Moats, et cetera.

Simon pressed the phone closer to his ear.

‘Don’t think I quite caught that, Mrs Stockwell. Did you say something about a boat?’

‘Sorry, you’re saying “moat”, correct? With an “M”? As in, “M” for “Michael”? As in, the trench of water that often circumvented 16th century castles?’

‘Oh, I see. No that makes perfect sense now. Well of course you need a moat to keep the llama in.’

‘Picking him-‘

‘Sorry, picking her up this coming Saturday? Well that does put a bit of pressure on things.’

‘In all honesty I am not sure there are any properties on the market that we could snap up in such a hurry, and as for the moat, well, that is to say, the overlap in the Venn diagram of “moat” and “five day settlement” is non-existence itself.’

‘Again, I do not mean to take a tone with you, Mrs Stockwell.’

‘Of course. I will check the current listings when I’m back in the office. Good day, Mrs Stockwell.’

He threw his phone onto the passenger seat next to him. Simon had fallen a little out of love with his profession of late. Finding ridiculously expensive houses for ridiculously ridiculous people did not give him joy, satisfaction, or even a single hair’s-breadth grain of contentment any more. It hadn’t always been like this. Simon was sure that he had started out in this game all those years ago with nothing but the best of intentions.

He sat there, musing silently on the ridiculousness of the world. Then, he shook his head free of its thoughts, started the engine, and shimmied vertically from the rooftop in his gold-plated helicopter.


Some As to Qs

Apart from the strange story thing I most recently posted before this, I’m afraid I’ve been woefully absent from this blog. I have no real excuse for this. I’m just finding myself a wee bit obsessed with the old PhD at the moment, so it’s a struggle to pull myself away from that and think about literally anything else. Not that the world hasn’t been putting in a real effort to throw me distractions (nice try, America).

Anywhere, here I (sporadically) am (for now).

A little while ago, Nik Eveleigh nominated me for a Liebster Award. While I wait for the trophy to arrive in the mail (are you sure you sent it to the right address Nik?!), I thought I might spend my stormy Saturday afternoon answering some questions he’s asked of me.

So here we bloody go!

  1. If you had, in fact, shot the sheriff would you have also killed the deputy, and what would your decision have been based on?

Yes, I would have. Nothing personal. I’m just a psychopath.


  1. What novel, story or poem by someone else do you wish you had written and why?

I am constantly infuriated with every other person’s writing talent. If you want me to be more specific, I guess I wish I had written Harry Potter. Must be cool to create a whole world for a generation. Plus the cash.


  1. Do you think blogging is ‘real’ writing?

That’s a tough one. I think the definition of ‘real’ depends more on the quality of the writing, rather than the medium. There are some excellent blogs out there and some terrible published articles.


  1. Why do you write?

While I definitely don’t love the time spent staring at a blank screen and despairing that I’ll never have a good idea ever again, I do like the actual writing bit that comes afterwards. It’s a headspace that somehow exists outside of real life. Everything else becomes less important than the world you’re building, right in front of you. I also like witling spiky garbage into something readable. That part’s satisfying.


  1. What was the first career or job you can remember wanting to pursue?

I have documented evidence from Grade 1 of an early desire to be a dolphin ‘when I grow up’. It’s never worked out, but then again I might not have grown up yet. I’ll keep you updated with any progress on that front. Since then, the order of jobs that I’ve wanted to pursue has gone: vet, chef, teacher, speech pathologist, lecturer, researcher, writer, researcher, writer. It now alternates fairly frequently between those last two.


  1. Who, in your opinion was responsible for putting the “bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp”? And do you believe the same person put the “ram in the rama lama ding dong” or did he/she have an accomplice?

Kelsey Grammar. Solo job. It’s just what I’ve heard.


  1. If you could have anything in the world for breakfast what would you have?

Coconut chocolate croissant.


  1. What is your worst habit?

I don’t have a good sitting posture, if that counts as a habit. Actually, I don’t really have a good standing/walking posture either. I nail lying down though.


