Monthly Archives: August 2013

Hamlet Without The Prince

A few months ago Tilly directed to me something called the 24-hour Short-Story competition, run by At noon on July 13th they published the paragraph in italics below and you had 24 hours to submit a 950-word story. The results came out yesterday & I didn’t win, but this is what I wrote anyway…


Holding the sleeping infant on her shoulder, she gazed peacefully at her surroundings. Tourists wandered in and out of stores, an old man was setting up his easel by the lakeshore, and a child’s balloon escaped into the breeze. A moment later, she looked up as shouts startled her and the baby. Everybody was running in her direction…

… and past her, down to the shore to gaze excitedly out across the lake at the dark shadow that had appeared there. A cloud shifted, the sun re-appeared, and the shadow vanished. Faces fell, shouts fell away and cameras were lowered, along with the mood.

It hadn’t been the Loch Ness Monster.

She gently bounced her daughter, who rubbed her face along her shoulder, leaving a snail-trail of snot across her cardigan, and went back to sleep, clinging to her by tiny chubby fists.

She watched as life returned to normal, or at least as normal as it can be at a tourist attraction where the attraction isn’t there. It was like Pisa without the Leaning Tower, Niagara without the Falls, or Gracelands without Elvis.

Blessed with a climate duller than Siberia’s, Scotland would have had no tourist industry at all but for the ingenuity of the Scots. A nation that could persuade people to eat sheep’s intestines, to accept a man throwing a telegraph pole as a sport and to tolerate an instrument that sounded like a banshee being passed through a wood-chipper had had no problem in making the world believe that this perfectly ordinary lake had a monster in it.

She sat down outside a café and settled her daughter into her buggy. She had lived here all her life, and on rare warm days like this one loved to sit and watch as people had, well, fun.

There was, as usual, lots of activity on the loch itself. Small groups of divers were dotted here and there, their projects financed by universities with more money than faculties and willing to fund a search for a giant lizard rather than spend it on cancer research, an answer to global warming or a definitive analysis of the lyrics to A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Guided tours were taking place in glass-bottomed boats, the tours an admission in themselves that nothing was going to happen, because if a monster suddenly rises from the deep beneath you then a glass-bottomed boat is the last place you want to be.

The old man resumed his painting. The tourists continued to wander in and out of stores which sold postcards of the lake and copies of the various famous grainy photos which could have been of a plank for all the clarity they possessed.

They also offered stuffed toy Nessies, some fierce, some cuddly, some looking like a green Barney, some like a snake that had sat down upon a bra. There were sticks of rock with “A Present From Loch Ness” printed all the way down inside. It was called rock, she reckoned, because it had the same effect on your teeth as being struck by one.

But we don’t just sell touristy tat here, she thought, this is where we sell dreams. She was suddenly fiercely proud of her town, of her country, of the hope offered by Nessie.

The day passed. The sun began to sink behind the tall surrounding hills. Tourists returned to tour buses. Shop door-signs flipped from “Open” to “Closed”.

The old man still sat working at the lakeshore. She approached him and looked at his painting. It was of a young woman with fiery red hair, green eyes and the milk-pale complexion that only the Scots can achieve.

It was a picture of her.

She stared at him in surprise. The old man shrugged. “I paint beauty,” he said. “And I’ve been coming here for a very long time, so I’ve already got about four hundred paintings of the lake.”

“But none of the monster,” she said, smiling.

He smiled back. “If she appeared I’d have to paint awfully fast,” he said.

He started to fold up his easel. “I’ve seen her, you know,” he said.

“I doubt it,” she said.

“Oh yes,” he said. “Over the years I’ve seen her many times. You just have to know where to look, and when, and remember that a monster need not necessarily be huge.”

The child’s balloon was on the loch now, skipping lightly across the surface like a butterfly flitting across a meadow. As she watched it suddenly bounced a tiny bit higher, as if it had hit a rock.

Or a snout.

The sun slipped behind the hill. Perhaps that’s why she shivered.

“What you’ve been seeing is probably just an eel,” she said.

He looked at her, as if thinking about this. “Perhaps,” he said eventually.

