Posts Tagged ‘57 plus’

Housekeeping note: The final piece of new fiction, and indeed the final post in this run that started in June with ’57 minus…’ and continued with ’57 plus…’

116 daily posts, after 18 months off. Hopefully, when I return for ‘2022 minus…’ on 1st November, you’ll still be here… but to help, there’ll likely be the occasional post before then, labelled ‘Interregnum’.

With this tale, there’ll have been sixteen pieces of new fiction. Sixteen pieces of fiction that didn’t exist before I put fingers to keyboard that day.

I’m rather pleased by that.

Ok, on with the final tale of this run.


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…’ run, 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.

For this week’s tale, something unusual: a story provoked by one of my own photos. A shot I took some time ago but the rules still apply. I came across it again completely by chance.

This photo.

And here’s the story it provoked, about seeing you tomorrow.


See you tomorrow

Monday evening. The platform is the same as ever, a few people I recognise, some I don’t. Some new people, a very few absences. But none of them is the person I’m waiting to see. She isn’t here yet, though I know she’s on her way.

I glance up at the clock, on the platform, mentally chiding myself as I do so. It isn’t “a clock”. It hasn’t been a clock for years.

It’s a digital display. A display showing so much more information than merely the time, most of it accurate. The next four trains, where they currently are, how long they’re expected to be before arrival, the weather, the name of the station. And, of course, the time. relegated to the the bottom right hand corner, digits flickering and changing, second by second. The colour they use irritates me. I couldn’t say why but it does.

I miss the old clock, though. I do. It was a big white round thing with thick black numerals inches high, and a satisfying thunk as the big hand hit 17 minutes past the hour. Some of the other platform residents and I have wondered on occasion why they’d never fixed that before they’d replaced the whole thing; it would surely have been a simple repair. Or maybe it wouldn’t have been. I’m no engineer. Hell, I’m not really much of anything these days.

But why 17 minutes past the hour? Oh, the ludicrous and intricate reasons we’d conjured.

The tannoy blasts out… something; I have no idea what. Most of those on the platform stir and look at each other in bemused puzzlement. A few nod as if they’ve received a message they understood. I suppose it’s possible. Just about.

She’ll probably be singing in the car right now approaching that roundabout outside the station, listening to one of those poppy bubble gum songs she loves so much but which I can’t stand. I wince as I remember the arguments. She was so passionate, so argumentative. And of course so wrong.

Mozart. Or Brahms. Or Black Sabbath. Give me one of the classics any day of the week.

But no, she’ll be singing away to one of those silly songs, getting half the lyrics deliberately, and filthily, wrong. And maybe smiling at what I’d say if I was in the car with her.

But of course I’m not. I’m waiting on the platform for her. She won’t see me when she arrives; I’ll be behind her, though, watching her, enjoying how she looks, hoping to see a smile, or at least something.

I look up at the display again; if she follows her usual pattern, she’ll be parking about now. She’ll park, tap the glass of that slab of plastic and metal she calls a telephone, and with a few taps, pay for the week’s parking.

The train will be here in a few minutes. I wonder if I’ll get to see her for only seconds, or maybe minutes. Will she be here in time for me to enjoy looking at her, to enjoy just the look of her? I close my eyes for only a second, I swear, lost in the memory of her.

And then, with a swirl of reds and yellows, she’s there. Standing almost in front of me. I catch my breath, before realising and grinning almost apologetically at a youngster leaning against the wall, a few feet away, wearing braces and a flat cap; he smiles back in sympathy and understanding.

He gestures towards her. I mouth a single word. And there’s the briefest look of pain across his features before he points at a frumpy woman struggling with a heavy bag of shopping, and mouths silently at me “Mum.”

I nod my head in understanding and he goes back to watching her, while my attention turns back to my daughter. She’s 27 now, on the way to a night shift; she’s a nurse. I like it when she has night shifts. It means she takes the same train from the same platform that I once took. So I can see her.

I never expected that she’d become a nurse. But then she always did surprise me, even when I was alive.

I sometimes wonder how long it took before she could stand on the platform and not picture the crash, how long it took before she stopping thinking of it as The Place Her Father Died. I do hope it wasn’t too long. I step around her, enjoying her profile, her eyes, her face.

The train arrives, and her head turns, those flaming red locks catching the fading light.

She looks straight at me.

No, not at me. Past me, through me, towards the end of the platform, to the wall, at the plaque marking the accident.

“Hey dad,” she says softly, “love you.” Then she wipes her eye, steps through the open door, and is gone.

She’ll be back tomorrow though.

And I’ll be here, waiting to see her, again.

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

Erm, I won’t see you tomorrow, with… something else. But I’ll see you soon.

 

 

Fifty-seven eight more days. Fifty-seven eight more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

57 plus 57: Back-ups

Posted: 13 October 2021 in 57 plus, fiction, writing
Tags: , ,

Housekeeping note 1: I went out last night, and I fully intended to use today to do a write up of the event. But it was too much… I mean, I loved the show – David Baddiel’s Trolls: Not The Dolls – and I’d recommend you go see it, but I was thinking about it all the way home, and I’ve been thinking some more about it today.

I’ll do a proper write up during the interregnum in a week or so. (The show’s running for a bit yet.)

Housekeeping note 2: This is the final ’57 plus…’ post. Or at least it was intended to be. 57 posts for ’57 minus…’ and 57 posts for ’57 plus…’. Except I like writing the new fiction on a Thursday so you’re getting one more post tomorrow.


So, something else today. Another tale from the very, very long ago fiction vaults.

I wrote the following story for an anthology that never actually saw the light of day. I can’t remember exactly why not; something to do with rights or the cost of printing. Anyway, it didn’t happen.

I wrote this in 2003. It seems more than a little prescient today.
 
 

BACK-UPS

They have a revolving door.

I hate them just for that. Just for the symbolism. In. Out. And it’s done.

The woman at the desk doesn’t even look up as I approach the reception desk.

“Seventy-third floor,” she says. A ‘path, I realise.

“Yes,” she says in a bored tone. She still hasn’t looked up at me. “I’m a telepath, which means I know what you’re thinking even though you haven’t thought it yet.”

Now she looks up at me. She smiles, but I know it’s a smile she’s practiced in front of the mirror. “And what you really want to do with me is still illegal in fourteen states.”

I believe her. Even though all I’d thought about was what she looked like. Not bad, I think. Not bad at all.

“Fuck you,” she says, that smile unchanged. “I’m a lot better than ‘not bad’.”

Now it’s me that smiles at her, as I head for the elevator.

There are two others already there, both of them carrying MemScan brochures. The man’s flipping through a book while the woman has her eyes half-closed and is mouthing something in what looks like fright. They both look at me, and then return to their own practices. Curious, I think obscene thoughts. Neither of them even blink and it takes me a moment to realise that the woman is genuinely scared.

To make conversation, and to try to reassure her, I tell her, “Nothing to worry about, really.”

“How the hell would you know?” comes the response from the man. “Done it before, have you?”

If it’s a challenge, it’s a bloody stupid one. “Yes,” I say, “three times actually.”

That gets their attention. This thing costs. A lot.

“You’ve been backed up three times?” There’s something approaching awe in the woman’s voice now. She’s not bad looking either, not now, not with the look of fright replaced with a mixture of curiosity and admiration.

The elevator arrives and we get on. He looks at the panel of buttons and I lean forward to hit the buttons for the seventy-third floor. MEMORY SCANS INC, RECORDING AND RESTORATIONS.

I lean back against the wall as the elevator starts up. I wonder what the two of them would think if they knew that right now, as we’re moving upwards through the vast building, we’re being scanned by about thirty telepaths. Each of them scanning for one thing, and one thing only.

They’re still looking at me, the woman bashfully so, the man less so. The curiosity is palpable, almost oppressive in the enclosed area. I learned long ago the easiest way to deflect it is to manufacture some of my own. “So,” I point to the brochures, “why MemScan?”

When they come, the reasons are the usual. I mean, give MemScan credit. Their advertising boys have come up with about seven different angles, all of them playing on the gloriously perfect discovery that humans are inherently neurotic.

They’re paranoid about telepaths stealing their memories, for a start. Funny how MemScan conveniently forget to mention that there’s never been a single case recorded of a telepath erasing a memory they’ve read. That’s why the woman is here, to back up her memories, so if anyone steals them, she can restore them later.

The man’s excuse for being there is slightly more understandable. Slightly. His father has Alzheimer’s and is slowly losing his memories, one by one. But the old man’s 122. What the hell did he expect? How old are you, I ask the man.

42.

42 and he’s getting a MemScan in case he gets Alzheimer’s. I want to hit him.

But then, is my justification any better? In a world of telepaths, how the hell do you protect a copyright? Posting something to yourself in a sealed envelope is no protection, not when on the way to the mailbox, someone in the street can scan your brain, see what it is in the envelope and file a precept before you’ve returned home.

So, for the past three months, I’ve had my mind scanned. Not just the memories, not just the cheap option, but the full whack. The whole thing. Memories, stray thoughts, sexual fantasies, and story ideas. Everything.

Because I’m a writer. Yeah, a writer. Remember them?

Remember what it was like to have an original idea?

Before you had the option of going to MemScan Rental and hiring someone else’s thoughts for a day. Or, if you’ve really got the money, a whole week?

Of course the real trick is to make sure that when you have a back up made, you’re thinking of something really horrific. Then, if anyone’s daft enough to download you, the first image they get is of, say, The President screwing a goat. Or a razor blade cutting open an eyeball. Or, if you’re really cruel and heartless, your last divorce. Pretty soon the word goes around; leave this brain alone.

The elevator arrives and the three of us step out.

The armed guard at the side of the door isn’t needed, of course. If any of us had been part of the Abolitionist Movement, we’d never had made it out of the elevator. They’d have flooded it with nerve gas and killed everyone in the enclosed space? Don’t believe me? Tch – you don’t read the small print in the brochure then.

The receptionist upstairs confirms my identity with a retinal scan and a tongue print. There’s not been a system yet that’s beaten both of them at the same time. And then I’m in the small room as they place the helmet on me.

And the last thought I have as they lower it onto me is the same one I had last time and the time before that.

I know it’s perfectly safe. I know that the stories of brains being sucked up and leaving the person a mindless husk are urban myths.

I also know that this machine was built by the company that tendered the lowest bid.

There – that should give the next downloader a few nightmares.

© Lee Barnett, 2003 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

As I promised last week, something different then and this week. Oh yes, it’s still Tuesday, and you’re still getting a ‘tale from the fiction vaults’.

But not fast fiction challenges; something else entirely.

I stumbled across the stories for last week and today while searching for something else. I reread the stories and enjoyed the utter silliness of this week’s; an odd tale, but an enjoyable one, I think. (I am, I’ll admit, amused at the reference to wearing a mask, but hey, this was 2013, ok?)

So, anyway, this story was entered for an online thing. It didn’t make the cut, but I still like it.

I hope you do…


 

Myth-appropriation

 
 
The call from the job agency was at ten o’clock in the morning, and the interview at four in the afternoon. By five, I was employed on a trial basis, and by the end of the month, I was full time, and permanent. Well, as permanent as this job ever gets.

At first I thought they must have been desperate, but no, the skills I’d picked up in several concurrent careers as – in no particular order – a con man, a writer and a comedian were just what they were looking for. Put simply, they were after a pathological liar.

And in the nine weeks since the interview, I’ve manufactured seventeen watertight explanations for the police, written twelve newspaper features under various pseudonyms and reassured six sets of parents that their missing teenagers were in fact being employed by MI5 on matters essential to national security.

Now, the one thing you have to remember at this point is that urban legends are just that, legends. Myths. No basis in fact. None of them. You’ll remember that, yes? I mean, I’ll check later, obviously.

Yeah, it took some time to get used to the routines here. No water bottles allowed (cancer prevention); no letting the winged spiders out for a flap (we never did find that one that escaped); and no taunting the traumatised hamster by calling him ‘Richard’. That’s a definite no-no.

Fortunately, I don’t have to wear those damn cycle masks whenever I left the building (to protect against chemtrail poisoning) unlike the poor slobs in the next office; they’re the conspiracy theory builders and they sometimes get a little too involved in their work. Not giving any secrets away but if they ask you to smell something, don’t… Ever.

That’s not to say I’ve got any less tough a job; it’s not easy being a reality enforcer: dealing with the detritus of the supernatural and the just plain insane criminal, ensuring the teeming masses of humanity still believe that urban myths are just legends and shared legends are just stories to scare children with.

My predecessor? Yeah, she’s recently been promoted. She’s currently somewhere in middle America, intercepting cars before they pick up the next hitch-hiker, the one who’ll vanish from the car. You know the story. Well, of course you do.

The training? Well, usually it’s ok. One bloke though, he’s on rotation back to head office after a screw up in New York. Nothing big, at least I don’t think so, but no-one’s letting slip any details; I heard it was something to do with taking bribes and letting someone take both kidneys, or skimping on the ice. Or somesuch.

So, we’ve covered salary, holidays and perks. You interested in the job? No? Ah well, just finish your coffee, and I’ll see you out. Read the newspaper while you wait. I’ve got a piece on page 7.

Urban legends, you see. They don’t exist. They never did.

I have proof.

© Lee Barnett, 2013


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

As I’m coming towards the end of the ’55 plus…’ run, the rest of the week will run:

  • Tomorrow: the final ‘tale from the fiction vaults’ post of this run, a particularly silly one.
  • Wednesday: something else, which may be something on what I’m up to tomorrow night…
  • Thursday: final bit of new fiction in this run

And so I’m using today for one of my occasional

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

posts, since the last one was the first of the ’57 plus…’ posts.

I’ve tried to make them more interesting visually, given the decent camera I have on the iPhone 12 Pro, and though 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

Of course, sometimes I can’t take a decent pic because, well, because I live in London.

On other occasions, however…


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

Like these, the first rainbow I’ve seen in heaven knows how long…


 

 


And, then there’s the night camera on this thing…

Taken an hour after sunset…


 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

An ‘odds and sods’ post today, as we run down towards the end of ’57 plus…’; There’ll be no valedictory post at the end, though, as I’ve effectively done a couple of ‘how it’s gone‘ already. I might do a housekeeping note or two, but not much else.