  1. Do you listen to music when you write? If not, why not and if so, who (or what style) and why?

Nope, I need absolute silence. My brain can’t cope with more than one task.


  1. Am I still allowed more questions? Really? Even after putting in about thirty questions under the simple guise of “Question 9”? Ok…fine…who’s your favourite muppet and why?

Beaker, because look at his face.


  1. What makes you angry and why?

Hurtful, prejudicial opinions, although in saying that, as I and many other leftie-types just learned, opinion can’t be shifted simply by hurling anger, outrage and mockery at it. Reason has to be the main tool for changing perspective, even when the other side seems so incredibly unreasonable and you just want to punch a dude. So yep, I’m working on that.

Also, stubbing my toe really gets my goat.


Nik, thank you for these delightful questions and for bringing me back to the desk on which the name for this blog was initially based. Everyone else, Nik’s a great writer – so much so that he deserves a hyperlink for all the times his name was mentioned. Go have a peep.


Happy weekending.

Social Currency

‘Frank. Frank Talk.’

The man held out his hand.

‘Nice to put a face to the email address, Frank,’ said the second man. ‘I’m Ernest Discussion.’

‘Look, Ernest, I hope you don’t mind me beating around the bush here, but I’d like to get straight to the business at hand.’

‘Please do so. “Candid” is my middle name, after all.’


‘Truthfully. “Ernest” is my first name, after all.’

‘Right, then let’s get started.’

‘Yes, let’s. “Discussion” is my last name, after all.’

Frank narrowed his eyes.

‘The fact is, Ernest, that you’ve been late to submit the last few drafts of your manuscript papers. I’d like to know why this is the case, in order to determine whether there is sufficient justification to defend your position when I speak later with my boss.’

As Ernest opened his mouth to respond, the rehearsed excuses surging from his brain skidded to an abrupt halt at the very tip of his tongue. He had, until just a moment before, thought of his lateness as pardonable. Because, well, work commitments, et cetera. It was only as he attempted to form that vague, comfortable defence into an articulated argument that he tasted its bitter falseness. A vision came to him of the flock of unfinished origami cranes in his office bin, and he blushed. His mind had not ignored the opportunities for productivity to devote itself to another, more important task; it had simply wandered off towards something shiny.

He sighed inwardly, deciding that there was no other option but to throw himself at the mercy of his stone-faced companion. Before he could begin though, a surprised yell came from behind the two men.


Ernest swivelled in his seat to view the interrupter.

‘Molly!’ he replied, recognising the face as belonging to a former university colleague. He felt a familiar twinge of inexplicable discomfort meeting her after this many years.

‘Frank,’ he said. ‘This is Mollifying Jargon. We did our undergrad together.’

‘Please, call me Molly,’ she said, leaning over the table to shake Frank’s outstretched hand. ‘Don’t let me interrupt this strategic consultation. Nothing so productive for laying the building blocks for a synergistic relationship as some good, old-fashioned face time. Especially for Creatives like y’selves. What did I always used to say about social currency, Ern? Communicate, innovate and propagate.’

Molly smiled, glowing with humble wisdom, then gave a little wave to her blank-faced audience and tottered off towards the café counter.

There was a pause while the two men tried to remember the lives they had each led, before being changed by such sage advice.

Finally, Frank said, ‘Jargon, hey? What an interesting last name.’

‘I believe it’s foreign,’ replied Ernest.

‘Ah,’ said Frank, raising his eyebrows then nodding sympathetically.

A minute or so later, Ernest spotted another acquaintance hovering nearby, and suggested they leave before he was recognised.

‘An old neighbour – Hal Itosis,’ said Ernest to Frank quietly, by way of explanation.

Outside the cafe, the two men peeled away from each other awkwardly, both equally aware of the unfinished status of their conversation.

Frank went away to sit and frown.

Ernest went away to attempt another origami crane.

The chased

Zak bounced towards the milling throng of fidgety platform-dwellers, all of whom looked up in unison and threw him simultaneous work-weary glares. The nerve of his sparkling energy, in this weather, at this time of day; it was not really on.