He gathered his belongings and started back up the hill to his car, leaving her alone by the loch. It was time for her to go home.

She walked to the water and waded in. She felt the familiar odd sensation, as if her tights had suddenly shrunk by four sizes, as her legs turned into fins. Her daughter’s legs did the same.

And Vanessa, Nessie to her family, swam out into the lake, ready to head down to the cave where she lived with her husband, a merman called Ythyl.

Just before she dived beneath the surface she looked around. The old man had come back down to the lakeshore. Their eyes met and locked, then he smiled and drew one finger across his lips, as if sealing them.

The Charge Of The Tight Brigade

Irish State Broadcaster RTÉ is apparently losing TV Licence revenue because some people have no actual TV, and the Government believe that they are watching programmes though their computers instead. Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte is therefore introducing the Public Service Broadcasting Charge, payable by all households, saying “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country. I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television and don’t access content on their iPad or iPhone.”…..


There was a knock at the front of the cave, followed by the strangled curse of someone who has just unthinkingly rapped on a stone wall with their bare hand. Ugg went to the entrance and was surprised to see Patrabid, one of the Village Elders, standing there sucking his knuckles.

“I’m here about your television,” said Patrabid, eventually.

“What’s that?” asked Ugg.

Patrabid indicated a large box on the cart behind him. “It’s a device that provides entertainment, information and opinion,” he said.

“Don’t need one so,” said Ugg. “I’ve got a wife for all that.”

As if on cue, and not at all because she’d been eavesdropping, Ogga came to the front of the cave to join them. “Are you trying to sell us one?” she said.

“Of course not,” said Patrabid, “because you already have one.”

“No, we don’t,” said Ugg.

“Of course you do,” said Patrabid. “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country-” here he stopped and looked at the cave in which Ugg and Ogga so obviously lived, “-well ok, we do,” he admitted, “but I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television.”

“Well, we don’t,” said Ugg.

“But you should,” said Patrabid. “It’s great, look, I’ll show you.” He lifted the box off the cart and carried it into the cave. The three of them watched it for a while.

“It’s not doing anything,” said Ogga eventually.

“Well, no, it doesn’t yet,” admitted Patrabid. “Yeddi’s son in the village is working on something he calls electricity that he says will power it, but until he gets it right the box does nothing. When it does, though, it’ll be great – weather forecasting -”

“Snow tomorrow, snow the next day, bright spells with snow spreading from the west later the day after would be my guess,” said Ogga. “This isn’t called the Ice Age for nothing.”

“There’ll be nature programmes, like ‘When Mammoths Attack’ -”

“I already know when they attack,” said Ugg. “Every bloody time they see a human, that’s when. I’m a hunter, trust me on this.”

“Well,” said Patrabid desperately, “there’ll be fascinating little programmes about fur-skin making, or arrow-head crafting, or why the square wheel industry is dying out.”

“But we know why,” said Ugg. “It’s because the round wheel is all the rage now. Dunno why, at least you never had to chase a runaway square wheel down a steep hill.”

“Listen” said Ogga, “come back when it works, and we might buy one.”

“I told you, I not here to sell you one,” said Patrabid. “I’m here to collect the charge for you having one.”

“But we don’t have one,” said Ugg.

“Not my problem,” said Patrabid. “You have to pay for having one anyway.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” said Ogga. “It’d be like having to pay off bank losses that you weren‘t responsible for.” The other two stared at her. “Don’t ask me what that means,” she said. “The phrase just popped into my head.”

“Why does anyone have to pay anyway?” asked Ugg. “Why not make it pay for itself by charging for advertising?”

“Advertising?” said Ogga.

“Yes,” said Ugg. “A man could appear and tell you to keep your skin soft by washing more than once a month. He could say it’s because you’re worth it.”

“Excellent idea,” said Patrabid. “We’ll do that too.”

“Then why would we still have to pay the charge?” asked Ugg.

“It’s to fund Public Service Broadcasting,” said Patrabid.

“What’s that?” asked Ogga.

