Archive for the ‘2022 minus’ Category

Housekeeping Note: Pretty obviously, this is the final post of the ‘2022 minus…’ run. Between the ’57 minus…’, ’57 plus…’ and ‘2022 minus…’ runs, I’ve posted 176 posts since mid-June, one a day, with a short break between the second and third runs. After 18 months off from daily blogging, I’m quite pleased with that.

And, as mentioned yesterday, that includes 25 pieces of original, brand new fiction. I’m quite pleased with that, and the stories that resulted, as well. (I’m still thinking about whether to collect them as an ebook.)

Last minute 2021 edit: I’ll do a week or so of 2022 posts, then I’m taking an immediate break post year-end. Hopefully it won’t be a very long one, but we’ll see.


In under eight hours, 2021 will reach its well-deserved fairly eagerly anticipated… end.

I don’t think I’m alone in looking forward to the final moments of this raging trash fire of a year.

In some ways, admittedly, I’ve had a better 2021 than I did a 2020; to be honest, writing this blog, especially the fiction, has been part of that.

But, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that some parts of 2021 have been the worst I’ve had for years, in pretty much every way, including mental health. The rough patches have been… bad; the problems sleeping, and nightmares, have been worse.

And though I truly hope that 2022 will be better… right now, I just can’t shake from my head a line from Mitch Benn’s Thank Fuck It’s Christmas from 2020:

‘I guess there’s a chance that next year will be better, but what are the odds?’

Yeah.

So, for the final post in this run of ‘2022 minus…’, let me from London just wish everyone a peaceful, content, and good 2022, and hope that your own personal 2022 contains more fun, more love, more joy, and more wonder than your 2021 did.
 
 
Last minute 2021 edit: See you tomorrow at some point, hopefully, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 here in a few hours.


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.

Well, here we are… the penultimate post of 2021, and the final piece of new fiction, written on the day, sparked by an image I came across by chance.

Huh.

Quick check to confirm… yeah, this is the 25th piece of new fiction for the blog this year, one a week since July 2021 (I took three weeks off from the blog in October, to recharge.)

Twenty-five stories. That’s enough for a collected ebook, yes? Hmm, well, that’s an idea.

Anyways, for the last time this year, the introduction:

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 carried on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

Today’s story is based on an image I came across by chance… but instead of finding it on Unsplash, my usual practice, I’m using one that I took last year, but came across again this morning.

And so this week you get a story about a considerate man, considering… sparked by the following image.


The River Goes On

I had come home to die.

Oh, they’d dressed it up with fancy language and the doctors had told me again and again, reiterating repeatedly that the chances of the treatment working, though slight, were at least greater than zero. Which is what my chances of surviving this damned thing were without undergoing it.

I stand on the bridge I’d once cycled over, look away from the letter in my hand, and out across the river I’d once been afraid of. The depths look anything but frightening now; if anything, they look inviting.

But then so much looks different, seems different, since the diagnosis. The reactions from friends and family were expected, and had even felt stilted, practiced. They were neither, I knew, and know. At least, I think I know. But as a sometime television extra, watching professionals convincingly pretend for a living, it’s hard to tell what a real emotion is any more.

Especially when it’s your own. I mean, how are you supposed to react when you’re told you’re dying? I don’t think I dealt with it well. After all, it’s admittedly a strange experience, being told that your time on this earth is likely coming to an end. And that’s leaving to one side that whole Anger, Denial, Bargaining etc., thing everyone kept, and keeps, telling me about as if they’ve just discovered the process.

I’ve been going back and forth deciding whether I’m pleased the world will go on without me, that my friends and family will continue to be the lovable, infuriating, wonderful, exasperating crowd I’ve known.

But, honestly, I’ve no complaints. Nor should I have. I’ve lived a full life.

Huh.

I’ve never really considered what that means before.

“A full life.”

Isn’t everyone’s life ‘full’ by the end, by definition? Full of something or other, of necessity? Full of fun, full of joy, full of love, full of wonder… or full of misery, full of pain, full of melodrama, full of… pain. Or full of some mixture of some or all of them.

But full, surely?

What they meant, what they mean, of course, is that I’ve somehow managed to tick off the boxes I’d been expected to fill: education, love, a career, more than one, and children, and grandchildren… and those I loved, and those I’ve lost.

In my case, as well, a modicum of short lived and unwanted fame, merely because I’d once been romantically involved with a minor celebrity.

A bird flies across my view, then lands without grace onto the water; small splashes erupt, the sounds gone in an instant, the ripples lasting longer and attracting my eye.

A grimace, involuntary. I’d thought it so sensible, so wise, to parlay my own moment of note into a business venture, helping others who found themselves thrust unwanted in the spotlight. Looking back, it hadn’t been wise, hadn’t been sensible, at all. And when it crashed, the fallout…

The sun emerges from behind a cloud, its light too bright, and I raise the sheet of paper in my hand to block it out; as I do so, I wince, this time from physical discomfort, a stabbing pain deep within to match the ache of the mental imagery the previous memory had provoked.

And, yes, to be fair, the embezzlement by my business partner hadn’t helped matters.

But that was long ago, so very long ago. I’d made good on the theft, so I’d earned some peace, hadn’t I? No, came the apparent answer.

I sigh. That’s all behind me, in time. As is the hospital in distance; about a mile. And what awaits me in that building brings a shiver to me, despite the warmth of the day.

I look at the letter again. It’s short, blunt and tells me what awaits me.

It’s hard to read.

Even now, it’s hard to understand, despite rereadings.

But then, she’s only four, and she doesn’t understand sentences yet. But there’s a picture of a cat, and her. And me. Apparently we all hold hands. Including the cat. There’s an invitation to come stay with them, forever.

And there are four, very carefully written, kisses.

I’d come home to die. Instead, I was going to live, with them.

As for the rest, it’d be worth it, for her.

I look out across the river one more time. It goes on. And so do I.

© Lee Barnett, 2021
 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else, the very final something else of 2021.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 almost here.


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.

The title, if it confuses you for any reason, or if you’re a newcomer to the blog, refers to our current Prime Minister, a position known as ‘primus inter pares’, first amongst equals; the polite fiction of the Prime Minister being, at the end of the day, just another minister of the crown.

Upon his becoming Prime Minister, though, I named Boris Johnson primus inter mendaces, first amongst liars, based upon his actions and statements before his ascension in 2019. I don’t think his actions since has lessened the accuracy of that description/appelation.

But almost since he got the job, one of the games people have played is ‘…but when will he quit? Or be forced out? And for what reason?’

Because the game has been played, the questions have been asked. My gods, have they been asked.

I’m in two minds whether he’d rather be forced out, or whether he’d prefer to quit. The former would give him the ‘I woz betrayed’ angle, which he could parley for the next decade into tv appearances, books and… money.

The latter would give him the pretended dignity to which he’s always aspired.

And both, of course, would allow him to continue to do what he’s done since long before his election to leadership of the Tory party and residence at Number Ten.

The penny dropped for me when it comes to Johnson during the long negotiations in the Withdrawal Agreement. (I originally typoes ‘losing negotiations; I’m entirely unsure it wasn’t a Freudian accuracy.)

I mean, the thought had been coming into focus for me for a while, but it was one interview where it came into focus.

It was a genuine lightbulb moment: I realised that Johnson not only prizes ambition over achievement, but that Johnson so prizes ambition over achievement that he’ll readily sacrifice the latter to promote the former.

(I of course mean ‘promote’ in terms of ‘encourage’ and ‘hype’, not promotion of his subordinate ministers, evidence of his cabinet appointments notwithstanding.)

It’s why I don’t think, have never thought, it’s quite right to say that, as many have, that Johnson wanted to be Prime Minister, and he wanted to have been Prime Minister, but he never gave any thought to actually doing the job.

In my view, it’s more primal, more simple, than that: he wanted to get the job of Prime Minister, and he wanted to have had the job of being Prime Minister, but he never really wanted to be Prime Minister. Not really.

Oh, he wanted the trimmings and fun stuff, but again, that’s not ambition, nor achievement. The ambition was always to get the job, and to have had the job. The achievement of actually being Prime Minister soured within minutes of winning. (Much as the achievement of ‘winning’ the Brexit referendum soured the moment the result was announced; the pictures of him certainly bear that out.)

And so we return to the questions above: ‘…but when will he quit? Or be forced out? And for what reason?’

The assumption made by many – an incorrect assumption, in my opinion – is that Johnson has been looking for a way out for some time, and that as soon as the moment comes when his various opportunities to do so are at a maximum, he’s gone.

There’s a very simple reason why I don’t think he’ll do that, not from choice anyway.

And the reason is…

I think he now, now he’s been in the job a couple of years, wants to serve as Prime Minister long enough so he’s not on the list of five shortest serving PMs in modern times.

Which means, he’s got to last longer than Ted Heath did. I don’t think he can.

Right now, as of today, Boris Johnson has served 2 years, 158 days. That puts him second in the list of shortest tenures as Prime Minister in modern times.

(Edit: Rob Cave points out that Alec Douglas Home served as PM from 1963-64, for only 363 days. True, but I don’t think Douglas Home counts in such lists, as he was in the House of Lords when he first became PM.)
 
1. Anthony Eden: 1 year 279 days
2. Boris Johnson: right now 2y 158d
3. Gordon Brown: 2y 318d (Johnson beats Brown on 8th June 2022)
4. Theresa May: 3y 11d (Johnson beats May on 5th August 2022)
5. Jim Callaghan: 3y 29d (Johnson beats Callaghan on 23rd August 2022)
6. Ted Heath: 3y 259d (Johnson beats Brown on 10th April 2023)
 
Johnson would like to stay in Number Ten longer than Heath. He won’t make it in my opinion.

But he desperately wants to be in Number Ten longer than May. Lose office before Theresa May of all people? His immediate predecessor? Thing is, he won’t beat May in terms of tenure until August next year.

Right now, I’d say it’s no better than a 50/50 shot whether he can make it.

 

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Thursday ‘something else’, the last original fiction of 2021.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 almost here.


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.

During December, while Tuesday has remained the ‘tales from the fiction vaults’ day, I’ve chosen to make them all ‘tales from the Christmas fast fiction vaults’.

For these specific short runs, I asked friends in comics and various fields of entertainment to challenge. Which they did. With funny, silly, clever titles and weird, odd, wonderful words to use.

So here are two more, from 2015’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

Though he deals with irrational numbers, the very rational Matt Parker is that rare person: a mathematician who not only enjoys convincing others of the joy and fun inherent in mathematics… but actually succeeds in doing so. He’s a very funny, very smart man, who could justifiably claim that the lowest ring of hell is reserved for those who deliberately misuse charts.

It was particularly enjoyable to be able to write a story including numbers for Matt.

Pippa Evans is a very nice person who is astonishingly talented. I put it that way around because otherwise you’d be so overwhelmed with her talent that you’d never remember that she’s also a very, very lovely person. She’s funny, silly and incredibly hard working, and I like her a lot.

There are not many stories that, the moment I think of the hook, I laugh out loud. Pippa’s challenge gave me that delight.

Both received the same prompt as always:

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 these examples…


Title: When Nothing Adds Up
Word: moreover
Challenger: Matt Parker
Length: 200 words exactly

He stepped out of the vehicle, so very weary; he’d been thinking about his bed for the past hour, although in truth an hour meant little to him. He patted down his travelling companions, murmured a few words to his favourite, then left them to be taken away by assistants.

Assistants? When had he stopped calling them elves? he wondered, and shook his head, chuckling. It was not a pleasant sound; despite legends, Santa rarely laughed from pleasure.

The final task awaited him; one last job before blessed sleep. An elf waited by his desk, pouring over a list: billions of names, each accompanied by green ticks, some large, some almost microscopic. The elf, warily, pointed out the discrepancies to Santa: the total number of gifts did not equal that of the recipients. Moreover, he could not verify six of the names. Santa sighed, and reached into his coat.

He was the sixty-eighth elf to have disappeared without trace in the past four centuries. Others had been more stupid, or more clever.

Santa walked to his rooms and placed several large boxes by his bed; then he took the list and slowly, carefully, appended a tick to his name.

© Lee Barnett, 2015


Title: Brand New Dignity, Jane
Word: clasp
Challenger: Pippa Evans
Length: 200 words exactly

It had taken her weeks to find just the right berries, but with some help, she had gathered enough for her purpose. Crushed between two lumps of wood, then mixed with the remains of specific beetles, they would produce the exact shades of vermillion and cream necessary.

Staining the cloth had been easy; the obtaining of it had not, and she repressed a shudder at the nature of her sacrifice. But it had been necessary. She’d given up so much since she’d made her choice, long ago, but this… this she would not forsake. Similarly, making the leather belt had been simple, the buckle and clasp far harder to create.

Sewing the costume had been more pleasant than she’d anticipated, the act bringing back memories of her mother’s instructions, her smell, her smile.

She’d abandoned her first plan, knowing that the required explanations would be too tortuous and absurd; her replacement victim, however, trusted her completely.

It had been worth it though. The laughter from her child had made it worthwhile; giggles of delight at the sight of a chimpanzee standing to attention while dressed in full Father Christmas outfit. Her husband merely grunted, but then the apeman rarely spoke.

© Lee Barnett, 2015


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 very scarily and vert rapidly 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: In case you were wondering what happens to the blog after 31st December…

Well, the current plan is to run the blog through until ‘2022 plus 08‘, then there’ll be the usual anniversary post about Mike…

…and then both I and this blog take a break. The single Thursday in that ‘2022 plus’ run almost certainly won’t have a piece of new fiction. This Thursday’s is intended to be the last new fiction on the blog for 2021.

When I return — I’m currently thinking of the start of February, having taken the remainder of January off — I’ll have have think about what I want the blog to look like in 2022.

