Monthly Archives: January 2015

First Among No-One


Today’s Flash! Friday is 200 words based on the above photo, with the theme of Man v Man…..


Adam yawned, so widely he could hear his jaw crack. “God, I’m bored,” he said.

“How could you be?” said God. “You have the whole world.”

“What I have,” said Adam, “is a garden full of nothing and a tree you won’t even let me climb.”

“Talk to the animals,” suggested God.

“I think you’re mixing me up with somebody else,” said Adam.

“There isn’t anybody else,” said God.

“That’s the problem,” said Adam. “I need someone to pit my wits against. I need to be challenged.”

“Very well,” sighed God. “I Spy, with –“

“Oh, for Your sake,” said Adam. “I’m not playing that again.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s too hard against someone all-seeing. Last time your ‘something beginning with A’ was the Andromeda nebula.” He yawned again. “I’m going for a walk,” he said. “Down to the angels with flaming swords and back.”

“Wait, “said God. He pointed to his toolbox. “As it happens,” he said, “I have some bits left over from you – ribs and stuff. I was thinking of making you a companion.”

“Another man?” said Adam.

“Sort of,” said God.

“And will I find him –“


“- and will I find her challenging?”

“You have no idea,” said God.

Marked Man

MI5 bars applicants with visible tattoos (BBC’s 10 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week)…


Bond woke in a hotel in Marrakesh to find himself naked and tied to a bed. It took him a couple of seconds to realise that this was not a good thing.

There was a swivel chair beside the bed, facing away from him. It turned and he found himself face to face with Blofeld who, and this is not a euphemism, was stroking his cat.

“We meet again, Mr Bond,” said Blofeld.

“Blofeld,” said Bond in disgust. “How did you find me?”

“Bug in your jacket pocket,” said Blofeld. “Though the fact that you’ve said ‘my name is Bond. James Bond’ to absolutely everyone you’ve met since you got here also helped.”

Bond looked away from him, and at the slim rifle-like object on a flexible arm at the end of the bed. “What’s this?” he asked. “A laser?”

“No, Mr Bond,” said Blofeld. “It’s a tattoo gun.”

“Er, what?”

“I’ve discovered that MI5 won’t employ you if you have a tattoo,” said Blofeld. “So I intend to give you one. I’m basically going to write you a P45 in very, very permanent ink.”

“Wouldn’t it be simpler just to shoot me?” said Bond.

“Yes, but then you wouldn’t be able to witness me achieving world domination,” said Blofeld. “It’s going to be so much more fun having you around to watch.”

“It’s going to be so much less fun having me around to stop you,” said Bond. “Don’t think that I won’t continue to hunt you down just because I’ve suddenly got a dolphin on my butt.”

“Will you really, Bond? Without the Secret Service paying all your bills? Without Q there to provide a ready supply of helicopters disguised as wheelie-bins? Without a pension to look forward to?”

Blofeld was right, Bond realised. He had worked for them for years, he had abided by their stupid rules – aside from the tattoo ban, there was also the embargo on drinking anything but cocktails, the mandatory use of bad puns and the compulsory wearing of formal dress when grappling underwater with sharks – but one black mark, literally, and they would simply cast him adrift. Why should he bother?

“Can I pick the tattoo?” he asked.

Blofeld smiled. “Why, of course. What are you thinking of? A scorpion? An anchor? A symbol that looks Chinese, but was actually just the tattoo-artist clearing the ink out of his gun?”

Bond knew that there was only one option, the person who had always held him dear, no matter how often he had refused to hold her at all. “I want it to say ‘Moneypenny’,” he said.

“In your dreams,” snorted Blofeld. “Where I plan to put it there’s no way that’ll fit. You should just go for ‘Mum’.”

“Then your plan has a fatal flow, Blofeld,” said Bond. “I’ll only be fired if I have a visible tattoo.”

“Yes, an interesting rule,” said Blofeld. “Sometimes I wonder why MI5 have the word ‘Intelligence’ in their title. Who is to decide whether a tattoo is visible or not?”

“Who indeed,” said Bond.

“Well, the dictionary for one, and this is where your lifestyle catches up with you. One definition is ‘often in the public view’ so I reckon that, as at the end of all your missions, you’re screwed.”

Room With A View

Each weekend the BBC News website has a section called “10 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week”, and this week we learned that in Ohio it is illegal to disrobe in front of a male portrait….


Life was changing quickly for the Picture of Dorian Gray.

For years he had been locked away in a basement. He had grown old, ugly and bitter, and not just because he had been locked away in a basement. Then his alter ego had tried to stab him but had ended up killing himself instead, proof that what goes around really does come around, and Dorian had found himself restored to his former beauty.

And up for sale, as part of his former owner’s estate.

