Monday, 30 August 2010

Po-e-tree Bus: Skool's Owt

Finally back on the bus, y'all and this week Karen has sent the bus back to school - which in my memory was a good excuse to get out of detention. If you had to come on the school bus then you couldn't have evening detention or you would miss it (with the inevitable result that everyone who came on the bus was a total hooligan)

Hooligans are not invited on the school bus today, but I do have a couple of things to run by y'all. The first is a playground chant that was around in my parent's day and just about around in mine as well - maybe some of you will know it or know if it is still in circulation today. I'd like to think so:

We break up, we break down
We don't care if the school falls down
No more English, no more French
No more sitting on the old school bench
Kick the tables, kick the chairs
Kick the teachers down the stairs
If that does not shut them up
Dynamite will blow them up

And from the traditional to my own this week. I went to a school that had been standing since the 1900s - a school that my mum and uncle had been to before me (my uncle had one of the same teachers) - it was a horrible place with outside toilets and flip-top desks that still had holes for the inkwells and there was no light and practically no air in most of the rooms. I didn't really have a great time there.

Then a couple of years ago they tore it down to make way for an ultra-modern state-of-the-art teaching experience and there was a part of me that was a little saddened to see this part of my life gone - so I wrote the below. The video is an extreme close up of an old Tascam 488 home recorder with some of my paintbrushes in the background (and a pen i permanently borrowed from The Hilton). Lyrics are at the bottom.

Tearing Down The Old School

I never thought I'd say I'll miss you
With all the things that I went through
But when they tear apart your history
It always leaves a trace, it always leaves a trace

They're tearing down the old school, tearing down the old school
Smashing out your windows, tearing down your walls
I look outside my window, it's so far away
It's been so many years now, but it feels like yesterday
Feels like yesterday

I had adventures in the playground
I felt so free when I was young
But that freedom never lasted
The price was hard to pay, the price was hard to pay

And though those walls return to haunt me
And I'm glad that I am free
I know there'll always be a part of me
That lives inside those walls, lives inside those walls

Friday, 27 August 2010

Wordzzle - Sleeper (Part 5)

Here we are again for the Wordzzle, as ever set by Raven. This week my friend Argent has set the words, so I have made extra efforts to make sure I turned up with the latest instalment of my ongoing story.

And a bit of a change here, because all the previous parts of the story have taken place one week apart - but part 5 of the story takes place mere hours after part four. For a catch-up on everything that’s happened to date click on the links for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

Words for this week's 10-word challenge are: corner, cold-stone, rolex, sole, effortless, raindrops, eyebrow, speaker, amusing, leapt

And for the mini: fluid, acreage, fasten, tripe, pages

Yet again I have gone for the 10 word challenge – hope you enjoy it.

Sleeper (Part 5)

Sophie sat on the cold-stone wall opposite the river and lit a cigarette. She raised a weary eyebrow, aware that the cigarette was her second failure of the day: third if you counted ever trusting Richard. If it were any other situation then it would be almost amusing, but the presence of the box in her bag made the laughter drain away.

She had checked the flat and Mark’s things were all gone. The two cases that had been jammed under the bed had been packed, the fallout from his rush scattered around the room like raindrops on concrete. Even the broken rolex had been retrieved from its place behind the fridge where it had lain like some bad joke for two years.

He wasn’t coming back.

No one had seen Richard at work. She’d tried his number again, but when the phone had been picked up the speaker had been one she had never heard before and had disconnected the line without answering her questions

Sophie took another long drag on her cigarette and tried to think. The large government building was in front of her, blocking her view of the river, so she stood, walked a few hundred metres towards the Thames and turned the corner so that she was following the river.

Richard’s flat was a short tube ride away and catching the connection was relatively effortless at that time of day: all the crush of the rush hour having dissipated. She was the sole person to depart the train two stations down and it was only a matter of minutes before she emerged at street level.