So, yes, a bit of a rambling post today, a couple of brief ponderings and a look back into the not too distant past. As I type this, I genuinely have no idea where or how this post is going to end up but, hey, they say it’s the journey that counts, and that it’s mostlypeople who own bus and train companies who say it is neither here nor there.

OK, first off, online criticism; it’s been around as long as online life has been. But, the past few years, the bitterness and venom and sheer nastiness that was once rare or at least not common has instead become the norm; it’s shot up, both organically and manufactured. And it’s easy. That’s the thing. It’s easy both to up the level of your own nastiness, and it’s easy, too easy, to assume bad faith on the part of someone who criticises you or something/someone you support.

It’s easy, too easy again, to impute the anger you feel at the message to the person who wrote the message; easy to see the stupidity of a message and extrapolate that stupidity to the person who wrote it. And thereby to assume or conclude bad faith intentions.

Whether it’s a political position or party, or a tv show, or a genre of art, or anything cultural you like, it’s the easiest thing in the world to dismiss the criticism as being dishonestly made.

I’m guilty of it myself, no doubt. There are times when I conclude that someone’s criticism is made in bad faith and that even a resulting ‘apology’ is not made nor offered in good faith. I put that word in quotes because as often as not the ostensible ‘apology’ is not in fact an apology; it may be an explanation, it may be an excuse, it may be an attempt to escape censure; it may just be one of those ‘I’m sorry if people were offended’ (sticking the blame on the offended/abused rather than the offender/abuser.)

But what it’s not is an apology.

Happened the other day; someone mocked the looks of a child who was killed by the Nazis in the holocaust. When they were… remonstrated with, they eventually ‘apologised’, claiming it was ‘Irish humour’.

A reminder that while an ‘apology’ might be offered, it’s never obligatory to accept it, especially when you – or I – don’t believe for a second that it would be, or is, offered honestly, in good faith.

(That was, by the way, why I never gave the slightest bit of weight to calls for Jeremy Corbyn to apologise for his antisemitic statements or his friendships with antisemites or his campaigning for and defending of antisemites. Any apology from him would be meaningless as it would neither have been honest, nor offered in good faith. As was shown when he did issue statements that his supporters called ‘apologies’. Not once did he accept his own complicity, nor any personal fault. More about that subject though later.)

And while it’s easy (that word again) to assume bad faith, what’s substantially harder is to put aside that often instinctive reaction, or reaction from experience, and take a cold, hard look at the criticism, to decide whether the attack has any justification.

That many attacks on Diane Abbott are racist in motive, intention and effect is beyond doubt. The vile cesspool that she wades through is and should be utterly and unreservedly concerned. I don’t like Diane Abott. I don’t like her politics, her associations, nor her denial of antisemitism. All of that said, if you’re racist towards her, I will utterly and unreservedly, without any mitigation whatsoever, spurn you, condemn you, decry everything about you.

That many attacks on Ash Sarkar are racist in motive, intention and effect is beyond doubt. The vile cesspool that she wades through is and should be utterly and unreservedly concerned. I don’t like Ash Sarkar. I don’t like her politics, her associations, nor her denial of antisemitism. And I think she’s as dishonest as they come.

All of that said, if you’re racist towards her, I will utterly and unreservedly, without any mitigation whatsoever, spurn you, condemn you, decry everything about you.

The undoubted racist attacks on both of the above, however, make fair criticism almost impossible, for two reasons: first, their supporters have seen so many racist attacks that it’s not wholly unfair for them to at least consider and often conclude that the motivations for any new attacks are racist in tone and intention. I can’t blame them at all for considering, and often concluding that.

The second effect is on the non-racist critics. It has become in many cases almost impossible to justifiably criticise either Abbott or Sarkar, in many cases, both because of the aforementioned assumption by many that the motivations are racist, and there’s a ‘she’s had so many racist attacks, why add to her load?’

I’m definitely guilty of the latter; there have been times when one or the other of them has said something stupid, or ridiculous or even given credence to antisemitic tropes… and I’ve just stayed silent. Because a) I know they’re going to get racist motivated shit and b) I know, from previous experience, that no matter how often I’ve criticised Corbyn, McDonnell, Milne, Jones… none of those criticisms will be considered before the ‘you’re just attacking here because she’s black/Indian/a Muslim/a woman…’ start.

I’ve more than once said that anger too often leads to certainty; the problem right now is that it’s hard to look around and not be angry; angry at the people who run things, and at those who make it difficult if not impossible to change that.

I’d say we need to find a way of being able to criticise where your motives are not questioned, but to be fair, a simple and justified response to that would be

“You first.”

And that strikes home harder than I’d like.


Not exactly tangential to the above: “Exciting.”

It’s a good thing, yes?

Well, sometimes. And sometimes it’s very much not.

The legal and constitutional commentator David Allen Green once observed that discussions about the constitution should, for the layman, be boring. If discussions about the constitution (he was talking about Brexit, but it applies more widely) was exciting, that’s a sign that something has gone badly wrong.

But still, ‘exciting’ is seen as something to strive for.

Take our current Chancellor of the Exchequer, a normally bright, intelligent man who I wouldn’t trust further than I could throw him,

He said

“Exciting.”

Righto.

You know what? After the past five or six years, I’m more than ready for a bit of being bored stupid by real life. Those past five or six years in British politics, in US politics, around the world, in health, have all been ‘exciting’ I guess, but I’d quite like to be bored please.

When I mentioned this on Twitter, someone referred me to the attached. I kind of see their point.


One more thing, that I came across in my notes; I must have written it about three years ago, intending to do something with but I never did.

It was the speech that Corbyn could have made to puncture the poison.

I say could have because I quite like living in a world where friends write fantastic and fiction and science fiction… and the piece below definitely falls into one of them.

At the time I wrote it, I prefaced it with this:

I’m still of the opinion that there’s an astonishingly easy get out for Corbyn and Labour over antisemitism, a get-out that none in the Jewish community would like… but I recojon they’d live with. It’s such an easy get out, though, that the only reason Corbyn et al are not using it is because they know they and their supporters could never keep their end of ‘the deal’.

It’s this: Accept IHRA in full; Corbyn makes a major speech saying antisemitism is abhorrent and, in that speech, goes though the examples one by one identifying why each is antisemitic and explicitly saying Labour will view ALL breaches as antisemitic…

BUT… and here’s the kicker:


“This has been a long and arduous process, and I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. Let us be clear: Labour has failed its Jewish members, and obviously there has been heated and intemperate language used by everyone involved. The very situation in which the party now find itself clearly demonstrates how opaque and complicated our rules have been.

Well, that stops NOW.

That stops TODAY.

As of [theatrical glance at watch] thirty seconds ago, ANY future examples that breach our code, and breaches the IHRA definition, and its examples, WILL be subject to the harshest disciplinary procedures. Antisemites will be expunged from the party we all love, and which has been our home.

And I say this to former members, those who left because of antisemitism: come back, we welcome you. You are welcome in our party.

And to those who would not welcome them back, you’re wrong. And it’s you who are not welcome.

But there needs to be a line drawn, and I’m drawing it today. We cannot spend the time and the effort we need to fight this awful government and its damaging and dangerous policies while also constantly reliving who said what, who praised who, and who reposted what.

The past is the past. We should leave it there. No party is perfect, no party is free from mistakes, but no party should give succour and comfort to racists.

Comments made years ago will no longer be considered for disciplinary action and all current disciplinary actions solely in respect of antisemitism are suspended.

Members who were expelled for bringing the party into disrepute… [beat] brought the party into disrepute. They are and will remain outside the party, as they should be. They can re-apply to join at the appropriate time, but if their behaviour and postings online remain the same as those they were expelled for? They will, and should remain outside this party.

Now, finally, I speak directly to our members. I believe in the essential goodness of our members, of the utmost good faith of all of you, no matter to what wing of the party you belong. And similarly, I have faith in your abilities, your intelligence, and your motives, that you can criticise the policies and actions of the State of Israel without being antisemitic.

Now, from today, from this moment, show me, show our political opponents, show the country, that you deserve that faith. Thank you.”

 
 
Yeah, fantasy is right.
 
 
See you tomorrow, with something else…
 
 
Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday 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.

(As with other ‘regular’ posts, this is the final one of these for a month or so. I’ll be back, almost certainly with a countdown to 2022, along with more Saturday Smiles. Probably a 61 day countdown – yes, there are reasons for it being a 61 day countdown – on Monday 1st November. But there are a few more ’57 plus…’ posts to come before that interregnum…)

Until then…

 

A couple from the wonderfully bizarre mind of Alistair Beckett Smith to start with this week:
Every Haunted House Movie

 
Guy Who Is About To Die In A Movie

 
Did you know you wanted to watch something about the evolution of Daffy Duck?You didn’t? You do know…

 
 
Roman Atkinson doing “The Devil”… a special performance for Prince Charles’ 70th Birthday.

 
 
Well of course Sesame Street did a parody of Game of Thrones entitled Game of Chairs

 
 

Facebook went down this week… did you notice? Mitch Benn did…

 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)6

Last week, I started a Ten Things post, then the time and words both ran away with me so I ended it after five, always intending to complete it with the final five today.

So, here is the rest of the post I should have written last week; five more things I’m grateful for, right now. No sarcasm, no snide ‘yes, I’m really grateful for that’ while my expression could curdle milk at seventeen paces…

Just Ten Five More Things I like, and am grateful for, right this moment, with the usual Ten Things reminder… they’re not the objectively considered best things in my life, nor necessarily personal favourite things. They’re just, in no particular order, Ten Things I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

Last week’s started with my son, comedy, comics, friends (very much including my ex-wife Laura) and… London.

And so…


It was only when I saw the last five today that I realised they share a theme, which kind of surprised me as I didn’t realise they did when I wrote them out last week.

The enthusiasm of others for things I don’t like or don’t understand
Not for everything, of course. I don’t understand, not really, enjoyment of mocking or decrying someone ‘because they’re different’. That doesn’t mean that I enjoy others’ doing it.

And I should say immediately that ‘not liking’ something isn’t the same as ‘disliking’ something. If I don’t like something, say, a tv show, then it just means that I don’t get enjoyment from it. It doesn’t mean that I actively dislike it. Some things I do actively dislike; some tv genres, for example. I actively dislike talent shows. OK, not the shows themselves, but everything that makes the shows everything that others enjoy. I dislike the auditions, which seem to me to be merely the current iteration of ‘laughing at the halfwits at Bedlam’. I dislike the judges pantomime reactions and their performative playing to the audiences. I dislike the blending of ‘quality’ and ‘popularity’, and their conflation.

But that aside… I don’t enjoy sports. There are some aspects I actively dislike, mainly due to my early experiences and for that you can blame a) my teachers at school, b) the prizing of athletic ability and my own weedy body as a youngster, and the general view at my schools that bullying while officially decried, was unofficially tolerated and encouraged.

So, no, I don’t enjoy sports, especially team sports, especially at the amateur level. It brings back too many bad memories. But professional sports? Something I have no experience with other than ‘not liking them’? So, so many of my friends do. And watching their enjoyment, that I quite like.

Same with tv shows. There are few (as above) genres I dislike, but plenty of critically acclaimed dramas and sitcoms that I merely ‘don’t like’. I don’t share other’s enjoyment of them… but I do like their enjoyment. There’s little enough in the world that brings unfettered enjoyment so when you find it, and enjoy it… I enjoy your enjoyment.

Another one: food. As I’ve mentioned before, many times, I’m not a foodie. The enjoyment of preparing, making and consuming food entirely escapes me. Honestly. If you could give me a pill that would give me all the nutrients, the feeling of fullness from eating a meal (and it didn’t taste like shit, that’d be nice), I’d take it without feeling like I was missing out at all.

My friends, every single one of them, Do Not Understand This, and most of them think I’m just saying it. I’m not. I would take such a pill. (Some have suggested the powder thing that does the rounds every so often, but to be honest, it looks so complicated to buy, measure out, use etc, I might as well stick to food…)

But I genuinely enjoy the pleasure other people take in food. Some friends love cooking and baking. I love that they enjoy that. Others are epicureans, enjoying the finest food they can… and their pleasure in that consumption is something that pleases me enormously.

I like that others like things, even if I don’t share that enjoyment, nor even understand it. If that’s odd, well, it’s not the oddest thing about me, now, is it?

The Internet
The comedian, actor and director Chris Addison once had a bit in his stage show that went, roughly:

The Internet is one of the genuine modern miracles. If I want to look up information, it’s there in a heartbeat. If I want to buy a book, or go to the cinema, or even watch a movie there and then, or even if I want to see what a traffic cam in downtown Tokyo is seeing right now, I can. At the click of a button. It’s incredible, it’s wonderful. It’s… a genuine miracle that we take for granted at our peril.

BUT… if this modern miracle, this wonder of our ages… if the internet goes down, it takes about thirty seconds for this wonder of our ages, this thing unimaginable to generations before us…

…to become a basic human right.

He’s right of course. The internet ceased to be something ‘new’ and a luxury item some time ago. Many things, certainly many interactions with the state, with national and local governments, or with your bank, can only be done online, or at least can only be done efficiently online.

And while I hugely dislike that, I do like the first bit. I was born in 1964, and discovered ‘the internet’ in my 20s. I discovered computers before that, sure; we had a teletypewriter unit at school, but ‘the internet’ I discovered in my 20s. But I didn’t ‘get online’ until I was 30. That was almost thirty years ago, and I was part of probably the last generation to think of the internet as ‘new’, and the last to still think of it as a privilege to be allowed to use the internet.

Today? I genuinely cannot imagine what life would be like without not only The Internet, but also constant access to it via phones, tablets, computers…

I like that I can, with a press of a keyboard button, or a tap on the screen, bring up the news of the day, or the weather, or a dating website (heh, yeah, not going to happen) or tv listings, or a site offering mental health advice.

