Albert learns that deciding to sit in the park can become extremely complicated for everyone else

pigeons 2

Albert sits in the park in central London enjoying the first of the spring sunshine.  Albert likes parks almost as much as he likes libraries.  In both places he can give himself the illusion of being amongst people but without the need to speak.

Albert watches a male pigeon clumsily strutting around a female.  The female turns one way, then the other.  Albert feels sorry for her.  Then Albert wonders how she decides which way to go?  Then he wonders if pigeons ever make decisions.  It’s impossible to tell what motivates them to take a particular course of action.  Unlike people, Albert thinks.

Then he thinks again.  It’s also impossible to tell why people take a particular path.  Our explanations are just justifications after the event, stories to tell ourselves.   To what extent is the path taken genuinely chosen by any creature.  No, Albert decides, intelligence has nothing to do with it.  When it comes to decisions, he concludes, we may as well all be pigeons.

Except for Albert, of course, who is certain he has chosen to sit in the park to enjoy the first of the spring sunshine and watch the pigeons.

Albert learns that the word involved says a lot about his character

Albert meets two old friends for a drink.  After a couple of minutes, he clocks it.

‘Are you two….involved now?’ he asks.

They both smile.

Then Albert thinks about the word involved.  Albert’s never been involved, not really.

Perhaps that’s sad.  Sadder still, though, would be trying to involve yourself.

My Book is Published!


Okay, okay, so perhaps it’s possibly not solely my book exactly.  But what’s a little exaggeration between virtual friends?

My story – A Test for the Eyes – is one of 21 stories published in the Creative Writing Matters collection for 2016.  You can pick up your Kindle copy here.  It’s just £2.99.

Or – really pushing my luck now I know – you can pick up a paperback version here.

Here’s an early review from a discerning reader:

“It’s okay, I suppose…..if you like that kind of thing.”  (Albert, from the world famous Albert Learns flash fiction series)

Thanks, as ever, for your support!

Nick x


Albert learns that he’ll probably never be a great sleeper

Albert tends to sleep really badly.  He makes loads of boring mistakes.  He would love to have creative dreams of submerged cities or strange creatures chasing him down long corridors.

Instead, Albert dreams that he’s lost the minutes of a previous boring meeting or that he’s left an unwashed mug on his desk.  Heavy sigh.

Albert has to admit to himself that he’ll probably never be a great sleeper.

Albert learns that plants aren’t that stupid after all

Albert generally feels superior to the plants.  After all, they have no consciousness, they can’t plan ahead, their potential for debate and discussion is limited.  Name the last great plant novelist.  Exactly.  And you’d be waiting a long time for a cactus to make an important scientific discovery.

But then Albert thinks about questions of judgement.  Plants seem to know exactly when to sit tight and when to branch out, usually in the right directions.  Albert reckons that if he was a plant he’d have his roots embarrassingly exposed to the air and his leaves redundantly fumbling in the undergrowth.

It’s come to this

They came to the bench by the river and sat down.  Things had not gone so very well today, not nearly as well as Albert had hoped.

“So it’s come to this,” she said, sighing.

It was the kind of river that looked so beautifully English with its swans and rowers and the fading October dusk; the famous cathedral in the distance by the bend.  But it was also the kind of fast-moving river that would greedily draw you under and only spit you out again when you reached the open sea.

Albert was confused and anxious.  “It’s come to this” he repeated.  “What has?” he asked.  “What’s the it here?  Are we the it?”

“The whole thing,” she said.  “That’s what I mean.”

“So the it in your sentence refers to the whole thing?”

“Albert,” she said, “can you not just listen to me?  Just for once?”

“I’m trying to,” Albert said.  “I’m trying to understand what you’re saying.  It I’ve now defined.  Now we just have to work on this.  What’s the this in your summary?  Is this the now?  Here?  On this bench?  By this river?  Is that the this?”

“Albert, I actually wish you’d just stop trying to understand everything.  I really wish you’d just listen.”

“Right,” Albert said, nodding yet more confused than ever.  “Listen but don’t try to understand.  Noted.”

“Albert,” she said gently, looking across, as she spoke, at the overpriced houses on the other side of the river.  “Why are you such a complete dick?”

Albert glanced over at her profile and savoured the softness of her voice one last time.  She carried on looking straight ahead.  How he wished he could understand her.

“You’ve got me there,” Albert said at last.  “In a way.”

Albert learns that even Jeffrey is occasionally right

Albert is asked to sing a solo in the choir.  At first, he says, ‘No, I’m more of a team player.’  Then he reconsiders.  ‘I should take some chances in life,’ he thinks.  ‘I’m too timid.’  At the next rehearsal he tells the music director, ‘I will do the solo, if that’s okay.’  The music director is delighted.

Albert’s friend, Jeffrey, asks him why he’s looking for more stress in his life. ‘You’ve already got a stressful job, Albert,’ he says. ‘Why go looking for more hassle?’

‘It’s not more stress,’ Albert says.  ‘It’s something non-work to look forward to.’

But that night he wakes up at 3am in the morning in the middle of complicated dream about how he’s not rehearsed enough and the concert has been moved forward three weeks and nobody has told him and there’s a diminished rising interval he just can’t get right in the rehearsal and everyone’s smirking at his terrible singing and there’s nowhere to practice before the concert begins…He sits up in bed, sweating.

‘Bog,’ Albert says to the universe.  Because Albert really hates it when his friend Jeffrey is right.