Friday, 19 December 2014

Pilot Project: Supernatural Mystery idea. Your thoughts required

Right, this is, as they say in my neck of the woods, 'A Longun'.

Some of you might be able to remember all the way back to last year when I wrote the second of my seasonal 'ghost' stories.  It was all moving and everything, and it had trains in, and everyone likes trains don't they?

Well, because of 'Circumstances' (Had to be very careful not to write 'Circumcisions' there - LOL!) I've read it out loud at real people a couple of times and they seemed to like it.  So I was spurred to write a similar story for this Christmas.  (Which you'll find below).  This has also been read out to real people and has had a mixed response if I'm honest.  Some people really liked it and some people... Well, didn't say much at all really.

Anyway, see what you think - Bear in mind that this is just the beginning, I've decided that I'm going to turn the Village of Lythe in North Yorkshire into the supernatural version of Midsomer (From the books by Caroline Graham) - There'll be seperate stories about Danny, St Oswalds (And its unusual vicar), The Duck Pub, The antique shop, The German Lady, The teeny-tiny Sheep, and other, odder things. 

So, sit back and try to enjoy...

The Morehouse Decoration

Emma looked up at Jamie as he showed the auctioneer the card with their bidder number on it, trying to stop herself from throwing up her hands and squealing with excitement.  Normally she would just have sat on them, but the advanced state of her pregnancy made that more of a chore than it really should have been. Instead, she steepled her fingers and placed them on her bump, clamping her lips together until they went white.   Jamie looked back at her and shook his head. She made a show of ignoring him. But there was no disguising the fact that she was grinning broadly and trying not to laugh.

The house had gone for a little under the guide price, but by the time that the fees had been paid and everyone that came up to them with their hands out had had their palms crossed with paper, their savings, and the amount that they’d been left by Jamie’s aunt, were a shadow of their former selves.

‘Let’s go and see it now,’ she said, easing her way into their car, ‘it’s only a few miles, and there’s that pub, you know that one that had the menu outside, with the duck?’

He laughed, ‘I’m going to go ahead and assume that this is what all of your books call “Baby Brain”? Where the, and I quote, “mother-to-be loses the power of rational thought and speaks mumbo-jumbo for the rest of her life” Yeah, that’s what it is.’

‘Look, all I want to do is take a look at our new house.’ She replied, still too excited to feel any affront, ‘There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?’

‘Well no, but thirty-five isn’t exactly “a few” miles. You’re very pregnant, and I don’t think the water or electricity have been reconnected yet, seeing as I haven’t asked them to do it.’  He looked out of the car window, ‘And, it’s probably going to be dark by the time we get there.’

‘Well, I think it’d be romantic, the sound of the waves, the sun setting into the sea.’

‘Wrong coast… The Sun sets in the west, the bay is on the east coast.’

‘Well, let’s watch the sun rise then?’, She looked over at him as he shook his head, ‘What if we stay at the pub and go and see the house in the morning?’

He took a deep breath, but realised that he wasn’t going to get a moment of peace until he agreed.  They left the auction house car park and drove north, towards the sea.

The pub was cosy enough, and luckily for the pair, it had a double room available. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the famous duck was awful, but when the waitress cooed at Emma’s bump and asked them if everything was alright, they smiled and said it was all fine.   After the bar had emptied a little, and it just appeared to be a few, staunch regulars who remained, the landlady led Jamie and Emma up to their room.  All of the doors they passed were made of thick oak planks, studded with black iron pins, their room key was large and heavy, reminding Emma of something you’d find on a jailer’s key ring.  It turned easily in the lock and the door swung open with a loud creak.  At that same moment, all the lights along the corridor momentarily flickered.

Catching their look of dismay, the landlady chuckled, ‘Oh don’t pay any mind to that my loves, there’s probably a spot of seawater in the wiring.  It’s the spray from the cliffs you see.’

They looked suspiciously at the light fittings, which were now working perfectly, as if just to spite them.  Squeezing past the rotund landlady, they entered the room and were immediately struck by the decoration; it was a mixture of local IKEA and early 16th Century Cornish wrecker chic.  There was even a miniature ship’s wheel attached to the back of the door that was currently acting as a coat-hook, holding a pair of dressing gowns that had seen better days.

‘HMS Kent?’ Emma asked the landlady, who had turned to look outside, ‘Is that a famous local ship?’

‘Mmm? Oh no, I don’t think so. I picked that up in the antique shop on the High Street a few weeks ago.  Don’t you two have any luggage?’

‘No, it was a last minute decision to come here.  We’ve just bought a house up at Deep Grove and I couldn’t wait to see it.  Nesting instinct I suppose.’ She gently patted her belly, ‘We’re almost there you see.’

The landlady looked at Jamie, who was making slightly more noise filling the kettle and arranging the teacups than was proper, and took this as her cue to leave.  ‘Well, if you need anything, just give us a knock.  We’re the first door at the end of the corridor with no number on.’ She frowned, and it looked as if she didn’t really want to continue, ‘But please don’t knock on the door next to ours, that’s Danny’s room, and he’s not to be… Disturbed.’

The door closed behind her and Jamie finished making their tea.  They turned on the aged portable television, but there was only static, whose waves seemed to mimic those from the sea, just outside the window.

The weak, morning sun crept around the edges of their curtains and chased them both rudely into wakefulness. Not that Emma had slept more than fitfully; the tiny passenger she carried had seen to that, he seemed to have been invigorated by the sea air, rather than calmed by it.  After a spectacular cooked breakfast, they headed down the coast towards Deep Grove.  The crunch of their tyres on the short gravel drive brought a smile to Emma’s face; it was one of the things on her ‘dream home checklist’ along with a sea view, real fires and wood panelling.  It didn’t matter that the house wasn’t particularly old, or particularly big. In her mind it was perfect, and it was theirs.  She followed Jamie inside, hugged him, and then went into the kitchen. The view through the picture window was breath-taking.  If she looked to her right, she could just make out Whitby, to her left, the sea seemed to go on forever.  She felt at home, more at home than she ever had in the house she shared with Jamie back in York.  Her mother had left them that house in her will and Jamie’s aunt had left them the extra cash they needed to buy Deep Grove.  Emma frowned as the thought of the family deaths crossed her mind.  But it was what both of them would have wanted.

She sat on the steps as Jamie contacted the service companies and arranged to have the gas and electricity reconnected.  By the time he’d arranged dates and times, it was time for them to leave.