And yet, how could Zak possibly feel miserable in the wake of such an escape? When he thought about what could have happened – where he could have ended up right now. By comparison, he considered himself a very fortunate man.

For the third Friday afternoon in a row, he had found himself cornered by Tanya, the new office receptionist. Call her what you like – and Zak frequently did so, using a range of unpleasant descriptors – she was certainly persistent. In an effort to avoid her, Zak had arrived at work an hour earlier than usual and had stayed in his office with the door closed all day. It was therefore quite a blow when, contrary to the intel he’d obtained from one of the other assistants, she was still in the building at close of business, ready to spring out from behind a concrete column in the foyer as he attempted to leave.

As excuses went, his was not terribly imaginative. No (he said to her, in a voice weighed down with deep disappointment), he’d be at the office all night finishing a report that was due by Monday.

I know, I know (he went on). The unfairness of it all. The Man, etc. Take it up with HR? They wouldn’t care. Legal action? Not worth the bother. But yes, very, very frustrating, and of course puts all notions of a Fun Friday night out the bloody window.

Eventually, he had managed to reverse back over the threshold of his own office, but for the rest of the working day he suffered an intermittent neck cramp, brought on by the intensity of his solemn nodding. He also wasted forty-five minutes waiting in his office for Tanya to definitely, absolutely, one-hundred-percent leave, which meant he would go on to miss the last of the direct buses to his house and the first fifteen minutes of his favourite television show.

Still. These were acceptable losses. The important thing was that for another week, he was safe.

It was under the buoyant influence of this freedom that he stepped – almost skipped – towards the bus platform, with nothing but love for the world in his pink, giddy heart.

Until he saw her. Just a few metres away. Already looking at him.


No. No, no, no, no, no. No. No? No!

She waved, then gave him a huge, horse-like grin and wobbled over on unsteady high heels.

‘You escaped after all, then?’ she asked, a little breathless.

Zak managed a shrug and a half-smile.

‘On your way home now?’ she ventured again.

He dug his hands deep into his coat pockets, suddenly feeling the chill in the air. She spoke again before he’d thought of some non-committal response.

‘You don’t catch the 66 too, do you?’ she said. ‘Well, this is priceless!’

As much as he disliked her, Zak could not help but be impressed with the way she ploughed through the dead air with such undammed positivity.

‘This is the first time I’ve caught the bus back home, myself. Nice to know I’ll have a bus buddy going the same way!’

Zak nodded sadly. He might as well accept his fate.

Unless… There was another bus in fifteen minutes. He could wait around for that, couldn’t he? It was only another fifteen minutes. Surely that was still an acceptable loss? It would mean missing his TV show entirely. And he’d get home too late to cook anything more than a quick, simple dinner.

But that was okay! Save the steak for tomorrow night. No big deal.

‘I’m actually on my way to the hospital,’ Zak lied. ‘Realised I left a few files there that I’m going to need for Monday’s report.’

‘Oh, you poor thing,’ said Tanya, with a look of fresh devastation. She pointed to the next platform. ‘You’d better hurry, then! That’s your bus, isn’t it?’

Zak shook his head.

‘No. No, I don’t think so.’

‘Course it is. The 97. It says Billingham Hospital on the front, see?’

Zak stared at her bulging eyes. Hating her. Hating himself.

‘Oh yes,’ he said through gritted teeth. ‘So it is.’

What was the alternative? He said he was going to the fucking hospital, and there – RIGHT FUCKING THERE – was the fucking bus to the fucking hospital.

‘Well, have a good one,’ he said, and dragged his feet from her wretched farewell smile.

Was this really happening? Was he now knowingly taking a bus that would travel in the opposite direction of his house? Was this fine? Another acceptable loss?

Sure, he told himself. No big deal. Nothing else for it, really.

Zak’s neck cramp twinged as he settled himself into a seat on the bus. The discovery that Tanya would be catching the 66 from now on was certainly interesting. She must live in the same area.

He contemplated the idea for a moment, then came to a decision. He’d have to move house. Obviously. Nothing else for it.

What’s it like?

Well, it’s like there’s a disco ball in your head. A funkless, shiny disco ball.

