Monday, 28 June 2010

The Poetry Bus - Signs and Blunders

This week's poetry bus is in the capable hands of Don't Feed the Pixies (and you really shouldn't) and he set us a task of rehabilitating road (or any other) signs that were just lounging about doing nothing. You could either:

1) Follow the sign and write something you saw at the other end
2) Merely imagine what might be at the other end and write about that
3) Find a new use for the word on the sign to explain something that currently has no word

To see others' valuable contributions go here.

My sign is this one, which I used to walk past every day on the way to work.  Read it carefully.  Good, eh?


This sign is not wrong,
If that’s what you’re thinking.
It’s just in the wrong place.

Somewhere, there is a world
Where anti-vandals go around
Causing thousands of pounds

Of improvements.

We need protecting
From such as these.

The sweet, sweet irony of this is that this sign is hanging on the fence of a school.  Not just any school, mind you - it's the one I attended as a youngling.  Which explains a lot.  Or not.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 115

More Wordzzling fun.  I found the mini challenge quite straightforward this week, but the 10-worder was a toughie.  If you fancy a go at this, or want to see other peoples' offerings, go here.

The mini (eeeeek a mouse!, span, spurn, choose me, geese)

Erica stared out of the window. At the front of the classroom, Mrs Span was droning on and on about how somebody-or-other in some Shakespeare play planned to spurn the amorous advances of somebody-or-other else. It was all so boring. Overhead, a ‘V’ of geese was winging its way to somewhere – somewhere well away from the classroom, the Shakespeare and Mrs Span. If only I could be up there with them, she thought, I could be sailing the wide sky, free as a bird. Suddenly, she found herself looking down on the world from a great height; cars, people, trees and buildings all slipped by beneath the reassuring beat of her strong wings. Ahead of her, she could see the silhouette of the lead goose against the white of the sky. How wonderful of him to choose me, she thought, how marvellous that he should allow me to fly with him. The lead goose turned his head and rolled a beady black eye towards Erica. He opened his beak. This is it, she thought, he’s going to impart some pearl of goose wisdom. Before the goose could utter a syllable, however, the air was split by a piercing shriek. “Eeek, a mouse!” screeched Mrs Span, jumping up onto a chair. Erica sighed, she was back in the classroom once more, but at least the Shakespeare was forgotten for the moment.

The 10-Worder (ear phones, sleeping, honest to goodness, lawn mower, cinnamon, matches, antibiotics, congregation, flower pot, cheese)

New to Harold? The summary is here.

It was full daylight now and Box was pacing agitatedly up and down the living room. Even though it was still early, the heat was building up. Through the French doors that he had thrown open, the angry buzz of a neighbour’s lawn mover started up.

“Zeus’s beard,” he said, irritated, “It’s not even six-thirty. The only ones who’ll be sleeping through that racket are people who wear earphones to bed. Where are those agents?”

Harold glanced at his phone again just in case, but there were no missed calls and no new messages.

“I’m sure they’ll be here as soon as they can,” he said, “What are we going to do when they get here anyway?”

“To be honest, I’m not sure yet,” Box replied, “From what you and the others have told me, it looks like someone’s trying to get Project Dynamo up and running again. The thing is, if it’s not OGS - who have an obvious motive to get rid of demons at least - then who is it and why?”

“And how, don’t forget how.” Said Harold, “Demons like Baron Samedi aren’t that easy to overcome. Even if Dynamo is working somehow and Enigma – “

“Enigma?” Box gave Harold a quizzical look.

“It was quicker to say than ‘our mystery adversary’ all the time,” grinned Harold, “Personally, I think it’s a bit obvious and cliché, we should really have gone for something like the Congregation or something spooky like that. Point is: having located one of us, it’s not a simple matter to get the upper hand. Demons who’ve been on the Brightside as long as Samedi and co – and angels like Illyriel - are practised in exercising their various powers. You were an agent once, you know this stuff.”

