Sunday, 28 February 2010

TFE's Monday Poem

Don't Talk To Me About Life...

Come home in darkness to an empty house
Take a moment to feed the cat
Stretch out and wait to change my mood
Wonder what the hell is the point

Come home in darkness to an empty cat
Take a moment to feed the mood
Stretch out and wait to change my point
Think that life can be shit

Come home in darkness to an empty mood
Take a moment to see the point
Stretch out and wait and change my shit
Switch on the TV and sigh

Come home in darkness to an empty point
Take a moment to feed this shit
Stretch out and wait to an elongated sigh
Feel a little better for a while

Friday, 26 February 2010

Wordzlle 101

OK – so following on from finishing Maggie’s story I’ve had a few weeks away from Raven’s ever intriguing competiton, but I’m back this week to pay respects to one of the regular participators – the much missed Dr John/Fandango (without whose presence Wordzzles will never be the same)

The reason I took a few weeks away was because there were other, factual things, that I wanted to talk about and hadn’t had time to do: so in the spirit of this the first of my Wordzzles this week is based on something that actually happened to me

As usual the rules are that Raven, or a willing volunteer, submit a total of fifteen words which can be used to create a mini, main or mega story (or all three if the mood takes you)

My “main” this week marks the start of what may or may not (probably not, knowing my attention span) become a semi-regular series of thoughts about things that have happened to me (the title of which will say it all)

Words this week were: 10-word challenge are: smoothness, crafty, purchase, brief, chirping, forever, shift, moonrise, lampshade, stereotypeFor the mini: remembrance, Dr. John, Agent 012, dragons, Fortress

The Main (smoothness, crafty, purchase, brief, chirping, forever, shift, moonrise, lampshade, stereotype)

The Various Women In My Life Vol 1: RW

She was attractive in a quiet way. Not in an “in your face” unobtainable way, but someone whom you felt that you just might stand a chance was.

Of course, being me I had as much chance of catching her as I had of catching moonlight. I was seventeen and my knowledge of women extended little further than my mother. Not, I have to admit, that I was that bothered. I’d only just recovered from an infatuation with a girl so far out of my league that I’d’ve had to shift universes just to stand a lampshade’s chance of shielding the sun. But there we were, on the same photography course together and, well…

It wasn’t even as if I was that attracted to her, but there was something about the smell of her hair when you stood behind her in a pitch-black darkroom that made me want to reach out and do the sort of things that I had only heard about on late night TV. She was something of a stereotype 17 year old girl – the kind of girl who always had to go to the toilet with another woman so that she could gossip about whichever waste of oxygen of a man she was infatuated with at the time, each brief liaison teaching her few life lessons. She was so na├»ve that when she was trying to keep her phone number from her latest infatuation she made the mistake of telling it to another lad on the course – who went around all day singing her number until everyone knew it (I still know it now and will probably remember it forever)

But the reason I remember her is purely for the night in the chip shop (and for Americans – think French Fries)

In addition to the training course in the daytime we had found ourselves on the same evening course (purely by accident). It was dark, but we decided to go out into the street and take some night shots of the traffic. She decided that she was hungry and suggested that we buy some chips.

Just a few yards down the road was the chip shop and we entered, opening the door with easy smoothness. The man behind the counter asked us what we wanted, shooting me a crafty look as we selected our purchase.

I felt an unexplainable moment of pride. This man thought that she was my girlfriend. No one had ever thought I was capable of getting a woman as attractive as this, not even me. In that moment the birds were chirping in my head, I felt tall and strong: capable of anything despite my usual shyness.

Thursday night, on my way home from the train, I went into that chip shop again. The chips were just as good as I remembered.

The Mini: (remembrance, Dr. John, Agent 012, dragons, Fortress)

NB: in one of his responses to Maggie’s story Dr John/AKA Fandango commented that he thought the Dragons had once met her – although that lady was not Maggie: this is her story. In memory of Dr John.

Elsie Thomas And The Dragon

Once upon a long ago
In the land of Hernextdoor
There lived amongst the dragons
A lady who declared war

She didn’t have a fortress
It was just a little shack
And it took half a morning to clean
Cos she had trouble with her back

And though she complained about the council
They’d never cleared her street
When Agent 012 came to ask for help
She knew she must compete

He said he’d had some trouble
With the dragons on the hill
A row had recently broken out
Through the boys looking for a thrill

The dragons had remembrance
For the things that had been said
So they burned down the local cinema
And burned every book they’d read

The council tried to kick them out
But the dragons would not yield
So they sent for Elsie Thomas
And she set off across the field

Her sleeves got swiftly rolled up tight
Her coat was buttoned up
She wouldn’t take no nonsense
And told them to shut up

But she never tried to fight them
She invited them to tea
And they talked about it openly
Till both sides felt quite free

To call a truce and come to peace
That would last for many years
Long after Elsie Thomas
Had sorted out their fears

So when you have a dragon round
Don’t wish that they were gone
Just welcome them like long lost friends
And think of Dr. John

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Oh Aye, One Of Those...

