The Alarm Call

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When I woke this morning, I was cooking flatbreads on a tropical beach with a friend who was telling me how to identify lab-grown salmon.  The recollection is crystal clear, but it is ring-fenced:  I cannot remember a single detail more, I cannot illuminate you further except… wait, yes, the salmon came in little oval cells, like Ibuprofen capsules.  They looked like giant pink mouse droppings on the plate. 

Why?  I have no idea.  I have strained to find an explanation.  Who was the friend?  I really don’t know.  Why do I (presumably) associate them with food?  Ditto.  Why was I cooking flatbreads and why did both my unknown friend and I think that they would be a suitable accompaniment for what appeared to be fish-flavoured Tic-Tacs?   And the beach?  Well, it felt like it was tropical, but I really can’t be sure: it was a dream, who’s to say that the palm trees weren’t plastic?

The alarm clock went off at precisely its normal hour.  I am usually prepared for it, already half awake, my hand heading towards the ‘Snooze’ button before the first inane chortle of the Breakfast DJ.  This morning it took me by surprise, caught me fully asleep and sounded a clarion ‘Beep’ rather than its normal Radio 2 burp.  I was bathed in sweat: clearly caught mid-dream.  Maybe that’s why I presumed the beach was tropical. 

Clearly I pressed the wrong button in setting the alarm the previous evening (Although why, I cannot begin to imagine.  I have had the alarm for years and have always primed it in exactly the same way, uneventful night after uneventful night.) and the unaccustomed electrical siren startled me into wakefulness rather than allowing the soothing tones of the breakfast DJ to lull me, as usual, back into a micro-sleep, before waking me in time to press Snooze just one more time.

I seldom remember anything I dream, so this adamantine recollection, although fragmentary is – pardon me – alarming.  Why was I dreaming it in the first place?  It must surely have had some foothold in the day that preceded it, but I cannot think of a single instance that would lead me down that particular gustatory path.  I cannot think, either, why I was so fully asleep when the alarm sounded.  I always wake in advance of the alarm, even when the time is an unaccustomed one.  Was my mind so distracted by this particular dream that it quite forgot its primary function of preparing me for wakefulness before the bloody clock shocked me into it?

It has bothered me all day.  It has set synapse against synapse in my poor enfeebled noggin: wakeful elements attempting to tease information out of the uncooperative elements of the occipital lobe.  If there are neurons up there that know the secret, they are not letting on, and such elements of my mental faculties that I am able to muster remain, like me, completely in the dark.  It bothers me.  I fear it might keep me awake at night…

I was standing at a public urinal today, mulling this situation over as my mind and my bladder emptied in unison, when the person to one side of me – how shall I put this – vented with some gusto.  Instantly the man to the other side of me said ‘Blimey.  I don’t know what it is mate, but whatever it is, you’ve dropped it.’  I laughed so much I had to dry my shoes…

Nothing to Report

I have spent so long writing about what happens to me that I have quite forgotten the nub of my problem: nothing ever happens to me.  I am not an adventurer or a socialite, I cannot report from the centre of the Amazonian Rainforest nor the shadow-lit back booth of a reality star lined nightclub.  I do not move in the kind of circles that would allow me to report on the foibles of the great and the good.  I walk about a bit, occasionally I trip.  I don’t have much to say.  If I start a post with ‘It rained this morning’ it is not the prelude to some fantastical recollection of a financially overloaded neighbour building himself an ark on his back lawn, it is merely a statement of fact.  End of.  I don’t know anybody who has been into space: most of my friends can just about manage the Co-op.  If I made attempts to ‘drop names’ they would not hit the ground with much force.

I have a steady readership that just about troubles double figures and the nearest I have ever been to going viral is when my wife had a cold sore.  I have never attempted to make money out of this thing – I fear, if I did, I might end up in negative equity.  For all those bloggers who decide to ‘follow’ me in order to sell me the means to make my fortune out of blogging, I can only say that I really wouldn’t bother if I were you; this is exactly all this blog will ever be: an exploration of nothing in particular, the odd trip into wishful thinking and an occasional wander through the land of make-believe.  All I can do is meander around anything that I think might amuse you and allow you to do the same for me.  I won’t change what I do in order to make money because a) I have nothing to change it to and, b) nobody in their right mind would pay for it if I did.  Anyone that actually reads this over an extended period will already know quite enough about me, thank you very much.  In the case of yours truly, less is definitely more.

