Saturday, 28 March 2020


Hell, met by helmet-wearing Helmut.
His well-protected head never thought being told to go to hell ill-considered advice.
‘ADD-A-VICE’ is on a sign to advertise a hellish special offer,
That, like everything else here, is a damn con!
Helmut carries on gazing upon all manner of infernal sights
Unimaginable tortures inflicted through eternal nights.

For their sins, damned denizens are forced to endlessly watch Australian soap operas,
Musical accompaniment comes from the soaps’ cast members,
Badly singing their one-time hit songs with their cheesy grins.
The only thing worse than a never-ending torment is one that never begins!
Dread of the dead fills Helmut’s shielded head,
Perhaps he should have heeded Dante’s warnings or those of Milton instead.

Too little, too late, Helmut muses as a procession of tardy midgets on the march,
Count out loud with each and every step.
Putting his best foot forward, he feels a wave of overpowering guilt,
For assuming his stationary foot’s somehow inferior or not as well-built.
Guilt-ridden and confused, he stands still feeling ill.

Patting himself down with neurotic, sweating hands, finding he’s mysteriously bruised,
Confused and contused, Helmut wonders why he’s being punished…
If a connection exists between his present and some forgotten victim he’d abused in the past?
‘Bloody hell!’ he cries: it never rains it pours: he’s drenched by a sudden downpour of blood,
Helmut suspects anyone can get wet in hell but no one ever dries.

Saturday, 11 January 2020


On his way to Malcolm, Stefan walked through the town centre. Passing somnambulistic pedestrians window-shopping and a number of beggars, one of whom, Stefan thought, muttered something to him.
‘Uh?’ Curious, he turned to look before he could check himself. What did most beggars want? Money, of course, he sighed inwardly.
‘I said: a wise man listens.’ The beggar said clearly, quietly and winked.
Stefan turned a blind eye and hastened on his way, accidentally kicking the hind legs of a guide dog in the process. The well-trained Labrador’s placid temperament was undisturbed apart from the reproachful look it gave Stefan over its shoulder, before being pulled towards its blind owner who was wanting to cross the road. The pair was at a pedestrian crossing and the lights were just changing to red. Half a dozen cars in each direction began slowing down as Stefan hurried round the blind person and their dog, nearly twisting his ankle as he slipped off the kerb.
‘Shit!’ he exclaimed.
‘Er? What… What’s wrong?’ The blind person asked no one in particular, their unseeing eyes futilely flitting behind a thick pair of dark glasses.
‘It’s nothing,’ Stefan said, coughing. ‘I slipped, that was all. Everything’s ok.’ He noticed the guide dog was giving him a funny look again and felt his already hot face redden.
‘Oh, dear,’ said the sightless one, ‘are you alright?’
Stefan was crossing the road, despite being startled by the sound of a car’s horn tooting. He was already halfway across, swivelling his head to check no cars had jumped the lights, when he shouted back. ‘Hurry up, the lights are about to change!’
‘What?’ A weak voice said and the dog barked, startling Stefan as much as the car’s horn. On the other side of the road he took a deep breath and upped his pace. Malcolm’s house was only ten minutes away. He thrust his hands into his coat pockets and trudged quickly, his gaze fixed firmly ahead. A suited man walking in the opposite direction was whistling jollily but Stefan froze him with a malevolent stare. Two minutes further on, a trio of aggressive-looking youths jostling each other and shouting veered so close to him, Stefan could smell their alcoholic breath. He avoided their eyes with an affected nonchalance he was hoping conveyed an air of such intense preoccupation that he had not even noticed the edgy group. They passed each other in a couple of uncomfortable, for Stefan, seconds. Spitting, swearing, the threesome shouted insults at Stefan who bowed his head and became fixated with the pavement, speeding up unconsciously.
His heart was pounding for a while after passing the hostile group. He sucked in a couple of deep breaths and forced himself to calm down. In no time, he reached the familiar corner of Malcolm’s road and turned into it with not inconsiderable relief.

