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.


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.

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.


Some more Qs have been asked of me and I’ve been very slow in getting around to A-ing them. Terribly sorry, Shannon Noel Brady – thank you for sending these my way and for your patience in dealing with slack nominees like myself. I feel honoured to have received a mention from such a skilled writer. I’m also quite happy that you’ve given me more fuel to add to my procrastinatory fire.

Here we go, then:

  1. What’s your earliest memory?

This may not be real, but I do have a memory of struggling to climb stairs as a very tiny person.

  1. What kind of hat best represents your personality? Any kind! Top hat, jester bells, a sombrero… (Even if you would never wear it in real life.)

WOW. I can honestly say I’ve never thought about this before. Good question. I’m going to go with a tin-foil hat, as I tend to attract crazy people and on hot days I can be shiny.

  1. What’s something that other people are fine with but totally bugs you?

I’ve been known to block people from Facebook (/life) for ‘your’ vs. ‘you’re’ errors. I think I’m getting better at dealing with it, but it’s still a pretty top-tier complaint. I also don’t like the cold. Or the hot. There’s like a two-degree window of comfort. Yeah, I’m the worst.

  1. Something that you’re fine with but totally bugs other people?

Pigeons. Fucking love pigeons. Watch a pigeon today and I promise you’ll feel happier.

  1. Favourite dessert?

Nutella, Nutella crepe, Nutella+anything.

  1. What’s the one sentimental item (not a living creature or practical object like a phone, etc) that you would grab from your burning house if you only had time to grab one thing?

Oh no, this is hard. I like all my things! I do have a signed Dylan Moran show programme somewhere in my closet (like, not to brag or anything). It would be worth approximately $0, but I was/am pretty obsessed with that guy and it was from my first ever stand-up show, so it’s a bit special I guess.

  1. Favourite animal when you were 6?

Dog. My first email address as a child was Cringe.

  1. Favourite pastime when you were 16?

Just being a twerp, I think. So much brooding.

  1. You’ve met a stranger. What’s something that would make you immediately like them if they started talking about it? (BESIDES books or writing, that’s too obvious!)

I bond quite well with people that listen to podcasts or have the same TV show tastes (e.g., 30 Rock [hi Shannon :)], Unbreakable, Nathan for You, Arrested Development, Sherlock, Black Books, Parks and Rec, Summer Heights High).

  1. What’s your computer wallpaper?

The default one 😦

  1. Invent a superhero persona for yourself!

More of a terse command than a question, but I’ll allow it. ‘Captain Blue Eyes, the Hard-to-get-to-know’. She’d be a pirate with wings.


Captain B.E., out. x

How To Be A Modern-Day Wife

I’ve just had something published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, which I’m very excited about because I love that website. The article’s called How To Be A Modern-Day Wife.

Here’s a bit:

Men in relationships tend to get a bit snippy when their partners don’t notice a new tie or haircut. Do try to keep a look out for these things, and if you like what you see, let him know! Something as simple as a well-timed “you smell nice” will remind him that he’s special.

It’s important that you keep track of the frequency with which you hand out compliments. I personally find an Excel spreadsheet is useful for this.

Read the whole thing here: