Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Clear and present danger

The Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Fine. Perfectly happy with that.

Thing is, nobody in the Bible is having to try and sort out a birthday present for my mum by next week, are they? They’d be a damn sight less carefree with the old ‘blesseds’ if they did, I can tell you.

I’m really struggling to get her something and it’s only 6 days away. Yes, I know, it comes around once a year.  Yes, I know it’s not a moveable feast and does not occur randomly and I shouldn’t act all surprised about it. Hehe, imagine if birthdays were random. I bet the only cards on sale would be Sorry-I-Failed-to-Accurately-Predict-Your-Special-Day ones.

But I digress.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t want to buy her a present. I enjoy giving gifts, and not just to get extra helpings of blessedness either in case you were wondering. No, I’d happily fork out for several presents - a small Everest of presents even (can you have a ‘small’ Everest, or do they only come in one size. Never mind!  Focus!). It’s the least I can do after all she’s done for me in my life. No, I promise I have absolutely no generosity-deficit issues .

The thing is, she’s seventy-seven this year, which kind of cuts down on the choice of suitable giftage.

I cannot, for example, buy her a snowboard and, to be fair, she’s never actually showed much interest in snowboarding anyway.  Besides, a snowboard would only end up at the back of the cupboard with that scuba gear I bought last year. Talk about waste of money!

I’m joking of course - she’s a little old lady for goodness sake, what kind of daughter do you think I am?

She is still very busy and active though, and has in recent years done crazy stuff like camping in the Amazonian rain forest (3 years ago), doing a rainforest canopy walk (same holiday) or climbing to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge (2 years ago). She’s almost never at home in the daytime. Her and her posse of pensioner pals are usually chilling at the Thursday Lunch Club or busting some moves at the old time dancing - when they’re not comparing medical horror-stories or practising extreme flower arranging, that is.

Hobbies? Yes, she likes jigsaw puzzles and crosswords.

Thing is, I’ve pretty much done them to death aver the last few years and I want something a bit different. Ditto with flowers and chocolates.

Funeral gift vouchers?  Hmmm, maybe not.

She has plenty of clothes, perfume and smellies. She’s not big on jewellery and lives in a modern, well-equipped house. She lacks for nothing. Nothing, I say!

And that’s the trouble.

I keep asking her what she’d like, to which she invariably replies “oh, nothing”. But let me even consider the merest hint of the possibility of rocking up on her special day armed with “nothing”, and let’s face it, you’d be able to stop worrying about global warming for a start. There’d be polar bears strolling about in Harrod’s before you could turn around. There’d be, as we brits say, a bit of an atmosphere.

My brother made that mistake once, turning up with the “nothing” that she’d suggested and she’s never forgotten it (he was three, for pity’s sake, Mother! Let it go!)

There’s always money, I suppose.

She does like to save it up for when she goes on holiday with my older sister and you can never have too much spending money on holiday, can you? Yeah, that’s all very well, but money’s not a proper present, is it? It just seems a bit lazy and lacking in imagination somehow. Also, there’s no mystery to it. The recipient knows exactly how much you spent on their present (read: how much they think you’re worth). Mind you, the upside is you pretty much never have to return it to the shop because it’s the wrong size.

If only she collected things like stamps or antique garden gnomes or something.  She did used to collect stuff (not garden gnomes thank goodness). Years ago, there was this range of ornaments she was fond of, featuring comically anthropomorphic pigs in various humorous situations, each called Piggin’-something-or-other. Not especially brilliantly funny, these ceramic porkers, but damned convenient for the would-be gift giver.

She gave them all away to charity a couple of years ago after seeing even the rarest of them going for about 60p on eBay.

But this is not helping!

I need ideas, people!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Wordzzle 136

Made it!  There's going to be a Thanksgiving break next week.  Raven's talking about a break until after Christmas.  If you want me to do some Harold episodes in the meantime as non-Wordzzles, let me know in the comments.

As always, the skinny on this excellent creativity exercise is to be found at Raven's Nest.