Just then a loud shouting started up outside. “Here is the news,” yelled a voice. “Mammoths attacked some hunters. Snow is forecast for later -”

That’s Public Service Broadcasting,” said Patrabid.

“That’s just The Old Yeller,” said Ogga.

“He’s providing a public service,” said Patrabid, “and we have to massively overpay him in case he decides to leave and join another network.”

“Is that something to do with spiders?” asked Ugg.

Patrabid was about to witheringly reply when Ogga said “we don’t listen to him.”

“You can’t  possibly not,” said Patrabid. “You can hear him from half a mile away.”

Ogga picked up a bucket of slops, walked to the front of the cave and hurled it out. The shouting abruptly stopped, there was a brief shocked silence, a lot of hawking and coughing and then something that sounded very like a man blocking one nostril and blowing hard, in an attempt to clear the other one of poo.

“As I was saying,” said Ogga calmly, “we don’t listen to him.”

“Well, you’ll still owe -”

Ogga looked into her bucket. “There are still some slops left in this,” she said matter-of-factly.

Patrabid decided to chicken out, or at least to whatever-the-prehistoric-equivalent-of-a-chicken-was out. “Er, there are of course certain caveholds that will be exempt,” he said.

“I thought there might,” said Ogga, swinging her bucket gently.

Patrabid left. Ogga was about to go back to the kitchen area when she noticed that Ugg was looking at a small flat slab of stone. There was writing on it which said “Village Elder For Communications And Snide Remarks Patrabid has today introduced a charge which you will have to pay even if you aren’t using the service that you’re being charged for.”

“What’s that?” said Ogga.

“It’s the news,” said Ugg. “Soothsaya in the village will chip it out for you each evening for two flints.”

“But what are you reading it on?” asked Ogga.

Ugg held up the slab proudly. “This is my Tablet,” he said.

Ok, I Need A Favour


This is the blog equivalent of a begging letter.

The 2013 Irish Blog Awards take place in October. I’ve been nominated in the Best Humour Blog Category (and a real thank-you to whoever nominated me) and this will be judged by, well, judges.

But I’ve also been nominated for the Best Blog Post, for this post, and this category works differently because there are so many entries. Anyone can vote, at this address, the bottom five are eliminated each week and the final ten will be judged by, well, judges.

Speccy has been asking for support for me on her blog, and while I feel a bit embarrassed doing it, I’d like to stay in for as long as possible, so I’m asking for your support too. If you go to the link above, go right down to the end of the page (damn you, alphabetical order) and find Worth Doing Badly, you just clink in the little button beside it and then press “vote”. You can vote once each week.

Please don’t do this if (a) you think the post is rubbish, (b) you don’t agree with competitions or (c) you don’t care in the least about my feelings.

So, no pressure.

First Day

Secondary Schools (12 to 18 year-olds) here in Ireland re-opened after the holidays today..


Perhaps it had grown over the summer.

She had passed Kilcoole Community College many, many times, and had never before realised just how big it was. She did now.

It was to be Mary’s first day at Secondary School, and the school was huge. Her Primary School, St Catherine’s, had been tiny, just 120 pupils in six classes. This school had 120 pupils just in First Year.

St Catherine’s had one teacher for each year. She had had the wonderful Miss Kavanagh for the whole of last year (Miss Kavanagh had a husband and four children, but all Primary School teachers are called “Miss”), and on the final day the class had presented her with a T-Shirt with the Class Photo of them and her on the front, and the words “Best School, Best Class, Best Teacher!” on the back. Now Mary would have a different teacher for each subject.

And what subjects. Business Studies. French (an entire class each day! That was so intense that she reckoned she’d be fluent by Christmas). Metalwork. Science. Computers. Something called CSPE (it stood for Civil, Social and Political Education, three subjects in one, which seemed to Mary like cheating). There didn’t seem to be singing, spelling-tests, or chanting the nine-times tables.

There was compulsory gym, even for the unfit kids. This seemed as unfair as having compulsory Theory of Relativity for the less clever ones.

And then there were the size of the pupils. The Sixth Years looked like grown-ups, which of course they were, some of them were already 18 years old. The boys had stubble, and the girls had figures, make-up, and blonde highlights. She felt like a child again.

