Thursday, 30 October 2008


Bigmouth Russell Brand’s puerile preening about his promiscuity has landed him in hot water with his BBC bosses, along with his sycophantic cohort, Jonathan Ross. Brand’s boasts bested him when Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs hit back over the hirsute comic’s claims to have bedded his granddaughter. On a more positive note for Brand, he will no longer need to undergo surgery, scheduled for early next week, to have Jonathan Ross removed from his back.

Saturday, 18 October 2008


Ted and Vi walked up to the closed wig tunnel that Sunday afternoon. KEEP CLOSED TO PREVENT FIRE read the sign surrounded by graffiti on the metal panels at the Dementias Close end. It was a shame he thought, but he knew it was for the best. He’d suggested their walk so he could try and devise parts of questions for next week’s quiz by making anagrams out of the graffiti. Vi had enthusiastically agreed, but now he held her close, squeezing her shuddering shoulders with a consoling arm, as she sobbed convulsively in empathy with his prior sentiments about the tunnel. They both railed at the insensitivity of the vandals who defaced the panels, Ted rather guiltily as he mentally juggled, rearranging misspelled obscenities.
‘There’s no point stopping them.’ Vi cried. ‘That meeting proved that.’
‘No,’ he agreed. ‘They’ll only do it all over again, the bleeders!’
‘Still, it’s not right is it?’
‘Oh well, it’s the way they’re brought up nowadays.’
‘Maybe, but you and I were brought up differently. Weren’t we?’
‘Yes, we were, we were. That’s true.’
Their eyes glazed over with their rose-tinted reminiscences, their vision blurred in and out of focus, focussing on each other in a mood of lovey-dovey nostalgia.
‘Never mind, eh, love,’ she abruptly lightened the tone. ‘Let’s concentrate on what we’ve got going for us, and the future, of course.’
Some days before, Vi had received a clothing catalogue filled with designs incorporating cross-sections of cucumbers. They couldn’t wait to see how she’d look in the outfits she’d ordered. He squeezed her hand, the back of which provided a gnarled surface for her copiously interconnected liver spots.
‘You’re right, my love.’ He readily agreed.
There weren’t enough of the right sort, like traffic wardens, about, though. That was for sure.


Wednesday, 15 October 2008


Prior to going to bed, Sharon was cleaning her window and saw Gulliver’s shambling form as he rounded the corner, clearly the worse for wear. She regarded his dishevelled appearance with disgust and a total absence of sympathy, despite his painful limp and bloodied face. A fighting drunk, no doubt she thought. One of those inebriate traffic wardens she assumed, closing her curtains with a disgusted sweep.

In the brain of a glue-sniffer on the estate, a Norwegian escapee from a Knut Hamsun novel attempted to board a nonexistent train stuck in the closed wig tunnel. It was imperative for this refugee from Scandinavian literature to reach the town centre for a giraffe-neck-width-guessing competition. Bursting blood vessels drowned misfiring synapses in the solvent abuser’s brain. His death would be reported in the local paper along with other facts the public had a right to know and wrap their chips with.

Kids on the Kafka estate made a nuisance of themselves by jamming parking meters with chewing gum. The Kafka estate’s Neighbourhood Watch committee held a meeting in the community centre to discuss a possible course of action. The packed meeting was attended by significant numbers of traffic wardens who, perhaps justifiably, felt personally aggrieved by the troublesome juveniles. The meeting was so full, in fact, that only the width of a skinny giraffe’s neck separated the people discussing the problem. Minutes were taken by the Neighbourhood Watch secretary, Beryl Imposé, as various motions were proposed and seconded. An application to the Ku-Klux-Klan was suggested and action was planned, but none was taken. Many residents blamed the recent closure of the wig tunnel for the crime wave currently afflicting them. The closed tunnel seemed the focus for would-be troublemakers, who gathered in sinister mobs that cast eerie shadows at night. Some people suggested the formation of a vigilante patrol to combat these wayward miscreants, but others murmured dissent as the laborious meeting staggered, inconclusively, to a close. Further meetings were arranged to discuss the possibility of future meetings aimed at addressing the issue. People left the meeting in disorganised groups nervously attaching themselves to parties of uniformed traffic wardens, whose vocal support for extreme right-wing policies on crime and punishment lent credibility to their slightly military bearing.
Things on the estate weren’t all bad, however, as ‘car-washing Sundays’ successfully proved, when the estate’s two Skodas got their weekly wash. The cars were owned by two wealthy shopkeepers, who’d each regularly won £10 on the lottery.
Gulliver felt too hung-over to go and watch, this Sunday, staying in cautiously nibbling jelly instead. However, Sharon saw the first rinse of the light grey Skoda in Kerb Street that was owned by Mr. Jones B. He whistled along to pop music on the radio as he proudly washed and polished his car, feeling dominant and masculine, swishing a hose in front of more than a hundred spectators. Some of the crowd were cheering, the teenage sisters from the next street made him flush with their wolf-whistles and the suggestive remarks they made when he bent over the bonnet, revealing the curvature of his arse to his neighbours on the grass.
‘Jonesy, Jonesy!’ the crowd began to chant, confusing him as he dried his car.
Don’t they know who I am? He asked himself. I’m Jones B.
On the far side of the estate, his rival, Jones A was playing to the crowd who’d gathered to watch him wash in Faeces Street. He hadn’t a care in the world, but Jones B, wiping sweat from his face, realised that despite his car ownership he was just another Jones to the crowd. Ironically, he couldn’t keep up with them. He sighed bitterly as a bird flying overhead spoiled his work with a dropping placed with, it seemed, malicious precision.

