Monday, 30 December 2013

Very Short Mondays: Hard Shoulder

Elspeth took a deep breath.  She knew the alarms were about to go off.  She braced herself and thought of the heating bills, as she always did.  It was only since her operation that she'd been able to pay them.

Leading with her new shoulder, she charged at the vault door.  She knew it was wrong, but the account holders wouldn't be affected, and the bank bosses could make up the difference, out of their bonuses if necessary.

The NHS had been good to her.  It was a scandal what they were doing to it.


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Link of the Day: HITS HITS HITS HITS HITS

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Friday, 27 December 2013

Slightly Less Short Fridays: A Stumble On The Way To The Supermarket

Simon did not see the wonky paving stone in time.  What he did see, however, was Carla.  Carla was unattainable, but that didn't stop Simon thinking about attaining her.  Not that Simon wanted to "attain" her in any kind of way that implied ownership.  He just wanted to attain and, with any luck, retain her affections.

So he shouted her name across the street and waved.  And just as she looked over was the moment that he stumbled.  Mortified, he didn't take his eyes off her for a moment.  Not even when she burst out laughing.

In hindsight, not taking her eyes off her was just about the worst thing he could do, because he had stumbled directly into the path of a mobility scooter.  And not just any mobility scooter, but one owned by George Rayburn.  George Rayburn's daughter, Tessa, was something of an electronics expert and had only that morning finished modifying George's scooter so that it had a new top speed of twenty miles per hour.

When Simon woke up, a small crowd had gathered around him.  A small crowd that included, notably, neither Carla nor George Rayburn.  The crowd did not included Carla principally because, while she was genuinely mildly concerned for Simon's welfare, she was also late for a hot date with the local dreamboat, Manfred Archer.

George Rayburn, meanwhile, was well aware that he was probably not supposed to be travelling at twenty miles per hour on the pavement, and so did a runner immediately after the accident.

Simon looked up at the sea of concerned faces, who all at once asked him if he was alright, and realised his pockets had been emptied.  His mum was going to kill him when he returned home without the shopping.


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Link of the Day: 850 Meters

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Monday, 23 December 2013

Very Short Mondays: Last Night

Karen couldn't stop thinking about the pub last night.  She had tried to tell everyone about the time that Allan had caught his little finger in the bathrobe, and ended up calling out the fire brigade to cut him out.  She ended up embarrassing herself by getting it all in completely the wrong order and forgetting key details entirely.

Still, she thought to herself, as she worked alone in her private wool mill.  I may be totally useless at telling stories, but at least I can spin a good yarn.

She smiled.  Then she stopped smiling and wished that she had thought of it last night.


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Link of the Day: How to Fight a Baby

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Friday, 20 December 2013

Slightly Less Short Fridays: Trick Of The Light

Just for a moment, the lights on the train flickered and went off.  When they came on again, just for a moment, the book that Carl had been reading was no longer there.  No one had taken it off him.  His grip on it, whilst not strained, was firm.  It was just not there any more.  Even though he could now feel that there was nothing in his hands, he had not noticed the transition from having something in his hands, to not having something in his hands.

The lights flickered again.  They went off.  They returned.  The book returned.  Carl found himself immediately drawn to the sentence he had started before the first blackout.  All of his being urged him to accept that everything was normal.  There was no panic, no overt reaction when the book disappeared, and no impulse to understand now that the moment had passed.

Everyone else on the train acted normally.  Nothing had happened.  Carl caught the eye of another passenger.  Just for a moment.  A man of about thirty.  He had seen it too.  Something had happened.  For a moment that they shared.  And, after, nothing.


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Link of the Day: Here's How You Ruin Wonder Woman For The Movies

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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Video Blog Thursday: A Christmas Story

Another story from the version of myself that I like to call Fictional Phil.  (You can call him whatever you like.)

This time it's a Christmas themed story, about Santa's reindeer.  With one small mistake in it, that I can't be bothered to change now.  (Can you spot it?)


Direct link to video



A couple of other items on the agenda:

Tomorrow I'm performing stand-up comedy at Tooting Market.  Rather excitingly, I'm on the same bill as Arthur Smith.  Details can be found on philhatchard.co.uk - I believe there are a handful of tickets still left, which you can buy from wegottickets.

Also quite exciting, is that I've designed this book cover.  I'm not paid, but 10% of the proceeds will go to The Hoja Project, which is the charity I helped set up in my friend's village in Tanzania.

You can buy the book on Amazon, and read more about how this came about on philhatchard.co.uk.








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Link of the Day: Hamburger Earmuffs

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Monday, 16 December 2013

Very Short Mondays: Slow Mews Day

"Mmmmeeeeoooowwwww..." said Flossy, drawing the last syllable out as long as she could manage.

"Mew!" said young Captain Fluffkins in reply.

The other cats gave stern disapproving looks to Captain Fluffkins, because they were supposed to be doing a sponsored 'Slow Mews Day' to raise money for an all-night charity telethon, and this was the third time he'd broken the rules.


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Link of the Day: Antisocial

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Friday, 13 December 2013

Slightly Less Short Fridays: The Man Who Ran In The Gas Mask

Anissa sat on the left hand side of the lower deck of the 122 bus, facing forwards.  As usual, the bus sat in traffic in Forest Hill.

She looked out of the window.  A man ran past wearing a gas mask.

A MAN RAN PAST THE BUS WEARING A GAS MASK.

