Monthly Archives: October 2012

Winging It

Tonight’s Writers Group prompt, overheard on a train by one of us, was “we’re going to hear about the angel thing later”…
“We’re going to hear about the angel thing later,” said Gabriel.

“What’s the angel thing?” asked St Patrick.

“It’s an idea Gabriel has,” said St Peter. “It would mean we wouldn’t have to hang around like this.”

The three of them were, indeed, hanging around. Each of them was dangling from a cloud by the kind of apparatus later made famous by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.

This was the one big flaw about Heaven – it was up in the sky.

Not every one went for their approach. Some had attached wicker-baskets below the clouds. Some tethered themselves to the pearly gates, and went about their heavenly business in small circles. Some hung from a cloud by a long piece of string, like a child bought too many balloons at a fair. Some, mainly the young cool ones, rode the air-currents, the ultimate in wind-surfing.

Every now and then someone would make a mistake. Just the previous week St Felixbaumgartner had slipped and plummeted at astonishing speed to earth, in the process breaking the sound barrier and four-hundred and thirty-seven bones. Since he was a celestial being this didn’t matter, of course, and he was back hanging from his cloud thirty seconds later.

“Gabriel’s idea,” said Peter, “is that we become something called an angel.”

“Where does that name come from?” asked Patrick.

“From the Angelus,” said Gabriel. “It’s a kind of church version of a cuckoo clock, which is where I got the idea – we could have wings, like a cuckoo. We’d be able to hover in the clouds, instead of dangling from them.”

“That’d be great,” said Patrick. “It’d mean we’d be able to use our hands to play our harps, instead of plucking at them with our toes.”

“Gabriel’s done up a proposal,” said Peter, “and he’s sent it to God. We should hear about it later.”

The three hung around for what seemed like an eternity, and indeed might well have been, before Gabriel’s iPhone7 (this is Heaven, remember) rang. Gabriel listened, then turned to the others.

“He says yes,” he said.

“Thank God,” said Peter.

“Peter says thanks,” said Gabriel into his phone.

“Listen,” said Patrick, “while you have him on, tell him I have this idea for something called ‘trousers’. The wind up here is hellish sometimes.”


The glass slipper fit. Perfectly. She stood and walked about the room in perfect comfort, or at least as much comfort as it is possible to walk in while wearing one high-heeled glass slipper and one mule with a picture of Bart Simpson saying “Eat My Shorts” on it. She turned in joy to the prince.

“It fits!” she said. The Prince was speechless, stunned into silence by her unruly hair, her unibrow and her impressive collection of warts.

The slipper had fit one of the Ugly Sisters.

A brighter Prince would, of course, have seen this coming, or at least something like it. Our feet tend to fall within a range of uniform sizes, otherwise we would all have to get our shoes individually made. The idea that in a whole kingdom there was one person with uniquely-sized feet, and that this happened to be the one person who had left her shoe behind is ludicrous.

(The awkward and therefore never-mentioned fact in all of this, of course, is that the shoe did fall off Cinderella’s foot. This raises the question of how well the shoes fit her in the first place).

Having made his way through the kingdom, however, with no luck, he had fetched up at Cinderella’s house, the very last one. Here he met Cinderella’s two sisters, who surely must have been like Cinderella at least in size, though not apparently in looks. Few families of only three girls have shoe-sizes that vary from dainty to circus clown. The odds were that one of her sisters would have the same size feet as her, and since she had decided to go last for the sake of maximum dramatic impact she had set herself up for disappointment.

The Prince, of course, had been labouring under a huge misunderstanding. He hadn’t realized that the expression “size matters” usually has nothing to do with feet.

Prompt Reply

The WordPress Daily Prompt is back!

All through 2011 WordPress (in fairness, trying to help us all) suggested a writing topic each day. These were often daft and were often derided mercilessly, mostly by Tilly Bud and myself.

