Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Chimera Hinterland

And so, to the chimera hinterland between Christmas and New Year – the time 12th Century Dutch scholars called Deroes Maakte Omhoogdit (which means, quite literally, Whirl made this up).

The tree still stands, buckling under the weight of its festive glory, yet something of the Christmas spirit has passed. The star atop its highest spiny limb now heralds the arrival of the New Year rather than a trio of wise men bearing Ferrero Rocher.

In our calorie haze, we pause to look both forward and back, reflecting on what has been and pondering what is to come while elderly relatives try to knock back the last of the Dalwhinnie without us noticing.

As we ponder an immutable past (which already buckles beneath our gaze like a devious phantom) and gaze into the same future as always (the one that hasn’t happened yet, no matter how much we try to buck the speculative odds), it’s worth remembering the timeless words of His Divine Munificence, The Yeged-Godi.

“Between each fridge magnet and fridge, a slip of air so wafer-thin as to be breathable only by the tiniest of micro-organisms.”

Friday, December 24, 2010

Whirl's Christmas Greeting

Just time for one final swoop over the nest before Christmas.

The nest of my followers.

Fluffy, joyful, all.

Hatched from the eggs of enthusiasm.

Bound for horizons of wonder.

With tiny beaks a-chirp.

And feathers whistling through the breeze.

In hats, maybe hats of all colours.

Or those fluffy Snoopy lounge suits you can get – the ones for slobbing around in between Masterchef and Newsnight.

That’s what I’m wearing now, as I swoop.


Because swooping under is technically dive-bombing, and would pre-suppose your nest languishes in an eyrie (along with Dave Hill, perhaps) or atop some other bizarre geological structure with air directly below it rather than earth.

A mountain or an outcrop, say.

But no, your nest is in a tree, a plain and simple oak tree.

A clutch of twigs between the verdant leaves and acorns.

I pause in mid-flight wondering, “is it oaks that have acorns?” but I’m too busy swooping to Google it.

No iPhone, anyhow.

And if I tried to access Whattreewhatseed.com in mid-air, I could easily veer off course and meet with disaster.

My beak cracked against the side of the mountain.

(Despite the tree not being a mountain, it is in fact next to one).

Or the nest.

For, yes, I picked the hardest and thickest twigs to protect you.

Actually, they’re more like logs.

Which is why the tree is bent over.

And why I’d miss it if I were accessing Google, and fly headlong into the mountain.

But none of this is going to happen.

Because they’re acorns for the purpose of this swoop, right or wrong.

Or that swoop, should I say.

Sometimes you can get so preoccupied you forget what you’re doing.

So I’ll wing may way back round and swoop again.

Thinking of Christmas.

Such a time of cheer.

In the relentless, tormenting darkness.

That was a joke by the way.

About the cheer.

(Another joke).

(But less funny than the first).

(Not that the first was funny anyway).

(But you get the idea.)

(About what a magical time Christmas is).

(Figgy pudding, Morecambe and Wise, and always, always , always, some ropey Channel 5 show featuring unknown (and not very good) magicians performing well known (yet badly done) tricks).

(Personally, I only trust Paul Daniels to make things disappear.

And it’s sad to think that one day, he’ll disappear himself.

Though it won’t be magic.

So this is why it’s important to treasure Christmas.

It’s not about the tinsel, the presents, the feasts, the boozing and the endless games of Race Round The Living Room with grandma and granddad in wheelbarrows.

Even though it feels like it most of the time.

Christmas is for caring and sharing, maybe even coming over uncharacteristically schmalzy.

And doing so with those you love.

Including the cat.

Or a dog if you have one.

Or cockroaches, if you’re Polenth.

Also, your followers.

Who I’ve missed once again btw thanks to a second distracted swoop.

No idea how, as I see you’re now waving banners and have laid out a runway of cheese slices.

Three things to say about that.

Firstly, sorry.

I’ll swoop round again and land this time, promise.

Second, thanks for caring.

It brings tears to my eyes.

Thirdly, you should have knitted leaves together for the runway.

We’re supposed to be nibbling Olive-Stuffed Cheesy Gondolae before the turkey, remember?

Without the Gondolae, the olives will roll about all over the place.

And the Gondoliers will have nothing to do.

They’ll riot.

Pelt us with nuts as we eat, crying, “you’ve stolen our livelihoods, you fiends!”

Whatever you do, don’t make it a rolling runway by using up all the pickled onions.

Save them for bargaining with the Gondoliers.

“Two onions each if you promise to lay off the nuts.”

“And, yes, you can sleep on the pudding till we eat it.”

Coming in to land now.

So this is technically post-swoop, pre-alighting.

And then we can get down to the festivities.

In our Snoopy lounge suits and our assortment of crazy festive hats.

So thanks for stopping by.

Thanks for snuggling in my nest.

Without too much biting, punching or chainsaw wielding.

(Gowan, try it – there’s no socket).

Have a merry Christmas.

And I’ll see you again when the last scraps of the turkey have been sandwiched.

(Or droplets of Butter Bean & Parsnip Pilaff spread on toast if you’re a vegetarian).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spurned By Avians, Shunned By Acrobatic Rodents

This is the Luxury Bird Feeder Girly of Whirly and I purchased last weekend to help all the neighbourhood wildlife eke out the misery over Christmas.

That’s right — half a coconut shell packed with compacted Alpen two years past its sell-by date.

To be honest, we might as well have stuffed a load of polystyrene packing blobbules in a Nazi stormtrooper’s helmet and hung it up on a gallows.

Not a peck, not a scratch, not a chip of squirrel machete.

All my base are belong to Sweet Fanny Adams, it seems.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yuletide Equine Romance

Just time for a quick snippet of movie footage shot on my mobile yesterday morning as I romped through the snowy wasteland to check up on Maurice...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ladle On The Festivity

Today marks my official run-up to Christmas.

Yes, the tree has been up for a week, and yes, we have lots of festive snow, and yes, I’ve started on the whiskey a couple of days early (along with the chocolates, the Satsumo wrestlers, the nuts and the stray sultanas that didn’t make the pudding), but today we have our first guests, our first shot at Holiday Wii, and Son of Whirl and I get to cook a full Sunday roast in our matching pinnies.

I don’t profess to being the greatest entertainer on the planet, but here are a few tips I’ve found useful for those of you hosting gatherings of friends and family this year.

1. My Mum always used to decorate up the pictures hung in our living room with tinsel and spare baubles from the tree. I’ve since found this works especially well if said pictures are replaced with placards reading CHEER UP, YOU MISERABLE BUGGERS.

2. Pets, too, can be similarly adorned. Geoff has a wooly glove we converted into a fairy light display of wonder when she was a kitten, and though she can’t roam far when she’s strapped and plugged in, she radiates Christmas cheer year after year. That said, she could do with a bigger glove now she’s 17...

3. Never, ever, treat yourself to weird-sounding “luxury” cheeses.

4. Got an irritating uncle? A horrid granny? Some other relative you don’t want round but can’t not invite? Why not convert your garden shed into a scintillatingly festive Lapland grotto, complete with animatronic Santa, elves and reindeer, and lock him or her securely inside till well after New Year?

5. Ironing Brussel Sprouts isn’t ‘Blumenthal’ — it’s just stupid.

6. Lacing the pre-feast glasses of sherry with crumbled indigestion tablets can cut out no end of fuss later on.

7. Never, ever, ever hire out a live bear for the kids to pet.

8. Coins inserted into the Christmas pudding should be thoroughly washed beforehand. To prevent any notes from going soggy, roll them up inside the casing of an old biro and seal at both ends with Blu-tak. Same goes for cheques.