Now, unless something huge happens, January’s posts until the ‘plus 08’ will be light fair, with maybe more fiction from the vaults than usual. I’m not sure.

I do know that when I’ve tried to run the blog through into a ‘plus’ run, intending to keep it going for ages, I get to around eight or ten days and then burn out completely, taking months and years off.

I don’t want to do that again. So, I’m trying this.


It’s not exactly news that politics, that public opinions, that expressing a view on anything the past few years has run into a bit of a problem.

No, it’s not the ‘cancel culture’ thing; most examples of so-called ‘cancel culture’ are nothing more nor less than ‘consequence culture’. People complaining loudly that they can’t say [this] or [that] anymore without facing consequences for saying it. Tough fucking luck, pal.

What we should be angry about is that they’ve faced no consequences in that past, not that those expressing racism, antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia are facing consequences now.

It’s a truism to suggest that freedoms of speech and expression have never been freedoms from the consequences of that speech and expression, but in many cases, too many cases, those consequences haven’t been faced.

But no, this post isn’t about the specious argument that ‘unless i can say whatever I like, whenever I like it, wherever I like it without facing consequences of any sort then I don’t have freedom of speech’. And no, it isn’t about the conflict between differing rights and which should have primacy.

No, this is about something else: the absence of nuance, of any grey areas, of the contraction of debate into binary alternatives. And furthermore, the polarisation to the point of there are only two alternatives, and you much not only choose one of them to fanatically support, you must also obsessively denigrate the other.

It’s been around in politics for a lot longer than is sometimes suggested; I certainly remember it being around in the 1980s, and I’m sure it existed long before that as well.

But it reached its apotheosis once social media made it easy for everyone to reply to everyone else in what should have been the world’s greatest debating chamber but instead became the world’s biggest and drunkest pub crowd five minutes before closing time.

Take the further restrictions some are suggesting are necessary to control the spread of the omicron covid variant. The vast majority of online commentary, and that of politicians, seems to be

yes, we need to have them, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t care if a) the NHS is overwhelmed and/or b) people die!!!

or

Over my dead body! Totally unnecessary and those calling for them are authoritarian fascists who don’t care about people’s mental health or their right to be free!!!

The attacks not only on the contrary idea but on those who are making it… angers me.

It’s back to the “once upon a time, those who differed were ‘good people with bad ideas’; now they’re bad people with worse ideas”.

Me? I’ve thought from the start of any restrictions that it’s both personally and perfectly reasonable to loathe the restrictions while reluctantly accepting their complete and utter necessity.


Sidebar: I’m quite self-servingly selfish about one part of lockdown, but I’m happy to admit that I’m quite self-servingly selfish about it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I live alone, and I’m not in a relationship. So the only people I saw on a frequent basis were friends who I stay with once a week in Richmond, and my ex-wife.

I went through the first lockdown having been deprived of both of those. By the time of the second lockdown, the government had at last recognised that it ain’t particularly healthy for people who live on their own to see… NO ONE for months on end. So they introduced ‘social bubbles’, whereby a household could invite someone who lived on their own to form part of that household for the duration.

My sole wish, if lockdown, or something like it, is reintroduced is that they reintroduce the bubbles. I really don’t want to have to lose that personal contact again.

A friend once described me as ‘dangerously content in his own company’. That’s probably fair. Or at least it was. Before covid. Because enforced solitude made me at first tire of my own company and then actively resent it. I really don’t want to subject my mental health to having to do that again.

OK, self-servingly selfish bit over.


I truly wish I could believe that we’ve come through the worst of the polarisation; sadly I don’t even believe we’re close to the peak.

The assumption of too many, on all sides of the political divide, not only re covid but re so, so, much else as well, is that any disagreement with the position they hold can only be malicious and in bad faith.

Years ago, a penny dropped for me when considering how the Tories and Labour regard each other, and why Labour’s assumption of inherent moral superiority in their position rankles so much. (This was way before Corbyn’s apotheosis, when it became blatant, and me and mine copped out as a result.)

Tories observe Labour and don’t understand for the slightest iota of a moment how anyone could genuinely believe in the stuff Labour believe in.

On the other hand, Labour sees the Conservative party beliefs and very well understands how people could believe the things they believe… but Labour people choose not to believe those things.

And Labour therefore thinks they are inherently better people because of it.

Labour’s always had a touch of the “We are Moral and Just and Good because we are Labour (rather than ‘because what we can achieve, and what we do’.)

It was ramped up under Corbyn to “We are Moral and Just and Good and therefore anything we do or say is Moral and Just and Good. Therefore any criticism of anything we do or say must, by an elegant inevitability, be Immoral and Unjust and Malicious.”

That at least has lessened. I fear that it could return at any time, however, and even if it doesn’t, the polarisation in politics will grow still further.

I hope I’m wrong. I fear I’m not.

 

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Tuesday ‘something else’.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now scarily rapidly 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.

Despite today being Sunday, you’re getting two sets of smiles this weekend. In part because I didn’t have a great Christmas, and I figure this is as a good excuse as any for an ‘in case of emergency break glass’ post.

I mean, I didn’t have a horrible Christmas, I hasten to add. I just didn’t have a Christmas at all. And while usually, that doesn’t matter… after this trash fire of a year, this year it kind of did.

So yeah, I’m not really in the mood to write anything of import today. And I figured that maybe finding some smiles for you lot would, I dunno, help.

So here are four more Christmas based videos that hopefully give you a smile.

 

This one amuses me more than it possibly should. It very much is as if she’s thinking ‘at last, someone who speaks my language…’

After Star Trek’s All I Want For Christmas Is Q, here’s the first of them all: Make It So

I’ll lay good money that a fair few of you have watched The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you haven’t, why the hell not? Here, let the trailer for it convince you…

MItch Benn, with The True Meaning Of Christmas

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 scarily rapidly 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.

Well, yes, it’s Christmas and it’s [a] Saturday. So a combination of the usual Saturday Smile and Christmas Day.

So four Christmas based videos instead of the usual five.

As a Christmas gift, I give you some much needed silliness.

 

Sir Humphrey would like to crave your momentary indulgence…

Frank Kelly‘s version of the Twelve Days Of Christmas

Mitch Benn, last year, summed up so many of our feelings: Thank Fuck It’s Christmas

OK, and he sends us a wish for this years, to have Whatever Kind Of Christmas You Can

 
Merry Christmas, everyone… and most especially, have a day when you forgive yourself for you being, y’know… you. You’re allowed to, today.
 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 scarily rapidly 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 wasn’t sure what to write for today’s post; whether to do another Ten Things, since it’s a Friday, but once I decided that, since it’s Christmas Eve, I should do something Christmassy, it occurred to me to check whether I’d reposted what I once regarded as ‘my traditional Christmas story’.

Turned out I haven’t done so, not in a decade, not since christmas 2011.

So you get it today.

As I say, I wrote this story many, many years ago… but it’s always one that I’ve especially liked.


 

No Time For It

 
He matched the description in all the stories. Hell, he could have come straight from an audition for Miracle on 34th Street. The only thing that was different was the look of puzzlement on his face.

“Where am I?” he asked again. This was nothing new. He’d been asking the question for the past three hours, ever since we’d intercepted him one minute after midnight on the 26th. OK, so I’m sentimental. I let the old man have one more year in the job.

“You’re in a holding cell,” I said.

“Oh, fucking hell,” he said, “not again.” He walked up to the force field. “What’s the charge this time?” He reached inside his jacket. I wasn’t worried. He’d been scanned when we’d grabbed him and there was nothing in there other than a cotton vest.

He pulled his hand out of the jacket. He was holding a fist full of paper. Permits of every sort you could think of. He thrust his hands towards me. “Here you go,” he said, “whatever you think you’ve got me on, think again. I’ve flying permits, authority to land on rooftops, even waivers for trespass mentally signed by every parent.”

I smiled grimly. “The charge? Spreading joy without permission.”

That shook him. I could tell.

“Spreading joy? Bugger.”

“Yeah, spreading… joy”

He let out a huge sigh. “Since when do you need permission for that?” he asked, a note of desperation creeping into his voice.

“Ever since the last election. Come on, you must have known that.”

He leaned against the wall, defeated. He had known that, of course. But like every other year, he’d thought he’d get away with it. My phone buzzed. I turned away from him and took the call.

A minute later, it was my turn to look puzzled. And then, as the final words, sunk in, I smiled. “You’ve been found guilty,” I informed him.

“Without a trial?” he asked. I got the impression he’d been looking forward to the trial.

“Yeah,” I replied. Homeland Security abolished trials last month. “You’re sentenced to exile…”

“For how long?” he asked.

“Three hundred and sixty-four days,” I informed him, and deactivated the forcefield. I watched as he faded from view, leaving only the sound of a “ho, ho, ho,” in the air.

Who’d have thought it? The judge was even more sentimental than me.

© 2004 Lee Barnett

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now rapidly 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.

Housekeeping note:

It just hit me.

I mean, I guess it should have done yesterday when we hit the ‘minus 10’ but no, it’s getting down to single figures I guess that counts.

We’re under ten days from the New Year, which acts as a reminder of two things:

  1. I better start preparing the latest A Life In Pictures for uploading at some point before 1st January. (Usually it’s done on 31st December and I see no reason to change that this year… yet.)

  2. I better make sure I have posts planned every day for the next week.

Blimey.

Ah well, on with today’s…


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…’

This week, a story about a much needed gift, sparked by the following image.


The Gift

It’s the afternoon before Christmas, and all through the coffee shop, it’s not quiet at all. I can see people laughing, chatting, full of the joys of the season, which pleases me immensely. It fills me with the joy I like to experience before embarking on the long night to come.

I drain my cup, place it down, close my eyes, and then open them, wholly unsurprised to see the hot steaming liquid, with just a touch of milk added. The smell fills the air in front of me, which I enjoy as much as the beverage.

(And yes, of course I pay for the coffee; you just never see me do it. No one ever sees me do anything… unless I wish them to. And it’s been a very long time since I’ve wanted anyone to see me do anything at all.)

Sipping my umpteenth coffee of the day, I continue my personal project: taking enjoyment in others’ enjoyment; my own gift to myself, today of all days: The Day Before.

And then I see them, at a table by the window; sitting, sullenly staring at each other in anger and upset.

I start, actually surprised at the obvious but unspoken fury tinged with sadness. Then I realise what’s happening: I’m watching my first Christmas Argument of the season. And oh, it’s a big one.

Damn. Damnation and buggeration. The last thing I need today, but from the look of them, the last thing they need as well. I cast my eye over the pile of shopping at their feet; good quality but not expensive. Nothing expensive, and – I concentrate for a moment, staring at the shopping, at each item, feeling its history and future – nothing for each other.

Oh.

For a moment, I wish I could still act as in the old days, and give them each a tangible present, something to discover when they get home, maybe. But, alas, my talent for that particular joy faded long ago.

But I remain curious; a blink and I’m siting at the next table, a table which of course didn’t exist a moment earlier. The couple never notice; right now they wouldn’t notice if I shrugged off the glamour the elves had gifted me so very long ago and appeared to them at my full height, dressed in the classic the red and white coat. Oh, and Rudolph and Dasher sitting next to me playing backgammon.

They’d never notice anything outside their own suffering right now. Their world has contacted to just themselves: a love that’s rapidly fracturing, their history that alternately burns and salves.

As I watch and listen intently, they travel through the through the whole history of their relationship, from their first date, to their second, to their first night together, to recovering from that disaster, to meeting each others’ families… and to recovering from that disaster…

And they’re done. It’s obvious to them. They know it, they feel it, they know the other wants it to be finished.

The thing is, it’s obvious to me that neither of them want it to be over. It’s not pride that is keeping them apart, nor anger, not really. They’ve just run out of words. Neither has the vocabulary they need to save nor to dispose of what they have shared. They stare at each other, without the words to finish it irrevocably. I can see the anger withheld, the battle inside each of them, knowing that one phrase, one piece of venom, would… finish their relationship forever, while one expression of unreserved love would mend it.

I’m not allowed to intervene; the rules are clear. From midnight on Christmas Day for twenty-four hours, I’m allowed to visit each home and gift them all something precious, something they wouldn’t get elsewhere, or from anyone else: the strength to go on for a little longer; and the ability to forgive.

I can’t do anything but watch their love for each other splinter.

I can’t do any–

Ah, dammit.

I watch as his hand sweeps in emphasis and push it precisely half an inch on its journey. It connects on the edge of the cup, and instantly, her jacket and trousers are covered in brown liquid. It happens so suddenly, neither of them wonder why the drink is suddenly tepid.

“Oh gods,” he says, utterly bereft at his own clumsiness, his face betraying his embarrassment and self-castigation.

A moment, and then she laughs. It’s a genuinely nice laugh, the sound entirely free from the sharp edge that had accompanied it only moments earlier.

She stares for the very briefest of moments at the fluid staining her, before… “Oh, do you remember when mum spilled the gravy? On their new carpet?”

Another laugh.

He instantly gets it, and laughs along with her. “We could smell it for weeks!”

The venom has gone. The sheer, unfettered fury… is fettered, and evaporates before my senses.

After they’ve wiped up, he holds her hand. “I’m sorry…”

Her eyes light on his. She kisses his hand. “Nothing to be sorry for, ok?”

No, of course I didn’t break the rules, I didn’t give them a present.

I gave me a present. That’s allowed. Probably.

They’ll choose to believe any argument was the result of a misunderstanding, though never agree on what the misunderstanding was.

But they leave the place hand in hand.

And I return to my drink and the preparations for the gifts I am allowed to give later tonight.

I can’t always promise peace and goodwill to all, but I do what I can, whenever I can.

And that’s usually enough. At least that’s what I tell myself.

And sometimes I even believe it. I drain my cup, and check the time. One more, I think. One more cup before the long night’s travels…

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now scarily rapidly 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.