The Mini (thank, teacher, movies, unleash, lamp shade)

And I’d like to thank my primary school teacher, Mrs Cooper, who used to make me stand in the corner with a lampshade on my head as a punishment for being ‘as stupid as mud’. Well Mrs C, I hope you’re watching, because it’s down to you that I’m here tonight. You see, under that old lampshade, my little brain used to dream up all kinds of horrors that I wanted to unleash upon you for making me feel so small, and these ideas became the stories for my movies. Finally, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to the Academy for awarding Best Picture to Splatterfest III……

The 10-Worder (career, incense, prosperity, chloroform, cane, electrical outlet, preponderance, salivate, chopped liver, pillows)

New to Harold? Catch up here

Dr Flowers looked down at the patient in room 22b, his bald, brown head dark against the snowy whiteness of the pillows. He was still pretty drowsy after his surgery, which was to be expected. She flipped through his chart, running a practised eye over the scribbled notes and jotted numbers. How many times had she done that in her career, she wondered. She dropped the chart back into its holder at the foot of the bed and the noise caused the patient to open his eyes and stare at her blearily.

“Hello,” she said in her best bedside voice, “I’m Doctor – “ she panicked for a moment as she suddenly realised it would be stupid to used her real name. She cast around the room for inspiration but ‘electrical outlet’ or ‘IV stand’ were not going to be good choices. “Prosperity Cane,” the name of her old Gym teacher rushed into her head to save the day.

“Hmph?” said the patient thickly, smacking his lips and pulling an irritated face.

“Here,” Flowers pressed a glass of water to his lips, “Drink this and wash it round your mouth. We always give patients undergoing surgery drugs to dry up their secretions, so you won’t be able to salivate properly for a few hours, I’m afraid. Still,” she went on brightly, “at least it’s not like the old days when we just used to chloroform people and hope for the best.”

Box slurped the water gratefully. His mouth had felt cottony and his tongue felt about twice the proper size.

“Thanks,” he croaked, “Needed that.”

Flowers replaced the glass on the cabinet beside the bed and took Box’s hand. She turned it over to expose the back of it where the surgical team had conveniently left a canula in place in case emergency drugs needed to be administered post-operatively.

Reaching out, she picked up the syringe she had prepared earlier and inserted its needle into the canula.
“I’m just going to give you a little something for the pain,” she lied soothingly, as she pressed the plunger.


The late afternoon sun slanted through one of the open swiss-cheese windows and the mildest of breezes carried in with it a heady, incense-like mix of scents from the preponderance of exotic flora in Mr Teeth’s garden.

Harold was sitting on one of Mr Teeth’s sofas, still looking somewhat bewildered, although much more ‘with it’ than he had been. Teatime was still speaking to him in urgent Infernal. Phrases which sounded like ‘pastiche’, ‘curlew’ and ‘chopped liver’ surfaced occasionally in the rapid river of the little monkey’s words. Across the room, India listened with some interest, even though she could not understand a word of Infernal – no human could, since demons were not in the business of giving language lessons. One sound did pop up time and time again, though – Azuriel. She jotted it down in her notebook. She couldn’t be certain of course, but she was pretty sure that this was the demon’s actual name. What luck to have over heard it.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Weekly Wordzzle 135

Easily the hardest set of words EVER!   Go to Raven's Nest for rules, next lot of words and other players this week.

The Mini ( martini, galloping, stallion, ocean, musical)

Erica sat in the darkest corner of the pub, hoping that soon she could slip away unnoticed.  Around her, the Company Christmas party was galloping along at full speed.  She hated these occasions; people who were sober, sensible and quite likeable in the daytime got a few drinks inside them and were transformed into complete arseholes.  She let her mind drift lazily on the ocean of noise – the usual people shouting and laughing, a musical cacophony provided by no less than two competing juke boxes plus a table of drunken idiots from Shipping trying to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas - badly.  Her heart sank as she spotted Daniel Ingram with his new squeeze Emily Adams draped all over him.  He was weaving drunkenly towards her, a blurrily purposeful look on his face like he wanted to tell her something.  She looked around but there was no way past the two of them.  As they got closer, the smell of Daniel’s Black Stallion aftershave washed over Erica.  To think she once considered that smell quite sexy!  “Hi Erica,” Daniel  gushed, “This is Martini.”  Emily looked at him in puzzlement, she’d obviously not heard him call her that before.  “Yeah,” he went on, happily oblivious, “She’ll do it any time, any place, any where!”  and with that, he collapsed into giggles.  Suddenly furious, Emily sloshed her drink into his face before shoving him roughly out of her way and stalking off.  Daniel looked at Erica, baffled.  “What’s up w’ her?” he asked.  “Mardy cow!  Never mind," he grinned, "I’ve still got you, haven’t I?”  Scowling, Erica picked up her own drink and, waste though it was, baptised him a second time before pushing past him and making good her escape. 

