Thursday, 15 December 2011

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Bit of The Moon!


This was the first Christmas poem I wrote for my children. It accompanied a genuine purchase of lunar property. I believe land is now also available on Mars, assuming of course you are prepared to take it by force from the martians. Anyway, I still have all the documentation, and am assuming that this land purchase is legally binding and therefore when we eventually move into terraforming we'll be quids in. Check out some cool Christmas in Space photoshoppings here..


What should I get you for Christmas?
A new rattle? A carved silver spoon?
Never mind a new toy, you’re a lucky wee boy
I got you a bit of the moon!

I could’ve got you a big woolly mammoth
Or a hunting hat made from raccoon.
But there’ll be no fur for you young sir
I’ve got you a bit of the moon.

I could’ve got you a trip on a pirate ship
On the second last fortnight in June.
But no treasure yet, no parrots for pets,
See I’ve got you a bit of the moon.

How about a Tibetan safari?
In a marvellous hot air balloon?
But we’ll see yeti later, Kung Fu monks can just wait,
Cos I’ve got you a bit of the moon!

And maybe one day, you’ll fly away
To the sea of tranquillity.
You’ll build a wee home inside of a dome
And we’ll fly up to your house for tea.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Wasted : Chapter 2


Mark and Rab have just murdered someone and as they are busy disposing of the evidence Mark meets an old flame who is now a Policewoman. And then the spaceships turn up...

2

When people talk about that day now, its so strange, they sort of talk around the spaceships. It’s not like a Kennedy thing, or Diana or 9/11, it’s more like something we’re all a bit embarassed about. Like when a car beeps and we smile and wave and then realise the person wasn’t really beeping at us? A bit like that.

All three of us ran down the stairs and out into the street. There was no noise; no thunderous interstellar engines, no deep bassy humming setting my fillings on edge, just the ship, hanging in the sky, silent and shiny. In that moment, infinite possibilities stretched out across a million parallel earths. Were these good guys aliens here to cure cancer? Or were they going to go the traditional route of eating us? Was there perhaps some sort of dodgy extra-terrestrial sat-nav at work, and this was all a hilarious misunderstanding?

I stood, staring open mouthed, Rab however, was clearly much more practical than myself.
“Right. Lets get back to the flat and dump that body sharpish. No one is going to give a flying fuck what we’re doing right now. We could leave it at a bus stop and no one would care.”
He was of course, absolutely right. Except about the bus stop. We should probably still try and hide the body, anything else would just be a bit too cocky.
“Then we should get down to Curry’s and nab a couple of widescreen tellies before the real hardcore looting starts.”
“Eh hello!” said Laura “Policewoman standing right here.”
“Aye fine, we’ll get ye some straighteners and a Wii Fit, but lets get a shuffle on eh?”
It’s difficult to know whether or not Rab genuinely meant that to be funny or whether he thought Laura might appreciate some freshly looted electrical equipment. Either way, it didn’t play well. Laura cuffed him to a car door.
“Are ye kiddin?” said Rab “Get these aff me right now.”
When it became clear this wasn’t going to happen, Rab smashed the car door window and triumphantly opened the locked door before realising this made no difference to his predicament. Except that now there was a really annoying car alarm going off in his confused, angry face.
Laura pointed.
“You’re lucky I’ve only got the one set. I need to get down to the station.”
“Will you let him go if we promise not to steal anything?”
“And do you promise not to brutally dismember anyone else as well?”
Oh. Right. That.
While I tried to come up with an explanation that didn’t sound too creepy, Laura was already halfway down the street. I realised I was actually going to have to run after her.
“Aye quick! Get the keys!” said Rab.
As I ran, wheezing and spluttering, Laura sprinting off ahead looking lovely, I was momentarily transported back to happier days in High School PE.
“Laura! Wait!”
She stopped.
“What? What do you want me to say Mark? ‘Glad we bumped into one another I’m hoping we can stay friends’.”
“Too soon?”
In romantic movies that sort of half jokey quip might illicit a smile. Laura looked like she might banjo me.
“Look, your gorilla’s right, people are going to start going nuts. I need to get back to my mums.”
She looked at me sadly.
“Who was that in there?” she asked.
Now really wasn’t the time to start trying to explain that situation.
“Just…someone I used to know.”
 “Like me then.” said Laura.
And then she ran off.