(Indeed last June I predicted that they would be desperate for ideas by the end of the year, and suggested this list of topics for December:)

1st. If you were a cat, what kind of cat-food would you eat?
2nd. Describe the socks you’re wearing right now.
3rd. Weekly Photo Challenge: Despair.
4th. Was Little Jimmy Osmond crap or what?
5th. Which of your legs is your favourite?
6th. Humor or humour? Does your blog have either?
7th. Describe a jigsaw puzzle you once made.
8th. Ear lobes. Why?
9th. Will this year ever be over?
10th. Weekly Photo Challenge: Women’s Bums (bonus: if you don’t get slapped).
11th. Bloggers are gobshites who can’t think up their own topics. Discuss loudly, after twelve cans of beer.
12th. Do you like the smell of tarmac on a hot day?
13th. Why did the fourth little piggy get no roast beef?
14th. Do you think it’s easy making up 365 topics? Well, do you?
15th. Describe your most recent haircut.
16th. Write about Pirates of the Caribbean 4 without using the words “utter” or “crap”.
17th. Weekly Photo Challenge: Hold your thumb over the lens.
18th. Were you popular at school? Why not?
19th. How big is Uruguay?
20th. Not worth a hill of beans. What does that actually mean?
21st. No-one reads what you write. You know that, don’t you?
22nd. Write about the back of your head.
23rd. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. How do you get them out?
24th. Weekly Photo Challenge: Santa (no, the real one).
25th. Oh, give me a break, you’re not seriously all here today too?
26th. Write about the worst present you got yesterday (bonus: name and write nasty things about the present-giver).
27th. Describe your left thumb.
28th. How many Star Wars movies can you name? (bonus: what does that tell you about yourself)?
29th. Just what was so wrong with the post about the dead puppies?
30th. Are you counting down the seconds to New Year as eagerly as I am?
31st. Do you think we’re going to have a Postaday 2012? Are you mad?

(I apologise for filling most of today’s post with another one, it’s a bit like inviting yourself along as a guest blogger, but the clock went back, or forward, or sideways this morning and I’m suffering from jet-lag without ever having left my house).

Anyway, to the delight of Tilly and I they have decided to brave our scorn (or have never heard of us) and are having another go this year.

Since I only found this out on the second day I am tackling the first two together. The first was “write about the most precious thing you’ve ever lost and the second was “what’s the one thing you hope people never say about you?”.

The most precious thing I’ve ever lost, of course, was the WordPress daily prompt, leaving my mind like a desert, dotted with only the occasional oasis of creative thought.

What I would least like people to say about me, though, is that I am lost without the daily prompt.

With Knitted Brow

My Tuesday Writers Group have started bringing along objects to act as prompts. Last week a girl brought these samples of her knitting and sewing, to prompt pieces about art and about craft.
I wasn’t there, but on looking at our private website the following day I saw that one of us had removed the piece he had written, saying that he had taken it down having been told that it might be slanderous. I put a comment under his now blank post (surely a piece of art in itself) asking how it is possible to slander knitting, but even as I typed those words I knew that I was going to try…


Purl’s a singer. That’s what the song says, but that’s just embroidering the facts. Look for a thread of truth and the whole yarn soon unravels. She sometimes uses a Singer sewing machine, but that’s it.

It would be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle, (though I can think of no reason why you’d want to) than to get that sew-and-sew into the kingdom of heaven.

Because she does indeed work in a nightclub, and her job is indeed entertaining folks. The kind of folks, though, are seedy old men who sit eagerly in front of the stage (sweaters, we call them) while she drops her stitches. By the end of her act she hasn’t got a stitch on.

You can see her bobbins and everything.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

One photo challenge, one man, no camera…


 There has been a silhouette in front of me for the past few days.

It wasn’t a shadow, because a shadow has a cause, a definable something which casts it, gives it shape and determines its very existence. Take that cause away and the shadow vanishes, it has no life of its own.

A silhouette is real. It exists, but its features are invisible. You don’t know what it is, or why the sight of it troubles you, causing a ball in the pit of your stomach of unspoken, indefinable and frankly unwarranted dread.

It could be the shape of your life as you feel it is now, full of petty, oh so petty stresses and hassles. This life has a face that turns toward sunshine, that fills with joy at the sight of your children and that laughs in the company of your friends, but you can’t see that face right now.

It could be the shape of your future whan all the joyful possibilities that you and that future may face are in shade.

It’s most likely to be simply you, when you’ve lost faith in yourself, when the wall behind which you keep your insecurities and self-judgements – stern, merciless self-judgements – crumbles and allows them into your mind, heart and stomach, where they sit heavily and painfully.