‘You took your time.’ Malcolm reproached him in his front doorway.
‘I got here as soon as I could,’ Stefan said. But he muttered under his breath: ‘All things come to those who wait, Malcolm.’
‘Have you seen what somebody’s done?’ Malcolm spilled out of his house flapping his arms at his defaced property. ‘Who would do such a thing?’
Stefan shook his head. Then, acting instinctively, he looked behind him at the houses directly opposite. As he did so, two sets of curtains dropped back into place behind their respective windows.
‘Why? Why?’ Malcolm pleaded. ‘Why me?’
‘Yes,’ Stefan hesitated, looking away from the curtain twitchers over the road, ‘it doesn’t look like anyone else has been targeted.’
‘But why? Why? Do you think it’s personal, Stefan? Has somebody got a grudge against me? But what does this mean?’ Malcolm whined pointing at the graffiti.
Stefan shook his head. ‘Don’t know, mate. Who can say? It was probably just a completely random act.’
‘By whom, Stefan?’
‘God knows! Some drunk…’
‘Oh, my God! What are the neighbours going to think?’
‘Who cares? It’s none of their business.’
‘They’ll think I’m embroiled in some weird personal vendetta, I’ll be shunned and ostracised. For God’s sake, let’s go inside, Stefan.’
Panicking, Malcolm bundled Stefan through the front door, which he closed behind them.
‘What are we going to do?’
‘We?’ Stefan was flabbergasted; he’d never seen Malcolm this distraught.
‘You’ve got to help me, please,’ Malcolm ran to his front windows and peered through them with an anxious expression, as if he’d received a huge bill he was unable to pay. ‘I can’t clean this mess off all by myself. It looks like spray-paint, doesn’t it? I don’t know how to get it off, do you?’
Stefan shrugged. ‘Ring B&Q or somewhere and see what they recommend.’ He thought Malcolm was pathetic.
‘Good idea.’ Malcolm reached for his mobile phone and typed into the search bar for B&Q’s number.
After fifteen or twenty minutes of anxious bleating, whining, explaining and questioning over the phone, Malcolm finally hung up.
‘Right, that’s it!’
‘Uh?’ Stefan looked up over the paperback he’d snatched from the coffee table and had been sat engrossed in while Malcolm had wittered.
‘That was B&Q I was talking to. They recommended something called Clearoff Graffiti Remover. Let’s go and get some before they shut.’
‘What time is it now?’ Stefan’s reluctance was obvious.
‘Nearly half-past-eleven…’
‘Jesus, Malc’ and what time do they shut? Seven, eight o’clock tonight? We’ve got ages…’
‘Not if we’re going to get it all scrubbed off while there’s sufficient daylight, allowing for the time it takes getting to B&Q and back.’
Stefan could not see why the entire process had to involve him. Nor any of it, come to that. Seeing Malcolm reduce himself to this neurotic, panicking heap was embarrassing; Stefan found him a contemptible spectacle and could not wait to distance himself from it. But vestiges of decorum and tinier still amounts of guilt forced him to hesitate in Malcolm’s plaintive presence.
‘Well, Malcolm, you know…’ Stefan rose to his feet slowly, struggling to find the right words that would neatly excuse him. ‘Not really sure if I can… Er, don’t know what, er, exactly I can…’
‘Come on, Stefan, man!’ Malcolm found it somewhere within him to abruptly sound assertive. Before immediately reverting to plaintive bleating mode: ‘You know I can’t stand these ghastly DIY warehouses with their endless wide aisles and shelves stacked from the floor to high above your head with all manner of strange products, and speeding forklift trucks screeching around behind you and leaving skid marks on the grey lino flooring. I hate the smell of these places… And the service, I bet I’ll get stuck in a queue a mile long, which is a nightmare when you’re on your own. Besides I might get the wrong product and…’
‘Alright, alright, I’ll tag along if it’ll make things more bearable. If you really need the moral support that is…’ If Stefan had hoped with this, Malcolm would be stung into jumping in with assurances that he’d be alright on his own, ‘if you put it like that’, etc, he was disappointed.
‘Thank you, Stefan.’ Malcolm clasped his hands together and raised them to his chest in an effeminate, camp gesture. ‘So it’s settled then, we’ll go together. Now what did I say that stuff was called? Clearitoff something Graffiti Removal Fluid?’
‘Something like that,’ Stefan sighed. ‘Didn’t you write it down?’
‘Ooh, no, I don’t think so, oh, God!’
‘Relax, we’ll just ask in the store.’
‘Oh, do you think so? Oh, alright, if you say so… Are you ready?’
‘Yep,’ Stefan slammed the paperback back down on the coffee table. It was called ‘Astral Sex’ by a Dr Lesley Portal-Finder. Its creased spine and grubby pages revealed how well-thumbed it was: one of Malcolm’s extensive collections of ‘Esoteric Self-Help and Enlightenment Books’, Stefan didn’t wonder, published by the Chakra Developments Press or some such outfit aimed at naïve New Agers. ‘Let’s go!’