By the time I’d got back, Rab had already released himself from the handcuffs.
“Just had to break a few fingers.” he said. “So, while yer burds oot the way, back to operation deid body.”
“What’s the point?” I asked “She’s seen it anyway.”
“And do ye want it humming up yer hoose? Railways nearby, I say we grab the bags and roll him ontae the track, bish bosh.”
I could see there was no reasoning with Rab that didn’t involve me ending up in severe pain. Perverting the cause of justice was only going to add a few more years onto the life sentence anyway. Assuming of course that the spaceships didn’t just blow everyone up. At this point, what did I have to lose? I stomped sullenly back up the stairs to the flat.

Fifteen horrifying minutes later, we stood in the living room with half a dozen bulging binbags.
“Have you got a wheelbarrow?”
“I live up a close with no garden Rab. No I don’t have a wheelbarrow.”
“We’re jist gonnae need to roll em doon the street then.”
“What about the wheelie bin? We could use that.”
“Noo yer talkin!”
Downstairs, my bin was already stuffed with a fortnight full of pizza boxes and pot noodle slime, the detritus of dinner for one.
“Gonnae need tae shift these bags oot first or the big chap here won’t fit in.”
Strangely, what I recall about all of this was a feeling not of revulsion, but of tremendous inconvenience; the injustice of having to do something over again; I’d carefully put all these bags in the bin already, and now just because we’d killed a man and collected him up in binbags, I was going to have to do it again when we got back from disposing of his body.
“What’s all this?”
It was wee Mrs McLatchie, standing in her doorway looking unimpressed.
“What are you taking all those bags out the wheelie for? It’s collection tomorrow.”
“Bit of trouble with Mark’s dug Mrs McLatchie.” said Rab, gesturing to the dripping binbags.
“Oh. Was it not well?”
Some blood plopped out of the bag and splashed incriminatingly onto Mrs McLatchie’s nice clean stairs.
“Naw. Naw it exploded.”
“Exploded?”
“Aye. Ate a whole box of sherbert dib dabs. Totally exploded. Poor wee fucker.”
Mrs McLatchie fixed Rab with a very penetrating stare.
“Well you better get all them binbags back in the wheelie when you’re finished. It’s collection tomorrow. And I’m not having rats.”

It took a good five minutes to manoeuvre all the bags down to the railway verge at the bottom of the street. Normally you would have to wait for nightfall for such covert activity, certainly on my street. But no one saw us. There were people, some even smiled, but everyone, everywhere was looking up as we squeezed through the hole in the fence. The bloody bags rolled and tumbled down the verge like inappropriate Easter eggs.
“Yasss!” cheered Rab “Mine got across both tracks! Unlucky.”
I half heartedly tried to roll one of mine towards the tunnel, perhaps hoping that this would somehow disguise the crime, but it got jammed against a discarded sofa on the way down.
“Right. Five spot.” said Rab, claiming his winnings from a bet we never made about who would be best at rolling bags of discarded corpse across a railway line.
“Okay, you get back to the flat, mop up, get the kettle on” said Rab “And I’ll go get us a nice new telly.”
“Aye.” I sighed. “See if there’s any playstations going as well.”  
The police sirens continued to howl, the trains with returning commuters clattered over the blood on the tracks and in the distance smoke rose from the first of the fires.
It all seemed so safe and tranquil…

to be continued...