She was, of course, a child, being just 12 years old, but all through her last year at St Catherine’s when she and her sixteen classmates had ruled the roost she had felt like a grown-up, being Attendance Monitor, picking up and consoling crying smaller kids who had grazed their knees in the playground, saying “aw” when the First Years had stood in their little line on the first day, with their Spongebob schoolbags and their hands tightly inside their mothers’.

Now it would be so different. She and the rest of her year would be the ones that looked like babies. She did not of course have a Spongebob schoolbag, nor did she even have the Harry Potter one which she had used the previous year. Her schoolbag was simple, austere, black, the kind of bag a serious student would wear.

More importantly, the kind of bag that wouldn’t get you noticed, and then picked on.

Unlike the bag belonging to the boy walking ahead of her into class, which had Spiderman on it. Mary knew that Spiderman was popular to all ages, indeed that some adults still collected the comics, but apparently it was cool at school to pretend that liking Spiderman was as grown up as liking Noddy.

The boy also wore short-trousers. Seriously, she thought, he’s practically a walking wedgie.

As they sat into their first class she could see boys pointing him out and starting to snigger. She had known it would be the boys, covering their own fears by hunting in packs and being thoughtlessly cruel. She did not yet know that the girls would form little groups that you would be gleefully part of one week and hurtfully out of the next, without ever really knowing why.

“Nice bag,” said one of the boys. The boy turned red.

“Nice legs,” said a second. The boy turned redder.

“Nice redner,” said a third.

Then the teacher (a man!) walked into the class, the slagging stopped, and Mary was introduced, for the first time ever, to the wonders of the parallelogram.

The morning was a bombardment of information, and at the end of each class they were given homework, school invading your very house. At last, at long, long last the lunch-bell sounded and she went outside.

The boy sat on a bench well away from everyone else. His lunchbox was clenched in his hands, but unopened and upside down. Clearly he was willing to die rather than let any of the boys see the lid.

She suddenly remembered being eight-years old. She hadn’t been at St Catherine’s the whole way up, her family had moved to Kilcoole at the beginning of Second Year and she had arrived into the classroom that first morning with pigtails and a Cork accent, apparently two massive faux-pas (she had no idea what the plural of that word actually was, but had committed two of them anyway). She remembered how lonely she had felt.

She wasn’t lonely here, five of her class from St Catherine’s had come here too and she’d been looking forward to meeting up with them, but she went and sat down beside the boy anyway. She nodded at his lunchbox.

“Batman?” she said.

He looked suspiciously at her, saw her friendly smile, and decided to risk it. He turned over the box, to reveal The Hulk on the lid.

She nodded in understanding, then showed him the lid of her own lunchbox. It had a picture of Jedward on it.

“When I get home this evening,” she said pleasantly, “I will have somehow lost this lunchbox. The fact that I’ve to cross the bridge over the river on the way will probably help.”

He smiled for the first time that day. “Good idea,” he said. “Any idea how to lose a pair of short trousers?”

Someone To Watch Over Me

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “the secret watcher”…


The Princess was stunning.

She was amazingly beautiful, wore a flowing dress that, when she moved, was not so much figure-hugging as figure-caressing, and she had a twinkle in her eye that suggested she’d rather be chased than chaste.

From across the ballroom the Prince stared open-mouthed in admiration. He started to move toward her and, walking invisibly beside him, his Fairy Godfather smiled.

Then the giant doors opened and in walked an even more beautiful girl in an even more amazing dress. She clinked as she walked, as if her sparkling necklace was bouncing against her startling chest, or as if she had a six-pack of beer hidden under her skirt. The cause of the sound, though, was neither of these things.

She was wearing glass slippers.

The Prince, as if in a trance, crossed the room to her and took her by the hand. The orchestra, who could take a hint, began to play Wonderful Tonight.

“Ah, bollocks,“ said the Princess audibly.

I know how you feel, thought the Fairy Godfather. Suddenly Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appeared beside him.

“That wasn’t fair,” said the Fairy Godfather. “I had him set up with the Princess.”

