Tag Archives: sidey

A Word’s Worth

*

“I’ve told you I was sorry,” said Dorothy.

“Well, that’s no good,” said William Wordsworth. “I’m a laughing stock.”

And he was. He had written “Daffodils” a month earlier. Since his handwriting looked as if a spider staggering home from the pub had left a trail of sick across the page, his sister Dorothy used to re-write his poems, using calligraphy that she had learnt at Miss Havistock’s School of Talents That Young Ladies Will Need Until They Can Find Themselves A Husband.

She had written “Daffodils” out and had sent it to the publishers.

The poem had appeared this week in the Times Literary Gazette. The opening line read “I wandered lovely as a cloud”.

The rest of journalism, who normally reported on poetry as often as they reported on the Under-11 Division 3  Lacrosse Championships, had been quick to react. Punch had featured a cartoon of Wordsworth wearing a ribbon bearing the words “Mr Universe 1802”. The Mail On Sunday had written a scathing piece under the headline “who’s a pretty boy, then?”. The Male On Sunday, a very different publication, had offered him a surprising amount of money to appear as their November Hunk Of The Month.

“What were you thinking?” asked Wordsworth.

You can see her point

“Well, it’s your handwriting,” said Dorothy. “I couldn’t tell whether the word was “lonely” or “lovely”. I went to ask you, but you were on your couch in vacant or in pensive mood, ie, fast asleep after your Sunday dinner, so I picked the more likely option.”

“More likely? The option where I said a cloud was lovely? What’s lovely about a cloud?”

“Some of them are really lovely. I’ve seen one that looked like a sheep -”

“They all look like sheep.”

“Ok, bad example. I’ve seen one that looked like a bunny rabbit, one that looked like the face of Disraeli, even one that looked like a combine-harvester, and I don’t even know what that is.”

“But why would I have written that I was lovely? I sound like Byron, thinking that I’m God’s gift to women.”

He didn’t notice Dorothy blush. She had never told her brother that she and Byron lay oft upon a couch themselves.

“Well, why would it have said “lonely”?” she said. “Clouds are never lonely, they tend to arrive in a crowd. A host, even. And then they combine to drop four days of rain on you in two hours. This place isn’t called the Lake District for nothing.”

“It makes more sense than “lovely”. This was to be my masterpiece, and you’ve ruined it.”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” snapped Dorothy, “it’s a poem about bloody flowers. It’s only one step up from “roses are red, violets are blue”.”

There was a shocked silence after this. Dorothy was as shocked as William at what she had said, but there was no way of unsaying it. She looked into William’s eyes and saw them filled not with anger but with hurt, which was much worse.

William left the room. Dorothy thought for a while, then realised what she had to do.

She didn’t just transcribe William’s poetry, she did it for her lover Byron too. And although she loved Byron and hated what she was planning, she consoled herself with her growing suspicion that she was not the only wench in receipt of his wenching.

Besides, William was her brother, and that meant more.

A week later she returned from the village to find William surrounded by the Times Literary Gazette and other newspapers. He was laughing heartily.

“What is it, William?” she asked.

“I’m off the hook,” said Wordsworth. “They’re picking on Byron now.”

Dorothy raised her eyebrows. “Really?” she said. “Why, my dear?”

“Because,” said Wordsworth, “he’s just written a poem with the opening line “She walks in bootees, like the night”.”

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This was written for Sidey’s Weekly Theme, which this week is “opening lines”.

The picture is from Wikipedia, and is of a manuscript in the British Library. 

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.

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

Slings And Arrows

Lost in thought, Hamlet wandered deep into the forest. He sat down on a fallen log, and leaned forward with one elbow on his knee and his hand supporting his chin, rather like The Thinker, although of course he didn’t know that.

“To be, or not to be,” he said quietly, “that is the question.”

“To be what?” asked Rosencrantz.

Hamlet started, and turned. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were sitting on another log, just yards away.

“What are you two doing here?” asked Hamlet.

“Talking about that Ophelia,” said Guildenstern.

“You know, the good-looking one,” said Rosencrantz.

“I keep telling Rosencrantz that she’s bonkers about him,” said Guildenstern.

“Now there’s a consummation devoutly to be wished,” said Rosencrantz.