Monday, 7 November 2011

Foglights

An uneasy mist
Leaks languidly along
The seafront,
Gasping through
The bench slats
And on
Into the town behind.
I sit smiling
In the empty white,
Irregularly illuminated
By your
Lighthouse smile.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Wasted : Chapter 1


“Okay” I said “And what are we going to do with the body?”
“Which bit?” asked Rab.
“I don’t care! All of it! It all needs to go!”
Rab surveyed the scene grimly.
“We’re going to need some binbags then.”
“Aye. Whatever. I’ll pay...lets just get it done.”
Rab had wandered into the kitchen and was rummaging under the sink.
“There ye go!” he said “Binbags! Why is it folk aye keep their binbags under the sink?”
I looked at Rab as he pondered this particular nugget of domestic behaviour and was struck once again by his steady composure in the face of horrific violence. Were he not so patently straightforward, he could probably have made a good living writing self help books.
“These are nae good.” Said Rab. “Tesco Value. Far too thin, aw the bits keep fallin oot. Plus, you can see through them. What we’re after is some of your heavy duty bastard binbags.” He looked at me. “Got any of them?”
“No Rab. No I don’t.”
“Shame. Cos that’s what we’re after.”
Some blood dripped off the windowsill, splashed gently onto an occasional table and puddled around a plateful of jammie dodgers. This seemed to catch Rab’s attention and he grabbed a meaty fistful.
“You ever tried the blackcurrant ones?”
“I...no...no I’ve not tried the blackcurrant ones...”
“Well don’t bother. They’re shite.”
“Cheers.” I said. “Right. We need better binbags, I’ll get to the shops. You start clearing up a bit in here.”
“Tickety boo.” Said Rab, as if he was just dusting a mantelpiece and some bookshelves and not in fact getting ready to sweep an entire person into a series of heavy duty binbags.

I headed down the stairs, wee Mrs McLatchie’s front door was open again, she may well have heard the whole thing. Would we have to kill her later as well? Seemed a bit harsh, she always took my turn of cleaning the stairs.

As ever, the stench of the boneyard hung dull and heavy, so it was about five minutes before my head was actually clear enough to process the situation. I was in trouble. Proper, grown up, going to jail to get buggered trouble. The easiest thing to do of course, would be to run away. Or to go to the police. But where was the logic in that? I had wanted him killed in the first place; I just hadn’t expected to be so...involved. I certainly hadn’t expected for him to get done in my flat. There was no way that any court would look favourably on that. Momentarily I tried to rationalize the whole thing as Rabs fault. It was not Rabs fault. Over the last few months, Rab had actually been brand new. When I started working for the Reilly's, he very quickly took me under his wing and ironically, made sure I didn't get murdered.

It was about two days into my new job that i realised that “freelance security” was a euphimism for “organised crime”. What gave it away was the night me and Rab were watching the cash and carry and we let the ice cream van guys in to steal loads of monster munch and mars bars. Rab sat me down and explained it all to me.
“If you tell anyone about this," he said, "I will bite yer baws aff. Then one of the gaffers other guys will set fire to ye."
And then, showing an unusual sensitivity, he suggested we split a box of curly wurlies to cheer me up. I ate too many and got sick.
Over the next few nights, in between various pre-arranged burglaries, Rab talked me through the various arms of the operation that we worked for. From public transport through to hard drugs, we clearly did our very best to serve the community. For cash only. This was precisely the sort of story I was never allowed to do at the paper. Terrified that I may be a cog in a wheel that helped spin the axis of evil, I tried to establish if our “organisation” somehow also funded Alqaeda. Rab asked if this was one of the shops up in the schemes.

Then I tried to work out if I could get free pirated dvds. And I could. Alongside some of the most eye-watering pornography I had ever seen. So there’s job satisfaction. And to be honest, big Rab can be quite good company. He’d never do you a bad turn. Unless you owe money; then he’ll break your legs. Right off in some circumstances. Its nothing personal, it's just how he makes a living and he undertakes it with the same resigned dismay that the rest of us do.

It was while I twitched and shuddered along the street worrying, that Laura sailed cheerfully into view. She was at the fruit juice stand looking precisely like the sort of person who took fruit juice very seriously. She looked great. Fit. Not in the “street” sense of the word, in the genuine, “hey you’ve been working out you look really healthy” sense. Despite the fact that I myself, unshaven, bleary eyed and sinister, looked like the complete opposite of someone who takes fruit juice very seriously, she spotted me and waved enthusiastically.

