Saturday, 28 September 2013

Metaphors are a lot like other things

You have never touched anything in your life. Not one thing. Not really. You see, when your hand goes to grasp a pencil, or a fork, or a sawn-off shotgun, you trap a layer of air molecules between the atoms of your skin and the atoms of the fork, or pencil, or pistol. There's nitrogen and oxygen and traces of argon between you and the world. You have never touched anything in your life. Not one thing. Not really.

But, and I want to stress, I mean this with complete sincerity, if you 'touch' my favourite mug again, I will end you.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Don't panic

Good evening, and welcome aboard this flight.
I will now run you through the safety demonstration.

As you are, no doubt, painfully aware, this is a no frills airline – so you can expect no frills… or seatbelts… or windows… or engine noise. If I’m honest, it’s actually quite difficult to tell that it’s a flight.

The plane is divided into a number of zones: the economy zone, luxury zone, Industrial zone, Aztec zone, and Eurozone, but no-one seems to like that one, and there’s some talk of getting rid of it.

Your lifejacket can be found either beside, underneath, on top of, or within your seat. (We have provided pen-knives to enable you to dig out your life jacket in that eventuality.) For the more fashion-conscious of our passengers, we also provide a range of life trenchcoats, life parkas, and life three piece life-suits, which come with a rather coquettish life hat. We’d like to again apologise, profusely, to everyone who road-tested our life-thongs.

You might have noted, upon entering, that there is a single door. Rather than fighting to get out at the same time, and all getting wedged in the doorframe like a looney tunes pile-up, the order of exit will be determined by a game of karate-jenga – a hybrid sport, along the lines of chess-boxing. The rules are simple; the removal of one jenga block by each player is followed by one kick, until the tower collapses, or someone passes out. The winner of each pair is allowed to leave the plane first. Wooden blocks can be found in the overhead lockers, while uniforms can be found underneath the seat in front of you. If you are located in the bulk-head seats, it will be your responsibility to distribute the karate-belts. If you are uncomfortable with this responsibility, please let a member of the flight crew know.

Those of you who’ve been flying with us for a while, which is quite frankly miraculous, might remember the old evacuation procedure: a game of bop-it polo. It turns out that the fifty horses in the overhead locker were actually what was causing us to crash in the first place.

We find our system to be much fairer than the traditional approach of letting the women and children leave first, forming a sort of crash-mat for the more valuable men to land on.

In the event of a water landing, three things will happen.
Firstly, a picture of Steve Buscemi having a tea party with a small girl will flash up on all in-flight entertainment screens. This is to remind you that although you’re on a crashing plane, things could be worse; you could be in a film with Nicholas Cage.

Secondly, members of cabin crew will distribute either a coconut or volleyball to each passenger. Extensive research, involving Tom Hanks, Julian Barratt, and Noel Fielding has shown that these are the easiest spherical objects to hallucinate a face onto.

Thirdly, a member of staff will remind you to remove your shoes and leave any briefcases behind when exiting the plane. Should you need to buy a replacement, may I urge you to check out the airline’s ebay account, where we have a wide variety of high heels and high-end briefcases available at suspiciously low prices.

The lifejacket is fitted with a light, and a periscope, so you can pretend that you’re a submarine. All lifejackets are provided with a whistle to attract attention, and a recorder to frighten away attention, in case you were planning to write a memoir about the experience of being ignored by a marine search party.

In the event of sudden cabin depressurisation, a mask will descend from the panel above your head. Please note, not all masks will dispense oxygen – for reasons that can’t be logically rationalised, some will be helium, others chloroform, and two lucky people will receive the smell of freshly-baked bread. Please do not attempt testing your mask on a child first – if it is oxygen, you’re left with the difficult moral choice of whether to knowingly asphyxiate a child, and if it’s chloroform you just look like a dick. Also, how do you tell if a child’s on helium?

Please take care your hand-baggage isn’t blocking the aisle or exit. If you need help storing your bag, you can ask any of our on-board staff - the cabin crew, cabin doctor, cabin osteopath, or cabin children’s entertainer. Just a personal aside, here. If I were you, I really wouldn’t ask the entertainer. He’s a bit... well, I once saw him twist a dog into the shape of a balloon.

Anyway. Please contact a member of our flight crew if you would like to borrow a set of headphones, or a complimentary mouse-trap. We don’t think that there are any mice on board, but we’re pretty sure this stems from our policy of complimentary mouse traps.

Today's film is ‘Harry Potter and the Ofsted inspection’, and today’s meal is the Schrodinger special: somehow simultaneously both dead and alive. I advise just not opening it. And while not opening it, you’ll have plenty of time to browse our selection of duty-free products.

New this season is a range of presents for children that you resent. How about getting them
- A book of Where’s Wally, but with Wally photoshopped out?
- A 12 set of tubes of paint – twelve identical tubes of grey?
- Or how about a 1:50, 000 scale model of John Major?

We hope you have a pleasant flight.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Curl (500 words)

The day my father sold his soul, he made us pancakes for breakfast.

This was a habit of his, using food to say ‘I’m sorry’. Over the years, we came to associate sugar with shame and butter with betrayal. Until the age of twenty, my sister was unable to pass a McDonald’s without bursting into tears.

It’s called ‘conditioning’. Or, at least, it is if you’ve studied psychology.

He broke the news causally. “Hey, kids, I’m afraid we’ve run out of clean mugs, so if you want a drink, you’ll have to wash one up. Also, I sold my soul.” For a few minutes, the enormity of the situation didn’t register. Partly because we were still half-asleep - stunned by the thick tendrils of light which crawled lazily over our faces, probing, first tentatively, then forcefully, into our eye sockets, squeezing into the space in our brains occupied by our dreams, forcing the half-formed visions out of our ears - but partly because of our father’s accent. He spoke the way the English think the Americans think the English speak. When he got into arguments, when he turned to walk away, the other guy would beg him to continue.

It’s called ‘charisma’. Or, at least, it is if you like him.

The obvious question came first (as obvious questions so commonly do); what had he sold his soul for? What’s the metaphysical exchange rate like at the moment? Could our father play guitar now? Did Peter Cook grant him seven wishes? The answer was so far below whelming that the region of underwhelming appeared as a small dot if we craned our necks, and used a pair of binoculars. Our father had sold his sold his soul for a pint of milk and a packet of blue rizzlas. Not to the devil. To Tesco’s.

Every little helps.

“Basically,” he said, “I was at the self-checkout. The stage where you have to say how you want to pay. Well, instead of selecting cash, or card, I accidentally pressed ‘intangible spiritual essence.’”

“Couldn’t you press to go back?”

“Oh, yeah, sure I could”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I didn’t have any change.”

Our father turned back to the stove, ladling another spoon of batter into the pan. No-one spoke. The sound of a metal spatula on non-stick coating cast a shadow on the air.

It’s called ‘awkward silence’. Or, at least, it would be, if calling it something wouldn’t defeat the point.

“Do you feel any different?”

“Not really. But when I went to leave, the automatic doors wouldn’t open for me. I had to wait for someone else to walk past, and follow them out”

“Is that all?”

“It’s probably unrelated, but I can also speak French now”

“Did you get a receipt?”

“Of course”

“Why don’t you get a refund?”

“I thought of that. It would make sense. But I can’t”


“The milk’s been used.”

He set the pancake down on the table.