‘£27. 99?’ Malcolm gasped at the till in B&Q. ‘For this tiny bottle?’
‘That’s right, sir.’ The bespectacled face, saturated with oozing acne, nodded at him behind the till. It was nearly time for their break and there were already six people behind this geezer—if only he’d hurry up, pay and fuck off!
‘It’s only half a litre,’ he looked round at Stefan who was avoiding eye contact with him. ‘Only half a litre, I said. Do you think it’ll be enough? Stefan? STEFAN?’
‘Er, well what does it say on the label?’
‘Enough to remove 9 linear metres of aerosol paint from all surfaces, including brick, glass, metal, masonry and plastic.’
‘Should be,’ Stefan nodded.
‘I should hope so at this price,’ whinged Malcolm. Stefan did not feel alone as he felt like smashing the bottle on the top of Malcolm’s cranium. People behind them in the queue shuffled and coughed. They heard loudly whispered comments like: ‘Come on, ’urry up,’ and ‘Get on with it, will ya?’ Malcolm’s sweaty, stressed face reddened. ‘Oh, very well.’
Outside the store, Malcolm nearly dropped the expensive bottle and screamed like a young girl in horror.
‘You’d better carry it, Stefan. I’m too stressed, I’m shaking. We can’t afford to lose it.’
There was that ‘we’ again, Stefan bristled but he took the bottle from Malcolm and slid it into his jacket’s inside pocket.
‘Are you sure it’s safe?’ Malcolm asked several times as they walked back to his home, half-an-hour away.
Stefan was determined not to get pressganged into helping remove the graffiti when they eventually returned.
‘Look, Malcolm, I’m sorry, mate but I just remembered there’s some shopping I need to do for my aunt. I’m going to have to go…’
‘No! Oh, really? Are you sure you can’t stay for a little while?’
Stefan shook his head, looked as sorry as he could.
‘Oh, go on. Not even for half-an-hour? Twenty minutes? You don’t have to do anything, just make us both a cup of tea and keep me company while I get started. Go on…’
‘I really can’t, I, er, promised my aunt I’d see her at two…’ That was his mistake: specifying a time.
Malcolm seized on it. ‘Oh, well, it’s not even one o’clock yet, I don’t think,’ (it was five minutes past) ‘you’ll have plenty of time to see me get started and time to spare.’
Stefan groaned. ‘Well, I said I’d meet her…’
‘Oh, do be a love and put the kettle on will you? While I just read these instructions and fetch a bucket and a scrubbing brush.’ Malcolm went over his checklist, ‘What do I need? Rubber gloves: check! Plastic bucket: check!’
Meanwhile, fuming, Stefan went inside. After angrily switching on the kettle and snatching a cup, he grabbed a teabag, which he stuffed down the back of his trousers and pressed against his anus before farting on it. Tipping it in the cup, he finished making the drink for Malcolm and took it outside.
‘Here you are,’ he proffered the cup to Malcolm, who reached out for it with a hand in a pink rubber glove. Then, glancing across the road at the house opposite he noticed a trio of women outside looking in his direction. ‘Oh, shit! No!’
‘What’s the matter?’
‘It’s Mrs Crushing, the neighbourhood gossip and a couple of her pals from the Women’s Institute by the look of it.’
Stefan shot a look at the senior, concerned-looking women who appeared to be coming over.
‘God, that’s all I need!’ Malcolm muttered under his breath and took a large gulp of his tea as the women crossed the road.
‘Coo-ee, Malcolm! Only me,’ Mrs Crushing called, unnecessarily waving as well, flanked by her reedy cohorts.
Malcolm groaned and shot Stefan a conspiratorial look, but said, ‘You made a nice cup of tea, Stefan. Where’s yours?’
Stefan shrugged, ‘I really don’t want one. In fact, I really ought to be going…’
‘What? And leave me with these three witches?’ Malcolm said in a stage whisper. The women were nearly upon them.
‘Well, there’s not a lot I can do,’ Stefan said.
‘Oh, my goodness, Malcolm,’ Mrs Crushing said, alighting on the pavement outside Malcolm’s house, ‘what on earth’s happened to your lovely, little house? “Pride comes before a fall”, but what’s it mean?’ She shook her head contemplating the sprayed words, her two companions shook theirs in sympathetic unison and Malcolm shrugged.
‘Some random hooligan struck last night,’ he said, groaning inwardly as the three old crones made noises expressing their incredulity at such a thing and then more noises aimed at conveying their collective sympathy for him. He knew that Mrs Crushing would stand there prattling and watching him all the time as he washed the paint off. He shot a glance at Stefan who had smiled nonchalantly at the women and was now preparing to take his leave.
‘Okay, Malcolm, like I said I’ve got to get going. Good luck with this. I’ll give you a call sometime tomorrow; see how you’ve got on. Ta-ta!’
‘Mmm,’ Malcolm’s face was beetroot red, he looked livid.
Stefan turned abruptly and, as if struck with an afterthought, approached Malcolm and leaned close so he could say something quietly in his ear: ‘Don’t they say bad things come in threes’?’