I had first met Laura at school. In many ways, she helped establish the template which has since been the basis for romantic entanglement, or more often, awkward, unhappy sex. Its because of Laura that I know I am predisposed to sensible, respectable, brunette girls who have a great line in foul language. We went out for a while on and off. I had not seen her for about two years.
“Hiya! How ye doin’?”
“Oh...eh..aye not so bad. Yer lookin great"
"Cheers! What ye up tae?”
“Ach not much. How about you?”
“Aye...much the same. Got into Police training though!”
I didn’t say anything just for a second. Then I thought, that maybe the pause sounded guilty, so I better fill the silence. Then I wondered what to say that didn’t sound incriminating, so the silence continued. It’s generally like this when I meet girls though, not just when I’ve murdered someone.
“Hey brilliant!” I said. “You solving crimes yet?”
“Why? You been committing any lately?”
“Hah hah! God no! No. Hah. Eh...no.”
The last time I saw this girl, my major concern was whether or not she was wearing a bra; now I was waiting for her to try and trip me up, Columbo style. And today, she was most certainly wearing a bra. I wondered absent mindedly about whether or not she was wearing one of those shoulder holsters as well.
"Listen...you busy?" said Laura "I've had a shite week, be nice to switch off and catch up."
"Love to. What you up to tonight?"
"No...I mean just now."
"Eh..."
“Aw cmon. I’m back off tomorrow.” She said “I just fancy a wee blether with someone and a bit of chill out time.”
Here she smiled as if to underline the fact that “chill out time” may well include the possibility of sex. And I’ll level with you, I was in the midst of what I will charitably call “a dry spell”.
“So. Your flat still nearby?”
I was so pleasantly surprised, so desparate, that I nearly said “yes”. But it suddenly seemed unlikely that Laura would be quite so keen at the sight of a living room liberally splattered with blood and body parts. Or maybe she would. But if she was I wasn’t interested. As much. It seemed tremendously unfair. I’d waited months for an offer of no-strings attached sex and it happens on the very day I’ve helped murder someone and ended up with a dead body in my flat. There’s no justice. Which, it occurs to me is probably just as well, cos otherwise I’m going to jail to have my dry spell broken by force.
"Laura...really sorry but I can't today. Family emergency."
This was at least, half true.
"Here's my number. Gimme a ring"
I pushed the card at her and ran off, knowing she probably wouldn't call me, not least because I have a really gay looking run. Dead body in the house and no sex. Classic Wednesday.

By the time I got back to the house, Rab had chucked the tidyup and was watching Tricia.
"The chunky lookin' bird here is a total hooer." he said.
"Heavy duty bin bags. Back to business eh?"
There was a knock at the door, Rab looked at me, very unimpressed.
"Did ye leave that open?"
"Hello? Hi Mark? Listen sorry for just turning up. But we really did used to have a laugh..."
"Shit! Its Laura. Quick!"
Rab looked at me and gestured to the living room abattoir.
"Quick whit? Hide?"
Laura stepped into the living room.
“And I know it seems a bit...What the fuck?!”
She definitely did see the body. And the blood. And the bin bags.
“Laura...hang on...its not as simple as you think."
"Hi Laura." said Rab
"What is this? What the fuck is this? Have you done this?"
"Not all of it." said Rab, his professional pride dented.
"Believe me...Laura...this...person, really needed to die.”
“Did they need to get chopped up into little bits?”
“Ehm...” bizarrely, at this point, I looked at Rab for moral support.
“Not that little.” Protested Rab “I mean...we’re hardly talking mince here. The poor prick keeps falling oot aw the bin bags.”
"I'm calling backup."
Laura ran out of the house. It was time to tell Rab the bad news.
"She's a cop."
We ran downstairs after her and out into the street. I have no idea what we thought we were going to do. Actually, I've a pretty good idea what Rab had planned.

And that’s when the first spaceship arrived. A massive, jagged streak of silver, blocking out the rainclouds. I remember thinking briefly, that everything had just changed forever. That suddenly the body in my living room didn’t matter, that Laura being a policewoman was irrelevant, that we may only have moments to live, or a whole lifetime ahead in a suddenly much bigger, brighter universe.
“Check. That. Out.” Said Rab “A fucking big spaceship!”

to be continued....