The street was strangely quiet: barely any traffic despite the area and her heart leapt as she caught a brief blur of movement inside the flat. Perhaps she was not too late

She took the stairs, too impatient to wait for the lift. She could hear the sound of muted conversation inside, but couldn’t make sense of the noise. She fished in her bag for the key he had given her and opened the door.

There was a flash of blue and two Policemen grabbed her, pulling her into the room. Before she had chance to struggle they had pinned her to the ground and were twisting the cuffs around her wrist. They raised her up just long enough for the familiar shape of Richard to scream into her face

‘Where is it?’ he yelled, ‘Where did you put the bomb?’

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Some years ago the late, great Douglas Adams wrote briefly in Life, The Universe And Everything about the science of Bistromatics - or the appliance of maths and its relationship to booking a table in a restaurant.

I would like to apply this science to give you a brief overview of last Saturday evening

Actual = (Invite/Confirmed) - the amount of people who initially said they would love to come (in this instance the answer being 8)

Actual = (Invite/APologies) - the amount of people who said that only the very opening of the gates of Hell would stop them from attending and the subsequently pull out due to an ingrowing toenail or similar feeble excuse (in this case 5)

Time x (Promised/Actual) - the degree of time by which a promised lift fails to arrive, thus rendering one of your guests very late indeed (in this case 30 mins)

Arranged/(Time x Actual) - the variation in time between the agreed arrival (for instance 7:30pm) and the time people actually arrive. NB: it is a little known fact that Newton's Twelfth Law of Physics states that the agreed time of arrival is the one time that it is impossible for anyone to actually arrive at (not true, but tempting)

Hunger x (Plate-size - Diet) - the variance between what you say you will eat, what you want to eat, what you eventually DO eat and what you tell Weightwatchers you ate at the next meeting. Don't forget that no matter how full you are there is always room for a dessert thanks to the special Dessert Hatch in your stomach that a) allows extra room for puddings and b) stops you from absorbing nasty calories (see Newton's Twelfth Law of Pysics above)

Facial Expression - (Acting Skills/Actual Surprise Level) - degree to which one has to feign ignorance of sudden revelation or news that one has, in fact, heard on Facebook, Twitter and seen scrawled on the toilet walls

Waiters x (Table size x Boredom level) - the amount of times that waiters will come and ask you if everything is ok before you have actually had time to taste the food. This is complicated by SN level (Staff Newness), SK level (Staff Keenness) and sometimes by the restaurant being so full that no-one knows who has checked on whom (also known as Confusion Syndrome)

Bill / 4 x(Actual/Percieved) +Tip - the inevitable lengthy conversation where you go through the bill with a pencil and each come up with a different answer (it is usually traditional for one member of the party to suggest that you all "put in ten pounds each" when it is clear that they had twenty pounds worth of food to themselves)

Depression x Work x(Colleagues x Boring Job Level) - sudden realisation that your current work colleagues aren't half as much fun as your old ones were

Gym x ((Percieved Weight Gain/Self Image)/(Energy/Committment)) - the amount of time it will take to burn off the additional calories as opposed to the amount of time you are prepared to put in

Friday, 20 August 2010

Wordzzle - Sleeper part 4

Well, despite all my intentions to post various things (including a poetry bus entry) another week has passed me by and we are back in time for another Wordzzle.

As regular readers will know the Wordzzle is instigated by Raven and anyone can play along if they are feeling creative. The idea is to take a list of 5, 10 or 15 words and utlize them in a story, poem or other work of creativity

This week Raven was struggling to think of words, so I looked at the jacket of "Exile On Main Street" by The Rolling Stones and selected some random words to help her

Words for the week's 10-word challenge are: rocks, rip this joint, casino, tumbling dice, frayed, angel, cup, on the run, ventilator, face

And for the mini: wine, plundered, signifying, river, survivor

As I had set the words I thought it only fair to use them all in this week's installment of my ongoing story. Don't worry, we're only 2-3 episodes away from the end now, and things are developing nicely

For a catch up you can read Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3, but for those of you already up to date here is:

Sleeper, part 4

Sophie bought herself a coffee from the vendor outside Pimlico. Every morning she promised herself that she would quit the same as she had done the day before. Too much caffeine frayed her nerves, made her jumpy, but still she kept on returning to the stand like some sad junkie for caffiene.

