Monday, 23 December 2013

The Groveller.

Another ten minute experiment. This time fantasy.

The Groveller.

My name? You wish to know my name.

Why, Sir, I cannot thank you enough for asking one as lowly as I, as pathetic and small, as wormlike, a mere nematean nothing squirming in the mud at your feet for something as utterly useless to your own magnificence as my name.

And I shall not be slow in giving it as I am sure your time is valuable, valuable as gold, and equally as precious and beautiful and shiny. My name, ugly in the mouth as it is, is Larahill the Groveller, once of the bounteous Kingdom of Varn where I was the son of the son of the son of the very man who started our noble profession. For it is noble. Though I am it's most lowly example, worth little more than attempting to grovel the excrement from the arse of a dog and...

You would know more? Why, I can scare believe that a man of such obvious and clear intelligence as yourself is unfamiliar with the lowly unimportant and only partially well-renumerated as it deserves to be job as that of a groveller is.

Or was.

But we shall come to that.

The position of groveller came to be in the wondrous, tree lined, mountain rimed, sun kissed and water dribbled upon Kingdom of Varn under the beneficent and munificent reign of King Harand the Changed of Ways. When my very own great, great, great Grandfather whose seed would far better have been spent being spilled on the ground or in a handkerchief than begetting the line of one as earth bound and miserable and malformed as I.

Talk less?

Well, what a wise course of action that is, Sir, for indeed I am one given to filling the air with the effluvium of my wo...

Yes. Less. I do understand the word. Though my understanding of words is often...ah, no. Put the blade away good sir. I shall indeed, speak less.

See, before King Harand changed his ways they were somewhat, unwise, some may say, in that he executed a policy of enjoying himself and taxing the populace to such a degree they became blinded to his magnificence and chose to revolt. In the last moments of that revolt my grandfather stood before the mob and grovelled. He grovelled as no man has before or since. Why, he very much invented the forms of abasement; begging, renting and crying, that have become the modern form of grovelling once so worthwhile to the wellbeing of Varn.

Was I good?

I was not my father good, no, not that good. For my father grovelled Agmin the Violent out of a death sentence and not once, not twice, not three times but four times before Agmin ran out of money and into a noose. But it must be said, Agmin truly enjoyed the life my father won him.

Though many others did not.

That is not to say I am without plaudits entirely, Sir. Why, I can see from your wondrous dress and sumptuous, subtly garish fabrics that you are of Iren and was it not I, Larahill who won General Vordice a reprieve after his disastrous defence of the Eastern Isles which are now in the hands of your most glorious and I have heard exotic and curvaceous and bountiful Empress? Although, I am first to admit, that your people may be a little cross at the fact that I freed him to counter attack I am sure that the ensuing destruction of our fleet and your subsequent annexing of our western territories go some way to making up for my actions which were carried out with the best of intentions and at almost Ruinous cost to the general whose estate never did pay up..

But I must not boast, that was only one of my many grovellings and am, was, one of many grovellers. Busily upholding the Varnish way of life which was of benefit to all Varnens.

Until the King, in his wisdom, banned grovelling.

Banned it!

After so many glorious years, after so much tradition.

So, good Sir, this is how you find me here, in this much reduced position and forced to stretch out my had, beg, cry, nay, grovel even, and ask you in all the best faith and knowing of your exalted and most high position.

Can you not provide one of your assassins at a little cheaper price?

As I'm sure you can tell. It's for the good of the kingdom.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Breakdown

I've not written anything here in a while so I thought I'd set myself a quick ten minute story writing exercise and this is what I came up with. As is the way with something written so quickly I have no idea whether it's worth your time or not but it was fun to do.  Kind of sad. Also, SF today.

The Breakdown.

'Hey Bob.

'Hey Arl, what you got for me?'

'This scyther, little guy was out there cutting the lawn and he just got up and stopped on me.'

'It jammed?'

'No, checked everything mechanical, seemed fine to me.'

'Well, probably came across something alive, fieldmouse or something.'

'Hey, Bob, you know I'm no amateur, checked for that too. Nothing living there, just a couple of dead insects and they don't stop for insects do they?'

'No, they usually make enough noise to scare off insects. I'll have a look at its code.'

'You feel anything in there?'