The 10-Worder (chilly, free for all, fit as a fiddle and ready for love, cows, phone book, casserole, witch, wedding, courage, passionate )New to Harold? Catch up here

Despite the heat of the day, Agent India suddenly felt rather chilly. Her knowledge of demonkind was admittedly still rather limited as yet, but even so, she had never heard of anything like this happening before. Demons never simply stopped. On Harold’s shoulder, Teatime was still worriedly prodding and poking him in a vain attempt to stir up any kind of response, but it was as if some wicked witch had cast a spell and frozen Harold where he stood.

She fished in her pocket for her phone to call Mercury. Before she could dial the number, however, the phone rang and it was Mercury on the line.

“Oh, thank goodness!” exclaimed India, “I was just going to call you. Something's -“

“Just a minute,” interrupted Mercury, “Where are you?”

“At Box’s friend’s house, why?”

“We’ve just had a call from Box. He’s in the hospital. Some people came to the house and he got shot getting away from them. They were in a white truck.”

“There’s a white truck here now,” said India, suddenly feeling her courage wobble the tiniest bit. Guns. Again.

“Are they aware of you?” Mercury’s voice was sharp, urgent.

“I don’t think so,” she replied, “We’re in the little street at the back of the house – I don’t think they could see us from where they are.”

“OK, you need to get out of there. Now!”

“Erm, that’s what I was calling about. Something’s happened to the demon. It’s just frozen in place. It’s like it's become a statue or something.”

“What about the monkey?”

India glanced over to see Teatime still fussing over Harold.

“He’s not affected so far as I can see, but doesn’t seem to understand it any more than I do.”

“Hmm,” said Mercury, “Box said the people in the white truck said something about a ‘field’ preventing escapes. I guess that’s what he must have meant.”

“Oh, no, I hope that doesn’t mean they know we’re here.” Said India, feeling her heart speeding up.


The rear door to the Infinity Recycling truck swung open and Moira Ibbotson poked her head in.

“OK, we’re clearing out. Might as well shut down.”

Conrad Black, who had been running the field generator, grunted acknowledgement. He would be the first to admit that his people skills were rudimentary at best, but he didn’t care: it was electronics he was passionate about, and this hunk of complex circuitry in particular. He had designed a large part of it and built most of it himself. It had worked flawlessly every time. He was as proud of it as a parent would be of a gifted child.

He gave the case a little pat as the shutdown sequence started. He turned away from the console to tidy away his notes and, as he did so, he thought he saw a faint flicker right on the edge of the display showing the field’s area of effect. Frowning, he turned back to look properly, but by then the shutdown had completed and the screen was dark.

He drummed his fingers on the console for a few moments, undecided. Should he start the machinery back up or not? On the one hand, it would be a waste of time if there had been nothing there. On the other, ff there had been a demon there and he missed it just because he couldn’t be bothered to check…

Sighing, he began the startup sequence: detectors first, then the field generator itself.


Somehow India had expected Harold to weigh less than a real person. His vessel, after all, was not made of flesh and blood, but he weighed more or less what you’d expect a six-foot tall human male to weigh, worse luck.

“This is utterly ludicrous,” she muttered angrily. It was easy for Mercury to say that she had to try and get the demon out of the field’s area of effect, but it wasn’t him who was puffing and panting and losing all dignity trying to do it, was it?

She had initially tried to wrap her arms about Harold’s body just under his armpits, lean his inert form over at an angle and drag him along backwards, but she had lost her grip and he had toppled to the ground.

A mean little part of had her hoped it hurt.

Now she found herself digging in her heels and dragging Harold along a bit at a time using two handfuls of his jacket. If anybody were to see them…

One foot, heave, two feet… How far would she have to - ?

Suddenly, Harold thrashed and cried out, causing India to let go of him and fall backwards hard onto her backside.

In a flash, Harold was on his feet, looking around wildly, a glassy, panic-stricken look on his face. He spotted India sitting on the ground but his eyes flicked away from her without registering anything, he clearly did not know who she was. He was about to bolt, but Teatime sprang onto his shoulder and started talking urgently to him in rapid Infernal. India scrambled to her feet, grabbed Harold’s arm and started pulling him along the street towards where the car was parked.

