Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Man Under the Motorcycle

We all love a good horror story
Don’t we? Twisted limbs
Blood dried black

The sickly crunch of bone on tarmac.

It’s not as if he can hear or see
But still they stand and
Stop and stare.

The paramedics will bring him air.

But pain is not a spectator sport
They chide. And usher
With a frown.

Such a shame the scene is upside-down.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


...and the prize for the most bizarre stock image I have had the fortune to encounter this week goes to...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Murder Mystery

It was three days before they found the body and two more until they called the police. It had all been so damn ... embarrassing. The young family had discovered it while hiking, their young children’s screams echoing around the clearing where she lay. They weren’t pleased with how their day out had played out.

They say that there are two types of killer; the organised, who will fastidiously plan and diligently commit the act, and the disorganised, who strike erratically and spontaneously. Mrs Eversley Cross’ killer was neither. Mrs Cross’ murderer would best described as ‘bizarre’. When they found her body, it had multiple puncture wounds. (So far, so normal. Well, perhaps not normal, but normal for a killing.) What was strange was that positioned around her corpse were a series of concentric circles of My Little Ponies™ and jars of Marmite© . A sort of confused parody of Stone Henge. Her corpse had been arranged, with a degree of irony, in the recovery position - with an unplugged four-slice family toaster as a pillow. She was fully clothed, but dressed as Paddington Bear, red wellies stained brown with blood, paper label pinned to the coat reading “"Please look after this bear. Thank you."

The police agreed that it was rather unlikely turn of events, and so chose not to chide the family for failing to report the body sooner. There are some things in life which sound so improbable one defers explanation – see, for example, derivative trading, the concept of carpets, or Eurovision.

Inspector Drayton Basset was given the case. He was the village’s finest police officer, and had served for twenty consecutive years. He was the sort of man you’d have to pay for in instalments; his booming tenor issued at a number of decibels Brian Blessed would envy, while his mouth was framed by a luxiuriant beard, and shrouded by a prominent moustache. Declared deputy for the case was Officer Tockenham Wick. By contrast, he looked like the sort of man you’d get free with a box of cereal; his features weren’t quite in alignment with the contours of his face, and his brightly-coloured clothing served to distract from the fact that he wasn’t wearing any shoes; his feet were just painted brown.

He’d been quite proud of that idea when, in the morning, he had been unable to find his brogues. But then Tockenham Wick was proud of most of his ideas. They didn’t come often; he had very little imagination.

When the call came about the murder, Inspector Basset struggled not to sound excited. He had spent the morning searching for leads. And he had found it, in a matter of minutes, near Bradford. He was relieved to have something to do – tedium was something that Basset hated with a passion. Tedium, and the little fragments of crisps that you find hiding in the corners of almost-finished crisp packets that you feel obliged to eat, but don’t actually leave you feeling satisfied, and leave your fingers coated in a shallow slick of grease.

“A murder, you say?” Bassett asked. Bassett’s telephone manner was notoriously poor. His combined habits of using rhetorical questions and leaving dramatic pauses meant that the respondent either spoke prematurely, or the conversation sounded like it had been scripted by Harold Pinter.

“Yes, a murder” said the hiker, electing for the first scenario. “I think it’s Mrs Cross”

“Mrs Cross, you say?” Bassett was surprised by this piece of news. For Mrs Cross is – or had been, he corrected himself - a pillar, girder, and supporting wall of the community. Not in the conventional sense; Eversley detested volunteer work, and denounced charity as a tax on empathy, but rather, and in a far fuller extension of the metaphor, that she spent a lot of time with members of the community on top of her. Not that Mr Cross had ever noticed – for Mister Cross was one of that most curious species of men. Not even an ornithologist – ornithology is excusable. No, Mister Cross was a train spotter spotter. When Derek, Clive, and Maurice gathered in their macs to check the 4.15 from Paddington off their lists, Mr Cross was there to strike Derek, Clive, and Maurice off his.

