Monday, 30 January 2012


Yes, it's jolly old Wordzzle time again.  As I donated the words this week, it behooves me to take part at least.

The creator of Wordzzles lives here.

The mini - challenge words: mode, bread, blues, epic, tripod

Arvind was going on and on about how epic he was sounding on his guitar lately.  Apparently, his teacher had just taught him to play blues tunes in the Dorian mode and he was completely smitten with the idea of his own brilliance.  I grunted now and then during his peroration, and adjusted the camera tripod for the umpteenth time, trying in vain to get a really good position from which to film the stage.  Suddenly, I got the perfect placement and locked off the legs with a triumphant grin. ‘Awww, man!!’ groaned Arvind, suddenly. ‘Look what you’ve done!’  I looked to where he was pointing; the leg of the tripod had neatly impaled the little plastic baggie of bread and cheese that was to be Arvind’s lunch.  The ratbag wouldn’t even let me leave it there until the show was over.  Shame, because it gave the perfect angle.

The 10-worder - challenge words: nickel, banshee, render, foil, noodle, aggressive, smooth, hat stand, cat, treat

“He’s gone as mad as a hat stand,” said Gerry into the pretty young reporter’s out-thrust microphone. “Last night, he made himself a hat out of foil - to keep the government out of his noodle, so he said.”  Gerry took a pull at his cigarette and blew out the smoke.  The young reporter’s smile didn’t falter for a moment, even though most of the smoke went into her face. 
“Has he been aggressive?” she asked, “Has he attacked anybody?”  This was the kind of detail her viewers wanted: violence – that or sex.  And today, Nigel Render, lead singer of Smooth Banshee, out on tour for the first time in seven years, had handed her the scoop of a lifetime by having a very public meltdown on stage.
“Nah, he’s a cool cat,” replied Gerry, the band’s drummer. “He wouldn’t hit anybody.  He’s too laid back.  He’s just sitting in his room, flipping a nickel over and over again, muttering to himself, saying we should all treat him with respect.  He’ll come out of it in a bit-”
From somewhere behind him, there came the sound of a single gunshot.
“ – or maybe not.”

And, of course.... Harold.

(Story so far can be read by following the link, top right)

Teatime was still some distance from the house when he heard the sound of Mr Teeth’s shotgun.  He scampered a bit more quickly through the leafy darkness of the lower branches of the many ornamental trees surrounding the property. The scent of oranges hung distractingly in the air, but there was no time for such things now. He got to the edge of the trees at last and peered towards the house.

The security lights at the rear of the property had come on and in their fierce white glare, the little monkey could see two men sprawled on the ground near the open patio door. They appeared to be wearing silvery suits, whose metallic sheen was now being spoiled in places by trickles of blood from the men’s wounds. The men were still moving feebly, and Teatime could hear their faint cursing.

Abruptly, the sound of another shot rang out – a different weapon this time, by the sound of it. This was followed by the sound of something smashing and tinkling inside the house, but Teatime could not see who had fired. It certainly hadn’t been the two men on the ground, so that must mean there were more invisible types about. How jolly annoying! If it weren’t for the fact that the demon and India needed the invisibility suits that Harold had liberated, he was all for going back and advising that they drive away and leave Mr Jackson to sort things out himself.  He seemed capable enough.

The suits were needed, though, and they were in the house. Teatime scratched his chin thoughtfully for a moment. If Mr Jackson could see the intruders properly, he could probably deal with them: he’d probably faced worse odds in his time on the streets as a young man, and he clearly had no qualms about shooting people.

As he gazed around for possible solutions, Teatime’s eye was caught by something over at the base of the back wall of the house. An idea suddenly sprang into the little monkey’s head. It would be risky, as he would be in plain sight if he went over there. Still, he was confident the two wounded intruders were in no position to interfere with his plan, and he was willing to bet that any others would be intent on the doorway into the house.

There was no time to lose. He leapt from the tree, landing lightly upon the smooth green expanse of the lawn, and raced for all he was worth towards the thing he had seen.


“I should have gone with him,” Harold said, as the sound of the second shot came to their ears.

“No,” said Box, firmly, “Those people are bound to be looking for you, and we don’t know if they have any more of those freezing machines. You’re best staying away from them.”

“But what if he gets hurt?” protested Harold, “You humans seem to have no qualms about shooting each other for the slightest reason – a little animal isn’t going to be very safe, is he?”

“He’ll be OK,” said Box, “He’s a smart little creature; he won’t take any unnecessary risks.  Just sit tight.”

Harold slumped unhappily back into his seat. Box was probably right, but if anything happened to the little fellow....

He drummed his fingers.

He tried to think calming thoughts; usually, a nice piece of music would pop into his head to do the job but, tonight, his mental orchestra seemed to be gigging elsewhere.


It was no good.

Harold flung open the car door and jumped out.

“What in the name of Zeus are you doing? Get back here!” barked Box, opening his own door. He and India exited the car as Harold set off down the street towards the high wall encircling Mr Teeth’s garden.

The other two set off after him, India lugging out her taser as she ran.

Harold was already astride the top of the wall when they reached it.

“For pity’s sake, come down!” urged Box, his voice ragged from running.

India didn’t say anything, she simply whipped up her taser and fired.


Teatime covered the ground between the trees and the house in several nerve-wracking seconds. Banking on the idea that the intruders would be looking anywhere but into the garden, he ran in a straight line across the lawn, veering off as he reached the edge of the pool of radiance shed by the security lights. Here, he ran round the edge of the lighted area so as to remain invisible as long as possible.

A low stone balustrade ran round the edge of the patio, which was a stone-flagged area slightly higher than the lawn. Teatime kept this low barrier between himself and the area of the doors as he scrambled quickly round to the house’s rear wall.

Another shot roared from within in the house; the first weapon Teatime had heard had evidently been discharged again. Although the weapon made a terrific racket and shot peppered the area, it had no other effect. Teatime hoped fervently that this did not mean that the other intruders were inside the house already.  If they were, his cunning plan would be to no avail.

Crouching as low as possible and thanking the universe for his grey colouring, he made his way to his objective. At the base of the wall, there was a hinged metal cover. Teatime flipped this up, glancing around nervously to check that he was not being observed. Idiot! He chided himself. They’re invisible. How in the name of all that’s unholy are you going to know if they’re watching you?

Having no means to prop the cover open, Teatime resorted to the undignified expedient of resting it on the top of his head. Behind the cover was a simple control panel, whose controls were labelled in Spanish. Teatime pressed the large green ‘Activar’ button and the ‘sistema de aspersiĆ³n‘ sprang into life.


India skipped smartly out of the way as Harold hit the pavement with a crunch that made even the grizzled Box wince.

“Are you out of your mind, Agent?” Box whispered furiously. Somewhere over the wall, another shot rang out.

“Sorry, didn’t exactly have time to discuss it,” she replied, rolling Harold onto his back with her foot. She leant over him. “Listen, demon. Believe it or not, I did not want to have to do that, but I am not going to let you ruin everything by running off and getting yourself caught. I get that you’re concerned for your little monkey-thing, but he’s way smarter than you are and knows how to keep his head down, which is more than can be said for you.”

The effects of a taser are more severe and longer-lasting for demons’ vessels that they are on humans. This was just as well, because if Harold had been able to move right then, he would have liked very much to throttle Agent India on the spot. She was right, of course – at least in part – which was pretty annoying in itself. Teatime was smart and quick. The thing that really galled him, though, was that India had used her taser on him – again! He hadn’t been planning to just go running in willy-nilly; he had learned that much from recent events, at least. But the fact of the matter was, she clearly still didn’t trust him or respect him at all.

After all they’d been through. After all he’d done to convince her that he was on her side!

What did you expect? said a cynical little voice at the back of his mind. Did you really think they would ever see you as part of their cosy little team and all go running around having jolly adventures together? Wise up, dummy! They’re just using you, and when this is over, it’ll be back to the Basement like nothing ever happened.