There is a face there. It is the face of a person who is good at heart, who tries their best and who deserves to be treated more kindly by themselves. This face is in darkness, though, and all you see is the forbidding mass of the silhouette.

Silhouettes have light behind them and it is important, when one confronts you and fills you with fear, to remember that. Find a way around the shape, find your way back into daylight where all the wonders of the world and of your life become visible again, and all will be well. Turn and look back and the figure is now just you, bathed in light.

I’ve gone around silhouettes before, many of them far bigger than the one that blocked my path this last week. I’ve got past this one too.

I just needed a good run at it.

Too Big For His Boots

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “enterprises that require new clothes”…
The thugs had all fled.

They had been on their way to bully the beautiful young widow of the small town, to force her to sign over her farm so that they could exploit its oil, or water, or yucca trees, or something.

Instead they had found themselves confronted by a huge green mountain of pecs, abs and six-packs, sort of a cross between Tarzan and Kermit the Frog. Knives had been slapped from their hands, guns had been taken and crushed and they had been tossed aside in artistic slow-motion.

A tree trunk now lay buried into the roof of their car, like a giant cigar resting in an ashtray.

And slowly Dr David Banner resumed his normal size and colour. The Hulk was, like Mr Hyde, once again back in his figurative box.

Banner’s shirt, of course, was in tatters. His shoes had split like fuchsias popping open on a summer’s day. Where his socks had gone is not clear.

At least it wasn’t winter, he thought. In winter his woollen hat would stretch, and when it was all over it would slide down over his head like a tea-cosy.

He was just taking out his kit-bag, searching for yet another set of new clothes, when a voice said “wow, that was so-o-o cool!”

He turned. A small boy was sitting at the side of the road watching him.

“Who are you?” said David.

“Stevie,” said the boy. “I’m just waiting for the school bus. That getting-bigger thing you did was great. I wish I could do it.”

“No, you don’t,” said David. “Trust me on this.”

“My teacher turns red when he’s angry,” said Stevie. “How come you turn green?”

“Er, um, my family has Irish roots,” said David. “It’s like how our beer turns green on St Patrick’s Day.”

Stevie seemed to accept this. Then he asked the question that David had been dreading.

“How come your pants don’t burst and fall off?”

“Stretch waist-band,” said David.

“Just as well,” said Stevie, “because -” David tensed inwardly, “my mum’s skirt was too tight once, and the button flew off and hit the dog. You wouldn’t want the button shooting off the front of your trousers.”

David relaxed. “No I wouldn’t,” he agreed.

“Besides,” continued Stevie, “if your trousers burst everyone would be able to see your willy.”

David’s reply, if indeed he was going to be able to think of one, never happened, as they were both startled by the short burst of a siren, and a police car rolled to a halt beside them. The local Sheriff slowly got out wearing his hat, gun and air of petty tyranny. He stared for a few seconds at the car with the tree embedded in it, then turned, spat tobacco juice onto the ground, and addressed David and Stevie.

“What happened here?” he asked.

“I see,” said the Sheriff. He looked at David in his torn shirt. “And what happened to you?”

“He was sitting in the tree when it fell,” said Stevie.

The Sheriff’s eyes narrowed. “You’re the guy’s been helping out at the Widow Chaney’s place, ain’t ya?” David nodded.

“Well, her husband ain’t not been dead no more than a year not gone by yet,” said the Sheriff, and while David was solving the equation in this sentence he went on. “We don’t want to see her taken advantage of by strangers turnin’ up and doin’ chores and suchlike. I reckon it’s time you were movin’ on.”

David shrugged. It happened every time. He picked up his bag, nodded at Stevie, and started up the road. All was fine.

Or would have been, but the Sheriff had the kind of mean spirit that always had to goad one step further.

“Don’t come back now, ya hear?” he said. David slowed and stopped. He felt his blood begin to boil, and his case that wasn’t just a turn of phrase. All three of them knew that the rest of the sentence was going to be “we don’t need your sort around here”, and David knew that that, coming from a supposed law-enforcement officer too cowardly to protect his townfolk, would be enough to send him over the edge.

Stevie did him one last favour. As the Sheriff opened his mouth, Stevie said “don’t make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.”

