The Cold and Reticent Beauty of the Universe

I love our universe: those gradually emerging stars; the rustle of wind through leaves; the play of light upon the sea is something to behold; all those implausible creatures with their weird and wonderful ways.   Sadly, my love is unrequited.  Because the universe doesn’t give a flying fuck about me.

Sunshine Blogger Award



The hugely talented Lisa Lancaster  has very kindly nominated me for this award.  Her blog is a recent discovery for me but is really great.  Go follow, I say.

I know some people don’t do these award things but I think they’re rather a nice and kindly little tradition – so sincere thanks Lisa.

The guidelines of the award are as follows:

  • Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write eleven questions for them to answer.

These are my responses to Lisa’s very interesting questions.  (I think there were only ten Lisa, you rebel  you.)

1. Where do you get your ideas for your creative pursuits from?

I’ve no idea.  I don’t want to know.  It’s clearly a chaotic and confused place, best left unexplored.  I’d actually prefer not to go there alone.

2. Favorite genre to read or write?

Short fiction.  Both to read and write.  I can only write short fiction it seems.  If I try very hard I can read long fiction.  I only understand three or four poets but they are part of my bloodstream now because I keep reading them.

3. Most useful piece of writing/creative advice?

Carver says don’t linger.  I like that.  Chekhov says to ask questions, not try to answer them.  I like that as well.  Of course, those two has-beens are just rungs on a ladder I can now kick away, having now achieved far greater writing than either of them….

4. What is the hardest part of your creative outlet? Is it ideas? Motivation? etc.

I don’t feel qualified to answer this.  Although I’ve written nearly 300 fifty words stories in the last few months, I’ve only written a handful of longer things.  I certainly haven’t yet worked out how to move in and out of time perspectives, which probably explains why larger structures remain tricky for me.  There are so many things I can’t do and find very hard.  Writing is very hard isn’t it?  But I feel like I’m starting to make some progress…

5. Do you listen to music when your write? Or do you prefer silence. Why?

Silence please.  I studied music and still do a lot of singing in choirs so I’ll tend to listen closely if any music is on, which then distracts me and slows me down.

6. Things you would rather be doing right now? Don’t worry I’m not sensitive. I’d prefer to be eating the blueberry crumble in the fridge…

Genuinely, I’m very happy answering your questions Lisa.  They’ve made me think about things I’ve not had to think about before and that’s always got to be a good thing.  I’m grateful to you for that.

7. Cats or Dogs? Or nothing with hair please?

I really love both and find them hilarious and sad in equal measure.  I always find myself speculating about their thoughts.  Regrettably, I’m also allergic to both, so it’s speculation from a distance.

8. Favorite television show?

The BBC’s Life on Mars was great.  I also loved the first couple of seasons particularly of HBO’s Six Feet Under (and still often pretend to myself that I’m actually Nate….).  I don’t watch a lot of tv.

9. How do you fit writing into your life?

I avoid sleep at all costs.  It is a complete waste of time.  I hate the thought of shutting down each night for a reboot.  I know this is unhealthy and I shall doubtless pay a heavy price for defying the laws of nature in due course….

10. Where do you write?

Anywhere.  Really.  Trust me, you don’t want to know.

And now….for the…..nominations.  I hereby nominate, without wanting anyone to feel in any way obligated, the following blogs.  I’ve tried to avoid those blogs that have made it clear they don’t do awards or who I know have already got the Sunshine thingy but apologies if I’ve accidentally included one of these.  Anyway, each of them is stimulating and remarkable and you should definitely check them out if you haven’t already:

Zouxzoux for combining a visual flair I so obviously lack with remarkable verbal dexterity

Manya Mexi movie for such beautiful images that often cheer me up from my dreariness and for her benign and positive presence on the net

I have pretty strong convictions, I guess because Craig Towsley combines the best dialogue with a brilliantly bleak sense of humour

Chatty Kerry whose blog pulls off the difficult trick of being funny and serious, and covering a really broad range of topics.  If I had a hat, I’d take it off to her.  I have a feeling she might not do awards any more so sorry if this is a redundant nomination.

Among other things because J has, at times, single-handedly kept me writing, always dropping by and commenting in a very kind and generous way.  I think J might also have been over-awarded already and has decided to stop doing these things – if so, sorry and all that.  Blame Albert.

Jenna Brownson because you can beat the rush by discovering her now: her blog is full of fascinating musings on the craft of writing and she is clearly destined for great things.

Cozy and Warm  because Liz is a great and intriguing poet and explorer of the human soul, and because she offers such kind and warm encouragement to others.