“Well, I’m telling you,“ said Guildenstern, “absolutely bonkers, she is.”

“Anyway,” said Rosencrantz, “let’s get back to the “to be” stuff. What did it mean?”

Hamlet shrugged. “I was simply asking myself whether living or dying is the better choice.”

“Living, I’d say,” said Rosencrantz. “Because living gives you the option of dying later on, whereas it doesn’t work the same the other way around.”

“You’d be surprised,” muttered Hamlet’s father’s ghost, sitting unnoticed beside them.

“Here, Hamlet” said Rosencrantz, “you’re not thinking of topping yourself, are you?”

“Er, of course not,” said Hamlet. “Look, it’s just a soliloquy.”

“Ah, a soliloquy,” said Guildenstern, nodding in understanding. “That’s different.”

In the days before therapists, soliloquies were how people worked out their problems, essentially letting the voices in their heads out of their heads. It was an unwritten rule that no-one would ever interfere with a person making a soliloquy. This tradition continued for many years, enabling nineteenth-century heroines to speak in fifty-word sentences.

“Work away so,” said Rosencrantz. “Don’t mind us.”

Hamlet sighed, but tried to focus again. “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -”

Of course, interference is not the same thing as interruption.

“Outrageous fortune?” asked Guildenstern. “Have you found hidden treasure?”

“I am Hamlet the Prince,” said Hamlet, haughtily, “not Aaarrr the Pirate.”

“Good point,” said Guildenstern. “Carry on.”

“…or to take up arms against a sea of troubles -”

“Sorry,” said Rosencrantz, “but when you say ’take up arms against a sea’, are you talking about swimming?”

“Don’t be thick,” said Guildenstern. “He means is it better to face up to your problems or sit in a room moping about them like a big girl’s doublet.”

“-and by opposing, end them.” went on Hamlet, through gritted teeth.

“Well, you’ve answered your own question there,” said Rosencrantz. “You’re saying that if you face your troubles, they go away.”

Just as he said this there was a loud roar. A huge bear was lumbering through the forest toward them.

Hamlet stared at it as if entranced. Just as the bear was about to make him not to be, though, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern grabbed one elbow each and dragged him away, backwards.

“Of course,” said Guildenstern, “there are some troubles you don’t oppose, you just take up legs against them, and run like blazes.”

The three exited, rapidly, pursued by a bear.

*

This piece was written for Sidey’s Weekend Theme, which was “ambiguous”.

Dancing In The Dark

 Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “dancing”…

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The opening of the clasp always acted as an early-warning system.

It was like the key of a parent turning in a front door, which allows a teenager and his girlfriend time to sit up straight on the couch, re-arrange their clothing and switch on the TV, hitting any channel at random, so that when said parent arrives into the living room they look about as guilty as it is possible to look, sitting two feet apart and watching, apparently intently, Tili a’i ffrindiau on S4C, the Welsh language channel.

In Angie’s case (quite literally, actually) the sound of the clasp gave her time to drag herself up onto her feet, and then further up onto her toes, en pointe, and to swish her dress out, Marilyn-style, so that by the time the jewellery box was fully open Angie the Ballerina would be ready to dance.

The music would start and she would slowly pirouette to the tune. Her lack of speed was not by design but by choice, since she had long ago established by bitter experience that if she spun any quicker she threw up.

And that tune, oh God, that tune. O For The Wings Of A Dove may well be one of the beautiful pieces of music ever written, but the jewellery-box version sounded as if it was being whistled by metallic budgies. It was almost sacrilege, like someone playing Smoke On The Water on the bagpipes, or Moonlight Sonata on a kazoo.

Plus it was the only piece of music that she ever got to hear. She had grown to hate it as much as an ice-cream van driver hates the theme to Match Of The Day.

Whenever the box was open she could see the couple on the Weather Clock, Sonny and Claudia. How she envied them. Yes, they were always apart during the daytime, but she could imagine them at night in their little apartment at the back of the clock, with a huge music collection, an energetic love-life and long conversations, even if mainly about the weather.

When the box was closed Angie was alone. She would amuse herself  by hula-hooping with a bangle, drawing moustaches on the cameo brooches with an old lipstick or playing basketball with a stray pearl, throwing it into a hoop that she had made from a nipple-ring, a long-abandoned memento of her owner’s teenage years.