Sunday, 12 October 2008


Sharon crossed her legs. Then, she put noughts all over them and stood up, adjusting her hair and pouting in the mirror. She closed her bedroom window, deftly locking it with her pudgy fingers. She knew that the bristles of her best three-inch paintbrush were wearing thin and that the imminent necessity of further coats of paint on her lounge ceiling would shorten them even more, forcing her to consider the possibility of a replacement. What would Jane or Zoe have done? She wondered. She decided against phoning them, instead making tea carefully in a cup of no sentimental value. She really ought to read the leaflet on giraffe-neck-width-guessing more thoroughly she realised, as more explosions of radioactive mice, behind skirting boards in other rooms, disturbed her.
‘Shit!’ she said spilling her tea on the recently cleaned floor.

Ted Switch—cruelly labelled ‘Switch the Twitch’ by cruel labellers, aware of his nervous twitch—switched between subjects at the drop of a hat, asking questions during the pub quiz. A traffic warden at the bar did drop his hat at a trick question Ted, looking smug, announced the answer to when the quiz ended. Gulliver’s team won, answering sixty-nine out of eighty questions correctly. Vi stood on a table and kissed the team member’s bared heads, shook their hands and gave them their prize money, conscious that it wasn’t really leaving her pub. As the raucous team headed straight for the bar, Gulliver felt drunk and intoxicated by his good fortune, laughing at jokes and returning the backslapping of his cohorts. Then, a savage onslaught of arthritis blighted him, making him shake with pain.
‘Are you all right, Gully?’ Tom asked. His face mirrored the instantly visible concern of the others.
‘Oh, I’ll be all right,’ said Gulliver. It serves me right for getting so carried away enjoying myself he thought.

The team that boarded up the wig tunnel after the fire were a group of lads on Project Work, the latest government initiative. They were trainee tunnel closure operatives, no less. They used scaffolding to erect timber frames blocking either end of the tunnel. The frames were covered with metal panels screwed into place. The job took two days and featured in a story in the local paper, which, later, wrapped some chips eaten by one of the trainees. The chips were paid for out of the money he’d earned from the tunnel closure job, but when the lad’s letter about this fact was ignored by the same local paper, he killed himself in dismay. In next to no time, the metal panels sealing the tunnel were daubed in graffiti. Letters of complaint about this were printed in the local paper, copies of which subsequently wrapped chips eaten by the graffiti artists.

Flies died in the atmosphere of the closed—after hours—Traffic Wardens’ Arms. The grey doors were locked in place in the grey walls of the pub at the bottom of the hill that was also grey looking. The hill with the steep incline that tormented the legs of arthritis sufferers walking up it, like Gulliver, on his way home, swaying and feeling nauseous as he held his breath in an attempt to suppress his hiccups. He tripped over his undone shoelace and broke his nose. Rising unsteadily, a feral dog seized his ankle and chewed on it aggressively, Gulliver wet himself shouting at the dog.
‘Get away from me! Clear off!’