As it's nearly Halloween, might I suggest you go listen to the Orson Welles Mercury Music Theatre Version which caused a smashing Halloween panic back in 1938.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Steampunk Love Poem


Rounding off a wee informal month of scifi style postings, I just found this in an old fanzine I used to produce called "refractor"; it was a sort of a conspiracy zine, except I just made up all the conspiracies in it...my favourite was one about the British attempting to use the power of voodoo during the second world war. I stopped doing it when it became clear to me from the disturbing letters and phonecalls I was getting, from the zines readers, that some people really believed what I was saying.

Anyway, a steampunk love poem...

Hearts Without Pistons

That day
The smog hung like a shroud,
Draped grimly
Over the greying decay
Of slowly rusting streets,
And green smoke
From the armament factories
Swirled sickly through gaping chimneys,
Cutting stinking lime streaks
Across the five o’clock sky.
In the park
A circus
Too big for fleas
Entertained the factory children
With clockwork clowns.
“They’ll be thinking for themselves soon.”
“The children?”
“No. The clowns. And the Policemen.
And the Priests.
And all the other tin men
With their wind up hearts.”
The next shift of children arrive
In time to watch the trapeze.
Timing so precise,
No one will ever fall.
At 8pm
A rocket roars upwards,
Gleaming brass and shining copper,
Trailing purple flames.
And inside,
The two lovers
Escaping to somewhere more real.


And if steampunk is yer thing, you may enjoy reading about the adventures of "the robot James Watt built", Tin Jimmy...

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Doctor Who - Red Letter Day


The disappearances had been going on for some time before myself and the other gentleman became involved. On many occasions since, I have cursed the day I ever set foot in the wretched bookshop – certainly my nerves have never fully recovered. There are still those who recognise me in the street, glancing askance, inferring upon me a sinister notoriety I scarcely deserve. For that reason, I have resolved to record my own version of events, in the hope that it will go some way to drawing a line under the whole affair. Perhaps too, it will convince some of those who left my life that it may yet be safe to return.

The Bookshop in question enjoyed a reputation in the town for sourcing rare and unusual editions. It was equally famed for the haphazard nature of its collections and so I had set aside a day for my explorations. I was looking for a particular copy of “Peter Pan and Wendy” to gift to Miriam – it had been her favourite book as a child – and as I wandered leisurely in and out of the rickety wooden maze of shelving and book stacks, I became gradually aware of being watched. I looked around, but seeing no one, I continued my deliberations. Shortly thereafter the feeling came upon me once more, and this time, I could also hear a whispering – again, not uncommon within the more respectable bookshops, but as I looked around, there was still no one to be seen. I rang the bell upon the counter for service, more for the reassurance of company than assistance, and as if in response there came a low guttural giggle. There was then within me, a very sudden and inexplicable panic, a tremendous overpowering urge to flee, and so, with scant regard to who might see me, I ran foolishly towards the door, intent on leaving immediately. But the door was no longer there.