It took them less than two months to finalise everything.  All of their furniture had been moved in, the source of a strange scrabbling noise from the attic had been attributed to squirrels and Emma had given birth to Carl, seven pounds four ounces of healthy, happy, baby boy.  Her life was perfect, she had the perfect house, the perfect child, the perfect husband and her husband had the perfect job.  Well, almost the perfect job – He usually worked from his upstairs office, but he very occasionally had to travel into his firm’s Head Office in Manchester.  Today was one such day, Jamie had left home just as the sun was rising, he’d kissed her on the cheek, gently opened the door to Carl’s bedroom to whisper goodbye then drove away, trying to be as quiet as he could on the gravel driveway.

She stayed in bed until Carl started to cry. Sitting up, she called to him that she was coming, and then noticed her own broad smile in the dressing table mirror, this was the first time in her life that she’d been truly happy, there was nothing like it and she wanted to feel like this forever.  Carl’s cries became an indignant shriek, which tore her from her reverie.  She slipped from her bed and padded into the next room, the stripped floorboards feeling warm beneath her feet, despite the fact that it was nearing the end of October.

‘So what’ll it be partner?’ She struck a pose like a cowboy gunfighter, ‘Y’hungry?’ She put her hands under her still swollen breasts and pointed them at him like a pair of six-shooters, ‘Or are y’wet?’ She walked to the side of the cot and leaned over the rails, ‘Is that it? Have y’peed y’self boy? Did it all get too much for y’all?’

Carl looked her straight in the eye, and blew a bubble from his nose before starting to giggle uncontrollably.

‘Pheweee! Doggie!’ Emma made a show of waving the smell away from her face, ‘Smells like y’all got locked in the stable overnight!’ She picked him up and hugged him, before taking him over to the table and changing him.  Within the hour they were both dressed and ready for the trip into Lythe.  They could have gone for a day in Whitby, but Emma had promised herself that she would take a look at the little antique shop that the landlady of ‘The Duck Pub’ as they now referred to it, had mentioned all those long months ago.

The village of Lythe was less than a mile down the road, but she still drove.  Carl wasn’t walking yet and she had no way to know how much shopping might accidentally get itself bought.  They drove down the empty country lanes, and as they passed St. Oswald’s church it triggered one of the only historical facts that Emma could remember.  She half-turned her head so that she was still looking at the road, but so that Carl could hear her. ‘Did you know, that St Oswald had five heads?’ She chanced a look at Carl, he seemed singularly unimpressed, but she continued unabashed, ‘they’re stored in churches all around the world and no-one knows which is the real one.  Isn’t that interesting?’ A quick look in the rear-view mirror told her that Carl thought that the contents of his nose were significantly more interesting, and not to mention more tasty. ‘Please yourself you little luddite.’ She sighed.  They pulled into the  car-park opposite the duck pub and Carl struggled in his straps as Emma wrestled the pushchair from the boot.  ‘Wait a minute Tyke, you’d better get used to being strapped in, because I’m not letting you out in the shop.  I’m going to cost Daddy enough as it is without you adding to the bill.’ She released him from the car-seat and soon had him firmly ensconced in the pushchair.

The sun was shining as they walked down the street towards the little antique shop, Emma took in a deep breath which seemed to contain a heady mix of silage and the smell of cooking from the pub across the road. ‘Well,’ she thought to herself, ’that’s lunch sorted.’ She looked down at her son, who was chewing at the straps that held him in. ‘I was going to ask you if you were hungry, but…’

‘They’re a joy aren’t they?’

Emma’s head snapped up in shock. Stood in front of her was a vicar, or at least someone dressed as a vicar. ‘Erm… Hello?’

‘Good morning My Child.’ He said, offering his hand limply, ‘I’m David Sileby, Reverend of Saint Oswald’s. Children, they’re a joy.’ He looked at her expectantly, almost hungrily.

She took his hand, which had all the warmth of a leather bag full of sticks, ‘Emma, Emma Hall, this is Carl my son.’

‘Not for long I think?’ The Reverend’s mouth spread into a wide grin, showing large stained teeth that probably weren’t original.  He leaned down to tousle the boy’s hair.

‘What?’ Emma placed her hand on Carl’s chest and stepped in between them. ‘Look here! If you’re trying to…’

‘Oh goodness, my dear lady! I’m sorry if I offended you, I merely meant that your son is very young, he hasn’t been around for very long.  Perhaps I could have put it slightly better.’ He mumbled, ‘Should we perhaps start again?’

Emma stepped back, suspicion still burning in her eyes. ‘I’m afraid I have things to do. Goodbye.’ She grabbed hold of the handles of the pushchair, steered it around the Reverend Sileby and took off down the street.  Every few steps she looked back to see him still smiling and waving, the fifth time she looked, he’d gone.

A small brass bell rang as she opened the door into the antique shop, the owner looked up from his newspaper and touched the brim of his worn fedora.

‘Afternoon, looking for anything in particular or just browsing?’ He asked, brushing cake crumbs from his jacket.

‘I don’t know,’ replied Emma, ‘Just some decorative items really.  We’ve just moved into the house up at Deep Grove, and it still looks a bit empty, even with all of our stuff in there.’ She thought back to their stay at the pub, ‘Perhaps something a bit nautical? Not too nautical though, I don’t want it to look like Captain Pugwash’s house.’

He smiled and pushed his hat further back on his head. ‘We’ve got a few things like that, down at the back.’ He pointed down the corridor which seemed to be a lot longer that the shop was deep, ‘But I’m afraid that there’s not enough room for…’ He indicated Carl’s pushchair, then pointed apologetically at the sign behind him with his thumb. It read, “All breakages must be paid for.”

Emma was in two minds, she wanted to look around the shop, and after all it was the whole reason that they were there. But she’d never met this man before, and the idea of leaving Carl with him, especially after the incident with the vicar, didn’t really appeal to her.

As if he could read her thoughts, he looked at her and said ‘He’ll be perfectly safe, if anyone steals him, you’ll hear the bell go.  I’ll look after him.’ He passed Carl a non-descript stuffed animal, that seemed to appear from nowhere and shooed her away.

Although she still wasn’t 100% convinced, she made her way into the depths of the shop and soon found herself surrounded by all kinds of random items, some of which were more easily categorised as ‘antiques’ than others.  She picked up a papier-mâché sheep, but nearly dropped it again when it unexpectedly bleated at her, she assumed that there was some hidden internal mechanism and put its strange warmth down to the direct halogen lighting.  She was tempted by a collection of whaling harpoons, mounted high on the wall above her, but the staining on their cruel points looked too dark to just be rust. Moving back towards the front of the shop, she knocked into a small cardboard box and heard the unmistakeably expensive noise of glass against glass.

‘Is everything alright?’ came the owner’s voice from the front of the shop.