I run, but I am not a runner.  I am not going to buy protein drinks, mega-vitamins or super-shoes.  Try me on Mars Bars.  I don’t need professional counselling or well-being advice.  I need chocolate and wine and diversion.  I do this thing simply because I want to.  It’s what I do.  I’d like to think that I occasionally raise a smile, but I seriously doubt that it is anything that anyone would ever pay for.  (How would I charge: a pound a grin?  Would I have to offer refunds to the straight of face?)  If I could become rich through people laughing at me, then I think I might already be loaded.  I would be very happy to ‘make $millions’ from this twaddle, but unless thousands of people suddenly decide that they want to learn about everything that never happens to me, it’s just not going to happen.

I will carry on telling you about the meagre salmagundi of my life, about the dustbin men, the gas fitters, my maladies and my hobbies; I will continue to bore you with my rose-tinted recollections and half-baked theories.  I will implore you to educate me whenever bafflement with daily existence proves to be too much for me to process.  In short, I will continue to report at some length on my vacuous self and you can choose whether you wish to read it or not – and all without charge.

One day, I’ll write a post about it…

The Flu Jab II

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I do learn, but it is often a very slow process.  Every now and then I publish a Little Fiction, often dropping back in on characters that I love writing and every time that I do so I am surprised to learn that nobody else is in the slightest bit interested in any of them.  I write an odd Guide to… and I am often quite overwhelmed by the sheer apathy that they engender.  A couple of weeks ago I prattled on about my annual flu jab for a few hundred words and not only was it (by my own very modest standards) very well read, it was the welcome subject of much WordPress conversation.  What I have to learn is that I am obviously at my most engaging when I have nothing to say.  Thankfully, that is quite often.

So, today I am reviewing my life, peering deep into my insignificant soul in order to find something with which I can divert you for a few minutes.  I have recently had my Autumn Covid Booster, I could tell you about that I suppose, but I’m not quite certain that the world is yet ready for ‘Flu Jab II’, even if the lady did drop my vaccination card into the Sharps Box.  Oh how we laughed!

I am lucky enough not to have been made ill by it and so do not have to take the Paracetemol that the nurse recommended.  I am happy about that: I think my liver is up against enough already.

Anyway, with Autumn on my mind, on getting home from the vaccination centre, I set about getting my bike ready for the winter e.g. chiselling the old batteries out of the bike lights before refixing them to the frame as close as possible to the light-clips that I broke getting them off.  I cycle a bit, not in a Tour de France kind of a way, but more in the manner of Norman Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine.  I do not ride a finely tuned racing machine.  My proudest boast for my bike is that the wheels match (or at least they’re both round).  The frame is probably best described as ‘robust’ in that it appears to have been made from old scaffold poles.  It weighs more than my car.  I have a lock for it, although God knows why.  If I am honest, it is probably worth more than the bike. 

I’m not terribly keen on all the peripheries that appear to come along with a pushbike: I have a helmet that I wear whenever my wife is looking and a set of lights that actually make my surroundings look darker.  I have a bell, but its little ‘dinger’ is stuck.  Not that I ever go far.  The local Co-op is about as far as I ever dare trust the tyres – the inner tubes have had their integrity challenged more often than the government.  They probably constitute the world’s greatest repository of Rubber Solution.  I’m sure that, if I asked them, the W.I. could probably crochet me new inner tubes that were more airtight.

I’ve ridden much worse, of course.  I come from a time and a place where bicycles were generally assembled from bits and bobs found in the bottom of hedgerows.  It was rare to have wheels of the same size and saddles were most definitely optional.  Mostly these construction were ‘fixed wheel’ and without brakes.  If you wanted to stop, you had only three choices: a) slow the pedals – perfectly effective unless you were moving at speed or downhill in which case you’re most likely to break at least one of your legs, b) launch yourself at the first available friendly looking privet hedge or c) throw yourself at the ground and prepare to tell your mum that your trousers were shredded by the pixies. 

The current bike, despite its wilful intransigence, is rather safer to straddle than those of my youth, and I am more than aware that any attempt to use a fixed wheel now would almost certainly lead several hours in a clapped-out ambulance before the fortuitous death of an impoverished pensioner allowed me access to a hospital bed.