Or that I can visit odd, fun, weird websites such as

See, how could you, or more importantly, I, not like that?

Technology
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a windows laptop, an Apple iPhone (currently an iPhone 12 Pro) and an iPad (currently an iPad Air 2019).

There’s nothing I can say about these that you don’t already know… except why I like them, especially the iPhone and iPad.

Simply, they do everything I need them to, and introduce me to new things that they can do that I didn’t know I’d enjoy.

Every phone I’ve ever had has had a camera.

I’ve not been able to take night photos like these on previous phones though.

I like that technology improves, and improved what you thought you needed, and what you thought you can do… which leads me straight onto…

Innovation
Well, this one is cheating, because it’s not innovation I enjoy so much as the study of it by one James Burke. I managed to finally get ahold of videos of all three series of his wonderful Connections tv show, possibly the finest ‘science explainer’ of all time. Between that, and the books and the radio shows… no one has done more to explain to the interested public in a fun, sensible, clever, entertaining way how innovation works, why it works, and what it’s meant.

As he points out, history rarely happens in the right order, with Thing A leading to Thing B, leading to Thing C. What Burke does again and again, is explain how Thing A led to Thing Omega which led to Thing Woogahoomtamoof… which led to Thing Q. And not only that, that in some cases, the same destination could have been reached by another path or seven, while for other cases, that’s the only way it could have happened to get to that destination, for the destination was never been imagined when that first domino was toppled.

This
The final thing is an odd one. Because it’s this… this blog… or, more precisely, the opportunity, ability and inclination to just type something and see where it goes. Ok, you say, you know where it goes. It goes into an app, which when I hit ‘post’ pushes the content onto a pre-formatted page on the internet.

And that’s true enough.

But as often as not, I don’t know where the blog entry will end when I start typing it. And I don’t know how it will be received. And I don’t know whether it will mean something to someone, will spark an idea of theirs. I don’t know whether they’ll like what I write.

But someone might. Someone reading this might well like what I write, might enjoy it, might have thought “that was time worth spending in his words’ company”.

And THAT? That I like very much indeed.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others… and then Ten Columbo episodes I liked and Ten More Columbo Episodes I liked


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

Housekeeping note: This will be the penultimate piece of new fiction before I take a few weeks’ break until November, and that’s only if I decide to a run until teh new year.

I’ll wrote one more tale, next week, which will technically extend ’57 plus…’ to ’57 plus 58’… merely because I want to continue to honour the promise I made to an old friend to write one piece of new short fiction every week during these runs.

So, by next week, there’ll have been sixteen pieces of new fiction. Sixteen pieces of fiction that didn’t exist before I put fingers to keyboard. I’m rather pleased by that.


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…’ run, 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.

I came across this picture by chance.

And here’s a story about overhearing a conversation you weren’t meant to hear…. or were you?


The Conversation

The door was open. That’s the only reason I heard them.

Bitter words, angry words, flying between the two of them, a man and a woman.

I’d been walking along an unfamiliar high street, taking my bearings, while I killed a couple of hours before heading home. A business meeting behind me and nothing awaiting me until I got the train back, I indulged a preference for wandering in the cool early evening air. I’d turned off the main road upon smelling chocolate from a side street packed with small shops, and was walking towards it when I heard the raised voices. I’d glanced towards the open shop door out of no greater than mild surprise, as the tone seemed out of place coming from an antiques shop.

“You’ve never loved him, not like I do!” the woman said, and before I could even form a thought as to what the man could reply, he responded with a “you say that, but he prefers me in bed!”

I struggled to hide a laugh, and somehow smothered it, but allowed myself a smile as I left them to it and continued on my way, passing windows with tasteful presentations of old jewellery and older books, against black velvet curtains. Across the road was an old-fashioned toy shop, wooden toys in the window, and next to it, a tea house that looked like it hadn’t changed in decades. Tea. That sounded good.

And that’s when she said my name.

I slowed, my left foot slowly making its way to the ground. I don’t have a common name, that’s true, but neither is it uncommon enough as to be wholly rare. It was just curiosity that made me loiter just a moment longer, I swear. I merely wanted to know more about this poor soul who shared parents equally stupid.

“Prefers you in the sack? As if!’ the woman shot back at the man, and proceeded to list in detail what she and my namesake had gotten up to the previous night. I was torn between pushing the door shut to save them embarrassment and further listening; my more prurient nature won out. There was darkness inside the door, but streams of light from behind another heavy black curtain. I wondered how the sound had made it out, but no more than idly

There was silence after she’d finished her recitation and then a short sound, part laugher, part derision. “Is that all?” the man asked. I had to give him credit; her descriptions had been both explicit and impressive. My namesake obviously had more imagination than me for a start, as well as greater stamina, even allowing for a tad of exaggeration. But apparently, according to the man’s reply, no exaggeration was necessary; he appeared to accept her word as gospel, and responded with a description of his last encounter with whoever shared my name as evocative as her own, describing a sexual position that raised both my respect for his suppleness and agility and concern about his long term health.

My namesake apparently had looked after himself better than I; that was apparent from the descriptions of his strength and the awe with which the two of them spoke of his body. I envied him; I’d always been a weedy child, and my hopes that puberty would fix that deficiency had sadly gone unanswered. Oh, my height had increased from childhood, but never to the ever-hoped for six feet; I was always just a little shorter than my peers, and a little weaker; hair a little thinner, and a bit paler, a little less noticeable in a crowd. I’d gotten used to it over the years, but I can’t say I enjoyed it.

There’d been a pause in the conversation and I wondered whether to walk into the shop; I was now curious about the couple, what they looked like. Did my namesake at least have good taste? I wasn’t that shallow as to pretend to know their true personalities from overhearing an argument. Well, perhaps not shallow enough.

Then the man said, almost thoughtfully, “What do you think is his sexiest body part?”

And the woman replied, “Oh, that mole. On his right cheek.”

And I touched the mole. On my right cheek.

The man disagreed and said, “I like his nose. The way it never quite mended after he broke it.”

And I touched my nose, the kink in the surface that never quite mended properly after the car accident.

The temperature in the street hadn’t dropped, but I shivered, suddenly cold and wanting to be anywhere other than listening to these two people argue. It was a coincidence, no more than than that, like hearing your name across a crowded room and seeing someone else answer the cry. Or a taxi turning up after a night out and two people standing upon hearing the driver call their name. Nothing more than that.

OK, it was more than that. But not much more. Coincidence. All right , coincidence upon coincidence.

I wanted to leave, but wanted to stay.

A vibration in my pocket startled me, and automatically, my hand slipped into my pocket and flipped the mobile phone reminder off. I’d set it when I left the meeting but couldn’t quite remember why; I still had loads of time before the train and my curiosity, anxiety and, yes, my nosiness, obliged me to stay. It would be a good tale to tell the office when I got back.’ You think you know coincidence? Hah, you don’t know anything. Wait until I tell you what happened to me…’

The sort of gentle mocking office oneupmanship without which civil war within an office would take two or three days longer to erupt.

There was movement inside the shop and one of the curtains in the window twitched, before a vertical slit opened and a small cat came into view. A hand swiftly followed, retrieving the cat and I scratched the back of my hand, then my neck, an instinctive repulsion to the beasts.

No, that was it. Enough. I lifted my wrist to check the time and then I heard, a hesitant voice, the woman’s, “Do you think he loves you more than me?”

There wasn’t even a moment’s silence before almost apologetically, the man’s voice said, “yes, but you love him more than I do. Isn’t that enough?”

“No,” she said. “No it isn’t.” A long sigh. “But it will have to be. At least I get to cuddle him afterwards. He said he never cuddles you.”

“No,” the man agreed. “At least you get that. He doesn’t like cuddles with me afterwards. He saves that… for you.” And there was just a trace of bitterness in his tone.

“I think it’s his hair. I love burying myself in it,” she said.

“Well, we both like…”

“No, not that hair,” she said with laugher, “higher!” And then they laughed together. And I felt queasy, awkward.

Again, I was overwhelmed with curiosity, about him, about them.

I reached down towards the door knob, catching a look at my reflection in the tinted window. My hair looked fuller in the reflection. Darker colour I could understand, but thicker as well.

Before I could reach it, the door swung open, and they were there, waiting for me, welcoming me inside.

“Where have you been?” Joanna asked, but then she always worries about something or other..

“We were worried,” said Peter, embarrassed at the admission. It’s sweet how they both worry.

I love them so much. I have, ever since I met them.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

I did one of these about half way through ’57 minus…’, and since I’ve got a shed load of stuff to do today, time for another one.

worldmappers.org

If you’ve not come across the place before, well,

 

Worldmapper is a collection of world maps called cartograms, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.

 
Here are some…

Let’s start with us. All of us. No, I mean, it: ALL off us.

Global population

Now, religion, that’s an entirely non-controversial thing, eh? How about the global distribution of the Abrahamic Religions?

Global Jewish Population Distribution

Global Christian Population Distribution

Global Mulsim Population Distribution

I’m a sucker for babies. Global distribution of ages 0-4 years old.

But since I’m closer to the other end of life, here’s the global distribution of 100 year olds

And once that matters to me adult literacy

Here’s one that continues to fascinate me: Global distribution of Nobel Prizes

And finally, here’s the 2019 General election, seen very different ways…

worldmappers.org – Aren’t maps fun?

And just as a reward for those of you who have read this far and who either live in London or have a vague interest in it… ever wondered where the tube stations names come from? Not what they’re named after, but the etymology of the names?

Well, Mark Forsyth had you in mind when he created this… (Click on the image for the full map… it’s a bit of well designed, well executed fun…)

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Thursday something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

Something different this week and next. Oh, it’s still Tuesday, and you’re still getting a ‘tale from the fiction vaults’.

But not fast fiction challenges, this week nor next; something else entirely.

I stumbled across the stories for today and next Tuesday while searching for something else, and I reread the stories and enjoyed how I played with the reader’s expectations for today’s.

An odd tale, but an enjoyable one I think.

So, this story was entered for an online thing. It didn’t make the cut, but I still like it.

I hope you do…


 

Time for a murder

 
 
1920

The decadent music was louder than I’d like, and the girl was quieter. She died easily enough, though, and I was pleased that everything had gone to plan. Almost everything, I hear a small voice in the back of my head, almost everything. I wish I could sleep though. I’m very tired. Killing people is exhausting. Who knew?

1921

I can still hear the man breathing his last. It haunts me and taunts me whenever I stop thinking of anything else. I shake my head, trying to clear it of the noise and the static. Everything snaps into focus for a moment and then… that damn breathing, like it’s inside my brain.

1922

The older woman died almost instantly. Almost. There was hardly any blood though. I’d learned more by then. I never even thought of her again, almost forgot how it felt to kill her so smoothly.

If only the man’s laboured breathing wasn’t drowning my soul. In and out. Fainter but still there. In and out.

1923

I think about how I planned the murders; seems so very long ago now. I knew each of their routines, how they all led their boring, silly lives. No more.

SHUT UP!

1924

Why won’t he shut up? It’s like he’s right next to me, sitting on the chair. I killed him on the floor. He should still be there. But that bloody, liquid breathing. The same day and it’s all I can hear right now. Dammit, shut up.

I concentrate on the the satanic symbols I painted on the wall in their own blood, the wealth of evidence I planted so that locals will be blamed for the murders. And for a moment, the noise goes away. Then it returns.

1925

I can’t think of anything else now. If I close my eyes, I hear the rasping breaths; if I open them I see the blood. So much blood.

I need help. I know that now.

1926

Of course, that was a fanciful thought; no-one can help me. I’d have to tell the truth, explain everything. They’d never understand, never appreciate why I killed them. They’d be jealous, anyway. I have to take care of this myself no matter how long it takes.

1927

Finally, the breathing stops. Finally, I hear nothing. I close my eyes. Christ, I’m tired. Then I open them. Silence. At long last. Silence.

I glance at my watch.

Eight minutes. Twenty-eight minutes past seven in the evening.

It took him almost eight minutes to die.

I giggle softly to myself and then leave.

Happy new minute, everyone. Happy new minute.

© Lee Barnett, 2013


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

57 plus 48: Yeah, sorry…

Posted: 4 October 2021 in 57 plus, blogging
Tags: , ,

This isn’t looking good for the decision on whether to do the countdown to 2022, is it?

To be honest, though, I’d already decided that if I do do the countdown to 2022, it’ll probably be a 50 or 60 day countdown, not a 75 day one as in previous years. I think I need a break from the daily blogging. I’ll complete 57 plus… there’s only a week or so left, and current plans are actually to finish on 57 plus… 59… do the full 57 days, then one more piece of new fiction on the Thursday, and a final day next Friday before I take a break for a couple of weeks.

So, yeah sorry, today ran away with me… so a genuine, though quick, apology from me for that.

But if you want a proper apology, well here’s one of my favourite people in the world of comedy, Rachel Parris, explaining how to do a public apology…

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

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

So I’ve been surveyed..

Not my flat, me.

A couple of weeks ago, I received some forms through the post. Which was reasssuring in an odd ‘this is the way things should get done’ way. Although I’m more than happy to complete forms online, and though I really like the efficiency and speed with which stuff can get processed electronically, there’s… something about holding forms in your hand.

Whether it’s because I’m an old fogey or whether it’s just because I’m a sceptical bastard – yes, yes, I know what you all think, and I kind of agree that it’s probably both, – I have to admit that had I received the forms by email… I dunno; I may have, probably would have, have just consigned it to spam.

Because this is what I received…

I’d heard about the survey, of course, but to be fair to myself, I had no idea what it was.

I wrote, a few weeks ago, about getting pinged¹.

Huh.

Now, dear reader, whenever I type something that starts ‘I wrote, a few weeks ago…’ you’d expect to see a link to the post to which I’m referring. Hell, I’d expect to slap the link in without thinking.

And you will get that in a moment, I promise, but I first just want to express my flat out astonishment at how long ago it was.

Because had you asked me this afternoon exactly when I was pinged, I’d have guessed… oh, six weeks ago, maybe? Possibly a week or so before that.