‘Yes… I…’ She tried to lift the lid from the box to see what damage she’d caused, but it was much too tight and she decided that discretion was the better part of valour.  Carefully taking the box with her, she walked back to the front and placed the box on the counter. ‘What’s this?’ she asked, hoping that it was nothing of huge value.

‘I have absolutely no idea, there’s so much jun… I mean, there are so many quality items hidden at the back that I tend to lose track.  Let’s see.’ He gently slid off the lid, using no effort whatsoever. ‘Glass baubles… How very festive.’

Emma looked at the decorations, they were beautiful.  Ten simple pearlescent glass teardrops, with loops made of thin ribbon. She reached out to touch one, but her fingers seemed to encounter some resistance, ‘Look, there’s a note.’ She pointed to a slip of paper underneath the baubles.

He nodded and slipped the yellowing piece of paper from the box. Putting on a pair of thick-lensed glasses he read the inscription. ‘Presented by Her Majesty’s Admiralty to Captain David Reed Morehouse of the Dei Gratia as thanks for the resourcefulness and courage shown during the recovery of,’ He took off his hat and used it to cover his heart, ‘The Mary Celeste, 5th December 1872.  I remember these now; they were part of a complete house clearance that I bought.’

‘How much?’ Emma was already reaching for her bag.

‘Well, I don’t know, there’s provenance, I suppose.  I’d have to get them checked out.’

‘A thousand pounds? I’ll buy them from you for a thousand pounds.’ She wasn’t sure why but the internal voice that she normally only heard in shoe shops was telling her that she needed these baubles. ‘They’re traditional, they’ll suit my tree,’ She looked directly at him, ‘I need them.’

As they walked back to the car, all thoughts of a pub lunch had been forgotten, all Emma wanted to do was to get home and start decorating the tree.  The fact that it was only October was a mere formality. Luckily, the tree was in the garage rather than the attic.  Even though she was no longer pregnant, she didn’t relish the idea of climbing a ladder or the legions of spiders and possibly even squirrels that she might have to encounter.

It took nearly an hour to wrestle the eight foot tree into position.  Carl was watching her intently from his playpen in the corner.  She’d decided to forego any other type of decoration save for the new baubles.  Taking her time, she spread the delicate glass decorations equally over the periphery of the tree, constantly moving them around until she felt that they were all in their correct places.  ‘What do you think Tyke?’ She looked at Carl, who was busily banging two wooden trucks together. ‘Well, I think it looks beautiful. Except…’ as she looked closer, one of the baubles seemed wrong, twisted almost, Emma cocked her head questioningly to one side but the decoration was still not hanging correctly. ‘If I just…’ As she touched the glass, there was a painful discharge of static electricity and the world went black.

Carl was roused from his home-made timber car-crash by a noise like thunder.  His mother was suddenly nowhere to be seen.  And he started to cry.

Emma sat up and winced, there was a stabbing pain behind her eyes which throbbed heavily as she moved.  She looked around, but could see only an oddly familiar, pearlescent fog. ‘Hello, is there anybody there?’ her words sounded flat and emotionless, as if her own voice was coming from a long way away. ‘Hello?’

‘Hello.’ The voice came from directly behind her.

Emma spun, the increased pain in her head causing flashes across her vision.  Standing almost apologetically in front of her was a small woman wearing a long Victorian dress with dark hair in a severe centre-parting. ‘Where am I?’ Emma asked.

‘I’m sorry but I have no idea,’ The woman giggled, ‘one minute I was decorating the Christmas tree on the ship, and the next… ’ She shrugged her shoulders, ‘Oh! How rude of me. I’m Sarah Briggs, pleased to meet you.  You don’t speak German do you?’

Emma was having difficulty keeping up with Sarah’s quick-fire way of speaking, ‘Erm… No, sorry… What ship?’

‘Pity, there’s a German lady who I sometimes bump into, I can’t understand a word she’s saying. The ship? The Mary Celeste, although Benji still insists on calling her the Amazon. You haven’t seen him have you? My Husband? He’s probably off drinking his way through the cargo with Richardson.’ Sarah sat down comfortably in thin air, looking past Emma’s shoulder.

‘No, I haven’t I’m sorry.  Did you say the Mary Celeste? Only that story’s a hundred years old.  Found abandoned, drifting in the sea.’

‘Abandoned? How could it be abandoned? It’s just foggy, it’s a sea mist, we’ll sail out of the other side of it soon enough.  Benji will sort it all out.  Oh! Good Lord! Where’s Sophia?  Sophia! Sophia!’ She grabbed Emma’s shoulders, ‘I’ve lost my baby, where’s my baby?’

As Jamie came through the front door, all he could hear was wracking cries.  He dropped his laptop bag and ran into the dining room, not knowing whether to be more shocked by the huge Christmas tree, or the fact that his son had almost cried himself hoarse and was desperately in need of changing.  ‘Emma? Emma!’ He lifted Carl from his pen, ‘Where’s Mummy? Where’s Mummy gone to?’ Carl stopped crying, but his breath was still coming in ragged sobs. Once he’d been changed, Jamie put him back in his pen where he immediately began to cry at the top of his lungs.  ‘Demanding little soul aren’t you? Let’s find Mummy together shall we?’ He picked him up again and held him closely whilst they toured the house looking for Emma.  She was nowhere to be found.  Her car was still in the garage, her clothes were all still there, and there was no note.  The pair went back into the dining room and stood looking at the tree.  ‘Why has your Mummy put the tree up in October? And more importantly, why is one of the baubles in the wrong place? He put Carl down on the floor and reached up to adjust the decoration, with a now familiar thunderbolt, he disappeared.

Carl sat looking at the tree for a moment, wondering just what had happened.  Both of the people who fed him and took care of him had gone away.  Usually, he could bring them straight back by making the noise, so that’s what he did.  He made the noise as loud as he could, but no-one came.  He made the noise until he fell asleep, and then when he woke up he made the noise again. But still, no one came.  He noticed that one of the shiny balls, that he had been told not to play with looked different from the others.  He crawled towards it, slowed down by the weight in his nappy. He stretched up as high as he could and touched the bauble. His head started to spin and he fell forwards, knocking the bauble onto the floor.

The sound of thunder filled the house, when Carl opened his eyes a little girl was standing in front of him.

‘Hello Baby.’ She said, with genuine concern, ‘My name’s Sophia, what’s yours?’

So, Let me know what you think.  Would you like to read more?  Do you think that it might be worth a quick publish (It'd be fairly heavily edited, cleaned up and so forth beforehand)  Feel free to submit ideas - I'd be genuinely delighted to hear creative ones... You know, ones that don't say "Give it up Baldy, you're rubbish at this!"

