Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Big Tex Is Dead


It’s not the ending to 2008 I wanted, but at least Forrest Gump didn’t turn up on my doorstep and wave a box of chocolates in my face. Or anywhere else.


Maybe, like me, you’re planning on waxing reflective today, wondering how to transform yourself into a better person without recourse to plastic surgery or a total personality graft, reflecting on the good and bad times you’ve seen and looking forward to your next BOVI-Burga (The Burger You Can Trust) — or whatever.

It’s a good thing, isn’t it? To take stock, mix in a couple of herrings and whup yourself up a Stargazy Pie of speculation and resolution? I’d like to think so, but deep down (just above the elastic of my Whirlo Socks) I have a couple of reservations about the whole business of grand resolutions:

1) It’s a fucking waste of time.
2) It’s a fucking waste of time.

So, here’s what I’m currently thinking. As I began making my way through the mountain of papers, power tools, tropical fish and drawing stuff constituting all the tangible remains of my late Dad’s life, I came upon this photograph. Actually, I came upon loads of photographs, most of which I’d never seen before — of my grandad in daft looking trousers, my aunts and uncles in the black and white Skeggie beach gloom some time before the war (or probably during, if all the dark clouds looming o’erhead are, in fact, smoke), and my Dad’s grandad, who, it turns out, stood a full 6' 7" without his cap. Anyhow, what struck me about the photo below is the way my Dad is striding into a future he couldn’t possibly know. A future full of computers and religious extremists, cheap flights to despoiled Hungarian wastelands and exactly the same Queen. Think of anything you like after the late fifties when this photo was probably taken and those are all the things he couldn’t possibly have known about. And me, of course. Nearly fifty years’ worth of times, people and things — good and bad, taken and given.




I can’t think he’s out to change the world and he doesn’t have the look of someone too intent on changing himself, and it may be that the person taking the photo isn’t (as I suspect) my Mum, but the ringleader of a gang of Teddy Boy thugs that terrorised the caravan parks of Great Yarmouth till the price of hot dogs drove them away, thus rendering my whole life a sham, BUT, right now I’m seeing a quality in my Dad’s stride that speaks to me. Granted, it was probably a sunny day and I’d be very surprised if umpteen bags of delicious properly cooked fish ‘n’ chips weren’t lurking off camera within a couple of yards, yet there’s no mistaking what this photograph is actually about.

If I’m to do anything different in 2009, it has to be done this way — preferably with a similar steam of merriment rising in wisps from my smile as I swing my feet into empty air. So thanks for that one, Dad.

Oh — and whatever they’re saying now about 2009, remember: it hasn’t happened yet.


Monday, December 29, 2008

140 Pages Of Thrills & Spills - Plus Or Minus The Odd Near-Death Experience And A Hint Of Levitation


Fans of checking in to witness my WIPometer count slowly but surely doing sweet FA will no doubt have noticed that over the past few weeks, I’ve excelled myself in the Doing Zilch department. Partly, this is due to the onslaught of festive responsibilities (dressing up as Santa, combing the Christmas tree, clearing the house of carbonised Yorkshire pudding smoke etc), the cruel hand of fate turning out not to be the Full House we expected, and the simple fact that the two outstanding chapters constituting the missing 5000 words can’t really be written until I’ve gone through what I have so far and checked a few plot twists for consistency.


My one joy this week (okay, okay — burning the Yorkshire puddings on purpose was fun) is that I’ve printed out the whole manuscript. There are gaps and gaffes and gruffes and grawpes, and twenty-odd paragraphs that need rewriting lodged in there among the 250 footnotes for spelling, punctuation, consistency, timing, weather, mood, flan ingredients etc, but for the most part (the revising part, incorporating a couple of chapter writes), I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s finished as far as word counts are concerned. At this stage, adding up the words is a meaningless exercise.

In an ideal world, my next move would be to hire a bunch of dancing girls to squirt warm milk and honey onto my naked flesh as I writhe in a bathtub full of Baileys Irish Cream, stuffing my face with spicy samosas lock myself away in a bunker and devote every gurgle of skin pore geyser to bashing the whole thing (and it does look lovely now it’s all printed out) into shape, but as my hands are pretty much tied for the next few weeks, and my revision skills on a par with the telepathic prowess of the world’s least intelligent slug, my first week of January deadline/threshold/zenith no longer looks like a working target. The momentum, however, is with me. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, here’s my celebratory pic...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let Festivity Abound


That's the spirit of Christmas for you — dazzles and beguiles you with the brightest of lights for most of December, then sneaks up behind you at the very last minute and whacks you gently on the arse with a sapling of purest tinsel.

Thanks to everyone who's dropped by in 2008. Have a great Christmas and return soon when the larder/cellar/utility mule is bare.

Santa ahoy!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Realistic Foaming Blood Capsules — Hur Hur, Fool Your Pals...


Today has not been a particularly good day for failing to resemble a walrus assaulted by its dentist with a variety of whizzy parerphinalia.


Why so?

All my life I’ve been prone to nose bleeds — which either means I have hyperactive bone marrow, possess a particularly feeble nasal membrane architecture or have no idea people keep whacking me over the head with cricket bats every time my back is turned. The upshot of my recent mucoid woes is that I’ve blown both nostrils soggying up the aloe vera tissues, and today I spent most of my lunch hour with my head hung over the sink like some sort of vampire trap. I can’t tell you how many loo rolls I’ve had up my nose. OK then — half. But that’s a lot of loo rolls for a nose. That’s, like, a quarter of a roll per nostril. You try having a quarter of a loo roll sticking out each of your bleeding nostrils without looking like a walrus assaulted by its dentist with a variety of whizzy parerphinalia.

Anyhow, I’m feeling light-headed now, and may have to lie down in a darkened room with a scented colander...

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'd Sex You Up But I Gotta Clear My Throat Of Phlegm, Baby


OK, here's the deal.


Another vocal wocal thingy as suggested by the ever wonderful Robin S and augmented for fiendishness by the furball we all know and love as McKoala.

The idea is a simple one: to read out a list of instructions from something terribly ordinary like a packet of indigestion tablets and sex it up big time.

So — I've gone with the handy Paracetamol tablets that have been preventing me from sneezing my head off all week. Not sure if this is full on sex however, as it was all I could do to get to the end without coughing my lungs up — but to ensure those of you desirous of palpitations are not disappointed, I've enlisted the aid of a 70s Throb God to help me out a little.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pump Me Full Of Vitamin C, For I Am Pune Incarnate


Blimey.