“Yeah,” Box flopped into a chair, “Binding would work, of course, if you were quick enough - and the demon couldn’t get away before you finished the words.”

“Tell me about it,” said Harold ruefully, remembering the unpleasant barbed-wire prickling sensation of Mercury’s Binding.

Box raised an eyebrow. “You’re Bound?” He snacked his hand against his forehead, “Of course! So that’s why you’ve been helping OGS. I should have realised. Honest to goodness, if I were any dumber, I’d lose a battle of wits with a flower pot. Getting careless and stupid in my old age is what I am. Here’s me treating you like one of the team and all the time -”

“But, I’m not Bound,” interrupted Harold.

“What?” Box’s face was a picture of disbelief. Demons helping out? This was new.

“I’m helping of my own free will.” Harold went on. And the moon is made of green cheese, his inner voice finished for him. “Well, sort of, anyway. Look, the Basement and the Penthouse have come to an arrangement of sorts – until this is over at least, and I’m sort of assisting OGS.”

“I see.” Box pursed his lips, “Well, there’s a thing. There’s a thing indeed.” He lapsed into a thoughtful silence as he paced.

Harold stuck his hands into the pockets of his borrowed leather jacket and was surprised to discover they were not empty. Carefully, he withdrew the items and laid them on the coffee table – a box of matches, some cinnamon tic-tacs and a small bottle of antibiotics. Harold checked to make sure that no other personal property of the jacket’s real owner remained – it was only polite after all.

His phone beeped. He snatched it up quickly and read the message.

“It’s Othello, “ he said, “They’re on their way.”

Monday, 21 June 2010

A New Home in the Sky - Moving Day

So, my boss, GD, comes bouncing into the office.

"I've just been on the phone to the Nice Lady at Throwback Towers," he cries, all excited, "We can go over and check out our new office accommodation.  We'll have a home of own - at last!"

"Sounds great," Says I, one of the lowly peons of Klueless Decision Support Systems - Managed Service Support Team (don't ask me to repeat it, it's no better the second time around, honest). 

"Can we go tomorrow?" I ask, "'Cos I swear, if I have to eavesdrop one more phone call from that Kiwi Business Analyst with the voice like a buzz-saw, I'll shove her head so far up her.. Well, let's just say she will be able to lick her own tonsils – from below."

"Yes, tomorrow's good," replies GD airily, "But the Nice Lady said we had to ignore the mess 'cos it'll all be cleaned up before we move in."

"The mess?" I'm intrigued now, "How much mess? It's only an old office.  Are we talking old paperwork, coffee mugs, that kind of thing?"

"Yeah, kind of," He's looking a bit shifty now, "She assures me the rats will be dealt with before we get moved in, though."

"Rats? What are rats doing on the seventh floor of Throwback Towers?"

"I expect they like the view," he says absently, wandering in the direction of the coffee machine.


Now it looks like I have to start taking a baseball bat to work – again.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Poetry Bus - A Sign?

I'm back with the Poetry Bus after a few weeks' idling about.  This week's challenge is set by Poetikat.  The challenge was to write about the three images below, which show the before, during and after of the recent destruction by lightning of a huge foam statue of Jesus. 

I really struggled with this challenge but finally came up with this:

The Light of the World

I joined the murmuring crowds gathered
To gawp at the nakedness of steel
That the lightning and fire had left.
The bare bones of the King of Kings.

The irony of the giant white Jesus,
Supplicant hands lifted to the Father,
Struck and killed by a bolt from heaven
Dripped on our heads like molten metal.

We searched for meaning in the scorched steel,
Tried to riddle the message of mangled armature,
Garlanded the event with significance.
Surely, we said to ourselves, this is a sign.

Meteorology or mystery?  No matter.
For a moment, in our minds, plastic and steel
Had been transformed, had become
The Light of the World.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 114

I was meaning to post some non-Wordzzle stuff in the week but, before I could turn around, it was Saturday.  So, here we are again.  If you would like to play this game, go to Raven's Nest for rules and links to other players.