Bassett decided that an interview with Mr Cross was in order. He rang the pathology labs to conduct a post mortem, then gathered Wick and left for the Cross residence. The path report didn’t reveal much. It just as perplexing as the condition of the corpse; traces of liquid on the body proved to be a combination of lucozade, iron filings, light crude oil, and balsamic vinegar, while the ‘dirt’ under the corpse’s fingernails had a high content of cumin.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Improvement Works

Today I took a photograph of a poster displayed on a First Great Western train. It was slightly blurred, and poorly-framed – the photograph that is, not the poster - because I didn’t want the other passengers of the two-o-clock to London Paddington to know that I was taking a photograph of a poster displayed on a First Great Western train.

It read
Customers are advised that improvement works are scheduled to take place at Reading Station and the surrounding area until 2015”

Improvement works? As opposed to what? Damaging works? I don’t think it’s normal for builders to declare brazenly “Yes, I think we’ll rip out the children’s play area and replace it with a cess pit, remove all the lampposts, and install a leaky municipal oil rig.”

I also quite like the implication that Reading’s just going to stop trying in 2015.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

New Gameshows for summer 2012

The Crystal Moral Maze
Richard O’Brien and Michael Buerk host as panellists take part in provocative and engaging live debate, while completing an Aztec-themed assault course. In the first episode, the contestants will be asked to assemble a large, three dimensional polystyrene puzzle of a cube while asking whether drug companies should be given greater access to NHS patient data.

Robot Wars
Craig Charles presides over the mechanical mayhem. As nuclear weapons technology has become more sophisticated, and the Robots have gone nuclear, the threat of mutually assured destruction precludes ‘hot’ conflict. This week, Sergeant Bash clumsily negotiates a territorial treaty with Chaos II.

Skill or no skill?
A member of the public decides upon an order in which to open a number of sealed boxes. Meanwhile, Noel Edmonds pretends to have a conversation with an actuary.

Feet or parakeet?
Amputees compete in a general knowledge quiz to win the chance to play for the grand prize – a synthetic limb - or the consolation prize of an affable tropical bird. Alternately described as saccharine/ feel-good viewing* it’s a win-win situation. Although one prize they actually want to win.

I’m a Celebrity Mastermind
In between trials, competitors are asked to answer questions on a specialist subject. This week, Kirsty Young tests her knowledge of Shelley’s nineteenth century sonnets between swallowing mouthfuls of fried scorpion, and Jacqui Smith breaks down in tears as she can’t remember the composer of The Archers theme tune while crossing a high-wire, and Simon Rimmer reveals his knowledge of the accounts of Green’s Restaurant, Manchester**. Hosted by Ant, Dec, and John Humphreys.

Angry Countdown
The same as normal Countdown, but all contestants and adjudicators must shout their lines.

Britain’s Got A Serious Social Problem
Not to be confused with ‘I’m convinced that I have a modicum of talent, and members of my family encouraged me’, ‘Britain’s Got a Serious Social Problem’ involves a panel of three scathing judges heaping criticism and spitting bile at all who are paraded on stage before them. The twist is that those auditioning are homeless, and their routines consist of asking for some spare change, please, mate.

Luke, I am your father
The televised results of Scottish paternity tests.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Centurion and the Octopus

The Centurion sighed and adjusted his helmet. He was sitting on the number 102 bus (to Edmonton Green, minor delays reported, please check TfL for updates on the service before you leave), and his helmet had been knocked askew as the doors folded shut behind him. He looked rather confused and out of place – like a pigeon that had flown through an open window and into a board meeting, or a respectable politician on a children’s TV show. Next to the Centurion sat an Octopus.

They had been at a fancy dress party, and one well-lubricated with drink. When the Centurion opened his mouth to speak, cardboard sword raised to get the Octopus’ attention, it was as if the words were forced to pass through a fine gauze before falling out of his mouth, garbled and delayed, into a warm heap on the floor. The other passengers of the 102 (to Edmonton Green, minor delays reported, please check TfL for updates on the service before you leave) were not impressed. Fortunately for the Centurion it was 2am, and the bus’ only other occupants were discarded copies of the Metro. Discarded copies of the Metro are very rarely impressed.