If she was really bored she tied impossibly tight knots in the neck-chains.

But most of all she danced in the darkness, dances other than ballet to music that she played in her head. Salsa, rumba, Dad-dancing, jive, even moon-walking, although she reckoned that that was really just walking backwards.

She had even tried Morris Dancing, using a hairpin as a stick and thwacking herself on the head with it as she jumped about.

Then one evening her owner tried to take out a dangly ear-ring that had got wrapped around the gnome on a charm bracelet. She pulled too hard in frustration and the entire box fell onto the floor in a massive clatter of rolled gold and cubic zirconia. She managed to recover all of the jewellery, and the box was undamaged apart from the fact that it now played Achy Breaky Heart.

To her surprise, however, she could find no trace of the ballerina.

Jeff (from ebay - Wimbledon players don't command big transfer fees)

Jeff (from ebay – Wimbledon players don’t cost big transfer fees)

Angie now lives in the bedroom of her owner’s small son. There are lullabies sung there at night and The Wheels On The Bus played on a CD player during the day. She is going out with Jeff, a Subbuteo footballer in AFC Wimbledon colours. She supposes that this makes her a WAG but she doesn’t care. She has never been happier.

In fact, she often dances with joy.

Circle Of Friends

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “the circle”…

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The other four stared at Miriam in stunned silence. “You’re what?” said Orla eventually.

“I’m a white witch,” said Miriam. “I have been for a couple of years now.”

The five women had been friends since school, and met up every couple of months to drink wine, to catch up and to drink wine. Every now and then one of them would spill some secret, but this was the most surprising one since Claire had admitted that she’d had a fling with her gardener, who was 12 years younger than her (they weren’t surprised that she’d had a fling, they knew Claire well, they just hadn’t known that she had a gardener).

“Do you have a cauldron?” asked Kate.

“And what does ‘hubble bubble’ mean?” asked Claire.

“Do you have a broomstick?” asked Rachel.

“No,” snapped Miriam. “ Well, yes, actually, but that’s just to sweep the yard. We don’t do any of that stuff. We use herbs. We light candles and burn incense. It produces serenity and positive energy.”

“Isn’t that just Aromatherapy?” asked Kate. Miriam pretended she hadn’t heard that.

“Can we join?” said Rachel.

“You don’t just join,” said Miriam. “There’s an initiation. You have to dance in a circle under a full moon. And you have to take a Wiccan name.”

“What name did you take?” Orla asked.

Miriam went red, rather oddly for a white witch. “Hazel,” she said.

“Witch Hazel?” said Rachel.

“Yes,” sighed Miriam. “That’s the kind of thing that happens if you Google something in a hurry.”

Anyway, three nights later the moon was full and the five were gathered in the dark wood outside the town. Rachel was there because she wanted to turn her husband into a toad. Since she reckoned that he was a toad in every sense other than physically she felt that this would not be difficult. Claire was there because she was currently single and had nothing else to do. Orla was there because she’d secretly had a crush on Claire ever since school, and was hoping that they would all be naked. Kate was there because she thought it would be a laugh.

Now they stood there in white robes which Miriam had brought along, much to Orla’s disappointment.

“Ok,” said Miriam. “Let’s start the dance.”

“Which direction?” asked Claire.

“Anti-clockwise,” said Miriam. After a brief series of collisions they all went in the same direction. Each of them had to fight the urge to sing “ring-a-ring-a-rosy”, though none of them would admit it.

“When we finish the dance,” said Miriam, “we’ll be a coven.”

The word struck a chord in Kate’s head. “Bloody hell, I think I’ve left the oven on,” she said.

“Excellent, you’ve burned the steak,” said Rachel. “You’re practically a witch already.”

“Sorry,” said Kate, “but I’d better go.”

She left. The other four looked at each other. “So,” said Claire. “we’re doing Square Dancing now.”

They danced on for about half an hour. “Ok, we’re finished,” said Miriam eventually. “Now you’re supposed to be able to feel inner peace.”

“Are you supposed to be able to feel your toes?” asked Claire.