“No, you didn’t,” said Cinderella’s Godmother. “You know you’re not allowed to.”

This was true. The Godfathers were not allowed to interfere, mainly since they insisted in speaking in Italian accents no matter where they were from, and because their stock solution to every problem was to take out a contract on any opposition. Oh, and because the Godmothers were women, so what they said went.

The Fairy Godfathers were secret watchers and nothing else. They had no control over the fate of their charges, hapless Princes with no brains.

“Look at him,” said the Fairy Godfather disgustedly. “The Princess has wealth, beauty, breeding and a kingdom, or at least a princessdom. You’ve stuck him with a girl with no money, ridiculous taste in shoes and two frighteningly ugly sisters, which makes you wonder what she’ll look like in five years time, once she has unlimited access to the pizza larder.”

“I don’t care,” said the Fairy Godmother. “As long as she’s home by twelve my girl will be happy, and I can move onwards and upwards.” She disappeared to fill out her application form for the position of Guardian Angel, the next invisible rung on their invisible career ladder.

The Fairy Godfather watched as the evening progressed, as did the relationship. Cinderella and the Prince sat staring into each others eyes, while at the other end of the top table the Princess was getting both determinedly drunk and off with one of Cinderella’s footmen, unaware that he was actually a toad.

Then the clock struck eleven. Cinderella suddenly leapt from her chair and ran from the ballroom. The Prince followed her outside and watched as she raced towards her coach. One glass slipper came off, bounced down a couple of steps, and shattered.

The Prince watched open-mouthed as she vanished forever from his life. Then the Princess, nudged on by her own Fairy Godmother, came and put a consoling arm around him. She whispered in his ear (“rebound sex?”), he shrugged, took her hand and the two turned and went back into the castle.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appeared beside the Godfather.

“What happened?” she gasped. “It’s only eleven o’clock.”

“Someone,” said the Fairy Godfather, “said she would get a lifetime supply of L’Oreal beauty products, the chance to audition for the X-Factor, and a dinner for two with the One Direction band member of her choice, as long as she left an hour early.”

“Someone?” said the Fairy Godmother.

The Fairy Godfather smiled. “I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse,” he said.

These Boots Were Made By Walkin

From upstairs the shoemaker started snoring gently, the snores acting like a factory hooter, telling the elves that it was time for work. Using grappling irons and ropes they scaled the legs of the workbench and looked around to see what they would have to do that night. Walkin approached a blueprint and sighed.

“We’re going to need the scaffolding again,” he said. “Have a look at this.”

Purple womens shoesThey all looked, and gasped. The shoes on the blueprint had a sole three inches high, and a heel five inches taller again. They were purple.

They all turned quizzically to Meglan. She wore the same footwear as the rest of them, soft Aladdin’s Lamp-shaped boots, but was regarded as the expert on shoe fashion simply because she was the girl.

“Look,” she said, “I’m tired of telling you, I don’t know why human women do that to their feet. It makes as much sense as wearing mousetraps as gloves.”

When the elves had started helping the shoemaker things had been simpler. There were just leather shoes, in the same number of designs as the colour options of the Model-T Ford. Even the twelve princesses had simply worn out a set of ballet pumps each night, and fixing them had been a doddle, they’re merely the foot equivalent of a sleeping bag.

Walkin (drawing courtesy of me)

Walkin (drawing courtesy of me)

Then Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother had commissioned a pair of glass slippers. The shoemaker had gone to bed early with a migraine, but the elves were made of sterner stuff. Nutwin had set to work with a glass-blower, feeling as sick afterwards as a man who’d just blown up two-hundred balloons for his child’s birthday, and the others had then moulded the glass with their bare hands, the song Unchained Melody for some reason playing in all of their heads while they did it. They succeeded, but had unintentionally helped found shoe fashion.

Sling-backs, peep-toes, Jimmy Choos all appeared on the workbench, crafted by the elves using topiary shears. The Croc had been a challenge, which they had solved by turning an elf rowing-boat upside down and drilling holes in it. The invention of golf had let to the spiked shoe, for which Alfelf had had to climb inside the shoe with a spike the size of a javelin and then hurl it through the sole.

