Friday, 30 September 2011

The Crap You Get on Facebook Sometimes.

I saw the below posted on my brother-in-law's Facebook status this afternoon.
"GOOD LUCK EVERYONE !!~~This year October has 5 Mondays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This Happens once every 823 years. This is called money bags. So copy this to your status and money will arrive within 4 days. Based on Chinese Feng Shui. The one who does not copy, will be without money. Copy within 11 mins of reading. Can't hurt so I did it :) IT CAN'T HURT"

I really hate these things. They’re like those awful, awful chain e-mails and texts you get sometimes. My response (as posted on MY status, is this:

OK, let's be clear here. Humans appeared on Earth at an arbitrary point in its lifetime. Some arbitrary point after this, we started giving names to the days, months, seasons and whatnot. That there are 5 Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays (or anything else) in an arbitrarily-named time period - no matter how rarely it occurs, means nothing. Zip, Zilch. Nada.

The universe does not go by what we say - or by what we post on Facebook.

Even if every single FB user pasted the above tripe into their status, the ONLY thing that would happen is that FB's DBAs (database administrators) would probably have to consider adding disk space to accommodate such an extra load of meaningless twaddle. I daresay they're used to it - they've probably got auto-grow on the database files set up anyway.

But I digress.

The universe runs on Physics, not people's wishes.

Money will arrive in 4 days? Why 4 days? Why not tomorrow?

Based on Chinese Feng-shui? Ah yes, that well-known and scientifically proven set of principles that has more to do with where best to put your pot-pourri than with the calendar, last time I looked.

The one who does not copy will be without money. Really? I rely on having a job to give me money - not mumbo-jumbo.

And 11 minutes to re-post? Again, purely random. Eight I would have understood, as I believe it's deemed lucky in Chinese numerology (as we seem to be taking a taxi the hell OUT of Rationality City, I thought I'd mention it).

No it can't hurt anything - except YOUR BRAIN!

Let's take responsibility for our actions. Work hard.  Pay your dues.  Give one another a helping hand occasionally, and I can pretty much GUARANTEE the world WILL be a better place.

Not bollocks, just common sense.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thursday Wordzzle

Boy, does work ever get in the way of blogging!

I thought I'd try my hand at a mega 15 word Wordzzle this week, just to see if I still can.

For rules and similar such poop, go to Raven's Nest

Challenge words: corn, chalice, perpendicular, what if, leaves, relief, teaching, healer, ramp, diamond ring, peek-a-boo, highest, shallow, willing, imagination

Normally, dealing with Galactic Emperor Phloxx XXII, Keeper of the Perpendicular Chalice, Guardian of the Sacred Teaching, Wielder of the Eternal Diamond Ring of Arcturus, Holder of the Highest something-or-other (truth to tell I’ve forgotten the whole rigmarole - it goes on for pages and pages) is about as much fun as playing peek-a-boo with a spitting cobra.

Today, however, I don’t know if it’s just my imagination, but he seems more.... reasonable. More willing to listen to his advisors - which is a bit of a pity. The trouble with him is, you see, he’s basically a spoilt little boy. The trouble with him is, he is a spoilt little boy who wields immense power. When most little boys don’t get their own way, a toy might get broken. When Phloxx doesn’t get his own way, whole worlds burn.

Not that he’s a bad fellow, you understand, just a little shallow in the thinking department - centuries of inbreeding will do that to the best of us. Nobody’s ever stood up to him and so he just does as he pleases – often with deadly consequences for somebody.

I often ask myself, what if he’d had proper guidance from wise teachers as a youth. How different things might have been. What accomplishments he might have boasted of!

Such wishful thinking is pointless, though, and just leaves one more dissatisfied than ever.

He’s immensely fat these days. Despite my advice, he will keep on eating and eating – corn-fed chicken is his current favourite, and the palace chefs are working their fingers to the bone to ensure there’s always a fresh dish on hand whenever he should take it into his head to call for it. We’ve had to have a ramp installed so he can waddle up to his throne (his vanity will not allow him to use a powered chair or any other aid. Sign of weakness, he calls it).

Sad then that he was so affable just now, because today his chicken will contain an extra ingredient.

I know I will not long outlive him, his guards are nothing if not loyal and, even if he is congenitally stupid, the guard captain is not.

I know history will vilify me as a regicide and as the healer who betrayed his patient’s sacred trust.

I also know that the empire will breathe a collective sigh of relief.