I’ve written about being tested for Covid before, but something;’s changed in the past couple of weeks, not only with the prevalence of Omicron variant doing the rounds but in my reaction to it.

OK, so until… September, I’d never been tested for covid. I was entirely without symptoms and though I was aware of asymptomatic carrying and transmission, I didn’t feel it necessary to get a test. I’d been pinged in July 2020, as part of the Pingdemic, where millions got pinged because Delta was doing the rounds and the app was very sensitive…

But at no point did I feel even slightly unwell… and I didn’t get tested.

It’s fair to suggest that I may well have been scared off by the horror stories about just how far you have to stick the swab up your nose to get tested.

Again, as mentioned before, I broke my nose (or more accurately had it broken by my then infant son) twice, the second time about six weeks after the first… about 25 years ago.

It left me with a busted up nose… on the inside; the outside looks cosmetically not too bad…

But the inside? Well…

Yeah, you can see that while sticking a swab up one nostril wouldn’t be a problem, sticking it far up the other very much would be.

OK, then in September, I got approached, by random chance, by The Office of National Statistics, asking if I’d be part of the giant survey they were doing, to get PCR tested weekly for a month, and then once a month after that. I gave them a call, explained the situation with my nose and asked…?

They reassured me enough that I figured I’d give it a go.

Now I can’t say in all honesty that it was comfortable, but at no point was I in pain or did I feel I had to push the swab higher than was necessary.

Anyway, so I had a few PCR tests; all were negative, thankfully.

OK, so I was ok with just continuing like that.

Then I got a call from friends whose daughter had tested positive. I’d slept over at their house the previous night, so got a PCR check that afternoon, and another one three days later… all were again negative.

Phew.

I started thinking ‘you know what? I see my ex-wife Laura every weekend for a ‘coffee and catchup’, and I see my friends every week for the same reason… Maybe I should start taking lateral flow tests before I go see them. Y’know, just to be safe…?

So I did that for a couple of weeks.

And then Omocron hit.

And when it hit, I found myself taking daily tests. Not two or three a day as some friends — who are seeing more people than I am — are doing, but yeah, daily tests, before I leave the flat.

I’ve gone from no testing, to the once a month testing, to a couple of times a week, to every day.

And it’s not because I’m especially vulnerable. I mean, other than the fucked up foot, and the usual stuff a 57 year old fella of average height and weight would get, and take meds for (high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc) I’m reasonably healthy, give or take. And I live alone, so it’s not as if I’m worried that I’ll give it to my partner and so we need to know ASAP if one of us has it.

And it’s not because I think I have it or that I’ll will pass it on.

Nor even that I’ll necessarily get it and I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop…

I think, and this is a weird thought… I think I’m doing it because it feels like this way I’m doing something. Because, once you’ve got your vaccination and booster shots, then following the sensible covid precautionary rules is in most cases merely the absence of doing the wrong thing. Yes, ok, I’m still washing my hands a lot, and whenever I come in from outside. But otherwise, doing the right thing is merely but exclusively the absence of doing the wrong things.

And maybe that’s why I’m taking daily tests, so it at least feels like I’m doing something, doing my part, to keep me and those I care about (and those I don’t care about, tbh) safe.

I dunno.

Meanwhile, this was my lateral flow test just now…

…so I can at least go see my friends this evening.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now rapidly 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.

During December, while Tuesday has remained the ‘tales from the fiction vaults’ day, I’ve chosen to make them all ‘tales from the Christmas fast fiction vaults’.

For these specific short runs, I asked friends in comics and various fields of entertainment to challenge. Which they did. With funny, silly, clever titles and weird, odd, wonderful words to use.

So here are two more, from 2014’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

The first story was written for Nick Doody, one of my favourite writers and stand-up comedians. He’s also – no coincidence – one of the smartest comedians on the circuit.

His very intelligent, very funny material from a very funny, very intelligent comedian, makes you think long after you’ve left his shows, and he never plays to the lowest common denominator. Nick seems to suggest ‘you’re not as stupid as the politicians try to pretend, so let’s not pretend it either, eh?’.

So for Nick, a story about finding just the right Christmas present…

Mitch Benn is one of my closest friends, and is among those whose friendship I most truly value and am grateful for. He’s an incredibly talented comedian, comedy-songwriter and author. Moreover, he’s one of the smartest people I know, with a breadth and depth of interests that’s almost but not quite scary. He also happens to be a huge admirer of A Christmas Carol, his enjoyment of which may well have inspired the second tale below.

Both received the same prompt as always:

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 these examples…


Title: Weaving With Angels’ Hair
Word: frenulum
Challenger: Nick Doody
Length: 200 words exactly

Once, the sight of the three heavenly beings would have caused tears of joy. Were anyone human to see what was left of them, however, weeping of a different sort would commence from hearts broken in sorrow and condolence. The remains of the angels were not pretty to look at, their once proud wings shredded and torn away, heads that had once been covered in glister now ravaged and torn, with dried puddles of ichor in place of coruscation.

Lucifer looked upon the works of his lesser demons and winced; there was no care taken here, no professionalism, just savage butchery.

“Have you anything to say in your wretched defence?” he asked in a deceptively silken tone.

The demons shuffled upon immortal coils, and one held forth a soggy mess of what had once been golden locks, the hair now dull and lifeless. Its fellow incubi and succubi looked on as it presented Lucifer with what appeared to to be a woven basket of some sort, angel feathers protruding at obscene angles, and a dripping frenulum or six.

“Happy Christmas…?” it managed.

Lucifer sighed loudly and with great care; it was going to be a long holiday season this year…

© Lee Barnett, 2014


Title: Their Eyes All Aglow
Word: haven
Challenger: Mitch Benn
Length: 200 words exactly

The room was elegant, containing an eclectic mix of styles. Past arrived first, as was his preference. He sat in the smallest chair, one neat and manicured hand upon the table, one supporting his slender, pointed chin.

Present arrived next, looking older than his years, his responsibilities weighing heavily; he spoke briefly to Past, asking after his brothers and seemed vaguely content with the answer. Then Future walked into the room, and nodded slowly to his fellows, saying nothing, then sat with his head bowed.

The three of them waited, content with this haven from their duties until eventually What Might Have Been arrived, and once again made her annual pitch for inclusion.

Future looked at her, and from beneath his cowl, angry burning eyes condemned her audacity. Past was merely amused, as he had been so often before, his eyes shining with laughter, but his voice from long ago was deliberate, and low. Present’s siblings had always been contemptuous towards the proposal, and he followed the tradition, his eyes frozen azure.

The verdict delivered, What Might Have Been was no longer present. Then the clock struck twelve, then one, then two and the room was empty for another year.

© Lee Barnett, 2014


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

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

A couple more ‘odds and sods’ about tv today, provoked by a couple of things… And no, neither are about the latest covid news/cabinet meeting/potential lockdown. Anything I wrote would be out of date five minutes after I hit ‘post’, so I’ll save any thoughts on those for another day.

Years ago, I tweeted something like “I’ve just discovered CSI! Why did no one tell me how good it is? Oh, you all told me… and I ignored you? Ah, ok then…

Well, it’s not quite that bad but I’ve rediscovered two shows that recently ended and I’m on a rewatch of them both, having watched a few episodes live when they were on and not – at the time – enjoying them that much. So I stopped.

Now, usually, when I stop watching something, I’m unlikely to go back to it, and on the rare occasions I do… I tend to find my original judgment was right: it’s not for me.

(Game of Thrones is the obvious example here. Didn’t enjoy it first time around; gave up after about six episodes. Was persuaded to try it again. Didn’t enjoy it second time around, lasted to the end of the first season. Was persuaded a few years later to try it one more time. Made it to half way through season two in a week… took a break, and never went back.)

Two points to make here:

First: me saying I’m not enjoying something is not the same as me saying I actively disliked it. I recorded Memories: The Origins of Alien the other night to watch last night. I’d heard good things about the documentary and have always liked both the movie and the stories about making it.

Hmm. I switched off after 20 minutes and deleted the recording; no, it didn’t ruin my memories of the movie, nor make me actively dislike anything in it. It… bored me. The makers of the documentary had taken what should have been a fascinating tale of where Cameron had gleaned so many nascent ideas and how he pulled them together, taking a bit from here, a bit from there, into a superbly scary, very clever, story. Instead, the story was pedestrian, the clips chosen were boring, the narration was monotonous and the basic premise was… lacking. I was… bored. I’m sure some people got something out of it, but it wasn’t for me.

The other point is quicker to make: I’ll just point you to Budgie’s Law of Popular Television: y = x + 2 and leave it there.

Elementary
So, the first of the two shows: Elementary.

I’m not sure why I didn’t enjoy it first time around. I didn’t have any actual problems with it, other than not liking any of the characters. I’m not a Holmes purist at all, and it’s possible, I guess, that with Sherlock (which I thoroughly enjoyed) on at the same time, I just made a ‘pick one’ choice and chose the BBC. I hope not, but hey ho, it’s possible.

But anyway, I was channel flipping, and noticed they were showing the final season of Elementary on telly. I tuned in out of mere curiosity: would the show – which had undoubtedly changed since the first episodes, because tv shows do – interest me?

I wasn’t worried about the show’s continuity; I was pretty sure I’d pick up on most of it from the context presented and, indeed, I did. It wasn’t that difficult; US shows tend to explain stuff fairly regularly for newer viewers, without boring existing watchers. In fact, US drama often seems to apply Stan Lee’s comment about keeping readers informed as to a comic’s continuity (‘every comic book in a series is someone’s first’) to tv. It’s a good practice, if done with skill and respect.

And… what do you know? I thoroughly enjoyed the episode I watched. And the next one. And the one after that. So I watched the whole of the final season, very much liking what I saw…

…and then clicked on Amazon Prime after the run had ended, discovered the first six seasons were available and proceeded to watch it from the start.

There were still the things I hadn’t overly enjoyed but time had passed, I didn’t now have anything contemporary to compare it to… and I gave it a chance. And before the end of the first episode, I knew I wanted to see more of it. I wanted to know more about all three of the main characters, and wasn’t sure I liked any of them, but I still wanted to know more.

As I continued to watch through the first season, something happened: I started to like the (now four) main characters, and started to spot the things the writers wanted me to see, and yet still be surprised on occasion, at least once every couple of episodes, by… something. Then of course they introduced Moriarty and I was torn between ‘huh?’ and ‘oh, you clever bastards’.

So I watched the entire run… right up until the end of the sixth season. I’ll go back and rewatch the seventh in a while, when I’ve forgotten enough from it, and when I know I’ll enjoy the return of characters I shouldn’t have seen in years but in fact saw a couple of months ago.

So, yeah, that’s one.

Criminal Minds

This is a weird one, because I remember watching the first three seasons before ducking out but watching it again now, I genuinely have no memory of watching any of it at all. There are no scenes I remember, no baddies I recall. I’d even forgotten that Penelope Garcia (the wonderful Kirsten Vangness) only appeared briefly in each episode in the first season.

I can guess why I stepped away back then, though. While I like police procedurals, I don’t like horror, as a genre. And I suspect that, at the time, I felt that Criminal Minds was an attempt to do a horror procedural. And not the fun type like Supernatural or others of that ilk, but a darker, genuinely scary, procedural, where everyone’s damaged in one way or another. Both those committing bad deeds, and those attempting to find them.

I’ve always kind of regretted dropping out of the show, though, because I like the actors (both Mandy Patinkin and Joe Mantegna are cleverly intense actors) and the plots are anything but workaday. Moreover, the show clearly, and cleverly, demonstrates the cost of doing the job, in mental and physical health. It’s not… a small cost.

Also, I quite like that these are colleagues, not friends; they’re people who work together who probably wouldn’t associate with each other if it wasn’t for work. (At the start, anyway)

So I gave the show another try when I discovered that, like Elementary, it’s available on Amazon Prime.

I’m less convinced by it than I was by Elementary; I’m not yet convinced I’ll stick with the show for the full run before taking a break; I mean, there are fifteen seasons and over 300 episodes. But I’m heading towards the end of the first season… and I’m enjoying one or two episodes a night. I’m actually enjoying watching a show I didn’t enjoy that much before. Fancy that.

So for everyone who told me to watch both Elementary and Criminal Minds… to give them another try: I’m tryin’, ok? I’m tryin’…

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now rapidly 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’ve been in a weird mood this week — possibly related to Yahrzeit for my brother, and a few other things that have left me feeling a bit… disconnected… in general — and today’s post was started four times, on four different subjects before I gave up on each.

So I’m doing an ‘in case of emergency, break glass’ post today. Apologies, but I didn’t want to put up a blank page.

There’ll hopefully be new content tomorrow.


So today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two, two of the first I wrote in the 150 day run from 2010.

The first story was one of those that provoked both a ‘your mind scares me at times’ comment and a ‘that’s… creepily fun’ observation. I leave it to you to judge which is more appropriate.

The second story? Well, it’s always fun writing in verse, but I rarely have as much fun as I did with this one.

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: Because I Said So
Word: effervescent
Challenger: [Livejournal: missymodee]
Length: 200 words exactly

The preparatory fast ended, he drank the traditional effervescent blue liquid, and then, dressed in the proper clothing, he proceeded along a metal corridor lit in noxious green.

He slowed as he approached the door. He recited the calming mantra, but it did no good; his heart was pounding, his palms sweaty. Swallowing twice, he wiped his hands against his trousers, unsurprised though dismayed at his reaction to this regular task.

He placed his right hand, no longer wet but still clammy, against the frosted glass and a door slid open, revealing a space far too small to be called a room. But it was functional and efficiently organised: one microphone and one chair.

The soft voice that invited him to sit was familiar, one he had heard all his life. It had shared his joys and his woes, and it was the only voice he needed to hear. It was The Machine.

He loved The Machine. The Machine told him to love The Machine.

And he obeyed The Machine. For The Machine told him to obey The Machine.