As I said, I do learn…

Monochromatic Me

Despite the fact that I know nobody will read them, I cannot resist the urge occasionally to write ‘guides to’, be it History, Subversion or Gardening; I just can’t pass up the opportunity to expostulate on what I know nothing about whilst my readers showing, as usual, far greater insight than I, do not bother to read in their droves.  (Earlier in the year, having decided once again that I just ‘couldn’t do this anymore’, I stopped posting altogether and still scored more readers than I did last week!) I love to write these things but, weirdly, according to WordPress, what my readers most want to read about is me – and there is so little of it to go around.  My life is so uneventful that it could be a Zoom concert by James Blunt: why anyone would want to know anything about it I cannot imagine.  None-the-less, my life is an open book – albeit full of empty pages.  If somebody were to make a film of it, I would be the intermission – Pearl & Dean would not concern themselves with the insertion of various advertorial mini-epics in preparation for my main event – never-the-less, every now and then, as fascinating as I find myself, I have to take a break from it and, ironically, the cinema is the ideal place to do so – isn’t it?

Well no, of course it isn’t.  Somebody – possibly the God of Pissing Off Older People – has seen fit to change it all.  There was a day – almost certainly pre-decimal currency – when I loved a diversionary couple of hours at the pictures.  It was while I could choose my flavour of Poppet by the scoopful; before anybody even thought of salting the Butterkist; before some bright soul changed a Mivvi into a Solero.  It was a lifetime before a trip to the cinema became the stress-fest it is today.

It starts with buying the ticket.  I don’t want to choose where to sit.  I want to be given my ticket by the en-kiosked, pinch-faced woman with the creosoted hairbun and all the charisma of a mackerel fillet.  I am happy to be told where I will be sitting.  Just give me the simple choice, ‘Stalls or Circle?’  I do not want the pressure of selecting row and seat number.  I’m going to wind up seated behind a giant anyway.  I really don’t need to choose where I’m not going to be able to see the film from.  Just give me a ticket stub and a woman with a torch to light my way.  Just give me a pack of Olde English Spangles to suck in peace.

I don’t want to sit behind somebody eating nachos through a megaphone.  I really don’t want to sit in front of a family of four sucking eight gallons of Coke through a sump.  I do not want to sit aside two people who are determined not to let the main feature get in the way of a perfectly good conversation.  Who goes to the flicks to watch a film: that really is not the point at all.  Who wants to focus on a screen that is smaller than the TV in an average student flat?  Who wants to surrender concentration, even when the volume is cranked up to nursing home levels?  I honestly do not need to know what’s coming up soon – I won’t be coming back.

And tedious my life certainly can be at times: it is not destined to be next year’s big blockbuster.  It cannot be CGI’d into a Technicolor rollercoaster.  Watching it through bi-coloured spectacles will not make even the slackest of jaws gape.  The kind of mini-incident that punctuates its steady progress will not trouble a stunt double.  The only thing that ever breaks it up is exactly the kind of thing that nobody wants to read.

And all in all, I’m probably happy with that…

Business as (Almost) Usual

My brother died.

He was younger than me.  It was unexpected, it was sudden and it knocked me sideways, but fourteen days have now passed – it is, I know, no time at all – but I feel that it is none-the-less, the right time for me to start to settle back into what must pass for normal.

You see, my problem is that I see the absurd in everything and even the most painful of circumstances do not put a block on it.  Everybody else’s problem is the same one – me.  I have learned, of course, that just because I have seen it, I don’t necessarily have to say it, but I have also learned that popping the balloon is, occasionally, exactly the right thing to do.

I have been through these situations before – too many times (and I carry the knowledge that there will be many more to come) – and always, when despair is at its worst, we have laughed.  It must be part of the human condition.  It must be how we cope.  It is why The Wake can sometimes become such a riotous occasion.  When we are wretched, when we are sad – even more so when we are terrified – there is always the feeling that a giggle is not too far away.  Somehow, all extreme human emotions channel into the need to laugh.  We huddle together, we look on helplessly and hopelessly and we search for something to break the mood.  Nobody wants to turn tragedy into Music Hall, but everybody senses the point at which the deceased would have laughed too.

Laughter does not stand apart from grief.  It runs side by side.  It is an inalienable element of coping.  Joy and anguish are interwoven threads through which we look both forwards and backwards.