It wasn't one of those old cumbersome leather World War Two gas masks.  It was modern, a bit like the masks you see cyclists wearing in the city centre to avoid breathing in the pollution.  But it was a full face affair, and it looked like it meant serious business.

Anissa couldn't tell whether he was running towards something, or away from something, or just out jogging.  He could have been just out jogging - he was wearing a tracksuit.  But it was a full tracksuit, with a hat.  And while it wasn't summer, it wasn't exactly cold either.  He must have been roasting.

Anissa instinctively looked back down the road, towards the swimming baths, to see if there was anything unusual or suspicious.  She looked back to the man as he disappeared into the distance amongst the other pedestrians.  What if something was about to happen?  What if it happened when the traffic finally started moving and the bus had caught the man up again?

On the other side of the bus, a bag sat on the floor between two passengers, who didn't seem to know one another.  A man, and a woman.  Did the bag being to the man, or to the woman?  Or did each assume it belonged to the other, but it was actually unattended luggage?

Anita shifted in her seat uncomfortably.

***

Omar was dripping in sweat.  Next lamp post.  Just focus on getting to the next lamp post.  And then the next one.  He felt like he was going to faint.  Surely he was going to faint?  He was so hot.  Maybe he could take the mask off, just for a moment.  No.  No cheating.

He couldn't imagine how he was ever going to complete the Marathon des Sables.


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Fun Fact: I genuinely saw a man run past wearing a full tracksuit and a face mask when I was waiting in traffic on the 122 bus in Forest Hill (or it may have been the 176 or a Rail Replacement Service).

Link of the Day: I discovered a new species up my nose

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Monday, 9 December 2013

Very Short Mondays: Wemmy

"I want to call it Wemmy."

"Wemmy?"

"I want to call it Wemmy."

"Are you sure?"

"I want to call it Wemmy!"

"Okay."

***

"Wemmy?"

"Wemmy."

"He said that?"

"Yes."

"It's a bit ... cutesy."

"I promised."

"You promised?"

"Yeah."

"Oh well that's alright then."

"Don't be like that."

"Like what?"

"Nothing.  Maybe we can think of an acronym."

"Yeah.  Maybe."


***

Fun Fact: I wrote this story on the bus when a small boy of about 6, a couple of seats in front, said to the slightly older girl (presumably his sister) sat next to him, "I want to call it Wemmy."  Or at least, that's what it sounded like.  I assumed they were playing some sort of role play based game.

Link of the Day: Coffee Frog

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Friday, 6 December 2013

Slightly Less Short Fridays: The Beginning Of A Long Slippery Slope

Nigel looked on proudly at the new installation at Heathrow Airport.  He thought of all the naysayers and how, when he came to power, people said this couldn't be done.  He'd "only said it because he never thought he'd actually win and have to keep his promises", they'd said.

But here he was, at the top of the new 'Literal Slippery Slope', down which all new immigrants would be directed.  From where he stood, safely harnessed to the rig, he could see where the sloped forked into five chutes, four of which led to the new shark pool under the airport.  The other led to the Border Agency's visa department but, as the set-up was changed at random each day, no one could ever be sure which chute led to safety.

Immigration soon fell dramatically, while local tourism scored a huge boost thanks to the new public aquarium.

Nigel would hold onto power for a full forty years.


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Link of the Day: The Odon Childbirth Device

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Monday, 2 December 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Button Wall

Zoë and her parents had reached the end of the tour. Inside the final room, the guide encouraged them to come back the following week to fill in one of the feedback cards.

Zoë looked up at her Mum and Dad, who were listening attentively. Eagerly.

She looked at the wall of buttons. Next to each button was a little pocket containing the cards already filled out by previous visitors. Hundreds of them.

Some had detailed accounts of what the buttons did. Others showed "emotion faces", or complained that nothing had happened.

Two next to each other, both filled out in thick black marker pen, caught Zoë's eye. One said "DO NOT PRESS", while the other simply read "$$$".

Zoë looked back to her parents, and then to the guide, who was still wrapping up the tour. Everyone was engrossed.

Making her movements as small as she could, Zoë slowly swapped the two cards around.


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Link of the Day: You Look Just Like Your Mother

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Monday, 25 November 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Fresh Start That Fooled A Desperate Man

Sulaman winced.  His halo was troubling him again.  He wondered if it was the electrodes rusting inside his brain.  He wondered if by simply having this thought, it would be automatically flagged on the system.  He wondered if Cerys was taking a personal interest in his file.

Mostly, though, he wondered if the stabs of pain would dull over time, or become less frequent.  The promise of work, and a roof over his head, had not been entirely without terms and conditions.

He thought of Cerys again.  He'd followed her home once.  Before he'd signed the forms.



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Link of the Day: Dear Ashely...

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Monday, 18 November 2013

Very Short Mondays: South London Press

Terence looked up at the floor above the shop. A filthy dirty sign obscured most of the windows. "South London Press available here!" it promised, unconvincingly.

So this is it, thought Terence.

He looked down at the crumpled advert he still clutched in his hand. The sunlight streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The chrome fittings. The pristine white carpet.

No, thought Terence. This can't be it.

If the windows had been a little less grimy, if the inside a little less dark, he might have been able to make out the little pair of eyes that watched him. The little pair of eyes that watched him turn and walk down the street, back towards the bus stop.

The little pair of eyes that had seen all that it had needed to see.


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Link of the Day: Beautiful World Heritage Sites

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Friday, 15 November 2013

Slightly Less Short Fridays: Red Brick

"What's that?"