“Come on!” she urged, “We have to go. Right now!”


Black looked at the screen. Nothing. Not a flicker. Must just have been his imagination or maybe just a random blip. Either way, there was nothing there now. He shut down the machine once more, satisfied that at least he’d checked properly. He opened a little sliding hatch, allowing him to talk to the two others in the front of the truck.

“… it was a total free for all, cows everywhere. Ruined the wedding completely.” Church was in the middle of saying.

“All shut down back here,” Black reported.

“OK, thanks,” said Ibbotson, who was in the driver’s seat. She started the engine and the radio came on with the ignition. The sound of Fit as a Fiddle and Ready for Love filled the truck’s cabin. Black slid the hatch closed firmly, shutting out the noise. He had never understood what people got out of music. For all the pleasure he got from it, he might as well be listening to somebody read out the contents of the phone book or recipes for casserole. Pointless.

He felt the truck lurch into life and start moving off. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A New Home in the Sky - Remembering

Today we decided, as Klueless was behaving itself tolerably well, that we would make an effort to perform a proper act of remembering at 11 o'clock and not just sit slack-jawed at our desks for two minutes.

So, with the wind blustering and the rain falling, we adjourned to the Cathedral Suite.  Spare Change Guy greeted us from his usual place in the underpass, a giant puddle creeping gradually nearer to him as the rain fell. It will be interesting to see if he will keep to the same spot as the winter weather cuts in.

Quite a few people were in the Cathedral Suite before us, although most of them seemed to be there as tourists, and there were some students at one end doing some kind of performance art thing - or so it looked to us.  They were quite noisy and we hoped they would quiet down in time for the two minutes' silence.

They did.

And then it was like this:

The eleven O’Clock bells chime
And down from the leaden sky
The silence drifts like a blanket.

We stand bareheaded under the grey.
Strangers all, come together here
Among the ruins, to remember.

We look skyward unseeing, or shoe-ward,
While the November wind and rain
Go about their business, unconcerned.

A silver ribbon of music
Unwinds from a bugle’s mouth
And goes floating on the sodden air.

In this roofless ruin
The high clear notes echo round
Touching here stone, here wood, here heart.

Then the city stretches and stirs, waking.
The silence is rolled up
And put away for another year.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Weekly Wordzzle 124

A short one this time, I'm afraid.  Really struggled this week - even with the mini.  The award for Most Contrived Scene to Get Rid of a Few Words goes to the dream sequence in Harold's thing this week.

For this week's other players and next week's words go to Raven's Nest.

The Mini (just like you, leaves, everything in the store, continuing, dramatic)

"He's continuing to be trouble, that boy, just like you were at that age," the old woman said, dustpan and brush in hand.
"Oh, don't be so over-dramatic," her daughter said, scornfully, "He's just a little boy."
"He's a mini tornado," the old woman shot back, "The minute his grandfather leaves, he's into everything in the store. This is the second jar of aniseed balls he's smashed this week!" She began sweeping up the broken glass and many hundreds of little round sweets, which were determined to go rolling about in all directions..
"OK," the younger woman sighed, "How much do I owe you this time?"

The 10-Worder (charity, clouds, empty bottles, Give me Liberty or Give me Death, medicine, shrimp, clear as a bell, credible, hole, Aunt Sally)

New to Harold? Catch up here

"Dr Holton here,"

"Hello, Sally, it's Evangeline Flowers here."

"Who? I'm sorry, the line's not very good. Can you speak up a bit?"

"It's Evangeline Flowers. Can you hear me now?"

"Yes, clear as a bell now. Shrimp? Is that really you? It's been ages!"

Dr Flowers winced. Trust Sally Holton to remember that old nickname. Still...

"Yes, I know, doesn't time just fly by when you're having fun."

"Oh, are we having fun now then?" Dr Holton laughed, "I didn't get that memo. Anyway, what can your old Aunt Sally do for you?"

Trust her to remember that nickname too, thought Dr Flowers as she quickly marshalled her thoughts. Sally was as sharp as ever, so it would need to be something credible. Ever since they had begun studying medicine together, Flowers had known Sally Holton to possess the twin drawbacks of being nobody's fool and of being extremely curious. She would have to tread carefully to get her help without too many awkward questions.