At first, assuming I had become confused and inexplicably lost my bearings in a small city bookshop, I looked around, expecting the door to be elsewhere. It was then that I saw the man sitting cross legged on the floor.
“Odd isn’t it?” said the gentleman “That’s where I was sure the door was as well.”
I politely nodded, hoping my acknowledgement would not be taken as an invitation to further conversation. Naturally it was.
“Sorry.” He said “I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m the Doctor. Good afternoon. Is it still afternoon? You lose track of time in bookshops…”
“No…it’s before eleven.”
“Ah…then is it still Tuesday?”
“Not until tomorrow. Excuse me.”
I wandered across the room, still looking hopefully for the door, no longer interested in buying anything this shop had to offer.
“At least a week then. No wonder I’m getting tired.”
I was embarrassed and annoyed and in no mood for further nonsense from the gentleman.
“What’s this all about?” I said “Were you the one laughing just now?”
“No. No I don’t find our situation remotely funny.” He said “And that feeling? Like you’re being watched? I feel that too. Something’s watching both of us – presumably the same something that has hidden the door.”
“Don’t be ridiculous” I said, intent on maintaining some semblance of normality “I stepped through the door not 5 minutes ago…I’ve become disorientated is all.”
The Doctor smiled.
“Possibly. Though again….that’s how I tried to rationalise it. Is it really that big a bookshop d’you think?”
I looked again, I was so certain; I ran my hands over the wall as if expecting it to give way, revealing one of those secret passages so popular in gothic fiction.
“This was the door.”
“And yet…it isn’t there.”
The panic came again, this time finally resolving itself into terror. I grabbed at one of the shelves to steady myself.
“I only came in here for a gift for my fianc├ęs birthday.”
The Doctor stared at me for a moment, then, clearly having reached some sort of decision he smiled and leaped up from the floor, hand extended.
“I didn’t catch your name.”
“Harper. Maxwell Harper.”
“How do you do Harper. Glad you’re here. And no. I don’t know the way out either.” 
Hands still shaking, I passed the Doctor my flask, but he declined.
“Unlike yourself Harper, I didn’t actually come here looking for books. I was looking for people. Missing people.”
Here finally, was something I could understand, something real.
“You’re investigating the disappearances?”
“I was. What do you know?”
“No more than has been in the papers.”
By this stage you may recall that more than twenty people had apparently vanished over the preceding fortnight. It would be fair to say that it’s very likely more than twenty people vanish every day in London, people who are already invisible, destitute and alone. This twenty, who had more obviously vanished, were well heeled city folk. The presence of the gentleman and the strangeness of our situation suddenly put an altogether different complexion upon the matter.
“You think the bookshop has something to do with the disappearances?”
“I know it has. Listen.”
I was first aware of a low moaning, then a whispering
“It’s the books.” Said The Doctor “There are ghosts in the books.”
“Ghosts! Please don’t tell me you’re one of those dreadful spritualists.”
The Doctor hushed me, and I heard once again the strange whispering I had heard before. This time though, the voices were more distinct, sad, some crying, all talking at once without order or reason, as if desperate to be heard.
“Can you hear them? The books are talking Harper. I’ve been hearing them for hours now.” 
He lifted a book from the nearest shelf, ran his fingers carefully along the cover, then lifted it up to his face, first sniffing at it, then listening to it as if it were a shell found at the seaside. His face darkened.
“Something very bad is happening here Harper. These aren’t just books.”
He handed me the book. It had no title. I carefully opened it; the pages were of a heavy yellow vellum, more suitable for manuscript. Indeed, that seemed to be what it was, for across every page the words were scrawled in a deep angry red, like scars across the parchment. Realisation came then, and I dropped the book in horror and disgust. The Doctor carefully picked it up and respectfully returned it to its resting place on the nearest shelf.
“The books are…written in blood?”
“I’m afraid its rather worse than that. Whoever has been making the books doesn’t believe in wasting anything at all. And we need to put a stop to that.” 
I’m sure my face betrayed my terror, my cowardice, for he brightened then, as if resolving to reassure me by his own example.
“There’s a door back here I can’t get opened. Maybe if we give it a go together eh?”

We pushed at the door and finally it gave way, revealing stairs leading down towards the cellar. Below, burning torches, bathed the room in a low red flickering light. I will not pretend I took the first steps down those stairs. Neither did I run, much as every part of my being seemed to scream at me to do so. 