"What?"

"That."

"Where?"

"On your desk."

"Oh.  You mean the paperweight?"

"Paperweight?  It's a brick."

"No, it's a paperweight."

"It looks like a brick."

"Ah yes.  It looks like a brick.  But it's only made to look like a brick.  It's actually a paperweight."

"It's a brick."

"It's not a brick!"

"Yes it is.  Look, it looks like a brick, it feels like a brick, it's the same weight as a bri-"

"Yeah but it's not."

"It's even got those three holes in the middle, like a brick."

"Ah no, you see, that's actually a very clever design feature.  That's so you can see what's written on the paper underneath."

"It's even got crumbs of cement stuck to it.  It's a brick.  It's a used brick."

"It's a paperweight."

"A paperweight, yeah?"

"Yeah."

"So where's the paper?"

"Well, it's a paperless office, isn't it?"


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Link of the Day: The Ultimate Guide To Writing Better Than You Normally Do

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Monday, 11 November 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Big Miss

George fell asleep.  He didn't mean to, but...

Well.  He'd been waiting a long time.  Sadly the wait would have to go on.  He missed it.  Again.

It had been eight years since the last one.  He wondered how long it would be until the next.

All he knew was that his superiors were not going to be happy.  If they ever found out, that is.  George certainly wasn't going to tell them.  He didn't even tell them about the last one.

The worry was, however, that if they thought it had never happened, they might pull the funding on the whole project.  But if they ever found out that it had happened and he had missed it - twice - well, then they'd pull him.

And he knew what that meant.

He'd heard about what that meant.  And, well, it wasn't very nice.


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Link of the Day: Old People Wearing Vegetation

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Video Blog Thursday: A Poem For Phil's Hero

My second (hopefully weekly) video weblog featuring some of my worst writing. This week, a poem to my "hero", Michael Gove.


Direct link to video


Link of the Day: Elephant

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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Babestation's On Freeview

I wrote this on the bus on the way home from a stand-up comedy gig a couple of months ago, about the idiots who were on the top deck with me.

***

"Can you get Babestation?"
say the grown-ups on the 134 bus.
"Babestation's on Freeview!"

I sit on the top deck at the front
while they continue to talk,
and I try to think of things to write.

"Why don't you go talk to him?"
say the women to each other.
And I decide to go downstairs.

I stand up and turn for the stairs.
"Aw, Harry Potter's leaving!" says one.
"Bye Harry Potter!" says another.

But not like the Year 8 kids
at my last school, who added,
"It's a compliment, sir.  Harry Potter's cool."

So while the grown-ups get loudly drunk,
I make my way quietly home from
making a roomful of people laugh.


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Link of the Day: Things Are Looking Up In 2056

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Very Short Mondays: Stopping On The Edge Of The World

Slim bit into his sandwich.  Smoked Salmon.  Well, at least it wasn't salami.

He looked into The Nothing.  For a moment his heart crept into his mouth.  Incidents were rare out here, but just occasionally something came out of the void.

The chances were he would be safe.


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Link of the Day: Free Textures

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Saturday, 2 November 2013

Make & Do: Home-Made Short-Notice Harry Potter Costume


Yesterday morning I received a text message "reminding" me that my friend Richard's birthday party that evening was fancy dress.  But it was the first I heard of it!  So I put my thinking cap (or sorting hat!) on, and thought what I could rustle up at short notice.  People always comment on my resemblance to a certain boy wizard (and Harry Potter is that boy wizard), so my decision was easy enough!

Now all I needed was the ingredients!

But what is Harry Potter known for?  Some things sprang to mind easily, some took a little longer, but pretty soon I had a definitive list of necessaries:

- large plastic-framed spectacles
- the metereological scar on his forehead
- a school tie
- his pet owl Hagrid
- a hat with a face on it
- an invisibility cloak
- a NIMBY HS2000 flying brush
- the medal he was awarded by Princess Leia at the end of Prisoner of Alcatraz when he destroyed the Ring of Power and defeated Lord Vorderman.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Video Blog Thursday: Phil's New Play

This is my current favourite stand-up routine.  I thought it would work nicely as a video blog, so that's what I've done.  Thursdays are going to be my day off for the foreseeable future, so if I'm at all organised, I hope to make this a regular feature.


Direct link to video


In other news, I will get on with uploading some new very short stories forthwith.  Promise.

Link of the Day: Shower Scene

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Saturday, 12 October 2013

Cloud Junkies

Although I've not been posting, things have been very busy for me here at EvilFlea Towers (I've never called it that before, but I'm considering starting).  I'd put posting here on the back-burner for a little while, because I have a few things I intend to be more organised with, and I've been more seriously trying to establish myself as a regular on the stand-up comedy circuit.  Then I found myself in a play and (willingly) co-opted into another top-secret project, so even the stuff that put this site on the back-burner, has been itself temporarily moved onto the back-burner.

Then, this week, I was challenged to make up a story on the spot based on two words chosen by my challenger.  Those two words turned out to be "cloud" and "junkies".  And I was bloody pleased with the story I came up with.  So today I wrote it up.  And drew a picture for it.  Enjoy.



Cloud Junkies

The day of the professionalisation of cloud-spotting was perhaps our greatest mistake. Everything changed that day. What started as an amusing pastime of children and tourists, seeing animals and objects in the sky that weren't really there, became a mascot for the rampant commercialisation of everyday fun.