The Machine occasionally allowed him to believe that it was his choice to worship The Machine, however.

Even though it wasn’t.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: Typing Too Fast
Word: slippery
Challenger: [challenger preferred to stay anonymous]
Length: 200 words exactly

The role of some who merely serve others
Is often mistaken, my sisters and brothers,
As something less special; unimportant, they’d say.
Until Her name is mentioned, and that dreadful day.

As the Official Typist, others were wary
Not to call her a mere secretary.
Did the king himself not oft praise her worth,
As more valuable than all treasures on Earth?

Until that day when the pressure did loom
And documents flew in and flew out of her room
As she typed first an order, and then a request
And then a submission, and all of the rest.

The mistake, when it happened, was very small, but
In context, however, the consequences not.
At the meeting they’d held, the twenty-third of his reign
The pen had run out and he’d signed once again.

She’d meant to type that the king had re-signed.
A missing hyphen, however, was not spotted in time.
As Official Typist, you see, her records were Law.
And the King was removed, protesting his fall.

And then civil war; barons fought for the crown
And monarchy started her slippery slope down.
And all because of a tiny mistake.
Made by one who merely serves and waits.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now rapidly 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.

 

We haven’t had any Alistair Beckett-King for a few weeks; here’s his The Night Before Michaelmas

The Wonders of Life, BBC Trailer… with Eric Idle’s Galaxy Song rewritten, and performed, by him.

A gag real is all well and good, but TV News bloopers? Are even better.

During lockdowns, some creators went above and beyond. This never failed to make me smile: Kermit with a special performance of The Rainbow Connection. What makes it work and so very special? That he starts by turning on the camera and then switches it off at the end. Enjoy.

Mitch Benn sometimes goes a bit viral. In fact, there’ve been three that he’s gone viral with over the past couple of years, and one that went viral before going viral was a thing. Here’s this week’s, which Ant & Dec promoted to their 6.7 million followers…

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.

This is effectively part three of this mini-run; part one’s here; part two’s here.]

I have a bookcase. It looks like this.

Now, the eagle eyed among you will spot that there are little rectangular cells in which there are lots of books.

And… no, wait.

Since you’re unlikely to be reading this third part without knowing what I’m doing, I’m going to skip most of the introduction and just get down to it. (The introduction in full is in both the previous parts one and two.)

The two rules before we start.

  1. I own many, many more books and comics’ trades than are shown on these two shelves. They’re just what I have up now. The rest are in various boxes, and indeed there are two piles of books you can’t see, some of which are books I’ve read and just haven’t replaced on the shelves, and some of which are my ‘still to be read at some point…’
  2. The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten books I’ve picked. Another week could be ten others, and in fact will be.

Oh, and 3. (Yeah, I know but it’s not a rule as such: I’m going to be bouncing around the shelves.)

Oh, and 4… (yes, yes) I’m breaking my own rules here since it’s the third part, and doing more than one book in three cases below, for what will be obvious reasons.

The Time Patrol – Poul Anderson

If there’s a better writer for clever, deceptively simple, time travel stories than Poul Anderson, I don’t know who he or she is. I’m a sucker for time travel stories, the paradoxes, the chance to draw your protagonists, your antagonists and your supporting cast from the whole of history… and even the whole ‘let’s fix what has gone wrong’. And Anderson is just so damn good at it. In There Will Be Time, another of his time travel books, he focuses in on two characters: one who travels and one who doesn’t.

Here he expands that, and while you have one main character, pretty much everyone involved is a time traveller of some sort, most belonging to the titular Time Patrol, founded by a less than altruistic group who set it up to ensure that the timeline that leads to them is the one that survives. Yet good can be done, and is done, by those who patrol the timelines, ensuring that gratuitous wars, deaths don’t occur but making sure the ones that did happen, erm, do. I kind of wish there were in real life the grammatical tenses developed so time travellers can talk to each other and still make sense.

This is a collection of short stories and they’re the very exemplar of how time travel stories should be written.
 
 

The Sandman – Neil Gaiman


The first of my ‘cheats’, as I’m including an entire run here – Neil’s astonishing run on The Sandman. (Oh, I do have the ‘missing volumes’ above, by the way; they’re just in a pile for me to reread.)

I’m not sure what I can say about The Sandman that hasn’t been said by wiser and smarter people who are better at wurds than me. It rewards rereading; there’s never something new I don’t get from it, but that’s not the sole reason I reread it. I enjoy knowing the characters I read will change as I read the full run, even those who won’t want to. And it’s fascinating every time, reading that change. And I can’t say better than that.
 
 

The Compleet Molesworth – Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

I read the original four books contained in this collection – Down with Skool!, How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms, Back in the Jug Agane – and yes I’m including both the writer and the artist since I find it impossible to think of Molesworth without picturing him (and his schoolmates and teachers). And you can thank Ronald Searle for that. (Oddly, I think I came across Searle first in sketches of young girls on ponies he did for a magazine. I digress.)

The conceit used in the books is glorious: a pre-teen – when it starts – kid at a minor public school, St Custards, writing about school, and suggesting how to succeed in life., The books are full of [deliberate] misspellings and are pure acnarchic nonsense. Wonderfully funny, clever as hell and just a pure wonder from start to finish. I can’t ever imagine having a bookshelf without Molesworth being there somewhere.

(They recently republished the long out of print origins of Molesworth, a series of pieces written during WWII. Less polished than the version that appears in the books, they’re still pretty wonderful. I recommend them for any Molesworth fan.)
 
 

The Fuse – Anthony Johnston and Justin Greenwood

Another cheat since I picked up the final trade only a month ago. Anthony’s fantastic, sf wonder, about police on a space station, where things aren’t as simple as they appear (of course) people have hidden agendas and the only thing you can trust is the information you’ve gleaned yourself, and the only person you can trust completely is yourself. And not always then.
 
 

Various kids’ books about Judiasm

I’m putting these in here just to prove that a) I am very old and b) I was a very studious child, a bit of a Jewish swot. These were prizes at cheder, Sunday School.

Oh, and one final amusing bit. The cover of the first book above, looks like this. I was genuinely pleased to have to do a double take when I started reading The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

I wonder why…


 
 

Anyway… moving on…

The Beatles Complete – The Beatles

I have no musical talent. None. I can pick out a tune on a keyboard and am intending, in the near future to learn to play the mouth organ. Which will be a test for both me and whoever’s the poor fool I take lessons from.

But this isn’t there for me to appreciate the music. Not really. It’s there because my late brother loved this book to play to, and to learn from. He did, as I’ve mentioned previously, play the guitar… with admittedly more enthusiasm than genuine talent. But he would crack this open fairly regularly, and pencil in the chords. And when he died and his widow asked me if I wanted anything from his shelves, this was one of the books I took to always remember him by.

 
 

Yossel, April 19, 1943 – Joe Kubert

Yossel is one of the odder comic books I own. Most comic books are printed on Matt or glossy paper. This is printed on thick paper that’s almost cardlike. Most comics are pencilled, then inked, then coloured. This is pencils only. And it’s incredible. It’s kind of a ‘What if…?’ written and drawn by Joe Kubert… as a ‘what if my parents hadn’t gotten out? What if I’d not gotten out?’

Out from what? Well…


Well, do I need to say more? 

Just buy it; although it’s only indirectly linked, I can’t imagine it not being next to The Plot (mentioned previously in this run) on my shelves.
 

The Political Animal – Jeremy Paxman

Paxman’s best book, by far, in my opinion. It’s a study not of British politics, but of British politicians: what makes them tick? Are there any similarities between politicians of wildly opposing viewpoints? Are there surprising similarities? How can politicians who believe such wildly different things be genuine friends? How does one become the sort of person who regards politics as a worthwhile endeavour. Many many perceptive observations are made, many compromises are identified, and many hypocrisies speared.

One lesson I’ve taken from it, when Paxman observes that only in politics and religion is it held and seen as a positive virtue to hold the same, unchanging, opinion for 20 or more years. And Paxman believes it’s for the same reason in both.
 
 

The Prize – Irving Wallace

It’s kind of tailor made for Wallace, this subject matter; a dozen people are awarded that year’s Nobel Prizes; most of them deserve them. But who they are and what they’ve done to justify their awards are very different creatures. Politics, personalities and people: all grist to Wallace’s clever plot. (They made a Paul Newman movie of the novel. It’s not a good movie. This is a very good book.)
 
 

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, Or, 2000 Years of Upper-class Idiots in Charge – John O’Farrell

Some years ago, I spent 27½ hours on an airplane, flying to Singapore, staying in the airport 6 hours and then flying back again. At the airport, I picked up a couple of books to read on the flight. This was one of them, and I laughed all the way through it. It’s a history book of Britain, from 55BC through 1945. O’Farrell goes for laughs throughout but never skimping on the basic facts. In some cases, far deeper than the mere basic facts. You’ll learn stuff from reading it, and the pen portraits he creates of the monarchs, the prime ministers and those surrounding both, are much fun. But mainly I remember it for the gags. There are many, many gags; I struggle to remember a book that made me laugh out loud so often while reading it.

Well, that was fun. Thirty Books in three Fridays. I may do it again next year. We’ll see.

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday’s something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now more rapidly approaching.


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


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…’

This week, a story about another last human on earth…, sparked by the following image.


The last human, the last story, the final lie

“Are you ready?” She asked, and waited, patiently, for the answer.

“I don’t think so, not quite yet” replied the man, who was sitting, his feet dangled over a cliff, staring out towards the horizon, enjoying for the final time the sea breeze and the merging of brilliant and subdued colours as the sun slowly set.

“It’s ok,” she said from behind him, “we have a little time yet.” She moved so he could see her and stretched her arms up towards the sky, hands linked. It was entirely performative and both of them knew it. But it was a kindness that he appreciated nonetheless; as the last human alive, he was grateful that she’d taken the form she had. It felt less… cruel somehow, this way.

“When…” he started, then paused, gathering his thoughts. He hadn’t thought it would end this way, after all.

She tilted her head slightly at him, and he was reminded that she was not truly human. Had she been, there’d have been an eyebrow raised as well. Come to think of it, he realised, there’d have been an eyebrow to raise. An odd absence but one he’d not previously noticed.

He started again. “When… it happens, will it hurt?”

“Only briefly and you won’t remember it, so…”

“Oh,” he said, then, “But what will I remember?”

“Nothing,” she replied and then held up a hand to forestall interruption. “Nothing unimportant, that is.”

He grinned at her “…and just who decides what’s unimportant, or otherwise?” His smile faded, not completely but just a little . “Yeah, ok, silly question.”

“You will be transformed. You will be healthy. You will continue. You will be… you.” She was programmed to be kind, and she was.

He didn’t understand her words fully. But he was dying and in pain, and no longer cared to know more than that.

He stood, suppressing a groan as he did so; the pain of an old injury that had never quite fully healed merging with a new pain, that of hunger and deprivation. He stared down at her.

He closed his eyes. Took a deep breath, then another, tasting the air, really tasting the flavours and strange scents and thickness of the atmosphere. Then he opened his eyes.

“OK.” He said, the firmness of his voice surprising him. He’d expected to be nervous. He’d expected to be scared. He was wrong. He was neither. “I’m ready.”

He’d expected to have died a long time ago. The last human. He’d suspected it of course, but she had confirmed it after she appeared, all shining metal at first before she took on the appearance of a woman he’d once known. Of course it was an idealised version; she couldn’t replicate the sores and the blood and the desperation in her eyes when she’d died, hungry and so, so tired. The offer was too good to be true; to continue, out there in the stars.

“I’m ready,” repeated the last human alive on the planet. It was the last thing he ever said.

She was programmed to be kind, not honest.

She had lied of course; he wouldn’t remember anything because he’d no longer exist. And she had lied about the pain, for experience had taught that they expected some. But there was no pain; it happened too fast for that. One moment there was a broken, shell of a man, attempting to stand straight, then there there was the briefest of bright flashes, and then there was ash briefly floating on the air before it spiraled away on the radioactive laden winds.

She reverted to default settings: humanoid, but all shining metals. She scanned for a moment, then levitated and aimed herself approximately two dozen kilometres southwest. there was another last human on the planet to remove.

She had been at the task for, as the last humans measured time, three years, eight months and six days. She had removed a little over twenty thousand ‘last humans on the planet’ thus far and had — she consulted her internal scanners’ — approximately forty seven thousand last humans on the planet to go.

And then there would be peace in this sector.

Ground passed beneath her, what used to be roads, buildings, homes.

They would be again, once the place was made fit for habitation by her masters. Until then, she flew on.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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

I’m in a bit of a… mood... today. Not a bad mood, per se, just a bit off my game, a bit… disconnected.

Not overly suprising, I guess, since, as sunset hit about an hour ago, I’ve just exited a period of Yahrzeit for my late brother.

Long time followers, here and on the blog, know that I put up something every year about Michael’s death – on the date that he died. Here’s what I wrote this year, some eleven months ago.

But the Jewish calendar is a bit different and, every year, I have Yahrzeit for him. (What is Yahrzeit, as someone privately messaged me to ask last year? Well, since you ask, it’s the annual commemoration of a family death, usually observed by the immediate family, on the anniversary per the Jewish calendar. There’s something about it here, from My Jewish Learning, if you want to know more.)

But, as would only be natural at such a time of commemoration, I wonder what my big brother would have thought of the me I am… now? But since I have no real idea what he’d have thought of me now – he died in January 1998, aged 38, after all… who knows what he’d be like as a sixty-two year old man?… I took a look inward at myself.

Hmm. Not the greatest idea I’ve had this year.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the most irritating things about myself (irritating to me, anyways; I’m sure others find many, many things irritating about me) is that I have an annoying habit of getting angry, furious, and upset at people for things that are unreservedly, totally, completely, 100%, Not Their Fault. It’s entirely irrational. And equally entirely real.