The Other End Of The Rainbow

image via

In this week’s WordPress Writing Challenge is they ask us to add “A Splash Of Color” to our posts, so I have duly done so. This story might be lost on people who don’t remember a certain kid’s show from the 60s…


It was Friday evening, and a group of Spectrum’s agents were sitting in their local bar, the Rainbow. Private Magnolia lowered his rapidly-emptied glass and leaned forward.

“It’s colour discrimination, that’s what it is,” said Private Magnolia.

“What do you mean?” asked Private Lilac.

“I mean, my promotion got turned down,” said Magnolia. “I reckon it’s because of my name.”

“Really?” said Private Raw Sienna. “And not in any way due to the fact that you got pissed at the Christmas Party, punched Captain Yellow, threw up all over Lieutenant Purple and tried to get off with Destiny Angel?”

“And faxed a photocopy of your bum to the President of Burundi?” added Private Dirt (seriously, look it up, it’s a colour).

“Er, well, I said sorry for all of that, “said Magnolia. “No, we get nowhere because we’re not called after well-known colours. Look at the people at the top – Colonel White, Captain Blue  -”

“Captain Ochre,” pointed out Lilac.

“Oh yeah. Well, he’s probably just there as a -”

“Token black?” suggested Dirt.

“Yes. I mean no.” Magnolia began to feel a bit less unsure of his argument, but by this stage it was his lager, rather than himself, who was doing the arguing. “And then of course,” he went on, “there is the famous Captain Scarlet.” He managed to say this with a sneer, quite an achievement for a puppet with a plastic face, it was like a botoxed woman being able to chew toffee.

“Why isn’t he called Captain Red?” asked Lilac.

“Not cool enough,” said Magnolia.

“Plus people would think he’s a ginger,” said Dirt.

“There actually is a Private Ginger,” said Private That-Odd-Colour-That-They-Paint-Hospital-Walls. “He works in archiving.”

“Exactly my point,” said Magnolia. “He’s not saving the earth from the Mysterons, he’s scanning old documents and eating his lunch at his desk in a room with no windows. It’s enough to make you -.”

“Green with envy?”

“Oh, shut up,” said Magnolia.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

The WordPress Photo Challenge as taken on by a man whose camera is broken…


The sea was a constant source of fear in Lillput.

Its giant waves, taller than any Lilliputian, crashed all day every day onto the shore. While this did mean that the surfing was terrific, it brought in stones the size of labradors, seaweed the length of bunting and dog-turds the size of skyscrapers.

It had even once brought in a spaceship, a giant red cylinder with the words “Coca-Cola” printed on its side, presumably the name of the planet it had come from. This had been hushed up by the Emperor and his Government, along with the worrying fact that a door in the front had been open.

There could be no cover up this time, though. It’s hard to deny the existence of aliens when a man the size of the Gillaspian mountain range is lying flat-out upon the beach.

“What will we do?” asked the Emperor.

“Run like hell,” said Falal, who was ironically his Defence Minister. “We can’t fight something like that.”

“We could tie him up,” said Larken, the Justice Minister, who had two basic plans for administering justice – tying people up or putting them to death. “Then we could put him to death.”

“On what charge?” asked the Emperor. “Being big?”

“The more important question,” said Sensible Minister Jonassus (a post which has regrettably become unfashionable in modern democracy) “is where he came from, and are there more like him.”

“Perhaps he climbed down a beanstalk from the clouds,” said Falal, who used to have bedtime stories read to him by his mother. “Maybe he’s a one-off.”

“Unlikely,” said Jonassus, “since there is no beanstalk reaching the sky anywhere in Lilliput. We’d probably have noticed by now.”

“How do we even know it’s a he?” asked Larken.

“We could open his trousers,” suggested the Empress, voicing a wish that she’d had ever since she’d first set eyes upon him.

“Not going to happen,” said the Emperor firmly. The Empress, a former lap-dancer who was much younger than the Emperor and had married him purely for the title, lapsed into sullen silence.

“Well, we can’t just wait for him to wake up and trample all over us,” said Larken. “I still say tie him up.”

“Dear lord no,” said Jonassus, “that’s a really bad idea. Have none of you heard the tale of King Kong?”

“Er, no,” said the others. “What is it?”

“It’s the story of a giant monkey who gets tied up by little humans like us and is really pissed off when he wakes up.”

“What does he do?” asked Falal.

“Well,” said Jonassus, suddenly wishing he hadn’t started this example, “he climbs a tall building and gets shot at by the humans till he falls off and dies.”

“Ok,” said the Emperor, “tying him up it is then.”

The next six hours were spent tying the giant down. They used ropes, they used fishing-nets, they used a pair of hand-cuffs that the Empress produced from the royal bedroom, to the mortification of the Emperor. They connected all of these things to tent-pegs and hammered those into the beach he was washed up on.

In other words, they tried tying him to sand.

Jonassus took one look, got on his horse, and rode off towards to the next kingdom.

So he was five miles away when he heard the yells of fear, the twang of ropes and the roaring yawn. He looked back over a hill and saw the giant sit up, stretch, and, because he was a man, greet the dawn chorus with a trumpeting of his own.

Jonassus, as I’ve said, was five miles away, yet was still knocked off his horse by the force of Gulliver’s fart.

Star Gazing

The Northern Lights were visible from Ireland last week, and at the Writers’ Centre Workshop on Saturday we were asked to write something which contained one of the following phrases: Lights in the distance; Observatory; Aurora Borealis; False dawn; Equinox; Storm-chaser; Photograph.

Or of course we could use all seven…


She could see lights in the distance.

Professor Aurora Borealis, a lady with Italian ancestry and a silly first name, sat up eagerly and peered more closely into her telescope. Yes, there were definitely lights in the sky, and not just stars, because otherwise this would be a really short story.

All her life she had dreamed of seeing UFOs. She had suffered may false dawns. Crop circles had turned out to have been caused by a drunken farmer trying to drive his tractor home from the pub. A little green man had been simply a fan in an Ireland soccer jersey, green in the face after witnessing his team’s performance against Germany last Friday night. A saucer-like shape she had once taken a photograph of had turned out to be a dustbin-lid caught in a sudden localised tornado, according to her ex-boyfriend, a storm-chaser who had drowned after chasing a hurricane over a cliff into the sea, which in fairness he should have seen coming since that’s where all hurricanes end up.

The lights were getting nearer now. She jumped onto her horse Equinox (named after the horse-god Equus) and took off in pursuit. She had to go by horse because she had lost her Driver’s Licence, since driving while staring up at the sky had caused her to have 22 accidents in four years. On one occasion she had driven into the wall of Greenwich Observatory, causing its telescope to slip so that it now pointed into the bathroom of a house 118 miles away in Bath, leading to an opportunity for jokes about moon and Uranus which have no place in a serious scientific article such as this one.

Anyway, she spurred Equinox on as the lights got lower and lower, and arrived onto the runway at Stansted Airport at exactly the same time as an incoming flight from Toronto.


The Plots Thicken

There are apparently only seven basic plot-lines, and every story ever told is based on at least one of them. They are: (1) The Quest; (2) Voyage and Return; (3) Rebirth; (4) Comedy; (5) Tragedy; (6) Rags to Riches; (7) Overcoming the Monster.
I reckon if I can get all seven of them into one story I can take the rest of the week off….

There was no food in the house, so Ulysses set out in search of some (1). The voyage was long, almost half a mile to the shop (first part of 2). There he fought the wheels of his supermarket trolley (7), overcame the fact that the scanner wouldn’t read the bar-codes on his milk (7) and battled his way past youthful bag-packers who wanted the pack his eggs under his 5-kilo bag of potatoes (still more of 7).

He crossed the road and set out towards home (middle part of 2). There was no mention of the road on the way to the shop, so why did he cross it now? To get to the other side (4 – yes, it is, it’s one of the classics). Disaster struck, however, when his dog Rags (part of 6) was knocked down and killed on the way across (5). And came back to life as a zombie-dog (3). Rags attacked Ulysses, who fought him off (7) by pelting him with eggs, which had luckily been packed on the top of his bag (4 – oh, come on, that’s really clever).

He arrived home (last part of 2) with his shopping (1, duly completed) and sat down at his computer. He had received an email saying that millions had been paid into his bank account (6).

It had been paid in by a Nigerian princess (8, Departure from any Attempt at Reality).