Vic Stories because Vic is without doubt the most generous supporter of flash fiction in the known universe.  (Vic, I know I’ve done this to you before so do feel free to ignore me!)

Serena Sinclair because Serena is clearly well on the way to finding her voice as a writer, which I’m trying my best not to be bitter and twisted about!

Smitchjack because Sarah is about to be published so you need to be able to say you followed her before she became famous.  I’m doing you a favour here….

Sarah Doughty because Sarah is everywhere, encouraging everyone and I never get around to saying thanks – so thanks!

Girl at a Desk because Nicola is super-intelligent and also a great writer.  As if having one great blog isn’t enough, she also has a great side-blog about how we learn to read, which is genuinely fascinating.  What’s not to like?

And my questions are….

  • Why am I such a great writer?  (Provide no less than 53 reasons)
  • Aside from the fact that I’m far too cool to bother with petty worldly acclaim by actually sending my stuff anywhere, what possible explanation is there that I’m still undiscovered?
  • Why don’t I just pack in the day job, forget about writing little stories and give in to the very frequently made suggestion to work as a George Clooney lookey likey?

Okay, okay – just joking: my real questions are as follows (you can feel free to amend the English spelling of certain words.  I’m big-hearted that way……):

  1. What single piece of advice would you give to your eighteen year old self?
  2. If you didn’t live in your current country of abode, where you most like to live?
  3. What has been your most extravagant purchase?
  4. What is the best movie of all time?
  5. Have you ever said I hate you and not meant it?
  6. Whale or dolphin?
  7. What is your favourite first or last line from a book or poem?
  8. How many languages can you speak?  Could you teach me how to say ‘you have intriguing ears’ in non-English please?
  9. Why is Donald Trump doing so well?  I need answers here….
  10. Should the UK stay in the European Union?  (I can’t decide so I thought I’d ask some learned people for their views.  But I couldn’t find any so I’m trying you lot……)
  11. And most importantly and maturely of all – what is your favourite colour?  (Mine is green, which is proven to be the best colour of all by a country mile)

Oh well, I’ve probably put you off with my questions now.   Anyway, have a great day one and all.  Thanks for reading to the end of this post!  You deserve an award I’d say….

Nick xx

Albert learns that the rich often hide their greed behind their children

Albert has recently spent a lot of time with the rich.  One thing he’s noticed: they’ll often defend conniving and back-stabbing by referring to their children.  I’m only doing all this for my family, they’ll say.  As if loving your own children is a massive virtue that excuses any vice.

The Panacea

Feeling a tad groggy, I went to see the doctor.

‘Perhaps you should try sleeping more,’ she suggested.

‘Is that it?’ I asked. ‘Is there nothing I can take?’

‘Well,’ she replied, ‘I suppose you could try taking offence two or three times a day. That usually perks people up.’

The Last Time I saw my Girlfriend

The last time I saw my girlfriend she was lying in bed, waiting for her real, more interesting life to begin.  A life without me it transpired, though I didn’t know that at the time.

‘You not getting up?’ I asked her.

‘Nah, I’m going to stay here.  See what happens.  The future starts here I reckon.’

‘Isn’t that a little…passive?’ I asked her.  ‘Don’t you have to go looking for a fresh start?’

‘You have seen my legs right?  And you have felt them wrapped around you?  With these legs, something’s bound to happen in my life.  It’s really only a matter of time.’

I tried explaining to her that she was colluding with the patriarchal and potentially misogynistic objectification of her body parts.  But she didn’t seem to be listening.  ‘There is so, so much more to you than your beautiful legs’ I concluded.

‘You’re so right.  Just look at these two puppies,’ she said, lifting up her t-shirt.

I have to admit that I’d always found them profoundly persuasive: I simply couldn’t argue with their compelling logic, their age-old wisdom.  ‘You make a strong case,’ I admitted.

‘I know, right?  There are other things I could show you if you need any further convincing.’

‘It’s fine,’ I said.  ‘You’ve made your point.’

‘Besides, I’ve already made arrangements to get me some new friends,’ she said.  ‘And they are all extremely talented and very funny.’

‘I’ll leave you to it then?’ I asked her, reaching down for my jeans.

‘You do that,’ she said, rolling away from me one last time towards whatever it was she was hoping for.


Albert learns that for a relationship to work in the longer run both parties involved need to know that it exists

Keep it quiet, but Albert is having a secret affair with one of the librarians.  It’s early days so Albert’s keeping it very hush hush at the moment.  In fact, it’s so under wraps that Albert’s hasn’t even told the librarian about it yet.  That’s just how secret it is.