Fleeting, inexplicable thoughts shoot in all directions, bouncing against the walls of your skull, slowing down enough to be readable for just a second – for just as long as it takes for you to think that you must get a pen so you don’t lose the trail of the mist of the glimpse of the thought, which is a musing that of course replaces the original thought, leaving you buzzy and angry and holding a pen for god knows what reason.

And then you suddenly notice that everyone around you is smirking. Probably because of the way you’re walking. Is this the way you’ve always walked? What a terrible way to walk. How did you not notice before that you’ve been walking in such a weird, terrible way?

But that isn’t important right now, because you’ve just remembered that you’re a bad person. Your friend texted you earlier and you haven’t replied. She’s going through a much harder time than you, and it’s incredibly rude of you not to have replied. Write on your hand a reminder to text back.

Honestly, it’s probably too late. She doesn’t like you. Why would she? You’re terrible with people. Remember this morning when you didn’t say good morning to the bus driver? And you still haven’t emailed your supervisor back. Also, why are you holding a pen?

Refresh your email. Refresh your Twitter. Refresh your Facebook. Oh god, it’s his birthday today?! You truly are the worst friend in the world. Wait, that means it’s Tuesday. It’s already Tuesday and the thing you said you’d finish by Tuesday isn’t finished. And it’s Tuesday. Isn’t it?! Write the thing down on your hand.

Write. Hm. Yup. You haven’t done that in a while, and your last blog post was literally the worst thing on the internet, which is saying something because there are some pretty bad things on the internet. Like racism. God, the world is a mess isn’t it.

So anyway, yeah, that’s what anxiety is like for me. Now, why am I holding a pen?

Evidence #42837 (description: notebook in front L pocket of John Doe)

A compilation of writing tips

Show, don’t tell
In other words: don’t be too waffly, but also don’t leave out any important details, but don’t give too many details, but don’t confuse the reader by being vague, but be concise, while also descriptive, and use figurative language, but avoid clichés. It’s just that simple. Show the reader what’s going on, but don’t you dare try to fucking tell them. If you can’t get that right, you don’t deserve to be a writer. Get out of my class.

Set up a routine
How much do you sleep? Whatever you just said is too fucking much. If you’re asleep, you’re not writing. STAY AWAKE. Purchase stimulants in bulk, and if you get the jitters, find a balance using slow-me-downs like gin. Hemingway drank gin. Be like Hemingway. Your routine should involve staying awake. I’ll know if you sleep. Stay awake.

Write what you know
Your friends and family members are all perfect sources of data. Record every interaction that you have, especially those that contain the other person’s innermost thoughts and desires. Who cares if she kicks you out after reading your short story, ‘Put the pen down or I’m kicking you out’. Get a new wife. New kids. Those ones were a bit shit anyway, weren’t they? Always coming home with grubby hands. And the inane questions they’d ask! ‘Daddy, what’s for dinner?’ ‘Daddy, can we get pizza?’ ‘Daddy, why don’t you go to work any more?’ ‘Daddy, why is your mouth foaming?’ ENOUGH ALREADY.

Find your ‘writing zone’
I often have to improvise with this one, as certain uniformed pests enjoy relocating me from my usual writing zone, which is under the bench in the park. On such occasions, I have grown accustomed to boarding a sequence of trains (i.e., ‘commuting’) and simply writing there. You know Harry Potter was written on a train, right? Well. Look how that turned out. You think you’re better than J.K. Rowling? Fuck off.

Observe everything
Look around you and take in what’s going on. I like listening in on the conversations between other train-goers as they whisper references to ‘that bug-eyed man who’s talking to himself and shedding scraps of paper’. Incorporating some of those everyday snippets into your writing will make it all the more realistic.

Get to know your characters
…But don’t let them get to know you. You need to stay in control, especially with Mr. K. Boy, he’s got some strange ideas.

Set up a routine
I’ve said this one already Mr. M, you fucking idiot.

Persist. Perrrrrrr ssssssiiiiiiisssssttttt. Funny word.

P                                                                                              P

P                      P



P              P              P           P P P P ersist.