9. Scour your back catalogue of Christmas music for any trace of Gary Glitter. Nothing kills a family celebration stone dead quicker than a predatory paedophile in silver platforms.

10. Tired of traditional party games? Out of batteries for the Wii? Why not Bazuka That Verruca?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dave Hill Reminisces

Dave, speaking from his clifftop eyrie in Wolverhampton.
(Image c/o Ted Nasmith, Guitar Wizardry Made Flesh c/o Dave himself)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holder Time Beckons

This weekend has been nominated as The One.

This is when the Christmas decorations will be dredged from their attic boxes and hung about the place, when the spent wax of 2009 will be plucked from 2005's tinsel and umpteen Santas ironed/glued.

If things go according to plan, it should take an afternoon: one hour to put everything up, two hours to find everything in the attic, and three hours making trips to B&Q to get all the bloody lights working. So glad I never invested in an animatronic reindeer when they were all the rage.

Last weekend was definitely too early, and March 15th clearly too late, and since most homes in my humble little row of olde worlde cottages have yet to display a single luminous elf, I’m guessing my neighbours plan to go with this weekend too.

What will be interesting this year, given the current climate of austerity hobby horsing on prior greed, is whether the people normally responsible for draining third world countries of their power will erect their full complement of all-singing all-dancing all-bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing neon Lapland chic.

Will, for instance, my street be negotiable in vehicles larger than a baby buggy c/o Mr Weird Moustache dropping from his retina-searing festive display the ten foot incandescent snowman?

Will the ludicrous wobbly reindeer strapped to the roof of number 22 once more serve as a lighthouse for aliens wishing not to crash into the Earth on their way from Pluto to the Everward Crests of Zubaluba VII?

And the flashing SANTA STOP HERE signs? Will their numbers actually gift said miraculous toy bringer a genuinely possible choice? Some instead of all
, so he’s actually got time to savour a Kit Kat or two on the way round, the poor bugger?

In my youth, we had no candle bridges, no triple-sized rocket powered sleight orbiting the roof, and only the one set of fairy lights. And Santa was my Dad.

Simple times, so long ago, and yet so close, so—

oh to hell with it, you know what I’m angling to repost...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Flibbly Bits Of The Damned

The great thing about designing your own bathroom* is the bonanza of fun you can have mixing and matching tiles ‘n’ towels.

*ie thumbing through the various catalogues and shouting That one! That one! That one! until you reach your budget limit.

The worst thing about designing your own bathroom* is the consequence of making a wrong decision about the mix ‘n’ match tiles “ ‘n’ ” towels.

* And it really is bizarre how you can reach your budget limit before you’ve even thought about the bath, the sink, the shower and the loo.

So. Tiles first. The easy part.

Girly of Whirly and I were adamant that we didn’t want to go with any kind of nouveau Slasher Horror Dungeon look, and took umbrage at the numerous variations on the theme of Clearly Bloody Horrid.

So we went with white.

Plain, white, and satin — with a tasteful natural stone border containing fossilised miniature ferns.

To offset the plainness and the whiteness, we decided on a deep maroon for the towels. Personally, I blame Johnny Depp’s lips. It certainly wasn’t my idea.

And this is where the whole thing — my whole world — went decidedly tits up.

The problem with luxury maroon bath towels (and they really are SO luxury, exotic furry animals queue up outside our front door asking to have their pelts replaced with them), is that they moult a fine maroon dust, tiny particles of towel fibre that get. Bloody. Everywhere.

Six months on, in spite of numerous washes each per week per towel, the entire bathroom can end up being covered in a maroon veneer within minutes of drying your backside.

Maroon fluff, everywhere, like some ghostly anti-Jif aura.

Removing the wretched stuff takes weeks. Weeks of work, on hands and knees, scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing. And the more you scrub the less it comes off the plain white satin tiles. The more you scrub the more it moves around in clods, forms amorphous blobs of maroon horridness along the lines of grouting and in awkward nooks and crannies twixt soil pipe and difficult-to-reach cupboard.

I’d rather fight lions in the Colosseum than clean my sodding bathroom.

Rather invite Dale Winton to weigh my bollocks on a wooden spoon.

So I’m looking for the bathroom towel fluff equivalent of those prawny molluscy insect creatures people put in their aquariums, the ones that clean the gunge off the sides of the tank with their innate flibbly wibbliwibbliness.

I’ve built a little hut for one on the landing, complete with bedding and a wheel, en suite facilities and wifi.

All I need now is a weblink, a brochure, directions to a specialist towel fluff mollusc retailer of renown.

Any ideas?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Peter Schmeichel In A Mini

The great thing about Nanowrymo (and yes, I’ve pulled this one from a list) is that non-participants like myself can slipstream in the enthusiasm of the dedicated like sponges sucking fluid from the Pacific.*

*And if you are participating, just look at that last sentence to discover how a simple-yet-crap simile can boost your word count by up to 22%.

As I’m currently dis-WIPed, I’ve been scrabbling around for new projects to tackle, unable to decide between half-baked ideas and unformed flickers of flash fiction. Needless to say, I’ve comfort eaten an unusual volume of noodles, shaved my face down to my fingernails and taken up smoking Andrex.

Nano (or rather, its slipstream) has spared me — spared me from calling one of those hilarious prank phone lines and arranging myself a bogus lottery win just for something to do with my fingers — and though 4000 words is nothing compared to the Tolstoyloads some have reeled off so far this month, a couple of things are spectacularly pleasing.

First, my tendency to edit-as-U-go has been tossed onto the back burner along with the Sausages of Korrect Spelling. The result? Rather than looking like pages from a published book, my notes resemble a frenzied Pollock rendered in the sicked-up contents of a zealot scientist’s eureka glands.

Second, much of what I’ve written requires very little editing. Highly unusual, this. Unwitnessed, in fact, since I downed too many pints in the back room of The Wooly Mammoth and trotted off most of my Deano Haloumi.

So, for once, the pat I feel on my back hasn’t been squirted from a restless bovine spirit’s arse.

And I don’t care if people think I’m flagellating myself. Jane Fonda did worse in her fitness videos — half naked, the shameless hussy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stay At Home Zombie Love Nest 3

‘Did you see me take my tablets this morning, dear?’

‘I don’t know. No. I don’t think so.’

‘Let me check the packet. It’s not too late to catch up if I did.’

‘While you’re in the kitchen —’


‘Put the kettle on, petal.’

‘Ordinary or Rose Pouchong?’

‘Oooh, Rose Pouchong. Yes please. Any joy?’

‘Yes. It looks like I must have taken them.’

‘That’s good.’

‘Shall we treat ourselves to a biscuit each?’

‘Oh go on then.’

‘Digestive or Hob Nob?’

‘Aren’t there any Nice left?’

‘No. They’ve all gone.’

Friday, November 19, 2010

Torch The Jester

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a communal voice post thang, but since a whiff of 2008 currently blows across the scene like a bridesmaid’s unconcealable fart at a shotgun wedding reception, a few of us have taken the plunge and committed wiggle of larynx to mp3.*

*I’ll post links here as and when they appear.

This time round, we’re doing pieces of writing from long, long ago. Not so much juvenilia as embryonium.

So here’s one from November 1982, which got performed during one of the many student poetry slams I engaged in as a pre-grunge layabout with zero shaving skills.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


As I understand it, there’s something of a 2008 celebration going on in select nookiettes of the blogoshpere

2008! Who can forget that baby?

Certainly not the Missouri liquour store owner whose wife was eaten by all those escaped donkeys from the NASA Deep Space Research Laboratory.