And this week's Harold (there is a link top right to the story so far)

Agents Mercury, Othello and Prada looked up guiltily as the door opened. They had been going through the few drawers and cupboards in the conference room, looking for a plug-in telephone after Othello had spotted a socket for one on the wall.

Agent Moon walked in.

“Moon! Tell your goons to let us go!” Prada was on her feet and shouting before the door was even closed behind him.

“Agent Prada,” warned Mercury, “let’s just stay calm and see what Moon has to say for himself.” He looked enquiringly at the latter. “Well?”

Prada slumped grumpily into a seat and began to worry at a hangnail with her teeth. Moon perched himself on the corner of the long conference table and surveyed the three of them. He looked different somehow, more confident, more mature and self-assured.

“Look,” he began, “I realise that this looks really bad –“

“Ya think?” muttered Prada, which earned her a frown from Mercury.

“- but, please believe me when I say that what’s going on here, what I’m involved in, is one of the most important projects this world has ever seen.”

“That’s a bold statement,” said Othello, “Care to elucidate?”

Moon took a moment to scratch at his temple as he composed his thoughts.

“I’d be more than happy to, believe me, but first I need some information from you guys.”

“Oh?” said Mercury, guardedly.

“Yeah, it’s just a small thing really, but I really need to know where Agent India and your pet demon are right now.”

Mercury, Prada and Othello looked at each other briefly, then Mercury spoke.

“And why would you need to know that, Agent?”

“We’re at a very sensitive stage in our work here,” Moon replied, “We really can’t afford to have unpredictable elements running about the place, disturbing things. It’s just too important.’

”You don’t seriously expect us to tell you, just like that, surely.” Said Prada.

Moon sighed. “I suppose not, but I thought it was worth while to ask, anyway.”

“So what now?” said Prada, “You going to start threatening us? Get one of your goons to shoot one of us like you did to Emerald? Like you did to Box?”

Moon’s face reddened.

“Those things were never meant to happen like that, I swear.” He said fervently. “A few people misunderstood what they were supposed to be doing and …” he trailed off, and suddenly, for a moment, he was the Moon they recognised - young, uncertain.

“Did whoever it was who planted the bomb in the warehouse misunderstand as well?” asked Othello, “Only, it seems to me that setting up something like that would take a certain amount of premeditation. Firing a gun can be a spur of the moment thing, but not planting explosives, that takes planning. You’re going to have to do better than that, Moon.”

Moon showed his palms in a conciliatory gesture. “You’re right, of course. In retrospect, it was a stupid thing to have done and, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry, I really am. It’s just that what we’re doing here is so very important.”

“Look, Fallen and Loyal alike have disappeared completely,” said Mercury, “Gone. Vanished. Not dismissed – which was always sufficient before now, but vanished. Are you destroying them somehow? And why target the Loyal when they’re on our side, for pity’s sake! Don’t you realise that you’re upsetting an ancient arrangement that has stood the test of time for centuries?”

“I understand that there are serious implications to what we’re doing here, believe me,” said Moon, “We appreciate that neither the Basement nor the Penthouse is going to be happy with what we’re doing here, but – “ he stood up and began pacing, as if about to deliver a speech.

“Humans have always been stuck in the middle between the two of them, at the mercy of either temptation from the Basement or whatever crumbs of bounty the Penthouse sees fit to bestow.”

“But that’s how it’s meant to be,” interrupted Prada. “If it – “

“Let me finish, please,” said Moon, cutting her off. “The Fallen and the Loyal have abilities that none of us humans can match and yet they hardly ever use them. There’s so much good they could do in the world but they don’t. Why? Because of some ancient agreement – to which we were not even party!”

“Moon, you know perfectly well why they can’t get involved in human affairs,” said Mercury, a not of irritation creeping into his voice. “Any one of them could rule this world without hardly lifting a finger if it so chose. The arrangement is for our protection, so that we are free to conduct our affairs as we see fit. They can try to influence us – that’s all. Our free will is what’s at stake here.”

“I know that!” Moon was beginning to sound angry himself now, “But is it an infringement of anybody’s free will if they get cured of cancer, or if a drought-stricken region suddenly get some rain for once? If a starving kid gets a bowl of rice? They see all this misery and they stand by and do nothing! If somebody saw an old lady fall down in the street and hurt herself, and yet just walked on by, we would be outraged at their lack of compassion. If we mortals can act altruistically, then why can’t they? It would be nothing to them.” He stopped, a little out of breath.