The upset has, of course, various ‘flavours’… but one irritates me more than any other, and I can feel it creeping up on me in a way that it hasn’t for a while.

I’m single; I’ve said that before. The idea of being ‘in a relationship’ with anyone both repulses me and — semi-jokingly, if that — makes me feel very sorry for the poor woman who would be daft enough to want to be in a relationship with me.

I haven’t wanted to be in a relationship, not anything that anyone sensible would recognise as ‘a relationship’, for a decade and a half. And I don’t see that changing, ever, despite some close friends very sweetly but naively wishing otherwise for me.

But given all of the foregoing,, I’m usually ok with dealing with other people being in loved-up, and happy, relationships. It doesn’t bother me, usually. It’s, I don’t know, like seeing other people interested in sport. I don’t understand it, but I know it’s not for me. I don’t get upset at them for it, nor do I mock them for it. If it works for them, great. It’s just not for me. As I say, I’m usually ok with it.

Usually.

So, why then, when the… loneliness… hits me, do I sometimes actively resent other people being in relationships? It’s entirely irrational, and it speaks nothing good of me.

But I can feel that resentment, that upset, creeping up on me…. And I loathe and detest both that feeling of envy/resentment, and my own irrationality in possessing it.

And let’s be fair: I’m not that big a fan of me at the best of times. You can imagine how I feel about me when this happens.

If I didn’t utterly loath therapy as a concept (for me, I hasten to add… not for other people; if they benefit, they should definitely both actively seek out and have therapy) I’d be seriously considering why it’s hurting so much, and how I address it? But I do loathe therapy as a concept for me, and so I’ll continue being, well, me… with all the flaws and broken bits that make me, well… me.

I may be irrational, but that I know I’m being irrational should count for something, nu? I do hope so.

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 less 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 the remaining four weeks of this run, while Tuesday will remain the ‘tales from the fiction vaults’ day, I’m making them ‘tales from the Christmas fast fiction vaults’.

I’m going to be putting up two each Tuesday from the Twelve Days of Fast Fiction runs I did: two each from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – the last year I did them.

For these specific short runs, I asked friends in comics and various fields of entertainment to challenge me.

Which they did. With funny, silly, clever titles and weird, odd, wonderful words to use.

So here are two more, from 2013’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

The first story was written for Si Spurrier, a wonderfully clever writer of extraordinary talent with a viciously funny talent for plotting stories and then executing those plots. I use ‘executing’ advisedly, as his writing takes any sacred cows you have out back and uses a bolt gun on them. And he smiles while doing so. As a writer who prizes words, I suspect that Si would agree with Mark Twain’s observation that ‘for a writer, the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug’.

So for Si, a story about someone who just can’t find the right words, no matter how desperately he tries…

The second story was written for Sarah Pinborough, whose writing I take enormous pleasure in reading; glorious prose that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until you’ve found out… what happens next. Her stories stay with you long after you’ve finished reading, percolating in your mind until they pop up, delightfully unexpectedly. I like both Sarah and her writing a lot.

Sarah gave me a title that could only – in my mind, anyway – have been the first line of something in rhyme; I’m not sure what the subject of the story is, but I can picture it perfectly…

Both received the same prompt as always:

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 these examples…


Title: Every Word Is Wrong
Word: except
Challenger: Si Spurrier
Length: 200 words exactly

Once a year, Santa rises from a months’ long sleep, and walks to an desk that was ancient when he first commenced his duties. He sits at the desk, then dips a plain quill pen formed from the feather of a long extinct species of hen into a bottle of pure raven ink.

And then Santa writes a letter. And into that letter, the legendary jolly good-natured fellow pours out venom and bile, anger and bitterness, begging to be released from his responsibilities, analysing in forensic detail why he should not be obliged to continue his rounds across the planet known as Earth.

When he has finished, he places the letter face down and leaves the room, returning immediately. And always, always, there remains only a white card, upon which is the single word CONTINUE.

Santa Clause never swears. Never. Ever. Except when he reads the card.

Then Santa launches his sleigh over a world covered in white, a uniformity blanketing continents, what were once countries, and the blistered remains of cities.

Santa spends the day in his craft, his tears freezing against his thick beard, listening to the sound of radiation laden winds, desperate once again for sleep.

© Lee Barnett, 2013


Title: It Lived Under Monday
Word: butterfly
Challenger: Sarah Pinborough
Length: 200 words exactly

It lived under Monday, whatever It was;
It’d been there a very long time.
Eating away at the start of the week,
Dissolving the minutes with lime.

It arrived on Sunday, but quickly decided
The first day It didn’t like much,
And with butterfly whim, it fast looked around
For sustenance, comfort and such.

Saturday was not to Its taste,
Nor Friday; not at all to Its liking;
And Thursday was ‘manufactured’, It felt
Full of metal and plastic and piping.

It then spent a fortnight in Wednesday;
It thought that It might have found home.
But boredom with the middle day of the week
Occasioned It once more to roam.

Tuesday It liked, It actually liked.
It burrowed and set up Its den.
Then sighed at the inelegance of the name of the day
And eventually moved once again.

So It lived under Monday for many a year.
Millennia had gone past by now.
Since It created Its residence under the Day
And fed on each minute and hour.

There It stays all year, except for one day.
It journeys not far, never fear.
Just to whatever day Christmas is on.
Don’t you think it goes faster each year?

© Lee Barnett, 2013


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now less 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.

Less than three weeks until the end of this run, and since there’ll be the usual update of A Life In Pictures at the end of this year, I’m using today to do the last of my occasional

I’ve taken a lot of photographs during the #DailyConstitutional the past few months, noting the weather

posts, this run.

As I’ve said before, I really like the camera on my iPhone 12 Pro, and I’ve tried to at least make the shots more interesting visually. I don’t always succeed, I think I do on occasion.

So, here are some of the photos I like, ending with a pic I took earlier today


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Occasionally, though, I take some pics that aren’t just for what I call the #DailyConstitutional.

Like these, I took in Southall.

Usually, I don’t link to the huge original shots, but dammit, I like these in the huge size. So all of the shots below are linked to the originals…

Enjoy…

Let’s start with this panoramic shot

And then we have these shots


 

 

 

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

The Progressive Alliance

I’ve written before, in August, that I don’t think a Progressive Alliance is possible, let alone probable. I mean it. I don’t think the parties could achieve it, let alone would do so.

But, of course, it still does the rounds all the time.

Now I’m not talking about parties standing down – or effectively doing so, anyway – in one specific by-election to make a point. That’s happened for decades and only shows how powerless one MP is in a House of Commons of 650 of them.

No, I mean something like this:

Where do you start with this, to me, basic lack of awareness of what needs to happen first for that to happen eventually? And what the later – unwanted – consequences would be?

OK, let’s start at the beginning, and let’s assume I’m completely wrong about a progressive alliance not happening.. Me? Wrong? About UK politics? It’s not unknown, let’s be fair.

So, let’s say I am wrong… and the parties all come together in a pact, promising that in their first parliament, they’ll pass proportional representation and change the voting system without a referendum on the idea. I mean, it’d be without a referendum because the last time the government offered the British public the choice of changing the voting system, the result wasn’t exactly close. The final result had the Yes vote at 32.1% and the No vote at 67.9%.

Now of course, proponents of proportional representation claim that wasn’t proportional representation that was offered to the voters, and that’s why, among other less important reasons, it was firmly rejected.

Naah. Sorry. I mean, sure it’s arguable that was part of the reason, but the voters didn’t care about what form the change took; they just liked the voting system they had.

Which brings us onto the first reason why I think the tweet above is naïve at best and wilfully ignorant at worst: which form of proportional representation? A pure party list system? Or party list with multi-member constituencies? What will be the de minimus for a party to get MPs? Will it be constituency-based at all?

Next up, until or unless the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act is repealed, what are they going to do until the next election? And there’s no chance the Lib Dems, for example, will want to get rid of the FTPA; it’s due to them we have a FTPA. So what else will they do?

(And that’s leaving aside that creating the legislation, and getting it through parliament will take some time, even ignoring the FTPA. So what will their foreign policy be? Or their taxation policies? Or their environmental policies be?)

Because there’s plenty in each of the three parties’ manifestos that one or both of the other parties. Will they use the time squabbling? Or present identical manifestos to the public at the election? Of course not, so the manifesto and mandate a government will have will be to change the electoral system and… pretty much nothing else.

Of course they’ll claim they have a mandate for all sorts of other things. And the manifesto for government they’ll present to the public will be agreed behind closed doors; they’ll end up with a stack of policies for their term in office that no majority voted for. Ironic that they’ll claim the mandate the current government does, the only one that counts: “we won the election“.

A Geoffrey Howe moment

On 13 November, 1990, Sir Geoffrey Howe rose to his feet and delivered a resignation statement to the House of Commons.

Ministers who resign from government on a matter of policy disagreement are entitled, by convention, to deliver such a statement. Also by convention, the statement is delivered without interruption.

Howe was known at the time for delivering calm, factual, not particularly witty, speeches. He’d been cruelly dubbed Mogadon Man, and Denis Healy had once described bring criticised by him as ‘being salvaged by a dead sheep’.

So people were expecting a bit of a whinge. A calm, sensible, whinge.

Not at all.

Howe delivered a calm speech all right, but it was all the more shocking because of it. His calm, almost matter of fact, but calculated brutality, came out of the blue, and it was all the more astounding and effective because of it, as he slid the dagger in not once, but again and again.

Three weeks later,the subject of his ire, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the woman who’d won three general elections, the second with a majority of 144, the third with a majority of 102…

…resigned from office.

I wondered, the other day,

Now remember, only ministers who’ve resigned can deliver a resignation speech, so that takes out many on the government back benches who’d relish the opportunity.

Interestingly, the same three names kept coming up:

  • Michael Gove
  • Rishi Sunak
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg

For various and different reasons, I don’t think any of them could, or would, have the same effect.

Michael Gove is a non-starter in my opinion, simply because he already did it, in effect, in 2016. He did it by knifing Johnson in the back (after he’d said he’d back him for the leadership to succeed Cameron) and then saying he’s just not up to the job, and then running himself in 2016 and 2019… and then taking job after job in Johnson’s cabinets after Johnson succeeded May.…

And then defending Johnson again and again ever since. Simply put: Gove’s got no credibility left to spend on doing a Howe.

Rishi Sunak is a different beast entirely. But as Johnson’s Chancellor since February 2020, he’s locked into the policies, especially but not limited to those reading economic and covid. Further, as Chancellor, any Howe-type speech would be seen both as ‘former chancellor disagrees with PM. Hardly a shock is it?‘ and self-servingly aiding his own leadership ambitions. I’m also far from convinced he’d hold the House while he spoke.

Holding the House wouldn’t be a problem for Jacob Rees-Mogg; never been an issue for him. What would be an issue for him, however, is the sense of humbleness and calm, rational laying out of the facts necessary. That’s never been his… strong point, let us say.

There’s also the problem that Rees-Mogg, despite his professed adoration of the traditions of parliament – a professed adoration that’s entirely performative – has never thought that sliding the knife in with elegance and skill is… ‘the done thing.’

Rees-Mogg would rather try and bully with his wordage and pomposity. Against Johnson, that’s like fighting a forest fire with a cigarette lighter. It’d never going to work and you’ll look like a prat trying.

Another thought strikes me about this: there seems a distinct lack of front benchers… absolutely loathing each other, politically, professionally and personally. You know: utter detestation.

Its presence creates great moments of principle and drama; its absence leads to blandness. Add into that a personally and politically, principled and strong, leader and you get Thatcher/Howe.

Thatcher’s cabinet had people who disliked each other… but they were all more scared of her.

When that fear ebbs and evaporates, mainly because you’re seen by all as irrevocably ‘beaten’, well… you get a Geoffrey Howe moment.

We’re not there, nowhere close. But not because of the lack of a Geoffrey Howe to weild the knife, because of the lack of a Margaret Thatcher on whom to wield it.

 

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.

 

You always wanted to see Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Jean Luc Picard singing All I Want For Christmas Is… Q?, didn’t you? Well, don’t say I don’t give you anything…

Matt Green, once again, on firing employees on Zoom…

Dave Gorman on how to measure if someone is an A-list star, or a B-list or a Z-list… or an R-list…?

100 songs you don’t know the name of… ok, 100 tunes, some of which you don’t know the name of…

Way, WAY, back for this one. Mitch Benn and the Distractions on The Hardest Song In The World (To Find). And yes, if you’re of a certain age, this should spark memories…

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.

This is effectively part two of this mini-run; part one’s here.

I have a bookcase. It looks like this.

Now, the eagle eyed among you will spot that there are little rectangular cells in which there are lots of books.

There are fifteen or eighteen of them, depending on how you measure them. (The book case/shelves are actually two, screwed. together. But yeah, that’s what gives the ‘middle’ bit its own cells.)

You can see even from a brief look that the bottom half has mostly comics.

But yeah, there are various ‘cells’ of books. Some of them are even put together; the middle cell, the one with the white book just poking out is full of Irving Wallace novels and David Morrell novels; two of my favourite authors.

But yeah. There are my books. And, just for the hell of it and for no better reason than why the hell not?, I’m going to take the next three Fridays, identify thirty books on my shelves, ten books ten ‘cells’, each week. There will obviously be more than one book from several ‘cells’ by the end, but hey my bookshelves are chaotic, why shouldn’t this be equally so?

(I’m limiting it to three weeks before Christmas, since the fourth week in December will be Christmas Eve, and I have a plan for that day. There’ll be more about what’s happening to the blog in 2022 soon enough.)

Now, since comics collected in trade paperbacks are, obviously a lot thinner in the main than hardbacks or paperback novels or non-fiction, that may be a bit unfair to the comics. So, if I think that is the case, after three weeks, I’ll do another ten trades afterwards. We’ll see,

Two rules before we start.