Or the 93 year-old ex-acrobat from Sprimpington-on-the-Whoppe who astonished the judges of Britain’s Got Talent with hyperventilated screeches midway through her vaginal harmonica rendition of We Are The Champions.

Less still the Bharvaddi tribe of Bolivia, undiscovered by the rest of mankind until May 4th, and now hopelessly addicted to crack cocaine and late night re-runs of Sgt Bilko.

For me, the big deal was coming out of the blogging closet on April 1st. Cold in there. Suffocating. Hrr. And my chimpanzee cellmate — so smelly, so rude, so difficult to beat at Rummy.

I’d been staring at the padlock on the trapdoor for a while, and every day, muttered to the diminishing spirits of my loved ones, “if only I had the key, I’d wrench myself free from this infernal hellhole while still retaining fingernails to die for.”

Always, the chimp would mutter something back, some evolutionary ancestor nonsense masquerading as a pre-language style grunt. And I would beat it about the head with a rolled up Jack of Clubs.

Then one day I realised. Heard its words for the first time. That hru hru hru was no ordinary hru hru hru as might be made by an orang utan, masturbating to cheers in some inner city zoo. What it said was, “look, Whirl, the solution is staring you in the face. You’ve got to extricate yourself from this self-imposed exile. Link up with some of the folks over at Evil Editor’s blog and indulge yourself with a little post-millennial cyberexchange of intellectual spasms. The key you seek is no cast of iron, no tangible mongering of metal. ‘Tis deep inside your heart, my friend —”

That’s when I strangled the bloody thing. Nothing gets my goat more than a schmalzy chimp.

He was right, though. As I side-footed his remains down the drain, a bright light burst from my chest like a will-o-the-wisp paying homage to the abdomen scene in Alien. It hovered before me for a few seconds , as if to say, “this is a moment of great significance in your life”, then whooshed into the padlock and set me free.

If you’re here for much the same reason, then you already know what’s going on. You’re part of it. Implicated.

If not, maybe you’re simply lost, in which case

a) The loo is just down the hallway, 2nd door on the right.
b) All-in-one pink fluffy Snoopy cutesy suits look ridiculous even on people who know exactly where they’re going.

Whatever the case, if anyone has fond memories of anything that happened in 2008, the comments trail is open to your outpourings of unrestrained gush. You may even wish to make something up. In fact, let’s do that. Blogger award for the best fond memory, fictional or otherwise.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrity Guest Blogger: Lina Trujillo

Gazpacho by Lina Trujillo
carefully noted by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

I walked into the kitchen where Lina waited impatiently.

“OK, we will make gazpacho together.” She tapped the marble counter. “This is everything you need.”

It didn’t seem like very much. I pulled out my small notebook and scribbled down the list:

• A baguette
• 8 medium red tomatoes
• 1 large green (bell) pepper
• Half a cucumber, peeled
• 1 clove of garlic
• Salt
• White wine vinegar
• Olive oil
• A large pitcher

She took the baguette and ripped off about a third of it. “You need a large piece of bread.”

“Wait, how large, I need to weigh it!” I managed to get it onto the kitchen scale and see 60 grams before she took it from me, rolling her eyes.

“It’s approximate, you don’t need to measure.” She began ripping the bread into pieces and dropping them into the pitcher. “Just a bit of this and a bit of that. Hack everything into pieces so that it is easier to liquidize into soup.” She quickly chopped the pepper and cucumber without a cutting board, just holding them in her hands. I tried not to wince. She cut the tomatoes in half and dropped them in as well, core and all.

“Don’t you...”

“I don’t cut anything out,” she said. “We’ll strain it later so it doesn’t matter, just throw everything into the pitcher.” When it was almost full, she paused. “We need to make space.”

She got out an electric mixer with a blender attachment and began breaking down the tomatoes. Soon, the pitcher was only half full and she was able to add the rest of the tomatoes.

“Could you use a stand-up blender?” I asked.

“Sure. You might have to do multiple batches.” She cut the remaining tomatoes and threw them in followed by the garlic. “Only use one clove of garlic, so that it doesn’t overpower the flavor.”

I scrawled her advice as quickly as I could and looked up to see her adding the seasoning. “How much salt?”

“A lot!”

“Could I use Worcester sauce?”

She paused. “What’s that?”

“It’s a condiment.” My voice faltered under her gaze. “It tastes salty.”

“Just use salt! The tomatoes are sweet and they need plenty. The salt is important.”

“Could I use celery salt?”

Her face flushed. “You are making gazpacho, not a Bloody Mary. Use sea salt!”

She poured it in. I wrote a heaping teaspoon and kept my mouth shut.

“Now oil and vinegar. Don’t ask me how much! As much as you like, just make sure it is more oil than vinegar.” She added both in quickly.

I bit my lip and wrote 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 tablespoons oil while she liquidized the ingredients.

“Blend it for a very long time,” she shouted over the whirr of the blender. “It should be very smooth. When you think you’re done, blend it some more.”

Then she cocked her head and looked at the liquid in the pitcher critically. “It’s not red enough,” she said and got a few more tomatoes. She added two and then laughed and threw in a third. “Another one won’t hurt. The tomatoes are the most important ingredient.” She paused to look at me. “Seriously. Without the tomatoes, you have nothing.”

She ran the blender for a few more minutes and then handed me a spoon. “Now taste.”

It was sweet and acidic and a little bit spicy. It tasted as if it had onions in it or something else sharp, maybe the effect of the vinegar. It tasted like summer. “It is wonderful!”

“More vinegar?” She already had her hand on the bottle.

“I don’t think so.”

She gave me a dubious look and took the spoon from me so she could taste it for herself. Then she nodded.

“Fine, it’s not bad. Now you need a sieve and a very large bowl. Pass the gazpacho through the sieve, pressing it through with a spoon.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “You can add some water to make it lighter. I do that sometimes. Or ice, I like to fill it with ice cubes.”

She poured the strained liquid back into the pitcher and held it out to me. “And that’s it! You can drink it from a glass or serve it in a bowl. I like it in a bowl, so you can mix things into it. Fry small pieces of bread in hot olive oil to make croutons. Offer onion, pepper and cucumber chopped fine. Even chopped fresh tomato, if you like.”

I took the pitcher and inhaled the red scent of tomato. “How many does it serve?”

“Depends how much they eat,” she said. “I never have any left over. Now get out of my kitchen, I have work to do.”

And I took my gazpacho and left.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Unsubtle Infusion Of Sock Pong

I have no idea what they’re putting in the Ylang Ylang washing machine powder tablets these days, but I can confirm that it’s about as much cop as Vera Lynn would have been as lead singer for Led Bloody Zep.

This I know because three pairs of wet stinky socks deployed for a walk on Sunday afternoon ended up in a load intended to be exclusively composed of school uniforms and frightful shirts. Yesterday, when I wore a couple of said frightful shirts (because it was chilly), it took me a while to realise why everyone I met seemed to have smelly feet. At first I suspected a bug of some kind, a virulent worm capable of sneaking its way between innocent toes and vomiting up a slurry of bacteria and athlete’s foot style slime, but then I figured — no, it would have been on The Adrian Chiles Debacle this morning, slipped between some brave disabled kid who’d rescued his grandmother from a fire and a catwalk display of vibrating bras. You go through all the options don’t you? Before finally admitting — Christ! It’s ME!

Fortunately, my revelation occurred in the supermarket, and though the communal sniffing and retching I’d previously thought had a global rather than personal origin continued, I managed to cover my tracks till I made it outside by spinning some story about how Tesco was going upmarket and muscling in on Waitrose by piling its cheese counter to the rafters with 2-for-1 rounds of Chaumes.