“I’m sure the Loyal at any rate would agree with you,” said Othello, “And I’m sure they very much want to help, but where do you draw the line? You can feed a single starving mouth easily enough, you might even feed a village or a town. Then you might just say to yourself, well, I can end starvation in this whole land altogether by getting the government to stop fighting internecine civil wars with their neighbours. Oh, and while I’m at it, I should get the neighbour governments to improve their human rights records. Pretty soon, if you go down that road, you’d be running the whole place. So it’s best not to even start down that road – hence the arrangement.”

“Well, I think it’s time things changed.” Declared Moon. “If they can’t – or won’t - help then –“

“- you’ll wipe then out.” Prada finished for him, flatly.

“No. That is not what’s happening here – the last thing we want is for any of them to be wiped out.”

“Then what?” asked Mercury.

For a moment, it looked as though Moon were actually going to tell them, but he obviously thought better of it. He shook his head.

“Sorry,” he said, “As I said, I’ll tell you gladly, but only when India and the demon are secured.”

He moved to the door. “Have a think about it and if you change your mind, just tell the guard. In the meantime, I’ll have some drinks and sandwiches sent in.”

The door closed. Mercury, Prada and Othello looked at one another.

“So,” said Mercury, “Do we give him what he wants?”

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Toys You Cannot Buy

Here's another cartoon.

It ocurred to me that the Action Man (GI Joe for our US friends?) is missing a trick.  You can get all kinds of costumes for him - but not, I suspect, the one in the cartoon below.

Perhaps, there's a series here.  Roman Catholic Chaplain, Rabbi Chaplain, dare I say Muslim Chaplain (mind you, that's a toy that's not getting made any time soon - no images of humans allowed and Action Man is just that).

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Hungry Ones

They are here again today.

The hungry ones.

Just the other side of the flimsy plywood door, I can hear them both pacing to and fro. I’ve shut the door against them and, fortunately, they’re not smart enough to figure out handles.


They are smart enough to know, however, that I can’t stay in here forever. Sooner or later I’ll have to emerge and they’ll be waiting. Waiting for as long as it takes.

It’s what they do.

From time to time, I hear a soft noise from one of them like a low mew, followed by the scrabble of their claws on the tiles outside the door as they pause in their relentless pacing for a bout of bad-tempered boxing.  Each wants to be the only one, but neither is strong enough to drive off the other. It’s soon over though, and the endless pacing resumes.

Sometimes, they attack the door in a flurry of rapid claws as if they imagine they can wear and tear the thin plywood away and get in.

Sometimes, they make piteous mewling noises, hoping I’ll be stirred to pity and open the door. They do this even though they know it will do them no good.

I’ll not be fooled.


It’s not me they want.

It’s the treasure I guard.

Salmon sandwiches with two cats in the house! What was I thinking?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Haiku! Gesundheit!

Believe it or not, I have never, ever, not even once, written a haiku.

I have no explanation for this gaping lacuna in my creative repertoir.  Maybe I thought it was too hard or something, I dunno.

Anyhow, I've had a go at rectifying this serious deficiency.  Now, I know that to some people, the allure of the haiku has been sadly diminished by its over-use, but it is such a neat little form.  I imagine a good haiku should be like one of those brush paintings where, with but a few strokes, a tiny perfect image is created.  I particularly like haiku where the last line contains a little surprise twist.

I doubt that these are strictly perfect in their structure, but here goes.  I present for you my working day - in haiku.

Sardines close-packed
Blue box enfolding
Bus overcrowded

Sky empty without
Head empty within
404 Page not found

A winding path
A splash of carp
Panini bounty accepted

Wires hum with music
Tinny seconds tick by
Your Chairman has not arrived.

Sinking autumn sun
Blushing leaves drifting
Car park deserted

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Yep, we're talking word challenges here, people.  Go to the home of their instigator at Raven's Nest.

I thought I've have a crack at a 10-word challenge this week.  The words to include are: crane, argument, implement, fallacy, triumph, graph, giggle, twig, spigot, worry

In the centre of an old courtyard there lies a large wide-lipped stone basin. It once contained a pool of sparkling clear water, in the middle of which stood a marvellously wrought statue of a crane. A fountain had gushed and splashed out of a spigot cunningly hidden in the bird’s stone beak.

In the old days, the lip of the basin had served as a seat and the courtyard itself as a bustling informal meeting place; its walls echoing with the white noise of splashing water and the lively conversation of student and master alike.