Friday, 20 December 2019


‘What goes around comes around,’ said the man standing next to a roundabout.
‘Right you are, Malcolm,’ said the younger man standing further away from the roundabout, nearer to the swings.
It wasn’t hard to agree with Malcolm, who was wise. The younger man, Stefan, always agreed with him; he was his mentor and friend. But not out of blind trust—Stefan could see the veracity of Malcolm’s words from the way he delivered them. A good example of his unique delivery had just happened, Stefan realised. The carefully arranged proximity between Malcolm and the roundabout had provided the perfect visual analogy for the words he uttered. Words that, issued from lesser mouths, would sound clichéd. From Malcolm, with the aid of a visual prop, they were pearls of wisdom resonating with profound truth and universal significance.
‘Shall we depart, Stefan?’ Malcolm asked.
Stefan enthusiastically nodded, ‘Yes, let’s. But where to?’
Malcolm smiled, raising a hand in a gesture that was halfway between dispensing a benediction and offering supplication. ‘We’re off to join a flatulent man.’
Stefan frowned, finding, as he always did, Malcolm’s cryptic statements unfathomable. He shrugged and quickly fell into step alongside his friend, who was an impenetrable mystery to him. The two men set off purposefully, yet at a relaxed pace.
Ten minutes later, Malcolm abruptly halted to say, ‘Let’s take the bus.’
‘Er, okay,’ Stefan hesitated, knowing Malcolm seldom carried cash. Meaning he’d have to pay for their fares, as usual.
‘We need a number 2A,’ Malcolm said. ‘There’s a stop just across the road.’ Ignoring Stefan, he set off in that direction.
Fortuitously, the bus arrived soon after they reached the bus stop. ‘All things come to those who wait, Stefan.’
They sat together quietly as the bus set off. Malcolm looked out of the window serenely.
Eventually, Stefan asked: ‘Which stop do we want?’
‘Next one,’ said Malcolm calmly, standing up.
They got off the bus outside the main entrance to the town’s park. Leading the way, Malcolm strode along the tree-lined path that led to a fountain. Further ahead, there was a cafeteria and public toilets. On either side of the path were wooden benches, on some of which elderly couples sat, others afforded young parents with their kids some rest. Deeper into the park, they became aware of how busy it was. A group of large women, pushing buggies, vied for space with numerous dog walkers—in both directions. There were plenty of sporting types of individuals, too; holding or bouncing balls of all descriptions.
‘Shit!’ Stefan exclaimed. Malcolm gave him a quizzical look. ‘A pigeon’s just shat on me.’
‘Oh, it’s supposed to be lucky, I believe.’
Stefan didn’t feel lucky, running his hands through his hair and brushing his clothes. But they were nearing the toilets by the cafeteria, which Stefan decided to clean himself up in.
Malcolm said, ‘I’ll wait outside.’
‘Let’s have a cup of tea,’ he said as soon as Stefan was finished.
I suppose I’ll have to pay for that, too, Stefan thought—immediately feeling guilty for it. He knew that spiritual people were usually poor, nonmaterialists: spiritually rich, materially poor.
The cafeteria was busy so they ended up sharing a table with a man of advanced years.
‘Course I don’t mind,’ the man had said, proffering with his hand and belching. ‘Be my guests, gents. Oops! Pardon me.’
Stefan sat down grimacing as suspect odours from the man assailed his nostrils. This had to be the ‘flatulent man’ to whom Malcolm had referred, which was impressive, Stefan grudgingly acknowledged. As well as constantly burping and breaking wind, the man turned out to be a lonely natter box. With selfish neediness, the man, who was called Colin, capitalised for the next twenty-five minutes on his new audience. Regaling them with an autobiographical diatribe that was as poorly structured and rambling in its presentation as it was boring in its substance. But like most people who are emotional needy, Colin was impervious to all emotional signals from other people. It did not, because it could not, occur to him that anyone else might find him less interesting than he found himself. It is an impossible concept for one who’s totally self-obsessed. With the Colins’ of the world, it’s not arrogance, they don’t even think about other people enough to favourably compare themselves with them. It’s a form of mental illness, a delusional mind-set, brought on by their isolation. It’s like they are overcompensating for the sad reality of their insignificant existences by assuming a ‘psychic security blanket’ of complete self-absorption/fascination.
When they eventually stood up to leave, Malcolm had warmly shook Colin’s hand, while Stefan seethed with extreme irritation.
‘My God!’ he said, outside the café. ‘What a chronic bore. Did you get a whiff of his farts, Malcolm? They were lethal.’
‘He was kind enough to offer us seats. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to use the café.’ Malcolm said.
‘We’d have been better off. Why didn’t you hurry up and finish your tea so we could have cut loose?’
‘You’ve missed the point, Stefan.’
‘Which is?’
‘He was kind, yes. Wouldn’t you agree?’
‘I suppose so. So what?’
Stefan recognised that ulterior motives are often well-served behind acts of kindness. It seemed to him Colin had got more out of his ‘kind’ gesture than they had.
‘Colin is the embodiment of the sentiment: it’s an ill wind that blows no good.’
You’re kidding, thought Stefan, conscious for the first time of doubting Malcolm.
They walked out of the park and stood outside the gates.
‘Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, Stefan. It’s been a long day.’
‘Oh,’ Stefan faltered, ‘okay, then.’
He walked away headed for his home, feeling as if he’d been dismissed.