There was an auction at which he was sold for an astonishing amount of money. He found himself locked away again, this time in a crate, and then spent a fortnight in the hold of a ship during which time he was saved from sea-sickness only by the fact that it is impossible to throw up in two dimensions. He consoled himself during this ordeal by reminding himself of the large sum for which he had been sold. His new owner was obviously a person of substantial wealth, and Dorian looked forward to spending his days in a magnificent drawing-room, looking out at the Eiffel Tower, perhaps, or the Taj Mahal.

Eventually he was unpacked and hung upon a wall. The protective sheeting was lifted from around him, and his heart sank.

He was in a bedroom.

It is well known that artists pour their very soul into their work, so it follows that every portrait is part soul – and not just any soul, but the sensitive, easily tormented soul of an artist. They do not have the kind of temperament that deals well with sudden nudity.

Edvard Munch, a portly gentleman, had once finished a simple portrait of a young man. He had stepped away from the easel at which he had been standing for hours, and had loosened his stiff muscles by stripping off the bathrobe in which he always worked, and touching his toes twenty times.

The paint hadn’t dried yet, so the young man’s face had dissolved in horror, and the look had been captured for ever.

All portraits knew this story. Dorian was looking at an endless future of wobbling moobs, idle arse-scratching, and the sight of someone rooting fluff out of their navel.

The bedroom door opened. Dorian was looking at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Her name, he discovered over time, was Tawnee. She was twenty-two, and the wife of the billionaire Governor of Ohio, who she had met at a charity function because she was the reigning Miss Cincinnati. His marriage to her had destroyed any chance of his being re-elected but he didn’t care. He had always had a weakness for beautiful things, which was why he had bought Dorian.

She was a trophy wife, in that like any trophy the Governor would only get his hands on it about once a year, usually after an effort involving extra time, and penalties. Thus this room was hers alone.

Over the next two months Dorian thought he was in heaven. Tawnee practised yoga in her room, in leggings and a pink Lycra top. She could put her left leg behind her neck, and the first time she had done this Dorian had been so startled that he had somehow managed to bang the back of his head against the wall.

Sometimes she wandered around the room in her underwear. Sometimes she didn’t.

But occasionally Dorian noticed her looking suspiciously at him, and one day she brought the Governor into the room.

“I’m telling you,” she said, “there’s something odd about it. His eyes follow me around the room.”

“Now, Honey,” said the Governor, “every painting gives that impression.”

“Well, this one really does,” said Tawnee. “Have a look.”

The Governor stood in front of Dorian, who fixed his gaze straight ahead. Then Tawnee bent to pick a sock off the floor and for an instant – the tiniest fraction of the smallest part of an instant – Dorian’s eyes flicked towards her.

The Governor drew nearer, his gaze locked upon Dorian’s. For five minutes they stared each other down, then Dorian crossed his eyes very slightly. The Governor began to get a headache.

He backed off. “There’s nothing wrong with it, Honey,” he said. “Anyway, if you think you’ve got problems, I’ve got the Mona Lisa in my room, and I’d swear she smirks every time I take my pants off.”

He left the room. Tawnee turned and looked at the picture. It winked at her, she was sure of it. She shivered.

“There should be a law against it,” she muttered.

Strands Of Memory


This was the photo for this week’s Flash Friday challenge – 200 words, and it had to be set on a beach…

The sunrise was a thin pink line of icing on the purple-green sea. The waves whispered, hissing softly as they crept away from the beach. She stood, here where it had all happened, and remembered.

Learning to run in slow motion had been the hardest part.

Learning the storyline had been a doddle by comparison. Every week some extra would be sent out into the sea, where they would fold, arch, then sink like the Titanic, while putting more syllables into the word “help!” than Penelope Pitstop could. The running would then begin.

But there are only so many ways in which you can rescue someone from death by overacting, so the show had folded, eventually, leaving her with only memories and a complexion like Popeye’s. It might have lasted longer, she reckoned, if things had occasionally come out of the sea – mermaids, perhaps, or the Aquaphibians from Stingray.

The Hoff versus Godzilla – now that would have been some episode.

She picked up a flat stone and flicked it out into the sea, where it sank like, well, like a stone.

It was like her career, she reflected.

Because before it sank it had bounced and skipped, briefly but spectacularly.

She smiled to herself, and turned towards home.

Feeling The Burn

According to the BBC News Website and Niume, you can buy a Lycra outfit for a camel……

“The trouble is,” said her mother, “that you’re stuck in a rut.”

Florence of Arabia sighed. She hated it when her mother decided she needed advice. Though she meant well, she could be very sharp-tongued, possibly because all she ate was cactus.

“I’m not in a rut,” said Florence defensively. “I have a job -”

“Yes,” said her mother, “walking across the desert in a caravan, then turning around and walking back again. As ruts go, that’s practically the Grand Canyon.”

“I’m a camel, Mother,” said Florence. “That’s pretty well the only career path we’ve got.”

“Well, there’s more to life than work,” said her mother. Oh God, thought Florence, she’s going to talk about boyfriends. “For example,” said her mother, “it’s ages since you had a boyfriend.”

