Saturday, March 31, 2012

3 word week: It's a dog's life

The sharp yip from behind informs me that I just trod on the dog’s tail. It happens a lot. He’s a stupid mutt who thinks that sitting inches from my heels will get him food every time I’m in the kitchen.

It never works. Specially in the morning. You’d think he’d know by now that I’m on autopilot till I’ve had my first coffee: a kind of hyperinduction by caffeine. I am at its mercy - an addict – and nothing functions till I’m half-way down my second mug of joe.

Eventually I relent and turn around to pour some Doggybix in his bowl. He looks appalled.

“Sorry pal, it’s the best I can do for now. Meat’s off the menu till I replace that janky can opener.”
Not so much a story - more a scene from something that has potential.  Three Word Week is Steve Isaak's challenge where he provides three words and we fit them into something like a story.  This week's words were: 
 I.) hyperinduction - v. When someone psychically overrides - controls - the will and actions of another person. (Source: Alphas, Season 1, episode #1: "Pilot"; original air date: 7/11/11)

II.) janky - adj. - Inferior quality; held in low social regard; old and delapidated; refers almost exclusively to inanimate material objects, not to people.

III.) yip - adj. - n.
A sharp, high-pitched bark; a yelp.
To emit a yip; yelp.

I had problems with janky. I'm more familiar with shonky, and it still reads to me like I should have used that instead.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Is it Friday again already?

There’s something about the eventual arrival of Spring weather after a long and miserable winter that brings out the best and the worst in people. I’ve seen how everyone has a happier expression and they are smiling at each other again. But have you noticed how awful their pasty skin looks in such bright light?

More words for the G-Man. He likes them in bundles of 55 every Friday. Go check them out.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Extracts. For Sandra's son......

.......because I feel sorry for Professor Littlewood. (And I make NO apologies for quoting Terry Pratchett again because he knows how the world works - even if it is flat and carried on the back of four elephants that are riding on a huge turtle.)


Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one. But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

Terry Pratchett, Mort

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My story Falling Star on the Microstory a Week site

Steve Isaak has used my story Falling Star on the Microstory a Week site. Thanks Steve!

Check out the site here. I'm not the only writer on it!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dashboard Warning

There it was again – that annoying bleep warning the person in the passenger side wasn’t wearing a seat belt – but there was no-one in the seat, and no way to stop the noise. She meant to fasten it before she set off, but she had forgotten, what with everything else she had to do. The mechanic at the garage had said he couldn’t find anything wrong with it, blamed a loose connection and suggested she should stop putting her heavy handbag on it. Then he charged her fifty quid for the privilege. You could almost hear the ‘silly woman’ tagged onto everything he told her. If Pete had been there he would have given the stupid grease-monkey a piece of his mind and warned him if he wanted paying he’d better do the job properly. But Pete wasn’t there any more, was he? Pete would never be there again.

Tears welled up as she remembered the day the police turned up on her doorstep. She knew she broke down when they told her: refused to believe the news. She could not recall anything else clearly. Her life had been a blur since then, and she had drifted through it with no clear direction. Now and again a challenge faced her, like the annoying car warning, and she had to concentrate long enough to solve it. That only served to remind her how Pete had handled all the mundane details of life. He had guarded her against the world so she never needed to do anything for herself.

She thought about the envelope that stood on her mantelpiece at home. The solicitor gave it to her on the day he visited to say that Pete had written a will leaving everything he owned to her. He also left a letter, the man said, to be given to her after the funeral. She couldn’t bear to think that he had planned even beyond his death, and she had placed it, unopened, behind the clock, and never touched it in the six months since. She could not face reading his words, hearing his voice in her head.

She saw a slip road ahead and turned into it instinctively, before her eyesight was completely blurred. It was the entrance to a service station and she pulled into a parking space and turned off the engine. That ended the annoying bleep and allowed her to weep freely. She was oblivious to the stares of other motorists who passed the car, and cried until she was spent. Afterwards, she toyed with continuing her journey immediately, but decided a coffee and a visit to the ladies’ room might help her to feel better. As she entered the café building a young man opened the heavy glass door for her, but there was something odd about the way he did. He held it open for just a fraction longer than was necessary, and lifted his arm much higher than needed for her to pass below.

