Monthly Archives: November 2013

At Seventeen


“Thank you for letting us care for your lovely daughter. She has been a pleasure to have in the house, she’s kind, polite and a gorgeous girl. We enjoyed having her.”

Tingirl is part of the Transition Year Choir at school, and this year they did an exchange programme with a school in Sweden. A lovely girl called Kajsa came to stay with us for four days in February, and in May Tingirl went to Helsingborg to stay with her and her family (our choir had to learn how to spell the name of their town, but theirs had to learn the name of our school, Coláiste Chroabh Abhann, so overall I think we came out ahead).

The words above were written by Kajsa’s mother. In four days Tingirl charmed her with her smile, with her personality, with her all-round Tingirlness.

It was lovely to hear this from someone who had never met her before. Of course we see this all the time, though we also see the slumpage days, where she will appear at about noon in huge Christmas slippers and a zebra onesie. On such days we know that she will lie on the couch and keep up with the Kardashians, who have certainly improved in looks since they used to terrorise the Enterprise in Star Trek.

Such days are part of being a teenage girl, and are few and far between with our daughter. Most days are spent with her huge collection of friends, or with her Drama Group, a close-knit team who have moved up through the classes together for eight years, and who now are at the stage where they write their own shows.

Kajsa’s mother has summed her up perfectly. She’s a pleasure to have in our house, a pleasure to have as a daughter, a joy to have as  my princess.

Tingirl is seventeen today. Happy Birthday, sweet lovely girl.

Tingirl (1)

Deep Thought

Monk by Shuco

His parachute was still wrapped around him.

The Glastonbury authorities allow concert-goers access to the giant stone circles, but the Stone Bedstead of King Arthur is off-limits. You don’t want people trampling on the bed of the Once and Future King, in case the “Future” part is actually true and he comes back really annoyed.

So they had put barbed-wire around it, but hadn’t reckoned on anyone arriving from above.

He hadn’t known that there was a tree so close to the bed. He had had to catch the large branch, flip around it and spin off like a gymnast leaving the parallel bars. He’d even done the little step forward that they do upon landing, trying to make it look like part of their routine.

Anyone seeing him now would have thought that his head was bowed in contemplation, but in fact he was simply waiting for it to stop spinning.


This was written for last week’s Flash! Friday 150-word competition, with the photo as the prompt.

The photo is called “Monk: Thailand” and is courtesy of Shuco.

Night Shift


By day I am David Smith, an ordinary man in every way – office-worker, dutiful refuse-recycler and runner-up in the 2004 Mr Universe Contest.

But by night I am The Black Shadow – jewel-thief, art “collector” and cat-burglar.

I am a traditionalist. I wear a black-and-white striped jumper and a little eye-mask. I walk on tip-toe, not beginning a step until I have completed the one before, even when I am just walking from my front door to my car. I leave a calling-card at each crime scene, with a picture of a black shadow on it. To be honest this is not an easy image to capture, and the card simply looks as if somebody has sneezed hot tarmac onto it.

And I carry a bag on a pole – a bag with “swag” written on it in which I keep a banana, a flask of coffee and an iPhone with Google Maps on it, so that I don’t break into the wrong house.

Being a cat-burglar is a difficult and dangerous profession. Cats don’t like to be stolen, and have claws which they are happy to use to reinforce this opinion.

Dogs would be a doodle – just shout “here, Fido” and they practically steal themselves. It’s like robbing a bank where all of the money jumps out of the safe into your bag.

On the other hand cats won’t even come for their own owners, so they’re hardly going to trot obediently  after me.

In smaller houses you have to wrestle the cat into the bag while it claws furiously at you. I usually end up with more scratches than if I’d tried to stuff a duvet-cover with a hedgehog.

In the larger houses, the ones big enough to swing a cat in, it should theoretically be possible to grab one by the tail and, after spinning round like a hammer-thrower, hurl it out the window into your swag-bag beneath. Cats, though, have the ability to swerve in mid-air, and at the last second will veer onto the wall beside the window, clinging there for a few seconds by all four paws. They could then simply jump to the ground and run away, but they prefer, because they are evil like that, to slide down the plasterwork, their claws screeching like a banshee during mating season. This causes you to clench your jaws so tight that your diet for the following week is soup, drunk through a straw.

The best way to steal one, I’ve discovered, is to pretend that you don’t want to. Play hard to get, in other words. I used to employ this technique with girls when I was a teenager. I had my first kiss at the age of twenty-seven, so perhaps the technique wasn‘t perfect.

It works better on cats. Walk away with the same haughty air that they would normally reserve for you and they will follow you quicker than a rat leaving Hamelin. They will then jump up and down in front of you, determined to attract your attention so that they can then prove that they can ignore you better than you can ignore them.

There is no market for them, of course. Since they would they simply run, or rather stroll, away from their new owners, it would make as much sense as them buying the receding tide. I should simply stop stealing them, but the Black Shadow is an institution by now, a daring darling of the media, a Robin Hood with a bed that doesn‘t get rained on. I feel that I have to keep the legend alive.