It all started innocuously enough. International tournaments broke TV viewing figures. The very best cloud-spotters, who saw Father Christmas riding in on dreadnaught battleships, and cats chasing dogs with flaming tridents, became household names.

It wasn't long before Channel 5 were broadcasting cloud-spotting-themed dating shows in the primetime slot on Saturday nights, and even The Royal Family published cloud-spotting publicity photos to show how much they had in common with ordinary folk like you and I.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Very Short Mondays: Shoes With Little Bows On

Collette wondered when all the other women on the train started wearing shoes with little bows on them.  It can't have been more than three months ago that they all wore buckles.

And that was when she made her decision.

Four months later, she sat on the train smiling to herself.  She looked from one woman's feet to the next - knowing that her own looked just as ridiculous - and knew that if she really put her mind to it, she could make anything happen.


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Link of the Day:  65 Beautiful Fonts You Can Download For Free

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Monday, 5 August 2013

Very Short Mondays: An Approach

"What do you say?"

"I'm not interested.  Thank you."

"Even if I threw in Cumbria?"

"Cumbria?  What would I want with Cumbria?"

"Apart from it being so very big?"

"'Big' and 'useful' are not necessarily easy bedfellows."

"Whereas I'd argue that 'big' and 'potential' are exactly that."

"That may be, but it's not exactly flat, is it?  I need 'flat' more than I need 'big'."

"That can be taken care of."

"At a great deal of expense, yes.  And we don't have that kind of funding."

"We'd foot the bill for that."

"Well that's very nice of you, but how would you make up for the time lost to our competitors while we wait for it?  Our technology isn't going to develop itself."

"-"

"I would have settled for a small corner of East Anglia.  But then that's not what you came here for, is it?"

"I'll have to inform my superiors of your decision."

"Please do."


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Link of the Day:  NEW AT 10: PB&J SANDWICHES

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Very Short Mondays: String Vest

Clive sat on a bench looking out to sea.  His eyes stung a little from the sun cream that his sweat had carried into them.  He also wasn't quite used to seeing the full brightness of day, having broken his glasses a fortnight before, and he couldn't afford UV-reactive lenses in his replacement pair.

He looked down at himself.  He shuffled backwards in his seat, made a token effort to sit up straight.

Last year he strutted his stuff up and down the promenade, proud to let it all hang out.  But not since...

Well.  Not since.  Not after.

He had always wondered what possible reason any man could have for buying a string vest.  Now, at least, he had his own reason.  He could cover up, without it quite covering him up.  Not completely, anyway.

It felt positive.  It felt like a step in the right direction.


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Link of the Day: Knock Knock

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Monday, 22 July 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Telephone Call

There she is again, yacking away, acting like she's not enjoying the gossip.  My intention was to be looking at the crossword but instead I'm trying to work out who the bloody hell she's talking to at this hour.  Is it one of her sisters or a work colleague?  Or her mother?  Maybe my mother?

This didn't used to bother me.  But then, I used to overhear her talking about me.  It was all "Georgie this" and "Georgie that" not so long ago.  She'd be crying down the phone to her best mate, over some daft little thing that reminded her of me.

Now it's like I don't exist.

But, it's been three years now, and I guess she's moved on.  I only wish I could do the same.


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Link of the Day:  Angry Cats

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Monday, 15 July 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Loneliest Dragon In All The World

Crispin lay alone in the ashes of the forest that was once his home, and sighed.

This was not the sigh of someone whose colleague made racist comments at work, not the sigh of a dog whose human companion repeatedly and deliberately misplaced his stick.

This was the sigh of a dragon whose family had moved on without telling him.  Again.

"At least you've got a family," said Phoenix Mouse.

Oh, yes, and it was also the sigh of someone whose imaginary friend didn't know when he'd outstayed his welcome.


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Link of the Day: Dog Grooming Competition

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Monday, 8 July 2013

Very Short Mondays: Watching Carefully For the Next Thing To Come Around The Corner

Mat sat at the front of the bus, and watched the road in front of him.  He didn't do this, as a rule.  He didn't like to watch the oncoming traffic appearing around corners.  Didn't like to journey with his heart in his mouth.

But today was different.  Today he felt it was important to document his journey.  Not actually to physically document it, but to take in every detail.  There was a good chance this would be the last time he would ever make this journey.

And, now that the country was in its third week of national strikes, there was precious little traffic to worry about.


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Link of the Day: Gerard DuBois - Uncertainty / Part 1

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Monday, 1 July 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Recliner That Wouldn't Behave

Laurie sat down to think.  She knew she had forgotten something.  She ran through her mental checklist.  Everything seemed to be in order.

The only thing she hadn't done was get enough sleep.  She let herself lean gently back into the chair.  She heard the hinge creak as she gave it her weight.  Any second now it would collapse entirely.  It always did.  She smiled at the thought.  Strangely, this chair was the one thing she was really going to miss.

When she awoke it was already dark.  The next train wouldn't leave for another week.


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Link of the Day: Anamorphic Sculptures

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Monday, 24 June 2013

Very Short Mondays: Cranberry Juice

Linda realised she was talking to herself again.  She didn't know how long she had been doing it.  She just caught herself saying "cranberry juice".  It sounded emphatic, like the end of a sentence.

The significance was not lost on her, though she didn't know what had preceded it.

She crossed the road and stepped straight onto a bus heading back to the supermarket.  She arrived just as they were closing up, talked her way inside - "I'll only be quick, just one thing" - and made her way to the soft drinks aisle.

It was there that she found it.

One more clue.