My second blog post about being under the weather in as many weeks. But before you decry me as a useless malingerer with the constitution of a gnat whose feeble infected body ought to be flung from a cliff into a swirling sargasso of frenzied feeding sharks, allow me to point out in my defence that prior to this Month Of Mucus, I’ve only chalked up a single day off work in ten years due to illness, and even then, I was actually skiving.

What comforts me, in my hour of dissolving man-size tissues by the boxload, is that I’m not alone in my plight. This is not to say I’m glad everyone else is sniffling and snorking too; merely to point out that a lot more people in my immediate social circle seem to be ill than is normally the case for this cheery, festive time of year. Indeed, I was only remarking this morning to the woman in Tesco (as I stood paying for my Lucozade and trying not to die) that most of the people I’d encountered while browsing the shelves seemed unusually dead, and the few who were up and about on their feet could have passed for cardboard cutouts soaked in wallpaper paste.

Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe everyone is a tad more downcast than usual for glad inhabitants of the new millennium that the physiological hurdles erected by our bodies to keep the bugs at bay have somehow overturned. Or maybe there’s a sale on.

Either way, my head feels like a strip of overcooked bacon that's been tugged between both halves of my brain by a dimwit ogre enthusiastically trying to make fire. And I’ve groaned like a fat man’s settee all day long.

Shoot me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Partridge, No Pear Tree


For the past couple of days, a pair of pigeons have been visiting my garden and sitting in the tree in the rain. I’m assuming they’re a mating pair — they don’t look like a couple of blokes discussing the ups and downs of the pigeon football league, and although they’ve pecked at one another quite viciously on occasion, their demeanour lacks the full-on lust for bloodshed of females shamelessly bitchin’.


As I gaze out on this scene, desperately hoping, it has to be said, for flurries of festive snow and bulbous red reindeer schnozzles to burst through the gloom, I’m reminded that this is a time for giving as well as receiving (lots of chocolate, this year, please — oh, and a Beano annual and plenty of little surprises that make me sigh, ‘oh you shouldn’t have’ or ‘it’s a nice colour, but do I wear it, eat it or trim Geoff’s whiskers with it?’) and I’m moved to scatter the lawn with husks of dried bread, pigeon-friendly sunflower seeds, and anything from the fridge that’s been sat in a bowl covered in clingfilm for over a fortnight.

Ha! I jest! But here’s the interesting thing. Mother of Girly Of Whirly (for both, indeed, exist*) makes delicious Christmas puddings for the whole family every year which, in spite of their abundance of joyous flavours and textures, are big enough to mass constipate a herd of elephants, and as I’m rooting around in the freezer among the emergency supplies for use in the event of nuclear attack (as anti-mutant missiles), what should I discover but a single slice of figgy pudding wrapped in greaseproof paper circa Christmas 2007?

So — treats all round, I say. In the run-up to the big day, I shall dispense festive cheer to the dicky birds of the universe a spoonful at a time, singing like a benevolent angel. Or, at very least, Nigella Lawson with a stinking cold.


* My penance for demanding to come back as a dragon when the Lord had me earmarked for a slug.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Casting Off Of Albatri 6


For Characters, Imagined And Real



A blank page
and a breath.

All possibility,
this.

I will hold you dear
until death.

You are life,
you are life,
as is.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yo! Sing Ye, Glad Cherubs Of Pop!


I’ve spent most of this week ploughing my way through the glut of Christmas CDs and albums hoarded since birth, and, having survived Wombling Merry Christmas, Mistletoe & Wine and all the hideous pseudo-festivities offered up by Shakin’ (Bloody) Stevens, I’m ready to host an ongoing discussion of all your favourite Christmas records from Yule Log Wahoos past. Till you’re all sick of it.


So — what tunes deck the halls of your soul with holly and ivy?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas On The 60s/70s Cusp



The great thing about this photograph is that I can’t remember a single thing about the day it was taken.

The print is actually much larger than other photos I have from this time, which leads me to believe that the whole event (probably a jumble sale) was considered so potentially memorable, the organisers hired the sort of Man + Camera you used to see lurking on seaside piers waving an ugly baby monkey at screaming toddlers.

I’m glad I still have this iconic image. Without it, the magic of that particular day would have been lost forever.

Everything about this photo brings me so much joy every Christmas, I have to decant some of it off and send it to the poor. From the undeniably serious boy in his undeniably unserious hat to the girl with the ludicrously arranged legs, this baby has everything. As for 8/9 year-old me on the far left, I can’t think for a moment why I’m smiling so much. You may not be able to read the writing on the box I’m holding, but I can confirm it’s a 260 piece jigsaw, almost certainly of a yacht. Even the most enthusiastic of jigsaw fiends couldn’t have been cheered as much as I clearly am here, so I can only presume it was the Santa Effect, radiating with all the wonder of a magical dream from the git in the cozzie sat in the chair.

My. There were no frills for us 60s kids (with our wooden teeth, our scurvy, and our imaginary friends who were actually deformed relatives hidden from view in the basement); no purpose-built Lapland style grottos resplendent with fake snow and populated by animatronic reindeer for us. Oh no.

Picture the scene, moments before the doors opened...

PHIL: Chraaaaaaaaaaaarst. There’s thaaaaaaaaarsands of ‘em. Where’s Terry?
RON: Dunno, but we’d better let ‘em in, else there’ll be a riot. I’ll go and look for him...

Moments later, after an Italian Job style screech of Ford Anglia rubber on paving slabs, Ron squeezes his way through the fag smoke in the snug of the Dog & Bastard, where an obviously inebriated Terry sits poised to bet two bob on a hand of cards he dropped into his pint glass several minutes before...

RON: Terry! What you playin’ at, mate? You’re supposed to be dressed up as Santa down the St John’s Ambulance!
TERRY: Blimey. You mean that costume wasn't for kinky sex with the missus...?

Moments later, after Terry is bundled from the pub, clutching at empty glasses, he finds himself sat on the single chair representing The North Pole In All Its Majesty, struggling to pull a cotton wool beard over his head without igniting it on his Embassy filter tip....

TERRY: I’ll get you back for this you miserable fuckin’ bleeders...
PHIL: Chraaaaaaaaaaaarst. Pack yer swearin’ Terry. There’s kids about...