I cannot tell my mind how to think – we both know who is in charge there – but I do realise that I am not being disrespectful by looking at my own life in these circumstances.  Nobody expects me to stay sad forever, nobody wants me to be sombre.  In the darkness, I am most definitely not the light: I am the coffee table that skins somebody else’s shin.  I am never the way, but I am often the diversion.  I would love to cultivate gravitas, but I am stuck with child-like curiosity.  I will not make jokes about my brother or his life, but then I would never have done so anyway.  There are no circumstances under which I would seek to devalue the depth of pain being experienced by his wife and children, but I am equally certain that they understand that in discussing my own oft irrational responses – how I cope with this and all aspects of my life – in no way diminishes my appreciation of their loss.

I hope that from today, as far as this modest little smorgasbord is concerned, I can return to business as almost usual.  It will change nothing – that is not within my gift – but it will help my brain to re-establish some sense of equilibrium.  Life changes, but it goes on, and somehow I cannot stop myself from watching it…

The Full and Unexpurgated History of England* to the Best of My Knowledge (part three)

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Sadly, despite the huge advances made in technology, medicine and Reality TV over the last two centuries, the years covered by this final short (although, dare I say, authoritative) record is dominated by war.

1815 A.D. – The Battle of Waterloo.  Although not fought on British soil this battle marked a turning point in British history as its resolution marked the start of a prolonged period of peace in Europe.  Britain, Prussia and allies fought for the preservation of sovereign state power, whilst Napoleon sought to create a single European state, which just goes to prove that long-term view doesn’t always win the day.  It did, however, lead to the consolidation of The Holy Roman Empire (which was actually none of the above) into the increasingly hyper-nationalistic German Confederation – and we all know where that led.  Britain gained many overseas territories from France which became strategically important naval bases in the maintenance of its Empire – so, that’s good then – although the ultimate winners were Abba.  The defeat at Waterloo still rankles in France – although, if I’m honest, it’s pretty difficult to find anything that the French are not annoyed about.  In modern politics, France is renowned as the most well-balanced of all Euro-powers, having a chip on both shoulders.

1914 – 1918 A.D. – The Great War (World War One) was not actually a truly global war, but like its predecessors, The Seven Year’s War and the Napoleonic Wars, it did have global consequences.  It was the first truly industrialised ‘total war’ although almost all of the fighting took place in Europe between two groups of ill-trained young people who really didn’t want to be there.  It is commonly known as World War One because otherwise World War Two would find itself completely out on a limb.  The blindness of The League of Nations, formed in the aftermath of the war, to the rearmament of Germany in response to the punitive reparations imposed upon them contributed directly to the Second (actually first) World War in 1939.  In fact many leading historians claim that the whole period from 1914 to 1945 should be seen as a single conflict with just a pause in the middle to allow for the replenishment of cannon-fodder.

!939 – 1945 A.D. (British time)  The Second World War (known in America as World War II as it sounds better in films)  took place between two totalitarian, expansionist regimes and the rest of the world.  Ultimately Britain (with the help of its late super-sub USA) and Russia beat Nazi Germany in Europe and Robert Oppenheimer beat the Japanese.  Following the war, world peace was maintained by means of the Cold War and with repeated threats from all sides to blow the hole sodding shebang to pieces.  The modern world is now dominated by three military super-powers who are perpetually at odds and George Orwell is spinning in his grave.

1982 A.D. – The Falklands Conflict.  This was not actually declared a War by either side (UK and Argentina) as neither was sure that the insurance was up to date.  This conflict provided a shrivelled-up UK with its last opportunity to flex military muscle in order to preserve its sovereignty over a small group of islands which would almost certainly benefit from closer relationships with their geographical neighbours.  The Falklands was ceded to Britain in the aftermath of Waterloo and at the time of the War (there, I said it) was home to 1,800 people.  Some 900 people died in the fighting (including 5 civilians) the majority of them dying at sea.  Since this conflict, the UK has managed to fight other countries only in its capacity as America’s official lap-dog.

Since 1982, of course, the world has enjoyed an uninterrupted period of peace, love and understanding, whilst England, through political stability and financial prudence, has re-established itself as the dominant global power of the age.

N.B. I can only apologise if my interpretation of events is at odds with your own.  Loathe though I am to admit it, I do occasionally get things wrong.

*This is not The History of Britain because I have no desire to thoroughly piss off the people of three other nations.

I hope I will have my head in the right place to resume my normal blog next week. Thank you for sticking with it!