  1. I own many, many more books and comics’ trades than are shown on these two shelves. They’re just what I have up now. The rest are in various boxes, and indeed there are two piles of books you can’t see, some of which are books I’ve read and just haven’t replaced on the shelves, and some of which are my ‘still to be read at some point…’
  2. The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten books I’ve picked. Another week could be ten others, and in fact will be.

Oh, and 3. (Yeah, I know but it’s not a rule as such: I’m going to be bouncing around the shelves.)

Let’s start with the ‘Jewish’ cell and get it out of the way.

The Complete Artscroll Machzor

 
Yeah, I’m not going to go for the ‘who wrote this’ gag with this. Mainly I’ve included it today because I’m tired and nothing says ‘Yom Kippur’ to me like the memories of falling asleep in synagogue during the long afternoon session, when the end of the fast isn’t close enough to look forward to, but the novelty of being in shul has long ago worn off. You’ll see that I have books from various publishers, and they each have their charms and each have their drawbacks. The Artscroll ‘commentaries in English’ are – to my mind – a lot better written, and the Hebrew is typeset in a more modern, and easier to read, font. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
 
 

The Word – Irving Wallace

 
I went through a phase a long time back when Wallace was my favourite author; I’m got pretty much all of his novels, and you’re going to see another one in a minute. I picked this one though because although it’s fairly typical Wallace – an involved plot, half a dozen main characters all of which are ‘real’ people to the reader with all their wonders and flaws, and an involved plot with great, realistic, dialogue… this novel contains what must be the most pedestrian written sex scene he ever wrote.

I mean, he’s had sex scenes in other novels, and I guess they’re ok – none stand out as particularly memorably good nor bad – but this one? THIS ONE reads like he submitted the novel, then the agent and publishers read it, then they all looked at each other and said, ‘you know what it needs? A sex scene… right…. here.‘ So he wrote one, right there. In the room. In front of them.

It doesn’t ruin the book but it’s the only passage in any of his books that when I come to it (no pun intended) I skip three or four pages and pick up the story again when they’re laying in bed afterwards.

Anyway, the story itself is about an PR exec who gets a chance to be publicist for a new edition of the bible… including a newly discovered gospel. Except it’s not that simple, is it? No, of course not. They made an eight hour miniseries of it in 1978 with David Janssen and Ron Moody. and it wasn’t half bad. Not great, but not half bad.
 
 

The Man – Irving Wallace

 
And here it is: my favourite novel, bar none.

I’ve lots of novels I like, and lots of novels I’m happy to reread. You can see in the photo the name of another favourite novelist. But yeah, The Man is a novel I’ve loved from the moment I picked it up.

Set in the late 1960s (the novel was written in 1969), the Vice-President of the United States is dead by a heart attack as the novel starts. No big deal, the US has been without a VP at several times in its history. Then the President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives die in an accident. (A building in post-war Berlin collapses during a summit.) The President pro-tem of the Senate, a man only given the mostly nondescript (as far as the populace is concerned) position to appease a section of the electorate, is catapulted into the White House. The kicker comes at the end of the first chapter as the Chief Justice wishes him well “as the first Negro President of the United States of America.” And all hell breaks loose.

The novel was written, as I say, in 1969, and end up with him being impeached and being tried on the impeachment articles… three of which are or could be seen as racially motivated and one which is most definitely an attack on the Presidency itself.

There’s an interesting apocryphal story (the truth or not of which I have no idea) that in winter 1973/spring 1974 sales of the book skyrocketed… because staffers in Washington were buying the book because it laid out in forensic detail exactly how you impeach a President… the prior example (referred to in the book a lot) was, after all, 100 years earlier…
 
 

I, Claudius – Robert Graves


 
Like many who’ve read the book, I first came across the story of Claudius watching the BBC adaptation starring Derek Jacobi (Claudius), Brian Blessed (Augustus), Sian Williams (Livia) and John Hurt (Caligula).

In fact I so loved the show that whenever I refer to it on Twitter, it’s usually as I, CLAVDIVS, as that’s how the opening titles looked to me as a kid.

The book is an odd beast to read afterwards, to be honest. It’s a thick tome; some 800+ pages. It’s actually two novels: I, Claudius and Claudius The God, and the execution of the prose never quite matches the glory of the plot, which is – put simply – the life of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, known to history as The Emperor Claudius. It starts not long before he was born and continues (briefly) after his death. The books’ conceit is that they’re his autobiography, which he writes and hides to be discovered a millennium later.

And dammit, the conceit works; while the various adaptations are of necessity presented as third person (with first person narration), this works best as first person.

Talking of adaptations, by the way, as well as the BBC tv adaptation, there’s a BBC Radio 4 adaptation with Tom Goodman Hill (Claudius), Derek Jacobi, yes, Derek Jacobi (Augustus) and Harriet Walter (Livia) and the latter in particular is as good as the tv adaptation.

There was intended to be a 1937 movie adaptation with Charles Laughton (Claudius) and Merle Oberon, Flora Robson, Emlyn Williams andRobert Newton. It never happened but the documentary about why and the aborted movie it is amazing: The Epic That Never Was.

But yeah, the book is one of those you get sucked into, and damn, the plot makes the Corleones and Sopranos like the picture of good family health.
 
 

The Long Johns – John Bird and John Fortune


 
If you’ve seen my Saturday Smiles, you’ll be used to seeing The Two Johns, two middle-aged fellas conducting mock interviews, one of them usually as “George Parr”, who takes every role necessary from Admiral of the Fleet to Head of The Post Office to a policy advisor in Number Ten Downing Street. When broadcast, they were originally around 6 or 7 minutes long. But the original scripts were about 12 minutes’ long. And these are those scripts.

It’s a crying shame that in the early days they were edited down for broadcast. As their popularity grew, the producers were smart enough to leave more and more in. The final few years, they were broadcast in their entirety and were much the better for it.

Fortune and Bird were satirists of the highest calibre and show it time and time again in these scripts. There’s sweat in every line, not a word is wasted. Every line makes a point. Yes, they’re funny as hell, but that’s not the point: it’s satire, pointing out truths with a rapier.

(There’s also a bit about how they wrote them, which as a writer I found entirely believable and sympathised greatly.) 
 

The side of a book – ???


 
Yeah, ok, that’s a bit unfair. It’s this book:

Three Fingers – Rich Koslowski


 
Every so often, somoene will ask on Twitter “what book do you have on your bookshelves that no-one else you know has?”

The answers are always distinguished by disagreement. Because of course if you’ve got a book on your bookshelf, odds are someone else you know also has it.

And the same applies to comic books.Many of the comic books I have on my shelves are also on the shelves of other people. I don’t know about this one though; I suspect very few have this one.

I came across it purely by chance; someone I know read it and told me, instructed me almost, to buy it, with the assurance that if I didn’t like it, they’d reimburse me for the purchase.

I started reading and thought, after a few pages, ‘yeah, I’m going to be asking for…’

Half a dozen pages later, I’d changed my mind. A few pages after that and I started thinking who I should recommend the book and make the same offer to.

Yes. It’s that good.

It’s a documentary. Kind of. It’s a documentary of an alternate world where cartoons exist as real ‘people’ and it’s about a secret ritual they have to undergo. Started by a Walt Disney analogue, who founded an entertainment empire based in the success of one “Ricky Rat”, his story and that of the ritual is told via interviews with “Buggy Bunny” and “Sly Vester Jr.” while others, including celebs, speak out against the rituals or even deny its very existence, with threats of litigation.

It’s clever, funny, sad, brutal, satirical… and you’ve never read anything like it.
 
 

The End Of The Party – Andrew Rawnsley


 
In the pic where I’ve highlighted The Long Johns, you’ll see a book on the right co-written by John Rentoul on the history of New Labour, written almost from a historical angle. (I picked it up after a Q&A about the tv series based on it.).

This book, written by one of the finest politics commentators of the past couple of decades, was published in 2010 and covers much of the same ground, as it’s about New Labour from Tony Blair’s second election win in 2001 through most of Gordon Brown’s tenure as PM. But it was being written during that period, by someone who knew everyone involved well.

It’s a detailed book and the prose is engaging. It’s not quite as taut as I’d like; at times Rawnsley’s insistence on the reader knowing every detail slows the momentum. But for those of us who lived through the time, it’s plot keeps you reading, desperate to see what happened next, and how. And knowing it in advance doesn’t hurt that process. Not at all.

One thing that both books (and the tv show) do: it surprises me again and again how my memories of the time were almost, but not quite, right. For example, I remember this thing happening at the same time as that thing, but they actually happened weeks apart. Or I remember this event happening after that event but the latter was a day or two before the former.
 

The Brethren – Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong


 
When I was studying the US political system at college, while I was interested in the Presidency and curious about Congress, it was the Supreme Court Of The United States that utterly fascinated me. (Again, in the Long Johns pic above, you can see a book entitled ‘Constitutional Law’, and it’s a text book about that subject, mainly about Supreme Court decisions.) The history and practices of both SCOTUS and its members are a rich tapestry with the more than occasional ‘knot’ to fuck everything up.

The Brethren covers the 1969-1976 terms of SCOTUS; a new Chief Justice replacing the giant that was Earl Warren, and several new Associate Justices appointed by Nixon and Ford. You get oral arguments, discussion between justices and the details of the compromises ordered and made in order to get a majority on the court. Andthe occasional stinging dissent. Cases covered in detail include Ali’s Vietnam case, the whole range of Watergate, and Roe v Wade. Yeah, it was a pretty momentous period.

The book uses the same process as previous Woodward books, with most things gleaned from public records and off the record briefings. After he died, Woodward and Armstrong confirmed that Justice Potter Stewart was their primary source inside the court.

It’s both a surprise and not, at the same time; Stewart doesn’t come out of many episodes covered with glory and more than a few times, his vanity and obstinacy speak nothing good of him.

If you’re even mildly interested in that period of history or SCOTUS in general, it’s definitely, very definitely, worth reading.
 
 

Marvel 1602 – Neil Gaiman


 
This is a fun, clever, take on Marvel’s characters… where you need to know almost nothing going in… but if you have a detailed knowledge of the history of the charge trust, you’ll have more fun.

It’s basically an eight issue What If..? What if… Marvel’s characters (at least those published before 1969, a personal choice by the author) were around in 1602, and mainly in England? The artwork is glorious, the story clever and Trent whole thing is more fun than it has any right to be.

I mean, Sir Nicholas Fury instead of Sir Francis Walsingham, Steven Strange instead of John Dee?

It’s fun.
 
 

The Griffin – Dan Vado


 
It’s unfair to describe this as “The Last Starfighter done right” but it’s also kind of accurate. Selfish, arrogant, teenage kid, acting up, storms out of his house, encounters an alien space craft looking for youngsters to fight in a war. They promise him glory and rewards. And superpowers. He goes for it, and goes with them.

Twenty years later he comes back for the ostensibly most perfectly understandable of reasons: he’s homesick. So he deserts. Twenty years of war has made him grown up a lot. But is it enough? He’s accompanied by his best friend, an alien. His family, everyone who knew him, thought he was dead. He has a new little brother who wasn’t born when he left.

His commanding officers are not happy. They come to get him.

Several questions are asked and answered: how will his family react? Does he still think of himself as human? And oh yeah, what makes him think he was the first human they recruited? Or the first human who deserted?

Definitely a story worth reading, and then rereading to see what you missed first time around.
 
 
Well, that was fun. See you next Friday for one last set of ten more.


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


See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday’s 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…’

As always, the story is as long as it needs to be; not a word longer than I want it to be, nor a word shorter.

And, as sometimes happens, the story that results is shorter than I anticipate when i start it. This is one such tale.

This week, a story about contractual… honesty, sparked by the following image.


The Deal

The first thing you need to understand is that it hadn’t looked looked like a typical demon. It was pleased when I mentioned that.

I guess that’s why I hadn’t treated it seriously. It seemed silly though It was honest about being a demon.And honest about other things as well. Which, yes, surprised me. But there were no horns, no tale, no smell of sulphur. Merely a normal looking man, offering me a workaday contract to sign, for something I no longer needed.

I mean, I had no idea what I was giving up, of course. A soul? What was a soul? Could I measure it? See it? Even know it was there? No, of course not, so why would I need it?

Hell, I was getting the better end of the deal: success, money, everything I wanted… for this… thing it wanted, a thing I didn’t even know I possessed.

My soul. And I didn’t even have to hand it over at the time, just at the end of the contract. So I signed.

And it delivered; I can’t argue with the results, can I? A few days after signing, I won the lottery. And then won it again the following week. Even though I never played it before. The women fell at my feet. And the men. Any time, anything I wanted, anyone I wanted.

For almost three decades I lived large; everything I wanted was mine with no effort. And then it was over.

The contract expiration date, a date I knew was coming even if I didn’t know when precisely it would arrive, merely more than ten thousand days after signature.

As it was, I made it to more than twenty-eight years, almost a full year more, Turns out it’s decided randomly. Some get no more than the ten thousand. Some get more. Some get a lot more.

Oh, I didn’t die, no… Lucky? I suppose.

No, I won’t die for a long, long time yet. Something about ‘the local star’ or something,

But now I spend my days doing deals. All day.

Every day.

Because that thing I didn’t need? Turns out having one is what stops you buying other people’s souls.

So, ten thousand days of success… are you interested? You are, aren’t you? Even if you don’t believe the cost.

Why no, I don’t look like a typical demon. That’s very kind of you to say…

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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

[Note; The pic I’ve used for this post has nothing to do with British politics; I just liked it and besides had I used a pic that summed up my feelings, it wouldn’t have been nearly as nice a pic…]

A short one today, as I genuinely have no idea what I’m writing about in this post as I start it.

This isn’t me cheating and doing a goingcheep, where I merely open the page and write what’s ever on my mind at that moment as an exercise to loosen up the fingers before doing some actual writing.