“Dear God,” said Miriam. “Er, Goddess, I mean.” She looked annoyed for a second, then shrugged and smiled. “I suppose it’s not for everyone,” she said.

“Actually it was kind of fun,” said Orla. “I hadn’t been too thrilled at the idea of being in a dark wood, and at first I was afraid-”

“Were you petrified?” asked Claire. “Sorry,” she said, “it’s just that it all reminded me of when we used to dance around our handbags to I Will Survive.”

Miriam laughed along with the rest of them. The four of them linked arms, friends as always, as they walked back to their cars.

“Well, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped,” said Rachel. “My husband’s still a toad, he just won’t croak. In any meaning of that phrase.”

“And I’d hoped we’d meet a load of male witches,” said Claire.

“A load of warlocks,” corrected Miriam.

“It sure was,” sighed Claire.

Getting Into Print

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is this picture…

SWT the book

via View From The Side (obviously)

If you approach a castle that seems to have its very own lightning storm overhead, if you are offered a weekend in a haunted house, if you audition for the X-Factor and decide to sing My Heart Will Go On, people will warn you that it can only end in tears. Or gruesome spurts of blood.

What they would say about walking into an opening in a huge book, property of Fifi Fofum the Giantess, can only be guessed at. But Nuala wanted fame, so she was going to do it anyway.

The goblin watched from the side of the book as she took a deep breath, then stepped through.

And straight out the other side.

The goblin walked around to meet her.

“Good morning,” he said.

Nuala turned and looked upwards. “I’m not in the book,” she said, surprised.

“Of course not. That’s not how you get into a book,” said the goblin. “You get written in by the author because you’re part of the story.”

“That’s what I was hoping for,” said Nuala.

“Often, of course,” said the goblin conversationally, “that part of the story is to be horribly murdered so that some Nordic detective can spend 400 pages trying to find out who killed you.”

“Oh,” said Nuala. “Is that what’s going to happen to me?”

“No,” said the goblin patiently, “because as I said you’re not in the book. You just walked through a hole. That makes as much sense as walking under a railway bridge and thinking you’ll end up on a train.”

“Then why’s the hole there at all?” asked Nuala.

“It‘s a Plot Hole,” said the goblin. “A gigantic flaw in the logic of the story, like, say, how the hole in the story could be a Plot Hole in the story. Or why we’re both ignoring the two creepy-looking babies and the fact that a frog seems to be sneaking into the book, which makes nonsense of everything I told you about how to get into one. Believe me, the guy who’s writing this is a genius at Plot Holes, though not intentionally.”

“The guy who writes this?” said Nuala. “So I am in a story after all?”

“Not really,” said the goblin. “You’re in one of Tinman’s blog posts.”

“So,” said Nuala excitedly, “it means I’m on the Internet. I could end up famous, like the Gangnam Style guy.”

“Being in a Tinman post is not quite in the same league,” said the goblin. “It’s basically one step up from being a guy in a YouTube video skateboarding down a stair-rail and falling onto it on his crotch.”

Much Ado About Nothingness

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “nothing much”…

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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.

Where The Hearth Is

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “structure”…

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Argh had leapt up that morning full of hope. Today he was going to catch the woolly mammoth that would feed his whole family for the entire winter. As the day had gone on this optimism had waned, down to I’m going to catch a boar, then a stoat, finally a rabbit. He sighed.

It’s not easy being the breadwinner at a time when they haven’t invented bread.

He decided to go into the forest to pick berries and shrubs. Gradually his family was involuntarily becoming vegetarian.

He emerged into a small clearing and stopped, staring in amazement at the structure in the centre. It was made of logs, had four walls, and a v-shaped piece that covered the inside like a lid. There was a small column pointing from one side of this lid.

In the middle of the front wall there was a large oblong panel. In front of the panel there was an animal pelt on the floor, with a sketch of two people rubbing noses, the cave-drawing symbol for ‘welcome’.

Argh knocked on the wooden panel and called “hello?”

“I’m coming,” said a voice, “and you might want to step away from the door.”

Argh stood back and heard from within the sound of someone charging toward the slab, a shoulder striking wood, and a yelp of pain. The slab fell slowly outward.

“Sorry,” said Ugg. “That’s the only way we can open it.”