We surveyed the room, even in the poor light the cogs and grinders of some awful machine could be seen, stretching and stitching the terrible leather of those bindings. The Doctor was staring into the corner. As my eyes became accustomed to the light, I could make out a hunched figure. The shape shuffled and giggled.
“Hello there! I’m The Doctor, I’m a…”
“Time Lord, yes. I gathered. I’ve been watching you wander around my shop for days. I cannot wait to write your story.”
The figure kept his back to us, still clearly busying himself with some unpleasant task.
“Oh there was no need to be shy. You could have come and said hello…I don’t bite. Which I’m guessing is probably more than can be said for you.”
The man turned and stepped out from the shadows into the dim red light of the workshop. He was a fat, unpleasant looking fellow, wearing the telescopic glasses jewellers use for precision work.
“This is my friend Mr Maxwell Harper. And you are?”
“A simple craftsman.”
He gestured around the room.
“Do you like my machines? Certainly they can help you create…but you must of course have the spark of imagination to start with.” He grinned. “And the right materials.”
“You’re too modest.” Said The Doctor “Operating this level of technology takes more than craftsmanship Mister..?”
“On this world, I am but the nib.”
“Mr Nib.”
He stepped forward again, just far enough that we were able to see he was brandishing a number of knives.
“There are always collectors on the look out for something new and different. My books from this planet are very much in vogue in certain circles.”
“And you use this machine to what? Unpick and extrapolate their life and memories?”
“As a starting point.” Said Nib “Then I embellish the stories slightly. More glamour, more pain. My collectors can only take so much of the mundanity of this tedious little planet. But they do love the misery. The sorrow.”
The Doctor lifted a book.
“But these are people….in every possible sense.”
“Yes. That’s rather the unique selling point Doctor. You however, will be a true original. It’s whether you are one oversized edition or an eight volume set.”
All the while they had been talking, I continued to look desperately around the room for something, anything that could aid us in escaping. Certainly there were no other obvious exits from the cellar, only his machines and the endless dark shelves, rows and rows of unread lives, unlived. It became clear to me then, that far more than twenty souls had become the focus of Nib’s craft. 

All pretence of polite conversation now dropped, Nib circled The Doctor in predatory excitement.
“You will be my finest work. Truly priceless. Timeless.”
Nib lunged for The Doctor, blades outstretched and instinctively The Doctor shielded himself with the book he was holding. As the knives plunged in, there was a shriek then what sounded like a sigh before the book crumbled into pieces.
“No!” cried Nib.
Seizing his opportunity, The Doctor pushed Nib back towards the machinery and then grabbed one of the torches from the wall.
“I can’t believe I’m going to say this Harper…burn the books!” he cried “It’s the only way to free them.”
I flailed around, grabbing as many of the braziers from the wall as possible, and setting them to the shelves while the Doctor continued to fight off the fiend who had written them. 
As each book took flame, there was a terrible screaming, a wailing release from the pain and the eternal sadness of what might have been. Not undaunted, but certainly undeterred, I visited fire upon each and every one of the damnable volumes. The cellar walls were now aflame, and the shelves began to crack and topple. I caught sight of The Doctor attempting to haul Nib back, but he charged into the flames as if somehow expecting to rescue his abysmal machines. There was fire all around and amidst the burning books, a constant unearthly howling. In those final moments, The Doctor dragged me back up the stairs. By now, blackened and coughing, I was sure my own story was coming to an end. The Doctor smiled sadly as everything began to blur..
“You know, my birthday always seems to end up like this.” he said, and then he handed me a book.

It was two days later that I was discovered unconscious in the scorched rubble of the bookshop, surrounded by the bones of the missing, still holding the book The Doctor had given me. My own distressed and dishevelled state went some way to convincing the authorities of my innocence – but only just. In any case, my association, however unfortunate with the horrific bookshop murders was enough to immediately distance me from polite society. 

I spent months unable even to leave my house, my only comfort, the book given to me by The Doctor. For days I would grip it, as if to anchor myself to this world lest I once again drifted into his. But those days are behind me now, and I am ready to give it to Miriam, for whom it was intended, if she will but pass my way again.


There are loads of sites featuring "fanfic", stories, books and novels based on other people's creations; some really REALLY weird stuff out there, but loads of cool stuff too. This was my entry into a Doctor Who competition run by audiobook company Big Finish a few years ago. As you may have guessed...it did not win. But it was right good fun to write. For the record, its meant to be the Paul McGann version of the Doctor. But yknow...if you have to explain it...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Terminus

This is somewhere between vanity press and a labour of love.

I've loved HG Wells "The War of the Worlds" since I was 8 years old. It's the book that keeps on giving, and I've read it pretty much every year of my life since then. No really.

In the mid 90s, when conspiracy theory and aliens and all that malarkey were popular, I decided to write a sort of a sequel, something many other people have attempted. My favourite is Christopher Priest's "The Space Machine".

I wanted it to be illustrated, like this version I had read when I was younger that terrified the life out of me. So if nothing else, working on this was how I properly got to know my friend (and artist) Ross, who among other less impressive feats, introduced me to my future wife. So what I'm saying is, even if you cant be bothered reading the whole story, metaphorically it has a happy ending.