"Yeah, er, I was wondering if you could get me out of a bit of a hole, actually."


The lady detective, Charity Lambert, dressed in the tight-fitting leather jumpsuit she had sported on the cover of her latest adventure Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death was standing over his bed smiling down at him. In her hands were two empty bottles. He thought it was rather odd that she should be here given that a) he was in the hospital (at least he thought he was, he was no longer sure now), oh, and b) let's not forget the fact that she was a fictional character from the cheap trashy novels which were his secret guilty pleasure. Why on earth was she here? He gazed up at her, puzzled, as she leant down and opened her lusciously-painted lips to whisper something into his ear. Her voice was low, with a slightly husky quality. "Listen very carefully..." He strained to hear whatever it was she was about to impart to him, it was obviously important, maybe it was something to do with the bottles. "...I shall say this only once.."

Abruptly, she dissolved into pink fluffy clouds which cleared to reveal a nurse standing beside his bed.

"Mr Box," she said, "We're taking you down to surgery now."

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Summer in Dublin

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I used to live in Ireland - Shannon, Co Clare, to be precise. My husband and I moved there just after we were married as he had secured a job with a small electronics company based in Shannon.

I was 17. I knew nobody (apart from hubs) and had no skills of any measureable worth so couldn't get a job myself. So I was a 'housewife' and to ease the long days I used to listen to RTE Radios 1 and 2.

One of the songs that was playing around that time was 'Summer in Dublin' by Bagatelle.

I just found it on YouTube. I've always really loved this song and it always takes me back to those days.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Weekly Wordzzle 123

At last!  Late again due to illness, both mine and hubby's, but here it is.

Go to Raven's Nest for rules and next week's words.  Why not join in?

The Mini (gargoyle, flounder, screech, Saturday evening, locked up)

It was that idiot, Flounder Buttress's fault, Screech thought miserably, as he tried to get comfortable on the narrow wooden bench that was the cell's only furniture.

He should have known better than to go along with the harebrained scheme of somebody from the North Transept – everybody knew they were unstable at the best of times.

"I'm bored." Flounder had said. "Let's go down below. It's been ages since I visited and I want to see what it's like nowadays."

At first, Screech had resisted the temptation. There were strict rules about that sort of thing, after all, but Flounder had wheedled and cajoled: it would be dark, nobody would see, nobody would know, and Screech had eventually given in, telling himself that he was just along to keep Flounder out of trouble.

The thing was, it had been a busy Saturday evening and there had been crowds of people strolling about enjoying themselves in the city centre. The other thing they hadn't counted on had been the abundance of electric light everywhere. Needless to say, it hadn't been long before the screaming and pointing had started.

Flounder had run off as soon as the police had arrived, leaving Screech to face the music alone.

Now, here he was, Screech Cornice, respected gargoyle of the Lady Chapel and faithful servant of St Anne's cathedral, lo, these eight hundred years, locked up for causing a breach of the peace.

The Dean was going to be furious!

The 10-Worder (defensive, volume, masterpiece, category, momentarily, advisor, public radio, charter, eleven days, ostrich)
New to Harold? Catch up here

Dr Flowers tutted irritably as the phone rang, breaking her concentration. In her considered opinion, the telephone belonged to the category of human inventions which she earnestly wished she could live without. For one thing, its impertinent ringing always sounded so damned loud in her small office and she had never figured out how to turn down the volume. She snatched up the instrument.

"Flowers," she snapped.

"Dr Flowers, this is Haynes."


"There's been a bit of a problem,"

Here we go, she thought.

"Go on."

She listened as Haynes outlined the events that had taken place at the address RolexBoy has given them. There had been no demon present when the team had arrived. One of the people on RolexBoy's list had been there, but had fled and was now in Mercy hospital, having been injured leaving the scene.

Flowers sighed, if it wasn't one thing, it was another. First it was the uprooting of their entire operation to a more secure location, based on RolexBoy's dire predictions of discovery, now he had led them all on a wild goose-chase looking for demons which weren't there, and had exposed their operation anyway. Some 'special advisor to the project' he was turning out to be. She was momentarily at a loss for what to say.

