I’ve quite liked putting up two very early fast fiction challenges the past two weeks, two stories written while I was still figuring out what I could do with the format.

So here are another two, from early in the first set of challenges, in 2005.

You’ll notice that they have the same title and the same word.

For this was a title, a challenge, which I answered twice; I wrote two entirely different stories.

I started writing fast fiction challenges when my wife and I had recently separated, as a precursor to divorce, and wanted something to occupy my mind and to recharge the writing muscles.

But the first story I wrote answering this challenge was, I realised after I completed it, a tale that many, too many, people would assume was taken from real life. It wasn’t, but… y’know. It’s probably one of the more brutal of the earlier stories but it really wasn’t from real life. Honest.

But as I say, y’know…

So I composed another short fiction and published that one. That’s the second tale below.

When I did the collection, though, enough time had passed that I included the first story I’d originally written, because I still liked it. And I still do.

(I find it more amusing than I probably should that the story title includes the word “twice”. Also that the challenge came from one of my close friends.)

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: She Killed Me Twice
Word: enigmatic
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

The first time she killed me, it was with cruelty.

The cold blooded severing of our lives, as she announced she was moving out. She looked around our apartment, summing up six years of togetherness with an apathetic gesture signifying that it had no meaning to her. The look of contempt in her eyes was chilling, made worse because of the utter yet enigmatic lack of expression on the rest of her features.

She took out her keys and one by one, removed any of them that had the slightest link to us. The sound they made as each one hit the table will remain with me for life.

One final look around the place, her eyes sweeping the room and passing over me as if I was of no greater import than a television or a curiously designed lamp.

And then she was gone, leaving me with the detritus of a life, wondering how to recover, how to go on.

Then the telephone calls started, so concerned about how I would ‘survive’, the patronising tone rubbing salt into the still open wounds of my heart.

The second time she killed me was with kindness.

Cruelty was easier to bear.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: She Killed Me Twice
Word: enigmatic
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

She was so excited when the box arrived that it was as if she was a child again, rather than a grown woman.

“It is, it is!” I heard her shriek at the front door, from where I sat, in the living room.

She brought the box in through the hall way and placed it in front of me with pride, the usual expression on her face, a conflation of enigmatic shyness and utter pleasure. Ever since she had opened the first one five years ago and had cut into the complimentary copies, she was wary about opening it herself.

Since then, prudence and superstition (and writers tend to be more superstitious than the average person) had mandated that I open up the parcel for her. I did so, removed the top edition and retreated to the couch to read while she examined the rest of the copies of her latest whodunit novel.

I didn’t do too badly this time around, I decided three hours later; looking at the victims, their names, foibles and eccentricities, I’d only been put to death twice. That was the lowest since the second book. I must have been on her good side that month.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Two ‘odds and sods’ today, provoked by a couple of things in the news…

Reshuffles

Once upon a time, there was a convention, or so it seemed, that if the government had a reshuffle of ministers, then the main opposition party had one as well. That, thankfully, went the way of all things some time ago. But it’s still rare (rarer than it should be) that the main opposition – the Labour Party right now – has a reshuffle on its own.

The opposition has both a harder job and an easier one when it comes to reshuffles. The promotions are purely career makers, the demotions the removal of career opportunities. Being promoted doesn’t bring additional pay, doesn’t bring additional power, doesn’t even bring much additional internal party authority.

Unlike with the government where one of the big three jobs — Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer — is seen as not only a forerunner and a necessity to become Prime Minister, it’s not the same with opposition. Also, unlike the government, the job of shadowing the Chancellor of the Exchequer isn’t as fireproofed a job as its counterpart in government.

The other difference is that of presentation. If you’re the PM then there are the ritual ‘ministers leaving Number Ten’ shots. That doesn’t happen with opposition reshuffles.

You’d think all of the above might make opposition reshuffles less nasty, less… difficult. Not a chance. What opposition reshuffles lack in formality, they more than make up for in venom. While I can remember, faintly, government reshuffles that haven’t been a complete disaster, I struggle to recall any opposition reshuffles that haven’t been accompanied by well-founded accusations of nastiness, petty point scoring, and fuckups. My gods, the fuckups.

There hasn’t been a smooth opposition reshuffle for at least a decade, not since the days when David Cameron was Leader of the Opposition; Corbyn was shit at them, and Starmer’s incompetent at them. Both Corbyn and Starmer obviously hated doing them — not a surprise there, most politicians do — but they’re so obviously bad at them as well.

There’s an opposition reshuffle occurring right now and it looks like it’s going to be every bit as much a disaster as the previous.

Of course, we’ll get the exchange of letters, the parting shots of the departed and the entirely fictional expressions of gratitude from the leader.

I’ve referred on occasion previously to Jeremy Paxman’s excellent book The Politcial Animal, Here’s Paxman on how one particular Prime Minister dealt with getting rid of a minister:

There is no disguising the essential fact that you are being dispensed with because the Prime Minister thinks you’re less good at your job than someone else might be. Few have been as brutally frank as Clement Attlee, though. He once got rid of a Scottish Secretary with the words, “Good t’see you. I’m carrying through Government changes. Want your job for someone else. Sake of the party, y’know? Write me the usual letter. Think of something as the excuse: health, family, too much travelling, constituency calls. Anything will do. Good fellow. Thanks.”

For a moment, the minister was stunned. Then it sank in. He was being slung out of the government. “But why, Prime Minister? Why have you sacked me like this, with no warning, with no complaints that I know of?” Attlee, who was already scribbling on the papers on his desk, looked up, removed the pipe from his mouth, and blurted out, “‘Cos you don’t measure up to yer job. That’s why. Secretary will show you out.”

They don’t make ’em like that any more.

Which is a pity, as recognising that a minister/shadow minister ain’t up to the job should be one of the essential skills a Prime Minister, and Leader of the Opposition, needs.

Omicron

I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I’m not even particularly knowledgable about medical or scientific matters. I do ok, but I’m not particularly knowledgable more than anyone else is who… pays attention. I do, however, trust the scientists who have been working on the covid virus for the past two years.

And while I’ve found some succour in dark humour, I don’t find much funny about the absurdity in which we’ve found ourselves the past couple of years. I guess, it’s in part because by training and inclination I like… certainty, and since early 2020, certainty has been lacking.

That said, I have chuckled on occasion precisely because of the odd absurdities tyhat have occurred.

For the past year, the variants have been named after Greek letters.

Before the latest one, the latest variants of interest were Lamda (λ) and Mu (μ).

Now the next in the Greek alphabet should be, under current naming protocols, Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ).

Except that they’re skipping Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ), and jumping straight to Omicron (ο).

(I wonder if they’ll keep π for the next one; it’ll bugger up every school child’s googling if they do…)

But why they’re skipping Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ) is what fascinates me. The official reasons are that Nu (ν) is being skipped because it would be confused with the word “new” and Xi (ξ) is being passed over because the Premier of China is named Xi, and they’ve fucking had enough of “Chinese flu” being used as an insult.

OK, they didn’t quite put it in that way. Instead;

“It went from mu to omicron, jumping both nu and XI. Nu, the reasoning was people would get confused thinking it was the New variant rather than a name. And XI because it’s a common surname and we have agreed naming rules that avoid using place names, people’s names, animal etc to avoid stigma.”
—- Dr. Margaret Harris, WHO spokeswoman

The former – Nu (ν) – though, reminds me of when I got married.

It’s relevant, I promise. When I got married, some twenty-seven years ago, it was in a traditional Jewish ceremony, complete with being married under a canopy. As part of the wedding ceremony, both my bride and I, and our parents, drank from a glass… and then came the ‘famous’ bit, the thing that most non-Jews know about Jewish weddings. A glass was placed in front of me, and I stamped on it, smashing it, and everyone shouted Mazel Tov!

There are various stories how this tradition got started and to what it refers. To get the silly one out of the way first, it’s suggested that it’s the last time the fella gets to put his foot down, so he might as well make a big thing of it.

Hmm.

The ‘proper’ reason is that it commemorates the last destruction of the Temple to remind Jews that even in the midst of celebration, there is a mark of rememberance. That one never made much sense to me, seeing as we mark it by shouting Mazel Tov!

I much prefer the folk etymology version, one said to me by a rabbi, tongue only semi-deep in his cheek. We drink from a glass to celebrate the marriage; we then smash a glass to remove the possibility that any… lesser toast can be drunk from the glass.

It’s not what happens, but as a Mr Gaiman once reminded us… something need not have happened for it to be true.

And the same applies with Nu (ν) being skipped.

Because I, as a Jewish fella, am very pleased Nu (ν) was skipped for a different reason. Because it would just be too confusing.

     “I’m feeling a bit rough.”

          “Nu?”

     “Naah, just a sore throat.”

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Had a long, very busy, day, so while I used to occasionally do this as part of the Saturday Smiles, it can now be one of my ‘in case of emergency, break glass‘ posts, instead of doing another set of ‘fiction from the vaults.

I first learned of this site when it wad called Criggo. I have no idea why it was called that, but when they switched to the more understandable badnewspaper.com, it saddened me.

Luckily, the content did not.

Here’s a selection of things that have appeared in newspapers in the past few years…
 
 
It’s something to consider…

 
 
1978 was a big year, huh?

 
 
No mention of the pickled peppers, I notice.

 
 
Sometimes the signs aren’t good…

 
 
OK, now that’s a decent discount…

 
 
Vanity, oh vanity

 
 
Erm…

 
 
There are second jobs, and there are second jobs…

 
 
I’ll take ‘the bleeding obvious’ for $2,000, Alex 

 
 
You can sympathise, be fair…

 
 
“I’ll need an upfront fees retainer. No, no special reason.,..”

 
 
Well, of course he did.

 
 
Damn, these hiding places are ingenious

 
 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

As I’ve grown older, if not wiser, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity. Silliness, even in the roughest of times, maybe especially on the worst of days, is never unimportant; a necessary break from the sheer nastiness of the absurdity in which we sometimes find ourselves.

So, after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s

     ‘What’s happening?’

with a hearty

     ‘how the fuck should I know?

I give you some much needed silliness.

 

Matt Green on British political… accountability…?

 
One of my favourite ads, ever. If you have to ask why, you don’t know me very well…

 
 
And the ad that launched a thousand (well a couple of dozen, anyway) parodies; the original Cogs advert

 
 
Definitely one for the smile file; Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s niece, Lyla… who I confidently predict will have her own sub-volcano lair within the next 20 years.

 

Mitch Benn (in 2018) reminds us all not to get too excited about Christmas… yet.

 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Housekeeping: I was intending this Ten Things to about books, but something got in the way, specifically me going over to Richmond for the Erving last night instead of Wednesday. So, the books multi=part thing will be running from three weeks from next Friday. Then, there’ll be be one on the day before Christmas and then we’ll be at New Year’s Eve… and done for this year.


Listening to Desert Island Discs today, the guests, Carl Hester, said something that struck home: he said that there are some songs he could listen to over and over again before he grew tired of them… but there are also songs that he never grows tired of.

Here are ten from me of the latter, one per artist. (Note: I’m excluding comedy and novelty songs from this list: there are just too many that fit the category, enough that they could each fit an entry all on their own, and may do at some point in the future.)

The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten songs I can listen to again and again, never tiring of them.

1. Have You Ever Seen The Rain? by Creedence Clearwater Revival
As so often is the case, I came across a song I instantly loved purely by chance. I’d dropped out of watching Stargate SG-1 long before the final episodes, but when they showed the finale a few years ago, I caught it. about ¾ of the way through the episode, there’s a montage sequence, overlaying this song. And I mean, I’m not even the hugest fan of Creedance Clearwater Revival. I like their stuff but this song had never really registered. But for whatever reason, this time, the song hit home. And there’s just something about it that keeps it there.


 
 
2. You’re My Home by Billy Joel
There are at least a dozen songs by Billy Joel that could have made this list; I unreservedly love The Longest Time and Tell Her About It, but it’s this one that I picked. Absolutely not – in case anyone is foolish enough to suggest it – because I identify with the protagonist of the song. I think I must have made that clear in the Ten Things from a couple of weeks’ back. But just in case… no. I just think it’s a fantastic song that I could listen to forever.


 
 
3. Mother’s Little Helper by The Rolling Stones
In the early 1990s, I picked up a copy of Hot Rocks, a Rolling Stones compilation albums covering their work from 1964 to 1971. A glorious collection of their early work; not a duff song on the album. But it was the first time I’d heard Mother’s Little Helper, and I found myself playing the song again and again, and again, each time finding something new in the track. It’s deceptively brutal and clever as hell.


 
 
4. Last Night by Chris De Burgh
At one point I was a huge fan of de Burgh. I’m not sure why now, as a lot of the songs I liked back then I find… tiresome now. But not this one. A story, as many of his songs are, but the difference between the soft verses and the rising of the chorus just works for me. And I still love this song, so yah book sucks if you don’t. (That’s not to say that I dislike all of his work, especially his earlier stuff. I still think loads of it is fantastic.)


 
 
5. Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall
A song I discovered because Marks & Spencer had it as their Christmas and one year. One more song I heard once and then searched it out so I could listen to it repeatedly. There’s not much else of her work I like, but this one? Yeah, very very much.


 
 
6. Last Train To Clarksville by the Monkees
Again, there are three or four I could have picked from the Monkees, including Daydream Believer, I’m A Believer and even Randy Scouse Git. The latter is particularly fun if only because of lyric ‘the four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor…’. But Last Train To Clarksville trumps them all just because… well, I don’t know why, but it does.


 
 
7. A Night Like This by Caro Emerald
I love Caro Emerald’s voice; Captivated me the first moment I heard it and it’s a voice I could easily imagine dancing to (yes, even me, who loathes dancing) or just cuddling up to someone listening to it. Or maybe smoking a joint and drifting off to it. And this is just a wonderful example of her being wonderful. There’s joy in this song. I wonder why I like it. I have no idea.


 
 
8. I Can Dream by Skunk Anansie
One of three very very personal picks in this list, songs that are – at least in part – because they remind me of someone. And you get no more than that from me. It’s the sort of song that I wouldn’t otherwise have listened to, let alone loved. But this song? Yeah, this song is special to me.


 
 
9. Me and Charlie Talking by Miranda Lambert
My tv service used to show the country channel. And every so often, when I was working or writing, I’d have it on in the background. I discovered Miranda Lambert because of that, and this song for the same reason. I was naive enough not to realise when I heard it that it was a huge hit. I can understand why. I really really like it.


 
 
10. (And) It’s Getting Better by Mama Cass
I’m not someone who likes songs about love. Not really. I’m certainly not someone who likes upbeat songs about the glory of love and how bloody awesome it is. And, yet, I love this song and could listen to it on repeat for a very, very, very long time.