The mini (gratitude, shadows, sufferin' succotash, flattery, piglet)

His real name was Archibald Theodore Penry-Jones, but everyone at the prestigious Greystones Academy, from the Headmaster down to the Caretaker, knew him as Piglet. There were two reasons for this. Arriving as a New Boy at just six years old, he had been a rather tubby child and, as if this were not enough to earn him his porcine soubriquet, he was by nature somewhat timid. His dormitory-mates, with the shark-like predatory instincts of young children everywhere, had quickly sensed this and had soon began to torment him, eliciting from him the high-pitched squeals that ensured that, even when he grew out of his puppy fat, the name still stuck. Now, at seventeen, he stood before the mirror and surveyed himself. He had turned on all the lights, the better to see himself without either the deceit or flattery of shadows. Tonight was the Big Night in the school’s calendar - the Annual Prizegiving and Summer Ball - and everything had to look just right. His fellow students would have spent hours in their rooms combing their hair to perfect neatness. Piglet ran his hands through his own long blond locks, mussing them up, just so. His fellow students would have fussed over spotless cuffs, cummerbunds, and finicky bow-ties. Piglet grabbed two handfuls of black tee-shirt and tugged, tearing it artfully, just so. His fellow students would have pressed creases into their trousers you could slice bread with. Piglet hitched up his favourite pair of torn and tattered jeans, just so. He glanced at his watch: time to go. Mouthing a silent prayer of gratitude to whichever deity it was that had granted the gift of music to a lonely, scared little fat boy all those years ago, Piglet Penry-Jones, lead singer of the international supergroup, Sufferin' Succotash, stepped out of his dressing-room and headed for the stage.

The 10-Worder (Cleopatra, Saturday, perfume, suicide, guaranteed satisfaction, germs, stop in the name of love, Swiss cheese, cheap, luggage)

New to Harold? The summary is here.

“You’ll be needing some clothes,” said Box. “Wait here a minute.”

As the little man went upstairs, Harold looked down at himself. The reverend was right: the bomb-blast had pretty much reduced what he had been wearing to rags and tatters, but with all the excitement, matters of a sartorial nature had been the last thing on his mind.  Of course, more experienced demons than him would be just able to change their appearance to mimic any clothing they desired, but Harold had not developed his skills beyond maintaining a basic simulacrum of human form – hair had been the hardest thing to do and he hadn’t even bothered with details like a belly button. He sighed. He had such a lot to get to grips with.

Box reappeared. “Try these, they might be just about big enough.” He said, dumping an armload of clothes onto the living room sofa. Harold quickly picked through the stuff, rejecting a tee-shirt declaring Guaranteed Satisfaction! for one adorned with a spoof road sign ordering everyone to Stop in the Name of Love. The jeans were a little short in the leg but fitted well enough otherwise. A far-from cheap black leather jacket completed the ensemble.

“Whose things are these?” Harold asked wonderingly, carefully folding the items he’d rejected. They were clearly not the property of the five-foot-nothing Box.

“A friend’s.” replied Box, tersely, “Owes me a favour or two so lets me use this place on and off. Are they coming or not?”

Taking the sudden change of subject as a hint not to enquire further, Harold fished out his phone, “No reply as yet. “


“A traitor? In OGS? That’s not possible, surely?” said India, aghast.

Othello snapped his phone shut. “Well, it’s a rarity, but it has happened. When you get a chance, you should read up on Operations Swiss Cheese, Left Luggage and Black Saturday – so-called agent Cleopatra really did a number on us until she was found out. We lost a dozen good agents because of her.”

“How did she get into OGS, though?” India persisted, “When I joined, even my germs were background checked!”

“Well, we’re a lot more careful these days.”

“What happened to Cleopatra in the end?”

“She committed suicide, had some poison hidden in a perfume bottle.” Othello’s voice was grim.