She sucked at the small opening in the cup lid as she crossed the Thames, walking towards the large building opposite. The river was quiet this morning, the water almost motionless beneath her.

She smiled at the guard in recognition, ‘Hi James’ she greeted, ‘What’s with all the additional security?’

James scowled and grumbled. Even with twenty years living around London his accent was still spliced with a hint of New York

‘Hey Soph’ he drawled, still calling her that name despite all her requests, ‘didn’t you get the me-mo?’ he shrugged his shoulders, signifying his usual level of disinterest, ‘some bigwig coming to visit today, so everyone gets a free cavity search’ he laughed at his own joke, ‘just kidding Soph. Jeez, I don’t know why they bother: a paper-bag would be more trouble to break into than this place. They aught to rip this joint down and start again if you ask me’

Sophie tuned out the noise of the conversation and waited for the search to be over. Like most security guards James was a retired cop looking for an easy retirement. Mostly he issued visitor forms, so his search was little more than perfunctory. When it was finally over she went inside, swiping her pass at every turn until she reached her desk, placing her bag on the edge and the still untouched coffee next to her keyboard. Someone had plundered her chair during the night, so she spent ten minutes searching for it.

Finally she returned to her desk, catching it quite hard as she pushed the chair into place.

The bag fell, contents spilling out like tumbling dice at a casino. She swore loudly, catching her head on the edge of the desk and having to brush a cobweb from her face as she bent down to pick up the contents.

Lipstick, keys, a couple of dull rocks that she and Mark had collected on a beach somewhere and she had forgotten about and…

She paused, looking at the small black box with some bemusement. The casing had cracked slightly upon impact, revealing the computer connection. She picked up the rest of the contents of her bag and dumped them on the desk, sitting heavily on her chair. The ventilator above her head was half-way through it’s mid-morning scream, but she barely noticed it.

She looked at her computer and wondered whether to plug the device in: but the security in these machines was much tighter than that on the doors – if the device was what she thought it was then she would soon find herself on the run from more than just the police.

There was only one way it could have got inside her bag: and that could only mean one thing.

She stepped outside of the building, looking for some fresh air. Across the road and down the street a little the doors of The Angel stood invitingly open and she strode towards it with shaking legs, feeling like the survivor of some zombie-induced holocaust

Once inside she ordered a glass of wine despite the early hour and tried to clear her thoughts. She needed to talk to someone quickly, to set her thoughts straight, but who could she trust? Not Mark, that much was certain.

She pulled her phone out of her pocket and dialled Richard’s number, but there was no signal in the room so she tried again from the payphone, waiting impatiently for him to answer

‘Hello?’ the voice on the other end was muffled, indistinct, but still recognisable.

She dropped the receiver, her mind running round in circles

The voice on the other end had not been Richard’s

It had been Mark’s.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Wordzzle - Sleeper (part 3)

And here we are again with the mighty Wordzzle, originated as ever by Raven who weekly sets us a list of words and encourages us to write short works of fiction utilizing said words.

This week the words were:
10-word challenge: summer time blues, glasses, google, pregnant pause, integrated, suit and tie, parallel parking, shimmering, post card, slam dunk

5 word challenge: gradual, eagle's nest, martyrdom, pizza, pugilist

I went with the 10 word challenge and can now bring you part three of my ongoing story.