 
 
And that’s it – I came close to extending this and putting another three in, just for the hell of it (Keep Me In Your Heart, by Warren Zevon, The Bed Song by Amanda Palmer, and Downtown by Petula Clark) but they just didn’t make the cut…

Maybe if I do this again…


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others.


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

So, this week, a story about a man and a child and a meeting, sparked by the following image.


A meeting, at first

He was known to those who needed his services as The Investigator. And woe betide any who were foolish enough to refer to him as a detective; he scorned the very concept.

“Takin’ the easy way out,” his closest companion later recalled him contemptuously describing the occupation. “Pathetically looking for what has been left out almost in plain sight for plodders to find. The only skill such a person needs is persistence.”

And now the child had made the same error, asking him if he was a detective. “I do not detect,” he explained. “I investigate. I discover what others do not want me to find. I uncover what others would wish to remain hidden. I then think, and I then conclude, and I then reveal, to those more stupid than I…”

He paused, turning his face to the window, looking out of the headmaster’s study onto playing fields that he had once played on, and the child was foolish enough to complete the statement with what seemed to be the obvious words “…the truth?”

The tall man whirled at once, furious, though whether at the audacity of the child or the stupidity was impossible for the child to glean.

“The truth?” He almost laughed at the absurdity. But he restrained himself; he’d never been seen laughing, by anyone, and did not wish that to change. “The truth?” He asked more calmly. “There is no such thing. Truth is mutable, malleable and pliable. Facts are none of those. I reveal facts. Whether they are regarded as true depends on who is interpreting them.”

He got down on one knee. “Do you understand?” He asked, almost gently.

“I do, sir,” the child responded, pulling his school blazer around himself a little tighter.

“Good,” said the aquiline figure. “So you will please explain to me why you killed the English master. I know that you did in fact kill him; I’d like to understand why.”

The child started to speak, and then stopped as the tall, thin man, held up a single finger. “Before you reply,” the man said, not unkindly, “I wish you to consider the following: 1. I know without doubt, beyond peradventure, that you did indeed kill your English master. 2. I can prove that you did without any difficulty whatsoever. 3. I know why I would have killed him; indeed, why many would have sought his death, but I am curious, I confess, as to your specific motive. 4. I require nothing but the accurate recitation, without embellishment. And finally, 5. What you tell me, and what I tell the police inspector who will soon be arriving, may be two very different things indeed.”

The child looked up at the tall man and considered his answer carefully as required. He had trusted the taller man at once, and implicitly. He could not have said why at that moment, nor in the years and decades that followed, when he became in turn the Investigator’s most reliable companion. But trust him he did.

“I killed him because he had to die, sir. To protect the others, to protect the other children. And,” he paused, summoning some courage, “…and because no one else would do it.”

“Why do you aver that?” shot back the Investigator, his demand sharp and short.

“Because if anyone else would have eventually… someone else would already have done so.”

The Investigator started. The logic was flawed, the conclusion equally so, but the facts bore his explanation out.

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“There are some children here that will not sleep soundly tonight nor tomorrow, becuase of the master’s existnce and actions, but they will soon, because he is no longer around to… to…” The child’s voice tailed off and the man saw the boy’s hands start to move, then cease.

The tall man stood then, bid the child to remain silent and paced around the room for seventeen minutes until there was a knock at the door.

“Come!” The man said and the door opened to allow Detective Chief Inspector Strange to enter.

“Ah, you’re here. Well?”

The tall thin man’s voice was certain and clear, betraying nothing but the conclusions of obviously serious and logical thought. “The English master was killed by a paid assassin, of Hungarian origin. He will already have left the county, and by the time you block the ports, he will have left the country itself. I will supply you his name within the week, and should he ever return, the evidence necessary to convict him.”

“Damnation,” said the policeman. “Damnation and…” he stopped as the other man indicated the child, and then apologised for his language, before raising an eyebrow, for he was not a stupid man, merely unimaginative.

“He… wished to meet me,” the Investigator said, with a stern, thoroughly convincing but disapproving look. The policman nodded in exasperation, then left, muttering something about ‘bloody kids. never understand them’ under his breath.

Many people, in the decades that ensued, asked the child who became a man how he met the man who became a legend. He would only ever reply with the words “at school”, and leave them to ponder the details.

But late at night, when he considered his own and his friend’s actions over the decades, he looked at others in their circle and wondered about them. Yes, he wondered, and hoped that none of them wondered about him quite as deeply, or for the same reasons.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Like everyone else, I have various sites bookmarked in my browsers. Using one just now, I figured I’d share some of them with you today.

There’s no particular order to them, nor any particular “Oh, my gods, you have to use this one” to them; they’re just sites I have bookmarked that are, or have been, useful to me over the years.

So, here are three dozen or so such sites.

One of my favourite ‘pass the time’ sites: Radio Garden
Pick a spot on the movable globe, and listen to radio stations from that place. Fully searchable.

Library of British and Irish law case judgments
I’ve used this site more in the past few years than I ever thought I would. A bit clunky in design, but excellent resource.

Worldmappers
Readers of the blog will know how often I rely on this site; superb renditions of maps but not how you’re used to seeing them; where the size of counties is linked to population, or coffee exports, or eduction, or age… or covid transmission.

Real Time HTML editor
Type HTML in the text area at the top of the page, and it will appear in the frame below as it would look on a web page.

An old favourite: The Wayback Machine
Look back at what web pages used to look like…

Talking of way back when, remember when you used to get emails that now, when you look at them, they have winmail.dat attachments, and you can’t no longer open them? Well, now you can, on winmail.dat

There are plenty of versions of this one, but this is the original: The Powers of Ten page
View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

Movie and TV scripts library and Movie Scripts online
Many, many, many scripts available from both of the above.

Nestflix
That fictional movie they had inside that movie you were watching? That fake tv show they had inside the tv show you saw? It’s here.

TV and movie themes
Pretty much every tv theme you could think of. Useful if you want a new ringtone, say…

Quote Investigator
Don’t believe that quote attribution you’ve seen online? Check it out here.

UPI – Weird News
What it says – weird news from around the world.

Online PDF Converter
Useful for combining various pages into one PDF

RemoveBG
Remove the background of any image; it’s very very good at what it does.

Phrase Finder
Useful for discovering the origins of English language phrases and idioms

Two for Parliamentary nerds
Erskine May
-The bible for the British Parliament’s rules and procedures
Hansard – the actual stuff said in Parliament.

Markdown Text
Useful for Discord and anything where you want to use Markdown formatting

Crossfade.io
Merge and crossfade two or more audio streams

Time And Date
Good for time and date calculations…

Oh Gods, You’re Getting Old?
…and to feel your age while checking those calculations

TuneFind
Ok, you’ve got Shazam for ‘what’s that tune that’s playing right now’ but if you want to find the song that played in that movie or tv episode. Welcome to TuneFind.

haveibeenpwned?
Useful site to check whether your login has been captured in a data breach

GetHuman
Not quite as comprehensive as it claims to be but still pretty useful most of the time; how to get through to actual people for customer service

Unsplash and Pixabay
Two useful sites for royalty free images. I prefer Unsplash, and it’s what I use most of the time for this blog, but Pixabay is pretty good as well.

ManualsLib
A pretty good library of user manuals for tech; if you’ve lost the manual for your printer, tv, computer… this will likely have it.

OK, to end with, some very enjoyable – to me, anyways – wastes of time:

The Restart Page
A very silly ‘waste of time’ site: different operating systems start up processes

In the same vein: The Museum of Endangered Sounds
A place to play; oh, the sounds they have…

Or of course you could waste time with Bongo Cat.

And if you need something else, there’s always The Bored Button
Click and find something… new, something thats’s not… boring.

Of course, sometimes, you just have to Scream Into The Void
So do so.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I quite liked putting up two very early fast fiction challenges last week, two stories written while I was still figuring out what I could do with the format.

So here are another two, from early in the first set of challenges, in 2005.

The first was an idea which came to me while thinking about the future and how everything today was yesterday’s future.

The second is darker and one of the more twisted tales I wrote in the early days. I’m sure I wrote darker tales later, but this definitely set a tone to be matched by twisted stories to follow.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: Nightfall in Skegness
Word: tourniquet
Challenger: [Livejournal: bog_boy]
Length: 200 words exactly

She tightened the tourniquet around my bicep, repairing the damage from the large wooden splinter that had shot out like a bullet and speared my arm as effectively as if a spear had been thrown.

I glared at the huge metal thing, its paint gleaming in the last of the sunshine of the day, a summer’s afternoon in 1875. The first passenger train the town had seen.

The incredible noise made by the machine had distracted me and I’d gotten too close to the railway lines, never-ending rails on huge wooden boards that could support the weight. It was from one of these that the splinter had originated. The experience hadn’t made me think more kindly about the railways.

I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Everything about the new form of transport seemed designed to lessen the enjoyment of the travelling experience. Not only the noise and the smell, nor that perfectly good fields were being bought up and then having tracks laid across them.

But the speed of these things! My Lord, some of them travelled at twenty miles per hour, surely destroying the pleasure of the passing scenery.

The sun set. We now belonged to the future.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands
Word: collectivism
Challenger: Dave Bushe
Length: 200 words exactly

I hear the sound of keys being inserted into the lock, the lock snapping open, the door swinging wide.

I’m taken from the cell towards the interrogation cell, I… no, wait: I’m not supposed to call it that any more. It’s an ‘education suite’. Much as the man who attached electrodes to my nether regions is no longer referred to as a torturer, but as an Outsourced Re-education Contractor.

I’m trained neither to speak of what I know, nor to forget it either. If I disclose my knowledge, then my current preparations would have failed. Yet, if ever I buried it so deep that I truly consciously forgot it, I’d be no use at all.

I’m pushed into a chair and my arms tied behind my back. All for the glory of the Motherland, who’d spit on collectivism and its purveyors if she knew how it and they had been perverted.

The man looks like he’s going to enjoy this.

Why not? I enjoyed it yesterday when it was my turn to torture him, to try to break him. He’s a friend, and as he bends forward, I know he understands my pain.

And that’s the scariest thing of all.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… genuinely, honest, something else. (At least, that’s the plan…)

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Something been on my mind a bit since I hit ‘post’ on yesterday’s blog entry.

In the entry, I used the word ‘cunt’, since the news item was about its use. And I gave short shrift to the idea that some might find it offensive, or to be more accurate, I said that if someone was offended by my use of the word, then this probably wasn’t the blog for them, anyway.

It occurred to me some time later yesterday evening that I’d kind of, maybe, not really, I dunno… broken my own unwritten rule for this blog, and its predecessor. The rule I might have broken? “I try to keep the blog suitable for ‘all ages’.”

I mean, sure, the use of that particular obscenity (several times) probably didn’t disturb the ether that much. After all, I doubt I’ve many children reading it, and even if one stumbled across the blog, I further doubt they’d be interested in what one Tory MP said to another to keep reading long enough to come across the word.

BUT… but…

I do try to keep the blog at a level where all ages can read it.

I wish I could say that’s why the blog rarely delves into ‘adult’ material. It’s not.

Before this blog, I had a Livejournal account. I ran that blog from 2002 until 2011. (Huh. it just hit me tyhat I’ve had this blog longer than I ran my Livejournal blog; that’s weird.)

But during those years – 2002 to 2010 – my son aged from six years’ old through fifteen. And he sometimes read the blog. So very personal stuff was out of bounds as was adult material, ie sex.


Sidebar: When I ran the Livejournal blog, I semi-regularly ran something I called ‘Teach Me Something’, asking readers to teach me something from their own jobs, their own skillset. A teacher might tell the secrets of how to immediately identify the different types of kids (troublemaker, class clown, hard worker, etc) in a classroom. A sommelier giving tips on wine, an IT person explaining the real way to solve common IT problems.

Someone replied with ‘to give the perfect blow job…’ and then gave very detailed instructions.

I took the reply out of public view, because of my then young lad.

A few years later, I was telling the story and the following exchange occurred.

I love my son.


But yes, sex, or at least details about my own preferences and experiences, would likely never have appeared on the blog anyway. As I said the other day, there’s a reason my private life is called, well, my Private Life.

Because when I started the blog, I was married. No, wait, let me give that some context. Apart from being a naturally private person, I had another reason to keep that side of things unspoken on the blog.

I’ve always been in awe of people who are open about their personal lives, their sex lives, and are completely open in it. I’ve never been built like that but even had I been, I didn’t have the right to bring someone else’s sex life into the open.

Because when you’re single, and you talk about sex, then it’s fair for readers to assume, – to conclude, rather – that you’re only speaking for yourself. If you state that you’re into this kink or that you like that position, all you’re revealing is that you like it. Yes, it’s fair for your readers to also conclude that your partner for that evening’s entertainment also enjoyed it. But you’re not identifying them, nor taking away their agency.

But if you’re married – or at least if you’re married and you don’t have an open marriage – it’s fair for any reader to conclude that your spouse is into at least some of what you’re into. (To take a fairly obvious example; if you identified your favourite sexual position, it’s fair to assume that your regular partner — your spouse if you’re married, and not playing away — at the very least didn’t dislike it.)

So that’s two reasons my last blog was free from ‘adult’ revelations about me. 1) My son was a kid, and he read the blog sometimes, and 2) I was married.

Well my son is now 26.

And as for being married? Well, my marriage ended in 2005, though thankfully we remained the closest of friends afterwards, a fact for which I never cease to remain grateful.

But yeah, it ended in 2005.

It’s now rapidly approaching the end of 2021.

And with the exception of a couple of short term flings in the years after the marriage ended, I’ve not had a ‘public’ relationship with anyone since, as in ‘everyone knew who I was seeing, when I was seeing them’. Hell, I haven’t had anything anyone sensible would call a relationship, not a romantic one, since 2005….

…and it’s now rapidly approaching the end of 2021.

When the marriage ended, I knew there would be a period of adjustment, and that there’d be – at some point – a time when I was ready for, when I wanted, a long term, full time, emotionally committed, monogamous, ‘proper’ relationship. I also knew that time was so far in the future that I wouldn’t have been able to see it even had I been using the Hubble Space Telescope.

That was sixteen years ago. And I don’t see that changing.

I mentioned in that Ten Things post

7. I hope I don’t fall in love with anyone and that no one is unluckily enough nor foolish enough to fall in love with me.
All of the above said, and meant… I genuinely, honestly, equally truly, hope love doesn’t come along. In either direction. Because I can imagine fewer things more designed to torture someone than unrequited love. Not unrequited lust, nor unrequited desire, but unrequited LOVE. And I’d rather not be tortured any more than absolutely necessary, thanks.