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Gods Rest Ye Jerry Mentalmen

Those of you that are on Facebook will no doubt, at one time, have been the victim of one of those chain message things.  You know the story… Where one of your 4 billion friends updates their status to be their favourite flavour of sandwiches, or tells you how the nearest object to their left hand is their only weapon for the entirety of the coming zombie apocalypse.

(My iPhone headphones, should you be at all interested)

Normally, I would run away from such shenanigans with such speed as would emasculate a ferret, but my friend, and fellow celebrity blogger Tattooed Mummy has ‘nominated’ me to answer some questions about myself, and since I once used one of her nipples for something for which it was not originally designed, I feel that I somehow ‘Owe her one’.

It’s all very festive.

(Hey girlie, if you’re reading this, We’re even now… Actually, come to think of it, you still owe me for that whole ‘thing’ with the 99p Store)

Here are the questions that she asked, and my answers.

1.       Favourite Festive Food.
Well, I’m a sucker for a goose-fatted Hasselback potato… What? You’ve don’t know what one of those is? It’s… It’s… Well, it’s sort of like a roast potato, but cut into the shape of a woodlouse.  It’s better than it sounds, here’s a picture.  Mmmm – Tasty. Moreso even with bacon.

2.       Favourite Reindeer.
Favourite… Reindeer…? Who has a favourite reindeer? – Maybe a Laplander? And then I’d have to looks at them pretty askance to see exactly why they’re the favourite one.  So, what are my choices?

Dasher – No, I don’t like animals that move too fast.
Dancer – No, I’m all Strictly come Cottaging’d  out.
Prancer – Seriously? Who even prances?
Vixen – Hmmm… Vixen’s a contender.
Comet – At Christmas? Electrical goods? Hardly.
Cupid – Little naked fat baby? My favourite? Not in this day and age thank you very much – Not to be confused with Cherubs, which is short for ‘cherubim’ which are described in the Bible thusly: “Each of them had four faces and four wings, with straight feet with a sole like the sole of a calf's foot, and "hands of a man" under their wings. Each had four faces: the face of a man, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle”
Donner – Thunder? No.
Blitzen – Lightning? See above
Rudolf – Added to the list over a hundred years later by the nice people at Montgomery Ward as an advertising character.  Now, I’m all for ceaseless consumerism… But at Christmas? That’s probably toevah or something.

So, I’m going with Vixen, Because the word reminds me of shiny PVC, which can’t be a bad thing.

3.       Favourite Day of Christmas.
The fifth, because who doesn’t like yelling ‘FiIIIiIiiiiIiiiIIIIIIiVe Go-OOoOOoOooOOooooLD RiIIIiiIIIIiiiiIiIngs!’ every thirty seconds at the top of their voices?

4.       Favourite Christmas Song.
Erm… I’m not aware that I’ve actually got one, but if I were to be pushed, I’d have to say the Bowie/Bing version of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ – I’m a softie, leave me alone… Although I still say it’d be better if he’d done it as ‘The Man who fell to Earth’ (You were expecting me to say that Pogues one weren’t you? Admit it)


5.       Favourite Present.
Obviously, this is going to be from my dim and distant youth. So I’m going to say, from about 1979… ROM the Spaceknight – In fact, I got two of these, one each from my Dad and my Brother (Yes, the one that lives in the hollowed-out volcano in the Med) They were brilliant, like armoured robot Action-Men (GI-Joes) that had flashing lights and beeping and everything.  I remember swinging one around my head once and cracking myself in the temple with it… Good times

6.       Favourite Festive Film.
Scrooged, with Bill Murray – If you’ve ever seen it, you’ll know why… If you haven’t, the line ‘Well, I'm sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples.’ Will tell you all you need to know.

(I’m sensing a theme today, is anyone else sensing a theme?)

7.       Favourite Festive Cracker Toy.
Easy, Bottle opener, I currently have on my keyring a bottle opener in the shape of a fish skeleton.  You’d be surprised how often people ask to borrow it.

8.       Favourite Cracker Joke. 
What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations?


Last Christmas, my son used to tell this joke about every 7 nanoseconds, right up until the point where we bricked him up in the cellar.

9.       Favourite Christmas Decoration.
There’s a star that we have on top of the tree that’s sort of made of silver fretwork… Not sure where it originally came from.  But it’s hollow, you can put a few of the twinkly lights from the tree inside it.  When that gets turned on for the first time, it’s officially Christmas.

10.   Favourite Christmas Candle Scent.
Well, I just haven’t got one of these… Because I don’t know how to co-ordinate scatter cushions and I do not recognise ‘puce’ as a real colour, but my least-favourite is vanilla, the smell of it makes me boak in a projectile fashion.

11.   Favourite Christmas TV Advert. 
I don’t got one of these either, but last year’s John Lewis one was quite cleverly done.  Was there a bear and a donkey? Possibly a rabbit? Or am I thinking of a different DVD all together?

12.   Favourite Festive Tradition.
When the Dandies became their own family, we decided to start all new traditions… They’re pretty normal for the most part – Home-made mince-pies, shooting at the kids riding past on their new bikes with our bows, trying to get an arrow to stick in the spokes of their front wheels etc.  But my favourite is that the adults get to open one present each before they go to bed on Christmas Eve.  It can be addressed to anyone, but it becomes yours (which reminds me, does anyone like Hexbugs?)

13.   Favourite Place to Spend Christmas.
I suppose the stock answer should be ‘At home, with my loving family’ – So I’m going to say that… I’m certainly not going to say ‘Somewhere hot, on a beach, surrounded by morally corrupt ladies who are allergic to clothes.’

14.   Favourite Christmas Fact.
The German word for ‘Mistletoe’ – Mistelzweig, literally means ‘Crap on a twig’

15.   Favourite Snowman Accessory.

In our house, some sort of heavy shielding… (You thought I was joking about the bows and arrows, right?)

So, finally, happy Yule to you all, this probably won't be my last post of the year (although it might be - I'm the first person to admit that I've not been hugely prolific recently, You know, real-life and all that) but if I don't see you before next year let me leave you with this thought...

The price someone paid for your Christmas present corresponds directly to how much that person likes you.

This is why I never seem to get very much.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

You'd think he's have known better, being a Grandfather

It's been a long time since we've had a story about my Dad isn't it?

And thinking about it, the last one wasn't hugely cheery was it? Popular, helpful to some, but not cheery by any means.