The following day, Malcolm wanted to return to the park.
‘What for?’ Stefan asked.
‘You’ll see.’
‘I’m not up for another dose of that fartbag, Colin!’
‘He’s not the reason why we’re going.’
‘We’re going?’ Stefan was already following Malcolm. ‘I suppose you want to take the bus?’ he said, already patting his pockets for the change that would inevitably be needed.
‘No, not today. Let’s walk.’
The park was less busy when they arrived. Walking up the main path, they saw fewer people sat on the benches and fewer pedestrians. Dogs barked somewhere in the distance. A breeze rustled the branches of trees on either side.
‘Look, Stefan!’ Malcolm pointed at an impressive apple tree, rustling in the wind. Some fruit fell from a couple of branches to the grassy ground. ‘The apple does not fall far from the tree.’
It’s true, thought Stefan. But he felt like a bit of a sap.

That night, Stefan stayed up late writing a story called ‘The Apple that Did Fall far From the Tree’ on his laptop. When he’d finished writing, he printed the story off and read it through. He was surprised to find he’d written nearly 1, 500 words; and, he wasn’t used to writing fiction. The story involved a man who planted an apple tree on the edge of a cliff, so when it bore fruit some apples fell directly over the clifftop. Stefan contrived for one of these apples to roll further away from the bottom of the cliff and into the sea. The tide took it out to a small boat that was passing. A member of the crew saw it bobbing about and grabbed it; and, thinking to eat it later put it in his pocket where he forgot about it. The apple was rotten when, weeks later, he arrived in Australia, thousands of miles away from its starting point. It could have been better-written, Stefan realised, but overall he felt satisfied with his efforts. He sealed the story inside an envelope and, the following morning he posted it, anonymously, to Malcolm. That night, he slept extremely soundly, waking in the morning feeling smug and refreshed.
When he saw Malcolm later in the same day, he acted as he always did. Not that he regretted sending the story, far from it. But he had no desire to identify himself as the author; in fact, the secretive nature of what he’d done gave him an excited feeling inside. He wondered what Malcolm would make of it when the story arrived in the post. The idea amused him and increased his internal frisson.
‘Is there anywhere in particular you fancy going?’ Malcolm asked.
‘I’ll follow you,’ Stefan shrugged—it immediately crossed his mind that he’d made an unconsciously submissive response. No wonder Malcolm always took the lead; he might as well be an obedient puppy on the end of it!
As they passed Caffeine Heaven, the town’s trendiest coffee bar, they were assailed with its pungent coffee odours and the high-volume babble of customers seated outside. A woman shrieked having scalded herself pouring her coffee over her white blouse. The men around her table tried not to be seen looking at her ample cleavage as she dabbed away at herself with a napkin.
‘Is everything alright, madam?’ Asked a waiter who’d suddenly appeared with a tea towel and a concerned expression.
‘Yes, yes,’ the woman waved him away. ‘Just a silly accident.’
The waiter hesitated, accidents led to lawsuits he’d been trained to think. ‘If you’re sure you’re okay. You might want to get your chest looked at.’
The woman’s chest was indeed bright red, as were the men’s faces furtively watching the shape of her breasts within the soaked blouse.
‘Honestly, there’s no need. No need at all.’ More embarrassed than hurt, the woman wanted all the attention that was now upon her to cease.
‘Very well, madam.’ The waiter scuttled off with an obsequious bow, breaking wind in the process. This caused the equally embarrassed male companions of the woman to laugh raucously; partly with mirth, and to dispel their own discomfort.
‘He might have left me the tea towel,’ the woman grumbled.
Three of her friends leapt up at once. One of them said: ‘I’ll get it!’
‘Don’t bother, he’s coming back.’
‘I’m so sorry, madam. The manager wants you to know there is no charge for you and your friends today.’ The waiter said, dabbing away at the table with a cloth. His face frozen in an expression of abject contrition.
‘Oh, well…’ The woman was disarmed, she half-smiled.
‘That’s a result, Mo,’ said one of her friends.
‘Fair enough, no harm done.’ Was echoed by the others.
Walking on, Malcolm turned to Stefan to say, ‘There’s many a slip between cup and lip, eh?’
Stefan wasn’t surprised. But how was he to react? Would it appear out of character, to Malcolm, if he kept silent? He wondered. Although uncertain, he just nodded and they walked on.
A little further on, they drew alongside the solicitors: ‘Grasp, Gloat and Gullet’, whose sign boasted, ‘Specialists in Legalised Forms of Revenge.’ It was an imposing, some would say an intimidating, three-storey-building with the business façade on the ground floor made up of a row of black-glossed, cobbles set in cement above and frosted glass below, with the names and their slogan hand painted in an old-fashioned font and silver paint. Heavy oak, double doors with highly polished brass handles hang to the right of the windows. Both men noticed the FLAT TO LET sign outside, which referred to the flat upstairs above the business.
Mischievously motivated, Stefan turned to Malcolm. ‘You know the expression: no man is above the law, don’t you?’
‘Ye-ees…’ Caught off-guard, Malcolm hesitated.
‘Well, it won’t be true if some bloke rents that upstairs flat!’ He laughed loudly, falling into step with now quiet Malcolm.
Outside the solicitors, a man driving an expensive car pulled up alongside the only available parking space.
‘He’ll be lucky!’ Malcolm shook his head.
The space truly looked impossibly small. But as Stefan shared Malcolm’s doubt, the driver casually swung his car into reverse and, apparently effortlessly, in one smooth, fluid manoeuvre parked perfectly.
‘Wow!’ Stefan exclaimed and Malcolm gasped.
The driver swung his car door open and emerged from his vehicle with such an air of haughty superiority, looking down his nose at the pedestrians watching him, like Stefan and Malcolm. A few individuals had stopped and admiringly witnessed the man’s skilful parking, but his obnoxious manner getting out of his car was so tangible and repellent; their previously respectful glances turned to scowls of derision and they hurried on their way. Alighting on the pavement without looking where he was going, the driver clicked his remote car alarm/locking system, and promptly stepped in a pile of runny dog shit.
Malcolm looked at Stefan; they both raised their eyebrows. Walking away, he said: ‘Pride comes before a fall!’
Stefan knew the arrogant man hadn’t heard what Malcolm had softly said—maybe it was just for his benefit, he thought.
They continued walking for another ten minutes or so, in silence, before Malcolm cleared his throat and began mumbling something about something he’d just remembered needing his attention.
‘Well, er, I’ll see you soon, Stefan.’
‘Okay. Probably tomorrow.’ Stefan nodded as Malcolm scuttled away.