Now, crossing the courtyard at a snail’s pace in his dusty black robe, old Master Ortiz pauses to rest a while on the basin’s accommodatingly wide lip, just as he does every day. The sunshine stored in the ancient, honey-coloured stone warms his old bones and for that he is grateful. His old eyes, dim and milky now, can almost see the fountain playing and splashing in the sunlight, his ears can almost catch the snatches of argument, the shouts of triumph, the whispered confidences, the odd giggle… It is a fallacy though, a bout of wishful thinking. There is no one here now but himself – hasn’t been for years.

He runs a gnarled hand over his face. The decades have drawn a graph of worry and care there, not that there’s anyone around to see it, of course. He had warned them, the other masters, but they hadn’t listened. They hadn’t listened and the magic had run out, just as he’d said it would. One by one they had all left this place; if there was no magic, there was no point in having a school for it.

Now, the fountain stands silent, its basin home to dried twig and creeping weed, dead leaf and dessicated moss. The water no longer pours from the beak of the cunningly-fashioned stone crane. This is not because the magic failed. No, simple time has broken the mechanism and Ortiz does not know how to fix it, nor does he possess any suitable implement to do so even if he did.

Having rested, Grand Master Ortiz, one time Advisor to Kings and wielder of powers most puissant and arcane, struggles to his feet and shuffles on his way. With any luck, the scrawny chickens he keeps in the old refectory will favour him with an egg or two today.

And, of course, HAROLD!  Follow the Story So Far link top right to get all caught up.

“You have absolutely no right to keep us here! Let us go!” Prada’s pale face was flushed with anger.

“Please sit down, miss, and stay calm,” said Nugent, patiently. “I’m sure everything will be fine, but we have our orders. Someone will be along to speak to you soon.” He closed the door firmly behind him, leaving Prada, Othello and Mercury alone together for the first time since their capture.

Othello waited a few moments and then went over to the door. He eased it open a crack, glanced out and quickly closed it again.

“Two guards outside,” he said. “Armed.”

Mercury, meanwhile was checking the windows.

“These can’t be opened,” he sighed. “Looks like we’re here for the duration.”

“And since they have our phones, we can’t even let India know what’s happened.” Said Prada. The guards of units Three and Four had searched them quickly and professionally before ushering them into what looked like a perfectly ordinary conference room.

“She’ll know something’s up when we don’t make the check-in call.” Mercury looked at his watch, “in about ten minutes or so.”

“Were the guys that nabbed you wearing Predator-suits as well?” asked Prada.

“Predator suits?” Mercury inquired with raised eyebrow. “Oh! The fancy invisibility things? Yeah, they flat-footed us quite handily. What I wouldn’t give for a few of those things!”

“They’re some seriously advanced tech,” said Othello, “Military maybe. There’s a pile of money being spent here. I think we’re definitely on to something now.” He turned to Prada, “ So what happened to the demon? Did they capture it?”

Teatime crouched under a hedge, straining his tiny eyes and ears to the maximum to reassure himself that there were no perishing humans about. The car they had all arrived in earlier that evening sat, apparently undisturbed, just in the spot they had left it. During their earlier planning session at Mr Teeth’s, it had been decided that the car was the place to meet up if anything untoward happened. Well, untoward was certainly an understatement. A supposedly low-risk recce mission had turned into a complete shambles.

Teatime hoped Harold had a) got away safely and b) remembered this part of the plan. He was a good-hearted chap but, honestly, sometimes he could be such a complete duffer. Besides, it would be colossally inconvenient if the silly oaf had got himself captured. Not only would the investigation be severely hampered, but Teatime would have to explain things to Harold’s father. Not a pleasant prospect.

Harold had not forgotten the plan. It had taken a while, but he had eventually managed to find a service ladder and climb out of the culvert. As soon as he had emerged, he had tried calling Mercury’s phone to let him know what had happened. It had just rung and rung and then gone to voicemail. So had Othello’s. He even called Prada just in case, somehow, she had managed to escape herself, but the result was the same. This did not bode well. Maybe all the agents had been captured then. Well, all except one. India. His number one fan. With some trepidation, he dialled her number.

“All of them?” India cried, incredulous.

“It would seem so, I can’t raise any of them on their cells.”

“But you managed to escape. Just you.” Her voice had a hard, suspicious edge to it.

“Well, Teatime too, probably. We got split up in all the confusion.”
India rubbed her eyes. She needed to think. This was one scenario they had not rehearsed. She was effectively in charge now all of a sudden. This was only her first proper mission. She was the most junior member of the team, she couldn’t be expected to tackle this level of responsibility. It just wasn’t right. Get a grip, she told herself sternly. She took a big breath.