After I posted that blog entry, I received some private messages from friends. Not through the comments section of the blog, but via text and WhatsApp and via Twitter Direct Messaging. None of them mentioned the mental health stuff I revealed; to be honest, I suspect it either came as a surprise… or there was just nothing they knew how to say.

No, what the messages were about… was the above excerpt. Adjectives and phrases such as ‘sad’ and ‘lonely’ and ‘very sad’ and ‘seems very wrong’ have been used but no – so far – disagreement nor attempts to persuade me otherwise.

For that at least, I’m grateful.

 

Well, that turned out to be a lot more personal than I expected.

I guess the final ruling is: this blog is all ages… except when it’s not.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Not for nothing is there a saying about ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’. Every so often something, usually trivial, something unimportant, will occur that speaks to something much larger.

Today it was a Tory MP explaining away calling another (now former) Tory MP a cunt.

Apologies to those of you offended by my use of the epithet, but – to be be honest – if you’re upset by reading the word, then – to be equally honest – this blog probably isn’t for you anyway.


Sidebar: I’ve always found it amusing those who explain their not liking the word ‘because it’s the mark of a poor vocabulary’. I agree with the comedian Nick Doody, who responds by saying that no it isn’t; he knows all the words you know plus the word ‘cunt’.


The Tory MP in question, one Christian Wakeford, Conservative MP for Bury South, apparently called Owen Paterson (he of the forbidden lobbying thing), and then he explained it by…

Now, obviously, in the larger scheme of things, it’s not a big story. It’s not. But yeah, it’s one of those straws.

Remember Roseanne Barr, and when she was fired from the restarted Roseanne? And why?

Racist tweets, which she then blamed on her taking Ambien, such a ridiculous claim that the manufactures of Ambien, Sanofi, issued a fairly caustic denial: “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

It surprised me for several reasons. First off, as I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m on fairly strong painkillers myself, because of the fucked up foot. That’s, as I’ve also mentioned, is not necessarily the technical term for it, but it suffices. And at no point has the fairly huge dosages of cocodamol ever made me want to be racist… nor has it ever made me racist.

Note: you can sometimes fairly, and justifiably, blame very strong painkillers for many things, including slurred speech and confusion, as Wendy Williams did in 2018. That’s purely to do with physical reactions to unfamiliar strong painkillers, and the side effects thereof.

That’s not the same as, say, Australian football club president Eddie Maguire using the same excuse in 2016 to explain his 2013 racist comments about a player.

It’s reminds me of Mitch Benn’s observation that… no, wait, I’ll come to that in a minute.

Because painkillers aren’t the only thing people blame, of course. There’s always the old favourite: alcohol. Oh, that’s been blamed for racism, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia…

Apart from say, Rob Ford, John Galliano, theres Mel Gibson. You remember Mel Gibson? Yes, that Mel Gibson. The antisemite and abuser Mel Gibson. Yes, Mel Gibson. The Mel Gibson who blamed his antisemitic rant when he was stopped in a traffic violation on… oh, you guessed it, alcohol.

Now, it’s been pointed out occasionally that Cardiff University found that

alcohol makes make people racist and homophobic‘,

as Metro’s headline had it. But if you look at the piece, the research says no such thing. Indeed within the first few lines, it says that Alcohol acts as an ‘igniter’ to people expressing their prejudices in the form of violent hate crime.”

And now we come back to Mitch Benn’s observation that I mentioned earlier: After Gibson had his troubles antisemitically raged while pissed, Mitch observed that alcohol doesn’t make you racist nor abusive; it just stops you forgetting to pretend not to be.

i.e. alcohol doesn’t affect your beliefs, merely your filters.

I’ll end today by going back to the Tory MP I started this with. You remember, the MP who explained away his calling Owen Paterson a cunt by saying his using the word was a mix of anger and codeine…

So, just to remove any ambiguity at all, to make this as clear as I possibly can:

If I ever call someone a cunt, it’s never because of the heavy amounts of cocodamol I take on a daily basis.

It’s because they’ve been a cunt.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

As I’ve grown older, if not wiser, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity. Silliness, even in the roughest of times, maybe especially on the worst of days, is never unimportant; a necessary break from the sheer nastiness of the absurdity in which we sometimes find ourselves.

So, after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s

     ‘What’s happening?’

with a hearty

     ‘how the fuck should I know?

I give you some much needed silliness.

 

Let’s start this week with some Monty Python, and their take on Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw…

 
For no reason other than I just thought about it, the marvellous Stubby Kaye and Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat from Guys and Dolls

 
 
Peter Cook, or is it E L Whisty?

 
 
Not sure if it’ll make you smile, to be honest, but let’s watch a Timelapse of the Universe, anyway…

 

Mitch Benn identifies that pose they all do: Pose With A Phone

 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

One of the inevitabilities of being stuck in the flat during lockdowns this year and last has been that I’ve been watching some ‘old’ telly. ITV4 and Drama and a couple of other channels have bought the rights to, and have been showing, tv shows from – hog, gods, I can’t believe I’m actually writing these words – fifty or more years ago. I mean, yeah. 1971 was sixty years ago.

I mean, it’s tough enough watching Top Of The Pops from back then, but there are a lot of shows that I watched in part to see how well they’d aged, and in some cases to see how poorly.

So, the usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten things I’ve been watching.

1. The Saint
If there’s ever a show that typifies the period, and the period in television, it’s surely The Saint. I was a huge fan of the books, both the collections of short stories and the novels. But I’m pretty sure I encountered Simon Templar for the first time on telly. The plots weren’t exactly labyrinthine, and usually involved Templar, played of course by Roger Moore in a role he was made for, saving some young woman from one bad fate or another. They were fun shows, and occasionally showed the Templar of the books, but only occasionally.

(As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to have less patience with adaptations that don’t, y’know, actually adapt the books nor even the characters. It’s just a character with the same name and not a lot else.)

The Saint is fun though, and it’s a pleasant way of passing an hour. But not much more.

(I have fond memories of Ian Ogilvy’s stint in Return of the Saint, but I suspect it’s aged very, very badly)

There was an attempt to revamp the character fairly recently. I quite liked the promo for it, but I’ve no idea what happened to the show.


 
 
2. Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
I genuinely expected this show to have aged far, far more than it has. You could remake it now with exactly the same scripts, exactly the same wardrobe, and better production values and it would work as a period drama.

Most of that is down to the partnership between Mike Pratt as Jeff Randall, a private investigator in London, and Kenneth Cope as Marty Hopkirk, his deceased former partner who comes back as a ghost to… help him. At first it’s merely to solve his own murder, but then he’s stuck on the ‘mortal plain’. Oh, and mustn’t forget Annette Andre as Hopkirk’s widow, and all the fun that goes along with her slowly recovering from the loss of her great love (which is greeted by Hopkirk with sorrow then mild annoyance that she’s moving on with her life.)

It’s a fun show; the effects for the time are great and the puzzlment of both Randall and Hopkirk as they discover both their new relationship and what ‘the rules’ are for Hopkirk moving forward.

The scripts are cracking, the dialogue is fun and watching their relationship evolve is huge fun.

(There was a reboot with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in 2000, played for comedy; the less said about that, the better, although it might have worked had Reeves played Randall and Mortimer played Hopkirk, instead of the other way around, and upped the drama and lowered the comedy. If they’d have remade the show in other words instead of fucking around with it.)

This is from the pilot of the original, when Randall discovers Hopkirk is still around…

 
 
3. Star Trek
Yeah, I’m about to be heretical. I realised I hadn’t actually seen the original series for years, so when they reran it, I watched most of them.

OK, so the remastered effects work fine, and the scripts are fine. And the plots, for the most part, when they’re not being crassly ‘contemporary’ and ‘relevant’ are also fine. Some of them are flat out amazing. But… the acting. The acting often… isn’t fine. Nimoy is wonderful, always. Kelley is great, almost always. And Nicholls is rarely anything but fantastic. But… Shatner? Sorry, but I found myself watching the show despite Shatner, and the same applies to Doohan.

You can’t help but pay respect to the show for what it spawned but of the more than sixty episodes, there are maybe a dozen and a half I actually enjoyed watching. Which saddens me, immensely.

And since you’ve all probably seen every clip that exists about Star Trek, here’s an evolution of Warp Speed in Star Trek.

 
 
4. The Persuaders
Now, if you’re looking for a show that’s aged, very, very badly… you can’t do better than this show. I loved it when I watched it at the time; both Roger Moore and Tony Curtis seemed, to me, to be having loads of fun. Learning later that they didn’t much like each other, and indeed each regarded the other as lazy may have tarnished my enjoyment.

But what topped it off was discovering there were basically three plots the entire time, and most of them involved either one of them being mistaken for someone else, or getting involved with some affair or another against their wishes, but what the hell, we’re here now so we may as well...

The original idea, only kept for a handful of episodes after the pilot (which is good, and remains good) was that they were highly resourceful, very intelligent men who were successes at what they chose to do but they were rich and bored and… wastrels. So they get blackmailed by Laurence Naismith’s retired judge into going after people who ‘got away with it’. Could have been a great show. The first couple of episodes looked like it was going to be a great show.

And then they threw away any sense of seriousness and went for the comedy, and slapstick comedy at times. A decent idea, with decent actors.… thrown away.

Oh, and the plots, dialogue, attitudes and costumes have aged horrendously. (I’m not sure how a show made a decade after The Saint has aged far more than that show did, but bloody hell it did…)

Two saving graces: one episode in which there’s a double of Moore’s character wandering around, which had a first class mystery and resolution, and one episode where Curtis’ character meets up with a childhood friend… who turns out to be a contract killer. And Moore and Curtis fall out over it. Genuine drama, genuine conflict. Very well portrayed.

Oh, and the opening titles which are clever as hell.

 
 
(And while this would never happen, I kind of liked this ‘update’ of them…)


 
 
5. Blake’s 7
I mentioned above that I watched Star Trek for every reason other than the acting of the main character. I can’t say the same about Blake’s 7. The ”main’ character – Blake (Gareth Thomas) when the show starts, then Avon (Paul Darrow) – was never less than screen grabbing, for entirely different reasons, but the acting of all the Marion protagonists and antagonists were fantastic, throwing themselves completely into the ‘seriousness’ of the show’s premise.

The scripts were great, the plots were… on-and-off great. The production values were less than great most of the time, although the props were great, the Liberator‘s hand guns looked fantastic and I wanted one when I was a kid. Hell, I want one now.

The show was dark as hell more than half the time and the ‘goodies’ lose as many times as they won. And while the goodies were the goodies, the people you were supposed to root for, sometimes they didn’t make it easy.

It’s a show that’s ripe for a reboot, and I’d love to see one.

 
 
6. The Protectors
This show should not work. I repeat; it should not work. Three impossibly smart, glamorous (for the time) private investigators working around the world, being hired for [half hour] missions, for a tv show whose prime thing seems to be showing how many different places around that world they can show.

And yet it does. I wouldn’t put it all down to the opening and closing titles, but I’m not not putting it down to the opening and closing titles.


 
 
7. The Champions
The Champions is utter rubbish from start to finish, with plot holes in every episodes you could drive a truck though, wooden acting (when the baddies aren’t chewing the furniture) and for secret agents with super powers – gained when they crash their plane in the Himalayas – they’re not very, erm, secret.

I love it. Every episode is silliness and deftness and utterly stupid. And bad enough to enjoyable fun.

 
 
8. The Fugitive
I don’t think I’d ever seen the show until it started being shown over lockdown. I mean, sure I’d probably seen the odd clip here and there and I knew the story of course. But my main familiarity with it was through the movie.

So I watched it. It’s surprisingly good, given its very basic plot structures and how often some basic plots are repeated; I can definitely see where Kung Fu and The Incredible Hulk got most of their ideas from. David Jansen is superb; no surprise there, he usually was in anything, and the Javert-like Inspector Gerrard (played by Barry Morse) was superb in the role he was handed.

It was everyone else in the show; I struggled to give the slightest toss about any supporting characters, and in the end, I just gave up the struggle. This was probably my biggest disappointment. I wanted to like this show, but in the end… I didn’t.

 
 
9. Perry Mason
Now this was a show I was actively looking forward to when they announced it was being run. And, sadly, though not on the same level as The Fugitive, there was that same ‘I genuinely don’t care about the case of the week, nor the fate of the characters who appear’.

I liked Della Street, and Paul Drake (more than I’d expected to) and very much liked the resident District Attorney Hamilton Burger, but to my astonishment, I really didn’t like Perry Mason much at all. A superb lawyer, sure, but not someone I’d want to spend much, if any, time in the company of.

(I find it genuinely odd how much my views were influenced, and not in a good way, by the TV movies. That Perry Mason was someone I’d like to have known, as I would that Della Street.)

 
 
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Everything a british spy tv should be. Everything the Gary Oldman movie got wrong, this got right and Alex Guinness was probably the best George Smiley there will ever be (though it continues to amuse me that Guinness at first didn’t think he was suitable for the role and suggested Arthur Lowe for the job).

Add in the cast from heaven and you have a show I could watch once a month for the rest of my life and still find something new every time.

One thing that’s rarely spoken on, even by those who rightly praise the adaptation to the skies: how cleverly the ‘last episode…’ opening to every episode after the first is. They re-show the final scene of the previous episodes… but shot from a different angle. I’ve never seen it done elsewhere and my gods it off-balances you every bloody time.

Superbly done.


 

OK, one more bonus bit of whimsy from the past. The ‘directors commentary’ on a classic kids’ tv show from when I was growing up: Mary, Mungo and Midge. There is no reason for me to include this other than pure silliness. But that is, of course, among the best reasons for doing anything.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others, less ‘about me’ ones which are probably more pleasant to read…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

So, this week, you get a story about some new tenants, sparked by the following image.


The tenants

He recognised them instantly, of course. They’d been kind enough to send photographs before the appointment, but the pictures had hardly been necessary. Everyone in his trade knew their names and likenesses.

The old man with the grey hair and the pink complexion smiled as he handed over the keys and hoped that it was convincing. Inside, he shivered slightly and stooped just a little bit more than necessary.

The woman took the keys, giggling nervously, and asked the question the old man had been expecting: whether the small house was haunted. The old man would have been mildly disappointed had one of the two not asked the question, since he might then have had to steer the direction of the conversation to prompt it.

There were traditions to uphold, after all.

But no, the woman had obliged on cue, just as the keys had passed from his hand to hers. Her hand was warm, and as pink as his. The woman’s companion smiled at her question, but the old man could see the curiosity in his eyes also. Even without foreknowledge, he supposed that in prior days, he would automatically have assumed he was her husband, but those days were long past, if they had ever truly existed.