Oh to have been a fly on the wall. Or the soggy egg sarnies.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Analogy Stretcher 2


Sniffles well and truly over, I rise this morning, glad to discover the following gem in my inbox from the awesome Kiersten...


“Like moths to a flame.”

This one is so good it’s hard to avoid using it — especially when you’ve been invited to an insect-themed fancy dress party by Beelzebub himself.

But does it make any sense?

Much as I would like to say “anything goes” on this one, it may be wise to limit our discussions to a subtle fusion of philosophical debate, wine-crazed frippery frenzy and Weissmuller whoop-inspired eurekosis. That way, I can still eat nachos while I’m typing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Analogy Stretcher 1


What say we stretch a few analogies between us till they can’t take it no more?


Email me with suggestions and I’ll post up some suitably victimizable examples as and when.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Directly Outside 6


Directly outside my window, the Gunge Collector hovers on his Levi-disk. He inserts his keycard in the console and opens up the window, filling my cell with a noxious mixture of bile fumes, exhaust smoke and wheezing sneers of laughter.


‘You 8745-tr653956-hf974610-getdl-00846?’ he calls to me, the screen of his handheld infopod flickering with images of how I looked before I was incarcerated in this hellhole. No, I’m Whirl, I think. Dumb insolence.

‘Yeah,’ I reply.

‘Mask up.’

I cross to the secure locker above my bunk and unlock it, my fingers already shaking from the cold as the mist from outside licks at my naked body with its sickly yellow tongue. Pulling on the mask, I feel the petrified rubber squeak across my skin and when I clamp the mouthpiece to my jaw, I discover the piercings in my lips have shrunk and offer up my lips to the bolt gun. The Gunge Collector wipes away the blood with a rag and clips a stained filter to the end of his pump.

Schhiiiiiiiiiick.

I hate that noise. And the first tug too, like my face is about to be sucked clean off. But I’m used to it now, and as the fluid is drained from my nose, I watch the dial on the pump — 20 — 30 — 40 — willing it on to a hundred. Below me, each snotty bolus bulges its way along the tube, down through the mist to the monster glistening in the courtyard. The end of the spout flails against its dilated pneumostomes, soaking the sore and peeling husks of blubbery flesh round their edges with globs of steaming mucus.

An icy dizziness engulfs me and I feel the Gunge Collector’s rough hands tear off my mask.

The window slams shut.

I fall to the ground.

I want to roll into a deep dark hole, curl myself up, and die. But I’m trapped in this place. Doomed only to witness as the world spins by, directly outside...

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Proboscis Of Nostril Dramas


Looks like it’s my turn to go down with a horrible bout of the galloping snots. I’ve managed to avoid it for the whole of November despite being sneezed on by just about everyone I’ve met, and by lunchtime, I fully expect my nostrils will be capable of lubricating every last cog in the cosmos — bar the one at the back of my brain I reserve for writing.


Problem is, I’m clearly not ill enough to not iron*. I’m in that halfway house of snifflers’ limbo between bounding through the day like a zealot and flopping into bed like a corpse — that no-man’s land of joyless tedium over which the sullen Gods of cleaning, ironing and washing up hold sway. Normally, I’d flick through the TV channels, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve donned my Captain Grot veneer of mucus and it seems the BBC have now dispensed with screening cartoons and documentaries during the daytime, favouring instead shouty studio debates featuring a variety of dysfunctional imbeciles and ugly fat girls permanently up the duff. Maybe I’ll iron some handkerchiefs.

The good news is that me and Geoff have made up. My conscience finally got the better of me and I knew I couldn’t leave her suspended by her ears over a flaming cooker ring for another day. Besides, her wails of anguish had got so bad, I woke up several times last night thinking Edith Piaf had risen from the dead. So we’ve been enjoying considerable Snuggle Up On The Sofa time, and thanks to my hiccup-frequency display of sneezing, her coat is looking pretty shiny.

One bonus of the snots kind of illness is that, unlike diarrhoea, when it has you in the fiendish green coils of its bogey tsunami embrace, you can carry on eating. So maybe that’s what I’ll do today: eat. Fish is supposed to be good for restoring you to health if you’re ill, so I may hop on a shoal of trout and get a bit of fresh air on my way to the supermarket. Instant noodles are down to 50p a ton this week, so I’m stocking up just in case the world economy improves.

Hopefully I’ll be over this by tomorrow. I’m not the type for allowing viral mutants to put their feet up on the bean bags of my blood cells for any longer than is necessary. I just hope I avoid that headache thing where it feels like Led Zep have reformed a couple of inches behind your eyeballs. That, I can do without. I hate Led Zep. Bleuuuugh....


* To hell with grammar. This is a compound verb — an activity.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

As Soon As I Get Hold Of One Of Those Vengeance-Enabling Devices Of Doom, Vengeance (Bwa-ha-haaar) Will Be Mine!

Today is supposedly Thanksgiving.

In the fictional world of America — a place to which I have never been, but have heard much tell — people are reputedly behaving in a cheery manner.

Not so, I.

My plans for this week had been as follows.

1) Emerge from dungeon at Whirl Towers clutching juicy new completed manuscript.
2) Throw off clothes and dance.
3) Treat faithful cat to slap-up feed of salmon/trout/horse from a tin of Special Food For Cats costing over two quid.

Is this what happened this morning? No. I flung open my eco-friendly bamboo trapdoor to find my entire Chez Moi had been turned into a theme park for scratch marks, cat pee and mangled rodents. And my blog! Hijacked! By cats! Fortunately for Geoff, she wasn’t around when I emerged, otherwise new and criminal uses might have been found for the Pruning Shear And Golf Ball set my cousin bought for me last Christmas. But I’ll fix that varmint. Mark my words.

So. Manuscript news. Now there’s an improvement, you see. It’s now a manuscript rather than a WIP. Even though it’s not finished yet. How’s about that for positive thinking?

I was hoping for 80,000 words by this stage, but as things stand, I’m happy to take 72,000. Why? Because I’ve revised the ending, and though it’s not at all straightforward ploughing through it all without the internal editor riding on my back cracking his whip so I don’t miss out any important plot nuances, it’s tons better than Version One. A small price to pay, methinks, for being two months behind schedule when many of my fellow writers have spent the whole of November churning out 50,000 words for Nanorimo.