That night, Stefan, dressed in black overalls and wearing a balaclava and gloves, snuck over to Malcolm’s house. Malcolm lived in a respectable neighbourhood and it was dead quiet when Stefan got there at about one o’clock in the morning. He’d have to be quieter than a mouse so as not to disturb Malcolm or his bourgeois neighbours; it was a good job he’d rattled the aerosol spray can thoroughly in the car beforehand. He’d parked a couple of streets away and arrived on foot, pulling the gloves and balaclava on at the last minute in case anyone saw him. But save for a cat sitting on a garden wall blinking at him, he’d not encountered a soul. After a last look round to make absolutely sure no one was around he set to work, spraying in foot-high, red letters the following phrase on Malcolm’s front wall, windows and door: PRIDE DOES COME BEFORE A FALL… UNLESS IT’S A PRIDE OF LIONS!

The next day, Stefan was woken by his mobile phone ringing—he’d forgotten to put it on silent—it was Malcolm! Still remembering the glorious dream the call had interrupted, Stefan took his time before answering. He’d dreamed that he was a Roman Emperor who’d had Malcolm fed to a pride of lions in an ancient arena filled with thousands of people baying for blood. He and the crowd had revelled in the gory gorging of the lions on hapless Malcolm’s hysterical form.
‘Hello? Malcolm, what is it, mate?’ It was only half-past seven, Stefan registered.
‘Stefan! I can’t believe it, someone’s vandalised my house!’ Malcolm sounded distraught.
‘Uh? You what?’ Stefan, wide awake, feigned the tiredness in his voice. Did Malcolm suspect it was him? He somehow doubted it but couldn’t tell.
‘My house! Some bastard’s daubed a weird slogan over the outside.’
‘Oh, dear…’ Surely Malcolm did not suspect him. Why would he? ‘Er, what are you going to do?’
‘What do you mean?’
What do you want me to do about it? Stefan thought, but said, ‘Have you called the police?’
‘No, do you think I should?’
Stefan hesitated, running through his mind the possibility that he might have left evidence that could incriminate him. ‘It’s up to you.’
‘Can you come over?’
‘What for?’ Stefan didn’t mean to sound anxious.
‘I could do with your company,’ Malcolm, too preoccupied to notice Stefan’s manner, whined. ‘It’ll be a job and a half cleaning the graffiti off. I don’t even know what to use, do you?’
‘Er, no. Depends what it is. Look it up online.’
‘Good idea. What time can you come round?’
‘Give me a couple of hours.’
‘A couple?’ Malcolm sounded plaintive.
With resentment towards Malcolm’s neediness smouldering in his chest, Stefan glanced at the time before answering.
‘I’ll be there as soon as I can.’ Then, abruptly he hung up.