“Ingenious,” commented Prada, “But what are we going to do now?”

“I think we should do as the demon suggests.” Said Othello. “Someone’s definitely been a step ahead of us. I vote we go to the address it gave us.”

“I agree,” said Mercury, “But I suggest we approach with caution in case the demon wasn’t the one who sent the message. Somebody else may have got hold of its cell phone.”

They were about to get back into the car when the door to Aunt Aggie’s opened and Agent Moon came trotting out.

“I thought I saw your car,” he cried, excitedly, “Thank goodness you’re safe! It was on the news, there was a big explosion near where you guys were going. Director Opal wants a full report right away.”

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 113

Phew, finally got my post finished. It's really Sunday now, rather than Saturday I suppose. Still, I did start it on Saturday, so Saturday it is. Anyway, if you'd like to find out more about Wordzzles and see other players' offerings, go here.

I'm really glad to have finished off one of my ongoing stories.  This has left me with some freedom to play with the words of the mini challenge which was very refreshing.

The Mini (glamorous, gin and tonic, fill in the blanks, water-logged, masterpiece)

So glamorous, aren’t you? Standing there, delicately sipping your gin and tonic, so cool, so aloof, so unattainable. Your Little Black Dress fits you to a tee and your hair, face and nails are just sooo immaculate. You turn heads, you do, oh yes. There’s not a man in the place who isn’t secretly – and not so secretly in some cases – wanting to, well, you fill in the blanks. Talk of the town? Yes, indeed, the society pages can’t get enough of you, can they? Will she? Won’t she? Did she? Didn’t she? Well, missy, I happen to know that you did – and on more than one occasion, too! You, see, he told me everything, every last sordid little detail. He remembered his wedding vows in the end, you see. Well, I’ll give the gossip columnists something to fill their column inches with. This jug holds about two litres and the water’s freezing cold, just like I ordered. Oh, the looks on their faces – and yours - as I empty it all over that five hundred dollar hairdo of yours. Don’t look so pretty now, do you, my little waterlogged masterpiece.

The 10-Word Challenge (chapter, vigorous, whipped cream, charter member, cut a rug, fling, sparingly, gravity, pregnant pause, universal)

New to Harold? The summary is here.

“That’s quite a story,” said Box thoughtfully, as Harold finished relating the latest chapter in what was turning out to be one of the most bizarre phases of his long life. Weirdness, it seemed had become something of a universal constant, like gravity.

“It is,” the demon agreed, “And it’s all true. But what happened to you? We were worried.”

Box began to pace around the kitchen, his bike leathers creaking with each step.

“After Agent Othello called me to set up that first meeting, I had a visitor who warned me that if I was too helpful, there’d be consequences.”

“Ah,” said Harold, “Teatime said he thought someone else had been at your place before us – he smelt spearmint.”

“Very perceptive of him,” Box thought for a moment, “Wait, which one was he? I only remember two male agents: Mercury and Othello.”

“He was the monkey on my shoulder. Well, he’s a bit more than a monkey really. My father ‘upgraded’ him in return for his service.”

Box narrowed his eyes.

“So the Basement is messing with animals now.” He shook his head disgustedly.

“It’s not like the Penthouse hasn’t done it,” retorted Harold, feeling obliged to stand up for his own ‘team’ – he was, after all, a sort of charter member, having been one of the original Fallen - even if he was not one of its most vigorous ‘players’, “let’s not forget Balaam’s Ass.”

There was a pregnant pause and Harold could feel the tension building like static before a storm. He felt he should say something and defuse the situation because, while he was not exactly planning to cut a rug with the strange little human, the man had helped him and that counted for something. He was about to say something when Box spoke.

“Ok, ok,” he said, spreading his hands in apology, “We could fling things at each other all night, but we’re wasting time. Where was I? “

“You had a visitor,” prompted Harold, glad to return to the matter at hand.