“OK, demon, try and find the monkey-thing and then both of you get back here, so we can figure out what to do next.“

“Will do.”

The line went dead. Well that went surprisingly well, Harold thought as he put the phone away. He had been expecting much more of a tongue-lashing than that. She must be softening.

Right then, back to the car and hopefully a reunion with Teatime.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A New Home in the Sky - Project Wideawake

There is a building near to our new home which has us fascinated.

It is not remarkable in its own right, being as it is, a typical modern office construction a couple of floors tall.

No, what gets us is the ridiculously high security measures it enjoys compared to all the other buildings on the site. We’re talking double barriers for cars, where the second one only opens when the first one has closed behind you, and 10-foot high fences - which are actually electrified.

It has its own independent power supply.

There is no company branding on the building anywhere. The cars visible in its car park are all of good make and recent manufacture, so there is clearly money here. But what can it be?

Theories abound, of course, ranging from the mundane it’s a data centre for some big corporation to the more fanciful it’s a secret government installation to the downright silly the building is a hollow shell which splits apart and open up to allow the launch of missiles a-la Bond villain.

I must say that while the last theory is probably the least probable, what better place to hide out if you are a super-villain than an ordinary business park?

Private Island? Too obvious.

Insides of extinct volcanoes? Puh-lease!  And too visible on Googe Earth.

Nobody suspects a boringly anonymous building amongst a ton of other such buildings.

Set your minds at ease though, people, we at NHitS will be keeping a close watch and are prepared to alert the authorities at the first sign of megalomaniac geniuses attempting world domination.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Dark Wordzzle

Not sure where in my head, this mini came from. Go to Raven's Nest for Wordzzle rules, etc.

The Mini (trembling, spacious, pendant, traffic, legal)

“Yeah, I’m a partner in a big legal firm, it’s a lot of stress.” the man brayed, his voice booming around the spacious hotel bedroom. “I’m the Wilkerson of Wilkerson, Maitland & Penopscott, but you won’t have heard of them. “ Marta smiled uncertainly at him, as he gently stroked the backs of his fingers down her cheek. “Can you even understand a word of what I’m saying, bitch?” He said tenderly, still smiling his perfect-toothed smile. Then he punched her in the face.
Marta had known the blow would be coming at some point, this was, after all, what men like this paid her pimp so handsomely for. Had known, but it still hurt like hell.
Wilkerson bent down, grabbed a fistful of her hair and hauled her up. She could taste blood in her mouth where his blow had rammed the inside of her cheek against her teeth. Yuri had promised her a nice safe cleaning job in England, maybe some bar work if she was good. Bastard! All he had done was traffic her to a dingy flat somewhere in London where she was kept a virtual prisoner by a man called Alexei. She was only allowed out on occasions like tonight when she was driven to a hotel like this one and even then, Alexei waited outside while the paying customer did whatever he wanted to her. No escape.
Wilkerson threw her roughly onto the bed and began to undo his trousers.
Marta was trembling all over and was naked apart from the pendant she wore. It had mysteriously appeared in her room that morning with an unsigned note telling her to wear it always. It twinkled prettily as Wilkerson began brutally extracting his money’s worth.
Suddenly the door burst open and in rushed six police officers who quickly dragged Wilkerson away from the bed, handcuffing him none too gently. One of the officers, a woman, spoke to Marta softly in her own language.
“It’s OK, you’re safe now.” She handed Marta her clothes
“How did you find me?” Marta asked, hardly able to comprehend the sudden change in her fortunes.
“We have suspected Alexei Popov of being a pimp for some time, so we managed to slip the pendant you’re wearing into the flat for you to find. It contains a microphone and transmitter. Wordlessly, Marta took off the pendant and handed it to the other woman, who smiled. Through the open doorway, Marta could see a furious Alexei being dragged away in handcuffs.

... and this week's dollop of Harold.

(follow the link to the 'story so far' top right of this page to get caught up).

Harold dropped the twenty feet or so into the culvert, landing lightly. He trotted over to the crashed truck. Some kind of liquid was leaking from somewhere and spreading in a dark pool around it. Harold hoped it wasn’t fuel or anything else flammable: he’d seen lots of movies and TV programmes since coming to earth and vehicles inevitably seemed to go ka-boom shortly after crashing. If motor vehicles were so dangerous, why on earth did humans routinely trust their lives to them? Harold wasn’t afraid for himself; his clothes would be ruined, of course, if the truck blew up, but he would be basically unharmed – if a little weak and in need of pizza. The humans inside would not fare so well, however, so chop-chop, old bean, he told himself in his best mental imitation of Teatime.