I certainly wouldn’t have said almost three months ago. Eleven weeks ago. Almost three months; how the hell was that three months ago?

Anyways… here comes that link.

I wrote, in July (!) about getting pinged. At the time, when I was freed from the – mostly self-imposed, as it turns out – self-isolation, I considered getting tested. But at the time, there were many reports about a) how far up your nostril you had to stick the swab, and b) how unpleasant the test was at the best of times.

And you may remember that the inside of my nose is completely, to use a technical, medical term, buggered. No? You don’t remember? Well, I did mention it in a post about the personal medical consequences post, at the start of ’57 minus…’

Look, here’s an MRI from 2010, taken for other reasons completely. You can, however, see that the inside of my nose is, to again use that technical term, completely buggered.

So, yes, although I did consider getting tested for covid, when i was pinged, in the end I decided against it.

I live alone, I don’t see anyone (other than my very closest of friends) for more than a short period of time, I wear a mask whenever I can, and I’ve been one of the most “wash your hands” people I know.

Moreover, I had no symptoms. And while I’m of course aware of asymptomatic transmission, I thought it was worth the risk in not getting tested, especially since I had no wish to stick a swab far up my nose.

But while I’ve never been tested, I think I’d have to be very weird indeed not to have at least wondered, idly or otherwise, whether I’ve had it. And while I might be weird, I don’t think I’m that weird.

And then, as I say, I got these forms through the post inviting me to be part of the Office of National Statistics nationwide survey.

Any mild scepticism that it might not be genuine evaporated when I checked it out and then, even before I saw that they give you a small amount of money for taking part, about more of which in a moment, I called them and ‘signed up’ for it.

Many things attracted me about this thing, that led me to taking part.

In no particular order:

  1. They come to you. They come to your place of residence and you take the first test in front of them, so they know you know what you’re doing, then take the test away and email you the results a few days later. For future tests, they hand the kit to you, and wait outside while you perform the testt, and then you hand it back to them.
  2. Although you can walk away from the testing regime at any point; there are three ways you can take part. (I’ve chosen the last one of the three options below.)
    1. Just one test, and you’re done. That’s it; you never need to head from them again.
    2. Four tests; the first test and then one a week after that for three weeks.
    3. The four tests above, then one a month after that.
  3. The appointments are pretty much ‘within a few hours’. They call you to arrange when’s good for you, then they come to you. The two calls I’ve had so far were for an appointment the following morning, and one call that came at 3 in the afternoon and I had a test a couple of hours later.

    I’ll repeat this bit, because it genuinely was one of the things that I like about it: they email you the results and they’re clear and simple to understand: this is the one I most recently got from the second test I had.

If you are selected, and you agree to take part, it’s fifty quid for the first test and then twenty-five pounds per test, thereafter. Payment in electronic vouchers you can use in dozens of major retailers and online places.

So, yes, good news all around. I get confirmation I’m covid free, and I help the ONS with their numbers.

See you tomorrow, with… something else. I’m not sure what yet, but it’ll definitely be something else.

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)


¹I’m amused, as so often, that my autocorrect changed the final word ‘pinged’ to ‘pounded’; I mean, getting covid may kick your arse a bit but not in that way, shurely?

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.

Ok then…

 

I don’t care how many times this one is shown; it’s never enough.

 
 
To celebrate the return of CSI…

 
 
The fella who did the Animaniacs ‘Countries of the World‘ song? Updated…

 
 
Here’s a baby, laughing a paper being torn. Because why the hell not?

 
 
Mitch Benn got the vaccine several months ago, because of course he did. But before he did…?

 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)6

Looking through the various Ten Things posts on this blog, and the notes I’d made for potential other Ten Things posts, I found myself genuinely unsure which to pick for today’s.

(I even – only briefly, I promise you, dear reader – pondered whether to do a “Ten Ten Things Posts I enjoyed writing” before deciding against it.)

And then, while looking at my phone, when I should have been looking where I was going… well, I was suddenly reminded of the attached for very good reasons…

Ouch.

Yes, well, I mean it’s was my foot slipping off the kerb rather than me walking into a lamppost, but it still applies.

So, while I’m currently waiting for the painkillers to kick in, I wondered whether to do a ‘Ten Things I regret”, but I’ve already done a ‘regrets‘ post earlier in this Run.

Instead, here are Ten Things I’m grateful for, right now. No sarcasm, no snide ‘yes, I’m really grateful for that’ while expression could curdle milk at seventeen paces…

Just Ten Things I like, and am grateful for, right this moment, with the usual Ten Things reminder… they’re not the objectively considered best things in my life, nor necessarily personal favourite things. They’re just, in no particular order, Ten Things I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

And as I was writing this, I found the words ran away with me a bit.

So you get five this week, and the other five next week…


Philip Samuel Barnett
Not the hugest surprise my lad is on the list, I guess. He’s my son, and I’ve said before that nothing in life has given me so much pleasure than being his dad.

Not ‘being a dad’, though that was probably true in the early days, but being his father. He’s coming up on his twenty-sixth birthday in about a month – and anyone who’s known him for a couple of decades of that is probably feeling very old, reading that.

He lives in Wales, with his lady love, and I don’t get to see him anywhere near as much as I wish I could. Covid, oddly, led to me seeing his face more often than before, as he and his mother (my ex-wife Laura) and I started a weekly Sunday catchup on Zoom when the first lockdown hit… and we’ve carried on with it, as circumstances and individual schedules have allowed.

He’s smart, funny, plays a mean bass, and he’s kind enough to his old man to still pretend he needs advice every so often. (As often as not, of course, he doesn’t. He just needs someone he implicitly trusts to check his logic, and common sense, to confirm the reasonableness of the answer he’d come to on his own.)

I’m very proud of him. (And there’ll be more about him on 2nd November if the blog runs through until then; apart from anything else, it’s the only day I can get away with posting baby pictures of him, and I enjoy doing that.)

Comedy
Most of my friends missed live music during the past couple of years that we’ve all lived through. Oh, they missed lots of other things, of course, but it’s live music that they really missed, and the return of live music that marked – for them – some slow return to what we sometimes only semi-jokingly call ‘normality’.

For me, it’s been live comedy. My hat, I’ve missed live comedy. And no, I don’t have a hat and I’m not getting a hat. Why are you asking me about hats?

For every friend of mine who’s understandably complained about missing this tour or that tour, there’s been me complaining about not being able to go to The Distraction Club, or Old Rope, or What Has The News Ever Done For Me?

And Edinburgh. Ah, Edinburgh. Missing 2019’s Edinburgh Fringe… because it was cancelled… hurt. But it was kind of understandable, inevitable even.

This year’s however? Where I genuinely intended to go, no matter how small the Fringe and Festival were? Missing this year’s… hurt.

And yes, there was some mitigation, as comedians were forced to find new ways of entertaining their audiences. I watched live shows streaming on Youtube, and on Zoom, and on one occasion listened to a show when the video feed failed.

But it wasn’t the same. It’s not the same as sitting in a room, with dozens of others, hundreds of others, maybe, listening to a comedian work… experiencing that strange things that happens to an audience when a comedian is on form. Laughing with others, enjoying the craft of the comedian, loving the gag, crying with laughter as they take your hand and lead on a journey that starts with the mundane and then, while reality turns right, the shared experience takes a sharp left.

I’m grateful to comedy, and the comedians who’ve made the last 18 months just a little less awful, who’ve lightened the load just a bit, just enough, to make the next gig, the next show, something to look forward to, and the next day, something that you, or I at least, don’t dread.

Comics
And I realise, as I type the words, that it would be too easy to just say “see Comedy”, but that would run the risk of someone thinking I was talking about “comics” meaning comedians, as opposed to “comics” meaning, well, comic books.

I’ve reread a lot of comics the past year. But I’ve read them on and off, spending an evening in the company of old friends, stories I’ve read any number of times, The past week, though, ever since my wander through london with an old friend, I’ve been reading a lot more comics, and reading them for longer.

It’s not unusual for me to read in bed for half an hour or more before I fall asleep; I sometimes read comics then.

But rarely have I taken trade paperbacks out to read while out, until this week. My bag has had a different trade every day.

And, as I’ve been reading, I’ve been paying more attention to the craft as well, for the first time in I can’t remember how long. I’ve kind of liked the change in my routine, which has surprised me.

Friends
And the memory of last Sunday, in the company of my friend, leads me straight onto this.

I’m not an easy person to be a friend with. That’s not false modesty; I’m not trawling for compliments or anything like that. It’s just a statement of fact. I’ve never been the most social nor sociable of people, and I’m far too selfish in day to day interactions. That last didn’t used to be a central part of who I am, I think. Or at least I hope it didn’t. But I know it is now. Part of it is the fallout from the mental health issues to which I allude every so often, but I genuinely worry that that’s an easy excuse, a convenient ‘go to’ more often than it should be.

I’m very grateful to the friends I have, who put up with me being, well… me.

the not being partially social not sociable, that long predates the events of a decade ago, but I suspect they gave a similar root cause.

I like my friends; I like that they’re funny and clever and have a low tolerance for bullshit and a high tolerance for me. And I’m very very grateful that they are my friends.

(I just typoed that I’m very grateful they’re my fiends. I’m every more grateful that they’d be just as amused at that as I am.)

But especially, I’m eternally grateful to those who’ve put themselves out for me, and accepted me being, again… me.

London
This is a weird one as I’m not entirely sure what it is about London that I like.

Because what I like about London is often what people who don’t like London suggest it’s what they don’t like about London. Which is… odd, at best.

I like that London is… busy, that it rarely… stops. I like that if I go for a wander in the wee small hours, there’ll be somewhere I can find where I can have a hot drink. Not many places, but some. I like that there are so many people, and that I know barely any of them. I like that it’s easy to get around in, and that there are so many buses and underground stations. (The current ‘fucking hell, people, why aren’t you wearing masks???’ notwithstanding.)

I like that it’s a multicultural city and that in some areas, you can walk for a couple of miles and hear a dozen different languages, and thick accents, and not understand any of them. I like that, no matter what your tastes in food and culture, and music, you can find somewhere that caters to all of them. And I like that those various cultures openly celebrate those cultures, with festivals and the like.

Whether or not I like his policies, I like that I live in a city that could, that did, elect a Muslim mayor, in the face of a frankly racist campaign against him.

And I like living in a city that has… memories around every corner, on every street, down every mews, and across every road. Not only my own recollections, what with my having lived here so long, but its own history. I’m a ¼ mile from Abbey Road recording studios, with its history, in one direction, a ½ mile from Kilburn, in another. And I’m maybe ¾ hour walk from Oxford Circus, and Bond Street and half a dozen names foreigners only recognise from a Monopoly board.

I don’t know whether I’m considered a Londoner; I mean, I’ve only lived here for 35 years. But I like that I might be.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others… and then Ten Columbo episodes I liked and Ten More Columbo Episodes I liked


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday 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…’ run, 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.

I came across this photo by chance.

And here’s a story you’ve not read before… perhaps.


Just one more.

Seventeen trips.

That was all you got. Seventeen solo journeys.

Every child learned the rules at school, along with their advanced physics lessons, the obligatory navigation tutorials, and the necessary implantations of antibiotics and anti-virals and the rest.

Three guided timeslips, then seventeen on your own. Twenty in total. No more. Never another. Not unless you wanted to end your days a gibbering wreck in one of the asylums spread throughout history specifically for that purpose, many of them in less enlightened times.

The first trip was always back along your own time line, back to a sad day when you were young, to convince your earlier self that time travel was indeed possible. A short journey, no more than five subjective minutes. Just enough to tell yourself two additional things: that you were alive a few years down the line, and that your parents had your favourite snack waiting for you downstairs, so you could stop being sad now.

A second trip, with your entire entire class, usually to somewhere entirely anodyne; five years into the past, to watch yourselves taking a set of year-end examinations was the journey currently favoured by eduational authorities.

The final guided trip was you, your best friend and a teacher, further back, somewhere less boring; 21st July 1969 was the most requested date, but some always wanted to see the aftermath of a war, or even the start of one.

And then, subject to you passing your exams, your own belt, your own kit, and your own neuroses which usually started after the sixth trip… when you realised that each of your trips thus far had created its own timeline, that you could never get back to the original, and that you had memories from half-a dozen conflicting timelines simultaneously bouncing around inside your head.

Most people quit after a dozen trips. They all probably should have quit one journey earlier, but for many the temptation still outweighed the physical and emotional side-effects.

Few people can cope with more than a dozen timelines.

Those that can are hired by the same authorities who regulate time travel.

Every senior member of those authorities has traveled at least fifteen times. Most of them are insane but very good at hiding it.

And then there’s me.

Seventeen solo trips when the call came. Seventeen solo trips and they want to remove my belt and my badge and my gun.

They’ll be here in a few minutes; they’re on their way.

But I don’t want to give this up. I know I can still do more. But what they say makes sense. They don’t want to risk my health. They don’t want me to risk my health.

Or so they say. I wish I knew if they were telling the truth. I just need a little more time to decide what to do. I make a decision, the same decision my peripheral vision is telling me I’ve made nineteen times before.

I step forward, turning my body, and trigger the belt, jumping back in time. Not long; just ten minutes. Just ten minutes more to think about it, as the world dissolves around me.

The world comes back into focus, and I face myself. The gun shoots once and he’s dead before he hits the ground. I push him to one side and think some more.

They’ll be here in a few minutes; they’re on their way.

But I don’t want to give this up. I know I can still do more. But what they say makes sense. They don’t want to risk my health. They don’t want me to risk my health.

Or so they say. I wish I knew if they were telling the truth. I just need a little more time to decide what to do. I make a decision, the same decision my peripheral vision is telling me I’ve made twenty times before.

I step forward, turning my body, and trigger the belt, jumping back in time. Not long; just ten minutes. Just ten minutes more to think about it, as the world dissolves around me.

The world comes back into focus, and I face myself. The gun shoots once and he’s dead before he hits the ground. I push him to one side and think some more.

They’ll be here in a few minutes; they’re on their way.