At the coffee stand she ordered a cappuccino and turned down the waiter’s offer of anything else.

“You sure?” he asked, looking over her shoulder, and looked sulkily back at her when she snapped: “Positive!” She supposed that working all day at a motorway service station might make anyone strange. After the coffee she headed for the powder room and encountered a group of teenagers, who were about to leave. As she entered the tiled area she noticed some shocked looks, followed by giggles and she heard: “What’s he think he’s doing?” as the door closed behind them.

“I guess I must look fairly awful after the crying then,” she thought, and headed further into the room. As she did, she caught sight of her reflection in one of the over-lit mirrors and saw a tall figure behind her. She turned to apologise for closing the door in the person’s face, but she was alone. “Tiredness, that’s what it is. You need to see a doctor for some sleeping pills.” She finished her freshen-up and left.

On the way across the car park she noticed something odd about how people reacted to her. They all seemed to look at her and then look up slightly, above her shoulder, as if someone was following her, but she knew there was nobody there. Back in the car she remembered to fit the seat belt across the passenger side and for the remainder of her journey all was well. No more lights and bleeps disturbed her and she arrived home without further incident. Once inside she noticed the envelope over the fireplace and made up her mind that tonight was the time to open it.

She had prepared the coals and paper before she went out so all she had to do was set a match to it before heading to the kitchen to make herself a meal. It was well alight by the time she returned and she set her plate down on a small table before reaching up for the envelope and settling onto the sofa to absorb the growing warmth.

“Be brave,” she told herself. “How much worse can it be?” Pulling open the flap and unfolding the contents, she caught a hint of Pete’s smell: a blend of his natural odours and aftershave. Rather than distressing her, it brought calm with it and she smiled. She began to read.

“My Darling,

If you are reading this then I must have passed on. I’m sorry. I never wanted you to have to cope alone, but we are not masters of our fate and something must have happened to me. If it had been in my power I would never have left you. I would have stayed at your side for eternity.

You have been the best thing about my life and even if I had to sacrifice everything else, I would have fought to keep you. I love you. I always shall.



She gave a shiver as she finished. “Actually it wasn’t love, sweetheart, it was domination,” she said out loud, “and haunted lover stories never end well.”

Then she screwed up the paper and threw it on the fire.
This WAS going to be a love story. It WAS inspired by the fact that my car developed this fault today.
There's no other truth in it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

3 word week: Chinese whispers

This was not the ideal job for Darren. He didn’t do mornings. Usually he staggered out of bed and rushed through a morning ablution before heading for the door and pausing on his way to work just long enough to inoculatte himself with double espresso. But the City being how it was and the financial health of the country dying rapidly, he’d proved ‘negatively valued’ by his employers and in need of a new position.

The ad sounded good when the JobCentre bloke read it to him. Island setting. Plenty of fresh air. Thousands of girls. And something about Xena. Well that decided him. She was that semi-naked bird on TV, wasn’t she? Sun, sea, sand and sex was right up his pair of swimming trunks. He’d agreed on the spot.

So how had he ended up sitting on a god-forsaken cliff top at the crack of sparrow-fart, and surrounded by feathers and guano? He really should learn to listen harder. What the guy actually said was: "Study the xenobiotic effects of an oil spill on glaucous gulls."


It's that time of the week again.  Here's Steve Isaak's 3 word week challenge.
Some of my writing readers really should give this a go! 
The glaucous gull really does exist, by the way. I didn't make it up.

This week's words are
I.) glaucous - adj.
1. Of a pale grayish or bluish green.
2. Botany Covered with a grayish, bluish, or whitish waxy coating or bloom that is easily rubbed off: glaucous leaves.
II.) inoculatte - v. - To take coffee intravenously when you are running late. (Source: The Washington Post's Style Invitational, 2005)
III.) xenobiotic - adj. - Foreign to the body or to living organisms. Used of chemical compounds.
n. A xenobiotic chemical, such as a pesticide.

Friday, March 23, 2012

FFF55. Signs of spring.

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Wood pigeon.
Magpie. (Morning Sir.)*

Some sort of crow.
Unidentified, large, brown, bird of prey.**
(Must look that up when I get home.)