“Oh, yes, that was it. He made it clear I was not to give you any help or I’d pay for it.”

“But you helped us anyway. Wasn’t that a bit risky?”

“It was,” Box admitted, “But I will not be threatened. I’m not stupid though, I got out of there. ”

“And left the shipping receipt for us to find?”

“You, or whoever was threatening me. Took me a while to put it together on the computer, but I was quite pleased with the look of it in the end.”

“You mean it was a fake?”

“Yep.” Box looked pleased with himself, “I knew about the Osprey building from an old case from years ago, so I used the address.”

“I don’t understand,” said Harold. This was all a bit too cloak and dagger for him.

“I wanted to see who’d show up there,“ explained Box, “If it was you guys, I was going to make myself known. If it was the others, I was going to follow them and try to find out what was going on.”
“So you knew about the bomb? Why didn’t you warn us?”

“Zeus’s golden gonads!” cried Box, “Do you think I’d have let you all go walking in if I’d known there was a bomb in there? Of course I didn’t know about any bomb!”

“But if you were watching the place…?”

“Look, I saw that young blonde agent nosing around there, but she cleared off before I could approach. Then a bit later, some guy came along and went into the alleyway. From where I was, I couldn’t see what he was up to. He was in there about five minutes then he came back out. I thought he was just checking the place out, I never dreamed he might have a bomb with him.”

“Then we came along.”

“Then you came along. You went in. Next thing I know, you’re high-tailing it out of there. I went and got my bike to follow you and here we are. The question is: what now?”

“Well, I think I should find out if the others are OK,” said Harold, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “Oh,” he said, reading the display, “Looks like Othello’s been trying to get in touch. Good!”

“Do you trust those agents?” asked Box. Harold stopped dialling and looked at Box enquiringly.

“Yes,” he said, “yes, I do.”

“Good,” said Box, “Text them and say this…”


Dawn was just breaking when Mercury, Othello, Prada and India reached Aunt Aggie’s. As they got out of the car, the sky was lightening to a clear blue apart from a few clouds the colour of whipped cream which were scattered sparingly about.

Othello’s phone beeped. He took it out at read the message.

“What is it?” asked Mercury.

“It’s the demon,” replied Othello, “It’s telling us not to come back here because there’s a traitor in OGS.”

Friday, 4 June 2010

Saturday Wordzzle 112

Well, another weekend rolls around and it's time for another generous dollop of Wordzzle fun.

If you would like to play this excellent creativity-stimulating game (please do), go here for rules, guidance and links to other players.

The mini (gone gravity, variable, swinging on a star, gardening, trombone)

This is the final part of an ongoing story about a young blind seer who has had a vision of danger befalling a young man. She arranges to anonymously fund a holiday for him - only to discover she's sent him to the place where the danger was supposed to be. She catches up with him and they talk. Suddenly, a car comes careering round the corner of the road and, in his attampt to push the blind lady out of its path, the young man in injured. He wakes in hospital, having lost his memory. He is visited often by the seer.

The Seer speaks for the last time...

It’s been a whole year since Ian and I met. The gravity of friendship which initially drew us together deepened almost imperceptibly into something more serious, then finally into this: we are to be married. Tomorrow’s forecast is a bit variable, but whatever the weather throws at us won’t make any difference – it will be the best day of my life. I won’t paint up our future lives with the usual slushy swinging-on-a-star romantic imagery, I know there will be difficulties ahead of us. I’m blind, after all, and Ian still has problems with his memory from time to time which can be both hilarious and tragic by turns. We’ve pooled our resources and have got a little place for ourselves. It’s not much, but Ian can do a bit of gardening, something for which he has found a real love since he was encouraged to try it by his occupational therapist. We won’t lack fresh veg. at least. I’m not quite so sure about some of his other bourgeoning interests though. Ok, photography, I can tolerate, even though I can’t enjoy the end product, but lately he’s been talking about taking up music, learning the trombone maybe. We have neighbours, that’s all I’m saying. Anyhow, tomorrow will be the start of a new life. You know, the most curious thing about all that has happened is I’ve not had a single vision since I met Ian.  Am I saddened by this?  No, the visions were burdensome - especially when there was nothing I could do about them. So, I may not be a Seer anymore, but I predict that everything will be just fine.