But I don’t want to give this up. I know I can still do more. But what they say makes sense. They don’t want to risk my health. They don’t want me to risk my health.

Or so they say. I wish I knew if they were telling the truth. I just need a little more time to decide what to do. I make a decision, the same decision my peripheral vision is telling me I’ve made twenty-one times before.

I step forward, turning my body, and trigger the belt, jumping back in time. Not long; just ten minutes. Just ten minutes more to think about it, as the world dissolves around me.

The world comes back into focus, and I face myself. The gun shoots once and he’s dead before he hits the ground. I push him to one side and think some more…

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

Today is the 100th entry since I started these runs of ‘57 minus….‘ and ‘57 plus….‘ blog entries.

Well, ok, not quite.

A moment’s mental addition – 57 posts in ‘57 minus….plus 43 posts of ‘57 plus….‘ adds up to 100, fair enough. But that ignores the 57 plus/minus post I stuck up on the actual day of my birthday.

And since yesterday was a ‘fast fiction from the vaults’ day, I figure today’s as good a time as any to take stock again, and ask four questions

  • How’s it gone for me?
  • How’s it gone for you?
  • What have I learned from these runs that I didn’t expect, having done more than a few of these countdowns?
  • What’s next?

Especially since it occurred to me while setting up this post that we’re now only a couple of weeks from the end of this run of ’57 plus…’ blog posts. And I need to start thinking about that last question properly, rather than just shoving it off into the far distance, as I have done for the past couple of weeks.

OK, so let’s get on with it.
 
 
How’s it gone for me?
Well, I’m glad I asked. I mean, I’d say I’m glad you asked except that you haven’t, which we’ll deal with in the next section. 

I’ve found this run – the ’57 plus…’ run – a bit harder than the last run. Don’t think that’ll come as the hugest surprise to any of the six of you who are reading this.

I’m not entirely sure why, but yeah, this one;s been a tad tougher to do every day.

Let’s be fair, both to the blog and to me; There are, being sensible, three days a week where it’s… easy for me. Tuesdays long ago became the ‘fiction from the vaults’ day. And that’s just a matter of me reviewing some previous fiction, picking two I like, and slapping them into what is – for the most part – a pre-formatted post.

The Saturday Smiles are again, pretty much pre-formatted and it’s just finding three funny videos, one that I hope will genuinely make you smile (from a ‘awwww’ reaction or a ‘that’s very sweet’ reaction) and one song from Mitch that I particularly like.

Thursdays, the new fiction, isn’t… that hard for me either. Keep an eye out for a picture that sparks a story idea, and see whether that idea will turn into a story.

Which leaves Friday – the `Ten Things’ day, and only Sunday, Monday and Wednesday in which I need to come up with something discursive.

The problem has been, this time around, finding something I actually care about enough to write 1,000 words or more on. And that’s been the hard bit this time around.

Because what I’ve wanted to write about… I really couldn’t, either because it’s too personal and would talk publicly about stuff I’ve really not wanted to publicly talk about… or because it’s so jaundiced and cynical that the words would bore you. And I kind of figure I owe you more than that.

The other reason of course is that after the best part of a dozen of these countdowns since 2014, I’ve already said a lot on the subjects I’d want to talk about.

Yes, ok, the political situation is very different now than it was, say, in 2015. But there’s not a lot I can say that doesn’t rely on me making half the post “I said this, but now it’s that“. Again, not great.

My religion? Not something I actually feel that qualified to talk about that much these days.

Book reviews? Well, yes, I owe you all three differently reviews which I hope to get to.

Personal life? Yeah, not gonna happen. There’s a reason another term for personal life is ‘private life’.

So, yeah, I’ve two weeks left, and got that kind of planned out, but beyond that… well stay tuned.
 
 
How’s it been for you?
I have no idea. Genuinely. Not a clue.

As I said when I kicked off this latest run, I know that the days of people commenting on blogs – at least general blogs, not focusing on one issue – are in the long ago. In fact, I’m reminded as so often of L P Davies’ line that ‘the past is a foreign country, they do things differently…’

And while various readers are kind enough – thank you! – to ‘like’ the posts, and one or two of you link to the individual posts on social media… for the most part, I have no idea who you are, or what you think of the blog, or of individual posts.

(And the idea I had the other week of asking you didn’t exactly provoke dozens of replies. I’m very grateful for the couple of replies I did receive, but yeah, well…

As in that post, however, if you do want to say hello or express a thought or seven, you can comment in reply to this entry… or via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk or even DM me @budgie on Twitter.)

So I have no idea whether the fiction from the vaults entertains you, or bores you. I’ve not the slightest clue whether the new fiction on a Thursday fascinates you or irritates you. I have no real sense of whether you eagerly await the latest Ten Things, or just ignore them when they pop up.

And, possibly most crucial, I don’t know which of you are getting pissed off by this or that or maybe the other… and why.

I long ago ceased to trust the stats offered by WordPress within the site. So I’ve not even an accurate record of how many people are reading this thing; both the blog itself and/or individual entries.

If this continues, I need to figure out how to fix all of the above.
 
 
What have I learned from these runs that I didn’t expect, having done more than a few of these countdowns?
Quite a few things, but here are three. All of them fairly trivial, but they… irk when I think of them. which suggests to me that I might need to shake things up if this continues.

(i) If I haven’t started writing ‘today’s blog entry’ by 3pm, it becomes a chore. Odd, I know, but true. I need to start writing them earlier in the day.

(ii) After umpteen different methods of how to promote on Twitter, this one seems to work for me. I have no idea if it’s actually ‘working’, but it feels right. Tweet it once when posted, retweet at around half-11 to midnight; Schedule a ‘For The US crowd…’ tweet at 8:30pm Pacific Time, 11:30pm Eastern. And one ‘”ICYMI, yesterday on the blog…’ at 10:30am the following morning. And no-one’s objected to the multiple posts. But do I need to change that as well? I dunno.

Also, though, I’ve definitely noticed a drop off in reactions by not promoting it outside Twitter, other than on Tumblr. Again, if I want to get any traction, I need to think of something else to do.

(iii) Remember to use pictures (usually from my own camera roll or from Unsplash) in the entries themselves to break up the text. Even I wince at some of the long streams of text without anything to break the monotony.
 
 
What’s next?
Well, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been reading for a while that there are two options: (i) take a break which is intended to last only a month or so, but ends up being a year or more, or (ii) take a couple of days break, or perhaps a couple of weeks, and run a countdown until the end of 2021 and the start of 2022. And then decide what to do.

Right now, I genuinely have no idea which of those two is going to happen. Of course, usually when I say that, a week or so later I’m telling you all when the next countdown is going to start.

But this time, I honestly don’t know. Partly because I may – if certain other ‘irons in the fire’ come to fruition, to mis my metaphors – have other calls on my time. Partly because I’m not entirely sure I want to continue writing these, and I’m equally unsure you want to carry on reading them.

Basically, I guess the single thought that occurs to me is… I have some thinking to do.

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

It’s Tuesday, so as usual you get a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts. Another two from fifteen years ago, this week, from the long ago stories of 2006.

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

The first is a dark little tale that I remember writing; I’ve no idea where the idea came from but if you told me it was after reading yet another daft company memo, I wouldn’t be surprised..

The second story, though? I have no memory of writing it at all. Definitely one of the much sillier stories in the run, its’ very, very very silly., I do hope you enjoy it.

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy them…


Title: Official Workplace Sanctity
Word: chrysalis
Challenger: Jen Van Meter
Length: 200 words exactly

The firing squad was scheduled for seven in the morning, an hour after dawn.

The flood of legislation since the revolution was staggering: in its first hundred days, the government had rewritten thirty thousand pages of law, reversing eighty years of employee protection in three short months. And like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, the country was suddenly different from before. This butterfly had claws, however: it was now illegal, among other things, to take a holiday, to ask for a pay rise, to even work less than six days a week.

The new office procedures manual had only been in operation for eight months, but already thirteen staff had been sent to solitary confinement. This was only the fifth execution though. She glanced at the charges, projected on her wall: “Overt fraternisation.”

She’d smiled at her colleague. And that was all it had taken to be reported. And not much more to be convicted.

She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, tired beyond belief. She wondered how long it would be before they came for her. She hoped it wouldn’t be too long: it was illegal to cry for more than six minutes a day.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


Title: The Bulbous Ghost
Word: precarious
Challenger: [Livejournal: evilbilbo
Length: 200 words exactly

They tried to put it politely at first, but after every entreaty and plea was ignored, courtesy began to take its leave.

Begging requests that would otherwise have been pitiful merely, they said, went in one orifice and out the other.

But there was no question that something had to be done.

Frankly, he was embarrassing the other ghosts.

They glided through walls and slid under doors, their vaporous ectoplasm enabling feats of infiltration that the most recent spectre mastered in such a short time.

And there he was, lumbering away, his passing measured not by the hypersensitive equipment favoured by those humans who took an interest in the paranormal, but by counters that traditionally were used to measure movements of tectonic plates.

Eventually, the rest of them got together and called a council. None had been called in unliving memory, but the oldest of them still remembered The Law and it was he who chaired the meeting.

It was horribly understandable, but unfair, one side of the argument went, that his very nature meant that he placed all other ghosts in precarious jeopardy by his very existence.

Meanwhile, the ghost of the blue whale listened in silence and pondered…

© Lee Barnett, 2006


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

I’ve been thinking about comics today. And friendships. And the friendships I have from comics.

Not overly surprising given my unexpected day in the company of a very clever, very funny, very nice, comics writing friend yesterday.

But yeah, I’ve been thinking about reading comics and writing comics and how so much of a huge chunk of my life was involved in comics.

Whether it was reading them, or writing some, or going to comics events and comics cons, and writing hypotheticals and putting on hypotheticals

And also about with the exception of the very first of those – the reading comics bit – it hasn’t really been part of my life at all for most of the past decade.

And, further, how for the first time in I can’t remember how long, I’m thinking that I want it to be again.

Which is odd. No, I mean it. It’s weird. I mean, it’s never been something that I’ve regarded as ‘a part of my life that’s over, a part of my life that won’t ever return‘ (as I do, say, about romantic attachments).

If you’d have asked me, though, I’d probably have said – with complete honesty – that while I’ve no doubt that I would at some point get around to going to comics drinkups again, and comics cons again… and maybe even crack open my script writing programme, and how I might just pull out an old uncomplicated script or even start a new one…

…that point would be, is, so far in the future, that even Superman using the Hubble Space Telescope wouldn’t be able to see it.

And now something’s changed. I’m not doing an ‘…and I have no idea why…‘ for the obvious reason that I know what’s occasioned it.

Three things. Three meetings with friends, over the past six weeks or so.

Thing is, what I don’t know is why these three things have done it. I’m usually pretty self-aware; when it comes to my flaws and faults, anyway.

(To be fair to them, various friends and acquaintances over the years have rolled their eyes – either literally or figuratively; sometimes both – at what they view as my entire lack of self-awareness about anything other than my flaws and faults.)

Just over a month ago, I met up with an old friend, a friend I’ve met through comics, for drinks. She was in town for a visit and we spend a pleasant few hours talking about past times. It was nice. And, during the evening, while reminding each other of times past, I remembered stuff I’d completely forgotten. That isn’t a conceit. I was reminded of stuff I had no memory of, but as the retelling commenced, suddenly the full fun or horror, depending upon the tale, hit me. Raucous evenings, drunken evenings, and oh my gods, so much laughter, from cons and drinkups past.

But that was all it was; a pleasant evening, reminiscing with someone who was there at the time. To be fair, though, as the American comedian Steven Wright justifiably observes, it’s a tad harder to reminiscence with strangers who weren’t there.

On its own it neither sparked a wish to get back into comics or even get back into going out and seeing people I knew again.

A couple of weeks after that, a friend I’ve known for even longer invited me for a catch up over coffee. We talked about our lives in the years since we last met, did some more reminiscing, and chatted about writing and about comedy, and about comics, and again about evenings past, spent in the company of other friends and much alcohol.

And it was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I did when we moved on to a regular comics drinkup that I haven’t attended in years. (Well, ok, thanks to covid, many people have not attended it for a couple of years, anyway.)

I didn’t stay long; with the exception of my friend, I barely knew anyone there. A couple of faces I faintly recognised, but it brought home to me how long I’ve been out of comics. Almost a decade; I mean, I’ve attended hardly any comics cons, say, since 2012. The occasional drinkup but not a con, where I’d have been likely to have met and got to know these people.

But again, that’s all it was. a nice time, spent in the company of nice people. And again, it didn’t provoke any feeling of ‘I want to write comics again’ or ‘I should attend more of these drinkups.’

But yesterday, yesterday was different. After I got home, I spent last night for the most part reading comics.

Oh, the telly was on in the background, and I watched the final part of the BBC’s big Sunday follow up to Line of Duty… Vigil. And it was… ok. I mean, not great, plot holes everywhere, some decent acting, and I never actually believed the ‘world-ending’ (or ‘national defence-ending’ to be more accurate) but it was… ok.

Not for nothing, though, if there is a follow up – there doesn’t need to be one, the story doesn’t need one, but this is the world we now live in – my single request would be to make the Detective Sgt in this one the lead character next time. I’m much more interested in her story and I’d be interested to follow her career. the actual protagonist? I’m not actually that interested, nor invested, in seeing more of her.

But yeah, between the time I got home and when i crawled into bed, I was reading comics. It’s been a while since that’s happened. And even longer since I read the trade paperbacks, and actually noticed stuff.

Stuff like

oh, that’s clever‘, and ‘oh, I see what you’ve done there‘, and ‘ah, ok, that plot point is going to be important, isn’t it?;’ and ‘ah, yes, I see why the dialogue is like that

So, no, I have no idea what about yesterday specifically kicked the writing bit of my brain into gear, and what kicked the ‘I should do more of this, I should see people more, people I like, and people who like me‘ bit of me up the arse…

But it did. And what astonishes me… is that I kind of like that it did.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

57 plus 40: Blankety-blank #2

Posted: 26 September 2021 in 57 plus
Tags:

I said only a few days ago “Sorry, no blog entry today.