The old man waited a moment before replying; he knew his trade well, and was equally certain that the pause was expected of him, as if he was carefully considering his response, bringing forth all his formidable powers of reasoning to produce a considered and reasonable answer.

Again, tradition.

“Well,” he said, commencing a small speech he had prepared dozens of times over the years, “there’s some who say it is, and some who say it ain’t.” He sighed, mostly for effect, but partly to catch his breath, for he was no longer young and the years had taken their toll.

“I’ve been the agent of this place for more years than I care to remember, and my family was before I came along” – that was true at least – “and I’ve heard all the stories: the tall tales about this house being built on an ancient graveyard,” [true], “those of the latest architect who redesigned it being insane”, [untrue – the old man remembered the fellow well; eccentric as were all professionals, but perfectly rational], “the multiple murders over a single three month period, a century back” [completely true, though the murderer, a neighbour, had been captured almost immediately], “and the ones about the unfaithful mistress bricked up behind the kitchen wall…” [He knew that tale to be false, as the kitchen had been entirely refurbished and rebuilt six years previously, and the only thing found behind the wall had been rotting insulation.]

He gave another sigh and finished up. “So I’ve no idea whether or not the house has ghosts…” he paused again and wondered whether to use the joke he’d been saving up, then went for it. “…but if there are spirits in there,” he tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially, “I think they come in bottles with screw tops and are best drunk out of decent glasses.”

He laughed loudly, alone, then bid his farewells. He waved at them and walked off to his car with an odd shuffle, as if one leg was slightly shorter than the other.

The old man usually had a theory about each set of tenants, and was content to allow each set of tenants to add to the data set and either confirm his conclusions or otherwise. His theory was this: that those gullible fools who believed the spiel were the people who ended up disappointed with their experience in the small house, while those who went into the house sceptical were most often the people who exited that same small house as true believers in the legends.

But he knew from the moment that he met them that his theory did not apply to this pair. He didn’t look back at the couple on the small porch of the small house. He no longer wanted to even think about them, though he knew he had no choice in the matter.

And when he returned to his office, he opened the safe, and pulled out the thick file that he’d inherited from his father, who’d inherited it from his own father. And so on and so on, back through the generations. The thick file, with the new tenants’ names on the cover, their names written in firm copperplate. And the date, similarly elegantly inscribed: 13th April 1734.

Every trade has its trad… no, now that he was back at the office, he could be less cowardly, more honest: every trade has its own superstitions. And when that couple want to rent somewhere to haunt and have their fun, you let them, unless you wished to be haunted to the grave yourself.

It wouldn’t take too long, he knew. The end of the week maybe, but definitely by the end of the month, and the small house would be empty. It was strange, he realised: he had liked them. And as that sank in, he similarly registered that only she had actually spoken; he had merely nodded, and smiled, and uttered the occasional ‘huh’ or ‘hmm’. He’d never heard that about them before; he wondered why.

Still, soon enough they’d be gone, and he’d have to redecorate – he groaned at the likely expense, and wondered with no small amount of dread how much blood there’d be.

For the first time in his long life, he was grateful he had no grandchildren living locally.

He leaned forward and pressed the intercom, summoning his son from the main office. It was time, long past time, to tell him the tale, as he had been told those many years ago in this same office.

He left the file open. The pictures would convey more than the words. Well, the replica daguerreotypes, anyway.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Many have said, with a great deal of justification, that while Boris Johnson desperately wanted to be Prime Minister, and desperately wanted to have been Prime Minister, he gave perilously, dangerously, little thought in advance to actually being Prime Minister.

And, to the largest possible extent, I agree with them.

Because, notwithstanding Brexit, and covid, and the latest corruption allegations hitting his party and government, he doesn’t appear at any time to have enjoyed being Prime Minister.

Now, before you jump all over me on this, I appreciate and agree that it’s a serious job, or ought to be, and should be occupied by serious(in both senses of the word) people. And Boris Johnson is not a serious person in any sense of the word.

But I was Financial Director (US: Chief Financial Officer) of a tv company. It – though on a much smaller scale – was an serious job. And while I can’t say that I enjoyed every moment of the time I was FD, I loved doing the job, and loved the mechanics of it, the daily grind of it, and most if not all of the multiple bits of the role.

Again, yes, there were bits I loathed, a very few of the obligations and responsibilities that came along with the rights it gave me. But I knew what they were, going in. I’d worked for a very good FD beforehand and when he left and I was offered the role as his successor by the Chief Exec, I grabbed it with both hands, very aware that I was responsible for the financial stability and security of a multmillion pound company, and equally responsible for the financial security (insofar as it fell within my purview) of the 50 or so employees.

And there were bits – most of the job to be honest – that I actively enjoyed; the feeling of actually running the company with the Chief Exec and the other directors; the authority that came with the job; the running of my department, training people up, making – in the smaller scale – Big Decisions. And then the satisfaction of them coming to fruition, or the learning experience when I’d made the wrong judgement call, and knew not to make that call again.

But just now I was trying to remember the last time a British politician seemed to be actually enjoying the job they had.

Leaving aside those who seem to revel purely in the power and prestige, but not the actual job itself (Jacob Rees-Mogg – the current Leader of the House of Commons, and John McDonnell, previously Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, both spring to mind)…

…I’m struggling to think of any front line politicians who even seemed to be enjoying the job.

That’s quite apart from those who seemed to be doing the job they were, after all, paid to do and should have regarded as one hell of an honour to be doing.

Talking of that latter, I’ve on occasion mentioned that whatever my thoughts on David Cameron (and they’re often scathing, to put it mildly) the final words of his resignation statement as Prime Minister, was one of the few times I believed he was being completely and totally honest.

Specifically, the bit when he said the words: I love this country and I feel honoured to have served it.

Theresa May’s resignation statement, similarly, when she talked about the ‘country I love’.

I’m not saying that anything else they said was honest, nor that the speeches weren’t very deliberately political and self-serving. But at least they treated the job with appropriate respect and seriousness.

And I truly believe they did regard it as the pinnacle of their political careers, and were honoured to do the job. Moreover, despite my views that neither of them actually did a good job as Prime Minister, Cameron at least acted in a way you could believe he was Prime Minister. May occasionally did, as well. But Cameron was the last PM who acted like he knew he was PM.

But with rare exceptions, neither Cameron or May seemed to honestly and genuinely enjoy any part of being Prime Minister.

Brown before them? Yes, again, I never doubted that he knew the responsibilities that came with the job, but until him, I’d never experienced a Prime Mibnister who so obviously loathed being Prime Minister. It’s possible, of course, that he was the subject of the curse of ‘be careful what you wish for’ and also that had he not followed Blair’s decade in Number Ten, consummate media performer that he was, that Brown would have enjoyed it more.

I doubt it, to be honest.

But ok. Tony Blair. Yes, Blair. He was the last PM in my experience who actually, genuinely, enojyed being Prime Minister, and fully appreciated the rights and obligations that went along with it. (I don’t, by the way, think he had any real clue of them before he got the job; hardly anyone in Labour front line politics had even been a minister 18 years previously, the last time Labour were in government.)

Again, this is entirely separate to the Blair governments’ policies, good and bad, while he was in the job. He enjoyed doing the job, possibly despite the actions he took, but more likely as p art of them.

And John Major, for all that his premiership ended mired in sleaze and weakness, I think that for much of his term, he enjoyed being PM, and again, fully appreciated the rights and responsibilities as well.

Before Major? Well, there was Margaret Thatcher who absolutely fucking loved being Prime Minister, probably the first to have absolutely fucking loved it since Wilson, and possibly the person who’s most loved being PM of any Prime Minister in my lifetime.

OK, so that’s PM. Other cabinet roles? Well, the obvious example is Gordon Brown as Chancellor. THE exemplar of someone who loved doing the job. No one else comes close. Possibly Ken Clarke as well, but I wouldn’t bet money on it.

Foreign Secretary? Can’t think of anyone who truly enjoyed doing the job. Not a one of them. SOme might suggest Boris Johnson, but if so it was the bliss of ignorance in his case, as he fucked up so royally and never seemed to care.

Leader of the Opposition? The only one that springs to mind is David Cameron, who grew into the role. None of the recent Labour leaders have enjoyed being Leader of the Opposition have either enjoyed it or have even pretended to. Corbyn loathed the job, very obviously, as did Michael Howard. And Iain Duncan Smith seemed to have to summon up what reserves he had merely to stand up for most of his time in the job. Much as, to be honest, Keir Starmer is starting to look like he’s doing.


Small digression before I leave this piece, in the absence of any real conclusion, any lesson. (I wish I had one or either but I don’t beyond ‘it’d be nice if we had someone competent, honest, moral and hardworking in the jobs of Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. Yes, I know it would be a novelty but I think it should be tried….)

One question I wish would be asked of every politician running for office on a reforming agenda.platform: what’s your end game? If every one of your policies is put into place, and all of them work, what will [education/environment/the tax structure] look like when no more reform is required?

Because I don’t think any front line politician would be able to honestly, intelligently, answer.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

For no reason other than I remembered both of these stories this morning for labyrinthine but quite boring reasons, here are two of the very first fast fiction challenge stories I wrote in August 2005. I was still figuring out what I could do with the format, and well… the two tales below resulted.

The first involved something that long ago I learned – when writing radio sketched for BBC Radio 4’s Weekending – as a ‘pull back and reveal’ ending, where the final lines change what you realise you’ve been experiencing, where you realise that while you thought the sketch was about one thing… it was about something else the whole time. I adapted that and hopefully, the writing was ambitious enough – although you didn’t realise it at the time – to fool you as the reader. I got better at them as I mastered the form, but I still like this one a lot.

The second was probably the first time I constructed a backstory for the characters while I was writing it. And almost immediately realised that part of the fun for me could be, and indeed became, letting the reader create their own backstories, which were probably much nicer and more wholesome than the ones in my head.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: Only In My Heart
Word: lascivious
Challenger: Mary Picken
Length: 200 words exactly

He opened the door and flushed in warm recognition at the man’s face.

He smiled at him, seeing the welcoming smile in return.

It was the same every time he saw the face of the man he loved.

“I love you,” he said. Three words, but oh so important, and they were utterly, unreservedly and completely true.

“I love you,” he said again. “You know that, don’t you?” He didn’t wait for an answer but, with a sudden and overwhelming urge of affection and adoration, he continued. “She thinks she matters, but compared to you, she’s nothing. Oh, I know, I’m not the only one who loves you, but there’s something so special about our love.”

He smiled again, and his eyes trekked downwards in a lascivious manner, running over the smart suit, the tie he’d bought a week earlier on that special trip. Down, over the slight paunch and then down, further, until he saw what he knew he’d see before he looked: a telltale bulge, showing his hunger and obsession for the man.

There was a knock at the bedroom door, and sighing, the Prime Minister closed the wardrobe door and returned the mirror to the darkness within.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


Title: Cold
Word: cold
Challenger: Del Des Anges
Length: 200 words exactly

I’d been searching for her for three years when the telephone call came.

The ringing interrupted my shower and I turned the water off, grabbing for a towel as I stumbled through the room, drying myself as I went towards the telephone. My hand stabbed out and I pulled the receiver to my ear.

“Charlie?” came a voice I knew so well, moments before I could greet the caller.

“It’s me,” she said, unnecessarily. As if I could forget the gentleness of her dulcet tones. The voice continued, “I’m safe.”

Three years of not knowing, three years of wondering. Three years of hunger for her.

“I… I…” I stumbled over the words in surprise. All my plans, all my carefully worked out speeches. Gone, like they’d never existed, never been planned through the empty nights.

“Don’t try to find me,” she said. “I’m safe… at last. Safe from you.”

“Lisa, don’t go!” I cried, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I’ll never do it again.”

“Once was enough,” she said, sadness suffusing her words.

The phone went dead. It was cold in my hands.

Cold.

Like a children’s game of hide and seek, I felt further away from her than ever.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


 

See you tomorrow, with… genuinely, honest, something else. (At least, that’s the plan…)

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Have returned from Thought Bubble comic con, and find it hugely amusing that I had a night filled with nightmares.

‘Amused’ because almost uniquely, the nightmares ‘made sense’; they were about missing trains and having to make a speech in front of comics people and being crushed by shelves of books. So, yeah, they a) made sense, and b) were classic nightmare tropes… which are both very very unusual for me.

But I’m tired, so…

A longtime ago, I used to occasionally do this as part of the Saturday Smiles, but Saturday has long been reserved for videos, and since I’m still a bit tired, you get it today.

I first learned of this site when it wad called Criggo. I have no idea why it was called that, but when they switched to the more understandable badnewspaper.com, it saddened me.

Luckily, the content did not.

Here’s a supply of things that have appeared in newspapers in the past few years…

It does kind of make you wonder what happened exactly two weeks ago…

 
 
 
 No comment

 
Contentious? 

 
You can, can you?

 
Nowhere else available? 

 
You’re looking good, Mary Ann… 

 
Fortunately, the bear didn’t have an AR15…

 
“How’s the locker room morale, coach?” 

 
erm… 

 
Look at this charmong place!

 
Awwww, deer dancing! 

 
Good… guard dog? 

 
If you like your kids cooked well 

 
Yeah, that’s not gonna give anyone nightmares… 

 
Slightly… used? 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m at Thought Bubble comic con for the weekend, so a shorter than preferred post today.

Something’s been running through what I laughingly refer to as my brain since yesterday afternoon, when I saw some comics on sale that seemed… off, somehow.

I’m not about to name/embarrass either the comic nor the creator but it took me a moment to realise what was ‘wrong’, to my mind anyway. That it took so long is probably a mark of how long I’ve been absent from cons.

The self-produced, A5 comic, about… well, no, I’m not about to identify that either.

But what struck me after a couple of pages was that I could see what the creator was trying to do, I think, but… the comic was about a dozen and a half pages. There were maybe 60 or 70 panels in total. And every panel was great, as a spot illustration; I could tell, in every panel what was happening in the panel, and what the writer/artist wanted to convey. Again, I think.

What it took a moment to identify was that there was no actual design sense to any page that I could see. The panels worked as spot illustrations but there was no context identified for each panel to its predessesor nor its successor.

There were, as I say, maybe 70 panels. But they were 70 individual illustrations, attempting to tell a story, but with no actual storytelling occuring.

And it took until this morning when I woke to remember that I’d encountered this before; not the lack of story telling per se but the

something’s wrong but it takes a second or two to realise what…‘,

and particularly the feeling in that precise moment.

Someone I know once referred to it as ‘the unreka moment’, the opposite to the “eureka moment”.