Pied wagtail.
Collared dove.
Another magpie. Two for joy!
Lots of small twittering things in a tree.

More blackbirds.
A second crow, carrying a twig.

Squashed young badger.

55 words for the G-Man. Because it's Friday.

* A single magpie, to avoid the bad luck of 'one for sorrow', must be saluted.

** I thought maybe hen harrier because I know we have them round our way, but a look at some photos suggests buzzard was a possibility. I could tell the difference in the air - but this thing was sat on the hedge.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday Extracts: a memory of my younger days


    Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

    Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

    Strive to be happy.

    --- Max Ehrmann, 1927


Some of you might remember this as a 'pop' hit in the 1970s. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

3 word week: Invention

He knew as soon as his boss told him the plan that it was a bad idea. Yes, the device needed to be revealed to the world, but this was not the way to do it. They wouldn’t understand the importance of the find. Thanks to some incontrovertible evidence in the tomb, it was possible to date the parts very accurately, and they proved that mankind invented clockwork millennia earlier than was previously thought. This was big stuff; but would the uninitiated grasp the significance? Of course not – and he knew he’d be the fall guy.

Dennis had spent two years painstakingly copying each of the cogs and wheels and creating a working model. It had been in a woebegone state when it first arrived at his workshop. The rest of the team of archaeological investigators had carried out all of the tests they could on the bits and pieces and then brought him the remains to interpret. Luckily, many of the sections were still intact, thanks to the lack of rain at the dig site, but connecting up all the Heath Robinson gearing had given him a few challenges.

The work had been tough, but the finished article was a triumph. The key mechanism had been the trickiest: making sure it connected all of the rotors so that, when the brake disengaged, the whole apparatus danced majestically. Ratchets engaged, spheres spun, pivots balanced and the two flagellate arms swept delicate arcs around each other, making a soft swishing sound.

It was inevitable that the museum director wanted to make a show and so a press conference was duly called. Dennis was given his orders to set up the machine prominently so that, at the right moment it could be switched on for the crowd to admire. After a gushing introduction, the director handed over to him to explain how it all fitted together.  The journalists made suitably admiring noises and Dennis tried to give them every possible fact he could so that he could avoid the one question he dreaded: the one thing he could not answer.

As he reached the end of his talk and applied the brake to bring the mechanism to a gentle halt he hoped he had got away with it, but he should have known better. Just as the gentle machine hum ended a voice spoke up:  “But what does it do?”

Three word week is Steve Isaak's challenge.  This week's words were: 
I.) flagellate - tr. v.
1. To whip or flog; scourge.
2. To punish or impel as if by whipping.
1. Biology Flagellated.
2. Resembling or having the form of a flagellum; whiplike.
3. Relating to or caused by a flagellate organism.
An organism, such as a euglena, that is equipped with a flagellum.

II.) Heath Robinson - adj. - Absurdly complex and fancifully impractical. (The term was coined after W. Heath Robinson [1872 - 1944], a British artist known for drawing ingeniously complicated devices.)

III.) woebegone - adj. -
1. Affected with or marked by deep sorrow, grief, or wretchedness.
2. Of an inferior or deplorable condition: a rundown, woebegone old shack.

Friday, March 16, 2012

FFF55. Brenda's new wheels

There were good things and bad things for Brenda about the accident. Although her belongings escaped damage when the car went out of control, she now faced a big problem with future transport. She would just have to find another shopping trolley to carry her life around in. It was tough being a bag lady.   

FFF55 is a weekly challenge set by the G Man

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thursday Extracts: Douglas Adams on the nature of horses

Although it was certainly a handsome and well-built example of its species, it was none the less a perfectly ordinary horse, such as convergent evolution has produced in many of the places that life is to be found. They have always understood a great deal more than they let on. It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them.
On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency 1987

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3 word week: Giraffiti

“You have to admit, he’s good, whoever he is.”

The two lads stared up at the beautifully painted three letters, high above their heads on the blank wall. There was a new man in town: a master of giraffiti – his tag was appearing in places that the run-of-the-mill crew simply could not reach.

Not that Baz and Scag were ordinary. No way. But they were never going to manage the kind of heights this guy achieved. His work was not just vandalism, it was art. It had a subtlety the rest never showed. Take this latest example: it was a delicate shade of ecru, phased to a light green, and edged in gold. It must have taken him ages.