Then it was just because various things had shot my day to pieces.

This was for an entirely different reason, a far more pleasurable one. A friend, a comics pro, was unexpectedly in London for a few days.

I say “a friend”, and she is a friend. But in these days of online friendships and the like, she’s a friend I’d never met. I’ve known her and her husband for almost 20 years, and we’d never met.

Before today.

So that was nice.

And I knew we’d grab a coffee today; what I didn’t expect was to spend a delightful day, in delightful company, chatting about delightful things. And that was even nicer.

A genuinely delightful day doing nothing much other than walking and chatting and more catching up and laughing and even more catching up, and talking comics and just… it was just lovely.

And, delightfully – that word again – talking comics in a way that made me want to read comics and write comics, and go to comics cons.

So, with no guilt whatsoever, today is another of the

This page intentionally left blank.

that you get in user manuals and the like.

Anyway, see you tomorrow, with… something [else].

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday 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.

Ok then…

 

This shouldn’t be as relevant today as it was once upon a time when Not The Nine O’Clock News took a shot at Reagan

 

I know I’ve put this up a couple of times before, but dammit, if I think of it, you get it: Punt and Dennis, playing Spot The Stiff.

 

It’s not uncommon on Twitter for me to observe, regarding something in the news, that #TheresAlwaysAYesMinisterClip. Because there always is. Like this one, on how to discredit a report you don’t like.

Oh, you haven’t seen The Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody, you say? Well…

   

Earlier today, I saw the following tweet.

And, yes, I know it’s not Easter, but I was of course inevitably reminded of the following from Mitch… (It’s) Zombie Jesus Chocolate Day!

 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)6

Preface: OK, this was fairly inevitable, wasn’t it? As I was preparing last week’s final ‘tv themes’ post, I knew I’d need a new Ten Things post for this week, and I received quite a few ‘but how could you miss out…?’ Comments after I did my first Columbo Ten Things.

As I said last time, though, there are so many good, so many bloody good, episodes to choose from, that throwing ten darts at a list of the almost 70 Columbo episodes produced? You’re gonna hit 8 or 9 good ones and 3 or four that would make most people’s lists.

As with last time, I’m going to limit it to two of each in the entirely arbitrary categories I’ve chosen to use. So, two [more] clever murders, two [more]wonderful baddies, two [more] lovely relationship pieces, two [more] ‘lightbulb moments’ and two [more] reveals.

Again, as before, however, I’m going to inevitably neglect some wonderful episodes, maybe your favourite. Sorry.

I’ll stick the previous entry’s pics in italics under the category title, just in case you’re reading this post first and wondering why the hell I missed out the obvious – to you – episode.

WARNING: Many, many, MANY spoilers below. If you don’t want to see them, best look away now.

And the usual Ten Things reminder… they’re not the objectively considered best, nor necessarily personal favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

OK, preface over, blog begins.


 

*** TWO [MORE] CLEVER MURDERS
[Earlier post: Publish Or Perish and Short Fuse]

How To Dial A Murder (1978)
When the question comes up, as it often does, who would you cast as a baddie in Columbo, I’m not entirely sure what whoever-suggested-Nicol-Williamson was drinking, but it was a mark of genius. Williamson excels in the role, while seemingly effortlessly not actually taking it too seriously. I’m sure he did, by the way, but he’s not exactly perfectly suited for the show. What he is perfectly suited for, however, is the type of murder that his character – Eric Mason – commits: murder at a distance, while Mason remains entirely secure and safe elsewhere.

The sheer… satisfaction as he hears the murder being committed is odd to watch, to be honest.; he’s trained his dogs to attack on hearing a word that Mason manipulates his victim into saying. But again, it fits the character perfectly.

What’s ‘nice’ about this episode, apart from the murder and the reveal (although I’m not as big a fan of it as others seem to be, and the ‘eureka moment’ is a bit too coincidental for me) is how much Columbo and Mason just plain dislike each other as people. Columbo’s faux ‘just trying to find out what happened’ attitude rankles Mason more than usual and once Columbo realises that, he seems, very subtly, to increase the edginess of it.


 
 

Double Exposure (1973)
I go back and forth on how much this episode has dated. Honestly. One day I’ll think it’s too obvious, given what we now know about subliminal triggers, and yet another I’ll be convinced it could still work as a murder mystery if the trigger was more cleverly hidden, more up to date. I dunno.

What I do know is that Robert Culp excels – as he always did – in the roles of baddie. There’s an inherent arrogance in all of Culp’s baddies in the show that fairly invites Columbo to puncture it. Never pompous in the way that Shatner’s were, never quietly confident as others were. It’s sheer, unfettered, arrogance. He knows he’s smarter than Columbo; hell, he knows he’s probably the smartest person in any room into which he walks. And that definitely applies here to Dr Bart Keppel, a master of motivational research.

The very idea that he could be outsmarted doesn’t even occur to Keppel.

I’m not sure how novel the ‘I’ll step out of the way of the projector so you can enjoy the pictures [and I’ll switch to a tape so no one knows I’m off murdering someone]” was at the time, but I’ve seen it done any number of times since. But how it’s done is clever. As is the murder itself, which is equal parts simplicity and elegance; brutally simple, elegantly executed. While helming a presentation, Culp’s character shows a video into which is cut subliminal shots of cool drinks aimed at his victim, and shots telling the shortly-to-be-victim how thirsty he is. This after he’s fed him salty caviar. At the same time, the room is warmed.

The victim steps out (in the dark so no one’s sure he’s left at first) to get a drink… and is shot by Culp, who everyone else there will swear blind was narrating the video presentation at the time. Nicely done, Dr Keppel.


 

 
 
** TWO [MORE] WONDERFUL BADDIES
[Earlier post: Dr Ray Flemming – Prescription: Murder and Wade Anders – Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous To Your Health]

Note that I’m saving the ‘wonderful baddies because they’re fun to watch with Columbo’ for a moment’s time. These two are just out and out wonderfully evil.

I tried to resist doing what I’m about to do, but couldn’t… as I kept coming back to these two characters. Again and again.

The Great Santini – Now You See Him (1976)
Someone once described Santini as “the nazi you’ll enjoy watching’ and I kind of get what they mean. Yeah, he’s a nazi SS guard who escaped after the war, got to America and set himself up as a stage magician… who becomes very very famous. the owner of the club knows it and blackmails Santini who greets a demand for more money with delight, as you can imagine. In fairly quick order, he uses a few magic tricks (including one that utterly fascinated me as a kid when I saw it) to kill the club opener while everyone in the audience is convinced that Santini is suspended inside a locked glass tank filled with water, trying to, y’know, escape from said locked glass tank filled with water.

Santini commits the murder, then ‘escapes’ and is on stage at the moment the body is discovered.

Santini takes an obvious dislike to Columbo, apparently semi-convinced that the cop is just there to steal secrets… and Santini values secrets. Any and all secrets… alibi? Well, obviously I was on stage. “But it’s a trick.” “Of course.” “How’s it done?” “Not telling!”

When Columbo does the reveal, there’s a moment, just the faintest moment, though, when Santini loses his arrogance. He’s stunned by the step by step that Columbo has done, topped off by a bit of magic of his own. But you know, you just know, that the moment Santini leaves the room, his arrogance and assured confidence will return.

(I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up running the prison he’s put into, given his talent with locks and magic and experience, shall we say, with blackmail.)


 
 
Ken Franklin – Murder By The Book (1971)
The first of the Columbo episodes proper, broadcast almost exactly 50 years ago, in September 1971. After two pilots, this was the one the producers decided would be the episode to demonstrate to the viewing audience what the show was all about. And they nailed it.

From the opening scene, one hell of an establishing shot by a young director named, what was it? Oh yeah, Steven Spielberg.

And what a baddie. Ken Franklin. A womanising, smart, clever, utterly amoral, wholly selfish writer who kills his ‘Mrs Melville’ writing partner who wants to dissolve the partnership so he can publish his own work; understandable, really, since the partner does pretty much all of the writing anyway. From the moment he kills the partner, things start to go sideways as a) Columbo starts to nose around, and is pretty sure from the first moment that Franklin’s involved and b) Franklin himself has to do more and more to cover up and explains mistakes he made.

Another murder follows, and I really like how Franklin reacts to the reveal. His sureness punctured, his plans in a mess, everything’s gone wrong and it’s only at that point that you sympathise at all with him, when he almost but not quite boasts that the first murder was tghe only decent idea for a murder he ever had.

It’s a stunning reversal and unlike Santini, you wonder whether he’ll ever be sure of his own rightness ever again.


 

** TWO [MORE] LOVELY RELATIONSHIPS
[Earlier post: Adrian Carsini – Any Old Port in a Storm and ]

Tommy Brown – Swan Song (1974)
I’ve seen this episode any number of times and I’m damned if I can say why Tommy Brown isn’t utterly detested as a character by everyone involved, including Columbo and including the viewers. I mean, it can’t just be down to Johnny Cash as a person, let alone his portrayal, can it? I suspect the answer to that is, well, yeah.

Because there’s no reason why Columbo shouldn’t loathe him. And yet, the scenes between them are glorious and there’s a definite grudging admiration for how Brown came out of ‘nothing’ and sang like he did.

I dunno – definitely not in the Carsini or Mitchell mould, but there’s definitely something when these two are on the screen together. (Although I’m far from convinced by Brown’s final lines to Columbo.)


 
 
Lauren Straton – It’s All In The Game (1993)
Faye Dunaway. What the hell can you say about Faye Dunaway that hasn’t been said before. Fantastic actor – no, truly fantastic, and almost the only suspect on Columbo that… well, let’s just say that his mind wasn’t always on the job.

OK, the usual stuff out of the way: Dunaway’s character and her [secret] daughter discover they both have the same lover; Lauren kills him then the daughter stays with the body, keeping it warm under a blanket. Then when mother and building manager arrive, she fires a shot and escapes.

Long story short, Columbo figures it out, braces Stratton and says the daughter will go down for murder unless… after which Stratton says she’ll confess in full, as long as Columbo lets her take all the blame.

OK, so far, so mundane (apart from Columbo letting a conspirator escape.)

Except that for once, the murder and the solution are almost a side-bar. What makes this episode special is the chemistry between Columbo and Dunaway’s character. The screen… sizzles when they’re both on screen. Columbo of course would never betray Mrs Columbo, but for a moment or two, neither the viewer nor Columbo (as shown) is absolutely sure of that.

Rarely has Dunaway seemed more… vulnerable, yet quietly confident. At no point during the episode is Columbo even aware that the younger woman is Stratton’s daughter until right at the end… and how they get away with that is a demonstration of the writer’s and director’s skill. Oh the writer? One Peter Falk. You may have heard of him.


 

** TWO [MORE] EUREKA MOMENTS
[Earlier post: A Trace of Murder and Uneasy Lies The Crown]

Murder Under Glass (1978)
This is kind of a cheat to include but it’s such a glorious moment when the eureka moment is revealed that I’m not even going to pretend there was any temptation to resist including it.

(Not for nothing, the episode was going to make it in somehow; either here or as Louis Jourdan’s character’s marvellous report with Columbo. Not for once a liking for each other, but a distinct dislike. Still counts, though.)

Jourdan’s plays a restaurant critic, Paul Gerard, who supplements his income by receiving bribes for reviews, poisons the wine of a restauranteur won’t won’t pay for a good review and threatens to expose the critic. He poisons the wine while they’re having dinner together.

Of course Columbo works it out. But for once the eureka moment wasn’t “how did he do it?’ But instead ‘how did Columbo KNOW that Gerard was the murderer?’

That eureka moment? Oh you don’t see the moment itself. Sorry.

No, Columbo tells the murderer what it was… after the reveal.

It was that Gerard didn’t seek medical advice when police informed him that the victim had been poisoned, and instead came immediately to the restaurant to help with enquiries. “That’s the damnedest example of good citizenship I’ve ever seen,” Columbo observes.

 
  
A Matter Of Honor (1976)
This is one of the sweeter reveals, I must admit. And as sometimes happens, the rest of the episode is fairly so-so. I mean, sure Ricardo Montalban is a superb baddie, the shield of his [once deserved] arrogance one moment away from cracking throughout. But the murder itself is fairly pedestrian, the reveal is… ok. And the supporting cast is similarly… ok.

And the eureka moment is… ok, well it’s shoehorned in, but what I like about it is that it’s enough for lots of dominoes to fall for Columbo.,, It’s the single thing that makes everything else make sense for him. He was sure Montalban’s character – a revered bullfighter, now retired but still hugely respected – had murderer the victim.

He was edging towards why but he couldn’t prove it. Until… until… he sees some children playing bullfighting and discovers precisely why they soak the cape. And… eureka.

 
** TWO [MORE] REVEALS
[Earlier post: Suitable for Framing and The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case]

Ransom For A Dead Man (1971)
I hadn’t seen this for ages until – on one of its reruns – I wanted it last week and was blown away. I’d genuinely forgotten his good this was, Whoever came up with the idea of Lee Grant as the follow up baddie to Gene Barry earned their pay that month and how.

Utterly ruthless, completely amoral, and yet, completely and utterly different from Barry’s character.

And what nails her at the end, what makes the reveal so satisfying, is Columbo’s realisation that Grant’s character has no conscience whatsoever. Her amorality, something she thought of as one of her greatest strengths, was what sunk her.

Grant plays Leslie Williamson, a successful lawyer who’s tired of her elderly husband, so kills him. As you would, when you’re a successful lawyer who’s tired of her elderly husband, obviously.

But She Can Haz Smarts, so she fashions a ransom demand, and keeps the money, (It’s a bit more complicated than that, but not much.)

She buys the step-daughter (who thinks, for some reason, that step-mommy killed daddy) off with much money, so much money that she dips into the ransom money to top up the payoff.

After she sees step-daughter off at the airport, Williamson sees Columbo who’s apparently there for another reason. They go for a drink; she’s quietly confident she’s beaten him, and lets him know it,. He agrees, saying he was sure she had…

…and then a parcel is delivered to them. He opens it and inside is the ransom money Leslie just paid to the step-daughter.

