Albert learns that Mr Nick is really lazy during the festive period



‘Hold on, hold on’ Albert says.  ‘Let me get this straight.  You’re closing down the blog for Christmas until the new year?’

‘It’s only a few days,’ Mr Nick says, studying Albert’s tired shoes.  ‘Trust me – both our followers will understand.’

‘And just run through your plan for me again?’

‘Okay, Albert so……it’s like this……I eat and drink too much for about ten days, start reading about six books at the same time and then make lots of promises to myself about how I’m going to be a different person in 2017.’

Albert sighs.  ‘And you’re calling this a plan?’

‘It’s the best I can come with.’

‘And you can’t even be bothered to post fifty words a day because you’re too busy stuffing your face.’

‘Pretty much,’ Mr Nick agrees.

‘And you seriously think people will forgive you for this laziness if you write a short post-modern piece in which one of your characters speaks to the author about how you’re not posting for a while.’

‘Well it kind of worked in the summer.’

‘Mr Nick, you are such a loser!’

‘And what about you Albert ?  I don’t see you exactly getting out there and starting your own blog.’

‘Well that’s because I’m a fictional character.  Besides, I’m the only reason people read your blog at all. I’ve even had an offer of marriage.’

‘Albert, we both know you only got that offer because you don’t exist.  Women think that men that don’t really exist are comfortably the best sort.  Everyone knows that.’

‘You can hardly talk.  All you do is wave at women you don’t know from roof tops.  Or moan on about the one that got away and how it would be better if you’d met on a different planet.’

‘Thanks, as ever, for your kind support Albert.’

‘What if I learn something over the next few days and I need to tell people?’

‘It can wait Albert.  We’ll post it in the new year.’

‘Okay,’ Albert says.  ‘Have it your way.  But don’t come running to me if you lose both your followers.’

‘I’ll still have you, Albert,’ Mr Nick says.  ‘I’ll always have you.’

‘Well there’s no need to make it sound like a curse.’

‘Happy Christmas Albert.’

‘Okay, okay – happy Christmas to you too, Mr Nick.’

Albert and Mr Nick turn to the computer screen.  ‘And a Happy Christmas and New Year to all our lovely readers.’

‘Albert,’ Mr Nick says, ‘could you try that again with a bit more emotion this time please?’

Albert ponders the suggestion for a moment.  ‘Er…no,’ he concludes.

A Fresh Investigation into Newton’s Third Law of Motion


In relation to your body, I’ve developed a number of urgent lines of enquiry. There are issues of heft, gravity and viscosity that require detailed exploration and additional research.  I also need to understand how Newton’s laws of motion play out in this context, requiring persistent investigation from a number of different angles.

I hereby volunteer myself for an intensive programme of fact-finding.

The Complete Transformation of Dave


In response to all those surreptitious glances at watches and peeks over his shoulder Dave learns how to glide.

So now Dave can relay wild tales of riding the air currents and close shaves with mountain peaks.

Oh everyone agrees: Dave’s completely transformed himself.

He’s no longer that boring man.  Now he’s that really boring man who knows how to glide.

Losing the Plot


Mark always lost the plot.

“I have to admit,” Martha said on their way out of the cinema, “I never guessed he was her brother.”

“He was?” Mark asked.

“Of course he was,” Martha explained.  “Otherwise killing him at the end makes no sense.”

“He died?” Mark said, suddenly appalled.

The Aural Distortions of the Great and the Good

I get quite a few heckles when out running of an evening.  I’m not quite sure why.

Here are some of my favourites.

“Run home, running man,” which I love because it makes no sense.

And then there was the very posh lady outside the restaurant who told me off for wearing shorts in winter.  When I ignored her, she shouted after me, ‘You stupid arse!’

But my absolute favourite one came from a speeding car.  The aural distortion of the obscenity made me chuckle as I ran.


Baby Dropping (an abandoned opening)


At the latest count Janice has dropped her baby three times.  I shit you not.  Although I have to admit that her baby, a lovely little girl called Ruby, still seems fine.  Unlike her mother, Ruby is alert and mischievous and funny.  Ruby has the clearest eyes and the finest, freshest skin.  She has perfect toenails I could study all day.  She’s weaning just fine.  She smiles on demand.  She never makes strange with new people and she even sleeps through.  But still.  Three times is three times.

‘I feel so awful,’ Janice says.  Janice is just back from the hospital with her baby.  They’ve both been described as very lucky.  Ruby’s been given the all-clear and Janice has been given a stern word.  Janice is now firmly – this is the stern word they used, Janice makes a point of telling me – firmly on their radar.  She always calls me after a crisis.  ‘It’s terrible,’ Janice says.  ‘But what can you do?’