Not quite.

The reason I have no idea what this post is going to be about as I start it is because as I start it, it’s 5pm, half an hour after I aim to finish the post and hit ‘publish’. And because I’ve spent most of today glued to the tv news, watching the shitshow that is our government panicking and trying like fuck not to get caught out doing what they’ve been, y’know, doing.

As I type this, the government is on it’s fifth variation of its ‘there was no party at 10 Downing Street last christmas, definitely not and all the covid rules were followed at the party that we just told you didn’t happen.’

The journalist who’d been hired last year to be the PM’s spokesperson but who was, apparently, so bad at it that they cancelled the very idea of public daily press briefings (and ended up using the room they built for it at a cost of £3m for covid briefings…)

Well, she just resigned with a tearful apology for apparently having made light of the idea of Downing Street breaking covid rules by having that party they definitely didn’t have.

Whether you believe her apology and tears were genuine depends, I suppose, if you think she’s most sorry that she made light of it in a practice press briefing , or most sorry that the video of her making light of it in a practice press briefing was leaked.

I think it’s mainly the latter but then I’m a cynical bastard when it comes to people sent out to lie for their bosses.

I wish I could say that I was surprised at what’s gone on, but I’m not. Not really. I long ago ceased to grant any of our elected representatives – or those who work for them – any benefit of the doubt.

I struggle to accept there’s a single one who wouldn’t lie for political advantage if they thought they could get away with it… and, let’s face it, they usually do get away with it.

I wish there was an MP I thought wholly honest, full of personal integrity, and entirely reliable. NOt asking a lot, is it? To think of one MP, of any party, who’d satisfy those requirements, who’d have those attributes.

Sadly, I can’t think of any.

And I use ‘sadly’ advisedly, not for effect. it does sadden me. And anger me.

Which is good, I suppose. because it means I’m not completely resigned to it always being like that… that I’m not totally resigned to it as inherent in British politice… not yet, anyways.

 

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.

For the remaining four weeks of this run, while Tuesday will remain the ‘tales from the fiction vaults’ day, I’m making them ‘tales from the Christmas fiction vaults’.

I’m going to be putting up two each Tuesday from the Twelve Days of Fast Fiction runs I did: two each from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – the last year I did them. For these specific short runs, I asked friends in comics and various fields of entertainment to challenge me.

And they did. With funny, silly, clever titles and weird, odd, wonderful words to use.

So here are two, from 2012’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction.

The first story was written for an old friend, the writer Neil Gaiman; a friend who’s provided a shoulder to lean on, a willing ear when I’ve wanted it, and several kicks up the arse when I’ve needed them. Neil’s story was the first Twelve Days story I wrote and like every one of these tales, the story answering his challenge was written very specifically for him.

Given the opportunity to write something that appealed to our shared love of myth, I’m not sure I could ever resist the temptation. To be fair, I never try that hard.

The second story was written for Jamie McKelvie, one of the best comics artists in the field. I’ve known Jamie so long that my son is now older than Jamie was when I met him. I’m sure there’s something illegal about that. I’ve no idea why or how the idea for this story came to me, but I’m very, very pleased it did. It remains one of my very favourite fast fictions.

The challengers received the same prompt as always:

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: Why Can’t Reindeer Fly?
Word: apothecary
Challenger: Neil Gaiman
Length: 200 words exactly

Elf-blood is purple, which often surprises those witnessing a battle for the first time. That it is pale, runny and rapidly absorbed by snow is less astonishing. Were the stains longer lasting, the white carpet around Santa’s workshop would instead be permanently amethyst.

The war had lasted too many centuries to count, only interrupted by the regularly scheduled twenty-four hour ceasefire, commencing at the close of 24th December. No-one could any longer recall how the war had commenced; some believed that an elf had grossly insulted a reindeer, some the reverse. Still others even blamed Santa himself, but only quietly, and among trusted company when they could be certain that none present would report the conversation.

However, all were agreed that any attempts at peace between elf and reindeer had been fiascos; the name of the last apothecary to try, sickened as he was by the cruelty and violence, had been struck from the guild’s records in shame.

Each side had their regrets. The elves were bitterly disappointed that the size differential between the foes favoured their enemies; and the reindeer, seeing the copious levels of excrement produced by their troops, looked to the skies and wished fervently for flight.

© Lee Barnett, 2012


Title: The Christmas That Wasn’t
Word: plinth
Challenger: Jamie McKelvie
Length: 200 words exactly

The walk to the front door seemed longer than usual. I stifled a yawn as I pulled out the keys, half blinded by bright August sunlight.

A weariness beyond anything I’d known had come over me, but I knew sleep wasn’t going to come easy. Not for me. Not for her, either. She was still in the car; we didn’t have anything to say to each other now – we’d exhausted all possible conversations over the past hour.

I glanced through the front room’s windows; it was all there. His toys, the letter from the hospital, a small statue of Peter Pan upon a plinth, and the Christmas decorations.

We’d known it was the only way he’d see another Christmas, so we’d planned a party for him. In August.

We’d never hold that party now.

We’d been honest from the start. For a lad not yet eight, he understood what cancer was, what it meant.

A sob caught in my throat as I turned the key. I had to pack it all away now.

A protesting yell from the car. I smiled.

He understood what cancer meant. I wasn’t sure about remission. Maybe I’d buy him a dictionary. In December.

© Lee Barnett, 2012


 

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 more ‘odds and sods’ today, provoked by a couple of politics things…

This bloody government

The government’s been in the news today. That’s not news. If the government is wonderfully good or egregiously bad, it’s going to be in the news. No surprise with this lot that it’s the latter. Whether it’s

  • the leak to The Times that the government is planning a once a year exercise when they can overrule judicial reviews they don’t like the results of, or
  • the suggested policy of removing the passports of drug users they don’t like, or
  • The government saying that the police don’t investigate things that happened a year ago (to be fair, Raab was specifically talking about covid related matters but even so…), or even
  • the court’s decision that Boris Johnson didn’t act unlawfully when deciding that Priti Patel didn’t break the ministerial code…

…this government seems anxious to suggest new things all the time so that no one will get to caught up on what they’ve done, or failed to do, in the past.

For the last of those items above, by the way, I heartily recommend David Allen Green’s piece on it. It’s far cleverer and more sensible than any of the media organisations takes I’ve read.

Now I’ve said for some time that the secret to understanding Boris Johnson as Prime Minister is that he prizes ambition over, even at the expense of, achievement.

I don’t altogether sign up to the ‘dead cat’ theory to explain Boris Johnson’s government, because there’s never just one thing, one awful, horrible, thing to distract.

Instead it’s almost as if once again, those in Number Ten have watched a bit too much of The West Wing and have decided every day is ‘Take Out The Trash Day’. If you’ve not seen the show, the theory espoused is that newspapers only have so much print space. So if you dump a load of stuff at one go, they can’t devote too much attention to any one thing.

Some have suggested that with the lessening of newspapers’ importance in favour of unlimited webpage space, that no longer applies. That’s nonsense, of course. The ‘limited newsprint’ was always a metaphor for ‘limited attention span’. And that still applies as much, if not more so, these days.

Remember when it was suggested that the orange poltroon across the Atlantic had a plan to keep everyone constantly distracted? As someone else countered, that’s like proposing that your mum’s dog gets excited because he knows it’s his birthday.

But with Johnson, it’s more than possible. I’d say it was probable that the constant crowing about ambition and criticising those with a perceived lack of it is entirely designed to distract from lack of achievement. Johnson may not care about achievement but he’s smart enough to know that others do. Hence the policy of not wanting anyone to examine too closely his government’s entire lack of them.

How you vote

However, for the other point today, I want to get something off my chest that’s been pissing me off.

Yesterday I saw someone sensible, someone I’m on good terms with, or at least someone with whom I was on good terms, have a pop at ‘centrists’, blaming them for the Johnson government, ie for not voting for Jeremy Corbyn in December 2019… The implication being that anyone who didn’t vote for a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn was directly responsible for the shitshow in which we all now find ourselves.

I was genuinely so surprised to see this person tweet this that I at digest assumed it was a parodic piss take of those on the left who do claim this.

But no, further investigation showed he was absolutely serious.

Huh.

For the sake of clarity and to avoid any ambiguity, if for no other reasons, let me for the record state that I think such a position is unmitigated, unreserved, bullshit, and I view such an argument with unfettered contempt. Put simply: in an election, you’re responsible for who you vote for, not for who you don’t vote for.

Anything more complicated than that and you’re in a real world example of The Trolley Problem.

I didn’t vote Labour in 2019. Nor in 2017. I live in a safe Labour seat. But even had the seat been a marginal, I’d still not have voted Labour in 2017 nor in 2019. For me, the decision was made easy for me in September 2015 when Corbyn was elected Leader of the Labour Party. I had made the decision a few weeks earlier but I put it into practice that day: I would not vote Labour under any circumstances, for any elected position, at all, while Corbyn was leader. I wasn’t convinced at the time that he was personally antisemitic, merely that he was supremely indifferent as to whether his friends and political contacts were. I mean I knew some of his supporters were…

I was convinced, though, that from the moment he became leader antisemitism was no longer a deal-breaker for membership of office holding in the Labour Party. His actions, statements and personal history that came out then convinced me that he was personally antisemitic.

A couple of heart back, I was told on Twitter by a Corbyn fan who knew I was Jewish that even if I, as a Jew, believed that Labour was entirely antisemitic (a claim I never made, by the way, then or now) I should still vote for Labour because… Tories.

Two points: yes, you’re right, that’s someone telling a Jewish fella to vote for somoene they think an antisemite, telling a Jewish man to vote to make an antisemite Prime Minister.

Sadly, while I rarely got told that, I was often told similar: “…but Tories!” was the go to for a very long time, since antisemitism in labour was first raised. That and the “…price worth paying” argument, an argument that would never have been openly, overtly, made about any other form of prejudice and bigotry.

I understand the sentiment behind the often¹ good faith

“We need to get the Tories out, so you should vote for whichever candidate can best do that.”

argument.

I do, honestly.

But, fuck me, it takes some gall to tell Jews to vote for a party/candidate/leader they think antisemitic.

How will I vote in the next election? I don’t know. Right now, I don’t. I won’t vote for the Conservatives, ok. I mean, I can’t imagine voting Tory in a future, any future, election. Will I vote Labour, in whichever parliamentary constituency I find myself? I don’t know. Depends on the policies, I guess. And who’d put them into practice were they to win. If it was another Corbyn, with similar views? Not a chance.

And any look online at any Labour Party forum shows that merely because Corbyn’s no longer leader, the antisemitism hasn’t gone. It’s still there, as are his supporters… who’d vote for the next leader.

Who will I vote for? I’ll tell you when the next election comes.


¹not always, but often

 

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 Note: I woke up this morning in a filthy mood and with my foot hurting; the latter hasn’t got anything to do with the former, but it didn’t help.

And so I’m doing an ‘in case of emergency,m break glass’ post today. There’ll hopefully be new content tomorrow.


But today you get another couple of ‘fiction from the vaults’ tales; these two, two of the last I wrote in the 150 day run from 2010.

(I’ve decided that for the remaining four weeks’ Tuesdays, I’m giving to grab some from the Twelve Days Of Fast Fiction I used to do. I may do them again this year; I’m still pondering the idea.)

I like surprising people with the stories. the first story was one that surprised even me when I wrote it. I’ve written crueler characters before; I’m not sure I’ve written crueler characters with as good a reason to cruel.

The second story? Well at the time, the challenger surprised me. I knew Wil Wheaton via a mutual friend. He liked this story enough to write the foreword for the second published collection of fast fictions tales. I should probably start mentioning them occasionally; they’re still available.

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: “You’re Having My…”
Word: positive
Challenger: [Livejournal: AbbieSynth]
Length: 200 words exactly

The anger was expected, the harsh laughter was not.

I’d expected him to ask questions but instead there was an eruption of sheer fury. All attempts at civility, attempts I now knew had only ever been surface deep, had been abandoned and the astonishing level of his belief that he’d been betrayed flew at me.

I was absolutely positive that this was a genuine reaction but somehow there was an impression of studied response, as if he’d been expecting this and had rehearsed this previously.

“It’s my child you’ve stolen, you bastard,” my brother said with contempt. “That should be my child. She was my girlfriend.”

And now she was my wife.

He’d beaten her so badly the doctors had said she’d never be able to conceive. The long sentence surprised no-one.

I left the prison and walked slowly to the car where she waited. She never spoke his name and I had enough respect for her never to mention it.

It had been her idea, though. She knew it would hurt him more than any time spent in prison.

If only it had been true.

Later, that night, we cried… for the loss of something we’d never had.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


Title: A Long Way Down
Word: exalted
Challenger: Wil Wheaton
Length: 200 words exactly

I beat my first woman to death at twenty-three. She was forty-two, full of hate and prejudice, but that wasn’t why I killed her.

My brother… now he thinks I kill for the money. That’s a contemptible view: I worked hard to learn how to kill and I feel exalted by my success.

The woman was my fourth killing. Since then, I’ve killed many more, learning efficiency and brutality go hand in hand.

My father… is ashamed of me. He discovered I kill people but curiosity gave way to disgust when I was honest and enthusiastic about it.

Sixty-eight people. You were wondering, I could tell.

They all deserved it, you understand. They deserved it by costing the state too much. They died because they were… inconvenient.

As I strap on thick leather gloves provided by the prisons department and hit the old man in front of me, I wonder what it was like, executing people back before the electricity ran out. When the next punch lands, I wonder when others ceased to be proud.

We stood on top of the world… then we fell. And as he dies, I know everyone else is still falling.

Everyone else, except me.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


 

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.