Exhaustion had led to some disasters. They had painted the Nike swoosh onto an entire batch of Adidas trainers. Working off a photograph of a middle-aged man on a hot day they had built sandals with socks already sown into them. They had left the back off one set of slippers, thus inventing the mule, which shot off like a missile if you walked too quickly.

Timmikin had fallen into a Wellington Boot one night while the others were on their tea-break, and it was only by interpreting the barking of their pet dog that they had found out where he was.

Now Meglan and Walkin set to work on the latest feat of feet architecture, while the others worked on other contracts. Just before daybreak a yell of horror came from the back of the workshop. They all looked around. Legolas (he had been conceived in the back row at the film, but had obstinately turned out not to look like Orlando Bloom) had been working on a pair of football boots, and in his tiredness had painted one red and one yellow.

“My whole night’s work’s been wasted,” he wailed.

“Perhaps not,” said Alfelf. “If we can get some famous footballer to wear them, I bet they’d catch on.”

The shoemaker, when he woke, was a bit astonished to find the boots on his workbench, along with a signed contract from Cristiano Ronaldo. He had long accepted that he worked in his sleep, but he didn’t realise that he went out selling as well.

He looked at the sum on the contract and nearly breathed his last, almost falling onto his last.

He was a millionaire.

“I can close the shop!” he said aloud. “I can emigrate to somewhere warmer.”

“What will we do when he goes?” asked Legolas.

“We’re going with him,” said Alfelf. “We deserve to retire too.”

“What, never work again?” said Walkin, who loved his job.

Alfelf sighed. “If you feel you miss it you can make his breakfast while he’s asleep.”

“What will we do there?” asked Legolas.

“Go to nightclubs,” said Nutwin.

“Go hill-walking,” said Alfelf.

“Go rock-climbing,” said Timmikin, to the horror of their dog.

“Walk along golden sandy beaches,” said Meglan.

Legolas looked down at his feet.

“We’re going to need lots of different shoes,” he said.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Another camera-free go at the WordPress Photo Challenge…


Ugg was lying on a stone slab in the blazing sun, which was shining directly onto his face. His face was the colour of a tomato, and his nose had begun to peel. His wife Ogga lay on a similar slab beside him.

Of all the hardships of their cave-dwelling lives together, the coldness of the nights, the fleeing from boars, the visits from her mother, he had never endured, nor imagined, any situation as bad as this.

They were on the first ever package holiday.

Their friend Tomascuk had come up with the idea. He had told them that it would be relaxing, that they would have a carefree, fun time, and had persuaded them and twenty other couples from their village to leave their caves for two weeks to go to the village (or ‘resort’ as it now termed itself) of My Orca. To stay in smaller caves.

Relaxing it was not. Each morning Ugg had to get up at six to place two fur-skin towels on two of the slabs, because this apparently warded off evil spirits,  and other tourists.

Nor was it fun. There was a small pond in which the tourists could paddle, catch malaria and have their toes nibbled at by coelacanths. This seemingly was known as a Waterpark.

Nor was it carefree. They were harassed out of any chance to enjoy themselves by people who were determined that they would enjoy themselves.

Each day they were made to go on coach tours, in which a coach would give them morning fitness exercises and then make them jog around visiting local rocks, lichens and places of interest.

One of the places of interest that they had visited had been their own village, which after all was only five miles away.

In the evenings they were in the hands of the Entertainment Organiser. He made them play a game called bingo, in which they would put stones on numbers that he called out. If they were first to cover all of their numbers they had to shout out “cave”.

Later they would wear huge daft hats and drink the local drink, which tasted like something that had been passed through a vole. They had to form something called a “conger”, where each of them grabbed the hips of the person in front of them and they impersonated a giant eel.

They were made to do the actions to The Birdie Song, because it has been around forever.