And I mean — PHEW

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I'll Do The Math — US Subtract The "S"

While I’m waiting for the hairs on the back of my neck to settle back down into a greyhoundpelt-like silkyness after my early morning encounter in the bathroom with a SPIDER THE SIZE OF MY HEAD, I’d like to tease your brains with a gentle brain teaser.

Add up the following numbers out loud.
Add them up in the order they are written.

Answer follows in comments trail.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Diary Of A Noxygen Atom

Whizzed into some cat’s nose c/o a sharp intake of breath, probably shock.

Two days later, I find I’m sentient. From my vantage point on the tip of a whisker-like protein formation, I see a young girl, hear her say, “isn’t it great the way we found this gorgeous cat in the street, then took her in and fed her?”

Several chemical recombinations later, I’ve slipped bonds from the whisker, and I’m halfway along the tongue of a bearded veterinary surgeon, blown this way then that by a chirpy, “for a cat so old, she’s surprisingly kitten-like” and a less upbeat, “such a shame she has a renal disorder.”

The vet sneezes, and I’m back inside the cat. Goes weird for a while, like I’m part of some stomach lining denied access to nutrients thanks to an unwillingness on the part of the stomach filler to ingest anything other than My Bloody Favourite. Outside, the world rumbles on. Too much information to process. All I hear is Sven Sven Sven. Is this the sound of a guillotine for Oxygen atoms? Am I finally to be sliced, proton from electron, in some garish sub-particular nightmare? Or has Goran Erikson signed up to manage Leicester City, and I’m sensing the incredulity of souls beyond my feline prison, palpable as an elephant’s trunk up a tennis player’s skirt during a ladies’ singles final in the 33 degree Wimbledon heat? Only one conclusion I can come to about the nature of the molecular structure I’m helping to form, the corner of the universe I’m holding together with my quarky oscillations: this is the Scudamore Rd RSPCA Centre, isn’t it? Oh please, dear Lord, don’t let me end up part of some crusty old Alsatian’s bum hole.

Now I’m skating on eyeball fluid. I can tell it’s an eyeball because it’s looking at me. Overhead, there’s a sign.

Dogs > Cats > Ferrets >

Ferrets? Hey, don’t ask me — I’m only an Oxygen atom. You’re the guys owning, feeding and rescuing the downright absurd pets. Like this one, the baby kitten one. The one whose eye I’m skating on like David Seaman breaking the neck of some poor lycra-clad young hussy while sporting a visible vacuum where a ludicrous ponytail used to be.

Motion, like the Earth is moving faster through space, sucked towards a black hole billions of light years away. Or maybe it’s just a car ride along a dual carriageway. Yep, lookee there — that’s me stuck to the side of a half-sucked boiled sweet tucked under the passenger seat. Next to me is a cat in a basket, looking slightly confused but essentially alive and well despite not eating for a week and being perforated to within an inch of her life. Any minute now she’ll be home, tucked up snug by the warmest radiator or redefining the word ‘irritating’ with some strained medley of meaows.

Signing out now.

A good few days, but still no closer to my goal. One day, one day, you’ll see me — burned up, spent, consumed — in the flare of some colossal space rocket bound for Venus. Or part of an ASDA Smart Price trifle six pack.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Clown, Sword Swallower, Or Acrobat?

Looks like Geoff has run away to join the circus.

According to my neighbour, who we left in charge of the cat food while we were away in the Lake District, she hasn’t been seen since the morning we left — not even at her infamous bolt hole where she disappeared over the summer when Builders With Buttocks performed a structural destruction on Whirl Towers.

She was sixteen some time around May, and I know this for a fact because Son of Whirl found the spent candles tucked away under his duvet one morning. Sixteen isn't terribly old for a cat and she showed no signs of impending mortal rictus in the weeks preceding our trip away, so I can only hope she’s been inspired by her recent antics to find another Mummy and Daddy somewhere snug and warm on the block. House to house investigations are afoot, and my one dream for the weekend is to chance upon her curled up on a window sill between a couple of horrendous brass ornaments (that’s Geoff, not me — I can’t fit on a window sill unless I’m in a stately home). What I’m dreading is a scenario like her sister’s ‘discovery’ ten years ago. Moonie, the country’s official Disaster Cat, had been missing for over a week in the icy wasteland of November, and in the wake of a solemn “I think I’ve found your cat” style knock at the door one night, had to be scraped from a neighbour’s patio with a shovel like a frozen pizza.

In the mean time, here are what might be the last photos of Geoff for those of you who’ve treasured her intrusions into the Blogosphere over the years.

The bear, btw, belongs to Son of Whirl, and only sits on my bedside table to stop him tearing its head off. For the record, I am NOT a hoarder of cuddlies...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Beatrix Potter's Cottage And Wordsworth's Undead Corpse

When I set off for the Lake District at the start of this week, I’d envisaged endless hilltop battles with bobbly hatted ramblers in the cream of the English drizzle.

Which of course happened.*

* Four-nil to me c/o a hat-trick of old ladies tossed into Windermere and a noxious student type I bundled from his bike with a fallen branch.

What also happened was A GLUT OF DEAD WRITERS.

Being an utter Philistine (it’s true — right down to the loincloth and the habitual taunting of Egyptian scholars), I hadn’t realised that the Lake District is essentially a giant graveyard for England’s literary and artistic talent. When the dead rise here, it’s like a bloody poetry recital.

And so, to Beatrix Potter’s cottage.

Currently maintained by the National Trust, this modest dwelling stands at the epicentre of a two mile diameter corral of Japanese coaches on the outskirts of Near Sawrey. You don’t get very long to look around as the tour guides beat you from room to room with an old bedpan, but it’s a fascinating trip. The cottage is much as Potter left it, minus the knickers drying over the radiators, so you get to see things much as they were as she bumbled from room to room in her later years petting imaginary animals. In every room there was an open copy of one of her books, and if you looked closely, you could match up some feature or other with a stick of furniture in the room itself, or a view from the window or door. So, the Edward VII coronation teapot, the mirror on the dressing table in the bedroom, the garden gate — all these details from the illustrations were here, exactly as depicted. As I ignored the PLEASE TRY NOT TO TOUCH signs strung out over some of them, I couldn’t help feeling slightly superior to the armies of seasoned Trekkies licking the ears of some wax Captain Kirk effigy in a purpose built Los Angeles Gene Roddenberry Imaginarium. Best of all was the view from the landing.

This was exactly as you see it here, right down to the cat. It’s odd, but as I ran my fingers along the bannister, peered into the face of the grandfather clock, I was very aware of the bundle of air at my feet. It seemed to glow and sizzle with energy, and I don’t doubt it does so for every single visitor. But that’s the power of figmentary felines for you.

A further treat was the tour guides. The National Trust is infamous for stocking its tapestry-laden Tudor piles and half destroyed castles with Frankenstein-like amalgams of tweed and pastry made flesh, but because this was Beatrix Potter’s cottage, they’d assembled the most squirrelly, mousey, ratty, animaly collection of people you could possibly group together in one place outside of a human-rodent gene splice research laboratory. The woman at the top of the phantom cat staircase in particular looked like she might rub her whiskers or nibble on a chunk of cheese at any moment. As for the bloke collecting the tickets at the door, let’s just say I stepped over what was dangling from the back of his trousers in case he squeaked his ratty ears off. Maybe that’s what all the tourists came to see — the rodent creatures of Hill Top. They certainly added to the curiosity of the spectacle. What fun to witness a tiny, dark cottage, brimming with nick-nacks and the spirits of tiny creatures — plus Germans, Americans, Danes, French, Japanese and a family from Liverpool whose only interest in the world seemed to be whether Wayne Rooney would sleep with another prostitute before Bonfire Night.