“Mrs. Williams, you have no conscience and that’s your weakness. Did it ever occur to you that there are very few people who would take money to forget about a murder? It didn’t, did it? I knew it wouldn’t.”

Beautifully done.

 

This final one was probably the most requested ‘how could you leave this out?’ I received after the first post. I wasn’t convinced, to be honest, until I rewatched it and saw what everyone else meant. I mean, I still think the two I used in the first post deserved their places, but yeah, so does this one.

Negative Reaction (1974)
Once again, Columbo uses a character’s own self-confidence and sureness in their own mastery of their chosen field… against them.

But for once, Columbo steps over a moral line that he’s not entirely sure leaves him smelling of roses.

Dick Van Dyke’s character – Paul Galesko – kidnaps his own wife, someone he views as a harridan holding him back, snaps a photo to show she’s actually, y’know, been kidnapped, with a clock in the background showing the wrong time. Then kills her.

To ‘get’ him at the end, Columbo creates false evidence, a reversed image of the key photographic evidence, to show Galesko’s alibi is false. He then tells Galesko that while doing so, Columbo accidentally destroyed the original photo…

Galesko then says “ah-ha, but the film of the original photo will still be in the camera!” And immediately picks out the camera in the evidence store used originally for the photo to ‘prove’ his alibi. The problem is that only the murderer the killer could know which camera was used. Oops.

Great reveal, great manipulation. Not taking anything away from that, but yeah, it leaves a slight sourness. Which of course just enhances the scene.


 

** BONUS
 
Patrick McGoohan
It’s a genuine surprise to me, looking back at the twenty episodes I’ve highlighted that none of them involved Patrick McGoohan. I mean, his episodes were flat out marvellous. All were clever murders, all had great scripts and the interaction between his baddies and columbo were never less than fantastic.

It’d be wrong for me, just wrong, not to at least mention him in this post.

So… Patrick McGoohan.

There. I’ve mentioned him.

 


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

This one surprised me.

Genuinely.

Because I’m used to – for these posts at least – the stories that result, while short, being at least longer than the fast fictions.

But, as a friend once advised, a story should be as long as it needs to be. Not one word shorter, but not one word longer either.

And so it proved to be with this one. Entirely to, as I say, my surprise.

OK, the usual preface: 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…’ run, 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.

I came across this photo by chance;

And this is the… story that it provoked. Exactly as long as I wanted it to be, as long as it needed to be. And not one syllable longer.


Not quite touching

I wanted to reach over, to hold her hand. But I didn’t.

I wanted to take her in my arms and kiss her. But I didn’t.

Instead we uttered trivialities, both of us avoiding what we wanted to say. We spoke… carefully; memories and hopes underscoring every word. The bell rang; we exchanged a long look. Then she left the room, and I went back to my prison cell, both of us heading for home.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

57 plus 36: Blankety-blank

Posted: 22 September 2021 in 57 plus
Tags:

Sorry, no blog entry today.

Not even a ‘cheat’ entry of additional fast fictions or anything. Had a flu jab yesterday and while physically I feel fine, honest, and I slept if not great then at least not awfully, my concentration today is completely shot to pieces. I’ve started to write four different entires and after 150 words of so of each, I’ve just… faded.

So, you’d can, effectively, treat this as one of those

This page intentionally left blank.

that you get in user manuals and the like.

[Oh, and while I think about it, I mention this every so often, just in case anyone is wondering about the photos I’ve used in this blog. As with previous years, other than shots I’ve taken myself, or have express permission to use, they usually come from an iOS app entitled Unsplash, which supplies copyright free photos. Also on: https://Unsplash.com.]

Anyway, see you tomorrow, with… something [else].

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

It’s Tuesday, so as usual you get a couple of more ‘fiction from the vaults’ posts. You’ve had enough from the 2010 run for a while, so let’s go back a few years earlier, to 2006.

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

The first of the two stories below started out as something very different. But it never quite ‘worked’ on the page. Then I remember suddenly imagining the scene, with an actual person waking… and the story almost wrote itself.

The second story was the truest example of a fast fiction I can recall with the possible exception of the 24 I wrote in 24 hours for Comic Relief. The challenger, an old friend, sent it in on behalf of his class; he was a teacher back then. I wrote the story and stuck it up within an hour of receiving the challenge.

I like these two tales. I hope you will.

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: Love Is Spatial
Word: fleeting
Challenger: Jill Allyn Stafford
Length: 200 words exactly

The hands of the clock ticked over to the pre-selected time and before the alarm had been ringing for a full second, her hand accurately stabbed out from beneath the blanket and hit the button.

In the silence, she stretched out, and as she began to awake, her hand reached across the bed and felt for him. A moment later, she registered the absence of his body, and almost as if she’d been knifed, a sharp pain hit her chest.

She rolled up in a ball, tight and hard, wishing the world away.

It was at times like this that she missed him most, missed the heat of his body, even missed the temporary absence, the knowledge that at the end of the day, he’d be back.

But no more – not since the train wreck that had took his life, and destroyed hers.

The tears came unbidden, as they had every night, and every morning, the past five weeks.

Eventually, she knew, that would stop: one night, she’d fall asleep just from tiredness, instead of weepy exhaustion; eventually she would wake with a smile, fleeting or otherwise, looking forward to the day.

One day she would laugh.

One day.

Maybe.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


Title: Never Say Forever
Word: misanthropic
Challenger: Regie Rigby
Length: 200 words exactly

They were right after all; who’d have thought it?

All the doomsayers, all the small minded, ignorant, petty people who warned against bringing back extra-planetary specimens. They were right.

It didn’t take long. In less time than you would have believed possible, ninety-two per cent of us were dead. The rest of us ended up in the capital city; and they all died a few days ago. As far as I know, I’m the only one left alive.

We thought we would last as long as there were stars in the skies and rocks on the ground. Who’d have thought it?

But three days ago, the Strangers landed. Knowing what I do now, I loathe them with a misanthropic passion of hate. My people didn’t die from accident; they were murdered.

The Strangers are giants. Each of them thousands of times bigger than any of us, they destroyed the main city and its star shaped government buildings and long parallel travelways with a gargantuan spike that crushed it and them flat.

At the top of the spike I could even see the bastards’ pennant. Their audacity knows no bounds, appropriating our symbols to show conquest: stars, and long horizontal stripes.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

57 plus 34: Nightmares

Posted: 20 September 2021 in 57 plus
Tags: , ,

I don’t like nightmares.

Not a huge surprise, I suspect. I’m not giving away any secrets or anything; most people don’t like nightmares. Except that it’s not mere ‘lack of enjoyment’ (which is all ‘don’t like’ means, after all). I actively dislike them. And even that doesn’t quite convey my utter detestation, my visceral loathing, of them.

I’ve suffered from nightmares for as long as I can recall. I remember waking up from one as a kid, running downstairs, convinced that I’d been in a plane crash and somehow been transported back into my bed just in time… interrupting my parents’ dinner party and then pretty much ending it, I believe.

I was very young.

But now, as an adult, I’ve suffered from frequent nightmares, at least a couple of times a week, and sometimes a few times a night, for more than a decade. A friend., who witnessed me going through them, said I was almost pantomime-like in the moments before I awoke, as if I was in a low budget horror film, tossing and turning, moaning incoherently in my sleep, before bolting upright or suddenly going rigid before waking.

(And now, for the first time, I wonder if my complete and utter hatred of nightmares has anything to do with my equally strong dislike of horror movies and tv shows. Or whether it’s maybe vice versa. Huh.)

But yes, people on twitter are not unused to seeing something like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Or even this:

…heading backwards just through the past few years.

I’m sure that anyone reading this can detect a thread running through the nightmares I’ve shown above.

Wild animals, chunks being taken out of me, being paralysed, close friends involved – either watching passively by, or even cheering it on; being buried alive or my fucked-up-foot being crushed, sawn off, or in one memorable case – shudder – each toe being peeled the length of my foot in turn.

Oh, and once or twice, being part of a scene straight out of Hieronymus Bosch.

I mean, I’ve never been much for dream analysis, to be honest, but I’m sure someone experienced in the field could tell me exactly what each bit signifies.

I wouldn’t care. Honestly.

I mean, they could say “it means you’re worried that… people don’t trust you, or you don’t trust them”, or “it means that you fear abandonment” or “you have an aversion to commitment”.

I mean, I think that what my dreams signify is that I have an aversion to being buried alive and a fear of wild animals ripping chunks out of me.

So, you know, could be anything. There’s a suggestion that dreams and nightmares are just the brain taking advantage of you being asleep – and not doing anything else – to clear the decks, so to speak. I’m sure that’s true.

And the chemicals, neurons firing and basically wiping some slates clean… dreams are just your brain trying to form a narrative around things that don’t make sense. In which case, no point in even worrying about it. It’s just a natural process. And if you always get nightmares instead of ‘nice dreams’, well, that’s just your mind being a bit fucked up in finding a suitable narrative.

So be it.

I do find it bemusing that I only rarely dream of the classic horror tropes; no vampires for me, no werewolves, no zombies. Occasionally harpies are in the mix of the ‘ripping chunks out of me’ but only in the crowd.

And most of the other archetypical nightmare scenarios are absent from mine. No drowning, no falling from huge heights, no being chased by a stranger, no death (though at times, it would have been a mercy), no being lost.

None of those. Odd, huh?

What nightmares tend to do, however, is leave me unsettled, anxious, and irritable as hell for the rest of the day. It’s more than possible that this is unwarranted, that my reaction to them is over-reaction. After all, I don’t have to change the bedding that often because I’ve sweated through it, and it’s been months since I had to do it twice in one night.

And it’s not as if I’m going to ruin anyone else’s night’s sleep. I live alone, I sleep alone and it’s been a very long time since anyone had reason to worry about my nightmares while they’re occurring.

The one thing that does fascinate me about them, however, genuinely, is how long I’m having a nightmare for before I wake.

Is it minutes, or longer… or does my brain come up with the sheer horror that is one of my nightmares in the half a second between being asleep and being awake.

Two more thoughts before I close this shorter than usual post.

I don’t remember ‘nice dreams’, almost never. I mean, sex dreams, yes, occasionally, but I’ve kept this place and its predecessor – for the most part, anyway – an all-ages place, so let’s not talk about those.

But ‘nice dreams’, dreams that leave me feeling cheerful or pleased or even merely content. I’m sure I have such dreams; it’d be frankly weird if I never had any nice dreams. But I never remember them. I mean, sure, it’d be lovely if I remembered them and not the nightmares.

But I long ago, as with some much else, became good-naturedly resigned to that, with occasional periods of being very bad-naturedly resigned to it.

Finally, on two occasions, I’ve used nightmares as the spine, the skeleton, of fast fictions. I was both pleased and slightly weirded out that both of them got ‘your mind scares me at times’ reactions from readers.

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

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

For various reasons, nothing new from me today; partly because I’ve been snowed under with other stuff, partly because I’m really not in the mood today, and partly because the low level headache I had throughout yeserday hasn’t completely gone, while my fucked-up-foot is still a bit ouch-y.

But since my friend Tony Lee is on my mind a bit — we met up for a delightful drink and catchup recently, for the first time in years — and he strongly suggested a potential new writing project for me, you can blame him for everything that follows.

Because Tony gave me what is possibly the hardest and trickiest and perhaps sneakiest fast fiction challenge I ever faced.

Harder even than when someone challenged me to use the top ten ‘words of the year’ in a single fast fiction story.

Because, in November 2005, I was due to answer the 100th fast fiction challenge that had been issued. The 100th story I was writing in this entirely daft, short lived (I thought!) project.

And Tony wanted to a) be the challenger for that story, and b) make it something… special, since it was, y’know, the 100th.

So he duly came up with somegthing… special.

Tony Lee, friend, writer, fella who knows how what I laughingly call my ‘mind’ works… knew how to make me stretch for the bloody thing, how to make me write a story that deserved being the one hundreth.

So the challenge: not only to use the word “sonnet” in the fast fiction, but also to write it in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet

Now, to be fair, there’s no way 200 words in a single 14 line sonnet is gonna happen. But 28 lines, split into two lots of 14 lines, in full iambic pentameter, with the proper rhyming format? That should be doable.

It took me a couple of hours to write and my brain was melting by the end of it, but here’s what resulted:
 
 
Title: Shakespeare On Summer’s Morn
Word: sonnet
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

They came to town that early August morn,
Ten strolling players come to ply their trade.
To Stratford Common, set up on the lawn,
But only once of course they’d all been paid.
So Master Oliphant, he thus arrived.
Pomposity itself, prepared to speak.
The critics hated him but he’d survived,
(He was perforce the local Shakespeare geek.)
The worst of actors any could recall,
He planned to show them all that very day
Bringing the Bard again to one and all
A playwright born so many years away.
And Oliphant took to the stage once more
As he declaimed “So shaken as we are…”

The opening to Henry Fourth Part One
Commencing with those very words that way.
Through his performance Oliphant did stun
Much nicer than the truth: he stank that day.
But nonetheless, there was no doubt at all
The audience, they left the Common fast.
Such an abysmal, laughable portray’l
Unanimous verdict: “Please be the last!”
So Oliphant slunk off to sulk alone
Performances of others carried on
Without poor Oliphant, they did atone
And slowly did the audience return.
Soon someone told Oli where he’d gone wrong:
“Stick to a bloody sonnet from now on!”

© Lee Barnett, 2005
 
 

Note to all: Tony Lee is a so and so.
 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday 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.

Ok then…

 

Let’s ignore the awful, awful film and just revel in the original short: Pixels

 

Some videos you can’t watch just the once. Some videos need repeat watching. Here’s John Oliver and a group of kids expressing their… frustration at DC getting repeatedly screwed by Congress.
WSfkNLbzwTM

 

When they announced the return of Animaniacs, I think I wasn’t the only one to wonder whether they could pull it off. Until., that is, I saw the promo.