Anyone, in any job, knows the “eureka moment”; it’s that split second when due to your professional expertise, or your knowledge and experience in your chosen job, combined with the right circumstances at the right moment…

… something ‘clicks’: you solve a problem, you see where the error is, you come up with a solution that’s been bugging you and/or your colleagues.

(Picture House, MD or Columbo having a Eureka moment, and you know what I mean, right?)

It’s not luck, although luck sometimes plays a part. Arnold Palmer’s trite comment of “the more I practice, the luckier I get” is usually quoted at this point, so… yeah. (I think Palmer’s quote is daft by the way, but that’s besides the point.)

But the eureka moment: when it happens, it feels great, and back in the day, when I was staring at a spreadsheet and suddenly I saw it, or researching tax law for a relief or allowance from which my client could benefit, or even when the penny dropped and I saw a way I could explain something to train a junior memebr of staff so they’d get it, so that they’d understand.

The Eureka Moment.

So what’s the opposite?

And yes, my friend may call it the unreka moment, but it’s what I call the “naah moment“, which I’d define as that exact moment when you look at something and know that it’s not right, but for a second (or even longer) you don’t know why it’s not right.

It’s an accountant looking at a balance sheet and saying “Naah“, knowing beyond peradventure that something’s just not quite right about it.

It’s an artist looking at an image and seeing something wrong, but it takes a moment to see why.

It’s a writer, reading a piece of prose, saying it out loud, and just knowing that there’s a better way of putting it, but not immediately being able to reword it.

The “naah moment“.

But now what I’m thinking about, as I type this moments before walking into the con today, what’s really making me think is that all three of the above might involve different parts of the ‘thinking’ process.

And if it is true that different parts of the brain deal with different appreciations: the parts of the brain that deal with vision are different from those that process hearing, then does the “naah moment” originate in different parts of the brain depending upon who’s thinkin’ it?

Hmm – something to ponder.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

As I write this post, I’m taking a break from wandering the halls at this year’s Thought Bubble comics con; it’s the first time I’ve attended a con in a decade or so, and after two hour of comics con following a decade without it, I needed a brief sit down and a coffee.

So, this post is being written at around two pm, though it won’t go live until about half four as usual.

So then… the usual: as I’ve grown older, if not wiser, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity. Silliness, even in the roughest of times, maybe especially on the worst of days, is never unimportant; a necessary break from the sheer nastiness of the absurdity in which we sometimes find ourselves.

So, after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s

     ‘What’s happening?’

with a hearty

     ‘how the fuck should I know?

I give you some much needed silliness.

 

I was reminded of this sketch on Thursday, and after trading lines from it for a while, I figured it definitely needed re-appearance here. Peter Cook’s wonderfully biting satire of the judge summing up in the Jeremy Thorpe murder trial. (Thorpe was the married leader of a major political party who was accused of trying to murder his gay lover. If you’ve seeen A Very English Scandal, that was about this.) It’s entitled Entirely A Matter For You.

 
Been long enough without a Two Johns piece; here they are, with Sir George Parr being interviewed regarding Investment Bankers.

 
 
A simple gag, but always executed cleverly as hell. Shoeshine Johnny from Police Squad

 
 
Lovely animation here, showing the scale of the universe.

 

A completely up to date one from from Mitch Benn this week, sparked by the ending of COP26

 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I started last week’s Ten Things, which was entitled Ten Things… about me, with the following:

Usually, these Ten Things posts are of or about things I like.

Here’s something different. Ten things you may or may not know about me, some obvious, some probably less well-known.

Friends will immediately know, appreciate and understand why I caveated the ‘…about things I like’ with ‘usually, but not this time’. No surprise that I’m not a huge fan of, well, me. I don’t like myself very much and it’s a genuine but constant surprise that anyone else does. (Mind you, as I’ve said before, merely not liking something or someone isn’t the same as actively disliking something or someone.)

But, while I was writing it, I realised that while there might have been one or two things about me that most people don’t know, there was nothing in there that was likely to surprise anyone, and for people who know me well, there probably wasn’t anything in there that even provoked a raised eyebrow.


Quick Sidebar: After I finished last week’s blog, I ended it with the words:

A different ‘ten things’ today; ten things about me; mostly things most people know. Next week: ten things most people don’t know.

That evening, a friend who shall remain nameless messaged me: ‘you sneaky bastard, I see what you’ve done there…

And I wish I could say he was wrong, on both points. But he was right, and I told myself that if anyone caught it I’d admit it. So I’m admitting it here.

Because nowhere in those final words did I say that this week’s post would be ‘ten things most people don’t know… about me’, merely that there’ll be ten things most people don’t know.

The only thing my friend was wrong about was that I hadn’t decided – as he thought I had – to deliberately mislead people. I did it to leave the option open. I wanted to leave myself some wriggle room in case I changed my mind.

As it is, I didn’t change my mind.


So here are ten things that most people probably don’t know about me. Some people will know some of them; one or two may know all of them. But most people? I doubt they know many of these.

Anyways, on with the show…

1. I’ve had a couple of stays in secure Mental Health Units
The first of several mental health items, and yeah, although I’ve alluded to mental health issues in the past, I don’t think I’ve ever publicly admitted that before. In 2011, and again in 2012, I spent a couple of weeks on each occasion in Mental Health Units. Both were what’s called ‘voluntary admissions’ but only the second was truly voluntary. The first was a Hobson’s Choice kind of situation: I was given the option of voluntarily going in… or doing in involuntarily. And since the former was likely to be far more pleasant, and lead to a shorter stay, I picked that one.

You can take it from the above that I was very very not well indeed.

The experience I had in the first experience led me to genuinely voluntarily going in for a second stay a year later. The experience I had during the second stay led me to decide never to ever voluntarily go in again.

Both stays were about two weeks in length, though the second stay involved the head of Barnet psych unit intervening to allow me out, and I went to effectively a half-0way house for a further two weeks.
 
 
2. I’ve been sectioned once, for 25 hours
To this day I don’t know whether, looking at it objectively, I should have been detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act. It’s more than possible I should have been. It’s also possible that I shouldn’t have been. All such calls are a matter of judgement and given that my brain really wasn’t working well at the time, my views on the matter may carry substantially less weigh than I’d wish.

However, what I do remember from the experience is how often, and easily, I was lied to.

Twenty-five hours in a room, stripped of everything bar my light clothing, with nothing to do, nothing to play, nothing to read, nothing to write with, nothing to… do. It wasn’t fun.

I spent the time doing maths problems in my head. I could joke that maths kept me sane, but to be brutally honest, it wouldn’t be that far from the truth.
 
 
3. I’m a huge advocate for therapy and meds and anything that’ll help, anything at all… for other people.
I’m not a believer in any of that for myself. I’ve never had therapy as such. I’ve had counselling for a couple of things, but that’s a very very different animal. But even so, of the three occasions I’ve had therapy, one of them made no difference whatsoever, one of them incorrectly caused harm to other people, and one actively harmed me.

So, no, not particularly eager to have counselling again were it to be offered for any reason.

As for therapy, this is where my view on maths and numbers and evidence come back to bite me in the ass. “Show me the numbers.” Show me that this therapy or that treatment or this medication or that process will help me and I’ll sign up for it. Reluctantly, because I have no faith that it will, and I’d be delighted to be surprised, but yeah, ok, I’ll give it a ago.

But I’ve no interest in wasting their time or mine with something that might possibly work, but probably won’t, or possibly could, but who the fuck knows?

I’ve genuinely and honestly an antipathy to that.

And given that people say that the most important thing involved is the desire, the wish to be better, to get better, and also that that is wholly, entirely, and completely absent from me, yeah, I’d rather they peddle their wares to people who do want to be/get ‘better’.
 
 
4. I dislike some very popular mental health books with a passion that could melt steel.
While I’ll freely acknowledge that most such books are written in good faith from the very best of motives, I’m reminded of the rejoinder to the line ‘everyone has a novel inside them…‘ of ‘yeah, and with some people, it should stay there.

Look, if those books have helped you, I’m genuinely pleased for you, just as I am if therapy and meds have helped you.

But there’s a certain style of mental health book that sets my tenth on edge and turns my stomach.

It’s the “I am better than I was, and I did [Thing]… so if you do [Thing], you WILL get better, because I did…” The unspoken but clear implication and coda, no matter how ostensibly they protest otherwise, is

‘…and if you don’t get better, well, that’s down to you, you must have done it wrong…and that’s YOUR fault!”

I loathe Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig for those very reasons.

I once described it as The Forest Fallacy:

Three people are dropped in different places in a dark forest, each with only a map & a compass. One makes it out, and can’t understand why the other two haven’t appeared. “I made it out, so they should; they must have done it wrong!

Meanwhile, the bears the first person didn’t encounter eat well that night.

To me, Haig’s book reeks of that. And so do several other highly successful and critically acclaimed books on mental health. Your personal favourite is probably in there somewhere.
 
 
5. There’s a lot more that I’m not comfortable talking about in public.
Notwithstanding my view that a private life is called A Private Life for a very good reason, ie it’s private, I’m in awe, generally and genuinely, at those who are, at those who can be, totally open about their health, physical and mental, and their private stuff.

I don’t have that courage and it’s taken me years even to confirm the stuff above.

I very much doubt you’ll be getting more from me about any of that, for a good while at least.
 
 
6. With the exception of my lad’s mum, my ex-wife, I’ve never been in love with anyone, and I don’t believe for the merest iota of a moment that anyone has ever been in love with me.
Oh, I’ve have crushes on people both before and after Laura; I’ve had the occasional infatuation. And I’m more than willing to stipulate that various women have been daft enough or swept up in it to briefly fall for me. And neither am I including very close friends where the love between friends is real but not the same thing at all as romantic love.

But that “romantic love”, “being in love”? It’s been so long since I’ve felt it, or thought anyone felt it for me, I truly don’t think I’d recognise it if it occurred in either of us.
 
 
7. I hope I don’t fall in love with anyone and that no one is unluckily enough nor foolish enough to fall in love with me.
All of the above said, and meant… I genuinely, honestly, equally truly, hope love doesn’t come along. In either direction. Because I can imagine fewer things more designed to torture someone than unrequited love. Not unrequited lust, nor unrequited desire, but unrequited LOVE. And I’d rather not be tortured any more than absolutely necessary, thanks.

(And that’s leaving aside there can be few things more pitiful than a 57 year old fella falling in love with someone who probably wouldn’t even notice in the first place.)
 
 
8. I never mind not being able to write the story I want to write, if another story barges its way in.
While I completely agree with those who say, in one way or another, that any fool can start writing a story, but only a writer finishes it…

…I don’t expect what I write to be that important that if something else gets in the way to the extent that it demands to be written, I wouldn’t write the second thing.

I will. I’ll make notes for the first story, bullet points, maybe even odd snippets of text, and I may even mean to go back to it. But I’ll abandon it for the new story that is demanding to be written.

I won’t do it on a whim, I won’t do it merely because I’m finding it hard to write. I’ll do it when the new story demands to be written and the old one no longer does.
 
 
9. The lower my voice goes, the angrier I am.
I don’t tend to shout that much, but if/when I do, I’m doing so very deliberately, to make a point, or to deliberately talk over someone. If I’m angry, however, or lose my temper, the volume of my voice doesn’t go up… it goes down, sometimes way, way, down and I become ultra sensitive to what I’m saying, and how I want it to come over.
Fair to say, however, a friend, some long time ago, said he never listened to the volume of my voice when he thought I might be angry: he looked at my eyes. Because, he said, the flatter they were, the angrier I was… I dunno whether that’s changed over the years.
 
 
10. Three things I don’t know, don’t appreciate or don’t understand
video games. I don’t mean space invaders or computer version for ‘real life/board’ games. I like playing snooker on my phone, and backgammon, and golf, and patience. I am entirely and utterly lost the moment a ‘proper’ video game, a multi-player, or shoot em up thing. I’m genuinely unsure whether it’s the lack of patience or whether it’s just the ‘I don’t give a shit about the story element’. Either way, it’s something I regret.
the theory of music, including keys. I’ve had them explained to me by expert musicians. It just won’t sink in. Hell it doesn’t even make a dent in my brain, just bounces off entirely.
– the self-deprecatory “oh, I’m no good at maths, me“. I genuinely don’t understand how that’s laughed off in a way “Oh, I’m no good at English” or “Oh, I’m no good at history” would never be.

 

OK, well, that’s that done. Again.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others, less ‘about me’ ones which are probably more pleasant to read…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

And I’m continuing to live up to the promise to my old friend, whose birthday it was this week.

So a story about birthdays, kind of, sparked by this picture.


Lost dates, lost people

Oh, it’s today. Again.

With a sinking feeling, I follow my practice of choice and open my calendar app on the phone and select the calendar I’ve marked as ‘Lost’. The names and dates appear instantly on the screen, and I pause for a moment, just a moment. I close my eyes. And I remember.

I miss paper diaries. I liked paper; I liked its invention. I mean, I wasn’t there for it, but every so often, I wonder what I’d have said to the person who invented it.

And I miss the personal nature of a paper diary; my diary was my diary. Sure, there were a few thousand out there that looked the same from the cover, but it was unlikely that anyone else would have a diary of the same dimensions, the same thickness, the same colour, the same typeface used for the year shown on the front.

I’d pick each one up a few days into December, and relish the ‘new paper’ smell as I cracked it open, enjoying the stiffness of the pages, the blank pages waiting for me to fill them.

I’d examine the opening pages, smile at the page waiting for me to complete my name, contact details, address, telephone number and email address in later years.

The pages showing ‘a list of major world events’ I’d skip at that point. But at some point, certainly before the start of the year, I’d read them carefully, for an hour or more, looking for anything that would surprise me. Oh, the events didn’t change, but sometimes my memory would fade and it would be enough to provide a corrective.

I’d skip to the back of small book, and the maps. Whatever else was in a diary, the maps always bemused me. I’d resist the temptation to correct the names to those I’d known in the past, and it saddened me that with every year that passed, with every new diary, the resistance was a little easier to summon.

And, then, I’d open this year’s diary, and next year’s, place them next to each other, turn the pages together, and start transferring the names and birthdays across onto the blank pages.

And with every date, there’d be names that this year, finally, I didn’t transfer.

That’s a problem with immortality, you know, that they never teach you. The major administration things, oh, you learn them fairly quickly. You learn to move on, to leave so much behind, to leave a life behind, when it becomes… necessary. No, that’s a lie. You may have learned to leave a life behind when it becomes necessary, but after a few hundred years, you start to leave it behind when it becomes convenient.

You learn how to manage finances and back accounts and investments and the best places to hide and to vanish and those in which you can thrive in almost anonymity.