Next up on my tour is Wordsworth’s tomb. We hadn’t planned to visit this especially but it just popped up on one of our walks round Lake Grasmere just after we’d kung fued a couple from Brighton who came at us from out of nowhere with their walking canes and cagoules.

As you can see, it’s a pretty plain stone for a literary giant. None of the “loving father, grandfather and budgerigar enthusiast” you see nowadays. And certainly no snippet of verse about being amongst the angels. I was touched by the simplicity of this grave, moved by its humbleness. Then I heard a low growl at my feet. “Get over it.”

Turning sharply, I saw no-one. Okay, there was an old bloke standing in the church doorway but he was too far away to be heard unless he’d shouted. And who would shout get over it while having a covert piss? So I looked down.

A clod of grass had bulged from the sod (why, this could be poetry), inches from the stone, and a single eye glared from the tear in the turf, like some dark underworld gem. The voice, again. “Get lost. I’m trying to sleep.”

The words came out, unbidden. “W-Wordsworth? Is it you? The most lyrical poet of his generation, maybe ever? Buried down there, to all intents and purposes, dead, yet at the same time, curiously still alive, still sentient, reaching out from the spirit world on a blustery Wednesday afternoon?”

“Course not, you dipshit. It’s Lowell. Robert Lowell.”

I looked around, confused — confused as the old bloke in the church doorway struggling to figure out how to get his willy back inside three pairs of waterproofs without severing it at the base. “Where’s Wordsworth?”

“Lemme see.” A rustle of paper. Damp paper. Okay, maybe not so much a rustle, more of a squelch. “He’s covering Ferlinghetti this week.”

Something about my raised eyebrows must have spurred Lowell on. Perhaps it was the way they disappeared into the maw of a passing blackbird as they loop the looped over my cranium in an aerial display of mental discombobulation.

“It’s a rota. To make things more interesting. Hell, it’s no fun being dead, especially dead and buried. Same worms, same bugs, same sobbing devotees. So we kinda mixed it up a bit, yanno, to make Eternity less humdrum.”

Made sense, but there was one small problem, one small chink in this dead poet’s logic. “Waitaminute. Ferlinghetti’s still alive.”

The rotting lyricist beneath the grass groaned. “Too right. He needs all the help he can get.”

“So when’s he back, Wordsworth?”

Another squelch, and this time I saw the paper — an ASDA smart price reporter’s notebook. “June 2088".

“Blimey.” I laughed, partly at the thought of all the Wordsworth enthusiasts destined to stand here for the next seventy years whispering to the wrong spectral poet — but mainly at the old bloke in the church doorway, now writhing and thrashing about the floor so violently, he might as well have been injected with lethal poison.

“Anyhow, get lost.” The flap of grass flipped shut.

I wanted to tease it open again, uncover Lowell, see what the hell he was wearing, but Girly of Whirly came running down the path. “Quick, quick, come quick! I’ve found the perfect totally unnecessary set of napkins that we’ll never ever use, but they’re half price, and knitted by blind Tibetan death row monks, and if we buy three sets, we get a free doily!”

She’s hardly a living poet like Ferlinghetti, but I was moved to wonder which inhabitant of the spirit world had drawn the short straw and been forced between her ears...


Oh, that's just silly...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Whirl Goes Sunbathing

I’m not so sure now that my brilliant idea to spend a few days in the Lake District in October was quite so all-consuming in its brilliance.

Not that the weather people are predicting a deluge, far from it. If anything, clement conditions are on the cards. According to NASA, even the sheep have been trained in the latest anti-irritating bleat techniques.

What’s bugging me is the prospect of bumping into gangs of bobbly headed walkers. Every time I go exploring places like the Lakes, I encounter huge numbers of them, rambling wild in their stupid wooly hats, carrying maps and stupid specialist equipment for wandering round in the great outdoors in stupid wooly hats with maps. Somewhere in the universe there is a planet with zero discernable geographical locations where ramblers can ramble to the end of time, never going anywhere, never getting anywhere, just trudging about between non-existent As and Bs, grinning in their stupid wooly hats.

Maybe I’ll confine myself to the gift shops, spend the whole week nattering with some 752 year-old woman over wickerwork beagles and tea cosy holder holders.

Or, if I find some dream pub, maybe I’ll get so ridiculously slashed they’ll have to wake up the Lakes Bobby.

Whatever — I’ll let you all know how I got on when I get back.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


With the exception of this brief introductory paragraph, today's post is going to be assembled from the comments trail. We may end up with fiction, we may end up with shrewd political analysis, we may end up with nothing. If you want to add anything, I'll bend over backwards to include your submission, as long as said text is distinguished from regular comments by being ##bound in double hashes thus##. If, when you wish to update what appears in the post, hashed comments appear in the trail, assume they will be accepted and proceed from there. If there are LOTS of unposted hashed comments in the trail, it means I've been taken ill by the plague, or forced from my desk by unruly pseudo-buggers. So here goes...

"If you dare to think of bound hashes thus, a trussed ampersand will most surely be your demise. Yet it was I who compelled you to dare, to conceive of punctuational quirks — manifest sigil portents — as a quasi-algebraic key to the black hole of understanding."

Elvis shimmered in the doorway of the time machine like a flappy-trousered sequin theme park with 100% shares in the concept of 'ole'.

"Writhe all you like, Morrison, but the simplicity of Heartbreak Hotel will win out every time over your hippy nonsense, so shut the fuck up, you loser."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

O Is For Orange, For Optimist

Making my way along the sprays of home-grown carrots flopping about my vegetable plot like some sylvan faerie’s afro, I couldn’t help noticing The One Clearly The Size Of A Marrow.

Most of my carrots have been blessed in kind with the qualities of one or two ex-girlfriends: small, beautifully tapered, and positively devourable when peeled.

TOCTSOAM, however, looked more like a cork, inserted into the Earth’s crust to prevent subterranean horrors emerging and running amok.

I knew straight away I had a problem.

In my hand, barely a single boiling of the aforementioned diminutive veg plot regulars — yet my dinner table demanded four such offerings.

Sure, I could go without and transform this meagre portion into two for Son of Whirl and Girly of Whirly by bulking it up with hastily painted flumps of polystyrene packaging* — but that would leave my mother-in-law enraged and hungry for more than the usual dishing up of my head on a plate.

* I know. Some days I am a culinary Einstein.
Tugging on a carrot capable of messing up your back for life is a hard enough challenge, but when you add on the possibility of unleashing subterranean horrors, complete with total planetary prolapse should the root of the carrot be intertwined with some similarly humungous Antipodean eucalyptus — hey, this is nothing compared to receiving a scathing haven’t you heard of slug pellets, you dimwit? over a passed gravy boat and track three of Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits.

So now I’m lumbering round the house like a hunchback, batting off winged gargoyles with a spatula and awaiting the inevitable rumble of doom on the driveway.

This may be my last post for some time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Any More Rejoicing And I'll Explode

Today is a dashing D’Artagnan sort of a day — a day for donning the wide brimmed hat of a dandy, complete with feather and the carefree flop of excess.

My moustache too, neither trimmed nor waxed (nor, heaven forbid, Hitlered) whooshes about my cheeks like vines lowered from a tree by a clever chimp intent on rescuing Tarzan from quicksand.

The air feels the zip of my rapier. With deft strokes I split proton from neutron, colour the empty space with arcs of sizzling silver

OK. I’ll fess up.

Today, I’m shopping for paint.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fitness For Death

Time for an update on the exercise regime I mentioned in this post.