(Yep. That ought to fool the Deadline Cops.
)

So, December beckons like a wonderland of snow, debt and panic, and of three things we can be certain.

1) Santa will visit each and every one of us, clutching his sack of toys and gifts, dressed like a true benevolent weirdo.
2) Geoff’s punishment will be severe and possibly of an infinite duration.
3) The last 8000 words of my novel will be fuelled by the ridiculous volumes of interesting whiskys I consume without shame at this time of year.

Maybe when I'm done, I can get on composing songs for my trumpets-only musical...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shitforbrains Trains To Be A Man


Tee hee hee, what fun this all is. And you try saying that with whiskers.

So, here’s the one surviving photo of shit-for-brains, clawed from his secret stash of family memorabilia and uploaded by my good friend Kashka, who’s an expert in this kind of stuff.

What’s so amusing about this photo is that it comes complete with notes. Old S-F-B catalogues everything — even used tea bags. What a loser.

According to the scribble, this one dates from the late 60s, and in the margin (just below a useless picture of a duck) it reads “7?” Presumably that’s ‘years’ rather than ‘number of times you’d like to dig your claws into his scrawny arse’.


The great thing about humans is that they have to go to school for years and years and years when they could be doing interesting stuff like chasing mice and hanging out on settees. And every year, they have their photo taken.

Look at him, the daft bugger. What does he think he’s doing? Practising to be a man in an office?

‘Thanks, Ron, I have the report you sent right in front of me. Let’s discuss figures.’

Or maybe he’s saying, ‘A fire? Engulfing your whole street? I’ll be round immediately with my brigade of burly firepersons.’

Or maybe, just maybe, it goes like this...

‘I’m a snotty little schoolkid holding up a cheapo plastic phone pretending to be all grown up in my zanily hip elasticated tie.’

Huh! Wish I could have twanged that one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Dog From Space Meets The Decor From Hell


Look what I found! I’m suuuuuuuuuuch a clever little kitty cat.

This is a photo of shit-for-brains’ pet dog circa 1979. Wish I’d been around then to chase the hell out of the stoopid mutt. According to the photo album (shredded, naturally), it’s name was Cindy. How ridiculous is that?

But here’s the killer question.

If (heh heh) I’d saved a single photo of you-know-who, how ridiculous would that one be?

OK, here’s a clue. A girl could lose all her fur laughing.

So stick around.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sour Puss Action


Huh. So much for my clarion call for pictures of stoopid dogs. What is this place? A cat vacuum?


What’s a girl to do when all she’s got to keep her going is a video of a stoopid pug? From a pesky human?

OK. For the curious among you, she does this. Splongs out her claws one at a time. Locates the most expensive-looking curtains in shit-for-brains’ abode...

No, wait — locates his entire collection of underpants. Heh heh. Yeah. That’s the one...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kat Kontest


Huh. I’m all out of cat food already and Jagger has escaped. What’s a cat to do but hold a Stoopid Dog Contest?


So send your photos of stoopid dogs here by last mousing on Friday night (that’s Greenwich Mousing Time) and any cats hanging out here by then can poke fun, add captions and be mercilessly bitchy about stoopid dogs in general.

Shit-for-brains is still downstairs in his dungeon writing his novel so feel free to post your pooches via his email. Hehe — I’m eating his corn flakes, after all. And fluffing up the furniture with hair. And...you know, cat stuff...

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Peaceful Writerly Retreat Commences...


Whirl rolled up his incomplete manuscript, slipped it into the hollowed femur of an unidentified dragon and descended into the shower of icy drips soaking the dungeon stairwell.


‘Only 15,000 words to go,’ he muttered feverishly as he dodged the rats, bats and spiderweb plaits. ‘Let me away to my secret bunker, far from all distractions...’

As the iron door swang closed behind him, Geoff pressed a feline ear to its rusty exterior and listened as the whoops turned to echoes before finally fading away into silence.

‘Huh,’ she said, taking out the hastily scribbled note she’d clawed from her master’s desk scant seconds ago.

Dear Geoff

There’s a fortnight’s food for you and Jagger in the cupboard. Look after the blog while I’m gone, and don’t bring any mice in.

Love Daddy

X

‘So be it,’ said Geoff, grinning. Without a moment’s hesitation, she shat on the living room carpet while her tiny puss cat brain began plotting, scheming and contriving...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Moonrat Is 2 (Years Old, Not 'People' — That Would Just Be Weird)


Like all the fantasy film buffs who queued up outside Roddy McDowell's house after he died, begging for sniffs of the sticky glue that kept the iconic Galen mask attached to his face during those romps round Gorilla Central with a lithe young Charlton Heston, I have to confess to being 'late in':
Moonrat's blog is two years old and I've only just found out about it.

Check out the party in her honour, here.

What Were You Doing The Day Obama Got Elected?


Oh, you know...

Friday, October 31, 2008

WIPometer Barometer Ahoy


It’s now three months since I launched my WIPometer (and, coincidentally, took up biting my fingernails down to the scapula (and my scapula down to C7)).

Here’s what I said at the time.

I have roughly 60,000 words of hard draft, much of which is more or less finished and some of which is actually entertaining. My problem now (in addition to writing the final 30,000 words, figuring out the ending and draining the purple goo from the florid simile swamps on which the plot floats like a series of disjointed tectonic plates) is that I’m a hopeless reviser.

Turns out I was right. Check it out. In the margin.

(And isn’t this the interesting thing about the written word? That it’s impossible for the reader to discern how long the writer has spent banging his/her head against the table in between lines and paragraphs? Three, before the parenthesis, as it happens — plus six loud ‘elephant being stuffed with another, slightly bigger, elephant’ type groans and the merciless destruction of a blueberry muffin.)

So, I still have roughly 60,000 words out of 80,000 (though they are, now, finished) and have proved to myself beyond any reasonable doubt that my revising skills are on a par with Mike Tyson’s ability to dress up as a woman and go looking for ladyboys with a megaphone on the outskirts of Disneyland. In a PVC tutu.

However, before I fling myself from a human pyramid of misery (no cliffs for miles, and I can’t climb trees), it’s not all bad news. Only yesterday morning, as I was opening a tin of cat food, I had the mini-brainwave that would unlock the remaining seven chapters. So, although I’m going to end up two weeks to a month out (like Dubya’s comic timing, I suppose), I figure this is no bad place to be as the year draws to a close. Weird, but writing a novel is the least like completing a jigsaw of all the tedious mind-bending pursuits in which I’ve ever engaged: the closer you get to putting the final pieces together, the harder it gets.