But these are better, these two are funnier - Well, I think they are anyway, but you might want to keep in mind that the people involved were 'of a different time' where political correctness was just a glimmer in some well-meaning politician's eye - They're not meant to offend, and if they do, I'm sorry.  He wouldn't be sorry, he'd tell you to 'Stop being so bloody sensitive!' and look at you funny - But like I said, different time.

They happened a number of years ago in Germany, where my Dad did his National Service, as described in more detail HERE (Warning, contains mild bloodshed, bodily injury and shenanigens)

He travelled to Germany at least once a year, with a bunch of reprobates who had served with the RAF both during and after WWII in the same area for both RAF Transport and Bomber Commands - Actually, that's a lie, most of them were ex-RAF, but at least one was ex-Luftwaffe - It's a long story.  But in general, if you imagine the patrons of the Cantina at Mos Eisley from Star Wars, but give them all whispy grey hair, you won't go far wrong.


The first, and possibly most offensive story concerns an outing, either on a cable car, or a funicular railway (The exact details of his stories often wavered with each telling).

There were thirteen people on this particular excusion, and they were busily queueing for their turn on the conveyance in question, when one of my Dad's colleagues turned to him and asked,

'Freddo, how long before our go, do you think?'
'No idea,' Dad looked at the length of the queue and saw that it wasn't moving very fast, 'fifteen or twenty minutes at least.'
'My feet hurt.'
'We've only just got here!'
'I know, but even so.' There was a silence that lasted as long as it took for the queue to shuffle forward a few feet. 'Do you know how much it is?'
'No, not exactly, I think it's five euros.'
'That seems expensive, Can you remember when it was marks, before the euro? I preferred that.  At least we still use pounds.'
'Yeah, pounds, lovely.' He tried to sound just disinterested enough to stop the old fellah talking, it didn't work.
'Is this five euros?' He shoved out a wrinkled hand that was full of change, 'It's all I've got.'
My Dad counted it and confirmed that there was more than enough, but said, 'Look, why don't you just go to the front and check the prices?'

Which is exactly what the old chap did.  He wandered with his walking stick to the front of the queue, making it plain that he wasn't intending to push in, studied the board and can back with a grin on his face.

'It's six euros.'
'Oh, right, you've still got enough though.'
'That's seventy-eight euros for all of us.'
'But there's an offer on that will only cost us thirty-six euros!'
'Really?' (Now my Dad liked a bargain, so this interested him greatly)
'Yes, it says twelve plus one. thirty-six euros.  You can speak German, what does "behinderte" mean?'
His heart sank, 'It means disabled. That's the price for disabled people.'
'Well, can't we pretend?'
'To be disabled? Don't you think that's a bit dishonest?'
'But we're in Germany.' when my Dad looked at him blankly, he carried on, 'They're the bad guys.'
'Were! They were the bad guys, a long time ago. They've been nothing but kind to us since we've been here.'
'But, it saves us forty-two euros?' 

Which in fairness was all the convincing that was required, and why five minutes later my Dad was posing as the carer (Because he could speak German) of a group of people who displayed the entire panoply of disabilities that they could muster.  There were at least three completely fictional false legs, a couple of blind chaps who were suspiciously looking at people when they talked, and one chap who took his performance so seriously that he wet himself.  Although that might have been purely co-incidental.

There was a bit of too-ing and fro-ing with the girl in the booth who didn't speak any English, but finally they were let through at the reduced price - And almost all of them made it into the carriage before they started whooping and waving their walking sticks in the air shouting 'In your face Fritz!' and suchlike.


The second and last story (for today) will have more of an impact if you're a trekker.  It involves some knowledge of the episode 'The Trouble with Tribbles.' You should go and watch it now and see which bit you think I'm going to reference.  It also goes to show that old people can also be complete arses, just like everybody else.



This bit is set in Cologne, a German city that suffered heavy bombing by the RAF in 1942-1943, to the point where it's still a sore subject/item of embarrasment with combatants and their descendents from both sides.

It was during another visit (or possibly the same visit, I'm not hugely sure) that the group were sat in a small bar after an excursion.  the ladies had retired for the evening and the chaps were enjoying multiple steins of German beer (or foreign muck, as most of them termed it, not that this effected the amount they were drinking.) They were in what you might politely call 'High Spirits', when a middle-aged local man left his group of friends, wandered over and started a conversation.

(I won't do the comedy German Allo-Allo type accent - I'm walking a fine enogh line as it is

'Hallo! I couldn't help overhear that you're English!'
There was a generally positive murmur.
'I hope you are all enjoying yourselves?' (Now I figure that this guy knew exactly what was coming, so I have no sympathy for him)
'It's very nice, the people have been very friendly.' replied one of the group, my Dad was busily trying to fit his entire face into his beer, as he also knew what was coming.
'Nice? Yes, what do you think about our beautiful architecture?'
(Here it comes, be ready)
One of the assembled group was from No. 5 Bomber Group, who had taken part in the '1,000-bomber attack' on Cologne itself.  He replied, 'Well, it looks a damn sight better from 20,000 feet through a bombsite.'

As I understand it, this was when the first table got flipped over. and the 'ruckus' ensued.  So if you can recall the bar-fight scene from 'The Trouble with Tribbles', you should replace the Klingons with Octogenarian combat-trained, but very rusty, ex-RAF bruisers and the crew of the Enterprise with Middle-aged German types whose parents had probably lived through the bombing. (I was going to compare the Germans to the Klingons, but... When you think about it, they were really the injured party)

If you've not seen it, it's here:

The fight didn't last very long, but it did involve a number of cuts and bruises on both sides.  In fact, the only reason I found out about it at all was because my dear old Dad, who was still just about in his 70's at the time, had a huge black-eye when he came back to the UK.

I listened to his story and asked 'Well, who won?'
He looked at me as if to say 'I'm not even going to dignify that with an answer.' and then smiled one of the biggest smiles that I'd ever seen and said 'Fancy a pint?'

Monday, 10 November 2014

All together now

It's amazing isn't it, this blogging thing?  You can type what you like and within minutes, it's available to be viewed by people all over the free world.

Which is pretty scary when you think about it.  I mean, I can type, oh, I don't know... This:

The boy stood on the burning deck,
He didn't miss a trick.
The Captain of the ship appeared,
and kicked him in the... shin.

And within seconds, people in France, Poland, China and Cyprus are reading it.

(Ah, crap! Yeah - And in the Ukraine too, did I mention I'm very big in the Ukraine?)

Now, at best, that's meaningless - At worst it's the ugliest borderline doggerel since that piano fell on Lord Byron halfway through the last canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, causing him to write:

"And thou, dread Statue, yet existent in... Oh! you bleedin' clot, get this piano off my foot!"