“It’s not like I haven’t tried,” said Florence. “Several times I’ve thought I’d spotted the perfect male, only to find when I got closer to him that it was all just a mirage.”

“Females of all species know exactly how you feel,” said her mother. “Trust me on this.”

“Anyway, I’m surrounded by three million square miles of nothingness,” said Florence. “Boyfriends don’t exactly grow on trees, and in any case there aren’t any trees around here for them not to be growing out of.”

This was slightly cruel of Florence. The movement in a camel’s face while it’s trying to unravel a sentence like that one is rather like that of a bulldog trying to speak French. Florence waited patiently. Eventually her mother spoke again.

“What you need,” she said, “is a hobby. Which is why I’ve bought you this.”

Florence stared at what appeared to be a large blue bin-liner. “What is it?” she asked.

“It’s a Lycra jumpsuit,” said her mother. “I want you to join a gym.”

“I don’t need to,” said Florence hotly. “I’m perfectly happy with my body.” Though it would have been nice if my humps had been a bit bigger, she thought to herself.

“It’s not to lose weight,” said her mother, “it’s to get out and meet other camels.”

Florence was going to argue, then realised it would be less tiring just to go to the gym. She took the shiny blue garment, went behind a dune, and put it on. She stepped back out.

“Does my bum look big in this?” she asked.

“You’re a camel,” said her mother flatly. “You weigh seven hundred and sixty pounds.”

Half an hour later Florence was outside The Gym Genie. She put a bright pink sweatband on her head, set her MP3 player to Midnight at the Oasis, and stepped inside.

At first she didn’t enjoy it. She tried the treadmill, but these were arranged not side-by-side but in single file, as is the camel way, and trudging for mile after mile with nothing to look at but another camel’s arse reminded her too much of work.

She tried yoga, but her neck and legs were so long that during one exercise she actually turned herself inside out, a situation that was corrected by means of a bicycle-pump and a procedure that she was never going to tell anybody about, ever.

She was dejectedly leaving when she saw a sign on a door that read “Aerobic Dance Classes”.

She was intrigued. She had heard of dressage, of course, which is Irish Dancing for horses, but it had never occurred to her that camels might dance too.

She pushed open the door and saw twenty camels, faces flushed with exertion and delight, doing the actions to The Birdie Song.

She was hooked.

Camel in Lycra

Wherever It May Take Me

It’s 6.30 on a Sunday evening.

Most people are relaxing before work tomorrow, splodged in front of the TV watching something mentally untaxing, usually involving judges telling somebody that they are useless at something.

Not me, because I’m starting to write again.

So I have the TV off, and am sitting in front of the computer, looking up stuff about camels.

Blogging takes me to strange places.

When In Rome

ColiseumI’m gradually getting back into writing, I hope. The above picture of the Coliseum was today’s Flash Friday Challenge, 200 words, and we had to include a janitor…..

The Roman Gods’ Annual Dinner Dance was in full swing.

Saturn was showing off her rings. Vulcan was mingling, wishing each guest a cheery “live forever and prosper”. Mars was suggesting some sort of contest involving lions, though no-one could think of anything to pit them against.

Then Bacchus knocked back his wine, burped loudly, and said to Neptune “do you know that you smell of fish?”

There was a horrified silence. This was indeed true, but the others tended to pretend otherwise, especially since Pan had once made a joke about it and now walked with his legs on backwards.

Neptune swung his trident at Bacchus, but accidentally hit Jupiter, who promptly punched Apollo in the face. Apollo then broke a chair over Mercury’s head, because no bar-brawl is complete without someone doing that.

Oaths flew. Lightning bolts flew. The ceiling fell in. The windows fell out. Bacchus fell over.

Then Fabreze, Goddess of Janitors, put her fingers to her mouth and emitted a whistle that opened black holes in the very fabric of the galaxy. The startled Gods turned to her, and she uttered the phrase that has become the mantra of all those over whom she watches.

“You needn’t think I’m cleaning this up”.

For Today

Jeanne d'Arc

Jeanne d’Arc, painted by Eugene Thirion, 1876

This painting of Joan of Arc was today’s prompt in the Flash Friday weekly 150-word challenge, and this is what I wrote….


She is beautiful, even in her grief.

They blew horns of hatred, loud trumpet blasts filled with anger at her faithlessness.

They whispered, whispered around her head, sibilant, spiteful hisses. They called her a witch, a jezebel, a whore.

They could not break her soul, could not break her spirit, so in rage they broke her heart.

They took her children.

Now she clutches her breast, trying to ease the dreadful ache, trying to understand, trying to see how God’s will has been served by her suffering.

She weeps, though she will not let them see. She mourns, and her friends mourn with her. A part of her has died, but she has not died. When the flames of their stake have faded to cold grey ash she will still live, a light for a dark and broken world.

She is beautiful, even in her grief.