This means that I an stuck with a house full of cats all pointedly ignoring each other, like furry versions of the commuters on a London Underground train.

Sometimes the punishment really does fit the crime.

Lest You Be Judged


There’s no book. I found this disappointing. I believe in tradition, and on Judgement Day there should be a book. A Book, in fact.

Instead, when I reached the top of the queue God flicked through a filing-cabinet, held up a sheet of paper and looked me in the eye.

“Your sins,” he said.

I looked at the sheet.

“That doesn’t look too bad,” I said.

God lifted it higher. It turned out to be like that old computer-paper. Sheet after sheet unfolded, the whole thing stretching out like the toilet-roll after the Andrex puppy has run away with it, leaving the kid sitting on the toilet yelling to his mum.

When it finished God was visible only from the waist up, his lower half looking like a Jane Austen heroine sitting down in a ball-gown.

“Bloody hell,” I said.

He started to read. White fibs, pulled pig-tails and knick-knocks filled the early pages. The teenage years featured smoking, underage drinking and desperately hoping to get off with girls, which God said qualified as “coveting thy neighbour’s ass”. The adult pages mentioned tax returns with small “errors” – he actually made the quotation-marks sign with as fingers as he said this -, speeding, and a hatred of the song “The Fields Of Athenry”.

The list seemed to go on forever, which unfortunately we had. Eventually, though, he reached the very last line.

“Swearing,” he said, “by saying the words “bloody hell” while standing in front of the Lord.”

“Hang on, that doesn’t count,” I said. “If this is Judgement Day then the contest is over. Adding stuff on now would be like the judges giving an ice-skater a load of 5.8s, and then changing them to 4.1s because she slipped onto her bum on the way off the ice.”

God considered my argument. God saw that it was good.

“Very well,” he said. “We’ll work with what we’ve got. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“The Devil made me do it,” I said.

“Get stuffed,” said the Devil, who I hadn’t noticed sitting behind God, like the other bidder at an auction. “You can’t blame any of it on me. I was too busy starting wars to make sure that you farted on a crowded bus.”

“Have you any other argument to offer?” asked God.

“I’ve done some good things,” I said. “I’ve held doors open for people, I’ve given directions to lost tourists, I’ve put money in the collection-plate at mass – well, I never took any out, like my friend Jimmy used to do.”

“A bit feeble,” said God. “Anything really impressive?”

“I fought in the French Resistance,” I said.

“You were born in 1957,” said God.

“Ok,” I admitted. “I root for the French Resistance in war films.”

“That’s not enough.”

I knew when I was beaten. I began to gather up my worldly goods, ready for my trip down the Stairway From Heaven.

“Wait a sec,” said God, “you play the harp.”

“How did you know?” I said.

“I know everything,” said God.

“Yeah, right,” snorted the Devil. “The shape of the case he’s carrying is a huge clue, it’s probably not a ukulele.”

“You’re in, so,” said God.

“Really?” I said.

“Yes,” said God. “Since the invention of the bloody guitar no-one plays the harp anymore. I’m running out of angels.”

Lack Of Direction

For the competition “Finish That Thought” this week you were given the opening sentence “Daddy, why is the snow red?” and had to complete the story in less than 500 words. Oh, and use the word “rust” in the story. I did manage to keep it under the word limit…


“Daddy, why is the snow red?”

Her Daddy looked down at her, ruffled her rust-coloured hair, and put a comforting arm around her.

“Well, Honey,” he said gently, “A Sat Nav is great for telling you which turn to take off a roundabout, but it turns out that it’s not so good at telling a man on a sleigh that there’s a telegraph-pole in front of him.”

Companion Piece


The pair were so alike, yet so different.

The Queen stormed regally up and down the chessboard, cutting down anything that stood in her way, knowing that if she fell the battle was all but lost. The King was pathetic, scuttling fearfully in a tiny square area like a mime artist trapped in an invisible box.

The rest of their army were little better.

The knights staggered in random directions, filled with wine, wearing a suit twice their weight and carrying a sword the length of their leg. The bishops veered off to the left or right in search of natives to convert, usually painfully.

The rooks kept to the outer edges of the battle. The Queen would sometimes swap places with one, just to see if she could find out what they actually did.

Then there were the poor pawns. The Queen had more respect for them than for all the rest. In peacetime she would visit them at their workplaces and ask “and what do you do?” and try to be genuinely interested in the answer. She felt it was the least they deserved, because she knew that in wartime they would be sent to the front.

Sometimes one of them would make a break for it and actually start a battle, as the other side would think that it was the beginning of a charge, but most of them would line up stoically and resignedly, a shield for their supposed betters.

If the King got into trouble he simply surrendered, and to the Queen’s horror the battle would then be considered lost. She’d have fought on ferociously forever, an ivory Joan of Arc standing side by side with her brave pawns, urging them forward so that one of them might take her place if she fell.

She was supposed to be his companion, but she knew she was so much more.

The King was in charge in name, but the Queen was in charge in fact.

Like most households.


Word Count 332. This was written for the Trifecta Writing Challenge, to the prompt “Companion”.