You can find part one here and part two here.

The Full and Unexpurgated History of England* to the Best of My Knowledge (part two)

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The Magna Carta having cured all social issues and resolved all inequalities within our society, England ploughed on along the path of peace and tranquillity towards prosperity…

1346 A.D. – The Black Death.  Bubonic plague reduced the population of Europe by more than fifty percent and may have killed up to 200 million people worldwide replacing the price of turnips as the most discussed subject in the pub.  This plague should not be confused with the Great Plague of London (1665) which was actually exactly the same thing, but three hundred years later. 

1455 A.D – The War of the Roses.  A series of civil wars fought between two branches of the same family for the control of the country following a feud dating back to the death of Edward III over who got the candlesticks.  These wars lasted for thirty years and differed only from the kind of ructions that emanate from most family funerals in the number of deaths it precipitated and the pronounced paucity of mushroom vol au vents afterwards.

1605 A.D. – The Gunpowder Plot.  A failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament as a prelude to restoring a Catholic monarchy in the country which was led by Robert Catesby.  Guy Fawkes was just one of a number of conspirators, but he was the one who was unlucky enough to have been left in charge of the gunpowder and, subsequently, the one who has had fireworks stuffed up his arse on the fifth of November every year since.  The other plotters – those who survived a gun battle and a fire caused (ironically) by their own gunpowder – plus a couple who joined in the party posthumously (having been exhumed especially for the event)  were castrated, hung, drawn and quartered, but at least they don’t have to be reminded of it every bloody year.

1642 A.D. – The English Civil War: a series of battles between ‘Roundheads’ and ‘Cavaliers’ to determine the supremacy of parliament over monarch.  Oliver Cromwell led the Roundheads to victory and became Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland after beheading King Charles I.  He was a kind and benevolent leader and in no way a complete megalomaniac arse, so beloved by his happy and joyful subjects that as soon as they could, following his death in 1658, they opted to have the Monarchy restored, as it was a far less authoritarian option.  Charles II dissolved the Parliament at his earliest convenience and assumed total control of the kingdom until his death in 1685 by which time he had at least twelve illegitimate children from his many mistresses (including Nell Gwynne, Moll Flanders and Joan Collins) and a dopey-looking spaniel named after him.

1665 A.D – The Great Plague of London (one of many re-emergences of The Black Death) killed about twenty five percent of the city’s population and, like most of the bad things the capital has to offer, eventually spread out to the whole country.  Ships travelling into London from infected ports were forced into quarantine before being allowed to dock and the wealthier members of society (including Charles II and his entourage) fled the city.  Things did not seem quite so bad when only the poor were dying.  Eventually a cure was found when a negligent baker managed to burn down most of the city the following year.  The efficacy of this fiery cure is attested to in the second verse of the Plague Nursery Rhyme, ‘Ring-a-Roses’ which goes ‘Ashes on the water, Ashes on the sea, We all jump up with a one, two, three’ – although it now appears to have been ‘modernised’ to ‘Fishes in the water, Fishes in the sea’ in order to make no sense at all.

1707 A.D. – The Act of Union between England and Scotland was passed in both parliaments, leading to the formation of Great Britain.  The Union was so popular in Scotland that martial law had to be imposed and pub landlords began the long-held tradition of charging English Tourists extra for allowing them to put ice in the whisky.

N.B. I can only apologise if my interpretation of events is at odds with your own.  Loathe though I am to admit it, I do occasionally get things wrong.

*This is not The History of Britain because I have no desire to thoroughly piss off the people of three other nations.

You can find part one here and part three here.

The Full and Unexpurgated History of England* to the Best of My Knowledge (part one)

Photo by Janko Ferlic on

A short note for regular readers: I had these three items ‘stacked up’, so now seems the right time to use them.  I think I should be back to ‘usual’ next week.

I have mentioned before, I am sure (I am not one for hiding my shame under a bushel) my complete negligence in attempting to get to grips with the rudimentary research required to tackle History at ‘A’ level and my subsequent abject failure to attain a standard that the examination board could even be bothered to grade.  I am not proud of this – there is little in my schooldays that I can be proud of – but it has prompted me to investigate just how far my historical knowledge (at least of my own country) does spread.  Curiously, I discover that it does cover quite a lot – albeit breathtakingly thinly…

500,000 B.C. – Boxgrove man stumbled into Sussex only to find that all the sunbeds had already been taken by Boxgrove German.