(You can actually read this line in the original manuscript, it's just between the splat of a fried egg and a suspicious stain that looks a lot like Vimto.)

Anywho, where was I?  Oh, yes.

Blogs, and bloggers.  There are an unusal amount of people out there who think that their opinions and experiences will be of interest to the hoi-polloy.  I'm one of them, obviously I've had an unusual old life really, when you think about it... I mean there's the whole 'Getting Shot' thing and the 'Being invited to suckle from that chap's wife' episode amongst others.  But you know, a lot of them are about people with 'Normalish' lives, doing 'Normalish' things and in fairness, they tend to be really boring 'Shout into the void' affairs, detailing what people have done that day, or what flavour of crisps they like.  They're nice to read whilst you're drinking your coffee so that you can feel a bit superior or maybe compare your life favourably to someone else.

But some stand out as different - There's my good friend Tattooed Mummy's one for instance, which I've pointed you at before.  She's into the whole 'Mums' type of thing, and if you're one of those, you should probably head over and take a look.  She does product reviews and all sorts of things (Also she just won an iPad from The 99p Store for, like, doing a clever tweet or something, which I'm not bitter about at all)

And there's my mate Emma, who runs her own Blog - it concentrates mostly on writing, and she's managed to grab herself an Editor for her next book and everything.  She's full of good advice - Go take a look.

But the one I actually want to talk about now is one by a nice lady that I don't really know in the slightest.  Don't get me wrong, she sends me emails quite regularly and uses my first name and everything - But she does this to a lot of people, because she's nice, and polite. And despite the fact that we've never interacted personally, I feel something of a kindred spirit.  See if you can figure out why as we go along.

This is her:

Lotte Lane, with a train
(which I didn't realise rhymed until I wrote it)

Her name's Lotte Lane and she lives in Bristol
(My name's NOT Lotte Lane, but I did once live in Bristol - I had a great little flat on the Floating Harbour.)

She writes a blog about things that happen to her and how it's likely to change her life
(My Blog is mostly about stuff that has already happened to me and how it shaped my life.)

She's an 'Awesomiser' who can make anything you want to do 'More awesome' in some way
(I'm a can-doist, I've got a plaque and everything. See below>)

LEGO work courtesty of the Micro-Dandy

She's pretty.
(I'm ruggedly handsome)

She's a Mother.
(I'm a Father - Of different children before you start thinking that that was the big reveal)

She's suffered from depression
(I've suffered from depression)

She's got a shiny, new website
(Cock! this one was a mistake, I got nothin' here)

She knows how to do coding and mailshots so everything looks professional
(Again? Dammit all to heck - I just mash the keyboard with my pudgy fists and you guys get what you're given)

She's had the cojones to give up her job and go it alone to do the stuff she loves doing and follow her dream.
(I have freakishly small virtual genitalia in comparison)

She's written a book
(I've written three books! Hahahahaha! I win! I win! In your face Lotte Lane!)

Sorry about that... It was a temporary aberration... I have a hold of myself now (No, not like that, you maggots).

I know that I've been pimping books a lot recently, but this is something different.  Neither myself, nor James Josiah (whose brilliant new book I pimped mercilessly last week) Will die of hunger if you don't buy our books - Well, maybe JJ will, I thought ahead and laid down a thick layer of blubber before the winter, He's like a racing snake, you wouldn't even cannibalise him in a plane crash.

But Lotte might - This is a real revenue stream for her - I'm a big believer in helping out where I can.

You can read about the book (and buy it, obvs) from Lotte's new website HERE and it's available as one of these 'Pay what you want' style deals.  And as I know you guys, I know you'll dig deep because you want to help people who follow their dreams don't you?

Don't you?

Yes... Of course you do.

Oh yeah, join her mailing list too, she'll send an email to you quite regularly with your name on it... You can use it to convince people you have another friend.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

I was a teenage Cable Monkey

Over the years, I've done lots of jobs. I've been a barman, a delivery driver, a doorman and a bailiff.  I've run nightclubs, helpdesks, and teams of IT engineers.  I've worked for airlines, pharmaceutical companies, councils and hairdressers.  But in all those different jobs, I'm never happier than when I'm lying on my back, with my head under a false floor, plugging cables into boxes with flashing lights on.

I am a hard-wired, dyed-in-the-wool cable-monkey, and proud of it. People I work with tend to find this out fairly early and I tend to get asked to do the 'difficult stuff', The conversation will often go something like this:

Them: Aw, damn!

Me: Whut?

Them: This new thing doesn't work?

Me: Whut?

Them: Well, I've got this iPhone (They show me the iPhone, because they think I've never seen one before) and I want to connect it to... Erm... This duck? (They hold up a duck, which looks much like any other duck, but has a slightly more confused and upset look on its face than usual) and I want them to talk to each other but I don't have the right cable.

Me: Is there a right cable?

Them: Well, Maplins said there wasn't, but there has to be, right? I mean, I can't be the only person who wants to connect a duck to an iPhone

So, I go away and make a cable up and everyone's happy (Except for the duck, obvs)

What I'm trying to say is that I'm pretty good at making things work, Mrs Dandy doesn't ask me if I've managed to fix something anymore, she just assumes that it's now fixed and asks what I've had to dismantle in the process.

So, onto today's story.  In 2005, I worked for a large, international, construction company.  It was halfway through my last week when my boss informed me that there was one, last, special job that I could do as sort of a 'leaving present'.  It was unusual and would involve a huge amount of travelling, but there was an overnight hotel stay at a hotel in Scotland and the company were known at the time for their free and easy attitude towards expenses claims.

It turned out that the CEO of the company had bought himself a castle in Scotland, complete with turrets and archways and a dungeon (probably) and he wanted his office wiring up so that he didn't have to commute to Solihull every day (Not that he did, of course, thet'd be mental) The only downside was that He, himself, wouldn't be there, it'd just be his wife... and she'd requested that I'd be there by 10:00am... and it was a four and a half hour drive, as long as I didn't stop at all, ever.

So the next day came, and I flung the bedroom curtains open to be met by snow.  I threw on my warmest clothes, shoved a similar set into my haversack and clamboured into my Audi (I had an A6 at the time, leather seats, climate control, the whole shebang... It were reet lush)

The trip was singularly unremarkable, except that the snow stopped at Carlisle, and so did I for a frankly overpriced breakfast at the services at Todhills.  I drove on through Gretna (Which isn't as picturesque as I'd though it would be) past Dumfries, the home-town of the irrepressible Scots Mick, to the sunny, seaside village of Rockcliffe.