The truck’s rear end was closest to him and one of the doors, having burst open in the crash, was lying invitingly open on the ground, providing a handy means for Harold to scramble in.

The inside of the truck was a shambles. There had clearly been a lot of complicated and delicate equipment in here, but most of it had been torn from its mountings in the crash and was smashed and scattered all over the place. Bits of broken glass glittered everywhere. Thankfully, there was no electrical sparking – indeed, all was eerily quiet. Harold’s night vision, demonically good as it was, soon allowed him to spot the rear compartment’s lone occupant.

The man was unconscious with a sizeable gash on his forehead which was bleeding freely. He was lying sprawled on top of a small heap of busted up equipment. Further examination, however, was hampered by two large silvery equipment cases which had tumbled onto the man’s body and legs. Harold grabbed the handle of the nearest one and unceremoniously slung it out through the door-hole, where it landed with a clatter on the concrete beyond. The second one followed suit shortly after.

Harold crouched next to the man. He was quite young by the looks of it, which was good as it meant that he would be strong and healthy. Humans’ bodies were so terrifically delicate, though. One wrong move from Harold and a bad situation might become much, much worse. Harold had seen fly-on-the-wall documentaries about hospital ERs and knew that broken necks and spines were bad news. If he moved the man… He wracked his brains for a moment, wrestling with the beginnings of an idea, then shrugged to himself: it was worth a try, surely?

He tentatively reached out his hand and, using the same facility that had allowed him to sense the locks on the various doors he had opened, he tried to ‘see’ if anything was broken in the man’s body. The rush of sensation he received in return was very odd indeed: humans, it transpired, were basically a big bag of warm squishy with a bony frame. Fortunately, the man seemed to be undamaged apart from the knock on the head he’d received.

Harold carefully manoeuvred the limp and distinctly uncooperative form out through the door hole and dragged it far enough away (he hoped) from any potential ka-boom. Not knowing anything about recovery positions or anything much else of First Aid (the Basement did not have this subject on its curriculum for some reason), he made the fellow as comfortable as he could, then headed back to the van.

As he trotted past them on his way to the front of the truck, Harold glanced at the two bulky cases he had ejected so carelessly. They bore the Rainbow Industries logo as well as some other black stencilled lettering: RI-180-A Smart Camouflage (Medium). Harold felt a stab of excitement: if those cases contained what he thought they did, then getting Prada back might be a tad easier.

There was no time for that now, however.

Harold scrambled up onto the passenger side of the vehicle, which was now effectively its roof, and made his way over to the driver’s compartment. Through the broken passenger side window, Harold could see that both airbags had gone off and then deflated, leaving their fabric draped in pale folds eerily reminiscent of a shroud, over the occupants, neither of whom was moving.

Harold stood up and tried to tug the passenger door open, but it was badly buckled and refused to budge. Favouring the universe with a gimme-a-break-already sigh, Harold crouched down again and used his abilities, just as he had done on Mr Peck’s cable-tie handcuffs, teasing the molecules of the twisted metal apart bit by bit, so as to avoid sparks and subsequent unwelcome ka-booms.

The door now open, Harold reached in and gently lifted the air-bag material out of the way, the better to see the two men. A hand-scan (as he suddenly decided to called it) revealed that the passenger had a broken arm and a couple of cracked ribs, as well as a large egg of a bump on the side of his head – no doubt the cause of his unconsciousness. He tried to reach down to the driver to check on him, but the bulk of the passenger’s body prevented it.

The passenger himself was probably not in too great a danger from his injuries, Harold thought (so, you’re a doctor all of a sudden, taunted his own inner voice), but clearly the man would benefit by not being in the truck any longer than was necessary.

But how to get him out safely?

The truck’s front windshield was a spider web of cracks, but was, miraculously, still more or less in one piece. If Harold could just remove it, there would be a nice big aperture through which rescue could be effected. He was just starting to congratulate himself on his own inventiveness when the sound of a passing siren drifted down from the highway above.

He smacked himself in the forehead with the heel of his hand. You idiot! he told himself, you should have rung for an ambulance before getting stuck in!

He reached for his phone, but, as his fingers curled around its cool smooth plastic, he suddenly remembered all those NO MOBILE PHONE signs displayed so prominently in filling stations. Mouthing a silent phew at his lucky escape, he jumped down to the ground.

Once he got to work on it, the windscreen all but fell out of its own accord and, with the large gap it left, Harold was now able to check on the truck’s driver at last.