One step closer to finding Nick's killer.


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Link of the Day: The Work of Matei Apostolescu

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Friday, 21 June 2013

Slightly Less Short Fridays: The Upgrade

"Good evening, Mr Turner."

"Call me Alfie, please.  Sir."

"Do you know why you're here?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"It's for the upgrade, sir."

"It's for the upgrade.  And do you know what that means?"

"Yes."

"Have you met the previous component?"

"Yes sir."

"And what did you think of her?  How old do you think she is?"

"She looks in her eighties, sir."

"'Looks.'  An interesting choice of words."

"I understand she's much younger, sir."

"And yet you still volunteer."

"Yes."

"Why?"

"I want the knowledge, sir.  I want to know what it's like."

"Once you're plugged into the network, Mr Turner.  Once you're the official back-up..."

"There's no turning back, sir.  Yes.  I understand that, sir.  I wish to be installed as soon as possible."

"Very well."

"I just have one request, sir."

"Which is?"

"I'd like to keep my eyes open, sir.  I'd like to remain ... fully conscious."

"That would be irregular, Mr Turner.  I couldn't allow that.  I'm sorry."

"What if there were a second volunteer, sir?"

"A second volunteer?  Until today, Mr Turner, there had never been a first volunteer."

"I have someone in mind, sir."

"And they want to do it?"

"Not yet, sir."

"Very well.  We have time in hand.  You're an exceptional candidate.  I'll indulge you."

"Thank you, sir.  You won't regret it."

"I don't doubt it, Mr Turner.  But I couldn't confidently predict the same of you."



***

Link of the Day: What if Superman punched you?

***

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Monday, 17 June 2013

Very Short Mondays: Scar Tissue

Clarice stood up with some difficulty.  The operation had been a success, she'd been told.  So why did it still hurt?

Synapse memory, Dr Entwistle had said.  It will be gone in a month or two.

She could still feel it inside her.  She touched the crease of her skin with her fingertips.  She touched the place where they had stapled and sewn her back together.  The scar tissue felt hard and uneven, as it always did.

She looked at her niece, Sarah, watching the television, the adoring smile fixed on her face.  On the screen, Dr Entwistle was being sworn into office.  He looked much the same as Clarice remembered him.  Fifteen years' worth of extra grey hair, but otherwise unchanged.


***

Link of the Day: Ocean of Fire

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Monday, 10 June 2013

Very Short Mondays: Blue Strip

Harley Tonstol docked himself at the charge point.  The blue strip in the pavement underneath remained static.  There was no pulse in the light like there used to be.  No artificial representation of the process that was taking place within.  Not since the Act of Parliament.

To the untrained eye he was just one of the many people arriving at, departing from, or convening outside Waterloo Station.  But there were very few untrained eyes any more.  Everyone knew how careful the Organics were to avoid stepping on the blue strips.  None of them were foolish enough to bring their status into question so cheaply.

The discrimination, which the Act had been designed to eliminate, continued unabated.


***

Link of the Day: Honk

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Monday, 3 June 2013

7 Word Story: Slice

Swing...

Swing...

SWING!  FORE!

Watch...

Watch...

Walk...

Watch...

Walk...

Bunker.

Breathe.

Walk.  Walk.  Bunker.

Breathe...

Swing...

Swing...

SWING!

Slice.  Bunker.

Swing!

Slice.

Swing!

Slice.

Breathe.  Breathe.

Swing...

Swing...

Swing!  Fore...

Watch...

Watch...

Watch?

Slice.

Bunker.

Breathe.  Breathe.

Swing!Swing!Swing!

Slice!Slice!Slice! Swing?

Slice.

Walk.


***

Link of the Day: Sketchbook Dump

***

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Monday, 27 May 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Man Who Blew Butterflies Out Of His Trombone

The queue was huge.  The waiting time to see him was five hours at least, but no one seemed to be put off by this.  Many had brought their own instruments to see if he could perform the same magic on them.  He couldn't, of course.  He could only blow butterflies out of his own trombone.

He had shot to fame not quite from nowhere - he was already well known in many quarters as the engineer who designed The Palace.  Now he became a national celebrity.  More than that - a national hero.

When the hurricane arrived, no one asked questions.  No one looked his way.  The nation came out onto the streets and mourned the dead, mourned The Prince.  The Prince, crushed by his own collapsing roof, never to succeed to the throne.

No one suspected a thing.


***

Link of the Day: Warning Label

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Very Short Mondays: Can You Hear Me Now?

"Can you hear me now?"

Petra opened her eyes.

"Can you hear me now?"

She looked around the empty waiting room.

"Can you hear me now?"

"I'm sorry, what did you say?" said Petra to the receptionist.

"Nothing," said the receptionist.  "I didn't say anything."

"Can you hear me now?"

"Yes," Petra whispered.  What was this?  Some sort of test?  Was this part of the interview?

"Can you hear me now?"

"Yes," said Petra, less quietly.  "I could hear you before."

The receptionist looked up at her.

Petra smiled.  The receptionist smiled back.


***

Link of the Day: Places that don't look real but are

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Sketchbook 5: Single


Link of the Day: I've started a new creative writing ideas website.  There's a link on the page to take you randomly to one of the ideas.  I've posted a whole bunch at the moment (over 100), and at some point I'll be adding more when I'm in the mood.  Feel free to add your own and follow it on Twitter or Facebook (links on the site):


[Edit: If you don't get the reference to cats, you might want to watch this.]