“We don’t have time – “ India’s voice trailed off. 

When she’d shot Harold that first time, his eyes had displayed shock and surprise more than anything else.

This time, however, they were absolutely ablaze with anger.


Mr Teeth’s expensive garden sprinkler system came to life.  From many artfully concealed nozzles, jets of water gushed out and began to play over the garden, soaking everything in sight – including the patio.

The state-of-the-art Rainbow Industries camouflage suits were fantastic pieces of technology. Although they were sufficiently waterproof to keep on working perfectly well as the sprinkler water landed on them (they had been developed for the military, after all), they – and the men wearing them – still provided a physical obstruction to the water’s inexorable journey to the ground. At once, two intruders were outlined by the water, sparkling silver in the glow of the security lights, splashing off them. From inside the house, Mr Teeth’s deep bark of laughter came to Teatime’s ears, followed immediately by the roar of his shotgun. The blast caught the two men, who had been crouched close together by the doorway, obviously looking to creep into the house and take its owner by surprise.

As the buckshot tore into them, the hi-tech suits immediately stopped working, leaving two more sprawled silver-suited bodies on the patio. Teatime pushed a large red button on the control panel and the water shut off. He watched as Mr Teeth strode out through the ruined patio door and deftly disarmed all four intruders, before turning to where he was crouched.

Seeing that his saviour had been none other than the tiny monkey, the big man’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Thanks, man, that was good thinking – and good timing.” he rumbled, “I owe you. Never would have thought of using the water like that." His voice turned thoughtrful, "Pity the fancy suits got wasted, though.” Setting his shot gun against the wall, he checked the four men’s injuries – the buckshot had left multiple wounds, but none appeared life-threatening.

He retrieved the gun again and leaned up against the wall where he could see all four downed men.

“What now, Mr Jackson?” asked Teatime.

“Now we wait for Pauli and his boys and then we’ll figure out what to do with these guys.” He waved the tip of the shotgun’s barrel at the erstwhile intruders. Where are the others, anyway?”

“They’re waiting in the next street,” Teatime replied, “I’d better go and fetch them I suppose.” He scampered off into the trees once more.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

It's a sausage roll, so sue me!

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The voice was metallic, slightly grating.

“Huh?” I said. I was just reaching into the open fridge to grab the last sausage roll for my lunch.

“The item you are currently engaged in extracting is of low nutritive value, and contains more than your recommended daily amounts of fat and salt.”

“So?” I retorted, somewhat defensively, “I’m in a hurry, I’ll eat some fruit later or something.”

“Based on records of your past behaviour in this regard, the likelihood of your consuming fruit or vegetables today is calculated to be approximately .02034543%.” I’m sure a note of smugness had crept into the voice as it said this.

Approximately?” I said, sarcastically. My hand hovered over the inviting little plastic tray with its lone occupant – the last survivor of six siblings. My fingers twitched, undecided.

“Yes,” the voice replied, “I am capable of calculating the odds to 20+ decimal places, but given the element of uncertainty inherent at the quantum level, coupled with the element of irrationality with which humans are wont to pepper their decision-making, a calculation even to this level of precision is at best an approximation.”

“Poor you,” I said, picking up the pastry delicacy.

“No,” said the voice, “Poor you. Consumption of that sausage roll will increase the probability of your premature death or disablement by heart disease, cancer or stroke.”

“But it’s just one little…” My voice trailed off.

There had been six rolls a few days ago, now there was just one.

I lived alone and the cat didn’t care for pastry.

My clothes had been feeling a little tight lately.

Sighing, I dropped the sausage roll into the bin. I seemed to remember there being some cottage cheese and celery in the back of the fridge (I have no idea how it got there; I’m sure I didn’t order it. Maybe the cat did it for a joke).

The bin lid thunked closed and I turned back to the fridge and my gastronomic equivalent of a hair shirt.

The voice spoke again.