'Well, Arl, I'm in its systems, there's nothing screwy in the code.'

'But he can't just stop. Can he?'

'No, let's have a look through its visual memory. See what the last thing it did was.'

'Okay, he stopped about half an hour before I turned him off properly.'

'Right, let's see. Right, here it's cutting away and...woah. Is that the insect it killed?'

'Yeah, that stripy one.'

'Arl, man, that's a bee.'

'A bee? But bees are...'

'Extinct? Yeah, I thought that.'

'So he killed the bee and then, he...he just stopped.'

'Yeah, Arl, he killed the bee and then he just stopped.'

'Poor little guy. Bob, are you all right?'

'Just got something in my eye, Arl, that's all.'

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

I Have a Dream

Wouldn't it be great if in every one of those huge open plan offices, each chair had a huge spring under it. And utterly randomly, once or twice a week, it would launch people into the air.

Health and safety nightmare, I know. But when I worked in a big office this was what I spent my days imagining and it brought me great joy, laughter and quite a few strange looks. I thought I'd share.

EDIT: Launchees would yelp. the yelping is what makes it funny.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

An Actual 100% Accurate Metaphor (Involving Soft Furnishings) For What it is Like to Write a Novel.

I'm two thirds through a rewrite now so I thought I would take a moment to explain what it's like to write a novel and use an example that we are all familiar with, and indeed one our lives would be smaller and somehow less civilised without: soft furnishings.

A novel is a lot like making a cushion. Your plot and characters are the cover, they give the novel its shape and then your theme is the decoration you use on the outside of the cushion, it needs to tie in with the cover you have made. Once you've completed the cover you go back and “stuff” the cover with dialogue, sub plots and description. Once that is done you spend some time beating the cushion in to shape, trying to get out the lumps and make sure your cushion fits in with all the other soft furnishings in your house. Or as I like to call it, “your vision”.

Then your friend who has heard you like soft furnishings so much you are making some of your own calls on you and they bring a cushion they bought at Habitat in Homebase. You look at this cushion and realise, although it was made by someone called Julie with eyes dead through boredom and whose only thought is for Gary who looks really cool when he smokes Regal Kingsize, it is still better made than yours. In fact, you can't see how you can ever make a cushion that can compare with the one your friend brought you.

In tears, you throw your friend out of the house and refuse to ever speak to them again. Then you spend a few weeks staring at the new cushion and your pathetic, shameful attempt at a cushion that you can't believe you ever considered for one moment any sensible human may ever, ever want to sit on. Then you burn the habitat cushion on the electric fire which shorts out everything in the house and your wife tells you that you are an idiot and you are over-reacting and actually your cushion is perfectly good. WHAT DOES SHE KNOW? IS SHE A CUSHIONOLOGIST???? NO.

You realise she will never understand you or your art and you only option is to leave home. You relocate to a stone bothy on the Isle of Mull with only as much Morrison's own brand whisky as you can get in the car and a photograph of your children. The only soft furnishings in the bothy are an upright chair that is thick with the smell of the previous occupier's incontinence and is also worryingly damp, you feel sure it also has bedbugs. Worst of all, despite its decrepit state you cannot help but notice that the cushion on it is very well made.

The whisky takes the edge off the pain.

Years pass and eventually you run out of whisky and decide, maybe, it is time to return home. When you do you find your wife is living with a man called Roger who does, 'something to do with accounts but it's not really that interesting what I really enjoy is paragliding.' Your children now call Roger 'Daddy' and look at you like you are a tramp who has come in off the street, mostly because you look like a tramp who has come in off the street. In the front room you find your cushion and, shockingly, you realise it is not nearly as bad as you remember. In fact, if you find better material, use a completely different design and change the stuffing it could actually work.

Frantically, you set to work, week after week you stay up late into the night, ignoring Roger and his pathetic attempts to 'sort this out like grown ups'. When you are finished you hold up your cushion to God and he sends a single, beautiful ray of sunlight which illuminates your cushion and you know. You. Know. This one is far, far better than the last.