The Price Of Progress


The cry was almost inaudible, a faint, plaintive “help!”, rather like the one Penelope Pitstop emits when tied to a railway track.

It wasn’t inaudible to Superman. His super-ears picked up the cry, his super-nose picked up the scent of fire, his super-eyes spotted the wisp of smoke, miles away.

Someone was trapped in a burning building. It was time to shift his super-arse.

Which was why Melanie, staring helplessly out of her fifth-floor window as the smoke thickened behind her, suddenly found herself face-to-face with a man hovering in mid-air outside.

The man was wearing a suit, a shirt-and-tie and horn-rimmed glasses.

“Who are you?” asked Melanie.

“I’m Superman,” said Superman.

“No,  you’re not,” she said.

“I am.”

“Prove it,” said Melanie.

Superman pulled at the buttons of his shirt to reveal the famous symbol beneath.

“Huh,” said Melanie. “You’ve got a Superman T-shirt. Big deal, my nephew has Superman pyjamas.”

“I’m floating five storeys above the ground,” said Superman.

“That’s a better argument,” said Melanie, “But I’m still not convinced. Why aren’t you wearing the outfit?”

“Mobile phones,” said Superman.

“I’m sorry?”

“I said mobile phones,” said Superman. “Now that everyone carries a phone around with them there’s no need for phone booths anymore. I have nowhere to get changed.”

“Isn’t there anywhere else you can do it?”

“No,” said Superman. “I tried changing in the lavatory in the Metropolis branch of Macy’s and was asked to leave unless I was going to buy something. I tried changing in a skip before going to stop a runaway bus, and arrived smelling like a wart-hog, with a banana-skin draped over one shoulder. I even tried changing at the top of an electricity pylon, and found that I was picking up Radio Luxembourg on my belt-buckle for two days afterwards.”

“I never thought of that,” said Melanie. “It must affect you pretty badly.”

“It does,” said Superman, “though not as badly as it affects someone called Madame Zalina, who now has nowhere to leave the business cards on which she describes herself as a Spanking Good Masseuse”.”


 (PS – To my niece, who’s 23 today and who I know reads this blog, have a really Happy Birthday.

You Can’t Judge A Book


If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

Unless it’s a grooble.

Back on the evolutionary route, choices were made at each fork. Some lizards became birds, then some birds became ducks. At this very last fork the lesser-spotted grooble took the road less travelled.

Evolution tried to give the grooble a fighting chance, so it gave it slightly darker feathers than a duck, a higher-pitched quack and the ability to swim the breaststroke. Evolution also made it taste like snot-flavoured sprouts (in other words, like sprouts), but you don’t find this out, of course, until you have cooked and taken a bite out of one, which is a bit too late for the grooble.

Because they do still look sufficiently like their cousins to be shot at. In this they are unfortunate in their looks, though not as unfortunate as the even-lesser-spotted gonquin, a giant snail which looks like a blueberry muffin.

Duck-hunting is carried out by the kind of person who thinks that the more shotgun pellets you can put into a bird the better it will taste. They are the kind of person who thinks that you can sneak up on a duck if you wade though water with loud splashy wellies, a snuffling dog and a thing that sounds like a kazoo.

This type of person is not likely to spot nuances in plumage.

It’s not all bad news, though. If the hunter is a bad shot, then the grooble will be merely wounded. This may sound like a bad thing, but once they’ve healed they can look forward to a far more interesting love life.

As we all know, chicks dig scars.


This was written for Sidey’s Weekly Theme, which is “illusion”, which isn’t exactly what this is about, but it’s close…

Such Sweet Sorrow

Tinogasta, Argentina, by TPS Dave

Vamos, they had said. Get lost, they had said, and meant it literally.

Vamos, for that was his name, had always been unlucky. He carried a rabbit’s foot to try to counter this, but still had the kind of luck that the rabbit had presumably had.

Anyone could forget to fasten the back doors of their truck, as Vamos had yesterday, but only an unlucky person would have those doors swing open as he went round the bend just outside his village, spilling his entire cargo onto the bank beside that bend.

This was why there was a giant sugar dune there now.

The villagers had shouted at him, about the fact that there would be no sugar to put in their cakes, to flavour their jam, or to sprinkle upon their tortillas.

None of them ever actually sprinkled sugar on their tortillas, but they had been on a roll by then.

Then this morning the villagers had discovered that without sugar their coffee tasted like liquid cigarette smoke. Panic had set in. People were taking buckets and spades to the dune and returning with sugar pocked with grasses, small stones and coyote droppings. A black market had sprung up in this despite the fact that it looked like cocaine that someone had sneezed into.

The mayor had confiscated Vamos’s truck, given him a burro and told him to leave forever.

Now he was on the road, passing the line of poles that brought electricity, really slow broadband and Desperate Housewives to the village.

He touched the reassuring rabbit’s foot. The next village was seventy miles away, but he knew it had a small factory which made the little spinning fireworks that are set off during fiestas.

He could get a job there. His luck was surely about to change.


This post was written to a 300 word limit for Flash! Friday, with the photo as a prompt.
The photo is entitled “Tinogasta, Argentina”, and is by TPS Dave.