***

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Very Short Mondays: Just Down The End Of The Corridor On The Left

"Excuse me.  Where's the nearest loo?"

"It's just down the end of the corridor on the left."

Terry just about had enough time before his first lesson.  This was his first time teaching at this school and he was feeling a little nervous.  He'd heard about this place before, and not all of the things he had heard had been good.

Just before the end of the corridor, he found the door marked:


STAFF
GENTLEMAN


and opened it.

But it wasn't a toilet.  It was oak-panelled, for a start.  It was a drawing room.

A man with a pencil moustache and morning suit stood to greet him.

"Welcome, my dear sir!  I'm terribly sorry," he said, glancing at his pocketwatch, "I wasn't expecting you.  Cigar?"

"Er, no thank you," said Terry.  "Actually, I was looking for the toilet."

"Ah," said the man.  "That would be the next door along.  The one marked with a stick man."

"Oh yes, of course.  Sorry.  Thank you."

"Don't mention it, my good man.  Here, let me get the door for you.  Funny.  You'd be surprised how often people come in here looking for the lavatory.  Always seems to be men."

"Yes," said Terry.  "Funny."


***

Link of the Day: I was trying to describe you to someone...

***

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Monday, 6 May 2013

7 Word Story: The Ballad of Tulse Hill

This one was written for voice class at drama school.  The challenge was to write a story that only uses 7 different words.  Derivatives are allowed.  I wrote mine at the last minute on the way to drama school.  I had 20 minutes of kicking my heels at Tulse Hill Station, and thought I'd go and get something to eat while I waited.  I failed in my quest.

***

The Ballad of Tulse Hill

Chip shop closed.
Fish shop closed.

Dr Fish - open.
Dr Fish Spa.

Open, chip shop!
Open, fish shop!
Spa?  Spa?  Open?!
Close spa!
Open chip shop!

Chips!

Chi-i-i-i-i-i-ips!


***

Link of the Day: NOOOOOOO!

***

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Monday, 29 April 2013

Very Short Mondays: Nothing Counts Any More

The bus arrived.

No numbers on the front, of course. Not any more.

You never knew quite which way they were going - the only clue was the destination printed on the front. Most people didn't remember what it used to be like.

Dorota hauled her shopping trolley onto the bus, had her card stamped and tottered over the to the first available seat. The bus driver waited until she was sat down before pulling away. That didn't happen very much any more either.

Trying not to wheeze, she looked at her trolley, fully to bursting with supplies. It was getting worse. Soon she'd have to bring a second trolley with her.

She looked down at the card she still clutched in her hand. Three spaces left. She wasn't supposed to think that, of course. Not that they had any way of finding out. It was funny, she thought. They'd banned it, but it was still what they used to keep control.

Someone, somewhere, was still counting.


***

Link of the Day: What a Prankster

***

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Monday, 22 April 2013

Very Short Mondays: Diamond Press

Part One

"We've done it."

"The culmination of a life's work."

"It's beautiful."

"Let me show you how it works.  You'll find some coal behind you."

"How many lumps?"

"Just a couple.  This is only a demonstration, after all...

"...Now close the door...

"...And wait."

"Remarkable.  When do we go into mass production?"

Part Two

"Stop trading."

"Now, sir?"

"Yes.  Right now."

"They've been asking for your resignation."

"Tell them they can have it."


***

Link of the Day: The Octopus World

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Monday, 15 April 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Cat With A Strand Of Spaghetti Hanging From His Mouth

The cat with a strand of spaghetti hanging from his mouth prowled along the garden wall.  It wasn't his own garden wall, but three doors down.

The cat that lived three doors down watched the cat with a strand of spaghetti hanging from his mouth, from behind a bush.  She wanted to avoid a confrontation.

The cat with a strand of spaghetti hanging from his mouth was always doing things like this.  It was becoming old and tiresome.  Evidently he wanted the cat from three doors down to think he had caught a mouse, but it was clearly spaghetti, and not a mouse's tail.  It was still covered in tomato sauce.

The cat from three doors down crept slowly back into the house.  She didn't want to get in trouble like the last time.


***

Link of the Day: Pierrette Diaz

***

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Monday, 8 April 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Latest Thing

He sat waiting.

The butterflies fluttered in his stomach.

He was nervous.  What was he nervous for?

He'd been waiting months for this, ever since the rumours first surfaced on the Internet.

He'd camped outside for three nights, so he could be first in the queue.  He wanted to be the very first person to own them.

How different would they look?  Would they be as tactile, or even more tactile?   Would they feel any different to the previous incarnation?  The latest socks from George by Asda.


***

Link of the Day: The Town With No Roads

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Friday, 5 April 2013

Slightly Less Short Fridays: Leaves On The Line

"Morning."

"Morning."  Brad smiled at Lewis.

Lewis smiled back.

This wasn't allowed.  Their little illicit rebellion.  The shook hands, making sure to make it look like they weren't shaking hands, if anybody happened to look at them, from a distance.

This wasn't exactly what they had thought they had signed up to.  For a start, when they joined, they were on the same side.  (Of course, they didn't know each other then.)  Where they stood now had been a field, not a national border.  And when they signed up they were not immediately issued with a pair of gardening gloves.

"Are you sure those are ours?"  Lewis, pointing at Brad's black bin liner with his litter picker, always stuck to his part of the script.

"No," said Brad, sticking to his.  "Of course not.  You?"

"No."

Lewis went to hand over his bag, and Brad went to offer his.  Then Lewis hesitated.  Deviated from the routine.  Deviation was always a little bit dangerous.

