If you’ve been here before you’ll know I write a lot of short pieces as part of writing challenges on Twitter. This week’s keyword was ‘Enigma’. My home town is Cheltenham, home of GCHQ. I couldn’t resist.


Inevitable Truth

“Truth” said Gerald “is like the inevitable fart at a funeral. If you don’t control when it escapes, it’ll come out at the worst time possible.”

Gerald was the head of London’s premiere PR Consultancy, Gerald, Gerrald and Cherrold.
“PR” said Gerald “is not about lying. It’s about knowing how to tell what proportion of which truth to whom and when.”

If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound completely honest, you’re right. Gerald’s whole approach to public relations is about making choices.

“It’s easy to catch out someone who’s lying. It’s a lot harder to call them dishonest when everything they’ve said is true.”
“A journalist is not a fact finding machine, he is generally a fact checking machine. Give him something to check and you’ll make him happy. Make that something true and you’ll make him think his job is done. Very few of them ever check what they haven’t been told.”

It was Gerald, Gerrald and Cherrold’s reputation for managing ‘little situations’ that made Charles Storrington ring their number.

“I’d like to speak to Gerald, Gerrald or Cherrold please”
“Gerald speaking.”
“I need your help.”
“Good help is bloody expensive.”
“Not a concern.”
“Come on in then. Don’t tell me your name on the phone. When you get here, ask for Primus at Reception. They’ll come and get me.”

Storrington began to explain himself to Gerald.
“It started as a matter of principle. I think I really believed that the public had a right to know if their elected officials were able to keep their most personal promises – their wedding vows. Then I got married and I got elected. When DC offered me the opportunity to write a private members bill I thought I would demonstrate my high moral principles, so I wrote a bill mandating a Register of Marital Fidelity. MPs were allowed to sleep with whoever they chose, but they had to enter their name in the register. I never really thought the MP’s would vote for it.
What I hadn’t accounted for was a high profile minister getting caught telling secrets to his Russian mistress just before the vote, and I didn’t think my girlfriend would get quite so publicly pissed off.”
“She doesn’t want her name in the Register ?”
“I am not her only indiscretion, and her husband puts her regular absence down to an obsession with her work, rather than an over-abundance of libido.
There aren’t a lot of women as senior as her in her line of work. He thinks she just over-compensates.”
“What line of business is she in ?”
“She’s a bishop.”
It didn’t take Gerald long before he knew what to do.
He picked up his phone and hit the speed dial button for the blogger journo with the fastest story turnover and largest readership. The papers and the telly would be too bothered about playing catch up to bother with the missing details.
“Jenny ? I’ve got a Conservative MP schtupping a bishop. You want to know the twist ? He’s straight.”

Indecision : Jane and the Mayor

Hike Aunt Teeside honour counter this Cinders Haitian.
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Juan’s Ha! pony time, dare worsen ice ladle curl gold Chain.
Shane leaf tin alley dull cut edge Honda hedge Offa pig shitty.
Damn hair rove thus hit tea foster tally bonk hearse. Heave arse cold Boris. J ‘n’ crew harp hinders aims treat has dumb airs souse.
Sewed Jay knew have you Lidl seek ruts Bore Hiss wood half Rarr the knot bean Owen. Bare arsed he’s side dead two keel paw Jain.
Fen damn hay ya cot two Jane’s arse, heed disco furred dare worse know Hun inn. Furry arse, deem hair horded hall deeper lease too fined hair runned Keeler.
Chains murmur hand pup ha herder bow dumb mare sea full plan, sew days enter tool leave weeder far end.
Ford ace dam heir such Dahl hover thirst treats putt Shane cooed nut beef hound. So here rested herpes laughing murmurin’ pop.
Venn she erred harbour is head frown harp or folk singers lamb her Chain rota late Tartuffe a mayor witch’s head :

Hi there Hugh real Easter bare ants Andrew sign yawp host whore hightail heifer he won watch ewe dunce her.

Therm hair real eyes dashy worsened gunner lead dim off, handy set Humphrey. Heath thence carp herd hand worse nephews scene gnome whore.
Jane leafed harpy lea hinder shitty hand fen sheik rue harp Sheba came harp wholly Titian.

I am shocked to report complaints that this fine gobbledygook doesn’t make sense ! Pish and nonsense ! Try this :

I can’t decide on account of this indecision, whether this story ought to be spelt in the way it sounds, or the way you was taught to. Personally, I tend towards the ludicrous. That is why people like me are always tittering like a silly schoolgirl.