2,000 B.C. – In an attempt to make the game more media-friendly, a group of druid football fans invented a round pitch featuring 5 goals with a convenient slab in the centre on which to sacrifice the referee if he refused to overrule VAR.  Stonehenge (later known as the Plumbing4U Arena) was carefully orientated so that the sun was always in the opposition goalie’s eyes during the second half.

43 A.D. – The Roman’s conquered England (despite Julius Caesar having claimed to have done so in 55 B.C. – ‘I’m sorry J.C., but standing on the beach saying Veni, Vidi, Vici does not constitute conquest, even in Kent’) and introduced straight roads, coinage, apples and pears (much later adopted by Cockneys in order to get up to the first floor), regular bathing (much, much later adopted by Cockneys) extravagant hand gestures and swearing.  Most of England and Wales did not actually succumb to military take-over but merely adopted Roman habits and laws in exchange for toilet facilities.  This was not the way in Scotland where the natives – particularly the strange and heavily bearded women –  refused to stop deep-frying the pizza and fortifying the wine with Irn Bru, and eventually (122 A.D.) the Romans erected a huge wall that ran from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway to mark the northernmost extent of their empire and the southernmost reach of the bagpipes (although they did later expand further and built a new wall between the Firths of Forth and Clyde which was abandoned only eight years after completion when the Roman Empire retreated back to Hadrain’s Wall and both Celtic and Rangers claimed the victory).

1066 A.D. – The Norman Invasion and the defeat of the English King Harold by William, Duke of Normandy.  The Normans gave us castles, churches and monasteries, and a deep-seated distrust of all things French.  Harold was famously killed by an arrow through the eye, but contemporary accounts state that he was also attacked with swords as he lay dying – perhaps he asked for gravy with his snails.

1086 A.D. – The Domesday Book: an early Norman census that detailed all of the property pinched from the English by the French and provided a guide to how much tax could be raised from all of those who could not possibly afford it.

1215 A.D. – The Magna Carta: a royal charter of rights decreed by King John to a group of 25 barons who, it transpired, were twenty-five times as bad as a single king for most of the country’s population.  The charter listed a number of civil rights and the people who could trample on them.  Legal precedents were created, such as Habeus Corpus, and civil liberties were enshrined into English Law – although not so enshrined that 99% of the population would ever have the faintest idea about it.  The charter was modified and reissued in 1216,1217, 1225 and 1297 on each occasion signing away a little more of the monarch’s divine right in exchange for hard cash.  The Magna Carta also provided the blueprint for the American Constitution which is equally effective at protecting the poor and the disenfranchised.

N.B. I can only apologise if my interpretation of events is at odds with your own.  Loathe though I am to admit it, I do get things wrong. 

*This is not The History of Britain because I have no desire to thoroughly piss off the people of three other nations.

You can find part two here and part three here.

Idle Speculation

It’s all part of a normal cycle for me: a few weeks ago, fresh back from the Aegean sunshine, my carefully curated backlog exhausted, I was writing my posts on the hoof and fretting constantly over what to do when inspiration did not come to call.  Today, I sit with a pile of essays in front of me, wondering if I should start to publish every day in order to get rid of them.

I won’t, of course, because I know that the days of nothing to report are just around the corner.  It is, as I say, just part of the normal ebb and flow for me: sometimes I can write this hodgepodge in abundance – it just oozes out of me – whilst on others I can spend an evening staring at a semi-colon, trying to decide whether I can do without it.  I am consistent only in my inconsistency.  I think that the knowledge that there is ‘work’ in hand gives my head the latitude it needs to wander off in all the wrong directions.  Torpor sets in and the cardigan comes out.

It is, for reasons I have not yet managed to identify, a quiet day on the building site behind me.  All work appears to have halted and silence prevails.  I swear I can hear birdsong.  I am sure that if I were to half close my eyes, I would be able to see soldiers playing football in the mud and the puddles.  I wonder, should the work actually stop today, how long would it take nature to reclaim the land: to subsume the proto-roads and infrastructures, to re-establish homes, not for humans, but for beasties of all types and sizes?

Idle speculation of course because, even now, I see herds of hi-viz approaching me from the left and a lorry (presumably a Brobdignagian tea-urn) disappearing to the right.  A casual glance from the window finds me staring into the jaw of a giant digger.