The good news is that my Cholesterol test proved positive — ie sufficient amounts exist in my blood to confirm I’m no dietary lunatic, but not enough to kill me by tea time.

To celebrate, I kind of pigged out, ingesting more saturated fat than Oliver Hardy drenched in sunflower oil — all of which meant that my exercise regime (keenly observed for weeks, honest) needed stepping up a notch or two.

So it was farewell to J.P. Muller and his pre-Charles Atlas zany trunks, and hello to the 1966 first edition of James Hewitt’s Isometrics For You (currently retailing on Ebay for an astonishing £20).

The idea behind this book is a simple one: using everyday objects from the home and office, you can trim yourself for fitness in a trice.

That said, you’re welcome to grunt and groan along with me for half an hour or so as I recount how I twisted and ruptured myself through the first of my gruelling new Daily Dozens.


First up is the aptly titled SQUEEZE IN ON TYPEWRITER.

Being a writer, I figured this was the best place to start, but as it turned out, 60s typewriters are a heck of a lot sturdier than modern day flatscreen monitors and I nearly electrocuted myself pumping up my deltoids.

The girl in the photograph (a Miss Mandy Morgan) is clearly more satisfied with her efforts than I was with mine. I can’t help thinking she might have been something of a bugger when let loose on the dance floor to The Rolling Stones in a sweat-soaked bier keller.


Ten manly squeezes later, and I’m ready for the LEG RAISE AGAINST CABINET.

Sadly, I don’t have a cabinet, so here’s me, in my “Pump Up”tm leisurewear, recreating the isometrics heaven of the flower power decade by splitting my difference up against the bathroom basin...


Time to move on to a more advanced manoeuvre now all hope of salvation is lost.

Two things to notice here. First, Miss Mandy Morgan has turned into an oddly proportioned gentleman in even more oddly proportioned shorts. Second, equipment such as typewriters and filing cabinets has been dispensed with. For this, my friends, is the TOWEL SHRUG, and if your bathroom cupboard contains a towel resembling a dressing gown belt, then prepare to “stand erect”, “inhale deeply” and “shrug”. If it helps, pushing and pulling with all your might with no chance of moving anywhere is a little like submitting to agents.


Into the dining room now for the STRAIGHT ARM PRESS.

This time, we’re sitting erect, so it may be necessary to draw the curtains. As it happens, a gentle tug on the pelmet is not dissimilar to performing a TOWEL SHRUG, so before you know it, you may be trapped forevermore in a world of isometrics Nirvana. As for Hewitt, I suspect no-one crept under his arm between the two chairs during the taking of this photograph. In all probability, he may still be “on”.

Here’s one for anyone getting stuck in to Nanowrimo this year: the uncannily descriptive BROW CLASP.

I gave this ten minutes and, frankly, it was exhausting enough without the added dimension of turning my stream of consciousness into a multiply rejectable 200,000 word blockbuster. Best of luck to those of you keeping it up for a whole month. If it helps, you don’t have to “sit erect” for this one (though drawing the curtains might help). I’ll come onto “lying erect” in a moment.

Back to the author again — and HEAD LOWERING.

It’s probably worth explaining a little of the scientific case for isometrics for those of you who might have chosen to grunt along with me, but who may now be wondering whether to end it all with a sawn-off shotgun. Isometrics is based on the principle that muscles can be toned, firmed and exercised while contracting them against resistance — hence all the pushing against filing cabinets and chairs. Here, the author demonstrates how he can push his chin into his palm, and his palm (with equal force) against his chin in order to exercise the muscles responsible for lowering the head. If, like me, you are familiar with (a) the joint between the spine and the skull, and (b) gravity, do please feel free to skip this one before you risk ruining the walls of your living room with a javelin assault of your own ribs.

Back to Miss Mandy Morgan, who is infinitely more pleasant to look at than Hewitt — albeit in a baboon’s backside versus the rotting corpse of an octopus kind of way. Here, she demonstrates the FRUSTRATED LEG RAISE (in order “to keep the hips trim”).

In more affluent homes, this exercise may double as the PERMANENTLY RUINED CHIPPENDALE, and when practised in conjunction with isometric contraction regimes against the outside legs of the chair, the PERMANENTLY FROZEN PELVIS OF RIGIDITY.

But seriously, joking aside — don’t try this one if there’s cats about the place and you’re down to your last pair of tights.

Finally, we come to a whole range of exercises for performing in the bath. I know! Isn’t this just the cushiest exercise idea ever? Here’s Miss Mandy Morgan, demonstrating my three favourites.

Now, before you get too excited, I feel I should point out the hidden flaw in what might seem an otherwise perfectly sensible exercise plan. It was only after I’d run the bath, topped up the water with relaxant-enhanced Body Shop oils, clambered in and reminded myself of which leg was supposed to go where that I realised, actually, these photos clearly demonstrate that you don’t need a bathful of water at all. Which kind of blows the whole cushiest exercise regime ever thing. On the plus side, if you’re thinking of having a new bathroom fitted, you could save yourself a couple of hundred quid on a tub and still be fit as a fiddle. Just watch out for the carpet burns when you’re startled by the ping of underwear elastic.

That concludes my round-up of how I became a masterfully toned specimen of human physicality in under half an hour — then collapsed in a gibbering heap of slush, like a failed Yorkshire pudding.
Hope you fared a little better...

(apologies for the horrendous formatting — I can't make it stop)

Friday, October 1, 2010

One Parrot Fiction #2

Click to enlarge if the sheen on the parrot's beak is unclear.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On The Couch With Sock Monkey

SM: We’re going to try something a little different today.

WO: Isn’t that what normally happens?

SM: Haha.

WO: Including your sarcastic laugh?

SM: Haha.

WO: Twice?

(At this point in the transcript, there is a lengthy pause, a curt simian cough, and a prolonged repressed snigger.)

SM: Today, you get to be the analyst.

(Another long pause, this time filled with the sound of WO’s eyebrows stretching the skin on his forehead into a thin, pink film in an arc two feet above his face.)

SM: Therapist, specialist, call it what you will...

WO: I’d call it ‘weirdo monkey guy’.

SM: Why, thank you. I’ll change the sign over the door.

WO: But you’re kidding, right?

SM: Monkeys do not kid. If monkeys kad, gorillas would goat.

WO: Point taken. But what’s the point of the analyst thing?

SM: I hope to deduce more about your mental state, the underlying cause of your cripplingly disturbed mind, from questions you ask me, based on your perceptions of who you think I am.

WO: So — business as usual, but I get to wear the pants?

SM: Hrmmmph. In the world of analysis, there are no such ‘pants’, as you call them. You may be paying me a hundred quid a session and in most respects, your every thought and action is carefully directed by my analytical whims, like an actor reciting his lines on cue, but at the end of the day, we meet as equals.

WO: So, let me get this straight — you’re saying that for the rest of the session, I can direct your every thought and action with my analytical whims?

SM: Of course you can’t: you’re a half-wit.

WO: You think I can’t think of anything appropriate to ask you?

SM: Inappropriate, yes — and necessarily revealing.

WO: For a hundred quid, it bloody well better be. Lie down.

SM: What?

WO: This is my clinic now and I want you prone, like in the movies.

SM: What movies?

(Here, a brief pause of about this length ensues. No...more like this.)

WO: Tarzan.

SM: An analyst scene? In a Tarzan movie?

WO: It was dark. I don’t remember.

SM: Intriguing that you should watch Tarzan movies in the dark. Was it Ely, Weissmuller or Crabbe?

WO: You expect me to differentiate between Tarzans when I don’t even remember the name of the film, where I was, what happened in the scene, whether Tarzan fought crocodiles in quicksand or hunters in — waitaminute, it was Dustin Hoffman.