The party had ended unexpectedly early; King Kong got into a fight with Gordon Ramsey, and Betty Boop ordered everyone out. And so the Centurion and the Octopus had boarded the 102 (to Edmonton Green, please keep all personal belongings with you at all times).

They had spoken for the first time that night, but believed that they shared a deep spiritual connection. Amazing, the properties of alcohol. At the time of their ejection from the premises, the octopus couldn’t remember where she lived. “Under a rock at the bottom of the ocean?” a man dressed as Bruce Willis’ charisma helpfully suggested. The Octopus’ coat-hanger and paper-machĂ© tenctacles quivered as she nodded in agreement.

And so they were off to the Centurion’s.

It was a dump. The sort of place an estate agent might describe as ‘deceptively spacious’, ‘deceptively mould-free’, or ‘deceptively tastefully-decorated’. The avocado enamel of the bath was chipped, but this served to distract from the Jackson Pollock of mildew that adorned the walls.

Not that the Octopus knew this, or would even have cared. She was looking forward to a bed, currently using the centurion’s children’s-toy-armour-clad shoulder as a pillow. The Centurion didn’t want to complain, but in this position one of her tentacles was thrust in his face, a purple pipe-cleaner threatening to go up his nose.

They did not know it, but they had met before. Many times. During the day the Centurion was a postman. And the Octopus was a fan of online shopping. Not just clothes, as one might expect of a woman, judging by the frequency and acuity of advertising campaigns. The Octopus was a collector. Her ‘thing’ was porcelain owls. It started as a child; a gift from a grandmother got pride of place on the mantelpiece, a trip to the charity shop yielded another. “Otherwise it’ll be lonely,” she said. The third, fourth, and fifth were rationalised by the same logic. They were lonely in the charity shop. She was the owls’ saviour, rescuing them from a life of solitude.

The psychiatrist said she’d grow out of it. She didn’t.

It was probably just as well they were going to the Centurion’s place; he might have been scared off by the serried ranks of figurines which lined every shelf, table, and windowsill. You never know quite how people are going to react to almost 3,000 porcelain owls.

But the porcelain owls were not on the Octopus’ mind. She had fallen asleep, and was dreaming about a shrew, called Harold, who was claiming that he’d discovered the secret to eternal youth. It had only one side effect, he said – it turns you into a shrew. The Centurion was also asleep. One nostril invaded by a sparkly purple pipe-cleaner, his dream was rather more sinister;’ a Ridley Scott alien story, where arts materials are the enemy. Pipe-cleaners crawl up your nose and take residence in your brain, turning you into a glitter-seeking zombie. Little did the Centurion know, but a group of art students were currently working on such a film.

When the 102 reached the bus depot at Edmonton Green, the cleaner didn’t know whether the Centurion and the Octopus should be escorted off the bus or placed in lost property.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Future of Cinema

Good evening, and welcome to our Film Show special about the future of cinema. I am joined by Ian Trent, head of the BFI. Now Ian, can you tell us what to expect?

Ian Trent
Yes. The future will be making great use of technology developed over the last decade; CGI and motion capture. By 2020 we can expect to see all actors in all films played by Andy Serkis.

All of them?!

Ian Trent
Well, no. Admittedly, what with playing every lead and every member of the backing cast, Serkis won’t have time to perform the roles of oversized monsters, sentient apes, or hobbits corrupted by a magical ring. Instead, these will be bred in specialist Hollywood labs.

But won’t that have side-effects? I mean, what happens if one of them –

Ian Trent
Yes, unfortunately. With only one actor to speak of, a lot of the auxiliary jobs in Hollywood will become defunct. There would be a single casting agent, and red carpet events would consist of Andy Serkis arriving, eating a single vol-au-vent, and graciously accepting the single glass of champagne offered by the single waiter.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Aquafresh of Injuries

A blurring blend of blue and black
A Rorschach on her lower back
A shock of blue and red on white
If not in pain she even might
Refer to it with comic ease -
the aquafresh of injuries
Stop asking how she did it please
And save her the ignominy
She does not think it worth a lie
so meters out the truth;

She walked into a wall.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Faceless Bureaucrats

Some are born into office jobs, some achieve office jobs, and some have office jobs thrust upon them.