Once upon a time there was a nice little girl called Jane.
Jane lived in a little cottage on the edge of a big city.
The mayor of this city was totally bonkers. He was called Boris.
Jane grew up in the same street as the mayor’ house, so Jane knew a few little secrets Boris would have rather not be known.
Boris decided to kill poor Jane.
When the mayor got to Jane’s house he discovered there was no-one in. Furious, the mayor ordered all the police to find her and kill her.
Jane’s Mama and Papa heard about the mayor’s evil plan, so they sent her to live with a friend.
For days the mayor searched all over the streets but Jane could not be found, so he arrested her peace loving Mama and Pop.
When she heard how Boris had thrown her poor folks in the slammer Jane wrote a letter to the mayor which said :
Either you release the parents and resign your post or I tell everyone what you done sir.
The mayor realised that she wasn’t going to let him off and he set them free. He then scarpered and was never seen no more.
Jane lived happily in the city and when she grew up she became a politician.


The curved edge of the blade tugged urgently at the underside of her skin as he swept his hand across the side of her neck. If her heart had still been pumping, blood would have obscured his view, but she was just dead enough for him to cut with precision and not so long dead that her skin had lost its feeling of life.
Each line he drew formed one side of a shape. A pattern he could see while she had still been dressed and breathing. A vivid lattice of white and rose and purple and red. Human marquetry – just walking around, blithely breathing in and out, in and out, waiting for the form of the art to be discovered. Blind to its own role in the production.
He worked quickly and yet with great care. It was the early hours of Sunday morning but he did not have the advantage of darkness as his cloak – that was reserved for the hackers. He needed bright light so he could clearly see the next line, the grain of the muscle under her skin, the overall design taking form.
He needed bright light once he was gone too so that those who stumbled on his gallery could fully appreciate the majesty of his work.
The last section, the speckling of her cheek complete, he stood to consume her with his eyes for the last time.
As he cleaned his blades and placed them neatly in their roll he felt the elation reserved for a fantastically small number of artists. Painters did not have to catch their canvas, sculptors did not need to subdue their clay, even glorious cabinet makers do not kill their own trees. How many others felt as he felt now ? He knew of no-one.
The site prepared he turned away from her and walked purposefully in the direction of home. It was a long way, and now that he was no longer creating, he felt the chill of the small hours seeping in. He could not afford to be seen hurrying, just walking as if he had an absolute right to be going from one place to another, so he could not speed up to warm himself. Soon enough the chill extended to his mood. The thought of Sunday morning and trudging to church with his wife because she needed to go and feel the glow of God’s forgiveness beaming from the priest’s beatific chubby face.
A glow he knew was not his to be felt. Forgiveness was something no man could bestow upon him. No man could begin to fathom how much there was to forgive.
He quietly opened the back door and walked into the kitchen where he sat down to take off his shoes.
His dog looked up at him, got up from his bed, walked to where he sat and gently licked the back of his hand letting him ruffle the top of his head before slinking back to bed and curling up to sleep.
His dog knew he was free from blame and worthy of love. Maybe if he asked the dog nicely he’d put in a word for him with the big Dog upstairs.


Man has not yet conquered time and space.
In fact it is unlikely that he ever will.
His approach to intergalactic travel is to burn tonnes of liquefied dinosaur in huge rockets in a furious attempt to build up enough speed to loose the bounds of gravity. So far, he’s thrown some metal objects away from the planet, sent a few people to his own planet’s solitary satellite and lots of folk have gone for a quick spin in orbit.
Interplanetary travel it ain’t. Describing me chucking a ball of paper in the bin as ‘intercontinental’ gives you some idea of how close we are to intergalactic.
Even in his fantasies Man talks about harnessing great power to achieve ‘warp drive’ and conquer the vastness of space.
Spacetime doesn’t want to be conquered.
Spacetime is not ‘all about straight line speed.’
She is curved. Pliable. Unbreakable strong and exquisitely beautiful.
To the meek she is terrifying, perhaps a vengeful goddess. She encloses us, we are of her and we cannot bend her to our will by force.
By force no. Of course not.
What idiot man ever thought he could persuade a strong woman by blunt force ? She might let him play at boss for a while, but she will not give way to mere push.
No, to overcome the forces of Spacetime and truly cross galaxies we need someone who understands how to exert great influence, not just smash her with brutality.