“Ugg?“ said Argh. “What are you doing here? What is this place?”

“We live here now,” said Ugg. “Moved in last week.”

“Out here in the woods?” said Argh, “How s-”.

“Exactly,” said Ugg. “We call it a house, because that’s what people used to say when I told them about our plan for.”

It’s because they were starting to say “how stupid”, thought Argh. He followed Ugg inside.

“It’s not a house,” said Ugg’s wife Ogga, coming in behind them carrying, to Argh’s shame, a whole deer. “It’s a charming log cabin with a large south-facing garden and stunning views.”

“Views?” said Argh.

“Yes,” said Ogga. She pointed to a hole in each wall. “That’s what the windows are for.”

“Ah,” said Argh. “I thought they were just really big knots in the wood.” He looked out of one of them. “All you can see are trees,” he said.

“Yes, but they’re stunning,” said Ogga in a tone which suggested that it would be wise not to dispute this. “Shut the door, Ugg, there’s a draught coming in.”

Ugg walked outside, gripped the door to lift it then slowly pushed it into place. He then climbed in through the window. There was silence after this, the silence of two people who know they’ve made a mistake and one person too kind to point that out to them.

While this was happening Argh was trying not to look, while still sneaking a look, at what Ogga was wearing. It was a two-piece outfit made from animal fur, and while it covered parts of her that the other cavewomen didn’t cover, this somehow made it more alluring. She went off into another section of the house, where she could be heard shouldering a door open.

Racquel Welch“What’s she wearing?” whispered Argh.

“It’s called a racquelwelch,” said Ugg. “Apparently it was the fashion back when we used to live among the dinosaurs.”

“What are dinosaurs?” asked Argh.

“According to Professa in the village, huge fearsome creatures the size of, well, a house.”

“Where are they now?” said Ugg, suddenly thinking that hunting might have been an even worse career choice than he had previously thought.

“Oh, they’re all dead,” said Argh. “Professa says they were wiped out by a meteor.”

“That was a bit unlucky,” said Ugg. “All of them being standing together exactly where the meteor landed.”

“Er, yes,” said Ugg, a little uncertainly. “Anyway, fear of the dinosaurs was why man moved into caves in the first place, and now that they’re gone we can move back out. This is our future.”

“But caves are warm,” said Ugg. “And you can draw on the walls. How can you do that here?”

Ugg pointed to some drawings, the traditional ones of men chasing large animals, large animals chasing men, and alien spacecraft. These, though, were drawn onto animal hide, and were pinned to a door.

“We stick them on our fridge,” said Ugg.

“Fridge?”

“It’s a small cupboard where we leave food and forget about it, then every month or so go through it and throw out anything that’s gone bad,” said Ugg. “Which is usually everything.”

“I see,” said Argh. “Well, I’d better go. It’s getting a bit chilly.”

“Oh, please don’t,” said Ugg. “We’ve never had visitors before. I’ll light the fire, it’ll be the first time.” He struck two stones together and a small spark fell upon a little pile of sticks, which began to smoke gently. The smoke drifted up and out of the column above it. “I call that a chimney,” said Ugg. “We won’t have to spend our evenings with our eyes stinging from the smoke.”

Argh hadn’t been listening, ever since Ugg had banged the stones together. “Let me get this straight,” he said slowly. “You’re lighting a fire in a structure made entirely of wood?”

Ugg looked confused by the question, then the light of comprehension crossed his face just as the light of flames began to lick their way up the wall.

Just then there was a crack of thunder and outside it began to rain torrentially. The rain poured straight down the chimney and onto the fire, which subsided in a cloud of steam.

“And of course,” said Ugg, “that’s its other purpose.”

Argh was just about to say that that was a bucket of shite when Ogga walked out of the back room carrying, well, a bucket of shite. She walked passed them to the window and hurled the contents out. Then she turned to Argh.

“We’ve got en suite,” she said proudly.

Last Call

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “late”…

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It had been a long day. But then, Judgement Day was always going to be. All of mankind having a list of their deeds read to them, then each being allocated to a particular line, was always going to take ages, like being in the “ten items or less” queue in a supermarket.

Most of Earth was in ruins, because War, Chaos, Famine and Pestilence had turned up, as foretold, and that’s a lot of crap for a planet to put up with all in one day.