The 10-worder (carpenter ants, freak, good as new, jelly beans, olive oil, scamper, champion, goose egg, pizza, ceiling fan)

New to Harold? The summary is here.

“Well that’s where the bomb went off,” said Mercury as the car rounded the final corner. In the middle of a largish piece of waste ground, there was a large crater with piles of dirt, fallen masonry and other disturbed rubbish radiating out from it.

“So where’s the demon got to?” wondered Prada.

“I imagine he would have thought it prudent to conceal himself, pending our arrival,” replied Teatime, who was himself straining to see out of the car window into the darkness. “He’s a bit dim, but he would know enough to keep out of sight once the police sirens started up.”

“Speaking of which,” said Mercury, “I don’t think we can hang around here for too long. Stop the car, but keep the engine running. Maybe it’ll realise we’re here and come out.”

Prada brought the car to a halt and they all waited.

“You could try phoning him,” said Teatime. With an annoyed why-didn’t-I-think-of-that grunt, Othello dug out his mobile and dialled. “No answer,” he said after a while, “Maybe its phone got damaged in the blast.”

“Or maybe it’s decided that this would be a chance to give us the slip, once and for all.” Said India darkly.

“Now look here!” cried Teatime, annoyed by the woman’s constant insinuations. “I don’t think that’s a very fair thing to say, given that he just saved all our lives. If he’d really wanted to get rid of us for good, he could have just run off, but he didn’t.”

India had the good grace to look abashed.

“Monkey’s got a point,” admitted Othello, “Let’s keep an open mind, shall we? I’ll send a text message, you never know.”


They had been travelling for just a couple of minutes but already they were out in the suburbs and, although he couldn’t be sure over the roar of the bike’s engine, Harold was pretty sure the sirens had been safely left behind. He was delighted to discover that zipping along the road in the dark, with the wind streaming though his hair was actually very pleasant. He’d have to get himself one of these marvellous machines!

The mysterious rider turned off the main road into a side street which rejoiced in the name Goose Egg Drive. It was a street of unremarkable family residences such as could be found in just about any town. About half way down the street, the rider slowed the bike and piloted it up onto the driveway of one of the houses. Ahead, a garage door was already rolling upwards and they slid neatly inside. They came to a halt in a very ordinary-looking domestic garage, complete with a pegboard of rusty tools, half-full tins of paint, packets of chemicals for getting rid of carpenter ants and all the usual bric-a-brac. Harold climbed off the bike, followed by the rider, who thumbed a remote control, closing the door.

Now that the rider was standing up, rather than sitting astride the bike, Harold could see that he or she was quite short – the top of his (or her) head only coming up to Harold’s shoulder. The rider reached up and lifted off the all-concealing helmet, to reveal a familiar knobbly brown head.

“Reverend Box!” exclaimed Harold.

“No. Mickey Mouse, who’d you think?” retorted the strange little man, setting down his helmet. “Come on in.” He led Harold through a door into the main part of the house and flicked on the lights. Bright fluorescent light flooded a tidy modern kitchen. The room’s ceiling fan began to turn lazily. After the night's alarums and excursions it all seemed bizarrely normal.

“You’ll be needing energy, no doubt,” said Box, “There’s some cold pizza over there and some olive oil in the cupboard if you need a lot of calories quickly. Don’t touch the jelly beans though, they’re all mine.”

“Pizza sounds good, thanks.” Harold flipped open the box and grabbed a slice. His recovery was going well, but the extra energy would speed him well on his way to being good as new.

Box leaned against the kitchen counter, his bike leathers creaking faintly, and faced Harold.