Jen’s approach was novel. To be honest, Jen was pretty novel for an astrophysicist. For a start, she didn’t expound her theories on blackboards or whiteboards or cover the walls of a lecture theatre with mathematical hieroglyphics. Jen wove her theories with multi-coloured threads and her studio was filled with origami models and swatches marked with galaxy beads.
I’m not sure I fully understand everything she was doing, but the general gist of it seems to be that instead of trying to accelerate our way across the warp of the universe, we should be folding the universe onto itself, and so reduce the distance we have to travel to a little hop across the weft.
“The trick,” Jen said, “is to know where to fold so you don’t disrupt Spacetime too much. If She feels crumpled She tends to shake out the crease and smooth Herself down.”
The best science doesn’t look like science at all. It looks like art.
On the wall in Jen’s studio is her masterpiece. A handmade tapestry of Spacetime. A flowing run of thread and beads representing everything she knew about the fabric of our being.
On it are long chalk lines – the kind of line a seamstress makes on a piece of cloth she’s going to work. Chalk lines sweeping across the universe – origami folds planned on a grand scale.
That’s how we found it anyway. We stood there, just gazing at its beauty for hours, wondering where the hell she’d gone.

A #FairytaleFriday story inspired by the keyword ‘weft’

The Ferrous Fairy

500ish words in the style of The Clangers for #FanFicFriday

This is the planet Earth.
Round and blue and brown and green and wrapped in wispy whorls of white clouds.
From very high up, you would not know that anyone lives here at all.
But take a closer look and all manner of strange and wonderful beasts can be found.
Baboonicorns, Velociraptors, Goreybeasts and Storybeasts, sharp scribbly monsters and of course, the mighty Blampied.
The occasional goat. And look over there … Literally ! A Ge-eked.
Clearly this is a planet teeming with life, made by the power of a mighty imagination in only a hundred and forty four hours.
We would have to travel a very long way indeed to find a planet with quite such a strange array of fauna as this.
Far across the galaxy, past thousands of fiery pinprick stars we would venture, until we found one small, crater pocked ball of stone floating in the sky.
From far away, we would not know that anyone lived there at all.
But on closer inspection … who is this ?
Ah yes. Major Clanger. He’s rummaging around in his toolkit, and if I’m not very much mistaken, he’s about to make something really rather wonderful out of all those bits of metal he seems to have gathered in his wheelbarrow.
If there’s one thing we know about Clangers, it’s that they’re really very good indeed at putting things together.
Hammer and clatter. Spanner and potter. Slowly the thing is taking shape.
Whoo ! This is hard work.
Good job Little Clanger and Tiny Clanger are here to fetch soup. Just in time.
Off they trundle, taking their soup trolley and their copper soup jug with them – off to the soup wells to ask the Soup Dragon for some soup for the Major.
She’s there, bathed in the green glow of bubbling soup, a luminous leguminous pea soup I believe. She gives the Clangers just the right amount for their tea.
They thank her and trundle back home to the Major, thoughts of hot soup and Mother’s bread and butter hurrying them homeward.
But what is this ? The Major’s machine is ready ! No time now for crusty bread and butter knives.
We must see what he has made.
There it stands in all its glory. A magnificent, masterful, Major-made machine.
I have gathered together all the little bits of iron I could find on the planet and fashioned them into this …
A ferrous fairy.
Sure enough, standing in front of the Major, her iron wings outstretched, was a fairy made of nuts and bolts and sheets of metal.
In the very centre of her back was a key.
I will now, cried the Major, wind her up and set her free
He wound the key. Crank. Crank. Crank.
The fairy tilted her head, opened her metal eyelids and flapped her wings.
Up she shot into the air. Up, up and away.
Off to join the metal chicken who lived way up high in the sky.
Time for soup now little ones, said the Major and in they went for tea.