Friday, 11 May 2018



EST. 2015.



By our Warwick Affairs correspondent, Delia Probes.

Shocking reports have reached us here at the Warwickshire Gazette and Post of a sick cannibal preying on the praying community in the area neighbouring Nuneaton. Nuneaton itself has long been stigmatised for the attraction it holds for both bankrupt restauranteurs (and others from the catering industry who failed miserably) and, no less ironically, anorexic support groups. Now, it has proved itself the controversial capital of Warwickshire again with the discovery of the half-eaten remains of a nun outside a church on the outskirts of the town.

The gruesome discovery was made in the early hours of yesterday morning by Alan Snoopins, a retired traffic warden from Coventry, who was on holiday at the time.

‘I woke at the crack of dawn, yesterday,’ Mr Snoopins, 70, said. ‘The toilet in the B&B was blocked, so I decided to go for a walk. I was about ten minutes away from the B&B when I saw a church that looked pretty. Only, on closer inspection, I discovered it was anything but…’

To his horror, on the pathway leading to the church of St Botolph’s, in Credence Lane, Mr Snoopins saw a pack of Alsatian dogs fighting over the remains of a nun.

‘To my horror, I saw a pack of dogs, Alsatians they were, all fighting over this poor nun’s dead body.’

Nauseated, Mr Snoopins immediately alerted the police.

Det. Chief Inspector Alan Mason praised Mr Snoopins for his public-spirited response to what he described as ‘an atrocious end to a nun.’ DCI Mason, who heads what, is now a murder case, has issued the following statement:

‘Thanks to the public-spirited actions of a retired holidaymaker, police are now investigating the suspicious death of a nun, found by the holidaymaker being eaten by a pack of dogs. The dogs themselves were quickly ruled out as the prime suspects in the case as forensics revealed the time of death as some hours previous to their unsightly feast. Further clues point to the perpetrator possibly being male, with a fixation about nuns specifically, or uniformed women in general. Most disturbingly, the number of bite marks on what remained of her body that could not be blamed on the dogs could suggest she was cannibalised.’

The nun has been identified as Sister Veronica Barnacle, from Coventry’s Convent for the Piety and Purification of Our Lady’s Humble Servants. She was aged 55, and believed to have been visiting Father Brawny McGuigan at St. Botolph’s to discuss an inter-diocese funding of a local charities event.

Father McGuigan’s reaction to the police statement was one of ‘complete shock and the deepest revulsion.’ He simply ‘could not imagine,’ he said, ‘what type of monstrous being would do such an appalling thing to a sweet little nun like Sister Veronica. Despite his vocation, Father Brawny spoke of his incredulity over the news. ‘It’s hard to believe, I pray to God for help in understanding the depravity of such a person’s warped psyche. Killing a nun’s bad enough, but then eating her? I pray to God this sick man doesn’t make a habit out of it.’


Saturday, 31 March 2018


We’ve all heard of someone who’s ‘afraid of their own shadow,’
But, out of the blue, frosty Hugh knew his shadow lived in fear.
Hugh first had a clue from how seldom his shadow would appear.
Even the brightest, sunniest conditions hardly made it clear.
Hugh hated feeling in the dark about it,
Not knowing why his shadow wasn’t bringing up the rear.
He’d read somewhere that vampires had no shadows,
Or was it they weren’t reflected in mirrors (which he was!)?
In any case, Hugh couldn’t even stand the sight of blood,
Let alone consider developing a taste for it.

Besides, he didn’t really believe in vampires, what could be as daft?
A shadow that was scared, he thought and very nearly laughed.
To take his mind off things, usually Hugh liked to read,
But Hank Marvin’s autobiography: ‘A Shadow of My Former Self,’
Disturbed him with its title; he worried about his mental health.
Approaching forty, Hugh had no illusions about his future life,
Middle-aged with mental health issues, he’d be unlikely to attract a wife,
And probably he’d end up left on the shelf, which,
He reflected bitterly, would atleast have a shadow!
To give credit where it’s due, one wonders how much is owed to Hugh,
Insightful and weird, it appeared his insights were limited to his weirdness.
After a close shave with madness, he decided to grow a beard,
This covered his chin but not the fact he was weird.
Collage/drawing by Julian Cloran.