What’s been very useful is having friendly whips cracked... No, let’s try that again. What’s been useful is having words of encouragement sing from the comments trail with the regularity of that drippy water torture thing they do in concentration camps and certain discount furniture superstores. I can’t count the number of days this has made the difference between folding up my notebook and ploughing on with another 500 words, so thanks to everyone who’s chipped in with a cheery get on with it, you tosser. Especial thanks go to the Peevenham Ladies’ Nit-Picking Circle. You know who you are.

No fireworks bursting from the WIPometer yet, then. It flickers on with the dazed half-life of an elderly grandparent nailed to the ceiling. So be it.

On...on...on...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Protrudio Says — Hey! 3










As you may recall, Abysswinksback-goers were invited to partake in the following writing exercise:

“All or part of you has turned to chocolate — just seconds before meeting your hot, hot new date...”

I can confirm that the results are now in, and in the time it takes you to scroll down and read the entries, Protrudio will have picked a lucky winner for the extra special Abysswinksback crap crap crap crap crap prize.

So here they are, lovingly recreated in the order they were received...


Sings Off Key In The Shower Writes

My duodenum is chocolate
or very nearly so
no matter how I purge it,
a melting it will go
so possibly I'm thinking
an ice cream it should chill
but Nancy (she's my doctor)
says my mind's just taken ill!
So off to hospitally
I'm dragged in my new frock
(the one you know with big old bows
that tie around the back!)


Mom In Scrubs Writes

(this can’t be happening…)

“Bing-Bong!!” the doorbell insists. I pull my fingers from my lips. Smell.

Chocolate.

Lick my fingertips. Chocolate!

My lips. Are. Chocolate.

I can’t meet him like this!!

“Bing-Bong!!”

Inhale. Shoulders back. Open door.

He is studying his hand. It’s behind his back in an instant.

“Hhhhhello?!”

His breath! Redolent with…

Peanut Butter.

(this has potential…)


Writtenwyrdd Writes

What needs to be written is a short treatise on the reasons for chocophobia. Mine, specifically, yours secondarily. I mean, come on, you think you’ve got it bad? I’m the one whose forefinger is permanently chocolate coated! I’m the one who can’t grab a cup of coffee without leaving suspicious stains all over the mug, or who is forced to write left-handed so that the pressure won’t snap something—

Well, yes, it started as a warty looking blemish. And within the course of a week or two it was like a big strawberry birthmark.

Yes! I did see the physician! I’m not totally stupid! Sorry, you know it ‘s just that this whole thing is getting to me. Okay. The doctor thought I was having him on, because it rubbed right off, and the stuff smelled like chocolate. Yeah, the really good Belgian stuff. But the doc sent me home with a flea in my ear, told me to quit wasting his time, and the insurance company made me pay the tab, too.

But it came back, and now it won’t go away. The doc finally believes me, too, because now the stuff is all the way through the skin like a melanoma, and subverting the skin, too.

I’m in the weird medical case books. That’s something, isn’t it?

No! They aren’t taking the finger. The odds are it’s too late, anyhow.

How do I know? I started peeing chocolate last week.


Kiersten writes

I stared despondently into the mirror. Another hot date and I just didn’t care. How could I love anyone else if I didn’t love myself?

Please, I prayed, make me something I can love. Suddenly an irresistible scent wafted upward. I looked down. Chocolate hands—chocolate legs—chocolate everything. I smiled. I was perfect, and in love. With myself.


JaneyV writes

I sat at my dressing table, the lacy cuff of my negligee falling over my perfectly manicured hand as I regarded my reflection thoughtfully. He would be here soon, the mysterious stranger in black and there was definitely something peculiar about my face. In place of my two eyes, perfect straight nose and large mouth with full pouting lips were two hazelnut whirls, a noisette crunch and a strawberry kiss. Hold on! There were now two orange truffles where my ears used to be. If only I had the requisite facial parts I would have been staring in abject horror.

A cool breeze stirred me from my chair. The French windows of my boudoir had inexplicably opened and my pointless voile drapes were getting soaked by the storm that had for no reason started to howl outside. Encased in floaty chiffon I ran to the doors and dramatically battled with the wind to shut them again. My heart pounded in my chest (at least I think it was my heart – it may have been an eastern delight) as I returned to my mirror, chocolate tears streaming down what was once my face. Then I saw it - laying exactly where it hadn’t been before I went to sort the bloody doors out – a small card with the silhouette of my handsome stranger printed boldly on its upper side. I turned it over. My heart (or possibly the Turkish delight) stopped. Written in cursive script was…

...And all because the lady wants to be Milk Tray

What a stupid git!


Protrudio Responds

Riotous nibbly quillcraft! So pleased am I with these offerings, my slurping glands have been drained of all enzymes. While I cogitate on the impossible conundrum before me — the conundrum of choosing my favourite (for the much-heralded crap crap crap crap crap prize) — let us proceed without delay in our steam-powered custard tart pastry housings to...a honker of a recipe.


PROTRUDIO’S CELEBRATED “FILL THAT FOWL” STUFFING

For this unashamed stomach thriller, you will need

4oz breadcrumbs
1 egg*
2oz grated suet
Salt
Pepper
Your fave combination of chopped fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme
Some milk.
A trained Cocker Spaniel

*Regular — not ostrich, wren or velociraptor.

First thing you need to do is find yourself a bowl — and remember, folks, the Protrudio Signature Bowl Finder is available at selected stores right now. It’s compact, it’s handy, and it’s so, so useful. On my recent daring excursion to the underworld lair of the Marzipan Pansy, I had one of these clipped to my belt and on no less than two separate occasions, it successfully pointed me in the direction of husks of giant crab shell under which I was able to hide during the countless life-and-death sub-custard pursuits I found myself embroiled in. Third time, of course, it found me a bowl.

So — get that ole bowl and flick in those breadcrumbs with your thumbs like you were firing marbles at a trussed octopus. It’ll improve the final flavour and make you look hot, hot, hot — not to mention pseudo-acrobatic. Do the same with the grated suet, then shower on a little salt and pepper and mix heartily.