A #FairyTaleFriday story in half a thousand words

“You expect me to swallow that !?!” she asked, the disgust floating on the top registers of her voice like skin on cooling custard.
“We were working late. We missed the last tube. We had to be back in at seven. It was easier and cheaper for her to walk to my flat than try and get her a cab out to her home and then have her commute all the way back in in the morning.”
“Lies. Stinking filthy cheating bloody lies. You were in the same bed !”
“The sofa’s awful – no-one could sleep on that thing. There were pillows in the middle. She was still mostly dressed.”
“MOSTLY ? You and some whore get pissed and because you can’t even wait to get her fully undressed to fuck her you expect me to be happy because she was only in her slutty little pants ?”
She wasn’t calming down quite as quickly as he would like.
Julie changed tack.
“You didn’t answer your phone. I was worried.”
“I know darling, but we were trying to get the deal prepped and none of us were taking calls. I’m sorry you were upset, but I was working.”
“How am I supposed to know that my husband isn’t out pouring champagne into some young floozy and cheating on his miserable bloody wife ?”
Hot fat tears were bubbling up now, splashing one by one over the rim of her eyelids.
“It’s four O’Clock. You’ve driven two, three hours to get here and you’re tired and upset. Why don’t I call the Hilton and we can check in and try and get some sleep ?”
He put his hand out as if to touch her shoulder. She recoiled as if he had punched her on the arm.
“I am not going to a hotel with you.”
He slowed his breathing.
“In the morning, in three hours in fact, I am going to lead my team in to close the biggest deal of my career.
If I am successful I will earn the biggest bonus this firm has ever paid.”
“Well bully for you !”
“Or not. If I fail, I and my brilliant but expensive rainmakers will be out on our arses. We will suffer. Our families will suffer. All because my wife sat at home and started thinking terrible things”
“Things that turned out to be true !”
“That turned out to be easily misinterpreted”
“I’m checking into a hotel and I’m putting it on the joint account”
“That’s fine Julie really it is.” He walked her towards the door and opened it.
“and I’m going shopping tomorrow in London”
“Goodnight darling”
He closed the door behind her and walked back to the bedroom.
“It’s OK, she’s gone”
“I knew you could sell anything” said the glossy haired beauty in his bed, “but I never thought she’d buy that.”
“She’ll be fine” he purred as he stroked the back of her neck. “Bond Street heals all wounds.
“Now about mine – these claw marks need some attention.”
She chuckled deeply as he pulled her head downwards.

Digging a big hole

“I’m going to dig to the centre of the Earth” said Brian,
“and I need a bloody good spade.”
“That’s a big ‘ole you’re gonna make there Brian” said Chandler,
“You’re gonna shift a lot of diggins.”
“That’s why I need a bloody good spade innit. Now you going to sell me one or not ?”
“Alright alright” said Chandler and he reached for a Hawkins No. 9 Digging Spade.
“The Hawkins No. 9 is a solid old thing, but she’ll shift a mountain without complaining and comes with a warranty says they’ll replace her if she wears out in less than three years.”
Brian took hold of her, hefted her up and down to feel her weight and admired how the grain of the ash handle was so perfectly aligned down the length of her shaft.
He ran his fingers down her. She’d been oiled to make her supple and so the water would run off her. Her blade was clean shining stainless steel with broad, forgiving shoulders that would be kind to your sole as you repeatedly struck into the earth together.
He noted happily that her blade was secured to the shaft with straps, not a socket and he knew with the utmost certainty that this was the one digging partner he would ever need.
Before, he thought he was going to be facing the big dig on his own. Now he knew she’d be with him he felt his confidence soar.

“I’ll give you twenty quid for it” he said.
Chandler snorted.
“Twenty quid !? It’s not a bloody gardening spade. It’s not for planting bloody roses ! That’s a proper hole digging spade ! It’s a Hawkins Number Nine for God’s sake. Twenty quid indeed. Forty and I won’t take a penny less.”
“I suppose I could stretch to twenty five.” Brian shrugged and counted out five fivers, slowly.
One … two … three … four … inhale deeply … fiiiive …
“Oh for God’s sake, thirty quid and you can have it”
… and six.
“Thank you” said Brian, heading for the door.
Chandler muttered “bloody dwarves” under his breath and he opened the till to put away his hard won cash.

Brian walked back to the woods whistling. On the way to Chandler’s his gait had been a solid trudge. Walking back to his clearing with his new spade he floated. His sturdy frame seemed to weigh nothing and he found himself leaping across puddles and playfully kicking pebbles along the path.

Brian arrived at the clearing and took it all in. The planks he had made from the trees he felled to make the clearing were stacked around the perimeter ready to shore up the walls of the hole.
He walked to the very centre of the clearing, to the square patch of bare earth where he had cut a stamp of sod that morning and he carefully lined up the shining blade of his new spade against the grass edge.
“Now then Miss Hawkins, ” he put his foot on her shoulder, “let’s see what you can do.”