I’m standing in my newish kitchen half-following a complicated recipe for honeyed apricot lamb.  I want to be the kind of person who, of a Saturday evening as the autumn light fades, puts on Chet Baker, drinks a fine Merlot from a supersize wineglass and follows complicated recipes – even when those complicated recipes involve extremely young animals.

‘How about not drop her?’ I suggest.

Janice hangs up.  Janice secretly hates me because I still have plausible plans for a big life.

She phones back a minute later.  She always does.

‘Kate, why do you always have to be so hostile to me?’

‘It’s called tough love.  Obviously.  Listen Janice, I’ve been thinking.  Have you ever thought about flash cards?’

She doesn’t understand me.  So I explain about lamination and the potential to post little cards around her damp little house.  How they could act as visual prompts.  Do not drop Ruby, one could say, with a diagram of an unhappy baby falling to the ground and a cross through it.  Or: Test the temperature of Ruby’s food, with an exclamation mark next to a representation of a steaming substance.  Or: Remember to sterilise Ruby’s bottles.  I’m not sure about the diagram for that one.

‘We use them at work for the young mothers with issues,’ I tell her.

‘That’s ridiculous,’ she says.  ‘Who needs laminated cards to remind them not to drop their own baby?’

‘That would be you,’ I point out.

Janice hangs up again.

I miss her second call back because I’m taking one from Adrian.  He can’t come round tonight after all, he explains.  Something’s come up at the last minute.  He’s so very sorry.  He’ll make it up to me.  He sounds so stressed.

‘That’s fine,’ I say, taking a large gulp of cheap red.  ‘Don’t you worry.  Shit happens.  It’s totally and completely fine.’

I study my two coriander and cumin-smattered cutlets, so carefully laid out on my new walnut chopping board.  If you squint they look sort of similar to the photograph.

‘No, no, nothing special,’ I tell him.  ‘You know me.  I’m no cook!’

And he’s gone – off to his very important, last minute but lazily non-specific thing.

Sometimes, on the news, the police will say that someone was murdered for no reason.  They’ll say this murder was completely unnecessary and pointless, contrasting it, presumably, with all the necessary and pointful murders they have to deal with.

‘Well, little lamby,’ I say, raising my refilled glass to my row of little victims, ‘turns out you died in vain after all.’


[probably not to be continued…..]




Martin stands by the window (fragment)


Martin stands at the window, looking out.  He lives on the eighteenth floor of the Terrance Messenger Tower.  And he stands at the window, looking out.

Martin hasn’t been out of the Terrance Messenger Tower for sixteen weeks.  He hasn’t been out the flat in fact.

‘What are you looking at, Martin?’ his mother asks him.

‘Nothing,’ Martin says.

This is untrue.  Today is a clear October morning and Martin can see as far as the reservoirs.  He can see over the warehouses and beyond the rows terraced housing. He can see the clouds reflected in the water beyond the fencing.  Funny, he thinks, how you can sometimes see the sky more clearly by looking down.

‘Don’t you keep looking out there,’ his mother says. ‘I’m going for my afternoon nap now. But don’t keep looking out there Martin. It’s not the best for anyone.’

Martin ignores her.  Because Martin likes looking out.  And he particularly likes looking down.  He likes to imagine himself falling.  Martin is not interested in the sensation of falling.  Martin is more interested in using the fall to set the record straight. Martin believes he would have plenty of time to clarify matters during his fall; plenty of time to explain that none of this was his responsibility.

His message would be quite direct.

‘It’s all my mother’s fault,’ he would shout during his descent.

Martin is of the view that everyone should feel extremely guilty about how they’ve let him down; about how they’ve allowed his mother to treat him so badly.  Or at least that’s how he feels when, like now, he’s in a really bad mood with his mother.

Other times, when he feels sorry for his mother and it seems as if it’s him and his mother against the rest of the world, he changes his tune. On those occasions he imagines shouting, ‘You’ve treated us both very badly.’

Either way, he’s confident he’ll have enough time to make everyone feel extremely guilty during his fall from the eighteenth floor of the Terrance Messenger Tower.

Martin likes the thought of being thought about and discussed after he’s dead. He understands that he will die when he hits the ground: he’s not stupid.  But he doesn’t completely understand that this means he probably won’t hear what people have to say about him.

‘That Martin,’ he will somehow hear them all say, ‘he was actually really great.  He was one of the best.  We were very wrong about Martin,’ they will add.

And sometimes, Martin thinks, they will also add, ‘And we were wrong about his mother as well.’

But not always.