But on the other couch, unnoticed until now, there are two cushions, one showing an amusing picture of a cat with a cigar and the other with a Union Jack in blue and green that is shaped like a teapot. They are well made, too well made. A TEAPOT? WHY DIDN'T YOU THINK OF THAT? This is more than you can bear and you throw your pathetic cushion out of the window. You hear the siren call of Morrison's own brand whisky and the bothy on the Isle of Mull and the whole process starts again except this time you have scorpions in your hair

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Cbeebies Xtra.

Being a stay at home Dad I watch an awful lot of CBeeBies. An awful lot. Sometimes it's more than you can bare but as there's a fashion for gritty reboots I thought I'd have a go.

Gritty reboots

Kelli Kitten is the new Octonaut and has sworn to avenge her father killed by pirates. Kelli and Kwasi swiftly become best friends but when Kwasi comes clean about his Pirate past he is forced to kill a vengeful Kelli. Overcome with remorse Kwasi throws himself into the ocean without his mask to drown. Meanwhile, Captain Barnacles and the Vegemals play with a mischievous Sea Urchin.

Lesson Learned. - You cannot run from responsibility. Sea Urchins are a type of mollusc.

Mike The Knight.

Mike butchers the Muslim prisoners. Realising this isn't honourable he volounteers to be first over the wall at the siege of Jerusalem.  Squirt's leprosy gets worse and results in a hilarious search for his arm. Meanwhile, at home, Evie is burnt as witch.

Lesson learnt. Take responsibility for your actions.

I Can Cook with Gordon.

Danny (5) buckles under the pressure of a twenty cover service. Jasmine (6) falls off her stool while preparing pasta and suffers 35% burns. Gordon says a naughty word.

Lesson Learnt. Get your ars*s in gear, being a f**king child is no f**king excuse in this F**king economy you f**king cretin.

Peter Rabbit.

When Peter sees Mr Todd has eaten so much he says he can't eat another thing he thinks it's safe to leave the burrow door open. Mr Todd rushes into the burrow and massacres the entire family just because he can. (Last in series)

Lesson Learnt: Nature is red in tooth and claw.

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Third - 'The Boy Who Listened in at Doors

This was due to be the third in a triptych of experiments after Interment and The Social Diary of a Ghoul but as is wont to happen life intervened and Mikko had to attend to boring things like earning money for food and stuff. It was recently featured on the lovely, fragrant and talented Susi Holliday's blog and I thought I'd put it here.

Hope you like it anyway.

The Boy Who Listened in at Doors.

There are Witches out there, with skull faces .

On windy nights they gather in the tree outside his window and huddle together on branches winter-shorn of leaves. They chatter and laugh, flap their cloaks and watch him with beady black eyes.

All witches, all watching. Laughing black leaves on the cold oak’s boughs.
'They’re just crows,”'says Mother with her half-sad mouth. 'Just crows, my boy, just crows.'

The Boy pulls his curtains together tightly.

not even the mercurial moon

can peek into his room.

Better the dark than peeking Witches,

with skull faces.

Hard, black, leather-skin carapaces

Long dead grimaces.

Grinding and eating and cawing and gnawing.

He has protectors, many and varied.

Can't, doubt the bravery of Flying Fred Ted nor Keemo the duck that Daddy brought him from the hospital.

When Daddy was still here.

Stick thin on the bed.

The bears hate the witches with Skull faces and he hugs his small army close.

He should feel safe.

Witches talk

And squawk

And screech and cackle and yatter and caw-caw the night away.

Outside those thick black curtains that Mummy, with the half-sad mouth, fitted.

'They’re just crows, My boy, just crows,' she had said as she hung the curtains, shoulders slumping, a pale hand covering tearfilled eyes.

When they first visited - black flecks falling out the dusky sky to populate the bare oak - Raggedy capes making excellent wings for those who wish to be something else.  

The same night the Terminal took Daddy went away.

Witches have guile, they know people would spot birds with skull faces straight away.

(Make a fuss.

Call animal protection.

Or the newspapers

Get the T.V. People

Or maybe write a book.)

Witches don’t want that.

So they slip their black pointy hats down over their shiny-leathered skulls.

Hard black beaks

Cover hard black faces.

 'Just crows my boy, just crows. Where do you get these things from, my son?'

Sometimes, the caw-cawing and yattering starts to swirl in his head, stops being squawks and screeches and becomes words.

Always the same.