When it comes to herbs, in my opinion, you’re always going to be treading a very fine line between No Flavour Whatsoever and Potential Poisoning, so as you chop the parsley, rosemary and thyme, you’ve got to pay heed to all that Baby Bear Stuff in Goldilocks. One sliver of parsley too little, and you’ll overmom the whole shebang. One sprigette of thyme too much and you’ll spend the next week grunting like you’ve enjoyed a liquid testosterone enema at the hands of a ferocious grizzly. My recommendation? Play middling/moderate and go with LOADS of parsley and be SPARING with the rosemary. Then mix heartily till your booty quivers (or, if you have no booty, your brain is shaken down beneath your skin to roughly hip height).

If you’ve never strummed a banjo while breaking an egg, now’s the time to start. One day, you may find yourself falling from a great height after being scooped from an ocean of whipped cream by a giant pteradactyl — a giant pteradactyl from which you’ve subsequently escaped by virtue of guile, cunning and offensive weaponry — and, believe me, this is the trick with precisely the allure for amazing and beguiling nearby birds as you freefall past them. Nine times out of ten, upon hearing of your spectacular banjo/egg acumen, any eagles, hawks or albatrosses will swoop down and rescue you, keen to behold your outrageous feat of dexterity. So — tune up, and crack the egg into your bowl of goodies, and as you stir in repeated swirls, mix in some milk a sloshful at a time. The more of a mess you make as you sloosh it in from a great height (or even the other side of the kitchen), the more of an accomplished culinary wizard you really are. What you’re aiming at (apart from the GLORY) is a semi-liquid dop of a grey/green hue. Adding some milk will allow you to experiment. My preference is for a somewhat sloppy mixture, baked fresh in its bowl, which I spoon onto my plate next to my choice of fowl after everything is cooked, but you might wish to go for a more solid mixture which you can pump up that cockerel’s ass with your Protrudio Signature Hydraulic Stuffing Pumper. If you go for the first option, 30-40 minutes at 220 degrees C ought to swell your bowlful of yummification big enough to feed four. With the second option, set the temperature and cooking time according to your choice of deceased winged beastie.

The Cocker Spaniel? Merely a frippery. Ride it, strum the banjo with it or throw it in the mix: you’re the impressario.

And now I’m suitably expunged of all culinary wherewithal, in spite of all the entries being so so good, I declare Mom In Scrubs the winner of this modest distraction — though I feel I must immediately counsel against any and all celebration lest she forget that, in being singled out thusly, she is soon to be the recipient of a crap crap crap crap crap prize.

Time for me to slip away now and arm myself with an array of Bakewell tarts for the arduous sojourn ahead. So long...


Thanks, Prote. All that now remains is for me to invite said Mom to email me at whirlochre@gmail.com from whence the disappointment may unfold...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Memophilia 3


Tagged, as if by a gossamer lasso slipped round a stray eyebrow and tugged deftly upwards, I bow to Writtenwyrdd for reeling me in on this one.


Page 56. 2-5 lines of whatever you’re reading right now. Fortunately, I’ve just finished How To Dress Like A Woman Yet Feel Like A Real Man, and started The Complete Bat by James Robertson.

So, here goes...

This allows me to make a small digression. It concerns a friend who was not unnaturally taken aback by one of the recipes in a perfectly ordinary cook book he had acquired. The book, which was dedicated to ‘the natural way of eating for good health’, contained a recipe for fruit bat soup ‘on an off-chance that a reader may find himself in Micronesia’.

Protocol and generosity now decree I hoist this meme otherblogward, so I summon Robin S, Blogless Troll and Sarah Laurenson to wrestle with the lure of memophilia...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Protrudio Says Go Write! 3



In the spirit of internet blogging and cyber-hugging, Abysswinksback is pleased to announce its very third writing exercise.

“Part (or all) of you has turned to chocolate — just seconds before meeting your hot, hot new date...”

300 words or less (or exactly 59), by 11.55GMT Sunday 19th October.

Entries will appear at the beginning of the following week in the order they are received and, as ever, Protrudio will take a short break from his custard-guzzling exploits to reward any and all participants for their efforts.

In addition, this time round, I’m happy to announce that there will be an additional mystery prize for our favourite entry — so, mysterious, in fact, that neither of us have thought of it yet. Correction — a mystery and probably quite crap prize...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Memophilia 2


I made my mind up after my last life-and-death skirmish with the powers of Memophilia that I would never again succumb to revealing factually incorrect information about my idiosyncrasies on the basis of someone else’s whimsy — but then I got tagged by the delightful JaneyV and came over all enthusiastic, like a shamelessly unreconstituted Elvis impersonator whooping out the chorus of Heartbreak Hotel half a millimillisecond after beholding an image of his beloved pelvic thruster bobbing past on a puffy cloud.


Truly, I’m doomed.


1. What do you do before bedtime?

Watch TV, check on my favourite blogs and fix any damage to the fire-resistant carapace of my Whirlochre costume.

2. What is your favourite sound?

Anything capable of drowning out Whitney Houston.

3. What were your childhood fears?

Slugs. I used to be so afraid of the dark, I’d hide myself right down the bottom of bed. When I woke up in the middle of the night, half-suffocated and drenched in sweat, I frequently misinterpreted the yucky, hot stickiness as an Attack Of The Killer Slugs.

4. What place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back?

Chirpingford Liposuction Clinic — they have an enormous water flume in the gardens, only instead of pumping water along the vast convolutions of day-glo plastic, they ladle out the vacuumed cellulite.

5. What has made you unhappy these days?

My teeth keep falling out whenever I floss.

6. What websites do you visit daily?

I try to get to most of the sites featured in my Nexus Deperplexus sidebar, along with www.horsebosomfootage.com and www.scrotiebagcatapultfest.com.

7. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

The greatest miniature ukelele player the world has ever seen.

8. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head?

Jive Talking has been lodged in there like a piece of discovatin’ shrapnel since it was first released in 1975.

9. What’s your favourite item of clothing?

Besides my stripy socks? That would have to be a filthy old overcoat I wore to the pub in my teens while pretending to be Ian Anderson from the cover of Aqualung.

10. What is your dream for the future?

That there might just fucking be one.