This is Rockcliffe (photo is actual size,
no, really it is that tiny)

If you take a trip to Rockcliffe, you'll instantly know why the Scots are traditionally described as a rugged people.  The 'Beach' isn't made of sand, or even pebbles - It's made of jagged outcrops of granite that local visitors let their babies cut their teeth on. The entire village is closed throughout the summer months on the grounds that "Anyone who's want ta visit in th' warm weather is a Softy-Walter!"

Luckily, when I got there the sun was out and the sea was calm, by which I mean the water was battering against the seafront cottages, but it hadn't, as yet, put any of the windows through - Which I believe is an ancient Scottish friendship custom.

It took a while to find the castle, it was hidden up an unsignposted track, behind some huge pine trees.  Passing through the wrought-iron gates, I drove up the half-mile or so of gravel driveway and parked inbetween a greenhouse that could have produced a chorusline full of Audrey Two's from Little Shop of Horrors, and an attractive middle-aged lady dressed in the neuvau-agricultural style that you can buy piecemeal from Harvey Nicholls (You know, tight-jeans, rugby-shirt and wellies that cost more than my house

She waved at me and called, "Are you the man?"

I whispered under my breath that "Indeed I was the Gods-damned Man." Then smiled brightly, got my heavy toolbox out of the boot and crunched towards her over the artfully scattered, hand-polished marble chips.

"It's in here!" she said as she disappeared into the kitchen, which looked a bit like the one from Downton Abbey, except bigger... It had the bells on the walls and everything.  She ambled through a selection of oak-panelled corridors, asking about my trip and making the concerned noises when I told her about the early start and the over-priced breakfast.  Then she took me upstairs. (For the benefit of the professional tradesmen reading this, yes, I stayed the prescribed four steps behind her all the way up the stairs so that my face was level with her backside) "Here we are." She indicated a large room, completely empty but for a selection of cardboard boxes. "There should be everything you need, he'd like it over there I think."

"Sorry?" I replied, genuinely non-plussed, "I'm just here to connect his laptop and make it work."

"Oh, right you are. Is someone else coming up to build the furniture?" She looked between me, my burgeoning toolbox, the pile of boxes that now obviously contained the office furniture, and the Long-Haired Border Collie that had appeared out of nowhere and was busily sniffing my genitals. "That's Bruno, come off Bruno!" (His name probably wasn't Bruno, but it was something like that, I can't really remember, but you know the sort of thing) She smiled again, and said, "Well, if you just build the table, you can put it on there can't you?"

And because she was... Is handsome a word you're allowed to use for an attractive lady of a certain age? and I'm a sucker for a damsel in distress, and Bruno was getting even more insistant about his desire for my gentleman's area, I agreed.  She turned and went downstairs, with the dog following her closely, and I opened the G-Plan box that contained the desk.

After about an hour of scratching my head and inserting tab 'A' into slot 'F', there was a call from downstairs. "Excuse me, Mr Man? Could you give me a hand?"  I amazed myself by only getting lost three times on the way back down into the kitchen to be presented with the sight of Mrs. CEO surrounded by a sea of carrier bags. "The shopping's just been delivered... I don't suppose you'd give me a hand putting it away?" And I did, because: Knight in shining armour remember?  Then she made us a coffee and we sat at the hand-made kitchen table on hand-made kitchen chairs drinking it from hand-thrown pottery mugs watching the Red Deer frolic in the 'As far as the eye could see' garden.

I went back upstairs and slid back under the desk, tightening the odd screw and greasing the draw-sliders.  Then I cracked my head off the corner of a board as I felt a hand travel up my leg, inexorably towards my Magical Boy Garden of Delights.  Once the dancing stars had faded, I looked down to see Bruno's nose, rather than the hand I had first thought.  I shooed him away, and he looked crestfallen.  I waited, straining my ears trying to hear him trot down the stairs.  When I thought I was 'safe' I carried on with my work.

So, you can imagine my surprise when minutes later a hard rubber bone was dropped onto my scrotum from a great height and I received a similar bump on the other side of my forehead, giving me something of the air of Hellboy.  This time I actively chased Bruno from the room and locked the door behind him.

I finished the desk... Then put together a chair... Connected the broadband up and built the laptop... Built some shelves... Unwrapped the bin... Made up some curtains... embroidered the lampshade and finally made to leave sometime in the mid afternoon.  As I re-entered the kitchen she was stood putting her Barbour coat on.

"Oh, I was just about to ask how long you were going to be, I have to pop out for a few hours." She shook my hand and said thanks, I thanked her for the coffee and she asked if I was driving back to Birmingham.  I said no, and that I was staying locally and driving back in the morning.  When I mentioned the name of the hotel she said, "Are you sure? Because it's closed for the season." She shrugged and I followed her out of the house, jogged to the car and checked the booking form.  It was the right hotel, but there was a note at the bottom of the page that said "check-in from 19:30 onwards." It seemed that I had a couple of hours to kill, so I parked the car at the very closed hotel, walked through a deep, dark forest to find the nearest pub, had a few pints surrounded by very suspicious looking natives and convinced myself that I was firmly in the grip of a local am-dram society's remake of 'An American Werewolf in Scotland'.

When I returned (through the deep, dark forest) the hotel was open, but they had no food available, so I drank whisky until it was time for bed.

I woke up at around 10:00 the next morning.

The snow had followed me.

And due to the fact that the temperature was -45 deg. the car refused to start.

And I was marrooned.

And I died alone and unloved by anyone... Except Bruno.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The blade felt good against my skin.

A lot of you will know, mainly because I bang on about it all the time as if it's going out of fashion, that I call myself a writer.

I write... Books and stuff... Loads of them... All the time... Sometimes, when I get up to get myself a sandwich or something, I check the seat of my chair to make sure that I haven't accidentally laid another book about... Oh, I don't know, The Winiama dancers of Burkina Faso perhaps, or a children's story featuring Rodney the happy slug.

You can buy them from Amazon too, just go there and do a search for 'The Chimping Dandy' and you'll see them there all lined up in a row (or column, depending on your display settings and whether you're lying down)

Go do it now... You'll see all four of the three books I've written. (You should obviously buy them all whilst you're there, it's only polite)

Hey! Hang on a minute!

All four? of the three books?

Right at the end of the list you'll see a dainty tome called 'The James Josiah Flash Project Volume 1' - As written by the titular James Josiah.  It says I wrote it to, but I didn't, it's a wicked lie!  Although in fairness I did contribute a story to it, it's a kind of anthology you see... Never could get the hang of them myself.

But, that does bring us fairly neatly to the theme of today's post.

James Josiah

Author, Demagogue, Professional Penguin Impersonator & Brick-Wizard.