But deciding when to stop mourning a loved one? That’s a tough one. To stop grieving? Oh, it would shock others how short a time; maybe four hundred years before your grieving process can usually be measured in days if not hours.

But the mourning process? When you stop remembering everything about them? When you stop smiling at the thought of their face, their eccentricities, their loveliness? When their absence ceases to be sad, and transforms into merely idle memory.

Paper diaries helped. I had a firm rule, developed when I was about 700. 700 and something, anyway. Fifty years after their death; that’s when I stopped transferring their birthdays and death days to the new diary. Wives, lovers, children. They all got fifty years. Apart from my parents. I don’t remember them any more; I don’t remember their having birthdays. But the dates got transferred anyway. My father would have been 2500 a couple of years ago. He didn’t make it to 40, not as the years are measured now, anyway.

I miss paper diaries. When that decision was made every year: this person’s details were transferred over, this person’s wasn’t. This person I’d remember at some point during the year when I saw their name, that person I wouldn’t remember unless something else happened to cause me to pull out an old diary for some reason.

I open my eyes and look at the screen again. They’re modern marvels, these mobile phones, astonishing. I never cease to be amazed at the wonder of technology. I don’t have to do anything; the names and dates and details and photographs of people transfer over to the new year by what the tiniest part of me – the part that thinks of the old days, and I mean The Very Old Days – still considers a form of magic.

The convenience is beyond previous imagination. As is the cost.

I sigh and start scrolling down the names attached to today’s date. So many. So, so many. Wives, lovers, colleagues. Children. Grandchildren. Great grandch… you get the idea.

I don’t know which is healthier. The paper diary with only 50 years’ of deaths, and maybe double that of memories. Or seeing hundreds of years’ worth of the names of people who I cared about, who I loved, and who loved me.

I don’t know which is healthier. Or better. Or stranger.

About half way down the very long list, I see the name I was expecting. Happy birthday, father. I wish I remembered more about you than the date.

I miss paper diaries.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Foot’s a bit better today,, but since this was the half written post I referred to, here’s the finished version. A bit shorter yet more meandering than intended, but here you go.

The first time I could vote in a general election… I didn’t.

Yeah, that feels weird writing that. Because there’s not been one general election since where I’ve not voted. Even when I’ve considered the candidates available to me from the ‘main’ parties to be disqualifyingly bad, I’ve still voted. Even when the candidates from the main parties have seemed to me a choice between shit, shite and shitty, I’ve still voted,

Occasionally, it’s been as a protest vote, to lend my vote to someone else almost as a ‘thank you for standing’. More often, recently, on such occasions, I’ve taken to giving my vote to someone specifically to try to assist in getting them ‘over the line’ so they at least retain their deposit.

(In the UK, it costs to run for election; you have to pay an amount of £500; if you get 5% of the vote, you get the deposit back. If not, it goes towards the costs of running the election.)

But no, I didn’t vote in that first general election, the one in 1983. The reason? I was at Manchester Polytechnic and I hadn’t bothered to register for inclusion on the electoral register where I lived. Nor had I applied for a postal nor proxy vote.

So, yeah, I could have jumped on a train to vote, but seeing as I was coming up to the end of my first year exams, and my brother was in hospital with a life threatening medical condition, andand… and…

Look, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered. I lived – in Manchester – in a ‘safe’ Labour constituency, so what was the point?

(I’m still not entirely convinced by all the arguments most people give for ‘the importance of voting’ when you live in a safe seat, but that’s a separate point.)

As it was, more than a few people seemed to agree with me in the 1983 election, since Labour got hammered in the election, which was exactly what was expected. That they got hammered quite so hugely wasn’t expected by everyone, but that they’d get hammered? Yeah.

In fact, it was the worst result for Labour until… well, until two years ago, in December 2019, when Labour got their worst result for 100 years or so. And the one election that Labour’s 2019 result got compared to again and again and again on election night? Yeah, 1983’s.

I currently live in the safe Labour seat of Westminster North. For anyone who’s followed me over the past few years either on here or on Twitter, however, it won’t come as a surprise that even had the seat been a ‘balanced on a knife edge’ marginal, I wouldn’t have voted Labour. Not for a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

I like my MP, on the whole. She seems nice, and she has views which would under normal circumstances make me pleased to vote for her.

But as I’d said publicly, I would not vote Labour under any circumstances, for any elected position, at all… while Jeremy Corbyn was leader. I left the party the day he was elected (after an admittedly short membership) and I can’t ever see myself joining Labour again. Ever.


Sidebar: Oh, and the ‘…but you vote for your local MP!’ argument doesn’t stand up for two reasons:

1) yeah, in theory you do… but in practice, no. Most people still vote for the candidate of their favourites, and research by Stephen Bush of the New Statesman suggested that in London, only 6% of voters votes for the candidate not the party.

2) the leader of the party with the most MPs gets to be Prime Minister, whether or not an individual MP is a supporter of the leader. I’m wasn’t, and am not, going to vote for a candidate that’ll make an antisemite… Prime Minister.

Simple as that.

Oh, and you’re responsible for your vote; you’re responsible for who you vote for. You’re not responsible for not voting for someone else.


But leaving all of that aside, something occurred last week that made me think about when it’s important to vote ‘the right way’, and when it really doesn’t matter.

For a start, all such judgements are subjective. Of course they are, how could they not be? People who vote in the Eurovision Song Contest do so because theythink it’s important. I may think such a vote is unimportant, just as I do all of the talent shows that infest our tv schedules.

But I wouldn’t tell them that their vote is unimportant. because to them…. it’s not.

Elections for representatives, however, are votes that I do consider important, even if roughly 40% of the electorate, going by turnover numbers at general elections, disagree with me.

I thought it was important to vote in the two national referendums we’ve had in the past decade: the one to decide the electoral voting system; I voted to change the voting system; the other side got more votes and won. And I voted to remain in the EU; the other side got more votes and won.

Yeah, I don’t have a great record.

But both of them were, to me, important votes and I cast them happily.

As I have every general election, and every by-election I could vote in, and every council election.

The 2016 by-election in Richmond Park constituency (where I then lived) was an election that was marginal. Lots of by-elections are – as they’re often taken by the electorate, and the media, as a popularity poll on the government of the day – but this one was especially so. I voted cheerfully. Who I voted for, however, that I voted reluctantly, one of the very few times I’ve voted against someone. I loathed how that made me feel.

But going back to last week. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY: D) voted against the infrastructure vote in congress.

One of her supporters explained her vote (She herself explained her vote here) by saying that she had problems with the measures, specially its decoupling from a larger reconciliation package, but stressing that AOC knew the measure would pass without her vote, so her vote was merely a protest vote… but that had her vote been needed, she’d have voted with it. (It’s notable that AOC did not say the latter part.)

There’s a danger with that attitude. And it’s sheer arrogance for anyone to not only hold it, but to say it. (Which is why I suspect AOC didn’t, and left it for her supporters to say it.)

That danger? Well, what if it hadn’t passed?

What’s that you say? Of course it was going to pass.

Well, ‘of course we were going to stay in the EU.‘ The Brexit vote was a 52% : 48% win for the ‘Leave’ side.

And what was noticeable afterwards (mainly I suspect because the news programmes actively searched for it) was the number of people who claimed ‘oh, I voted to leave because I wanted to express my anger and upset at the government… but I knew we’d remain, I knew my vote wasn’t needed.

It’s dangerous to assume that your vote isn’t going to be needed.

I’m not saying that every vote counts. How can it? In my own constituency, Labour won in 2019 by 10,759 votes.

So one could argue that 10.758 Labour votes didn’t ‘count’, or maybe that no one else’s (other than Labour’s) vote counted.

But certainly, without doubt, beyond peradventure, one vote, my vote, didn’t make the slightest difference to the result.

So, why did I vote? Because I’m old fashioned enough to think that the actual act of voting is what counts.

(If you’re interested in the usual ‘reasons for voting’, why they’re wrong and what what I think is the single biggest reason – in theory – for voting is, check here. The author said it better than I ever could.)

But I think the best reason for voting – whether or not you feel is counts – is that it makes you feel part of the process. And that’s never a bad idea.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece on voting before the 2015 general election.

I finished it with the following words;

So, vote. Vote because you think it’s important, not because anyone else tells you it’s important. Vote because you want to, or you need to, or just because you’ve nothing better to do.

But vote.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Oh, before I forget, one more link. Every so often recently, someone will bring up the idea of a “Progressive alliance”. Three months ago, I expressed a fairly jaundiced opinion on the idea because of several reasons I laid out. If anything, over the past few months, my views on the subject have curdled even further.

 

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Thursday ‘something else’, one that will be written for a very special purpose.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Housekeeping Note: foot


Today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two from long ago stories of 2007.

Both have seen light, separately, on this blog before, but I came across both while preparing yesterday’s post and they’re both silly enough and just flat out weird enough that I think they should be paired here today. Tony Lee, in particular, always gave me challenges that tests me to create the absurdly weird.

And so it was here.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: Paradise Lost – But Found
Word: succubus
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

He looked around the library and sighed, unconsciously wincing and irritated at himself as he registered the latter reaction.

The silence had long ceased to be oppressive, but it was far from pleasant. After sixteen years, though, the monk was almost used to it.

It would be a lie, though, to say that he didn’t notice it any more.

He noticed it.

Every day, he noticed it. Every time he was alone, he noticed it. Every time he was with someone else, he noticed it.

He noticed it.

And he disliked it intensely. There was little that he could do about it, however,

When he’d first entered the monastery, he had laboured under an illusion that he’d needed seclusion, privacy. And for the first eight, maybe nine, months, he’d taken to the lifestyle with pleasure. So much pleasure, indeed, that he had been disciplined by with extra duties.

The menial tasks, he could cope with. The scourging and blood-letting was tougher.

But he finally broke when he was exposed to the greatest punishment the Abbot could impose upon him.

And remaining silent during that experience? Now, that was tough…

He shuddered as he remembered being introduced to the monastery’s succubus.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


Title: Single White Fee Male
Word: spices
Challenger: [Livejournal: perspexavenger]
Length: 200 words exactly

The papers and the weapon had been on the table for an hour when the two of them arrived, walking into the building through different doors, entering the sterile air-conditioned atmosphere, away from the sounds and scents of the street; spices and exhaust fumes left far behind.

Escorted by security people hired by their mutual employer, they walked to the room that had been set aside for their meeting, but even in that shared experience the differences between them were evident.

While the larger of the men walked in long strides, forcing his companions to a speedier pace than they preferred, the other took his time, almost dawdling, his casual tread belying the tension in his face.

Entering from opposite sides of the boardroom, the assistant commercial director and the financial controller met at the large oak table. Smiles full of faked sincerity and meaningless obsequiousness lasted for less than a second before they appended their signatures to the documents. They bowed deeply and then the man to the left of the table fell to his knees, while the other lifted the sword from the table.

And thus the junior corporate whore was promoted to Senior Courtesan to the Board.

© Lee Barnett, 2007


 

See you tomorrow, with… genuinely, honest, something else. (At least, that’s the plan…)

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Housekeeping Note: I wrote yesterday

I’m genuinely sorry to have to do this only a few days after starting the 2022 run, but I woke up today with my foot on fire, something that happens every so often and, not unexpectedly, is happening a bit more often as I get that bit older.

I had a post semi-written for today; a few hundred words written with the rest bulletpointed. I’ll finish it tomorrow or it’ll be Wednesday’s post, I guess.

But I absolutely did not want to ‘skip’ a day, so I’m reverting to one of my ‘in case of emergency break glass’ posts.

OK? Good.

OK, so you’ve read that? Same applies today. Sorry but the foot’s still on fire…


Today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two from long ago stories of 2009.

I like surprising people with the stories. Occaisonally, like the subject of the first story, I like to remember that a specific concept exists, no matter how distant it can seem.

The second story is one about obsession, and where it can lead one.

The second tale is a warning; I’m not sure the first is.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: Frankenstein Can’t Die
Word: flocculent
Challenger: [Livejournal: secretia]
Length: 200 words exactly

The door slowly closed behind them, and the room seemed empty. I sat behind my desk, relieved, trying to stop shivering and not entirely managing.

It had been an unexpected inspection under the Maintenance of Order (Fiction) Act: the Fiction Police. They had another title, but the nomenclature fit.

Spot visits now. We’d been moving that way for a couple of decades, but even so… Twenty years of advancement towards the anodyne; one way of looking at it, not a view those who had just left my office would support. They’d prefer everyone regarded it as twenty years of retreat from anarchy and chaos.

I’m a good citizen; I won’t break the law. Bend it possibly, almost to breaking point… but never beyond that position.

I looked at my bookshelves. Yes, they were all there, the mandatory horror books, the psychological terrors. Anything to keep a population unsure and uneasy, to ensure the government was re-elected, and re-elected.

I opened a drawer and pulled out a book with a lurid cover. Within the sensation, though, was a romance novel, something entirely flocculent and trivial.

Mere possession was risking death.

But, just occasionally, I like to recall the concept of love.

© Lee Barnett, 2009


Title: Second To None
Word: requiem
Challenger: [Livejournal: absinthe_delacy]
Length: 200 words exactly

The music. Always the music.

As the final notes echoed through the church, there was an awed silence.

The music had more than done its duty, evoking memories and emotions of a life lived and as I sat there, I could feel the admiring glances of the rest of the congregation on my back.

I wiped my eyes, the moisture there arising from a mixture of emotions. I sat in the front row, of course, wearing black in commemoration of a friend I’d known since childhood, someone with whom I’d shared so much in life: the joys of victories won, the despair of life’s disappointments.

There was also the power of the music itself. More than a mere hymn of mourning, I felt his presence; several moments during the recital, I’d closed my eyes and half expected to hear his calm, steady voice.

Of course it wouldn’t be calm, nor steady. Well, I wouldn’t have expected it to have been. Not now.

I’d written the music before his death… and when I’d finished it, I knew it could only be performed as a requiem.

For him. After his death.

I regretted his death, of course.

But the music… the music…

© Lee Barnett, 2009


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Housekeeping Note: I’m genuinely sorry to have to do this only a few days after starting the 2022 run, but I woke up today with my foot on fire, something that happens every so often and, not unexpectedly, is happening a bit more often as I get that bit older.

I had a post semi-written for today; a few hundred words written with the rest bulletpointed. I’ll finish it tomorrow or it’ll be Wednesday’s post, I guess.

But I absolutely did not want to ‘skip’ a day, so I’m reverting to one of my ‘in case of emergency break glass’ posts.

OK? Good.


Today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two from long ago stories of 2008.

I liked writing fast fictions about the, if you’ll forgive the word, ‘ineffable’. Not only because of the links to a story I huge enjoy, but because it feels a bit like sneaking a look behind the curtain. The first is one such tale.

The second story was one I was genuinely surprised to reread when I came across it recently. Not so much for the story itself but because, rarely, with a decade’s worth of life, experiences and writing, I wouldn’t change a word of it. Often, I’ll see old stories and think ‘oh, I should have used this word or that phrase’. This one? No, wouldn’t change a thing about it.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: Murder In Heaven
Word: quantum
Challenger: Corey Klemow
Length: 200 words exactly

The area was empty. And then it was not.

A soft light seemed to suffuse the place before a large golden clock appeared. The clock chimed loudly, but the angel whose responsibility it was to respond was already there before the sound ended.

It summoned the guardian angel which looked almost amused as it realised that once again, it had to go through this. It stated its case as it had done so before and the angel heard the argument, and ruled against it. As it had done so before.

Cain had killed Abel. And the former’s guardian angel had killed the latter’s minutes before Cain had taken his action.

And He had deemed the same should apply – none should commit the slightest quantum of harm to the murderer but Him. And He had not yet decided the penalty. Almost a million years later (as Cain and Abel would have measured time) and He had not yet decided. But then He worked on different timescales, to be fair.

Both angels returned to their previous points of existence. And a moment later the area was empty.

And then it was not, as a soft light and a large golden clock appeared…

© Lee Barnett, 2008


Title: I Want To Believe
Word: demeanour
Challenger: Regie Rigby
Length: 200 words exactly

He sits there, waiting patiently, entirely relaxed, wholly at odds with his usual demeanour.

It had been the undercurrent of barely restrained activity that had first attracted me to him. And even last night, afterwards, while we had been talking in bed, his hands had been constantly moving, developing thoughts, attempting to show in physical movement what he was unable to express in speech.

The constant movement, the boundless energy, the thriving on change… never wanting to accept things as they are, but always seeing what could be… I can’t deal with it any more, and I told him so. This morning.

And now, six hours later, he sits there, pleasantly vacant, patiently waiting for my answer.

I know he says that he’s willing to change. For me.

I wish I could accept that his love supersedes all personal desires, that his yearning for me overwhelms his desire to be himself. And I ask myself: must he change who he is, or must I change who I am?

I love him. But for us to survive together, one must move forward, or backwards.

And then I answer, and I hate myself just that little bit more than I did previously…

© Lee Barnett, 2008


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Yeah, the Saturday Smiles are back.

As I’ve grown older, if not wiser, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity. Silliness, even in the roughest of times, maybe especially on the worst of days, is never unimportant; a necessary break from the sheer nastiness of the absurdity in which we sometimes find ourselves.

So, after yet another week when the only sensible reaction to the news is to answer Twitter’s

     ‘What’s happening?’

with a hearty

     ‘how the fuck should I know?

I give you some much needed silliness.

 

Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie, Shakespeare and Agent, to start with this week:

 
No reason for this one other than I stumbled across it earlier today. Bing and Frank, Well, Did You Evah? from High Society

 
 
Been a while since this one’s seen the light, but the older I get, the more I sympathise with Bert and Charlie as portrayed by The Two Ronnies.

 
 
Something to make you smile? Well, you can’t do better than Donald O’Connor’s wonderful Make Em Laugh

 
 

A newer one from Mitch Benn this week, sparked by the recent government reshuffle: They’re Shuffling the Deckchairs…

 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Usually, these Ten Things posts are of or about things I like.

Here’s something different. Ten things you may or may not know about me, some obvious, some probably less well-known.

Friends will immediately know, appreciate and understand why I caveated the ‘…about things I like’ with ‘usually, but not this time’. No surprise that I’m not a huge fan of, well, me. I don’t like myself very much and it’s a genuine but constant surprise that anyone else does. (Mind you, as I’ve said before, merely not liking something or someone isn’t the same as actively disliking something or someone.)

Anyways…

1. I’m 57 years old
Yes, a fairly obvious one to start with, given the two earlier blog runs, but let’s get it out of the way first. After I hit my mid-40s, I went through the usual birthday blues as I approached my birthdays, but afterwards, well, I started realising that I am an age that I never really considered before. Oh, I mean, it’s not like I thought that I’d die from natural causes earlier – although my brother died in his 30s, most of my other relatives have lived until at least their late 60s and some much older; my dad died almost a decade ago in his early 80s; my mum’s still alive, in her mid 80s. I just never thought that much about what I’d be like in my late 50s.

And when I did idly consider it, I’m pretty sure that how I am now isn’t what I pictured.

As for being 57, well I long ago resigned myself to the end of the ‘wow, you look much younger than you are‘, but I honestly didn’t expect that at any point in my remaining years… that I’d miss it.

And I do… just a little but definitely yes. Which surprises me, just a little, but definitely yes. Because it’s been a while since anyone’s genuinely (as opposed to being kind or taking the piss) thought I looked younger than I am, and these days I’m kind of grateful if anyone believes I’m my actual age.

For years, I’ve known that the vast majority of the people I hung around with, certainly in comics and comedy, are younger than me, much younger in some cases. But the past two years in particular, it seems in many ways that the gap has widened. I’m not sure if that’s reality or just perception; given the crazy world we all now inhabit, it could easily merely be the latter. But I guess with what’s been going on in my life, either’s possible.

2. I’m a father, with a son named Philip
Yeah, another bit of fairly common knowledge. I call him “Phil” most of the time, much as he calls me ‘dad’. Unless I’m ticked off with him in which case he becomes “Philip” or he wants something… in which case I revert to “Daddyyyyyyyy?”

He’s twenty-six years old, as of a few days ago, and I would say that I love him more with every passing day if I didn’t think that was actually impossible. I’m a very proud father with, to be entirely and unbiasedly honest, a lot to be proud about.

3. I live in London
Again, shouldn’t be a surprise to people that read the blog or follow me on Twitter. Or at least I would have said it shouldn’t be a surprise, until an American friend visited recently and didn’t know where I lived, or whether it was close to central London. Which is fair enough. Even if I knew someone lived in “New York”, I wouldn’t have a clue whether they meant the state or the city and how easy it was to get around.

But yes, I live in London, not far from Abbey Road recording studios; yes, yes, the Beatles, George Martin and all of that. And I like living here; in the area I mean. It’s a short walk into central london; about 45 minutes from me to Oxford Circus, about ⅔ of that to Baker Street. (And no, if you’re curious, there isn’t a 221b Baker Street, at least not a genuine one.)

But it’s a nice area, with decent (no, autocorrect, not ‘decadent’) public transport system and a very large, very nice park that I should visit at some point. Though after almost five years living here, I’d wager it’s unlikely that I’m heading there soon if I haven’t yet.

Yeah, we get tourists looking for the fabled Abbey Road road crossing. And yeah, they’re enthusiastic. My Gods, are they enthusiastic, and excited, and you know what? I quite like that. It adds to the day, somehow; it makes the day… lighter. Which is never a bad thing.

(Though I’m still entirely bemused, I’ll admit, how anyone can find their way more than 5.000 miles across the ocean, and a few dozen miles to outside my flat… and then be unable to travel the ¼ mile to the studio without help.)

4. I write
Not enough, but I write. Prose fiction in the main, but I’ve been known to turn my attention to comics scripts (I won’t bore you with what’s been published, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had anything published, though) and, on rare occasions, doggerell or free format poetry.

I’m least happy with my efforts on the latter as I’m not a natural poet. With prose and other fiction, I can look at something and know whether I’m on the right lines or not. And even with rhyming verse, usually comedic, I can tell. With free verse poetry, I’ve no idea, not a one. I think it’s because, to me at least, it’s less rational and more emotional.

And although I can write emotions well enough in prose, I struggle in verse, because I have fewer narrative tricks I can use. At least that’s my excuse.

You get some ‘fiction from the vaults’ every Tuesday here, and new prose fiction from me every Thursday.

But as I write this, I have seven unfinished long form projects (one graphic novel, one anthology of graphic work, one anthology of short stories, one movie screenplay and one novel… and two I’m not even hinting at in here) in draft that are screaming at me to get back to them. I’m studiously ignoring the screams.

I shouldn’t.

5. I never remember my dreams
Maybe “never” is too strong a word there, but I can’t remember the last time I had a nice dream. It’d be nice to remember a nice dream. I’m sure I have them. But I only remember the nightmares, which are a usually nightly occurrence.

That said, if it was a choice of not remembering any dreams or remembering them all, I’ll take the first option, please. I’d be quite content at that; I’ve no real wish to know what my subconscious is up to, thanks all the same.

6. I sleep on average about six hours a nightspread out over eight or nine hours.
I’m rarely in bed before around half one, and then I read for a while before lights out. I’ll turn those lights out when I’m too tired to stay awake any longer, usually indicated by me not being able to remember what the hell is on the page I’ve just read.

If I go to bed earlier, and just switch off the light, I don’t sleep… I lay there awake. And since I don’t share my bed with anyone, that’s never as pleasant as it sounds.

I take heavy doses of an anti-histamine to help me sleep; to be precise theyr’e supposed to help me stay asleep; they sometimes, occasionally, work..

About once every three months, I’ll crash out early, about eight, and sleep for almost twelve hours.

(One of the underrated benefits of getting older, though: I can have a late afternoon/early evening nap with no guilt whatsoever.)

7. I don’t speak any ‘foreign’ languages… including body language
I understand smatterings of german and yiddish, but body language is definitely a complete mystery. Someone scratches their nose? To me it means they’ve an itchy nose. It does tend to confirm, however, that when it comes to the opposite sex, as I’ve mentioned before, not only would any woman interested in me have to be carrying a plank to smack me around the head, but it would probably require several beatings.

And though I know I can pay women to beat me, while I’ve no moral obligation, I’d rather go without the beatings, thanks.

8. I’m far happier talking (or being) one-to-one, and with someone I already know, than in a crowd or meeting ‘new’ people
Of all the things I envy some of my friends for, it’s their ability to walk into a room with fifty people they don’t know, and thirty minutes later, they’ve had conversations with at least a dozen of them and are at ease with every bloody one of them. I’m not like that. I’m neither a naturally sociable person in a crowd, nor a naturally social animal.

Once upon a time, I could have typed something like “I wish I wasn’t as happy in my own company, but I am.” That’s no longer true. I’m not happy in my own company; I’m just unhappier in others’.

9. While not hating my looks, I remain convinced that anyone who says I’m good looking, or some such… is taking the piss.
I spent the vast majority of my growing up suffused with the conviction that I genuinely was the worst looking fella in my town. (It didn’t help matters that my older brother was genuinely very good looking and was surrounded by girls from when he was about 14. I may have loved my brother and put him on a pedestal, but the shadow of that pedestal was a cold place to be at times)

After my marriage ended, and I became, at least in others’ eyes, ‘available’, I know I’m not the very worst of the worst out there, but I’m far, far, far from being someone who, when he walks into a room, attracts the eyes of people with an approving “mmmmmm.”

And linking this and the last two together, I’ve never successfully “chatted anyone up”. Ever. Never happened. Never been chatted up, either – or at least if I have been, I’ve never noticed it. To this day, if I did get chatted up while out, I’d assume that it was either a setup, or friends taking the piss.

Because – bonus 9a – I’m a huge advocate of extrapolating from previous experiences, and the only times I’ve recognised I’m being chatted up while out, it’s always without exception, either been a setup, or someone taking the piss.

10. If I hold a grudge, there’s [usually] a damned good reason for it
Once upon a time, it was rare for me to fall out with someone permanently. With the vicissitudes of life being what they are, I took the view that ‘life’s too short’. If you screw up, or offend someone, then unless it’s of crucial importance, or permanently changes your opinion of someone for the worse, it’s just not worth falling out with them forever. (I’m reminded of the comment that “it takes more muscles to frown than to smile… but it’s worth the extra effort.”)

That changed in the past few years. And antisemitism was the cause; either direct or indirect, either the active commission of it, or the excusing of it, or the trivialising of it. Sadly, I fell out with a number of people over it. I say sadly because yeah, it is sad when friends fall out.

That said I don’t regret a single one. And I hope they don’t regret it either.

So, yes, on those occasions where I do fall out with someone, I don’t fall out with them merely for the sake of it; there’s a reason, and usually it’s a damn good one.. And yeah, I bear grudges. Hard.
 

OK, well, that’s that done.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others, less ‘about me’ ones which are probably more pleasant to read…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

So, I came across this picture by chance.

And here’s a story about unexpected pain and the pain being worth it.


Coming Home

I opened the door to the apartment with my key and cursed gently at the noise it made. They’d be in bed now. Only someone with a genuine reason to be up late would still be awake at half-two in the morning; she’d long ago got used to the hours I kept and the job I did. She’d be in bed. He, of course, would have been put to bed as the sky outside turned from overcast to night.

I took my shoes off in the dark; she hated me tracking mud through the place. I was dressed in civilian clothes, of course, rather than the costume, and I was bone tired. I’d had a long day and I don’t know how the other major leaguers managed it. I always smiled at my son’s comic books when he begged me to read them to him. What would it be like to be one of his fictional omniscient heroes, and not to need sleep but just to take it for relaxation?

I needed sleep. Both in the general and, especially tonight, in the specific. I was tired, weary, and I needed to go to sleep.

I put my foot down on the carpet gently. Not only because I had no wish to be stabbed by a toy my four year old son had left around, but because like any father I didn’t want to tell him that I’d broken what would, I was convinced, happen to be his favourite toy of the moment.

Yeah, sure I had an invulnerable force field like the newspapers report, but it comes both at a cost, and from my gauntlet. And I have to direct it. I could be, and had been, injured just as much by my feet being speared by a toy soldier as by an energy weapon taking me unawares in battle.

I stopped dead, suddenly struck by a memory. a couple of years back. We’d all just returned from Inner Earth, and were having a debriefing [ok, a bite to eat] back at The Clubhouse. Somehow we got talking, as sometimes happened, about injuries and wounds we’d suffered, and I’d a laser whip was nothing, nothing!, compared to stepping on a lego brick.

There’d been a moment of silence before the laughter came, then cries of ‘no, wait, what about when she twists your ear?’ And ‘oh deities above, when he head butted me in the groin…!’

And more laughter. I’m not sure that’s the exact moment when my colleagues became my friends, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I crept into his bedroom and grinned. Even before turning on the infra-red vision, I could see that he wasn’t there. The bedclothes were slung back and, switching on the vision, I tracked his footprints as they left his room and went into the main bedroom. I shook my head in wonder at the evidence that his feet could be warm enough to leave traces on the carpet.