That corner of the truck had borne the full brunt of the vehicle’s high speed impact with the unyielding concrete of the culvert’s wall. There was nothing anyone could do for the driver now.

Shaking his head, Harold carefully eased the passenger out of the truck and dragged him as gently as he could over to where he had left the other man, laying him down beside his comrade. He then dialled 911 and gave brief details of the men’s injuries and the location.

That done, he suddenly felt quite drained. All the tearing about at high speed, followed by all the scanning and cutting of metal and glass had apparently taken its toll. What he wouldn’t give for some pizza right now! No rest for the wicked, though, he told himself.

Slinging the straps of the two cases over his shoulders, Harold started walking along the culvert and away from the crash site – it wouldn’t do to be around when the medics (and Police, probably) showed up. Now, there had to be a service ladder or something around here somewhere...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Will Somebody Please Shut That Damn Monkey The Hell Up!

Every music teacher since the dawn of time has heard this excuse about a million times.

It gets trotted out, usually in an exasperated whining tone, (at least it is when I do it) when a pupil cocks up a piece that they have been working on:

“I don’t understand! I played it perfectly before the lesson.”

The thing is, it’s probably true, and in my own case it really is. In my own practice time, I can play my pieces all the way through. OK, I’m never going to be booked for the Albert Hall or Ronnie Scott’s but nevertheless I manage to get to the end in a vaguely passable fashion.

As soon as I play in front of my Musical Jedi Master , however, all those successful performances fly out the window and stupid mistakes creep in.

It is maddening.

It is frustrating.

I blame the monkey.

The monkey that lives in my head and who just will not shut up.

Now, to play music successfully, you need to be able to concentrate and focus. All those little dots don’t read themselves, you know.  Once you've taken your eye off them, they have a nasty habit of jumping about the page in gay abandon and you'll never get them to behave after that.

What you absolutely do not need is someone who, just as you’re getting to the tricky bit, will demand in a loud voice “Ooh, are we having faggots* for dinner?” or, just as you’re approaching that nice easy bit that will take you coasting nicely to the end, will suddenly screech excitedly “You’ve got to the end! And with no mistakes!“, which of course results in an instant musical train wreck.

I hate him.
He knows just the very best moment to pitch in for maximum annoyance. He knows, for example, that distracting me when I’m by myself is hardly worth the effort (although he does have a go occasionally - usually when I'm trying to get to sleep). No, he knows the real money’s in causing maximum embarrassment by popping up when I’m trying to impress somebody like my teacher or an audience.

I have tried meditation. You know how that’s supposed to go. You’re supposed to clear your mind of all thoughts and just concentrate on your own breathing or belly button or whatever.

I generally get to about five seconds before it’s “Hi, how’s it going? Gosh it’s really quiet in here. Oh, I’m sorry! Were you in the middle of something? “

I’ve tried cutting out caffeine to absolutely no avail.  He stays the same and I just get cranky.

I’ve tried alcohol but, based on empirical observation, it would need enough of it to knock over a rhino before there would be any noticeable effect, and the resultant loss of control over limbs (and possibly over bodily functions as well), would kind of defeat the object.

There are times, though, when his yammerings have lesseffect. For example, he’s only ever once managed to sabotage a singing performance of mine to any degree, and that was over twenty years ago.

He only spoils a guitar performance if I'm trying to record it and want it note-perfect.

His doesn’t bother me much when I’m making a speech at Toastmasters – especially if it’s an impromptu one. In point of fact, in the latter case, his quicksilver flitting from thought to thought at the speed of light can actually be a help.

So what’s the difference?

It must be a confidence thing. I believe I’m good at singing. I believe I’ve good at speech-making.

If only I could make myself believe I was as good at saxophone and piano.

Self-confidence is the monkey’s Kryptonite.

Anybody out there got any idea how I can get more Kryptonite?  Failing that, does anybody know of ways to cage/silence the monkey?

*Faggots: a kind of meat pattie, usually served in a rich savoury gravy.  Not the kind you were thinking about.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Just Another Bloomin' Wordzzle

I really gotta write some other type of blog entries, seriously! My brain is devoid of inspiration at the moment though.

Any hoo....

Go to Raven's Nest for rules and whatnot.