OK, that’s me done — so now it’s over to Kiersten, Writtenwyrdd and Natalie (unless you’ve already been nabbed by the Blogosphere At Large and made merry with your trivia...)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Tender Heart Screams From The Ventricles: Excerpts From The Colin Frape Poetry Omnibus 2


TO HOPSY, AND MY DEAREST ENID

Regularly-o
did I course
and gambol
and leap
in the woods
by the B40 bypass,
with verdant whiskers
and a bobbety tail
to tell-
o.
There I did meet
with Hopsy the Rabbit
by the ferns
under the tree
in the spinney
on the hill
in my best black wellington boots.
We sang
of bunnykins things
and hopped
over the logs
like flamingoes,
our pinky reddy hearts
pumping blood
round our imaginations
till my mum
broke the spell
by ringing a bell
(Not my neck, this time!!!)
and driving me home for
a big plate of fish and chips
which was my favourite.
But I soon found Hopsy there,
hidden between the peas
and occasionally a potato.
Other places too,
like the sitting room, the kitchen,
the stairs, the cupboard under the stairs,
the front bedroom, the back bedroom
and even in the bathroom.
You may think this strange,
but I
do not.
No no.
Friends I had,
whose friends were merely
bubbles blown in the bath,
perpetuated their childly ways
into manhood and womanhood,
so why
oh why
not I?
I thought to myself
as I grew into a young man, a middle-aged man
and now a man midway between 55 and 60
grown like an oak
on some humus of childhoodesque wisdom.
And when I come to collect my pension,
I won’t stand hunched in a line
with the whiskery old men with coughs
and ill-looking eyes,
probably with a heart or a chest complaint,
a lonely wretch
oh no
for Hopsy will be ever
by my trusty side
with her ears flopping in the wind
or the general air if we’re inside for any reason.
And when I’m finally
all hopped out,
I shall pass into the breeze
like a sky you’d fly a kite on/in.
I’ll be with you now
with you now
with you, Enid Blyton.


*


Colin has very kindly submitted a podcast of one of his pupils from the Fop-On-The-Wold Wednesday Night Creative Poetry Club, reading aloud from Enid Blyton’s “Brer Rabbit’s A Rascal.”

Further links of a more adult nature may be found here.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Identity Theft


Is it really only 25 years ago to the day since I had all my skin flayed off by that gang of drunken youths joyriding in a combine harvester?


No, wait a minute — that was someone else.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

With Apologies To McKoala For Omitting The Vomit...



Picture the scene.

The space transporter, Lady Armadillo, hurtles through the gas clouds on the perimeter of the Legumaruma sector.

From behind every planet, star and sun, bow-tie shaped fighters of the Evil Imperium/Emporium/Sanitorium, come screaming, vapourising every inch of the interstellar vacuumscape with laser beams to rival Metallica live in LA.

Up on the bridge, the ship’s computer (a trillion trillion megahertz monolith called Zany Bob) initiates emergency procedures, springing the vessel’s guardian from his velvet-lined snoozonutrient pod.

His name? Conan!

His game? Hot high-kicking ninja action!

His problem? He’s a potato.

Strapping genetic implants to his every beady eye and twirling his colossal bo stick round his head like a helicopter blade, Conan skips to the bridge with the finesse of Bruce Lee dancing the foxtrot. There, he finds a gaping hole in the hull next to the Captain’s toilet, its melting perimeter alive with swirls of radioactive spacey gunny stuff.

A transparent plastic punnet flies through the opening, spilling a quartet of two-for-the-price-of-one miniature plum tomatoes onto the Alien III leadlook lino.

Conan gasps. His ninja hood renders him immune to other potatoes — and certain varieties of leek — but not these scarlet spacetroopers, and behind them come more invaders: a salad onion and an avocado, both wielding photon cannons and looking decidedly worse the wear for having spent the last millennium holed up in a crisper.

Finally, a small bottle of Tabasco completes the Septet of Terror, and Conan knows this fight may be his last.

‘For the glory of the Empire!’ he screams, ‘or the umpire, if this is just some sort of game,’ and throws himself towards the evil vegetable horde with a ferocious triple salchow...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Zooming Through The Greenery In My Brand New Leopard Costume



Click to enlarge.

And, no — I haven't forgotten about Conan. He whoops. He leaps. He makes himself sick...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Arghh! Arghh! Arghhh!!


There must be a word to describe, specifically, the profound sense of regret I feel about having left a post about a potato — a fucking potato — live and kicking on my blog for well over a week.


This is supposed to be a vaguely writerly site, right? Not a repository for spurious vegetable photographs and lurid descriptions thereof.

I can only presume that my descent into tuber enthusiasm and subsequent silence must have something to do with the progress I’m making (albeit unregistered in the current WIPometer word count) on the Novel That Ought To Be Writing Itself By Now, But Instead Squelches Around The Cusp Of A Rubicon Like Pus Being Spooned Back Into A Popped Boil By An Octopus.

Do I sound negative?

Not at all. I’m simply taking time out from a very pleasant eureka moment to confirm that blood still pulses in my veins, occasionally reaching my brain at those critical moments when I have to get dressed, feed myself, and wrestle unsolicited callers to the doorstep with a sequence of expertly frenzied half-nelsons.

That part of the plot goes with that! So obvious, you imbecile.

I can get threading verbs onto nouns again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Conan The Marauding Pink Fur Apple Potato



It’s been a terrible year for vegetable growing. From the wizened tomatoes, dangling from their stems like the scrotums of badly beaten badgers, to the sorry sprouts of chili peppers masquerading as fairy thimbles, every single thing I planted in the spring has been a disappointment.

So imagine my glee when I was woken this morning by hearty cries of ‘have at thee, thou menacing slug fiend!’ I dashed downstairs to see this feisty beggar scything his way through the grass surrounding the potato patch.

I’ve had to lock him away in a biscuit tin. Problem is — will he get any bigger if I feed him another dog?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Glyph Richard





Click on picture to enlarge.

Natalie's blog can be found here, and her handwriting post, here. If you're dropping in by chance hoping to find substantive research material about showjumping, I'm sorry, but you have the wrong blog.

Monday, September 8, 2008

196?




What can I possibly say about this? I don’t remember a thing. I’m guessing I’m three or four here (years, not Ridiculous Kiddie Hairdo levels), but other than that, I have only heresay to go on. Heresay about my life.

What I know is that this was the garden in which I spent all of my childhood. There were footballs, there were paddling pools, there were endless washing lines of shirts and pants. My parents must have moved here around 1966, when the spawning cosmos of the world into which I would be haplessly thrown was, like my Mum’s herbacious borders of the 70s (behind me, phantom unborn, resplendent against the fence), an imperceptibly fledgeling monstrosity of the senses.