“I want to know who this Ger guy is. We’re gonna have to keep a wait for him and maybe record him. I bet his methods are supreme videogenic,” Baz uttered through clenched teeth. Scag could tell he was jealous, because he always tried to sound like a gangsta when he was upset, but he would never say.

"How are you sure that’s his name?” Scag queried. “He uses two tags.”

“Yeah, but they both sound alike don’t they?” came the reply.

The image in front of them was the same as the artist always did on pristine ground: Ger, painted in unusual colours and outlined just like a signwriter. But whenever the guy covered other people’s tags the letters changed to Grr; like he was angry. Baz liked that. It showed style.

“So how are we going to find him?”

“S’easy. It’s gotta be somewhere that’s high up and clean. I know just the place.”

The pair met that night by the railway arches, next to a tall abutment that always escaped the attention of the graffiti artists: too high to reach from below and too difficult to touch from the top. Baz usually acted as lookout, but this time Scag turned him into a ladder and climbed up to stand on his shoulders while he sprayed ‘Scg’ onto the pristine brickwork. The letters were wobbly because Baz was not very strong and had difficulty holding up his pal for long. Then they hid in a nearby arch to wait for their rival.

When the mystery artist arrived they were stunned to see exactly how he reached their target spot. They watched in awe as the letters Grr swiftly covered their tag and the painter stalked away.

“Please tell me you got that on your mobile,” Scag hissed after the artist left.

“No, I thought you were recording it,” Baz answered.

Scag turned on him and pummelled his fists on Baz’s chest. “What do you mean you thought I was? How could you not get that? Nobody is gonna believe this! Just wait till we tell them how he does it!”

Baz pushed his friend away and stared at him. “You’re actually going to tell people what we just saw? They’ll lynch you. And I’m never going to tell cos I value my reputation.”

Scag went quiet as the truth sank in. Baz was right. They could never tell. Imagine the reaction if they said they’d just seen a new giraffiti painted by an actual giraffe!

You know the score. Three word week is hosted by Steve Isaak. He gives us three words and we write a story inspired by (and including) them. This week's words were:
I.) ecru - n. A grayish to pale yellow or light grayish-yellowish brown; the color of unbleached linen.

II.) giraffiti - n. - Vandalism spray-painted very, very high. (Source: The Washington Post's Style Invitational, 2005)

III.) videogenic - adj. - Having a physical appearance and exhibiting personal qualities that are deemed highly appealing to video viewers.

Friday, March 09, 2012

FFF55. Weekend Father

“Please sit down.”
“No. Mummy doesn’t make us sit down.”
“I’m sure she does. Sit down!”
“Don’t have to.”
“If you don’t sit down you won’t get ice cream.”
“You’re mean.”
“People are getting annoyed with you.”
”Don’t care what people think. Mummy wouldn’t care about people.”
“Mummy never cared about anything much. Including us.”
55 words for the G-Man. Based on something I saw a year or so ago.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Thursday extracts: Checking your spelling.

Eye have a spelling chequer,

It came with my Pea Sea.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss Steaks I can knot sea.

Eye strike the quays and type a whirred
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am write oar wrong
It tells me straight a weigh.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your shore real glad two no.
Its vary polished in its weigh.
My chequer tolled me sew.

A chequer is a bless thing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right all stiles of righting,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The chequer pours o'er every word
Two cheque sum spelling rule.
Taken from Wikipedia, which claims the original was written by Jerrold H. Zar in 1992. Several versions exist. Wiki also claims that modern spell checkers would be able to consider more than pure 'spelling' and realise that a lot of the poem is wrong.  We all know that's not true though, don't we?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

An observation

The dried cherries in my lunch-box fruit-snack are very sticky. And they taste more like prunes.


I've been taking part in some One Minute Writer challenges recently, but there doesn't seem to be much feedback from them - or many people taking part. So I'm seriously considering abandoning it. I've been looking for other prompts, because I'd like something to guide me in a short writing exercise on a regular basis, but what I've found gets complex: write two haikus about....; draft a crime story in 10 minutes; etc.