For those of you who missed the previous episodes the links are: part 1, part 2

Sleeper (part three)

It was dark in the apartment. Only the pale reflection of the computer screen cast any light on the figure hunched over the table. He leaned forward, still clad in his suit and tie. There was no time to change: time was running out and he was already behind schedule. Nevertheless he took a break from the machine to put the two glasses into the dishwasher and took a moment to wipe the fingerprints off both through force of habit.

From outside he could hear the sounds of someone parallel parking, the noise of the engine telling him that he would have to be quick. He saved the file, logged out and logged back in as the other user identity and flicked to google.

There was a pregnant pause as she reached the top of the stairs and then Sophie entered, whistling some tune breezily. It took him a moment to recognise it: Summer time blues. It must have been on the radio.

Sophie blinked, the change in lighting causing a shimmering effect on her vision. She reached for the light switch and then took a double-take at him.

‘Mark’ she said, taken aback, ‘I didn’t think you were in’

He smiled apologetically and rose to greet her, landing a kiss on her lips as easily as a basketball player landing a slam dunk, but with less finesse. He caught the smell of cheap aftershave on her collar and smiled to himself, wiping the smile away before she could see the darkness in his eyes, ‘How was your day?’ he asked

‘Pretty busy’ Sophie responded, dumping her bag on the sofa, ‘The Minister was in, but not in a good mood today: he’s expecting some big-wig to visit sometime soon, but no one seems to know when’ her voice trailed off as she disappeared into the bedroom and began discarding her work clothes, ‘Can we talk about it later?’ she called, ‘I really need a shower’

‘Sure’ he replied, trying to sound casual. He waited for the sound of the shower to begin and could be reasonably sure she was safely involved for a few minutes and then reached for her bag. It took him only a matter of seconds to find the small box that he had integrated into the contents a few weeks previously.

He logged back in to the computer under his previous user identity and connected the box to one of the ports. As the files began to blur and copy across the screen he leaned back thoughtfully and pulled the battered post card out of his pocket one more time.

He read both words: taking a long moment to digest them, to savour each one individually

“Next week”

He reached into another pocket for a cigarette lighter, burned the post card and sat back. Finally things were coming to an end.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Another Bunch Of Fives

Welcome back to the increasingly unpopular and yet determined-to-win-you-over occasional series of lists of five types of thing I think are great.

We’ve had foreign language films, books and obscure albums and now it’s time to launch a subject that will either divide the audience or make them turn away immediately.


OK – so for those of you thinking “I don’t like science-fiction” please don’t despair – and please don’t dismiss a whole genre of fiction. When it’s good Sci-Fi is the most creative and imaginative form of writing and often takes risks that other types of fiction can’t. Really good Sci-fi uses the trappings of the genre to comment on our own society and should not merely be dismissed. Don’t forget that only a generation or so ago the concept of humans being able to fly from place to place in planes would have seemed like science fiction.

And, of course, it’s not possible to produce a definitive list of five greatest Sci-fi, because there’s so much that is great – for instance I’ve left off (Ridley Scott’s) Alien which is a horror film using Sci-fi trappings and (James Cameron’s) Aliens because it is an action film that uses Sci-fi trappings (although I love both films) and am ignoring Avatar on the grounds that it was self-indulgent over-long rubbish (sorry guys, it just was).

So I’ve decided to divide it into two categories – TV Sci-fi, or Telefantasy as it’s sometimes known, and Movie Sci-fi

TV Sci-Fi

#1: Blake’s 7
What: Main BBC rival to Doctor Who from 1977-1981 the plot revolved around a bunch of political criminals attempting to sabotage a corrupt Federation of planets and win freedom for mankind.

The nominal leader of the “dirty dozen in space” was Roj Blake (played by Gareth Thomas), a political activist deemed too dangerous to kill in charge of a group of criminals and a mysterious alien ship. Plots revolved around attempts to sabotage Federation installations or to keep “independent” planets free of the Federations reach.