Eventually he spoke.

"Do you think anyone would know if you put your leaves back where you picked them up from, and I put mine back where I found them too?"

"We'd have to make sure we looked like we were swapping bags."

"Yes, we would.  Wouldn't we?"

"Yes," said Brad, breaking into a smile.  "We would."


***

Link of the Day: Craww

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Monday, 1 April 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Girl With Wavy Hair

It started out as a neat party trick.

She could make her hair wave at people.  Actually wave.  And not just wave.  Any wave you could imagine.

The 'Royal Wave' was her favourite.  It was the wave she'd use if she ever met the Queen.  She'd never have imagined how close she would get.

She'd always been 'Daddy's little princess', and one day she hoped she'd be a real princess.

So imagine her excitement when the Princes came to visit her town.  She camped out all night to secure the best vantage point from which to see them, and to wave at them.

She was so excited, in fact, that she waved a little too enthusiastically, and was quickly 'neutralised' by the security services.


***

Link of the Day: Whole

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Monday, 25 March 2013

Very Short Mondays: If It's Nice.

As I write this it is 17th December 2012.  I've written quite a lot of these very short stories and have scheduled one of them to post every Monday starting from a couple of weeks ago.

Today (as in 17th December) I went through my notebook to see if I missed any old ones.  This one is dated 21st November 2011.  The next Monday I'm yet to schedule a post for is 25th March 2013.  You might even be reading this on that day.

I don't think I've looked at it since I wrote it, and it touched a nerve.  I almost shared it straight away with my friends on Facebook, but while I'm happy for it to touch my nerves, I don't want to force it on the nerves of other people involved so soon after recent events.

I think by March it might be alright.  But even now I'm having second thoughts.  I hope it's alright.

Eight days ago, from the day I am writing this, one of my drama school friends passed away, many many years before his time.  

Everyone at drama school was absolutely fantastic, and pulled together to put on an amazing show just a few days later in his memory, and I feel incredibly lucky and proud to be part of such a wonderful company.

So this is for Dylan.  It's kind of sad, but a little cheeky with it.

***

If It's Nice

I sat staring at the empty page.

The page he'd never write.

The page that followed ten more empty pages.  The page with that day's date at the top of it.

It was Wednesday.

I took his pen and I wrote the following:

"Got an itch in my left toe today.  Coffin too small to bend down and scratch it."

And then:

"Think I might go for a walk later.  If it's nice."

I smiled, put his pen away, and left the room for the last time.


***

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Monday, 18 March 2013

Very Short Mondays: Another Industrial Revolution

First came the discovery that unborn children begin learning language before they leave the womb.

Before long, midwives and pregnant mothers were developing innovative new ways of explaining complex industrial processes to their progeny-to-be.

And finally came the mineral supplements, compulsorily prescribed on the NHS.

Soon every child was born with a silver spoon in its mouth.

Far from eradicating poverty, however, this new practice had a devastating impact on the value of silver, and on the cutlery industry in particular.

No one felt this more keenly than the four and a half thousand workers who lost their jobs at a plant in Sheffield.


***

This story came about after a someone I was talking to on Twitter made a tongue-in-cheek comment about some children "choosing" to be born to rich parents.  I took it a few steps further.

Link of the Day: Dirt Poster

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Monday, 11 March 2013

Very Short Mondays: Honk! Said The Goose

"Honk!" said the Goose.

"Honk!"

But the Badger wasn't listening.

"For pity's sake, blow your bloody horn!" said the Goose.

But still the Badger wouldn't listen, and ran straight over the Chicken, as it crossed the road.

Sure, he felt a little guilty at the funeral, but it was all worth it, just to see what the Goose would look like in a neck brace.


***

Link of the Day: Indie Mario

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Monday, 4 March 2013

Very Short Mondays: There Has To Be A Way That Doesn't Cause So Many Sleepless Nights

Deep in the bowels of his castle, the Count marked off the days on his calendar.

"Five!" said he.  "Five nights have I slept not.  Five nights since the transfusion.  Still yearn I not for all this bamboo!  O never did I think that this would be so hard!"

The Count looked in his broken mirror.  Dark hairs had begun to sprout around his eyes, but only barely.

He began to have his doubts that his experiments in species manipulation were the best way to save the pandas and, picking up the telephone, he dialled the number of the zoo to cancel his appointment.


***

Link of the Day: My friend Vixie - she who gave me inspiration for this story - makes lovely things which you can buy via links on her site at Matin Lapin

If you're interested, it was this photo she linked to on facebook, and the accompanying text that inspired the concept.

***

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Monday, 25 February 2013

Very Short Mondays: Bonsai

"Oh I simply adore your hair!"

"I know, it's gorgeous, isn't it?"

"I must have your stylist's number."

"Oh, you must, he's simply a treat!  He calls himself a 'Bonsai Barber'.  It's just so terribly witty."

"Like the tree?  Oh how adorable!"

"He specialises in smaller versions of larger hairstyles."

"Oh yes, I see that now.  How clever!"

"He rubs a sort of gel into your scalp - 'hair food', he calls it - and then carefully 'prunes' your style one hair at a time."

"One hair at a time?  How thorough!"

"Took him six and a half hours to do mine.  Not cheap though."

"Oh dear.  What's the damage?"

"Three thousand an hour."

"Golly.  How adventurous!"