So today I just strung some words together. I think it works.

Monday, March 05, 2012

One minute writer: Texture

Woollen weave in your jacket and your hat, always a hat. Comfort and warmth that protected me when I was young. Close my eyes and the touch of tweed can still conjure a smell of outdoors and green and freshly dug earth and dogs and oil paint and pipe tobacco and soft Yorkshire air.

I still miss my dad. 
For One Minute Writer

Sunday, March 04, 2012

One minute writer: What's the most useful tool you own?

Most people don't think of their computer as a tool, but it is. Mine helps me to keep track of my finances, write letters, contact friends, play games, plan TV watching, read books, practically everything. I couldn't live without it. It's certainly the most useful tool in my box. (Though you can't undo screws with them!)


Written for One Minute Writer. See link on the left.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Three Word Week: Playing hardball

For such a diminutive guy Borelli had a very large temper. It was not helped by the fact that he was an easy target for ridicule and his fellow soldiers missed no opportunity to make the little man feel even smaller. His portly shape and speech impediment had earned him the nickname ‘Thoftball’ - a corruption of the way he spoke. He had difficulty in pronouncing fricatives and his effs and esses came out flattened, with an accompanying whistle.

On the day he finally snapped, he set about one of his colleagues with a large wooden paddle. At each whack he shouted: “Thwine! Thith is what happenth when the thoftball geth hold of the bat!”
It took three people to hold him back and wrest the stick from him, at exactly the time that the commanding officer stepped out of the mess to investigate the noise. What he saw was an apparently cowardly attack by a group of NCOs on an individual, which is why they were dishonourably discharged for conduct unbecoming an officer, while Borelli was promoted to Captain.

Three Word Week is hosted by Steve Isaak and is, just like it sounds, a weekly challenge to write something that includes three words he chooses.

This week's words are:
I.) diminutive - adj.

1. Extremely small in size; tiny.
2. Grammar Of or being a suffix that indicates smallness or, by semantic extension, qualities such as youth, familiarity, affection, or contempt, as -let in booklet, -kin in lambkin, or -et in nymphet.
1. Grammar A diminutive suffix, word, or name.
2. A very small person or thing.

II.) fricative - n. -
1. A consonant, such as f or s in English, produced by the forcing of breath through a constricted passage. Also called spirant.
Of, relating to, or being a fricative consonant.

III.) unbecoming - adj. -
1. Not appropriate, attractive, or flattering: an unbecoming dress.
2. Not in accord with the standards implied by one's character or position.

Friday, March 02, 2012

FFF55: A new paradigm for proactive implementation of tailored win-win strategies


Bernard hated management speak, but even more he loathed when he did all the work and colleagues took the credit.
So he devised a plan.

The next time one of the smarmy sales requested his ‘strategic input’ he returned totally wrong data.
“I think that’s what they call ‘low hanging fruit’,” he chuckled to himself.

Heads up.
This blog leverages direct campaigns, to communicate robust, scalable and best-in-class solutions.

We don't talk b*ll*cks. 

I had to attend a 'webinar' this week.  (A word which, by itself, sends shivers through me.) I have seldom heard such a mass of drivel in one 'journey through a cloud-based offering towards my ultimate discovery, delivered by way of one seamless transition'.  Hence this contribution to the G-Man's demand for 55 words of fiction.

Incidentally, this has got to be one of the first times a title has been almost as long as my story!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Was it worth it?

Smile inchies

If only I’d known when I started the cosmetic dentistry how much it would hurt, I probably would never have gone through with it. Of course I needed to have the repairs that underlie the smart new look, so some pain was inevitable, but knowing it was more-or-less self inflicted adds an edge of guilt.

On the other hand, when I look in the mirror, now I like the person who looks back.


A response to today's One Minute Writer prompt.

Thursday extracts: A Mad Teaparty

There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. `Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,' thought Alice; `only, as it's asleep, I suppose it doesn't mind.'

The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!' they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There's plenty of room!' said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.

`Have some wine,' the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. `I don't see any wine,' she remarked.

`There isn't any,' said the March Hare.
`Then it wasn't very civil of you to offer it,' said Alice angrily.

`It wasn't very civil of you to sit down without being invited,' said the March Hare.