The Faceless Bureaucrats, thanks to a genetic quirk, possess no facial features, a blank expanse of flesh connecting either ear. They have no eyes, nose, or mouth to speak of. Or with. The Faceless Bureaucrats are mute. And blind. And, accordingly, actually a bit crap at bureaucracy; bereft of eyes and a mouth, they can’t see the red tape, or ask for clarification. They just sit in the corner of the office, almost wearing a suit – in their defence, it’s quite hard to get dressed if you have no idea what a suit is supposed to look like – and haphazardly stamp forms. On some days, there wouldn’t be any forms placed on their desk, or the faceless might accidentally knock the papers onto the floor. Unaware that there weren’t any papers in front of them, the faceless would continue stamping, covering the table with a patina of red. Reassuring the rest of the office that, just in case there was any doubt, the table had been received.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Doctor, Doctor

Doctor, Doctor,
I've got a tennis player's elbow.
Well give it back.

Doctor, Doctor,
I have this intense pain in my chest
I'm afraid I can't help you
Why? Is it terminal?
No, I have a fear of inadequacy

Monday, 4 June 2012

Mental maths: a few easy questions

John, Joe, Anna, and Mohammed are picking socks out of a washing machine. They put three red socks, two blue socks, and five white socks into the drum of the machine. What is the probability of them picking out a white sock?

Answer: 0%. They’re all a rather fetching shade of purple.

It takes five men three days to dig a hole five feet deep. How long does it take ten men to dig a hole one foot deep?

Answer: Three years; the men become unionised.

Alex’s bank offers him 4.25% compound interest on his savings. If he deposited £1000 in January 2007, how much will it be worth in July 2012?

Answer: Nothing; it was invested in a Greek bank.

Andy is twice Anna’s age, and in two years he will be four times as old as Colin. Their combined ages add up to 57. Would a relationship between Andy and Anna be legal?

Answer: No, Anna is a dachshund.

Robert flips a coin 100 times, and writes down whether it landed showing a head or a tails. He then rolls two dice 500 times, and records the cumulative total. What is the probability that Robert has a friend?

Sunday, 3 June 2012


Two friends are sitting in a café, chatting.

Friend one
I mean, he’s a nice guy, but a bit OCD.

A man, who had been waiting for his drink, approaches them.

Sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing. Would you mind repeating what you just said?

Friend one
Erm, that this guy is nice, but a bit OCD.

Right. Now could you think, just for a minute. What does the acronym stand for?

Friend one
Erm, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Exactly. Your observation is syntactically void. You can’t be a disorder; saying that someone’s OCD is akin to saying ‘she’s a bit asthma’ or ‘he’s quite hepatitis’. The English language is there to decline; don’t butcher it for lack of care.

Having said his piece, the man walks off.
The friend turns to his companion.

Friend one
Told you he was OCD.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Cardinal Sin

Cardinal Sin knew what trouble he’s in
When he woke up and went to the door;
A thousand reporters, their sons and their daughters
Were there who had not been before.

Donning biretta, cassock and mozzetta
He stumbled and tripped down the stairs.
Hoping to sight, as well he might,
What it was that had brought them all there.

“We want your head, we’ll rejoice when you’re dead.
Oh Sin,” they began to explain
“It may sound absurd but we’ve recently heard
You’re the root of all suffering and pain.”

The cardinal sighed and, adjusting his guise,
Said his parents were really to blame;
For they had conferred what he had now heard
Was a rather uncommon surname.

The cardinal’s strife started early in life
When buying things over the phone
What took the edge off his constant rebuff
Was the fact that he wasn’t alone.

Consider the nature of Mustard, a major
outstanding, but fearing promotion.
Or what of that guy called David Birdseye
Unable to master the ocean?

Manuel Labor and Miss Ella Vaytor
Suffer just like Mark Set-Go.
Consider the pain, please, of General Enquiries,
Mike Hunt, and Mister Wayne Bow.

With luck the gist of this nominal list
Will help you reach the conclusion;
Yes, sticks and stones may fracture your bones
But words can cause bloody confusion.