  
 
OK, this one is just cute. Short and cute. Both the subject matter, and the video itself.

As is this one. Young squirrel really doesn’t want to go to bed. Parents will sympathise.

 

A brand new one from Mitch, this week, inspired by this week’s government reshufffle

 
 
See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

[This is Part The Sixth, click on the links for Part the First, Part the Second, Part The Third, Part The Fourth, Part The Fifth, and the extra post I did about the Who theme]

And here we are. At long last, after six weeks, the sixth and final part of this run through tv themes I like, in alphabetical order.

Why am I doing it? Well, I laid out in detail way back in the very first part of this mini-run, but honestly? It’s just a bit of fun and a longer-than-strictly-necessary answer to the question:

‘What is your favourite tv theme?’

Because I don’t have one answer. I don’t think I’ve ever just had one answer. Or ten. Or twenty. There are dozens I like, for many various and very different reasons.

Look, I tried to narrow it down, honestly. But I didn’t try that hard, because I didn’t really feel obliged to.

So, after five lots of ten tv themes in previous weeks (see above), here are the final ten themes I like from my iPhone’s playlist of 150 or so.

And as with previous weeks, I suspect there’ll be some that won’t surprise you, hope that there are possibly one or two that might… and, as always, maybe one or two you weren’t aware of, or had entirely forgotten.

Anyway, here we go…

 


Theme 51: Ski Sunday

Another sports one, and another BBC sports one that hasn’t essentiaslly changed in decades, because it works and it’s become irrevocably linked with slaloms and people shooting down mountains at speeds that are far too fast for anyone entirely sane to contemplate.


 


Theme 52: Space: 1999

Given when this was written for the show, it’s astonishing to me that it still works and could easily be a theme tune from a more recent show. Clever editing on the titles, and especially the change for every episode to include the ‘this episode’ makes this one definitely one of my favourites. (And, amusingly, last week, I heard the opening sting used as someone’s text message tone not that long ago. As with Catweazle, there was an immediate grin of memory from all of us, of a certain age, present.)


 


Theme 53: St Elsewhere

e.r. before e.r. existed. A superb, clever show for 99.99% of its run; let’s not talk about that final episode, though, eh? But clever titles, a catchy fun tune.


 


Theme 54: Thunderbirds

I dunno what can possibly be said about this theme tune that hasn’t been said by others far more intelligent and wise than me. With the possible exception that only just now did I realise where Space: 1999 got the idea for the ‘this episode’ bit from. I mean, if you’re gonna steal, steal from yourselves. But yeah, a great theme tune that’s lasted fondly in everyone’s memories for all the right reasons.

Oh, but before we leave Thunderbirds entirely… you may have heard the <em>Thunderbirds </em> theme above and before, but never quite like this:

 


Theme 55: The Tomorrow People

One of the best kids’ sf shows around when I was growing up, and a classic theme, unsettling, weird, and designed to make you feel uncomfortable, a trick it achieves easily.


 


Theme 56: UFO

Another great show, another great theme. But every time I see the opening titles, it’s the “1980” that throws me. It’s ‘my’ “Blade Runner’s set in 2019”, if you get what I mean.


 


Theme 57: Van der Valk

This was everywhere when I was a kid. The theme tune hit the record charts and just refused to leave. I mean, I get why. And as the opening titles show, it’s a lovely tune to have a wander by. I mean, it’s no Shaft, but it’ll do.


 


Theme 58: Washington Behind Closed Doors

I really want to rewatch this show. Inspired by the Watergate scandal, and indeed based on a pretty good novel – The Company – by John Ehrlichman, one of the players in the whole clusterfuck, the opening titles, and especially the opening theme, is full of urgency and militarism and ‘official’ stuff. It’s great.


 


Theme 59: White Horses

Like Follyfoot in the third post in this run, this is from my childhood, and, like Follyfoot, to do with horses. But this is one of those series of shows that the BBC bought, dubbed, and then showed on a Saturday morning to kids who loved telly.

Like me.

For decades afterwards, I barely remembered the storyline, convinced that it was set at the Austrian Riding School. Nope, a quick look up destroyed that idea. It was set on the farm where the horses that went to the riding school were bred.

Anyway, the theme they used for foreign broadcast is one of those themes that sticks in your head, from the opening horns, to the gentle lyrics, sung by Irish singer Jackie Lee.


 


Theme 60: The Zoo Gang

Suitable that this is the final theme in the run, since it’s genuinely one of my favourites. Written by Paul McCartney and performed by Wings, its’ very much of its day – the 1970s – and just about perfect for the show.

The original book the show is based on (a series of short stories) is a lot ‘harder’ than the tv show, more brutal and the lead characters aren’t quite as… nice. But the basic plot is the same, and we’ll explained by the opening titles.


 

 

And that’s it.

Well, that was fun.

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

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday 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…’ run, 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.

I came across this photo while reading up on Ellis Island. The story it provoked has nothing to do with Ellis Island.

And this is the story that it provoked.


One murder, right on schedule

It took a full five minutes before the assistant district attorney, anxiously exchanging glances with his counterpart several feet away, rose to his feet and coughed, rather loudly.

The judge was unmoved.

Indeed, the judge didn’t move at all, which was the cause of the concern at the tables behind which sat the lawyers and the young client.

Until a few minutes’ earlier, the trial had been proceeding as both the prosecution and the defence had anticipated. Short opening statements had been made, both lawyers very aware that this particular judge had a reputation for impatience with circumlocution and waffle. Both had, at various times in the past, suffered the withering gaze of the judge, and also observations from the bench that were no less scornful and derisive.

After the opening statements, the prosecution had called its first witness, the medical examiner. An hour of questioning had ensued, about three-quarters of it from the prosecution, the rest – even the prosecution would later admit – made up of skilful questions from the defence, attempting, with some limited success, to damage the witness’s credibility.

A second prosecution witness, the first police officer on the scene, had followed the same pattern, while the third was such a success that the prosecutor’s assistant had even vaguely wondered whether they even needed two of the later planned witnesses. Her quickly scribbled note, however, had been greeted with a sharp shake of the head from her boss.

The fourth witness was where the problems had commenced. A fairly standard opening had been followed by a commonplace question to which the defence had objected. The assistant district attorney had been surprised by the intervention, surprised and concerned enough to mentally run through the remaining evidence to be offered. He quickly, and correctly, concluded that the defence was objecting for show, solely to damage the flow of question, answer, question, answer, and thereby to unsettle the witness.

It was an old defence trick, but one he was surprised the defence had used at that point rather than later in the trial. He’d expected the judge to overrule the objection immediately when the judge had held up a single finger for silence.

The judge had lowered his hand, asked both legal teams for a moment to consider the objection, and had fallen silent.

A moment passed, which stretched into a minute, and then two, and then five.

A dread thought idly flitted across the ADA’s mind, and he somehow resisted the temptation to look first at his opponent – especially when he heard a muttered ‘please, no…’ from him – then at the jury, sat quietly in the box.

“Your honour…?” He asked, to which there was no reply. He repeated the entreaty.

Slowly now, glancing around, hearing loud murmurs behind him from the public area, he fixed his eyes on the defence counsel, and they slowly nodded, then walked forward the short distance towards the judge.

A quick examination confirmed his fears; there was no choice now. He beckoned towards a clerk and the security guard. He turned towards the public gallery, searching for the medical examiner but she’d left after her evidence. He raised his voice, “Is there a doctor here?” He asked, noting the defence lawyer turning pale, partly from fear, partly from anger.

He also heard gasps from the jury box, and sliding his eyes over towards them, they found one woman, sitting at the front, her eyes fixed intensely on the judge.

Why my case? He asked himself. And he knew the defence counsel was asking the exact same question.

I mean it wasn’t as if they hadn’t tried to exclude her. But she’d been at the end of the jury pool, and they’d both used their preemptories much earlier. And the judge wouldn’t let them exclude her for cause.

So the mystery writer turned amateur (for which read ‘constantly interfering and getting in the way’) detective had made it onto the jury.

After that, the district attorney supposed, a murder in the courtroom was only a matter of time.

 

© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


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


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

There are some manoeuvrings going on today in British politics, and, indeed as I write this, more recent news is coming through.

And while I really don’t want to get into the party politics of who’s doing what to whom and why – I mean, Matt Hancocks’s not back, so thankfully we’re spared that – since there are three different things going on today, why not a bit on each?

I’m tired and irritable. So, yes, why not indeed.

OK, first off, there was the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session earlier. I’ve written about PMQs before, more than once, and, in general, things haven’t much changed in the past few years. And the changes there have been haven’t improved matters.

Boris Johnson, like every PM since Tony Blair, obviously loathes PMQs, and like his immediate predecessor, has no worries about showing it. Unlike Theresa May, however, our primus inter menaces‘ disdain for it isn’t shown by bad temper nor by obvious irritation, but by ramping up the bullshit machine, and spewing out whatever is on his tongue without in any way engaging his brain in the process.

Every PM seeks to avoid questions they don’t like, but most – not all, but most – do so by pretending to answer the question, while saying something quite different entirely.

Or they make one or two sentences ostensibly in relation to the question, then carefully steer the answer away from the original subject matter… and then say something about a subject they want to talk about. And if the question is repeated, they’ll say something like ‘I’ve already answered that [he didn’t] and then say something else that he wants to say. Or “I think the real question is…” then say what he wants to say, abouy something quite different.

Johnson does none of that. He just ignores the question entirely, bullshits his way through a couple of sentences, throws in the odd statistic (that neither he nor anyone else knows the accuracy of) and then says something like “hurrah!” And sits down.

I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a Prime Minister so obviously contemptuous of the entire process of PMQs.

I have no idea whether it’s true that Napoleon asked about his generals ‘are they lucky?’ But fuck me, Johnson has been lucky with his leaders of the opposition.

Corbyn was utterly useless at PMQs at the start of his leadership of the opposition, and not much better by the end. He’d learned a bit, but my gods he was bad. And Starmer, who should have been better, whose training as a prosecutor should have helped him… is… just bad at it.

He makes the mistake, every week, every bloody week, of thinking that he’s dealing with someone who values truth as a concept in the chamber of the House of Commons. And when he’s disappointed in it, every bloody week, it’s like he’s surprised at it once again.

He makes Charlie Brown facing Lucy and the football seem actively cynical.

As for Ian Blackford, the less said the better. His attempts every week are pitiful and maybe one in ten, maybe, questions. does he actually achieve what he set out to. Some of his sentences are longer than Judge Jeffries and, usually, by the time he finishes his questions, no one – including himself – can remember how they started.

Every PM comes to power promising to reform PMQs. Except Johnson, for whom PMQs is in one way exactly what he wants it to be: half an hour to three-quarters of an hour wherein he can bullshit like crazy and get cheered to the rafters for doing so. And, yet, he’s smart enough to detest the house for letting him get away with it with nary a raised eyebrow.

His contempt for PMQs itself is only matched by his scarcely hidden contempt for those backbenchers who praise him with planted questions of the ‘Will the Prime Minister agree with me that his policies are just lovely and wonderful and superb?’.

You know what, I’m starting to share his contempt.

OK, moving on. There’s a government reshuffle today. About 100 jobs, about a hundred ministerial positions. And to use the old phrase, time for them to have a little spin.

As I write this, Dominic Raab has been sacked as Foreign Secretary and been both demoted and promoted; he’s gone to the Ministry of Justice, where he once served as a junior minister. An unquestioned demotion. But he’s also become Lord Chancellor, which, technically, outranks the PM. Ah, but ‘technically’ could equally mean ‘meaninglessly’, and in this circumstance it very much does.

He’s also been moved from ‘First Secretary Of State’, a meaningless job title that means Deputy Prime Minister, to actually being Deputy Prime Minister, a meaningless job title of its own.

(While the job of Prime Minister is coming up on 400 years’ old. the first Deputy was Clem Attlee during WWII, and for most of the past 80 years, we haven’t had anyone in the job.)

Who’s got Raab’s old job of Foreign Secretary, you ask? Well, Liz Truss, the – as of this morning – International Trade Sec. I’m genuinely puzzled who was more ‘what the f––?’ at the news of Truss’s appointment, me or Dominic Raab.

Both Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel have kept their jobs, which doesn’t really surprise me. Johnson’s not strong enough to dislodge Sunak and Patel is one of Johnson’s (in his mind, anyways) star performers.

Most PMs loathe reshuffles and I’m sure that Johnson is the same. I’m mildly surprised he actually fired those leaving government in person rather then delegating it or texting them,, but only mildly.

Every reshuffle though is an indicator of how strong a PM thinks his control of the parliamentary party is. This one is showing, and will continue to show, that Johnson’s none too sure of how strong – or weak – it is.

OK, finally…

There’s an Opposition Day in the Commons today. Now, that’s not Opposite Day, although it might as well be. Nothing done in the chamber will actually matter. Any unimportant votes won’t be binding; and yes, while the subject matter may be important, is important, the votes won’t be. How can they be if they’re not binding, and the government cares so little about it that they don’t even bother to vote against; they abstain. The only purpose is so that Starmer and his team can say to the party… here, look at that, yes, at that. Look, we did that…

And, sadly, with the state of British politics being what it is, that counts as an achievement as far as Labour are concerned.

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.

Whereas Starmer is still so stung by Corbyn’s/Labour’s collapse in the 2019 election, and the many many poison chalices with which he was left by Corbyn, that he’ll claim anything… including a meaningless debate and a consequence free vote – are achievements of the greatest stature.

(Starmer had his own nightmare reshuffle a few months ago; any criticism that he aims at Johnson should bear that in mind.)

I wish I was less cynical, less sceptical, less fatalistic about the state of british politics. I really wish I could see the light somewhere.

But I realised last week that I don’t trust a single politician in the House of Commons – not a one of them – not to lie through their teeth if it was convenient; for personal advancement, for a political win, to get one over on their opponents outside and inside the party. They’d all break manifesto pledges, televised promises, pledges made inside the House of Commons… and sleep well afterwards. While hypocritically attacking those in other parties for doing the exact same thing.

Bah.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars 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 up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)