The woman on the other end of the phone sounds vaguely troubled. Frankly I don't blame her

"OK, run me through this again: because we haven't got a clue what you're talking about here"

I take a deep breath and try to think of a good way to explain what I want. It's midday on Wednesday. I'm struggling with my new job, trying to get my head around all manner of pointless trivia about servers and routers and things that go ping occasionally...and in the middle of all this I now have to explain something I've only ever seen once to a woman that I've never met.

"'s sort of like clingfilm" I begin, not entirely sure if it really is, "only it has a circular or oval hole and you stick it onto a piece of canvas before you do your painting and when you pull it off at the end you're left with a circular painting"

"Only...your partner said you'd described it as being like a canvas condom?"

I close my eyes, feel my cheeks going a bit red, wondering if it was really necessary for this private joke to be shared to the whole world and knowing that it's probably the sort of thing I'd've said eventually anyway.

This all started because a relative of mine is having a Significant Birthday this year and in a moment of blind panic as to what to do I had thought "I know: I'll do a painting"

This year is a big year in my family for Significant Birthdays (IE ones with a zero at the end, thus marking the end of a decade of existence) and always keen for an excuse to do a painting I decided to look on the internet and do a painting of some landscape from the area they grew up: a lovely mountain.

And that was when I remembered the woman at the Arts Alive demo day who'd had this...well...I can only describe it as a canvas condom really. Designed to protect the parts that other clingfilms can't reach.

And I thought what would be a good effect would be to use this method of protection, paint the mountain in the circle, pull off the condom (so to speak) and then add a single tree or similar outside of the circle - much as the demonstrator had done...and so I asked my partner to stop off in a photo framing/art shop if she got time and see if she could get me some.

The woman on the phone pauses for a second, trying to make sense of my description, "Just out of interest" she says, "was the person you saw doing this a Bob Ross demonstrator?"

"Yes she was" I say.

Well, I guess that some of you in the USA may have heard of Bob Ross: apparently he was something of a cult TV personality in the states in much the same way that Rolf Harris was/is here: only Ross seems to have been a better marketing man because he has a whole range of paints, books and demonstrators who tour the country like rabbits ready to leap out at unsuspecting artists and shock them with their wet-on-wet technique.

The woman is saying something to my partner about how I will now be forever stuck with the moniker of "Canvas Condom Man" and I realise with a degree of sadness that I have been called worse - but then she proceeds to tell me that she can order what I want: only it doesn't come with the hole already cut, it only comes in two sizes and will take two weeks to arrive.

I realise that I've been stupid to assume that anyone apart from baby product manufacturers would sell condoms with the holes pre-cut and sadly inform the woman that she has just talked herself out of a sale, but that as she has been so helpful I will probably pop in and buy something non-protection related in the near future.

That's the thing about small shop owners - many of them seem so miserable at the thought of selling you their product that you come out wondering how they stay in business. In the world of Global Corporations the small businessman has to offer something else: the personal touch, going the extra mile...making you want to come back again.

Like there used to be a really good art shop about 10 miles away where they used to be really helpful: but the woman hired some Bored Teenagers to run the shop for her: result was that they closed within months and probably never knew why.

So the fact that this woman was willing to talk and joke about Canvas Condoms and talk herself out of a sale if it wasn't what the customer wanted made me that little bit more willing to go back again.

That evening I got home from work and went upstairs to change. That was when I saw my partner's alterior motive for visiting the shop. Lying on the bed is a late Valentine's present, wrapped in stylish paper.

I know what it is straight away.

Inside the painting is a canvas board, surrounded by off-white card and a dark (with flecks) frame.

On the canvas is a painting that I did of Charlie and Willow late last year. The framing looks fantastic and I take it downstairs straight away and hang it on the wall. It looks great.

It's just about the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Kobiyashi Maru

OK - so I can't start this post without a big THANK YOU to everyone who left messages of support after my last post. I'm sorry for not responding individually, but I would particularly like to thank Argent for being a good friend and Lydia who was kind enough to care about someone she has never met.

The good news is that Willow seems to be coping well so far - she was very anxious the first few days and we are still trying to work out exactly when and how much to feed her, but she is getting all the fuss and attention I can give.

So - moving on now and on top of the continuingly baffling and often contradictory news from my new bosses (honestly - the goalpoasts are moving faster than a fighter plane) I got an email from the competition I entered shortly before Christmas to say that my short story "Kobiyashi Maru" had been rejected from their anthology. To be honest I wasn't too bothered, as I was somewhat underwhelmed by the last publication.

And this does mean that I am now able to bring this short story direct to yourselves on this blog.

For anyone who isn't a rabid Sci-Fi fan 'Kobiyashi Maru' is a deliberate reference. I suggest you look it up on Wikipedia (where worryingly there are more pages on Luke Skywalker than there are on Albert Einstein)

And finally before the story: followers of the adventures of Margaret Mills (Maggie) and Spud on my recent Wordzzle will be glad to know that I am currently trying to re-write it as a radio script. I will keep you informed of my progress or otherwise.