It all went a bit downhill after season two when Thomas left the show and the program lost its focus. The remaining characters had no particular reason to carry on the fight and so plots shifted to revenge and seeking personal wealth. By season four the original strong characters were being replaced by weaker ones and the show was cancelled – leaving generations of children with a cliff hanger ending that would never be resolved.

Having said this Paul Darrow (as cold, logical Kerr Avon) and Jacqueline Pearce (the ruthless federation leader Servalan) remain two of the most iconic characters in telefantasy and the first two seasons, slow as they may be (and full of rubbish monsters) by modern standards, are definitely still worth watching. The series also featured the most kick-ass spaceship in all Sci-fi: The Liberator.

Today: there is still interest in the show and the BBC recently commissioned some radio plays set in season four of the show. These were of mixed quality. There was some talk of a new show to feature Paul Darrow as an exiled Avon, but the last update I heard on this was that Darrow had fallen out with the creators and the project was indefinitely on hold.

#2: Doctor Who
What: Time-travel romp initially envisioned as a no bug-eyed monsters education show. This remit lasted all of four episodes and then the Daleks came along.

The original series ran from 1963 to 1989 and probably hit the height of its popularity from 1970-80 under the tenure of Jon Pertwee and later the legend-that-is Tom Baker when the show regularly drew 13-14 million viewers (figures undreamed of in modern TV). However, by 1987-89 the budget had been slashed, production values thrown out of the window and Bonnie Langford had been cast as an assistant (shudder)

The show was cancelled, briefly came back as an American pilot episode and finally returned five years ago – subsequently David Tennant became the Tenth actor to play the Doctor and was amazing (although clearly not better than Tom Baker).

Today: the most recent series, now starring Matt Smith, was a bit disappointing – but we continue to hope for better.

#3: Star Trek (original series)
What: the five year mission of the USS Enterprise that initially only lasted three. Full of 60s optimism the program was carried by the triad of Kirk, Spock and McCoy and that gung-ho spirit, combined with the Shatner/Nimoy/Kelly dynamic is still as good and as fresh as ever.

The Sequels:
Star Trek: The Next Generation – of all the spin-offs this seems to have aged the worst, stuck – as it is – in 1980s America (come on guys, a councillor on the bridge?) Patrick Stewart is great as Jean-luc Picard, but of the minor characters Riker is unintentionally hilarious (watch the man walk – he seems to be on the verge of falling forward), Data is too smug (and the whole wanting to be human thing is wearisome) and only Worf is really of any interest.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – I didn’t really like this first time around, I found it slow and ponderous. Things get better when the Dominion war starts and the program rewards repeat viewing

Star Trek: Voyager – despite the annoying nasal voice of Captain Jane-a-way and her French-loaf hairdo this is my favourite of the spin-offs, although the speed that it sells out the initial interesting concept of rebels/federation having to come together is breathtaking

Star Trek: Enterprise – it had Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap in it. This is the only good thing about it. It got cancelled. Nuff said.

#4: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Teen-tearaway Buffy Summers discovers she is the chosen one to fight off the forces of darkness and moves to Sunnydale, which is conveniently located over a hellmouth

Funny, fast and incredibly intelligently written the first three series of Buffy should be shown to anyone even considering making a TV show as an example of how things should be done. Sadly during seasons four to six things become a bit more like Dawson’s Creek with vampires – but the final season just about manages to make up for it.

#5: Quantum Leap
Sam Beckett is lost in time thanks to his own experiment – he leaps about in time writing wrongs with the help of his hologram friend Al

OK – so the show is a bit of fluff. OK – so every other episode the writers seemed to find an excuse for Scott Bacula to sing, but who cares: it was genius. The on-screen chemistry between Sam and Al was always great and it was an unashamedly feel-good show. Just a shame about the rubbish final episode. Turn your brain off and enjoy.