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


Sharon hated Intimacy Reductionism paintings and hung none on her walls. She preferred the images of crane flies hovering over spray-painted representations of Martian landscapes, bought from a Polish mail order catalogue. She glued patches of red glitter to these weird posters and nail them to her bedroom’s ceiling and walls. Her bedroom housed her collection of Elvis Presley CDs, films and memorabilia. Ensconced in there, she propped her head on heart-shaped pillows watching Elvis movies in bed with boxes of heart-shaped chocolates. The chocolates she consumed released sugar in her bloodstream as incense burned in an Elvis incense-holder and her fingers played with wigs rescued from the recent fire in the tunnel. It beat wiping floors.

Gulliver spent all week papering his lounge and bedroom. Now they were finished, he surveyed his handiwork with pride. He’d done a first-class job. Each piece hung perfectly straight and matching with invisible seams and no bubbles. It looked exactly as if thousands of sliced cucumbers were all over the rooms from floor to ceiling. An incredible effect—an inedible effect, too, he chortled to himself smugly, putting away his papering scissors and wiping paste from his hands. How would a grocer react to his environment? He wondered. Maybe he could write to the local paper asking for their feedback.
Suddenly, Gulliver was racked with pain of an extreme, face-whitening nature as arthritis afflicted his hands and arms.
‘It serves me right for being excessively self-congratulatory.’ Gulliver said, immediately engulfed by a need to be self-punishing.

The Traffic Wardens’ Arms public house, on the Kafka estate, was the favourite local of the neighbourhood’s traffic wardens. They drunk there together in, often uniformed, clusters, verbally attacking absentees with the malicious side of human nature—made all the more conspicuous with alcohol—that they all pretended did not exist when it was Christmas time. Vi Olation, the pub’s landlady, decorated the interior in drab grey shades, suiting the anonymous looking traffic wardens down to the ground, which is where they patrolled, their hungry eyes darting and their tongues dribbling at the prospect of their pens writing out tickets. Vi looked ten years older than her thirty-seven years. When she was seventeen, she’d married an impotent traffic warden from Chelmsford, but the following year he’d left her a widow after being crushed to death by a lorry. She’d moved and opened the pub with the payout from his life insurance, also setting up a charity to sponsor youngsters who were keen on becoming traffic wardens. Vi soon established a reputation with the traffic wardens’ community as a friendly hostess, who shared their views on inner-city parking. It seemed she was just the ticket.
Gulliver, fancying a pint, remembered it was quiz night at the Traffic Wardens’ Arms that night. So, he took himself down there, arriving soon after setting off due to his close proximity to his destination. Entering the pub, he exchanged greetings with dozens of the faces he knew so well. He ordered beer for himself and several of his uniformed pals, slapping his back and chortling upon his arrival. Tom suggested he join their team for the quiz and, after several insincere attempts to refuse on the grounds of false modesty, Gulliver accepted. He made up a team of five, taking his seat as Vi came round the tables handing out paper for answer sheets.
Looking round, Gulliver saw the pub was packed. There were eight participating teams readying themselves for the quiz. The quizmaster, reputedly sleeping with Vi, was a retired traffic warden called Ted Switch. He wore a neck brace and had a rasping voice that laboured his slow delivery of the questions.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


STRANGLED CELLIST MYSTERY read the headline on the paper’s front page. Police were investigating while neighbours, apparently, were baffled. He’d seemed such a nice, quiet man. Except, of course, when playing his cello. Perhaps he’d been highly strung. His lover, it was reported, fretted over him. He’d drink heavily, despite weighing nine stones, following a finger injury that had disrupted his cello practice on a cloudy day. He had no known enemies or cancer. He was debt-free and his jokes were largely tolerable. He was twenty-two, his chest measurement was thirty-two (inches). Beethoven wrote thirty-two piano sonatas, but far fewer for the cello—a fact bitterly noted in the cellist’s diary (soon to be published) in an underlined entry. A spokesperson for a passer-by acquainted with an eyewitness to a friend of a neighbour of the deceased released the following statement:
‘We don’t know if this death is due to murder, but if so it’s a pity the murdering hands that were involved weren’t better employed… Say, guessing the width of a giraffe’s neck!’

Gulliver Trent got sent, by post, some enlarged images of cross sections of cucumbers in a book of wallpaper samples. Sat on the sofa, where he’d eaten jelly and suffered from arthritis, he flipped through the volume’s many pages. His face wrinkled with delight at the pretty, albeit repetitive, pictures as he imagined how the walls in the lounge would be transformed with their effect. Or he could paper his bedroom he mused. The rolls of paper varied in price according to the size of the cucumber used in the design. Gulliver carefully calculated how many rolls he’d need for both rooms. It came to £118. 60 exactly and he decided to go ahead and buy the fourteen rolls required to paper the lounge and bedroom. He took the samples and his cash and drove his car to the décor supplies shop in town
‘That’s £153. 48, please, sir.’ The shop assistant said.
Gulliver gulped, his face reddened, as he recalled the paste he’d additionally bought and allowed for the VAT. He found the extra money and drove home bloody-mindedly.