 

I’m not sure how I only discovered Matt Green fairly recently; he’s very good. Here he is with some takes on Brexit…

John Oliver said some very not nice things about Bob Murray, who then sued in a nuisance suit which he lost. Bob Murray doesn’t like John Oliver. The feeling’s mutual.

This is just lovely; Star Trek themes over the decades

I’m not usually one for pet videos. But this, about doggy day care? Yeah, definitely made me smile.

Mitch Benn (in 2018) reminded us all not to get too excited about Christmas because it wasn’t December yet… but once it was December…

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.

I have a bookcase. It looks like this.

Now, the eagle eyed among you will spot that there are little rectangular cells in which there are lots of books.

There are fifteen, or eighteen of them… depending on how you count them. (The book case/shelves are actually two, screwed. together. But yeah, that’s what gives the ‘middle’ bit its own cells.)

You can see even from a brief look that the bottom half has mostly comics.

But yeah, there are various ‘cells’ of books. Some of them are even put together; the middle cell, the one with the white book just poking out is full of Irving Wallace novels and David Morrell novels; two of my favourite authors.

But yeah. There are my books. And, just for the hell of it and for no better reason than why the hell not?, I’m going to take the next three Fridays, identify thirty books on my shelves, ten books ten ‘cells’, each week. There will obviously be more than one book from several ‘cells’ by the end, but hey my bookshelves are chaotic, why shouldn’t this be equally so

Now, since comics collected in trade paperbacks are, obviously a lot thinner in the main than hardbacks or paperback novels or non-fiction, that may be a bit unfair to the comics. So, if I think that is the case, after three weeks, I’ll do another ten trades afterwards. We’ll see,

Two rules before we start.

  1. I own many, many more books and comics’ trades than are shown on these two shelves. They’re just what I have up now. The rest are in various boxes, and indeed there are two piles of books you can’t see, some of which are books I’ve read andf just haven’t replaced on the shelves and some of which are my ‘still to be read at some point…’

  2. The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten books I’ve picked. Another week could be ten others, and in fact will be.

Oh, and 3. (Yeah, I know but it’s not a rule as such: I’m going to be bouncing around the shelves.)

Oh, and just for fun, I’ll tell you the othere book I almost wrote about this week from that cell.

Let’s start with a goodie.

All I Ever Wrote – Ronnie Barker


 
There may be finer comedy writers in the field of sketch comedy than Ronnie Barker; I mean, I wouldn’t disagree if you offered John Finnemore as the finest sketch writer working today. And, let’s face it, Victoria Wood was about as good as they come. Further, there may have been comedy writers who lasted longer, or hit bigger audiences.

But for my mind, as a comedy writer up there with the very very best, for sketch writing, monologues and silent comedy, there’s no one to touch Ronnie Barker (or Gerald Wiley as he sometimes went by) at his peak. So much of The Two Ronnies greatest sketches were down to him. Four Candles alone puts him up there. The book should be just one to dip in and out of. It’s not. If I pick it up, I’m not putting it down for an hour. At least. Glorious, clever, funny comedy. No wonder I like it do much.
 
 

Thank You For Your Support (I’ll Wear It Always) – So many people


 
This is an odd one. After my brother died, his widow asked friends and family for reminiscences, for funny stories, for sad stories, about him. For tales about what it was like to know my brother Michael. And she then put them together in a book, which she offered for sale to benefit the Jewish Bereavement Service, who’d helped her so much in the aftermath of Mike’s tragic death. It’s a wonderful book but it’s one I can’t easily read, for obvious reasons. But it’s on my shelf (twice as it happens). It’ll never not be there.
 
 

Blackadder Scripts – Richard Curtis


 
Another book of scripts – you’ll see there are several.

I’m not the hugest fan of the first series of Blackadder, and I always thought it was becaiuse of the scripts and plots. Until I read the scripts, together with the other series’ scripts. The first series is just as as strong, just as clever, and in some ways actually cleverer comedy than the later shows, when they beacame reliant (overly reliant?) on catchphrases and self-referential gags. The first series is raw, unquestionably, but it’s truer to the oriugional idea, and the characters are not as set as they later became. And the first series – at least in script form – is all the better for it.

Which means, I guess, that it’s either the direction or the acting that hurts the first series. I dunno. But it’s probably the first time I read scripts and got a completely different take on something, that made me appreciate it more, than from watching it.
 
 

The Plot – Will Eisner


 
Will Eisner was the master of graphic storytelling, with a style that was entirely his own, that no one’s come close to topping. And while his earlier works — this was his last published work — are fantastic, it’s this book that for me hits home the hardest.

A matderly examination of, and destruction of, the myth, the hoax, the scam, that was the Protocols of the Lerarned Elders of Zion. Eisner shows, from and by his research, how they were created for reasons of politcial bullshit, how the bullshit was promoted, and how the bullshit was defended, and how it was shown to be unfettered, unresereved, unmitigated bullshit. And then how the bullshit goes on. And on. And on.

Superb and I’d recommend it to all without a moment’s hesitation.
 
 

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman


 
It’s hard to pick a favourite from these, especially since there’s my favourite ever novel there on the far right, and the wonderful whimsical satire of Alan Coren up there as well, but it comes down to Neverwhere; it always comes down to Neverwhere.

Let’s be fair, there’s never going to be a bookshelf of mine without a selection of Nei;’s writings. (I’ve always considered it incredibly fortunate that I discovered Neil’s writings, and discovered my enjoyment of them, before he became a friend.)

But yeah, Neverwhere. It’s my favourite of Neil’s novels, and while there’s very little he’s written I’ve not liked (reminder: not liking something isn’t the same as disliking), there is some, occasionally, Neverwhere soars above everything else for me. And I love this edition with Chris Riddell’s glorious art.

I remain very grateful that Neil’s never put me into that world, as a completely stoned budgerigar, referred to all in London Below by the name High Barnet(t).
 
 

Sandman Overture – Neil Gaiman


 
I didn’t mean to do this, honest — the order of the ‘cells’ was chosen randomly — but yeah, another of Neil’s. I love Sandman as a series, and it’d be tough to pick a favourite story arc; I’ve two or three definites that’d fight it out. But I’m picking Overture for three simple reasons.

  1. After so long away from the characters, it remains a delight to me that the characters managed to evolve while Neil was telling a story of the past.
  2. I was fortunate enough to read the first issue before it was published and I suspect my reaction of “AND…? What happens NEXT?” was exactly what Neil wanted.
  3. The book itself was a gift from my ex-wife who saw it, bought it for me out of sheer wonderful friendship, and because she knew I’d like it. I’m sure that somewhere in Sandman there’s a lesson to be learned about valuing the people you care about and who care about you. (Maybe in A Game of You?) I’m very grateful that Laura and I remain friends, and the closest of friends at that.

No surprise that future ‘ten books’ will always include something by Neil…
 
 

Chumash – Well, I don’t know


 
Well, who the hell would you say wrote it, be fair? The “Jewish’ shelf. The cell that conatins not all but most of the jewish texts I have, as well as my tallit and a coupel of kippahs. Not a lot to say about this cell other than my god, the memories… the memories.
 
 

Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud


 
Many years ago, there was a series of “The Bluffer’s Guide to…” Ostensibly writen for the uninformed, on a variety of subjects, the unspoken secret of the books’ success was that they were actually written for people who knew the subject matter very well indeed; I remember doubling over with laughter at the gags in the accountancy one.

This isn’t one of those books. It’s written for both the comics insider and the comics outsider, for those who write, draw and prodiuce comics… and for those who’ve barely even seen a comic in 20 years.

Writing the history of comics and an instruction manual that doesn’t feel like an instruction manial, and a text book that doesn’t feel like a textbook, and a slew of examples that actually move a story forward should have been an impossible task. McCloud manages it in style and I’d recomend this for anyone with even the faintest curiosity about or interest in comics.
 
 

Jews Don’t Count – David Baddiel


 
What the hell can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said better and by more distinguished people? It’s been described as a polemic but I don’t think that’s true. Not really. To me, that implies ranting and there’s none here. There’s a very, sure. And upset. And irritation and frustration in equal measure. But this is calmly angry, a cold burning at the injustice revealed.

(There’ll be a full review of this before the year end but I need to reread it a couple of times before that).

David takes as his basis for the book the idea, the well-proven and eqaully well evidenced concept, that prejudice against one minority, against jews, that anti-Jewish bigotry, that antisemitism, seems to be left out of the ‘oh, I’m an anti-racist, me‘ area of progressive politics. Casual antisemitism continues to infect the public arena and antisemites are welcomed by people into that sphere, into that sphere, as if their antisemitism is less disqualifying than bad breath or acne. People accept, and indeed have no problem with, antisemitic discourse and overt (as well as covert) antisemitism as either unimportant or, perhaps equally insidiously, as ‘a price worth paying’ in a way that other racism simply would not be accepted.

It’s a clever, suprisingly funy given the subject material, devastating book that everyone should read. Everyone… especially those who hold themselves out as part of that progressive politics strain but who think jews just make too much a fuss, y’know…?
 
 

The Brotherhood of the Rose – David Morrell


 
While my favourite novel remains The Man by Irving Wallace — there’s a hardback first edition 50th birthday present elsewhere on the shelves — this novel, by David Morrell is simply wonderful and is almost falling apart from having been reread so many times . The first of a trilogy, it was the first time I’d come across the combination of intelligent spy noivel and action thriller. Most spy novels have one or the other. This one had both. And I was hooked instantly.
 
 
Well, that was fun. See you next Friday for ten more.


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 hero, doing what is necessary, sparked by the following image.


The heroic ideal

From more than two thousand feet in the air, the hero pondered. He was not a vain man; he knew beyond question that his alien mind and his thinking processes were far in advance of the humans below. That was just a plain simple fact. he liked facts. And yet his plan, based upon those same facts, was failing. He could not understand why.

Humans were, he knew, a species with greatness inside them. Horror as well, of course; he had seen too much over the decades not to understand that.

But he had planned for that.

Decades earlier he had commenced, in secret. And yet… and yet. It was failing. They were failing.

The man in the cape knew it was impossible for him to have made a mistake, even more so back then, and so he thought deeply on what information he must have been lacked. Logic and reason; the two cornerstones of his sanity.

The decision that he had reached decades ago was logical, he was convinced, with the information he had then possessed. The inescapable conclusion, therefore, was that he had, somehow, lacked further better, more relevant, information. Or time, of course. He might have miscalculated the time necessary for his plans to come to fruition. It was possible. Not probable but possible.

He considered the four of them once again.

The first, he knew, was now a CPA; an accountant of all things, concerned with numbers and with spreadsheets and with balances. The man in the sky would have chuckled had the situation not been as serious. And had he possessed any measurable sense of humour. The accountant was married, with two children, and was…happy. Well, as happy as ordinary people ever were.

That made no sense to the hero. The subject of his present thoughts wasn’t even particularly strong on law & order policies, nor in making things better for people. The first subject of his experiment was content to provide for his family, his fitness regimen was merely to play soccer at the weekends with friends. And he spent his working life converting the mess and muddle of other people’s bookkeeping into something more acceptable to the taxation authorities.

Rotating to face north, the man half a mile above the ground considered the second of his experiments. The second of his failing experiments he was loathe to call him.

The second of them had gone into politics, and was at this very moment — he scanned the building far below with vision that could detect a blade of grass out of place — explaining a detailed policy on plastic recycling with knowledge and passion. And yet that was the limit of his public service: politics, with its compromises and hidden deals. At least the politician was honest. As much as he could be, anyway, and do well in the political arena.

Thirty hours ago, the man in the sky had spent almost an hour outside the man’s house slowly, with great patience, looking through the walls, and had been disappointed once again: no secret rooms, no workshops, not even a costume. And yet the man had seemed pleased with his lot and his family.

Once again, the hero rotated 90 degrees and faced east: considering the third. An apparent wastrel but that was not in itself damning. What upset the flying man was that the ostensible waste of privilege and money was exactly what it seemed: there was no secret cave below his large house, no interest in science and technology. Merely a wasted adulthood spent in hedonistic pleasures. He was happy – that was obvious – but no more than that.

The fourth of them though was the greatest disappointment. When the hero considered the template, it was almost painful, though it had been decades since the man in the sky had felt true pain, after his skin had gained its full invulnerability and he had come into the full intelligence his alien heritage had granted him.

There was nothing objectionable about the fourth subject; nothing objectionable for there was nothing special about him at all, thought the hero. Married with several children, one of whom was blind. He gave up two evenings a week to help his wife with various charities. He was the manager of a sporting good store; one of the smaller stores, in a large city with three other stores of approximately the same size. But outside his family, he made no real friends, no real enemies, no real problems. He was, however, content with his life.

The hero lowered himself to the ground, unable to understand why these four, his early favourites, had so disappointed. They all had so much potential.

Decades earlier, the hero had noticed that so many of his contemporaries were getting on years; also the lack of new heroes to take their place. Every generation of heroes was smaller, more disappointing. He had noticed one thing they had all shared in common, however, apart from the various injuries and bruises: they were all orphans.

Each of them had lost their parents, and moreover, had lost them to violence.

The next step was obvious. And logical. And entirely rational. FGor a whole year, every Sunday night, all over the country, he had murdered six of parents of children who were nine or ten years of age. It hadn’t been difficult once the logic had revealed itself; quite the reverse. A mugging here, a murder there… on several occasions the people simply vanished, with just a smear of blood and bone left to remember them by.

But now, twenty years later, almost none of them had chosen the heroic life; instead they valued their families, not people as he did.

Unless, maybe, that was it. He’d left them alone to create families. Maybe more tragedy was what was needed. It would take more work, more deaths, more decades, the hero knew.

But it would be worth it in the end.

The hero now knew what he had to do, for wasn’t that what a hero did? What was necessary for all?

He’d start this weekend.

The hero smiled, pleased at his logic and his decision, and his selflessness. And started the experiment again. As he had so many times before.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

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