Please do not feed the birds

I arrived in London with a full heart and an empty stomach. I was just twelve years old.
It was to remain that way for several days (being hungry I mean, not being twelve – that lasted all year) until I developed a taste for pigeon. London fattens up a pigeon beautifully.
I’ve lived here now for thirty one years.
I’m not a rich man, but my needs are simple
Never did find no streets of gold, but I have written a best-selling cookbook.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it ?
101 ways to cook a pigeon.

If I’m honest with you, my favourite recipe’s still the very first one : Kentucky Fried Pigeon.

A word about catching pigeons. Don’t kill the first one you catch. He’s probably sick and he don’t make good eating. Him you got to keep alive. You ties a bit of string round his leg and then you lets him wander around near your feet. Now your pigeon’s a real nosey birdie, so them other pigeons is looking at him thinking “Coo I wonder what he knows what we don’t know ?” and soon enough their curiosity gets too much for them and they’s got to swoop down and find out what your first pigeon’s doing.
That’s where you come in with your net. You want a nice big old net, about three foot square so you don’t have to be too accurate with your throwing. A bit of lead shot tied into the edges and you’re ready to snaffle a right good feast.

Now you has got to kill your pigeon. It’s not nice, and I know there’ll be squeamish little birdies out there who don’t like the idea of putting a thin wire around the neck of a wild bird and pulling it hard until it slices clean through the sinews and bones of the pigeon’s neck … But that’s what it takes to slaughter your own pigeon. Besides they squawks rotten if you try and cook ’em live.

Once you got their head off of course the rest is easy.
You gives him a good plucking, then a quick slice with your knife down the front of the chest so he’s opened right up, then a nick at the naughties and a good delve and you’ve got his innards in the palm of your hand.
If they don’t come out first time, never mind. Wet your forefinger (get him good and wet mind, your pidgy wont thank you for bad lubrication) and shove good and hard up your pigeon’s posterior, and pull. His innards’ll be his outwards in no time.
Don’t throw ’em away mind, cause they makes for a very happy cat … and if you’re buying my second cookbook, you’ll be needing a lot of happy cats.

Now. Coat your pidgy in lard and flour, douse him generous with salt and pepper, then bung him in the vat of bubbling lard till he’s golden scrumptious.
Kentucky Fried Pigeon. It’s finger licking good.


500 words on the keyword “Forbidden” for #FairytaleFriday

Gerry goes to the library at break time. The other boys go back to the dayroom and talk about Mr Ralph’s impossible maths tests or who’s got detention this Thursday. There are pints of milk downed and handfuls of digestives shovelled into hungry mouths. It’s loud and boisterous and to all the boys in the dayroom, perfectly normal.
Gerry’s in the library. He didn’t turn left on the way out of the classroom block. He didn’t jostle down the hall through the house next door to his, bouncing the fire doors off their buffers into the boys behind. He just clutched his books to his chest and without even looking up, walked forward into the cloisters, opened the oak door at the bottom of the library steps and then ran, two grey stone steps at a time, up to the library. He walked in, was relieved to see that one of the four big chairs in periodicals was free, grabbed Time magazine and sank into the seat.

Time magazine … dense articles about American politics, opinionated news about goings on in the world from an American point of view. Fantastic photography that transported you to Berlin or Moscow or Oregon – as if they all had equal heft in the scales of global politics. Gerry didn’t pretend to understand politics, to be honest he didn’t even pretend to be interested in it, but he was interested in being out there in the world, through the thin, grainy pages of Time magazine following the waves of oily vapour that seemed to float off the newsprint to somewhere that wasn’t bloody here.

The red second hand on the electric clock on the wall didn’t tick from second to second. It smeared around the face with no respect for the orderly division of time. As it swept past twelve the minute hand woke up and jumped forward a step before settling down for a well earned rest. The hour hand was just plain sneaky. Obviously it was moving, because if you ignored it for a while it wasn’t in the same place as when you last looked, but you never actually saw it move. Devious.

Time magazine was not distracting enough today. It was coming second to a timepiece in an attention grabbing race. American elections were disappointingly bloodless and pointless compared to British politics. It seemed to Gerry that the protagonists just wanted to move the dials on tax and welfare to their own favourite spot, and not where the other lot left it.

The minute hand whittled another notch out of breaktime, another step closer to French and Latin.

Gerry straightened his back, lifted his head and took a deep breath.
Never mind. Term ends in eight weeks.
He could fly home then and see Mom and Dad and the girls.
He stood, put Time back on the rack.
No tears now. Not here.
Not ever.