Kobiyashi Maru


Death looked up from the board and, despite lacking the required facial musculature to do so, managed to look like someone who could now only see the state of Bloody Annoyed in the rear-view mirror having passed it at some speed just a few minutes earlier.

‘I BEG YOUR PARDON?’ Death asked.

Keema the Dwarf looked up with an apparently innocent look of joy on his face, ‘Horsey to King Prawn: Snap!”

Death looked down at the chess board and desperately tried to work out what, if any, of the previous statement applied to the game in hand. So far Keema was winning by the age-old tradition of playing so badly that all of Death’s clever tactics were of no use to him. The only thing that Death couldn’t work out was whether it was deliberate or not.

It was always the bloody same these days Death ruminated silently as he tried to assess where to move his own horsey: knight – he silently corrected. For thousands of years when people had come to challenge him it had been epic battles that had spanned the whole of space and time, swords, cutlasses, semi-automatic weapons: all had fallen to his Scythe. Then that bloody Ingmar Bergman had come along and all of a sudden it was all chess this and chess that. Nobody had any style these days; that was the problem. Still, Death conceded to himself, anything was better than the Bill & Ted incident. Losing at chess was one thing: losing at Buckaroo was quite another.

Keema yawned and stretched suddenly, ‘Methinks we need a break’ he said

‘OH YES’ Death replied, cursing himself that he had fallen into his habit of Talking In Capitals To Intimidate People, ‘I MEAN: IT’S ONLY YOUR SOUL WE’RE PLAYING FOR AFTER ALL’

Keema nodded, oblivious to the tone of voice and got up to fetch a drink. Sarcasm, like most things in a Dwarf’s life, went straight over his head.

‘I don’s suppose this place has a toilet?’ he asked

‘INDEED YES’ Death replied, ‘IT’S ONLY ONCE YOU’RE IN HELL THAT YOU FACE AN ETERNITY WITHOUT RELIEF’ He paused. When it became clear that plays on words were another thing that went over a Dwarf’s head Death sighed, ‘THIRD CORRIDOR ON THE LEFT, SECOND DOOR’. He paused again. Many people had asked him down the centuries why he, the Grim Reaper, kept a fully fitted Avacado bathroom suite complete with skeleton rubber duck, the truth being that everyone needed somewhere to read the Obituaries Gazette. Keema, being a Dwarf, merely wondered off down the corridor singing a song about gold.

Once he was alone in the corridor Keema let the simple minded expression drop from his face and unfolded the map that Prendegast had sold him. The plan was going perfectly so far and all he needed now was to follow the instructions he had been given to the letter.

Back in the games room Death looked up from the Coffee peculator and tipped his head to one side. If his suspicions were right then any second now...

Cre-ak. Snap, Snap, Snap

...the crocodiles would have had their meal for the day. Death waited. There was the sound of footsteps in the corridor. Somehow Keema had avoided the crocodiles. It didn’t matter the...

Twang twang, twang

...poison darts would get him. The sound of continued footsteps alerted Death to the fact that he had failed to take Keema’s diminutive stature into account and thus ruined the mahogany floorboards for the fifth time that week. Death reached for his Scythe and began sharpening it with a stone, his upper temple lobes furrowed in thought. There was still the Pit Of Certain Oblivion, but somehow he suspected...

Chink, chink, chink, plop!

...Keema would avoid that one too. Death sighed and stood up, aware that he would have to sort this one out for himself.

In the corridor Keema paused and looked for any sign of the ornamental skull that he had thrown into the Pit, but could see none. If Prendegast was right then the next door should lead to the Storage area.

Keema opened the door as silently as possible. The inside was little more than a corridor, laid out like a vast library with letters and names stretching as far as the eye could see.

It was a long walk before he even reached the letter K and he had to go back and collect a stepladder before he could reach up to the box containing his details. He picked it up with trembling hands and placed it on the floor, taking the lid off slowly.

Inside was just a single bullet.

Keema picked it up and fetched an eyeglass from his pocket. As he held it up to the light he could see just a single word engraved onto the surface: “KEEMA”

It was the bullet with his name on it. He had often heard it said that there was a bullet out there for everyone, only now that he owned his bullet he could never die: because he was hardly likely to shoot himself, right? He put the bullet into his shirt pocket and turned around.

Death was there behind him, seeming to have somehow grown taller in the enclosed space. Keema backed away, his expression turning to panic as Death brought the Scythe around in an arc. The blade cut through the material of the shirt pocket, catching a glancing blow on the bullet which sparked, the casing splitting as the small object hit the floor and exploded.

‘Oh Shit...’ Keema managed, falling face down on the floor.

‘INDEED’ Death replied, bringing the Scythe down one final time to cut the thread of life.

After a long moment Death sighed deeply and turned away, heading back to the kitchen where the kettle had already boiled over. ‘THAT’S THE PROBLEM,’ he said to himself, ‘PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK THINGS THROUGH’