Why am I sat here on this ball? Likely, because I was told to. It’s hard to tell, but it doesn’t look particularly sunny and I have no recollection whether this day, above all others, was one which my post-embryonic facility to spray endless showers of foul muck into my underpants diminished sufficiently to warrant the reward of a photo, but, nonetheless, here I am. Sat on a ball in limbo.

So, I wondered. What’s the first thing I remember? Anything prior to about 1968 is a splurge of wifts and wafts — a polyshimmer glimmer of ‘having been carried’. Tales passed down and shoved into eyes and earballs as truth. But surely I must have been conscious? Surely something struck me, as something striking me, that I noticed, as me, noticing?

Lots of things, I remember, but not with such certainly I can’t be sure they weren’t painted in later. Did I really sit on the porch outside my front door watching Dawn Sidwell ride her tricycle along the pavement? In the sun? I recall this, but I can’t remember from when, and it seems, when I think about it, I’m just an observer. Like I might as well be retelling a story told to me later, and imagining, now, that it actually happened.

So, here it is. Here’s what I reckon.

Those were fortunate years for a kid with a stripy T-shirt, methinks. From our house on the corner of the estate, right the way down the road to the furthest anyone ever could possibly scoot or hop, there was nothing but kids, kids, kids. From Chris and Pat next door to Dawn and Michael one house down, to Neil and Joanne, John and David — and then, over the road, Mark and Jason, Philip and Ellen, Martin and Lee, Chris, Sally-Ann, Nathan, Vanessa, and no doubt more voluminous shrieks of toddlers another half a street after Kay Wragg’s house, the furthest I could pedal. Loads of young families and loads of young kids. And fields either side of all our houses. A mayhem of Action Men and Barbie dolls, playing at growing up.

Every Thursday, all the twentysomething mums would descend on someone’s house, clutching kids and toys and that whole JohnnyMathisElvisBeatles thing that finally dusted the pall of their parents’ nightmares from the world. Tea and cakes and a natter, while the kids ran riot in the garden. That’s how it was.

I can’t remember how it happened, this first thing I think I remember I had a part in. I can’t remember at all. It’s a few years after this photo was taken, and I’m guessing I’d come into the kitchen for some pop, but what I do recall was the sight, through the kitchen window, of all the kids playing in my garden; kids I wanted to run out and be with. So I ran. In my excitement, I forgot how you opened the kitchen door with the handle, and as I pushed against the glass, forgot it opened the other way. And that’s what I remember. There must have been screams, but I can’t recall them. I must have been driven to hospital, but by whom, or how, I can’t say. I have scars on my arms to this day, proof that I threw myself, hands stretched out in front on me, into a sheet of glass for want of excitement, but other than that vivid image of all those kids in the garden, out of reach beyond the window of my four-year-olds’ witness, I have nothing else from that day but heresay.

That, I think, is the first time I remember thinking anything about my life beyond soaking up the foist of my surroundings like a witless bundle of neurons.

Clarity is multiply glazed.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

We're All Ready To Go


Let Joy be unconfined! Let Julian be untethered! ‘Tis the long-awaited Voice Swap Thang!


At last — the cream of the world’s bloggers read aloud from each others’ work, dressed as pirates.

For further details on this and the latest in Welsh sofa chic, head on over to Robin’s blog, here.

Thanks to the miraculous workings of the Hilarity Hat, I’ve been paired up with Sylvia, who’s handwritten blog resides here.





What can I say? This was such a treat to read and I hope I’ve done it justice. I’m not sure how you intended it to go, Sylvia, but this is my take on it. If I’ve mangled it to death, then I owe you a forfeit — though preferably not one involving insects and my naked body lowered two hundred feet below the sea in a sealed sarcophagus. In an ideal world, I would have rendered this in an authentic Dallas accent, but as it’s been years since I heard J.R. Ewing (let alone rode him), I ended up sounding like a risibly generic cowboy and ditched the drawl. I am to American accents what Dick van Dyke was to the cockney rhyming slang in Mary Paw-pins.

Whoops — that pirate thing was for something else wasn’t it?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Directly Outside 5


Directly outside my window, bulbous toads are gathered.


At the head of a long table, the wartiest steadies a wide-brimmed hat on the glistening slime dripping from its brow.

A voice growls from a speaker I didn’t know was in here. Mistook the grill for an air vent.

What did it say?

Proclaim?’

Shussh.


‘...from this day forth, I shall be known as Susan, and all humble toadlings shall prostrate themselves before the full, round bloom of my sumptuous boobies.’

It’s been a long time since a hearty cheer greeted my ears, and as the toads chinked glasses, plucked small flies from the tips of cocktail sticks, and lit their farts with candles, I couldn’t help feeling it would be a while yet.

Something about the spectacle disturbed me. Yes, they were enormous — easily four feet tall — and yes, the tablecloth clashed terribly with the napkins, but in spite of the bulletproof glass between us, I could sense a mood. A vibe.

‘The numbers,’ belched Susan.

Susan — yes, I saw that now. Christ.


A fat toad midway down the table hopped from his seat clutching a scroll. In a low voice that shook the rivets from the speaker grill, he read out a list of numbers while his eager audience nodded and exchanged gold coins.

‘Twelve,’ said Susan, hoisting her bosom till her knees nearly upended the table. ‘Who is twelve?’

A whisper. For toads, at least.

Did I hear Old Knobbly? Must have been. The toad who stood up did not look at all smooth.

‘Your grace,’ he said, affecting a posh voice, ‘I am honoured to be first chosen to pay homage to—‘

‘Make haste, fool.’ Susan extended a finger. ‘And you there, with your feet on the table. Fetch a video camera. My spawn must have witness of this night.’

For the first time I noticed one of them wore no party hat, and when it removed its webbed feet reluctantly from the table, I saw it slip something metallic from its swimming trunks. A vibe. Definitely, yes.

But that’s the trouble with this place. The shutters roll down over the glass when you least expect it, the rumble of their rusted slats an object lesson in spite. I turn to the speaker — half turn — no, it’s dead.

Doubtless, the shutter will rise again tomorrow, and doubtless, now, I’ll hear voices.

I lie down in the barren darkness, curl my knees up close.

I’m trapped in this place. Doomed only to witness as the world spins by, directly outside...