***

Link of the Day: Computer Yip Yip

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Monday, 18 February 2013

Very Short Mondays: Star Anise

"You should put star anise in all your food.  It's got some chemical or other in it which helps with all that.  It was in the paper the other day.  Did you see it?"

"No," said Jayne.  "Talking of which, I'm pretty tired actually.  I should probably go home.  Maybe I'll try it in my dinner tonight."

She smiled at the man, pleased with the excuse she had given for leaving these dreadful people.


***

Link of the Day: Pointer Pointer

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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Monday, 11 February 2013

Very Short Mondays: Notice

Melissa put down her script and looked straight down the lens of the camera.

What she saw in there she could not say.  But it was not the inner workings of the equipment.

She handed in her resignation later that day.  She could no longer be a part of this.


***

Link of the Day: The Ant and the Grasshopper

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Monday, 4 February 2013

Very Short Mondays: You Can See It In The Shop Windows

I was taking Dingo out for a walk when it happened.  I don't know what scared me more: the sudden feeling of emptiness and heartbreaking, crippling despair, or the slow but sure changes undergone by Dingo in the weeks that followed.

The singular event, I think, I can put to one side.  But the aftermath...

The aftermath.  Every time I look at the bars on the shop windows, it's a sobering reminder that things will never be quite the same again.


***

Link of the Day: Molecular Muse

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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sketchbook 5: Grape White

Sketchbook 5: Grape White


I started doodling in my sketchbook again last week, and realised that there were a few older ones that still hadn't seen the light of Internet.  So here we are...

Link of the Day: Op-Art Music

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Monday, 28 January 2013

Very Short Mondays: Whole Body Headphones

"It's like they're actually playing in the room with you," said the man in Currys.  "Right down to feeling vibrations through the floor."

The man in Currys was called Stephen.  There weren't many people, thought Steve, who chose to call themselves Stephen, rather than Steve.  But there it was, right there on his name badge.  And he had too much gel in his hair.

"You can try them out right here in the shop," said Stephen.  "I've got some Darkness on my iPhone.  That's quite good."


***

Link of the Day: Fractal Trees! (if only for the charmingly dreadful animation)

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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Dances In Frances: New Audio Recording

I recently made this recording of Dances in Frances, a poem I originally posted in March 2007 and which features what is still my favourite rhyming couplet I've ever written.

It's a cheery story about the gruesome consequences when a little girl is sick and loses her appetite.


[Direct link to audio]

If you want to read the original poem, you can find it here...


***

Link of the Day: Tea Party

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Monday, 21 January 2013

Very Short Mondays: An End To The New Beginning

Srishty was pleased with her new rimless specs.  They signified a new beginning.

A new Srishty.

Until she couldn't find them again and sat on them in despair.

The cost of this little mishap would later prove to be much greater than the price of a new pair of glasses.  And the old Srishty, lurking just under the surface, would not be swept aside so readily.


***

Link of the Day: Perfectly Timed Photos

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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Maths T-Shirt: Kruskal vs Prim

Now, of course, we all know about the two main methods to find the Minimal Spanning Tree of a network, don't we? But which is better? Kruskal or Prim?



'kruskal vs prim' t-shirts and accessories

test test test


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Link of the Day: Batman Signs

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Monday, 14 January 2013

Very Short Mondays: An Orange Out Of Place

One of Clive's oranges had been moved.

Turned upside down.

He knew this because he always faced his oranges the same way.  He looked at it carefully.  Inspected it.  Peered over the top of his glasses.

He carefully lifted it from the crate, and turned it the right way around.  For a moment, he thought he felt something just under the skin.

But it was just his imagination.


***

Link of the Day:  The Top 10 Relationship Words That Aren't Translatable Into English

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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

T-Shirt Design: Angel of Approach

I did this design months and months and months ago. I only just got around to putting it on t-shirts. But I do like it.  Maths and Cupid - what more could you ask for on your apparel?


click to buy t-shirts and accessories

test test test


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Link of the Day: Freedom

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Monday, 7 January 2013

Very Short Mondays: The Light In The 3rd Floor Window

A light was on in the 3rd floor window.

Sharon hadn't seen a light on in that building in years.

There was no shadow.  No flicker.  Just constant, uniform illumination.

Sharon picked up her tin opener, gripped it tightly, until her knuckles turned white.


***

Link of the Day: Ruben's Tube

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Friday, 4 January 2013

The Peacock Of Trust

I wrote this one ages ago, but only just got around to drawing the illustration...

The Peacock Of Trust

The Peacock Of Trust

Once, a peacock made a promise
to be trustworthy and honest,
and it was made to win
his special fancy's heart.

And so he built an institution,
one of financial solutions,
an endeavour quite
successful from the start.

He soon built a reputation
for impressive augmentation
of his customers'
investments in his firm.

He could make their value double,
even triple, or quadruple,
before they'd even reached
their quarter term.

And so investors came a-flocking,
with their savings in their stockings,
to deposit it
in one of his accounts.

And his fancy became lover
to his very own half brother,
blaming work which caused him
always to be out.

Incensed by this arrival
of his relative and rival,
he decided he should
focus on his looks.

And so he shampooed all his feathers,
bought a jacket made of leather
and now he turning heads
wherever that he walks.

But once he'd lost his focus
on financial hocus pocus,
his stocks and shares
collapsed right through the floor.

And so he's stayed quite firmly single,
while his businesses have dwindled,
and now he's filing for
his bankruptcy, what's more.



***

Link of the Day: Excerpts from "How To Be Perfect"

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