“The item you have just consigned to the trash was still within its best before date and was undamaged and free of contaminants. According to the government’s policy on domestic waste reduction, I am required to deduct 200 green points from your household account. Your current balance is minus –“

“GIVE ME A BREAK!” I yelled.

Damn SmartHouse(TM)!




Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Seriously, Amazon?

The other day, a friend of mine told me he’d found a Kindle book which told the story of one of the schools we both attended as young ‘uns. As its cost was less than one of your English pounds, I thought I’d track it down for myself.

I duly logged into Amazon and, as I didn’t know the exact title of the book, I just typed the school’s name - ‘Copthorne’ – into the search box.  I'm happy-go-lucky like that.

The results page is reproduced below. The first three results are eminently sensible, but what’s going on with result number four?!

I'm guessing this masterpiece of cinematography had a director whose name was Copthorne or some such.  I note it's listed as currently unavailable - as if there might be stocks of it in the future.  Can't wait.

I'm tempted to wonder what you'd get if you ask Amazon for 'asian ravers' - a book on 12th Century Ecclesiastical Architecture, perhaps, or a treatise on calculus.

Search engines, gotta love 'em!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

First Wordzzle of 2012

It's been ages, I know.  For newbies around here, the idea is to use the random set of words you're given in a piece of writing.  The inventor of Wordzzles is here.

A couple of left-over mini challenges.  These are good little kickstarters for creativity.

Challenge words: wonder, wing, flowers, drunk, purpose

Vroo was having the time of his life. 

The sun was shining, food was plentiful and even the puddle water had tasted extra good today.  He adjusted his wing feathers and began a lazy turn that would carry him across the garden and up onto the roof of The Joneses’ shed, from where he planned to spend the afternoon soaking up the warm rays.


He smashed into unyielding glass, knocking himself senseless.  Luckily, the flowers under the window were there to break his fall.

He lay there for a short while in a state of semi-concussed wonder, one of his wings hurting like crazy.  How had he managed to hit the window? He'd been banking in good time, he was sure, so he should have missed it.

The crows on the fence just about laughed themselves off their perches. Their wicked plan had borne fruit. 

Earlier that day, they had - accidentally on purpose - knocked over a discarded can of beer, spilling its contents into the pigeon's favoured drinking puddle.

There really was no funnier sight than a drunk pigeon.

Challenge words: sweet, whimper, orange glow, flute, dose

The sweet, sad notes of a flute woke me.  Through the window, the dawn sky was lit by an orange glow.  Red sky in the morning, I thought, shepherd’s warning.  The flute died away and was replaced by the tiniest whimper from Mattie, my old king Charles spaniel.  He sat next to his bowl, brown eyes large and liquid with supplication.  I looked at the clock: 18:45.  Not sunrise then but sunset!  Poor Mattie, I had slept the day through, missing his breakfast.  The bottle of cold remedy sat on the dresser where I had left it and next to it lay the spoon I had used to dose myself.  I must have been in a bad way last night – the directions had said 1 TEAspoon.  I picked up the tablespoon and headed for the kitchen, waggy-tailed dog in tow.

And, inevitably, more Harold (see the Story So Far link top right to get caught up)

“Drive on past and don’t slow down” barked Box from the passenger seat.

They had just turned into the road that led to the gates of Mr Teeth’s swiss-cheese-windowed mansion. A white van bearing an Infinity Recycling logo, its lights out, was parked so as to block the gateway. The gates themselves stood ajar. There was no sign of anybody around.

“How on Earth did they find us?” India wondered aloud.

“No idea, but they obviously did.” Box exhaled heavily. “This is not good. We’ll have to assume that Mr Jackson won’t be able to help us now, I think.”

“We can’t just leave him, surely?” said India.

“I’m not sure we have a choice,” replied Box, “We don’t have any weapons apart from your taser and we have no idea how many or how heavily armed the Infinity Recycling people are. Our best bet is to get ourselves away from here. I’m betting the Infinity goons aren’t looking for Mr Jackson anyway, so once they find out we’re not there, they might well just leave.”