My mini from last week.  Words: turtle, fragrant, bubbles, sugar, pregnant

He could picture it as clearly as if he were seeing it right now. His hands, complete with gleaming new wedding band, pressing down hard, hard, and his wife’s face a terrified mask under the fragrant bubbles as she thrashed and writhed in his grip. Her sudden stillness and the scented water settling to a slow gentle lapping in the bath. The turtle-shaped tub of bath crystals, smashed in the struggle, its contents spread in a wide power fan across the marble tiles like so much spilt sugar. Her last taunting words “You know, I wasn’t actually pregnant, but how else was I going to get you to pop the question….?”

And Harold, of course.... For the story so far, follow the link top right.

Harold found himself running across an area of rough ground, mostly loose, dry dirt with the odd tussock of scrubby grass dotted here and there. Behind him, he could hear the truck’s engine being revved and what sounded like a very bad-tempered clash of gears as it was hastily slammed into reverse. Hopefully, the Infinity Recycling crew would waste a lot of precious time getting the truck back out of the loading yard and onto the road again, time he could use to his advantage.

He looked back to see if any of them had followed him over the fence, but could see nothing except the sweep of the truck’s lights as it swung around, and even these disappeared as it drove out of the yard.

Where would they go?

Harold’s mind raced: having seen him run off into the dark, they would try to find a way onto this open area as soon as they could. He wasn’t out of the woods yet by a long chalk. Heh, woods would be quite handy in his current predicament.

Then he had an idea. Whipping out his phone, he called up Google Maps. It took a maddeningly long time for the app to work out where he was and display the map of the area, but eventually it appeared.

Up ahead, about half a mile off, Harold could see a line of moving lights. So that would be the highway indicated on the map just there then. So, that bit was the business park and there was the loading yard. Harold zoomed the image out to get the whole of the rough ground onto the screen. It looked like there was just the one place that a vehicle could get through and was it just over there….

Sure enough, as if on cue, like the eyes of some malevolent creature, the truck’s headlights appeared and began to grow larger as the vehicle bounced and bumped its way onto the field.

Harold headed for the lights of the highway. Maybe he’d be able to persuade someone to stop and give him a ride (unlikely! he admonished himself), but even so, once he actually was on the well-lit main road, surely the IR people wouldn’t be able to try and capture him without drawing a lot on unwelcome attention. It was definitely the best bet at this stage.

The truck’s engine roared as the driver floored the accelerator. Harold risked a look back and saw that the truck was on a somewhat oblique course to his; it looked like the truck’s occupants didn’t exactly know where he was at this point, which was fine by him.

The highway lights drew steadily closer. He might make it yet.

Suddenly, the truck accelerated past Harold on what was now almost a parallel course, albeit a hundred yards to the side. Darn it!  They must have figured out the highway was his best bet and were trying to get there before he did. That was not good news: the open ground was a rough wedge shape with the narrowest part abutting the highway. If they did get there in time and got their freezing machine going again there was no way he was getting past them. He slowed to a stop; no point in running straight into their trap. The obvious thing would be to head back the way he’d come, putting maximum distance between himself and them.

He turned and began to run back.

Behind him, the truck’s engine, which had been a more or less constant roar suddenly rose in pitch, giving out a tortured mechanical scream. This lasted but a moment, however, before being cut off by a horrendous crashing sound, followed by the nails-on-blackboard screech of something heavy and metallic sliding against something very hard and very rough.

Then all at once there was silence.

Harold whirled round.

The truck was gone.

He stood there for a few moments, at a loss. In his experience, trucks did not just disappear. After a while, though, a new sound came to his ears, an irregular ticking interspersed with the occasional spong of cooling metal.

Harold made his way over to where the noise was coming from. The mystery of its sudden vanishing act was solved.  A twenty foot wide, twenty foot deep solid concrete drainage culvert ran more of less parallel to the highway. The truck’s driver simply hadn’t seen it in time.

The truck lay on its side at the bottom of the far wall. It must have hit at an angle, its momentum flipping it round a full 180 degrees given that it was now facing back the way it had been going. From what Harold could see of it, the driver’s side was completely staved in and the rest of the truck looked pretty bent and battered. It wouldn’t be following anyone anywhere now.

For a moment his spirits soared. This was his chance! He could get away, hook up with Teatime, Othello and Mercury and figure out how to rescue Prada.

But, a more level-headed thought insisted, there were people in that truck. If they had survived the crash, they were very likely to be needing medical attention.

So call an ambulance and leave them to take care of it.

But an ambulance could take ages, those people needed help now.

But if they weren’t that badly injured after all, he’d be walking straight into their arms.

Not badly injured?  Seriously?  The truck was a mess.

Harold gazed at the crumpled truck for a moment longer and then with a sigh, walked to the edge of the culvert and jumped down into it.