"Where is everybody now?" she asked eventually/

"Church, Ibbotson and Black are at the house still, looking for any more information. Jones and Charter are at the hospital. Charter has managed to confirm the identity of the guy they followed there, Nathaniel Box. He's scheduled for surgery, apparently, so he won't be going anywhere for a while."

Flowers thought for a moment. "Did you say Mercy Hospital?"

"Yeah, Mercy."

"OK, tell Jones and Charter to stay put and wait for further instructions."

"What about the others?"

"Tell them to clear out when they're done."

Flowers replaced the handset and thought for a few moments. Mercy Hospital, Haynes had said. Interesting. She'd spent six years, nine months and eleven days of her life walking its fluorescent-lit wards and hallways (not that she was counting or anything). All may not be lost, after all. She flipped open her File-O-Fax, located a phone number and began to dial.


India stopped the car on Ostrich Egg Drive which led onto Goose Egg, where Box's friend's house was, and switched off the engine.

There was a short, rather defensive silence, which India broke.

"I suggest we get to the end of Goose Egg and check out the lie of the land from there. If it all looks ok, we can move in a bit closer."

Harold nodded, it sounded like a plan, and they both got out of the car.

Teatime proved his worth when they got to where Goose Egg and Ostrich Egg joined. There was a high hedge bordering the end property on Goose Egg which meant that they could not see into Goose Egg Drive itself without walking around the corner and thus possibly revealing themselves to anybody who might be lurking at the house..

"Why don't I climb to the top of that hedge for a quick recce," the little monkey suggested, as Harold and India stood debating what to do.

"Go for it," said Harold, "If there is anybody hanging around there, they almost certainly won't be looking out for a monkey."

Teatime leapt lightly from Harold's shoulder, and quickly and competently scaled the hedge, disappearing from view.

"He's a smart little monkey," said Harold, keen not to let the silence deepen into awkwardness.

"I suppose," India agreed noncommittally. As a child, she had been fascinated by how clever animals were after hearing some old professor giving a series of talks about it on National Public Radio. Of course, she knew perfectly well that Teatime wasn't just an ordinary monkey, that he'd been given an upgrade, as it were. In her opinion, therefore, he didn't really deserve any credit for his cleverness, unlike the dolphins and pigeons in the old professor's talks.

"Yes," continued Harold, "he really is a masterpiece of infernal engineering."

"I'm not sure 'masterpiece' is the word I'd use," replied India, dryly. "I think what was done to him was wrong. There are some things that shouldn't be meddled with."

"Well maybe so," replied Harold, "but some human scientists were about to do some serious meddling of their own, so you can hardly blame him for wanting to get away."

"I guess," India admitted.

At that moment, Teatime's head appeared, looking down on them from the hedge-top.

"There's a big white truck parked outside the house," he informed them. "There's no sign of Reverend Box, though, that I can see."

"I wonder if he's hiding in the house, waiting for the truck to go away." said Harold.

"Perhaps we should approach from the back and see if we can see anything."

They walked back along Ostrich Egg until they came across a little side road running parallel with Goose Egg Drive. They turned down it and were delighted to discover that the backyards of the houses on Goose Egg backed directly onto it, screened off by a high wooden fence.

"We should be about there I think," India said, stopping next to a section of fence. She tried to peer through the gaps in the planks, but could see nothing but foliage. "Would Mr Teatime care to do the honours, once more?" she asked.

"I expect he'll b–" Harold started to say, and stopped.

India turned to him questioningly.

Harold was standing completely still next to the fence, and had frozen in mid-sentence, his lips parted to say his next word. He was looking straight at her – or at least at where she had been standing before she had turned back to him. One of his hands was stretched out where he had evidently been about to reach out and touch the fence.

"What's going on?" said India, "Why has it stopped?"

"I have no idea," said Teatime in a worried voice.

"Demon?" said India, peering up into Harold's still face. "Hey! Come on!" She snapped her fingers in front of his eyes but he didn't so much as blink. "If this is one of your tricks.." she muttered.

"I really don't think it's any trick," said Teatime.

India jabbed Harold firmly in the chest with a finger. No reaction.

Teatime tugged sharply on a lock of his hair. No reaction.

"Come on, old button," he urged, "Now's not the time to fall asleep on the job."

But Harold simply stood there, the breeze ruffling his hair, as still and as lifeless as a statue.