Etymology, hey?


Finn lay as still as he could. The tip of his nose tickled the webbing of the butterfly net.

It was the wings he liked to look at – not just because of their colours or patterns, but because of their slight, almost imperceptible movements. Back and forth, those wings would slowly, barely flap, always staying within the same minute stretch of air.

It was as if the thing was just waiting to be released – the insect equivalent of a tapping toe, maybe. Finn sensed a similar anticipation in the movement of the grass, and in the gentle breeze that pushed it.

Soon he’d need to go home, or the place they told him to call ‘home’, anyway. Back to the bunk beds and cold soup, where there never seemed to be quite enough space for him to fit.

For now though, while the light remained, he watched, and they waited.

‘Til death

A treacherous drop slid down the base of his neck, as he stared into the hairline of the girl who stood opposite. He didn’t have the strength to pull his gaze towards her eyes. Just to remain upright – unteetering, even – was enough.

They’d written their own vows. Her idea. Wasted on him, of course.

He willed himself to focus on her voice and extract some sort of meaning from the inarticulate buzz that filled the air around him.

‘I promise to stand by you, to fight every battle by your side, to give myself wholly to this partnership, and to bind myself to you through this life and the next.’

He glanced down at his hands. For just an instant, he saw the rope already tied around them.

A long trip

I spotted her sitting by herself at a table outside the cafe. She looked just like the picture, although perhaps with a little more lipstick and a little less patience. I called out, which both drew her attention to me and drew my attention from the uneven ground.

It wasn’t a quick trip, where you stumble a bit, but ultimately end up vertical and a bit pink. No, the thing went on forever, and even as I flailed my arms and grabbed at nothingness, I had time to recognise the futility of my body’s reflexive response.

Around me, the restaurant patrons became increasingly interested. And diagonal. Interested and diagonal. What horrific life choices (they mused) had I made to end up here, as The Ridiculous Tripping Man?

I landed finally, having made some pretty grand decisions about the direction of my life’s course.

First step was to leave the area.

Like, now.

Things Only An (18)90s Kid Will Remember!

Watching Rugrats
As in, constructing your own narratives as you stare at the rats living in spare, dusty rooms under rugs and old furniture. You’re not a proper (18)90s kid if you never watched Rugrats.

Like, fucking EVERYWHERE.


Discovery of the element Argon
I know, I know – this honestly feels like just yesterday. Feeling old yet?

Otherwise known as a girl’s best friend. You could be all, ‘banter, banter, banter’ with some Lord, all ‘yes, sir’, ‘no, sir’, just playing it real nice and low-key, and all the while your pie slice is quietly cooling, stashed up on high amongst the ribbons and curls. They might not admit it, but all (18)90s kids had contraband hidden on their persons at some point, and the bonnet was an A+ venue. (Always important to be on the lookout for bees, though.)

Corporal punishment
Because if you sneezed or nodded a bit too hard, that apple pie was liable to fall to the goddamn ground, and if Lord Withersby started snitching, you know Mrs. Pettigrew wouldn’t hesitate to come at you with a motherfucking rolling pin.

Thousands of layers of clothing
We all remember those Saturday mornings when mum would be like, ‘Mary, get down these stairs or we will straight up leave for the markets without you,’ and you’d be like ‘I WISH YOU WERE DEAD,’ because you’re still putting together layer four of seven and are yet to even contemplate how you’ll use a brooch the size of a star to pin that shit together. And then you’d feel bad because imminent death is a genuine possibility, given infection, etc.

Layers, right? The worst.

Or ‘vagina-hating symptoms’. The lack of power, forced dependence, and vacuum of societal respect in general was enough to sometimes make an (18)90s girl want to kick themselves in the crotch.

STICKS! REMEMBER THESE? Legit the most versatile toy. You could pick them up, throw them, collect them, prod things with them, and best of all, push a hoop down the street with them. I think my mum still has a few of mine stashed in the attic.

Popularisation of the name Fanny

Talking animals
Remember when rabbits had names, geese wore petticoats, and moles loved adventure? Weird fad.