Film Sci-Fi

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
What: after the destruction of the Death Star at the end of what I must grudgingly refer to as A New Hope (It was just Star Wars when I saw it – OK!!!!!!) the rebel forces are on the run from a vengeful empire and Jedi-in-training Luke Skywalker is forced too soon into a confrontation with the evil Darth Vader

Much, much darker than the original film this is, I think, what we all wanted when George Lucas announced he was making three darker prequels. What we got was more muppett nonsense. Even though this is a middle episode and even though it ends with a cliffhanger this is easily the best of the Star Wars films and the scene on the gantry between Luke and Darth still remains a classic.

Future: There are still rumours of three more sequels to come – no, just no – ok?

The Matrix
What: Neo, a freelance computer hacker, comes across rumours of a matrix. He discovers he has an existence as a human battery and may or may not be destined to be a chosen saviour of the enslaved masses.

OK – great special effects, Keanu Reeves actually on form and delivering – fast and furious with some really neat ideas behind the effects this is a great film only ruined by two rather poor sequels. Watch it on its own and make up your own ending to the story.

Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan
What: Many years ago Kirk et al abandoned genetically enhanced Khan on a planet that turned out to be doomed – now he is back and wants revenge. Mix in a plan to colonise hostile worlds and the death of an old friend and you have a classic.

After the worthy but dull first film ST had to deliver and it is no co-incidence that Wrath Of Khan is still held as a classic. Not only is it a good Star Trek film, not only is it a good sci-fi film, it is a good film period. Leonard Nimoy particularly delivers the performance of a lifetime and Shatner still has the hint of the devil in his eye

Today: The latest Star Trek film was pretty good after the turgid Next Generation movies but, for my money, it lacked the Shatner factor and the time-travel plot was silly.

Blade Runner
Clones (or replicants) are banned from Earth – those who disobey are hunted down and terminated by Blade Runners. Rik Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a Blade Runner who after coming in contact with a replicant begins not only to doubt his mission but the nature of his own existence.

The first three times I saw this film (the first time with the Sam Spade voice over still attached) I didn’t much like it. Why did I watch it again? Because the film was hailed as such a classic that I felt I must be wrong.

I was.

It’s one of those films that, like my favourite film Brazil, rewards repeated viewing and I like the fact that the ending is still up for discussion and not just given to you on a plate (though I haven’t seen the latest re-cut yet). The scene in the rain with Rutger Hauer is pure genius.

#5: Plan 9 From Outer Space
What: famously the second worst movie of all time (only beaten by Santa Claus Conquers The Martians) this features aliens so inept that plans 1 through 8 to curb humans from destroying the cosmos have presumably failed and they are forced to re-animate the dead to get our attention.

Made by notorious director Edward D Wood (and for more of the same watch Tim Burton’s excellent “Ed Wood”) on a budget conned from a religious group who thought the profits would go to making a film of the Bible, with stock footage of Bela Lugosi (intercut with Ed Wood’s dentist) and a not-so-psychic TV-psychic the lighting shifts from moment to moment and the dialogue is unbelievably forced. This is a must for every sci-fi fan who takes the genre too seriously to remind us that sometimes it is pretty bad too

Oh – and sneaking in at #6: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Just watch it, then watch it again. It will take about four or five viewings and suddenly you will realise that it is both a great movie and a great musical. Brilliantly paying homage to the weird and wonderful plots of the 1950s b-movies and with a performance from Tim Curry that will leave your jaw open with surprise long after the movie has finished.

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Poetry Bus Returns

This week's challenge, as ever sponsored by Total Feckin Eejit (probably the greatest the worrrrrld - you have to imagine Rutger Hauer doing the ad, it's that good) is brought to you by Revolutionary Revelry who asked us, amongst other things, to think of a sensory memory to do with summer

And I nearly missed the bus again thanks to my usual woolgathering and scattergun thoughts - then i thought about something that happened to me one June day in what we Brits laughingly refer to as "summer" and for some reason, unexplainable to the mortal eye, also found myself much in the styling of Bob (he's a musician) Dylan - prompt cards for the video are optional.