Friday, 9 June 2017

Digory Polyp

As something of a lounge lizard—atleast in the eyes of my friends (many of whom are no strangers to the wearing of monocles)—I’m the sort of chap who’s occasionally given to the speaking of his mind from the comfort of his own abode. With or without the lubrication of an after-dinner snifter, a cut glass in my hand, I stand in my dressing gown and give the television a sound dressing down. If I’m sufficiently incensed, for example with a news item just broadcast, I’ll recline in my favourite armchair or adopt a seat of pine to opine, addressing the TV set secure in the knowledge that it cannot answer back. A sense of self-satisfaction instils a warm glow in my chest with the certainty that I will always have the last word. Of course we can all sound off in the privacy of our own homes (or in the shade of our gardens, if we wanted to be like critical gnomes) but without an audience, where is the potential for doing something positive in the world?  This is why I have decided to share here, in the modest hope that my words might serve as a form of, hopefully inspiring, outreach.

  I have explained that I sometimes stand to rant, other times I sit; I am spoilt for choice for chairs living (as I do) in an extremely well-furnished, large house with numerous rooms, chandeliers, oil paintings and gold-framed wall mirrors, but—I digress. I was going to say I am in no way limited to chairs from where I express my feelings and cares. No, in fact, I have a mahogany coloured sofa of which I am extremely fond and enjoy sitting there while speaking aloud on my own. The sofa belonged to a distant aunt of mine who died falling off a camel in Egypt. There is a picture of her in an oval shaped silver frame on a mantelpiece somewhere and I never pass it without gratefully associating her with the sofa of which I am so fond. I’ve lost count of the number of satisfying rants I’ve aimed at the television from auntie’s aesthetically pleasing (and extremely comfortable structure, ideally suited for repose). Suffice to say, on numerous occasions I have relaxed on said item of furniture and felt uniquely supported—more, I have felt regal almost, as if the sofa empowers me much the way a king feels sat on his throne.  I’m sure by now I’ve successfully conveyed my attachment to my sofa and furthermore, I hope, added convincing reasons to validate the attachment. In any case, until next time.


Saturday, 31 December 2016


The artist who was obsessed with Cilla Black
Took up residence in Drusillas Park where, night and day,
He produced images of the late Scouse singer—even in the dark!
Like many artists, commercial success eluded him,
But he found recognition of a sort becoming widely known as the man
Who drew Cillas in Drusillas, for sport.

Cilla Black enjoyed a long career,
Singing less often as time passed,
But always grinning from ear to ear.
The red-headed warbler who ended up presenting the TV show
‘Blind Date’
Was typical of the mediocrity the critics love to hate.
No bad reviews diminished her popularity even the slightest bit,
One can always rely on the British public to cherish the tritest shit.

For the fixated artist of Drusillas, Cilla was an idol second to none.
Although, ironically, the park was visited one day, by
Billy Idol, after a nun.
The artist’s adulation, pouring his heart into his work
Indicates how channelling his obsession saved him from going completely berserk.
Until, one day, he took his own life with precision and a palette knife,
Which he used to carve the initials: C. B into both of his carotid arteries!

Rich Seamfinder.


The artist, Haberdashery Mullet has died at the age of forty. He had taken his own life using a palette knife to gouge out both his carotid arteries. His body was found in the early hours of Friday morning in the grounds of Drusillas Park, where he had lived and worked—obsessively producing mixed media images of Cilla Black—for over twenty years.

  Born in Godalming in 1977, little is known of Haberdashery’s early years or schooling. He always claimed to be a self-taught artist and first came to public attention in his twenties, when the national media took an interest in his eccentric lifestyle, largely as a result of his run-ins with the police and law courts over his adoption of Drusillas Park as his residence and full-time studio.
  Although Haberdashery’s artistic career had all the hallmarks of a resounding failure in his lifetime, he was fondly regarded by many visitors to Drusillas. Now, his sudden death is likely to stimulate a revival of interest in his work from the art world. There are believed to exist in the region of 13, 000 mixed-media images of Cilla Black—the object of Haberdashery’s bizarre lifelong obsession—scattered across Drusillas Park.

  A spokesperson for the Saatchi and Yeti Gallery, in Soho, said: ‘If Cilla Black could accrue considerable personal wealth on the strength of her talents, it is not implausible to imagine that a series of works by a (soon to be) well-publicised, dead, destitute/eccentric, fetching a respectable sum in the wake of an aggressive marketing campaign.’

Haberdashery Mullet—artist and Cilla Black fan.
Born 24th of Dec. 1977—Died 16th of Dec. 2016.
Anji Noracull.