Ogga (drawing courtesy of me)

Ogga (drawing courtesy of me)

Now Ugg sat up and looked at Ogga lying on the slab beside him. She, however, was lying on her front,  and to his horror she had untied the top half of the two-piece fur-skin that she wore. He noticed that while he was getting redder by the second, her bare back was turning a golden brown. He also noticed that while he was lying there with nothing to do, she had a drink beside her, in which floated a small red round fruit and an umbrella. She also had a book, seven hundred pages of cured leather which lay open and face down on the table beside her.

“What are you reading?” he asked.

“It’s called a holiday novel,” she said. “Boy meets girl, girl dislikes boy, boy goes off with other girl, girl realises she actually likes boy, other girl falls into bear-trap, boy and girl get together.”

“What are the boy and girl called?” asked Ugg.

Ogga thought for a second. “I honestly can’t remember,” she admitted. “The thing about a holiday novel is that it goes in one eye and then seems to vanish up its own arse.”

Ugg lay back and was mentally counting down the seconds until they could go home and he could fish at weekends, dozing happily and being truly carefree, when he heard the yell “mammoth”!”.

He looked up. Sure enough, a huge mammoth was lumbering into the resort.

The Entertainment Organiser raced passed them, all duty to his charges forgotten in his charge. Ugg pulled Ogga to her feet and her top to a level of modesty, and they joined the stampede of fleeing fellow tourists.

As they fled Ugg panted “this is no different to what we have to do at home most days”.

“No, it‘s different,” said Ogga. “Listen to the mammoth’s roar.”

Ugg listened.

The mammoth was roaring in a foreign language.

Indigo Wart Leaf

WordPress’s Daily Prompt for today is “Scribble down the first ten words that come to mind. Pick three of them. There’s your post title. Now write!” I wrote down the words, decided to use the third, seventh and tenth, and the above is what I ended up with…


Jeb Culpepper III was a man with a vision.

He lived in Virginia, in the town of Old Smoky (in winter it was all covered in snow). Every homesteader in the town was growing tobacco, growing wealthy on the ill-health of others, and Jeb’s vision was to do that right along with them.

The problem was his land. His neighbours – the Winstons, the Marlboros and the Luckystrikes – all produced bumper annual harvests. His land, though, was an old Indian burial ground and therefore rumoured to be haunted, and while he did have a healthy annual crop of nettles, dandelions, briars and pond-scum, which was odd because he didn’t have a pond, only one type of tobacco leaf grew there. It was darker and more bitter than those grown by his neighbours. All attempts to market it as chewing tobacco failed because it tasted like crushed stoat.

One day he tried using it as snuff, and produced a sneeze that blew him backwards. Into his nettles.

The following morning, as if his problems weren’t bad enough, he looked in his shaving mirror and noticed – well, it was hard not to – that the wart that he had always had on the end of his nose (his mother had been a witch, just because the witch-hunts were a farce didn’t mean that there weren’t any) had turned blue. He cried out in horror, went back to bed and buried his disfigured face in his pillow.

The following morning the wart was gone.

He wondered about this, then a possible reason struck him. Hardly daring to hope, he went into town to the saloon and asked Old Warty McCoy to try some of his tobacco. Warty, whose name was simply short for ‘Stalwart’ (his siblings were Prudence, Temperance, Patience and Cynicism) told him to get stuffed, and directed him instead to Joshua “Pizza-face” Smith. After a few shots of whisky Joshua agreed to try the snuff, and his sneeze left the spittoon looking like a colander.

The next day Joshua looked like one of the guys from Avatar. The following day he arrived into the bar wartless and astonishingly handsome.

Indigo Wart Leaf was born.

Soon it was impossible to walk the streets of Old Smoky without meeting people with blue faces or blue hands. Others had no signs of blueness, but looked so happy that you just knew that they were using the leaf, and that it didn’t do to ponder too long on where their warts might be.

It was like living with the Smurfs.

Rivals tried to copy it, of course, but with little success. Gold Flake gave you dandruff on top of your warts. Gauloises made your warts smell of garlic. John Player Blue didn’t cure your warts, it just made you sad about having them.

Jeb eventually sold his land for millions of dollars and married one of the many girls who seemed to live upstairs in the saloon. The pharmaceutical company that bought the land sold the product in liquid form which could be applied to a wart like nail-varnish. They changed the name to St John’s Wart, and Indigo Leaf Wart vanished forever.

Well, at least until the Geldofs used the name for one of their daughters.

Much Ado About Nothingness

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “nothing much”…


The door hissed open and Captain Kirk, yawning widely, stepped onto the bridge.

“Good morning, Spock,” he said, slumping into his chair and swinging it idly from side to side. “Anything to report?”

“Nothing much, Captain,” replied Spock, “although we have spotted an M-Class planet two million kilometres away.”

Kirk stopped swinging and sat up. “Might there be life there?” he asked.

“I have no data on that,” said Spock.

“Speculate,” said Kirk.

“I’d say the odds are approximately 24.7225675434 billion to one against it,” said Spock.

“Good enough for me,” said Kirk. “Uhura, see if you can make contact.”

“Yes, Captain,” sighed Uhura. For two years she had been sitting with her long legs crossed and her earpiece in her ear, trying to make contact with anyone out there. For two years she had had no success. She was beginning to feel like Bell must have when he owned the world’s only telephone.

They were bored. All of them. They were fed up with exploring strange new worlds and finding them unpopulated. Expendable crewmen would be brought along on such occasions, and instead of dying horribly would return alive with rock samples (the ship was now so full of rocks that it could no longer travel faster than Warp 4), shrubs and, on one occasion, a collection of small berries that had made everyone fart soap-bubbles for two days.

They had studied red giants, dark matter, and nebulas. Spock had told them that they were called nebulae, and Bones had told him that he was a pointy-eared pedant. Spock had knocked Bones out with his Vulcan nerve-pinch.

They had flown into a worm-hole on one occasion, simply for something to do. There are some very big worms in space.

Kirk had started an affair with Yeoman Rand. Then with Uhura. Then with Nurse Chappel, then with a girl from Astrophysics, and currently with twin sisters from Payroll.

Bones, with no patients with anything more serious than colds, had set up a meth-lab in Sickbay. Scotty, unable to complain about misuse of the engines since the Enterprise never had to chase or flee from anything, had taken instead to complaining about the food, the décor and lack of tartan in the star-fleet uniform. Sulu had tried to commit hari-kari, though fortunately had left his phaser on stun. Spock had started dressing in an elf costume in his room, and pretending he was Orlando Bloom in Lord Of The Rings. Chekov had taken to writing sad plays about the futility of the aristocratic lifestyle.

The rest of the crew had formed chess clubs, poetry readings and flash mobs.

Even the ship’s computer was now bored, had switched herself off and, to everyone’s annoyance, was using Microsoft’s Starfield as a screensaver.

Everyone longed for the chance to fire a missile, to learn a different language, to be ravished by beautiful, green-skinned alien women. None of these things had happened, and there were still three years of the five-year mission left.

The problem with going where no-one has gone before is that there’s no-one there when you get there.

It’s Not You, It’s Him

This post was written for the Trifecta Writing Challenge, which was to write between 33 and 333 words including the word “grasp”, using the definition ‘to lay hold of with the mind – comprehend’ …


She was beginning to grasp the idea. That didn’t mean she was taking it well.

She loved him. She had loved him for years and years. He had always been there for her, fulfilling her every need, and now he was gone. With just four words he was out of her life forever.

“You must have suspected,” said her Mum, who was holding her close and trying to ignore the burble of snot that peeped from her nostril with each sob.

Of course she had suspected. The stories of what he did and where his job took him had seemed more unlikely each time she had thought about them. She had countered this by not thinking about them.

“You knew,” she suddenly said accusingly. “You and Dad both knew. You lied to me.”

“We wanted you to be happy,” her Mum said defensively. “We did what parents do.”

“All parents lie?” she said. “Is that what you’re saying?” Her Mum had no answer to this.

“I just can’t believe I’ll never see him again,” she wailed, tearing herself from her mother’s embrace, running into her room and slamming the door.

“You’ve never seen him anyway,” said her Mum softly. It had been she who had uttered the fateful four words – “there is no Santa” – and she felt as if she had just killed a childhood.