Subterranean Stormcloud Blues

June day
bike ride
looking for the right sign
hot day
Gonna get me outside

Lookout June, come too soon, gonna take my bike, gonna take it for a ride
Lookout you, went too soon, see the clouds arising when you thought the sun was shinin

chase me home
sky is helter-skelter
cold rain
brain drain
looking for a shelter

Lookout June, caught you too, going on a bike ride thinking you were clever
Lookout you, come too soon, aught to know better than to ever trust the weather

Friday, 6 August 2010

Wordzzle - the ongoing saga

OK - so before I print my attempt at wordzzles this week a quick shout out to The Watercats who this week launched a Fantasy-Band-Member occasional post.

In response to which I think I will post the below video, which is something of a guilty pleasure - but, and be honest here guys, wouldn't you give anything to be a member of Dr Teeth & The Electric Mayhem?

Right, on with the challenge.

This week I seem to have been away, quite literally, with the pixies, as I was utterly convinced that Raven had not launched her usual challenge this week - utterly convinced, that is, until I re-visited her site and realised I had actually commented on it!!

So: rules are as follows - you get 10 words, 5 words or all 15 words to write a story. You have to use them in your story and add your name to Mr Linky. Much fun and creativity ensues.

Words for this week's 10-word challenge are: swiss cheese, operation, frantic, quizzical, control, shallow, wedding, paranoid, orange, marginal

And for the mini: pepper, island, quintuplets, organic, treaty

I think again I shall stick to the 10 word challenge - and bring you the much anticipated second installment of my story.

Sadly, for those of you wondering what was going on with the box and the dump truck, we are now a week on from those events, so you will just have to wait a few more episodes to really get what is going on...

For part 1 click here

Sleeper (Part 2)

Sophie inhaled deeply on the cigarette and allowed her focus to fade. The glass window of the shop fragmented her reflection until it mirrored the swiss cheese state of her mind. She could just see the girl inside the shop, trying on wedding dresses with gleeful abandon, but for the first time in her life Sophie could find no comparitive emotion to match.

Everything had been in turmoil since the party: she glanced over her shoulder at the Government building that she could still just pick out on the horizon, as if somehow those present inside would be able to hear her thoughts. She was being paranoid, but that seemed to be a constant state of mind recently with the way that Mark had been towards her.

And now there was Richard.

Dear sweet Richard, with his quizzical eyebrow always ready to be raised, his emotions deep and warm and not shallow like Mark's, like their relationship was an operation and Mark was the surgeon: only interested in her to find out how she worked. She felt a moment of guilt at the thought. She and Richard had never been more than friends, at least until that night a week ago. It was as if he had realised the marginal state of her existence and reached out to her and offered her life again.

Sophie blinked. Something moved in the periphery of her vision. There, half-way up the road, as if sommoned by her guilt, was Mark.

She frowned, taking a moment to process the information. He didn't seem to have seen her, was heading away from her: so what was he doing in this area? She felt frantic at the thought that he might have seen the way she and Richard had exchanged glances as they left the building and headed after him calling his name.

There was no response to the call. He just kept on walking. It was only when she reached out and touched his collar that he span and looked at her like a scalded cat. There was a brief surge of cold anger on his face, as if he had been caught in some secret, and then he regained control

'I kept calling your name: what are you doing here?' Sophie asked

'Sorry' he said, not answering the question, 'I was miles away'

He took her for a coffee nearby, made pleasant conversation that was never more than surface deep, his eyes repeatedly falling to her orange security pass until she became self-conscious and tucked it away.

Finally he glanced at his watch, 'I'm supposed to be meeting someone' he said, 'I must be going' He leaned over and gave Sophie a perfunctory kiss and then was gone up the road again, walking quickly.

For a second Sophie fought the urge to follow him, to see where he was going: but it was getting late and she was due back at work. She turned back the way she had come and gasped, blinking with surprise.

Just for a second she had been sure that someone was following her