The thing is, he's only gone and wrote a book himself, and it's severely bloody marvellous.

Have you still got that Amazon window open? The one that you used to buy all my books? No? OK - Click on the link below to search Amazon for his books now.

Only the first three are his, those are the ones you should totally buy, right now... Maybe wait until pay-day.  The two volumes of the James Josiah Flash Project should be in your collection already if you have a Kindle, you have no excuse not to have already bought those, they're, like 77p. 

But the biggy, the cream of the crop, quite literally the top of the heap is 'Days of Madness'

This is the Halloween promotional cover
Yours won't be quite this brilliant

This all-new novel, charts a month in the life of Ryan Carmichael, a Systems Administrator for Finnister Solutions. (Who provide Clear Solutions for a Brighter Future) It's not a great month, all things considered.  In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it makes Ryan question the very nature of reality.

Here, let me read you a random passage - Try reading it in the voice of Kevin Spacey, or Eddie Izzard if you think it will help you relax.


I’d been sat pondering for a good half hour before I realised I wasn’t wearing the same clothes as this morning. I went back to the kitchen and looked in the fridge; it was fully stocked with a load of healthy crap. I looked in the sink, the bowl was empty and the things from this morning had all been put away. 
Now it was quite a clever gag, I had to hand it to him but we have a very fragile mental state at the minute. 
Now isn’t the time to be pulling this shit. 
After my heart had returned to its normal rate and my hands stopped shaking I fixed myself some tea, as in the evening meal not a cuppa. I had a grilled chicken breast with some pasta and the remains of the pesto. It was alright as far as healthy-ish food goes but I followed it with ice cream and beer . In my head this is a balanced diet, I’m sure that lady off the telly that likes looking at people’s poo would disagree. 
I put the dirty plate, pot and grill tray in the dishwasher and went to lose myself online for the remainder of the day. As I sat at my desk I saw a post-it note on one of the monitor screens that read “You owe me a day” 
Well I’m sorry old boy; it just isn’t going to work like that.

Josiah, James (2014-10-23). Days Of Madness (Kindle Locations 719-729). The Penguin's Head. Kindle Edition. 


Isn't it great?

I'm not just saying that because this man gave me my first push into creative writing, or that I'm the Art Director of The Penguin's Head publishing, who published the book (And all of mine too) in the first place, or that I owe him £25.

And, I'm certainly not saying it because I designed the cover *cough*

I'm saying it because it's a great book, that handles mental health issues with a huge amount of sensitivity and dark humour. It takes a serious subject and does the best possible job of turning it into a genuine page-turner, with fully fleshed-out characters and a multi-faceted story that will keep you intrigued until well after the story has concluded.

Look, I could go on like this all day, but at the end of it, you'd be best to just buy this book and enjoy it for yourself then go and leave a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or write a blog about it.

It's this sort of thing that provides new writers with the encouragement that they need to keep writing.

Be a part of that - It'll make you feel better, honest.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Probably a Mutoscope

Well, it's Halloween, or Samhain, whichever you prefer; which makes it the perfect time for a short story.

Hope you like it.


When it came, the blow was brutal. It cut across the side of her head and the world just seemed to stop. Well, no, that's not quite right, it didn’t exactly stop; she could see the pearls of blood… Her blood, hit his sneering face, exploding in slow motion into delicate scarlet flowers that spread in a line across his cheek.  She didn’t feel any pain, there was just a burning sensation, but more like the feeling you get from touching a block of ice.  No pain, not really.  The strength faded from her legs and she started to topple backward, she felt the numb ‘pins and needles’ spreading down from the small of her back to her knees and smiled.

Richard had always thought she was odd, for enjoying the tingling feeling that restriction of the blood-flow sometimes brought.  In fact that’s why he left; he came into the shop one lunchtime to find her in the stockroom with the wire bound tightly around her wrist. Her fingers were swollen and purple, the veins standing out on the back of her hand like vines on some great jungle tree.  She hadn’t realised he was there until he spat the word, ‘Pervert!’ at her and slammed the door behind him.  By the time she’d composed herself and got back to the flat, he’d gone.  By the look of things he’d just shovelled his few belongings into a bag and left his key on the bedside table never to be seen again. It was no great loss.
She was still falling.  Her head snapped forward as she clipped the cabinet behind her and sent the credit card machine flying through the air. ‘Damn!’ She thought absently to herself, as it spun towards the floor, ‘That’s rented; it’ll cost a fortune to replace if it smashes.’ She saw the man that had hit her, his eyes wide and shining wetly, his cruel mouth lolling open like a panting dog’s.  He had dropped the baseball bat, but it had not yet landed on the counter, along its length, as it twisted in the air, she could see the glitter of metal sunk into the wood.  ‘Razor blades? No, can you even buy razor blades anymore? Stanley knife? Yes, they’re probably Stanley knife blades.  You’d have thought the bat would be enough, but then what do I know about current weapon fashions in the smash and grab industry?’ 

In time with her weakening pulse, her vision began to fade, the colours went first to make it look as if she were trapped in some terrible black and white film. Then the details started to blur, and the darkness began to seep in from the edges, constricting her field of view even more. It looked like an old-time silent picture now, the type where someone would be playing a piano in the theatre and every few seconds a card would appear explaining what was happening on the screen.

Her father had shown her a machine once whilst they were on holiday, where you put an old penny into a slot in the side and then wound the handle whilst looking through a lens.  Its real name was something odd, she remembered, but she couldn’t remember exactly what it was.  He called it a ‘What the Butler saw.’ But she didn’t really understand why, unless the butlers of the time often saw a set of dusty old postcards clicking past one after another.  Ornate white letters swam in front of her eyes, ‘Kally has been hit by a bat and is probably going to die!!!’ Her heart sank, from what little she remembered, three exclamation marks was never a good sign.

The man was grabbing jewellery from the case now; he used both hands as if he was starving and the diamonds were plates of gravy and potatoes.  Christ, she was hungry – She should have grabbed a sandwich from that shop next to the Tube station, but they’d only had egg, she didn’t really feel like egg, she was in a tuna mood.  She was going to die on an empty stomach, could this get any worse?

Her head continued to slide down the front of the cupboard, the muscles in the back of her neck getting tighter and tighter until she felt something tear and she heard a crack, ‘Owww! That hurt!’ She yelled, the words echoing around her head but somehow unable to escape through her lips.

Then it suddenly didn’t hurt any more.

And there was nothing to see.

And there was nothing to hear.

And as her last breath left her body, her nose was filled with the scent of her father’s aftershave. She’d not smelled it for years, not since she’d taken over the shop after he’d died.