The Intimacy Reductionism Painters’ meeting took place annually behind the estate’s wig tunnel. They gathered to discuss techniques and plan their occasional exhibitions, which were frequently ignored by the public, but this suited their purposes very well. In fact, they felt honoured as artists by indifference. The group was comprised of fourteen active members, but four of these were Swedish tourists there by mistake! The group’s founder was a wealthy eccentric and amateur painter, Dunstan D’Allraces, who died of alcohol poisoning on his forty-ninth birthday. He left them several tens of thousands of pounds to further their aims, which he exhaustively detailed in a million-word treatise that, he insisted in his will, they must publish in order to access these funds.
One year, they planned to expose the futility of envelopes by sealing fifty-thousand empty ones, but their application for a grant to fund this exercise was ignored by the local Arts council. This was because their application got accidentally sealed within an unmarked envelope they were using as a blueprint for their proposed stunt. Prior to this debacle, their greatest ‘work of art’ involved the synchronised, anonymous release of a collection of odours in a chain of banks. Not that anyone noticed, even when they claimed responsibility.

To read The Traffic Wardens' Arms in its entirety visit:

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


Sharon wore a leather kilt for the floor cleaning that was necessary after she’d glossed her ceiling. Chewing her tongue, humming along to the speeded up bagpipes playing through her headphones killed the time until she decided she deserved a tea break. Waiting patiently by the kettle, not watching, until it boiled, she praised God when it did. Pouring water on the meticulously placed teabag in her favourite cup, she frowned at the hairline crack running from its rim to Princess Diana’s hairline. When she’d finished her tea, she ritualistically enfolded her cup in a number of tissues of different sizes and colours before locking it back up. Along with an embossed leaflet about the guessed width of a giraffe’s neck and the darts trophies stolen, by her brother, from jumble sales.

Bored with the radio, Gulliver went jelly shopping to shrug off his feelings of being like a brick in an armchair. He squeezed packets of jelly stacked on supermarket shelves with arthritic fingers, exclaiming with almost sexual gratification to himself. He bought a jar of Brylcreem, which he opened in the store and applied liberally to his hair, before returning to the jelly. He chose eight different flavours and bought three packets of each, his lips and chin glistening under the store’s fluorescent lighting as he salivated at the checkout. The cashier’s name was Sally according to the badge on her right breast, her face a sea of freckles with a split for a mouth that demanded money. Smiling, Gulliver wiped his lips and did his flies up, then blew his nose and fumbled for the right money. Leaving the store, he felt euphoric; he was ‘jellied up’ and on a roll. He’d go home, lie on the sofa and eat the jelly. With the radio switched off!
Indoors, Gulliver carefully unwrapped each of the packets of jelly, tossing the packaging in the bin before devouring the contents with great self-satisfaction. After eating a few packets, he felt full so, not being greedy, he stopped consuming, sat still and spent the next few minutes in greasy silence simply thinking about the recently consumed jelly. Then, suddenly, he suffered a horrendous attack of arthritis.
‘It serves me right for eating all that jelly,’ he told himself; despite the fact the abrupt affliction was medically unrelated. With a typically English trait, Gulliver ruined his previous jelly revelry with severe, self-inflicted guilt lashing.

Having finished floor cleaning for the day, Sharon rang the giraffe-neck-width-guessing chat line (at a rate of 48p a minute) to dissipate her loneliness a little. After her call, she painted her fingernails and decided to go for a walk. She closed her front door on the smell of gloss paint and, outside in the street, bumped into her friend, Jane. When Jane got up she linked arms with her friend and the two women walked together until bumping into their mutual friend, Zoe. She, too, linked up and the trio perambulated in unison. They were heading in the direction of the recently ablaze wig tunnel and Jane was whingeing. She was upset because she’d split up with her boyfriend, who’d become a traffic warden.
‘Never mind,’ said Sharon and Zoe.
Before adding that they’d warned her about him all along, but they didn’t like to say they’d told her so.

To read The Traffic Wardens' Arms in its entirety visit: