkers’ have taken an unhealthy interest in the affairs – sexual, business or otherwise – of MPS. Some stalkers recently even started looking into the very private and confidential area of MP’s expenses, much to the detriment of some MPs. Some MPs were forced to give up their seats because of this stalking of their expense accounts and now have to survive on a handful of lucrative media appearances a year.

As one MP claimed:

Despite what some may think, being a MP is a legitimate activity, if not quite honest and noble…. Can I have my appearance fee in cash, please?

Others are concerned that this constant stalking of MPs will force them to take their activities undercover, or even – in some extreme cases – give up the well-paid luxury of being a Member of Parliament altogether. As one Political commentator said:

Once people become politicians, there is often no help… or cure for them. They have to spend the rest of their lives wandering around, sometimes all over the world looking for conferences and speech-making opportunities in order to make ends meet. Some even have to sat up Foundations to keep themselves in the splendour their deluded minds thing is their right. At the other end of the scale, though, some people through no fault of their own sometimes discover that they are Liberal Democrats. How can some one like that ever return to the real world if they are hounded out of politics by some political stalker? Sometimes it seems it would be kinder just to have them put out of our misery.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Going out

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Time and tide wait for no man. They will, however, hang on for another five minutes or so for a woman as they know that when she does say she is – at last – ready, the comment is to be taken more as an aspiration than a statement of fact.

However, we should not let mere facts and literalness spoil what would otherwise be yet another tedious excursion out into the world that lies there waiting for us like one over-large slough of disappointment (not too unlike that actual Slough of disappointment), albeit one it with ample car-parking facilities. So ample, in fact, that there is a sense of foreboding that the car – such that it is – will never be seen again by either of you as you make your weary way towards whatever form of ‘entertainment’ you have stumped up the annual domestic budget of a small nation for this time.

Of course, the weather gods will have all got together at their last forward planning meeting and decided that as you are making an effort to ‘go out’ they will schedule their latest attempt to gain media attention through the use of extreme weather on that particular night. This will only result in yet another failed attempt on their part to get the human race to start believing in them once again. Although, deep down they know that such an occurrence will need something of the size of Gilgamesh or Noah to get them ever taken seriously again, with – no doubt – some other god jumping in to take all the credit for their efforts… again.

On the way back though, after being more than passably entertained, you do say to each other, now that the worst of the storm is past, that it wasn’t so bad after all, maybe even worth the eye-bleeding amount of money it cost and that – maybe, just maybe – you’ll consider doing it all again, only not in the immediate future.

Of course, that is all dependent on ever finding the car again.

Monday Poem: Winter over our Heads

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Winter over our Heads

The sky is dark, holding the threat
of winter over our bowed heads.

We are cold, huddled together,
waiting, ready to believe again

in the promise of the new spring
and that the world has not forgotten

all that we have offered to it in sacrifice
for the warm weather to come back to us

and show us its new growing light
and how we can live on beneath the sun

as though the winter will not come
and steal our warm lives away again.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Collective Good

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There were times when we could escape from it all and spend some time alone together. Of course, it was dangerous, the others of our Collective – like everyone else – were suspicious of people wanting to be alone, or even alone together, but it was possible.

For all their talk of The Collective and how vital we all work together for the good of us all, most people are too bound up in their own petty concerns to pay much attention to what everyone else is doing. As long as you seem to play by the rules, go along with the directives and do not attempt to draw attention to yourself, it is amazing what you can get away with.

Or, so we thought.

Our problem was Melinda. When Carrie and I discovered something in each other that we enjoyed, I immediately forgot all about Melinda and the way I’d left her after the last Monthly Meeting, waiting for me.
I had forgotten about Melinda, but – it seems – she had not forgotten about me at all. Not only that, Carrie also had problems with Melinda in the past, always making comments in the dorm, always accidentally shoving Carrie in the showers, spilling her food and so on. This had been going on since they were young girls together in the crèche. Melinda seemed to enjoy bearing a grudge and Carrie, and now I were on Melinda’s list of those against whom she needed to her revenge.

TV Crime Reconstruction and its Limitations

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Well….

You see, it all happened like this….

Well, sort of….

Obviously, the stepladder wasn’t quite so artfully arranged and the wood pigeon was somewhat more beguiling than this somewhat sorry specimen, but otherwise we can be fairly confident that the supermarket trolley is of the correct design. Although, I am more than sure that some out there take a special interest in the history, design and utilisation of the post-war shopping trolley who will take great delight in correcting any errors that may creep into this reconstruction of those never-to-be-forgotten events of only last summer.

Of course, if you were abroad or in some other place (i.e. Luton) during those tense few days of Britain’s worst 21st Century hostage crisis then you may be unaware of all the details of the events of that day.

It all began when the aforesaid wood pigeon was kept hostage by seven fundamentalist terrorists all precariously perched atop the one step ladder just to the left of the Sainsbury’s supermarket car park in Snottygobble-Under-Lyme.

Of course, in retrospect it is obvious that the terrorist’s repeated demands for a shopping trolley that always went in the direction they wanted to push it, was an outrageous demand and one that could never be met under current technological know-how. However, it should always be forefront in the minds of anti-terrorist agencies that the fundamentalist shopper is by the nature of their fundamentalism almost completely impervious to reason. This is especially true when they are in pursuit of the fabled paradise of Buy-one—get-one-free that the holy texts of the shopper guarantee to the shopping martyr come the final closing down sale of this imperfect Earth with its limited car parking spaces and accursed opening hours.

However, it was a stroke of genius on the part of the security services’ hostage negotiator, which resulted in the successful resolution of this crisis. Resolving it with only the mere death in a hail of police bullets of the shopping fundamentalists with only the loss of one tail feather by the wood pigeon, when in a tactical gamble the negotiator said to the police marksmen: ‘Oh, fuck it, I’m in danger of missing Top Gear here, if we don’t get a move on. Just shoot the fuckers and then we can all go home.’

Which they did.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Pulling it off

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There are of course reasons for it. However, we will not go into that just at the moment as I see you are somewhat inconvenienced by attempting to adopt the stance of an interested onlooker with the potential to become a fully-involved interlocutor, all whilst holding a bespoke badger–irritating cue and an egg whisk.

Not something that can be easily pulled off with the necessary nonchalance, even for one as used to pulling off as your own good self is reputed to be.

Anyway, be that as it may… and it may very well be not… considering the rather tenuous relationship all this has to what we laughingly call reality. After all, if this reality was really real would we need quite so many supposedly-informed pundits telling us how little they really know each night on the daily evening news programmes?

Still, you can’t always get what you want, as Professors Jagger and Richards so eloquently stated in their learned treatise of the same name, at least without falling foul of Russell’s paradox somewhere along the line.

At least, that was my excuse at the trial. Admittedly, the box of weasels liberally coated in extra-virgin olive oil and the pedalo were a bit of a giveaway, but – fortunately, I was able to claim a religious purpose for it all and was able to get off on a technicality.

So, all in all, then, all’s well that ends well… unless of course, it doesn’t.

Thursday Poem: We Wait on the Edge

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We Wait on the Edge

The shore is there, waiting
and we return there wondering
why it is always the sea that pulls us
down close to the water’s edge

To watch the waves drag themselves
up onto the shore and go
back to the safety of water.
down along the water’s edge

We wait to understand
the river, the stream, the lake
the water always in motion
the canal, the babbling brook

The edge of things. One realm
making way for another.
Another world it seems.
We stand on the edge of things.

The sea, the sky and the dark woods.
All ready to take us beyond
these edges where we stand and wait.
We wait on the edge of things.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Breeders

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All through human history, humankind has tried to rationalise it, come up with explanations for it. From the dark tales that became fairy stories, there were warnings about what happened to young women who stepped off the path and wandered into the unknown. There were fairies, goblins, demons and dragons. In later times, there were white slaves, serial killers and rapists, and now tales of people smugglers. All through their brief history, people have been telling each other why so many young women disappear and never seen ever again.

And they are all wrong.

We need those young women, all through the intertwined history of our two species we have – whenever we could – taken those young women and kept them for ourselves. We have needed them as hosts for our young, mothers for our offspring, we have always needed – and always taken – the breeders.

The humans have invented whole religions to keep their women under control and out of danger. They called us monsters, demons and devils and burnt, hanged and tortured and killed those who became our familiars. They have never been able to stop us, though. They have always been unable to prevent us from talking their women whenever we need them to keep our species alive and prospering, spreading slowly into the human places, into the human lands, into their villages, towns and cities. The more of us there are, the more we will need their women, until we have taken over completely and all their women are ours.

TV Chef Superstar

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Welshpool Toadreturner is – quite rightly – far too famous these days to need any introduction. For a long time now, she has been a fixture on the UK’s TV screens for series after series of her innovative cooking programme, Is it Done Yet? Where she taught the domestic cooks of the UK all they need to know about bunging some stuff into the cooker until it is done and then eating it.

Up until Toadreturner demonstrated it on TV, not many people in the UK had every thought of opening a tin of Cream of Tomato soup, warming it up until it was hot and then eating it, possibly with some bread.

It is rumoured that when Toadreturner first used a tin opener on her programme, the next day shops all over the UK recorded massive sales of tin openers. Several supermarkets also reported that they had not only sold record amounts of tin openers, some of their branches had even sold out of tomato soup, even including the cheap and nasty own brand value range, which was little more than a tin of orange-coloured water with some pepper in it.

From this initial success, Toadreturner has gone on to greater and greater things with her most popular dish - the salt ‘n’ vinegar crisp sandwich, voted as Britain’s favourite meal for several years running now.