“We have to get into the house, anyway, though.” Said India.

Box frowned. “Why’s that?”

“The invisibility suits are in there. We need them if we’re going to get into that building. Plus, if we just wait around for them to go, they might find the suits and take them back. We didn’t exactly hide them.”
Box rubbed his brow.

“OK, ok, drive slowly and let me think.” He sighed.

Harold, Teatime and India waited in tense silence as the little brown man cogitated.

“Alright,” Box said, at length. “The first thing we need is information. Mr Teatime,” he said, turning to the little monkey, “would you be willing to go on a information-gathering mission?”


Mr Teeth woke with a start. He’d been dozing at his desk, waiting for the OGS people to come back from the hospital with their colleague. He cast a bleary eye around for the source of the insistent beeping that had awoken him. On his computer screen, a message balloon had popped up, informing him that the front gate had been opened without authorisation.

Mr teeth had grown up on the streets and had a very keenly developed survival sense. He knew that the OGS people had the code to get in the gates legitimately, so whoever had triggered the alarm was no friend of his, that was for sure.

Silently blessing the foresight that had made him spend so much on his security system, he pulled up the feed from the gate camera.

The gates were ajar. A truck was parked across them, but of its occupants there was no sign.

He flicked through the feeds on all the other cameras around the house and grounds.


He stood up and operated the combination lock on the silver-grey metal cabinet behind his chair. The lock gave one final click and he swung the door open. From inside the cabinet, he took out a pump-action shotgun which he quickly loaded and cocked. He grabbed a handful of extra shells and stuffed them into his pocket – you could never have too much ammo as far as he was concerned.

He made his way out of the study into the unlit hallway, pulling the door closed behind him. He stopped to listen for a moment, at the same time allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

No unusual sounds came to him, but then it would take anybody a little while to reach the house from the gate – even running.

He fished his mobile out of his pocket, quickly thumbed through the contacts list and selected one.

“Pauli, this is Elroy,” he said quietly when the other person picked up the call. “Got some unwelcome visitors here, gonna need you and your boys sooner rather than later.”

“Be there in twenty.”

Mr teeth grunted, ended the call and dropped the phone back into his packet.

There were three ways into the house: the front door, the patio doors at the back, and the door from the garage. Mr Teeth didn’t think that the intruders would come in the front door. The garage would be problematic too, as the intruders would have to get it open, then skirt the car to get to the house door, which was an extra obstacle if locked – which it was. No, too much could go wrong with that, and it would take too much time for them.

That left the patio doors.

With the house empty but for himself, only Mr Teeth’s study had been lit.

Keeping out of direct line of sight of the living room doorway, he moved quietly along the dark hall until he could stand to one side of the door to the living room and look in.

A rectangle of pale moonlight marked the position of the patio doors. Through them, Mr teeth could see a smooth expanse of lawn running down to the trees and the ornamental pond. Nothing moved out there; not even the wind stirred the tree branches tonight.

After about a minute, Mr Teeth became aware of a soft sound, a kind of metallic clicking, coming from where the patio door lock was located. Someone was trying to pick the lock. So, whoever it was had elected to take a quiet approach.

Mr teeth steadied the barrel of the shotgun against the doorframe assumed a more balanced stance. He could still not see anyone out there – and his PIR-activated lights had not come on either, which they most certainly should have done by now. Clearly, whoever was out there had access to one of those invisibility suits that the OGS girl and the demon had been going on about.

This was a problem: there was no telling how many people were out there. The van he had seen on the camera feed looked like it could hold half-a-dozen people at most. Six to one were not great odds and when the six were invisible….

Part of Mr Teeth’s brain kept trying to tell him to exercise that particular type of discretion which is the better part of valour and beat feet out of there. A more stubborn part of it, however, put its fingers in its ears and hummed loudly; this was his home after all and he would not be driven out of it.

A soft click came from the lock area. Mr Teeth angled the barrel of the shotgun towards that spot.

The patio door began to slide open – all by itself, apparently.

Mr Teeth fired.