Taunting, teasing, sneering, squealing, high pitched, rakkety-ratchet old-hag, warty-chinned voices

'Shall we eat the boy tonight? Good and plump he is. Who’d miss the lonely little scrap? Our bellies would be full and his mother not be sad.'

Again they say it. 

Again and again.

Each time more teeth-on-glass voices join the chorus until eventually, in a great taunting, teasing, sneering, squealing, high pitched, rakkety-ratchet old-hag, warty-chinned wail the whole flock of skull-faced, witch-crows takes to the sky.

Raggedy capes flap. Hat mouths croak. A dark spiral rising up and out over the city.

'They’re just crows, my boy, just crows' she says but the tears in her eyes and the tremble of his lip won’t leave.

'Daddy would scare them away.'

'I’m sure he would,' she looks at the floor to hide her tears as she tucks him in. 'There are no monsters, my son. Nothing eats people They’re just crows, my boy, just crows.' Her voice a strangled sob.

He tries to be brave but he knows she lies and pulls the covers over his head and curls up, folding in his fear and pain with ganglion arms.

Monsters are real.

'I'm sorry, Mrs Taylor,' said the doctor. 'There's nothing we can do. It's eating him away.'

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Also provides children's entertainment.

This was originally printed in a children's magazine called Spellbound and I'd totally forgotten about it until someone contacted me asking for it. But here it is now. If you have small people and think they might like it feel free to copy under CC.



It was an odd scratching sound that made Timothy look under the sink. Of course, mother had been expecting him to clean under there but he never did, it was too damp and cold. The scratching noise had Tim’s curiosity piqued so he made a rare venture into cupboard, one eye closed and the other only half open, brush held at the ready in case a spider tried to jump on his arm.

 They do that.

 It wasn’t a spider under the sink, Tim wasn’t sure what it was.

 At first he thought it might be an escaped monkey. It was about monkey sized but the more he looked, the more it seemed a strange sort of monkey. It had no fur for a start, just brown wrinkled skin like it had stayed in the bath long after mother had told it to get out. It also seemed to have wings, though they weren’t very big, more like little rags suspended from knitting needles on its back. It definitely didn’t have a monkey’s face. In fact it looked more like a turtle, all flat with big round eyes.

 Whatever it was, it was trying, rather unsuccessfully, to eat through a pipe under the sink.

 Tim wondered if turtles had big teeth like this creature did. He didn’t think so.

 “What are you doing?” Asked Tim politely.

 The creature stopped chewing on the pipe and looked at Tim, it made a sort of tutting sound and moved its mouth like Grandpa did when chewing gum.

 “You can see me?” It asked, in a voice similar to his father’s car engine on a cold morning.

 Timothy thought this was an odd question as he wouldn’t be talking to it if it were invisible.

 “Yes.” Said Tim, a little confused.

 “’Appens.” Replied the creature, “children and animals, sometimes they can,” it started to head-butt the pipe quite vigorously.

 “What are you?” Asked Tim rather bemused, he was sure he had never seen a creature like this on television. Tim liked to watch all of the nature programmes, though he liked foxes best.

 “I’m a demon ain’t I?” Said the creature.

 “I thought demons had horns,” replied Tim.

 “Well some of ‘em do, mostly when you get further up the ladder, and a right snooty bunch they are. I’m ‘appy me, minor demons like us get easy jobs like this. No goin’ up against the forces of good for me, no way. Dangerous that is.”

 Tim had no idea what it was talking about but nodded anyway.

 “And what are you?” Asked the demon in a rather impolite manner.

 “I’m a boy.” Answered Timothy. The demons eyes lit up and it dived at Timothy mouth wide open, ivory teeth extending.

 Tim hit it with his brush.

 “What was that for?” Asked the demon rather sulkily from where it had landed amongst the empty paint tins and cleaned out jam jars.

 “You tried to bite me.”

“Of course I did, I’m a demon, that’s what we do and I wasn’t trying to bite you, was trying to eat you, so there! Given me headache now.” Moaned the demon as it resumed futilely bashing its head against the pipe.

 “Sorry,” said Tim. “I’m a boy, we don’t like being bitten or eaten. Why are you banging your head against that pipe?”