SM: Don’t be ridiculous. Hoffman never played Tarzan. You must be thinking of Little Big Man.

WO: No, no — it’s a classic analyst scene. He’s lying down, I’m sure of it. I can see the couch and everything.

SM: So, I’m lying down because you’ve seen an “analyst movie” where Dustin Hoffman lies on a couch?

WO: Spot on.

(We hear a petulant hrmmmph and the crinkle of monkey fur on beaten leather)

WO: Yes. Perfect. Oooh, it’s like playing Doctors and Nurses.

SM: Thank heaven it’s Tarzan and not Tootsie.

WO: You look like a Roman emperor, only furry.

SM: I’m a masterful recliner. Now get on with it.

WO: So, what kind of thing should I ask?

SM: The ball’s in your court: you’re the analyst.

WO: Like Laurence Olivier, yes.

SM: What?

WO: Like Laurence Olivier, in the film. He was Hoffman’s analyst.

SM: If you’re going to come over all Thespian Analyst, stick to the ridiculous posturing. Any thees, thys or thous and you’re out of the door.

WO: Let me think. Hmmmm. Tricky.

SM: Anything. Just say anything. First thing that comes into your head.

WO: Can I take a look in your mouth?

SM: What the hell kind of question is that?

WO: It’s in the film—

SM: The analyst Tarzan Hoffman film?

WO: Yes. Olivier — that’s me — is bent over Hoffman, looking into his mouth.

SM: Sure you’re not thinking of Caligula with Tony Curtis?

WO: Certain. It’s no Roman bathtub we’re in, it’s a proper analysis place, a whatchamacall it?

SM: My competitors call it a consulting room. I prefer the term Psyche Boutique.

WO: Whatever, this place looks like a dentist’s surgery, only dark, very dark.

SM: Film Noire, I’ll wager. No wonder you couldn’t remember which Tarzan it was. Anyhow, to answer your question, yes, you can look in my mouth. As Olivier, please. This is most revealing.

WO: Okay, so Olivier — me — leans in and says, bloody hell, what’s that on your tongue?

SM: What’s what?

WO: It’s like a lump.

SM: What kind of lump?

WO: A polyhedron kind of lump.

SM: Pack joking. What kind of lump?

WO: A lump kind of lump — purple, the size of a lentil, right at the back on the left. Can’t you feel it?

SM: No.

WO: Here, give me your tongue, I’ll show you.

SM: What do you think I am? A Chameleon? Get a mirror.

WO: So the Whirl-as-analyst game is over?

SM: Yes. I could be dying. Make haste.

WO: But we can continue with it next time?

SM: Yes. Anything, yes.

WO: With me as Olivier, you as Hoffman, and the couch as...Different Couch?

SM: Anything, yes, yes. So where’s this lump? Where is it? I can’t see a thing.

WO: It’s right at the back, there. On the left by — no waitaminute, have you been eating chili con carne?

SM: Kidney Bean Hongrois, actually. What of it?

WO: There’s a bit of purple bean skin stuck to your tongue.

SM: So, I’m not dying?

WO: You never were. But if you’d carried on with the theatrics, you might have been in trouble. Talking of which, when we play the analyst game again next time, do you want me to dig out some lines from the film? The more I think about it, the more it seems to resonate with me. I’ll research, dig out the DVD.

SM: As long as you’re sure it’s not the Curtis, anything’s fine by me. I’m alive is all, I’m alive.

WO: So, same time next week?

SM: Yes. And same Bat Channel...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thank Heaven It Wasn't Cucumbers

There are words for everything these days.

Like Eskimo descriptions of snow (or Inuit/Yupic, if you want to get ‘igloo anal’), they proliferate and multiply.

The very best are beautifully interchangeable — yet, on reflection, resolutely specific. Bollocks and balls are not the same things at all.

So what am I to do with this phenomenon, for which there is, as yet, no words?

You return from the supermarket clutching fresh sweetcorn, thinking, “can’t wait to have this for tea” — then put it in the fridge and forget about it.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, you see more sweetcorn and think, “bloody hell! That sweetcorn in the fridge! I bet it’s gone off by now.” So you buy it and put it in the fridge, only to discover the original sweetcorn is perfectly OK.

As you’re flipping through Jamie Oliver’s What To Do With More Effing Sweetcorn Than You Can Actually Eat, Let Alone Cook, your partner appears with a bulging shopping basket and announces, “look at this for a bargain. Two packs of sweetcorn for the price of one!”

It’s on the tip of my tongue, the word for this. But I’m too busy screaming ARGHHHH! ARGGGGHHH! ARGGGGHHHH! to place it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"...And My Fingers Are Up So Many Jugglers..."

I fancied borrowing a juggling balls analogy for describing my current writerly predicaments, but not only is it a cliché that’s been done to death, rumour has it the same fate befell the juggler from whom I stole the balls, and with the police prowling the neighbourhood for all manner of madmen, I can’t risk an unwanted excursion in a padlocked security van, trussed and bound like a common criminal.

So I’m going with toes in pies. It’s got to be toes because my fingers are needed for typing. True, I could don a selection of miniature pork pies and deftly tap at the keyboard with the skill of a thimble-clad spinster knocking out pairs of tights on her Jenny, but I figure the pastry would crumble eventually, no matter how much I visualised kittens afloat on puffs of cotton wool, thus ruining a perfectly good thirteen year-old keyboard and exposing me to the threat of death by dogs allergic to pastry but hot on compressed pork.

One pie on one toe, I can handle. A meringue, perhaps; and Big Toe, has to be. As metaphorical encumbrances go, it’s manageable: I can wash, I can cook, I can dress. Two pies, and things get tricky. Like Level Two on what seemed to be a cinch of a game when you named yourself HYPERKILLA and clicked Almost Monocellular Novice. Do I go for another meringue? And since the big toe is important for balance, should I cover the other one for symmetry’s sake or leave it free to work its balancing magic unaided? Further down the Toe/Pie line, the dilemmas proliferate, particularly when it comes to anything packed with cream or fruit jelly and weeny pinky dinkys crushed into cashew curves by a childhood of ill-fitting shoes and exposure to torturers.

When every last one of your toes (and yes, I have 10: I’m no mutant) is buried deep inside some puddingy pie or other (and yes, I’m going with sweet, not savoury — call me Mr Fray Bentos Averse), you realise how compromised your forward motion potential has become. Lift one toe/pie combo, and you’re forced to manouevre a couple more random digits to prevent yourself from slipping over (or having a squelchy parabola of jam squirt right up your trouser leg) — and if one step forward prompts a couple of mis-steps to the side, in no time at all, those two mis-steps necessitate more, till each last iota of your conscious, directive powers is expended, used up, gone, and to all intents and purposes, you might as well be a drunk old uncle demonstrating his hip hop prowess at a family wedding.

So how’s your writing week been, mes amis?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Review: PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

The bunker of superlatives has been plundered.

The Horse of Crying Woot is hoarse.

And the elves? Who make the cheerleaders’ pom-poms? The streamers, the bunting, the vuvuzellae? “We may be immortal,” they holler, “but churning out this celebratory Paranormalcy stuff’s gonna take forever.”

Any silky dress that fails to snag on bullrushes is paranormal in my book...

When Kiersten and I started following each other as fledgling bloggers, this moment was always on the cards, and I’m so pleased the deftness for language she displayed from day one in her short, witty ripostes around the blogosphere, her frequent flashes of fiction and snippets of stories, has been unleashed by the triumverate of triumph known as HarperCollins/Wolfson/Sussman and allowed to spin out into a full length novel. It’s not so much the icing on the cake as the strawberry that swoops from overhead like a jet, loops the loop before your very eyes, and whooshes between your awestruck lips like a basketball slam-dunked by a titan.

The premise is a simple one. Evie, a sixteen year-old girl with strong views about mermaid’s bras, can see through paranormals’ glamours, and when all those vamps and werewolves start being taken out by a spoiler alert mystery being, she finds herself at the centre of a pacey plot that rocks. And in between chasing rampaging otherworldly creatures and blitzing them with her taser, Evie falls in love with a boy.

I always knew I was going to adore the monstery parts, all those classic fantasy beasts being tweaked with style. What I didn’t expect was to melt like a liquified puppy over the kissing scenes. I don’t normally do YA, but for this one, it seems, I became an honourary fifteen year-old teenager called Julie, complete with pop socks, crush-prone outlook, and life-threatening homework dilemmas.*

* To clarify: the puppy was liquified humanely.

There are so many good things about this book, but what stands out most for me is the pace. As I read it, there could almost have been a paranormal in the room with me: I swear some of those pages turned themselves. Also, of course, there’s Evie. In spite of her of her eviedent superpowers (sorry, I had to), she’s ultra vulnerable, ultra lost, and since the plot is more sophisticated than the Girl Meets Monsters / Girl Meets Boy scenario I’ve outlined, she’s led astray in ways that make you want to leap right between the pages and drag her out with your bare hands. This happened to me a couple of times, and I was ready to plunge straight in, armed only with pyjamas and a reading lamp, but an eerie voice counselled, paper cuts — and I managed to restrain myself. Weird things happen when you read this baby, I swear.

And read it, you must!

My only complaint? I could have done with more. Luckily, Kiersten has had the foresight to compose a trilogy, so I’ll only have to lope around like a wounded animal for another year. Maybe I’ll lope like Jacques, the Gallic lycanthrope. Aaaaah, another of my favourites....

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fitness For Life

Regular visitors to this blog will be well aware by now that given a choice between fasting for a week in order to attain spiritual perfection, and stuffing my face for an hour until I’m fit to burst, I’m 100% likely to go for option #2.

Problem is, at my age, the ability to sport a permanently unswelling waistline (to the extent that, on a good day, I can still fit myself into a pair of jeans I wore when I was 21 — if I iron myself for an hour or two beforehand, exhale till I’m blue, and leave my skeleton at the zip) doesn’t cut the mustard like it used to. Now, the inner horrors exceed the outer ones in both number and severity. There’s so many things you can do to ruin your internal organs these days, all from consuming a humble Hob-Nob or two, it seems.

I mention this because I bumped into an old fiend at the weekend, an old friend the same age as myself. An old friend the same age as myself who nearly died of a heart attack last Christmas. As I understand it, he overdid the fags in his youth, but in all other respects, there was absolutely nothing wrong with him bar a genetic predisposition to ticker trouble — and biscuits loaded with polyunsaturates. Again, as I understand it, I fall into the same boat. Watch me topple now from the quayside into the chugging tug of heart rot and Digestives, there to consider my fate.

Perhaps, I say to the spectre in the mirror, whose ethereal fronds I still wish to see flickering before me 25 years from now*, perhaps it’s time to start looking at food from a wider perspective than flavour, amount, texture, yumminess and bliss. O mirror of the future, light my way towards responsible calorie counting, additive awareness and the Fat Free Misery ‘n’ Wretchedness Aisle of my local Tesco.

* and if you’re wondering what a mirror is doing on a workaday ole chugging tug, let’s not forget that even for burly sailors, there’s a fine line between looking roguishly manly and unashamedly scruffy, beardwise.
I’ll say one thing for mirrors on stubby sea vessels: the magic works faster than that genie and bottle thing. The moment I resolved myself to rectify my pre-rectal digestive habits, I was drawn to search the internet for diets, principally those involving no minimally plump thirtysomething women in leotards or Mr Effing Motivator. What I got was this:

I have no idea whether Mr Ehret’s system matches up to the nutritionally sound, scientifically researched, regimes du jour, but to be honest, I’d rather trust a snappily coiffured German fruit enthusiast of yore to advise me on diet than any number of cash driven modern day fitness gurus. Especially if I can combine my improved food intake with an exercise regime from roughly the same era as the mucus-free stomach nirvana proposed by Ehret.

I’m thinking of something along these lines — simple exercises involving minimal effort, minimal stretching (except, perhaps, for the elastic in whatever dinky trunks I purchase for my 20-minutes-a-day Lean Against A Chair marathon).

If I’m still here next week, I’ll let you know how I’m getting on.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One Parrot Fiction

For a writing site, this place has become conspicuously devoid of actual fiction in recent months.

So, to resolve this paradox de cosmos infinitique (et aussi très très bloody foncé), I shall be rolling out a number of new fiction features this Autumn with the unrestrained glee of a self-whuppin’ bum cheek scarleteer.

First off, is this baby. Click on the picture to read...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Skimpy Dimpy Polamalula

The best thing about blogging is the socialising, the popping in to say, “how do you do?” and “you’re going out in that outfit? What do you think you are? Some kind of avant-garde clown-cum-astronaut?” I love all of that stuff. And blogs are such a better arena for it all than Twattity Twat Twat Twat or Arsetome — not that I think ill of anyone who uses either of these great 21st Century innovations (especially me).

The downside to blogging is the Troy Polamalu tangle of unread posts that builds up after a few days away from your inbox: all those missed birthdays, parties and announcements; deaths of special hamsters (capable of stunts) and hand-sewn swimming costumes. I hate all of that stuff. Because it means I have to skimp on my reading. And at my time of life, especially right now, clad as I am in my summer shorts and way uncool horrific leather sandals, skimping is a hard one to pull off — like the lid on a jar of baby food replaced by a baby gorilla too smart to be fobbed off with Apple ‘n’ Lemur flavour Ape-o Mush. Actually, that gorilla is way too smart to be kept in the house, now I think of it. Screwing a tin lid back on a tin of unwanted ape food, as an act of indignance, smacks of a degree of intelligence unseen since the quintet of Planet of the Apes films hit our screens in the late 70s. How many baby gorillas have watched the re-runs of those as they’ve languished in their compounds, captives of some late night TV watching zookeeper? It would only have taken one to mutter (in its gorilla-y way), “hey, listen everyone — that Roddy McDowell guy’s on to something. If we can get ourselves some Hooman costumes, we can make it big in Hollywood” before we’re talking Potential Simian Insurrection Time. But — Potential, not Actual, note. Because even if word had filtered through to every captive gorilla in every land, and even if they’d been able to get hold of a job lot of human costumes, unless they’d also been watching Gok Wan’s How To Look Good Naked, they wouldn’t have seen the need to mix and match trousers and tops, and would have gone out into the world with all manner of flares of fabric trailing from their disproportionately short and doubly bent legs, and been picked up immediately by the authorities. Maybe that’s what happened. One by one, the bravest set out, lured by the bright lights, the fame. And one by one they were all banged up again. Four square walls and a handful of floppy bananas. They say failure can ruin a guy. Imagine what it must have done to all those gorillas. That’s why we’ve got to be careful to feed the little ones their favourite flavours of Ape-o Mush. To stop them coming over all petulant and screwing down the tin lids. That’s how it starts. Be warned.

So what blog posts do you find yourself skimping on when you fall under the wheels of your bloggerly inbox?

Long ones? Rants? Advice? Or those featuring a candid account of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne trying to outholster each other at the film premiere of The Towering Inferno? If it’s the latter, I can save you some valuable time in the future by posting it.