The Devil had taken his people with him, through the door that read “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, being nasty gets you in as well”. The more fortunate had gone upstairs, where even now they could be heard practicing for the choir. Billions of voices were making a fairly bad first attempt at Hound Dog, and not for the first time God wondered whether it had been a mistake to make St Elvis choirmaster. Oh, well, he thought, they’ve plenty of time to get it right.

He was just starting his way up the stairway to heaven himself when out of the corner of his eye he saw something move. He turned. There was a man standing there.

“Sorry,” said the man. “I’m late.”

“For Judgement Day?” said God. “How could you possibly be late?”

“Oh, I’m always late,” said the man cheerfully. “My mum used to say I’d be late for my own funeral.” He looked at the devastation around him. “Funny, I’d always thought that was just an expression.”

“But where were you?” asked God.

“I was asleep,” said Dave.

“Seriously?” said God. “You slept through the clarion calls of the Angels? The trumpets? The weeping and the gnashing of teeth?”

“Gnashing of teeth is not actually that loud,” said Dave. “I doubt it’s ever woken anyone. As for the rest of it, two words – ear muffs.”

“Isn’t that just one word, hyphenated?” asked God.

“Don’t ask me,” said Dave. “You’re the one who knows everything.”

“Not everything,” said God. “For example, I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with you.”

“Why?” asked Dave.

“Well, all the files have been put away,” said God. “And the computers have been turned off and the doors have been locked.”

“I could stay here,” said Dave. “I could be a ghost.”

“And haunt who, exactly?” asked God.

Dave thought for a moment. “Well, there are still the animals,” he said. “They can’t have been part of all this, it’s a bit difficult trying to decide whether a goldfish has been naughty or nice.”

“You’re mixing me up with – oh, never mind,” said God. “Look, ok, if you want to spend the rest of eternity jumping out in front of zebras and going “boo” then go ahead. Sounds like Hell to me.”

God left, or at least had as good a go at it as any omnipresent being can. Dave sat down alone for a few minutes. They say Mankind is the great survivor, he thought, and they’re not wrong.

He whistled softly, and his wife Julie stepped out from behind a tree.

“It worked!” she said.

“Told you it would,” said Dave. “Now, we’d better get down to begetting. We’ve a human race to rebuild.”

In The Family Way

Sidey’s Weekend Theme last weekend was “gasconade”, which I am only getting around to now because I was busy not being busy. The word apparently means “excessive boastfulness”, though I had already written this when I looked that up…

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The Gasconades have been one of the most famous families in France for over five hundred years now. The earliest recorded ancestor was Claude de Gasconade, known as the fifth Musketeer, proudly wearing the traditional Ladies-Day-At-Ascot hat, complete with the tail-feather of what must have been a pterodactyl.

He met his end over a spot of bother with his wife and one true love, after they met each other at a party. His wife, a feisty girl called Fleur Delis, challenged him to a duel and, as he stood en garde with sword ready, shot him with a musket, a method of combat which seems not to have occurred to any of the Musketeers, though you’d have thought their name was a pretty big hint.

Next came Jean-Luc Gasconade, who boldly went where no man had gone before by joining the Foreign Legion, where he got to wear the traditional cap with the tea-towel hanging down the back. He joined after a spot of bother with his wife and one true love, after they met each other at a party, and although he sent home many French letters begging for forgiveness his wife, Claire Deloon, refused to take him back. He died a broken man, mainly because he fell off a camel.

Pierre-Auguste Gasconade moved to Paris after his wife and one true love (no, this time they’re the same person) encouraged him move there to practice his art. So, wearing the traditional beret he became one of the great French Impressionists, with his impersonation of Gerard Depardieu being an especially big hit.

They do not speak of Marcel Gasconade, who shamed them by becoming a mime artist. In fairness, he doesn’t speak of them either.

The current Gasconade, Thierry, is an amateur weather forecaster, studying the behaviour of cows in the fields to predict how the day will go. If the cows look hot (“les rosbif”) he says that the day will be sunny. If, however, the cows are huddled under an umbrella he will pack up his picnic and bundle his family into the car shouting “Apres Moi, Le Deluge” (“Follow me, it’s going to rain”).