“So,” he said, folding his arms.


“OK, let’s head back to Aunt Aggie’s,” sighed Mercury, “Doesn’t look like our friend is going to show up now.” There was a murmur of agreement from the others.

As the car began to make its way through the dark, litter-strewn streets, Teatime began to worry. The explosion wouldn’t have been fatal to Harold and he’d certainly had enough time to scamper up to the waiting car if he’d been skulking abut anywhere nearby, so where was he? Had he, as India had so mean-spiritedly suggested, made a bid for freedom? Teatime considered himself a good judge of character and this scenario struck him as extremely unlikely . Grabbing the bomb and removing it to a safe distance was the kind of altruistic nonsense that would have got Harold labelled a freak down in the Basement – actually, most other demons probably thought that about him already, what with his eternal reluctance to involve himself in his father’s diabolical affairs. No, he had been right to act as the demon’s champion, for what it was worth. So, if he had not run off, did this mean that he had disappeared like the other demons? Now that was an upsetting thought - not because Teatime had any huge amount of affection for Harold (although he was sort of vaguely likeable in his simpleminded way), but because it meant losing a useful asset. Harold’s father had always meant for Harold to serve as bait for whoever was behind the disappearances, but his intention had been that the circumstances should be more controlled and that Teatime should be able to report back in a little more detail than he just disappeared, my Lord. He shivered. Harold had better turn up soon or there’d be trouble.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

When the electricity stops flowing

My boss and I were joking the other day about just how useless we would be to society if it were suddenly to collapse. If the electricity stopped flowing, we’d still need Doctors, Farmers, Engineers, Woodworkers, Builders, Blacksmiths, Teachers, Weavers – even Soldiers, but IT Support?

I think not.

I imagine that when the dust finally settled, there’d be some kind of big gathering where all the survivors would get together. Some strong/charismatic/violent leader would be running the show and, because there would be a shortage of resources (Tescos would have been stripped bare long since), we would all have to make a case for being allowed to stay in the community. Those without a sufficiently strong case would be packed off to the ‘Badlands’ (there’s always a ‘Badlands’ in these scenarios - desolate barren places inhabited by mutants, brain-munching zombies or estate agents gone feral).

The conversation would go something like this:

LDR: (Bored) OK, you over there, the tubby one! Yes, you. What was your job before?

ME: Er, I worked in IT.

LDR: Hm, not much call for that now, is there? What else can you do?

ME: Wee-e-e-ll. I can cook – a bit.

LDR: Look, we’ve got three TV chefs already wanting to stay in this community. I’m thinking of making them all fight to the death, last man standing gets the gig. What else have you got? Can you make stuff?

ME: Does card-making count?

LDR: (Sarcastically) Yeah! Of course! Nothing keeps the zombies at bay better than a hand-made birthday card! Can you knit or sew even?

ME: Erm, not really. I can turn up a hem and sew on a button…?

LDR: Sheesh! You’re not making it easy are you? (Turns to Jean-Paul Gaultier) Ok, weirdo, you’ve got the tailoring gig, but just one rubber skirt and it’s the Badlands for you, got it?

ME: I’m quite good with figures…?

LDR: We’ve already got Mr Simpkins, a qualified accountant.

ME: How about someone to keep records? You know, preserve history and all that.

LDR: I’m thinking we should be concentrating on the future right about now. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Thucydides mentioning much about the Athenians battling armies of zombies and mutants – or did I miss something?

ME: (Getting a bit sad and desperate now) But you’ll need story-tellers, musicians and artists, right?

LDR: Maybe. You any good at those things?

ME: Ish. I’ve written a few stories and songs, the odd poem.

LDR: OK, give me a sample of your stuff.

ME: OK, It’s all on my blog – Oh.

At this point, the Leader would signal to his minions and, well, that would be my one-way ticket to zombietown.

I wonder if it's too late to sign up for that bricklaying course I saw...