They certainly didn’t feel that warm when he crawled into our bed at six in the morning and placed his ice-cold feet on my back to wake me up for breakfast.

I looked in on my wife and son. They were both sleeping and I left them there while I walked into the main room, seeing a small flashing light. I’d have hovered over but I promised her when we moved it: no obvious use of powers in the apartment unless lives were at stake.

The light on the answer phone was flashing. Not the normal everyday one, but the one that my son knew as “Daddy’s phone”. I mentally sent the signal to play the messages and heard a half dozen auto-messages from The Club, as well as a message asking me to renew my Readers’ Digest subscription. Wow, I thought, have you got the wrong number.

There was some unopened mail for me which puzzled me for a moment, since my wife usually opens our mail. Then I saw that it was fan mail and understood why it had been left unopened. She used to get a kick out of, but changed her mind on the subject a while back. Even though secretaries employed by The Club usually scanned the mail in advance, they’d once let a death threat slide through and she’s avoided looking at the fan mail ever since.

I put the kettle on and made a coffee while I read some of the fan mail. It was the usual: two requests for help, a half dozen requests for a fly by , a request or two from children asking me to beat up the local bully. More proof that childhood experiences stick with you. I still remembered the names and looks and preferred tortures of my own school bullies. I had, I’ll admit, been tempted more than once to follow up in person in the past, but I’d usually found that a quiet word in the childrens’ teachers’ ears did the trick.

I put down the mail and opened the freezer. I knew there was some ice cream there, and I had a sudden banana-split attack. I wasn’t sure to be aggrieved or proud to find the carton still there, but with a piece of frozen paper attached upon which was written in spidery childlike writing. “sorry. I was hungry.”

I turned out the light and went into the bathroom. I caught a look at myself in the mirror and looked at the small cut above my eye. Ouch… I remembered the energy rifle blast that caught me. I’d had the cut checked out back at The Clubhouse, but the docs couldn’t say whether it would scar or not.

So far I’d been lucky. No scars in visible places, although my back was a mess of scar tissue and the skin over my kneecaps never tanned. Not any more. Not after that time I was thrown out of that car on the freeway. An invulnerable shield three feet in diameter could only protect so much.

I rubbed my chin. I needed a shave but it was too late and I was too tired. When my powers first appeared, I’d tried to pretend I was Superman from my son’s comics… and shave by burning off the whiskers. Never again. No, really., never again. Not only did the bathroom stink from the stench of burning hair, but I had heat blisters all over my face. Took them three days to go down. Never again…

I stripped off and dropped my dirty washing in the basket. She had few rules, but that was one of them. I quickly washed and the cut bled a bit just as I dried it. I walked into the bedroom and, taking care not to wake the boy, sat on the edge of the bed. I kissed her head and she stirred.

“Umm,” she said, “what time did you get in?”

“About half an hour ago,” I whispered.

“Everything OK?” she asked sleepily.

“Yeah,” I replied, still whispering. “Dr Radium’s back in custody, the shuttle took off on time, and I even remembered to post your mother’s birthday card. Everything ok here?”

“The credit card statement arrived,” she said.

Oops.

“You never said you bought some new computer equipment.”

“Ah…”

She smiled, and my heart warmed. And I knew I’d gotten away with it. There have to be some advantages to being a costumed hero, after all. “Let me put him next door and then I’ll come to bed.”

I stood up and scooped our son into my arms.

I took him into his room and as I put him into his bed, he woke up a bit. “Daddy!” he sleepily cried. “You’re bleeding!” He was worried but calmed down quickly when I told him it was no worse than a shaving cut. He gave me a hug and then snuggled into his bed, his head firmly on the pillow, his favourite teddy bear by his side, held tightly.

I kissed his head and then went to leave. A quiet voice asked “Daddy? Are you a super-hero like Superman and Batman?”

I turned to him and spoke quietly. “No, son, I’m not like them. They’re real heroes. I’m just someone people call a super-hero.”

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“Daddy, you’re my real hero.”

My eyes watered. I looked at this four year old with his own power: the power to make everything all right again, and my heart filled with love.

“Daddy?”

My reply of “Yes, son?” was filled with pride, with love, with…

“Daddy? Can I have a drink of water please?”

I trod on a damn Lego brick as I went to the kitchen. It was worth it. The work of a hero father is always worth it.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Years ago, I wrote for an amateur press association named Comicopia. It was fun and, despite the fairly rigid structure and deadlines, it never felt like a chore.

I usually ended my submission with some fiction, but occasionally I’d run out of time and ideas, and throw in 300 words of a story. They weren’t stories; they were excerpts of non-existent stories. A bit of fun. And I called them ‘offcuts’.

For this blog, I occasionally do something called “Odds and sods”, where I don’t have enough to write 800 or more words on a specific subject, so I’ll write a few hundred words on three different subjects.

They’re more formal than the offcuts ever were, but the ‘odds and sods’ title never quite seemed as accurate or as appropriate. Because they weren’t random, not really.

And I’ve wanted for some time to find a different way to describe them. Offcuts? No, because they’re not excerpted from anything else, nor are they entirely disposable.

And for this post, while I’m easing myself back into the daily blogging, I want to do another one of the ‘here’s some thoughts on different things’.

Hmm. So I came up with the title Short Thoughts: I’m not wholly convinced. But if the title of this post is “Short Thoughts”, then you know I didn’t come up with anything better.

OK, so on with the post…

Standards 

While it can mean any number of things, and indeed the dictionary has almost two dozen different definitions, today, the House of Commons is voting (indeed, they’re voting while I type this) on one specific meaning: those morals, ethics, habits, etc., established by authority, custom, or an individual as acceptable.

Now there can be lost of different standards and indeed, the House has had various standards at various times, and various ways of judging whether or when members have breached those standards.

Currently, there is a process where an independent arbiter makes a decision upon evidence and interview and passes a memorandum of their decision to a select committee. The committee then reviews the evidence and passes a judgement upon which the House of Commons votes.

Occasionally, very very rarely, the House doesn’t accept the committee’s decision. However, what’s happening today is that the House is voting whether, at the last moment, to change the very process in order to excuse a member of the governing party.

And they’ll likely – the result of the vote is expected momentarily – vote to do exactly that.

Oh, and the person moving the vote is, of course, the same person who – as leader of the House of Commons in 2019 – introduced the current system. So there’s that.

As others have pointed out, even if you grant the argument. Of “everyone else gets a chance to appeal” (I don’t – I think it’s bullshit.) The committee stage is the appeal bit. But anyways, MPs are not employees, and they don’t get employee protection.

BUT the “my defence witnesses wanted to give oral evidence to explain stuff but they were limited to written evidence only and could not answer questions or give further information” from Paterson has, y’know, some weight.

But that’s a discussion that should be held in a calm time and in circumstances which do not, do not, effect a specific member’s sanctions right bloody now.

For the House to approve this amendment would give every member permission to be corrupt.

And, since the vote result was just announced, that’s just what they’ve done.

There used to be a graphic that did the rounds about the Treasury’s preferred tax return:

How much did you earn?
Send it to us.

Today’s vote in parliament shows MPs’ standards decisions should and probably will now be:

What did you do wrong?
Oh, nothing at all?
Really?
Oh, OK, then. Carry on.

Often, the House of Commons disappoints me. Quite often it angers me. Rarely, as in today’s proceedings, do they upset and disgust me.

Technological Convenience

Just a quick other thought, since I’m currently typing this outside a coffee shop, near home, and opposite my local pharmacy.

Not entirely due to covid, but certainly it’s not hurt, I’ve been getting repeat prescriptions for the medications I take automagically for the past couple for years.

If I need a repeat prescription, it genuinely couldn’t be more convenient and easy. I open one of three different apps on my phone or iPad. Each of them – each has functionality specific to themselves, but they share this specific option – with a half dozen clicks… allow me to select a medication, and order a resupply. And once I click on ‘ send request’, I get a notification telling me that the medication will be available for pickup in two days.

I can’t remember the last time it took two days. By the end of that day, I can wander down to the pharmacy and know that it’ll be waiting for me.

Today’s? I ordered it at 8pm last night. It was ready for pickup by noon today.

I’ve mentioned before that I both like seeing my GP when necessary and not having to see them unless I need to. The ability to do so much – I can schedule tests, I can review read results, I can order medications, and I can send them messages – without actually ‘bothering’ the doctor.

I remember having to go to the doctor to be examined before a repeat prescription. While I’m pleased at the convenience now, I do worry that it will remove the personal relationship. I do worry about that. A lot.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s Tuesday, so as is usual on these countdown runs, you get a couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two from fifteen years ago, from the long ago stories of 2006.

The 2006 run was the second I did, and by now I was comfortable with the format, comfortable enough to experiment with the stories themselves. Some were very sweet, some very dark and a few very… odd.

The first seems wildly appropriate today, mainly but not entirely due to the challenger, one Regie Rigby, an old friend I’ve not seen nor spoken to in ages, but who I’ll be seeing in a couple of weeks at Thought Bubble. I rarely write about music. I did for this one.

The second story was, I think, an attempt to write a Twilight Zone type story. I’m not sure I entirely succeeded, but I still like it.

A decade and a half ago, I threw out a challenge. and then repeated it thereafter whenever I felt like it. The challenge was the same in each case:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

That’s it. The stories that resulted always included the word, they always fitted the title, but usually in ways the challenger hadn’t anticipated. And they were always exactly 200 words in length.

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: Living “La Vida Loca”
Word: regret
Challenger: Regie Rigby
Length: 200 words exactly

I’d wondered into the club precisely because it was quiet: no music, and I wanted to think. An hour later, with a large scotch inside me, and another on the table, I sat. And thought lonely thoughts. Life could be pretty lousy at times. The secret, I guessed, was not to give a damn.

If only.

I drank down my drink in two swallows, signalling to the bar for another.

Nothing. I slowly got the message and walked carefully to the bar where I agreed with the man behind it that no, he wasn’t my bloody servant, and asked yeah, could I have another large scotch. Oh hell, make it two and have one yerself before I regret it.

The music started as I headed back to the table, and before I sat, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Turning, I was pulled away by them, pulled into the centre of the dance area.

I don’t dance. I mean it. I really don’t.

But I did.

The secret of life? Not to give a damn.

Life can be pretty lousy… but sometimes, just sometimes, that makes the climb back to living – rather than just existing – just so damned wonderful.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


Title: Beauty Is Skin Deep
Word: evasive
Challenger: [Livejournal: lyndzzz]
Length: 200 words exactly

“Guilty!”

The voice of the judge rang in the courtroom and there was, as expected, utter silence for a long moment.

Standing, a member of the audience started to protest, but was immediately laser-stunned by one of the security guards. No further disturbance occurred.

The protest had obviously been premeditated, a martyr wanting to make his name. But after all, the verdict also been planned in advance, weeks before the case came to trial, despite the predicted evasive nature of the defence, not wanting to even admit there had been a crime.

The judge glanced at the defendant, who looked rather forlorn.

And ugly.

Perilously ugly. Hideously ugly, by modern standards: no remarkable features, no distinguishing marks. She looked, the judge winced, normal.

“Normal”… as if such a word meant anything in a culture where everyone had cybernetic inserts of one sort or another almost from birth.

As they had became common, so the laws of fashion and legislatures changed to make them mandatory. It was necessary now to look distinctive. And she didn’t, her looks were too… plain.

When the trial resumed, the judge would sentence her to the maximum penalty allowed: enforced uniqueness, to ensure she’d fit in.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

9,497 days

Posted: 2 November 2021 in 2022 minus, birthday, family, life, phil
Tags: , , ,

Twenty-six.

It’s an important number, you know.

It’s the atomic number of iron for one thing, and where would Tony Stark be without knowing th– what’s that you say? It’s not made of iron? Well, why the hell is he call… no, forget it. I digress.

Well, 26 is also the only integer that is one greater than a square (5² + 1) and one less than a cube (3³ − 1). Did you know that? Moreover, while a 3 × 3 × 3 cube is made of 27 unit cubes, only 26 of them are viewable as the exterior layer.

Oh, and in base ten, 26 is the smallest number that is not a palindrome to have a square (26² = 676) that is a palindrome.

None of which is particularly important or relevant today, or at least they’re of far less importance and relevance than the fact that today is my son’s twenty-sixth birthday.

Yeah, I know. Twenty-six.

Wow.

I’m not as surprised as I was when he hit 25, to be honest, but I’ll let those of you who’ve known him for some years, especially those of you who met him when he was ten years old, attending his first comics con, take a second or two to do a mental brain-flip while you accept it.

Because Phil is now older than some of my friends – noted comics pros – were when I met them.

Philip Samuel Barnett – known to almost everyone bar his mum as ‘Phil’ – was born on 2nd November 1995, at half past nine in the evening. In 1995, he was 8lb 3oz, and 21½” long. He’s a wee bit heavier than that now, and a whole lot taller.

Twenty-six years old.

I’ve said many times – and it remains as true today as it was the day he was born and every day since – that being a father is the most fun thing I’ve ever done, bar none. Nothing else comes even close to the pleasure, the joy, and the sheer fun of being a father, of being his father.

Now let’s get the obvious one out of the way: anyone who says being a parent is easy is either ignorant, lying or a masochist. It’s not easy, far from it. Responsibilities are not meant to be easy, but this one is a responsibility that I love performing and undertaking, and the reason for that is simple: it’s solely because it’s Philip who’s my son.

As I’ve witnessed, helped (and hopefully not hindered too much) his progress through life, from baby to toddler, from toddler to child, from child to young adult, from young adult to a grown man…

Alongside wonder, my emotions have been, and continue to be, those of pride and pleasure in the man he’s turned into. The credit for an incredible amount of that must go to my ex-wife Laura; she’s a wonderful mother. And I’m constantly filled with justifiable hope and confidence for the adult he’s become, and the life he’ll experince in the next few years to come.

He’s currently living in Cardiff, and I don’t get to see him in person nearly as much as I’d like. But one of the very few silver linings in the aburdity of the past couple of years has been the weekly Zoom chats he, and his mother, and me, have shared and enjoyed. It’s been a continuing surprise to me just how much I’ve liked them, how important they’ve become, and have been, to my week, that I get to see them both, and especially Phil, on a screen.

And to chat, and laugh, and spend time – virtually, I acknowledge – in his company.

As always, however, I have no idea how he went from:

to

to

to

to

to

to

in what as always seems like an astonishingly short space of time.

Appy birthday, Phil. I love you, son. I hope the year to come is one full of fun, and joy, and wonder, and loveliness.

Dad
x

[Feel free to add your birthday greetings and wishes here, or tweet him at @phik_vicious…]


This post is very much not part of the series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. But you can see them by clicking here.