 “It’s what we do, ruin people lives. All the numbers went in Jack Scratch’s hat and your fathers came up. I’m here to ruin his plumbing.” Said the demon with an evil grin, although Tim thought the demon was a bit too small to look really evil.

 “What good will that do?” Inquired Tim.

 “Well once I break this pipe, it’ll be gushing out everywhere. Then all it needs is one spark, and boom! Your dead, your mum’s dead, your dads life is ruined. Then the salesdemons move in and we get his soul. Pretty smooth operation eh?” The demon winked and resumed blunting its teeth on the sink pipe.

 Timothy wasn’t entirely sure that water was explosive and had an idea that the demon may be chewing the wrong pipe. He decided it would be foolish to question the forces of darkness and said nothing.

 “What’s your name? I can’t just keep calling you demon.” Asked Timothy whose mother had instilled good manners into him at an early age.

 The demon looked at Tim, “you wouldn’t be able to say my name, it’s a demon word.”

 “I could try,” said Tim who firmly believed that if you ventured nothing, you gained nothing.

 “Well don’t blame me if your tongue falls out when you try to say it.”

 Tim pondered this thought and decided he would try anyway. “What is it then?”


 “Alfred?” Replied Tim sounding rather surprised.

 “You speak demon then? Well that makes things easier,” Alfred was now hanging from the pipe, swinging slightly.

 “You don’t seem to be damaging that much,” pointed out Tim, who always tried to be helpful.

 “No.” Alfred sat down looking rather unhappy. “I was meant to have help, don’t suppose you’ve seen another demon about have you? Looks like me but with antlers. Strong Scottish accent?”

Tim shook his head.

 “Just wait ‘till Bert gets here, real nasty piece of work that one. I’m evil but he’s really evil. Probably eat you, errr?”

 “Tim.” Said Tim.

“Yeah, be rooting around in your entrails as soon as look at you Bert will.” Alfred started happily munching on a stray sock that had been in one of the jam jars. “Tim? That’s a demon name, sure your not a demon?”

 Tim thought about this for a moment, “I don’t think I am.”

 “Didn’t think so, all that ‘orrible smooth skin, get laughed out of hell you would. As I will if I don’t get this job finished. I hate banks.”

 “Banks?” Asked Tim, rather confused with the conversations sudden change of direction.


“Yeah, banks. Bane of my life banks are, used to be so easy.”

 “What did?” Tim was by now thoroughly lost.

 “Ruining lives of course, didn’t even have to kill anyone.” A tear of nostalgia rolled down Alfred’s grizzled little face. “See Tim, before banks everyone used to keep their money at home in boxes or underneath the bed. Easy! Wander in, eat the money, life ruined. Job done. Not now, oh no, now everything goes in the bank.” Snorted Alfred disgustedly.

 “Daddy hates banks too.” Said Tim.

“He does?” Alfred’s eyes narrowed in what he fondly imagined was an image of utmost cunning. He started to nonchalantly clean a claw. “So, er, where does your Dad keep his money then?” Alfred chewed on his tail as if nothing important was happening.

 “Oh he keeps it upstairs in a box. Would you like to see?” Said Tim. Alfred bit off the end of his tail in excitement.

 “I’d quite like to see yes. If it’s not too much trouble Tim.”

 Tim took Alfred by the hand and, ignoring the rather clammy feel, led him to the stairs.

 “Er, Tim mate. You wouldn’t mind carrying me up would you? Never been very good with them.” Said Alfred.

 “Don’t they have stairs where you come from?” Asked Tim as he carried the demon upstairs

 “Only in the disabled access areas.” Answered Alfred. “So where’s this box then Timmy?”

 “In my bedroom, through here,” Tim led the deoon into his room.

 “Is this the one?” Alfred pointed to a large box in the corner and smugly thought to himself how angry Scottish Burt would be when he turned up to find the job done.

 “Yes it is.” Said Tim helpfully.” Before Tim could say anymore, the demon ran across the floor and dived into the box, cackling with glee.

 As Alfred fell into the bottom of the box he could barely contain his excitement and only half registered the sound of a key turning. It was at this point that he noticed there was a distinct lack of money in the box, he was about to ask to be let out when a Scottish voice said.

 “Ach, I see you fell for it too laddie!”