Half a century, or more, ago I read a story in what well could have been ‘Amazing Tales’ or ‘Astounding Stories’ which, unusually, did not centre on the Aliens living, undetected, next door.  It supposed that the Solar System was a molecule, each planet an atom, a tiny fragment of a reality that was infinitely bigger than our own – the Universe as a coffee table – and I can’t shake off the image of all the giant machinery around me as vast insects, themselves part of some huge colony, simultaneously building and pillaging.

At which point, doubt kicks in: do I mean pillaging?  Wasn’t that a Viking thing alongside names like Bloodaxe and helmets with horns on?  Always makes me wonder how primitive we English were back then that the Vikings could be regarded as civilising.  We had plenty of Vikings around these parts and the influence still persists.  I know that the suffix ‘by’ simply meant ‘village’ (hence Ingleby – the English village – and Normanby – the Norman village) and that Thorp(e) meant a village of lesser importance e.g. Thorpe-on-the-Hill, Thorpe-le-Fallows, Thorpe-near-the-Bus Stop and Thorpe-where-the-old-village-pub-is-now-an-Old Tyre Dump.

What I’m hoping, of course, is that they might dig up Viking remains behind me, a Viking village perhaps, fatefully named Colinby or Thorpe-on-the-Back Field, accompanied by pots of gold and enough ancient artefacts to keep Baldrick* happy for months – just long enough for a Preservation Order to be slapped on the whole shebang.

Fanciful?  I guess so, but the thought has kept me occupied for a while – even if it does mean that another day has gone by with nothing for me to say…

*A hugely popular character from Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Blackadder’, played by Tony Robinson, who later hosted ‘Time Team’ in which all manner of things were dug up by a team of people with whom you would love to spend an evening in the pub, but probably, all things considered, would not want living next door.

First and Last

I hang onto first sentences.  I hoard them about my person, on my office notice board and, more often than not, on torn pieces of paper crumpled in the midst of snotty tissue, conker shells and secreted Daim wrappers in the darkest recesses of my trouser pockets.  They are normally scrawled, semi-legibly on to whatever paper is immediately available, with whatever writing implement comes to hand and, by the time they are dredged from the lint-lined depths, have lost all relevance to whatever train of thought they were intended to precipitate.  I like to think that this is a good thing.  I somehow write a post that follows on from this disembodied little nosegay and, more often than not, like yourselves, have no idea of where it is likely to take me.  I hope that it’s exciting, but I fear it is merely confusing, like mistaking episode three for episode two, when you fell asleep half way through episode one of what turned out to be a completely different series which actually followed on from series two, most of which you missed altogether.  Like Blade Runner, The Matrix and ice hockey…

Over my time on this platform I have fielded more questions than I would like to admit about my writing process.  The general consensus appears to be that I have a theme to work to and various bullet-points that I meet on my way to the conclusion.  Sadly I do not.

Generally I am aware of my theme only after I have finished writing and I only know what the conclusion is because it comes at the end.  Bullet points would only provide me with something to miss along the way.  The ‘grand idea’ almost always comes after the writing is finished and I know the ending only after I have reached it.  It is a ridiculously amateurish way of writing, I know, but it is all that I have.  It is like knitting a blanket and deciding that it’s a pullover only after you discover it has sleeves.  Most of my time is taken up in trying to get the sleeve out of the neck-hole and the pattern running in the right direction.

On the rare occasions that I have a point to make, I have forgotten it long before I have worked out how to punctuate the first sentence.  The content of my brain generally just overflows onto the paper – the basis of my conviction that shit floats –  and such concentration as I can muster goes into making some sense of it all.  It is seldom the sense that I intended. 

It works like this: I pick one of my paper scraps and write whatever it says at the top of a blank sheet of paper.  I stare at it for a while.  I write a second sentence to stop the first one getting lonely and stare at that for a while.  I decide not to worry and I allow my mind to wander about for a few hundred words.  I stop.  I attempt to conjure up a final sentence that has some connection, however vague, to the first.  I transcribe the whole thing onto the laptop, convinced that the right font and line spacing will sort it all out.  I read it through and realise why I have worked in a shop all my life.  In a panic, I attempt to add some jokes, but quickly realise that putting a red nose on a pallbearer doesn’t stop him delivering the coffin.

I despair.  I eat chocolate.  I stare at the first sentence.  I formulate a plan to hang on to last sentences too…