Terminus

Thursday, 6 October 2011

National Poetry Day - Dad's Time Machine

To celebrate National Poetry Day, poems across all the blogs...

The theme for National Poetry Day is actually "Games", this poem is one I wrote for my wee boy Connor a few years ago now...just silly.


“Look!” said Dad
“Everyone come and see,
It’s my fantastic, wonderful
Time machine!”

And it had
Wheels that went whoosh,
And springs that went ping,
Ten levers for pulling
And a bell that went bing.
And a big round blue button
That when pressed it, went pop
And right at the top
Going tick tock
A clock.

“We could go back to last Christmas
And meet old Saint Nick
We can fly on to next Thursday
Come on! Let’s go! Quick!"

So we all jumped in and the clock went
BONG!
And dad said “Oh no!
I’ve set the time wrong.
It’s not going to take us
To meet Santa Claus
We’re going right back to see
Dinosaurs!”

The wheels went whoosh.
The springs went ping.
The lights all went out
We could not see a thing.
And we shuddered
And shoogled.
We went in, out and round.
We wibbled
And wobbled
We went up, under and down.

Then..a big BUMP.
We stopped
With a thump.
All the lights came on again
And a roaring made us
Jump.

Out of the trees came
A big T-Rex!
With sharp shiny teeth
Wearing huge purple specs.

Down from the sky came
A pteranadon!
Flapping his wings
Which had pink mittens on.

Over the hill came
A triceratops!
With big pointy horns
And polkadot socks.

And they all stood around
With their horns, wings and teeth
And dad said “Hello!
Would you all like some sweets?”

We counted out sweeties.
One. Two. Three.
There were some for the dinosaurs
And some left for me.

Then we all said goodbye
To our dinosaur friends.
The clock went BONG
We were off again!

National Poetry Day - Star Wars Biscuits


To celebrate National Poetry Day, I've been publishing poems across all the blogs.
This one is a painful childhood memory, exorcised...

Encased
Forever in a Tupperware box
Beneath my bed,
A treasure
Without value.
A Time Capsule
Full of 1983.
A crazy notion,
A recognition of mortality
One hazy summer’s day.
When
Having just been to Coopers
I sealed my feshly purchased
Return of The Jedi Biscuits
In a box
To keep forever.
Star Wars biscuits were nice.
That is,
They actually are Nice, the biscuits,
Sort of coconutty.
But Nice biscuits
Didn’t have pictures of Jabba The Hutt
Drawn on in food colouring.
On the eve of my 21st Birthday
Perhaps hoping to recapture
A little slice of a childhood summer
Long since gone,
I opened Pandora’s Tupperware Box.
Inside were a few black and blue crumbs,
The crumpled remnants
Of the cheery wrapper
And a note from Stephen,
My childhood friend
Which read
“Ha ha. I have ate your bisckits.”
And for a moment
It was 1983 once more
And I wanted to kill the bastard.


My favourite thing about this poem, was actually the time I got to perform it (and several others) at a Proper Poetry Club on Ashton Lane, accompanied by my good friend Ray Mitchell on both trumpet and bongos. Needless to say, it went down an absolute storm.

I've noticed a lot of folk land on this page looking for actual star wars biscuits. By way of an apology, might I recommend you check out this top notch official star wars recipe for wookie cookies. Nom.


Monday, 5 September 2011

Calabrig Episode 4


Councillor Harry MacArthur does his best with the podcast even though the community centre has been occupied by "animal rightists"...

Harry MacArthur - Calabrig Community Podcast 04 by Pjbristow

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Bombmaking

At the redder end of August
You and I screwing
The tops off bottles,
And filling them with petrol.
I can't forget your giggle
As we siphoned the petrol,
Or the picnic we had
To empty all the bottles.
You lay there
Terrifyingly beautiful;
That smile,
A flash of white light
Tearing a hole in the summer skies.
I almost forgot who I was,
Where I was.
Our glass arsenal
And some ants
Stealing the crumbs from the sandwiches.
“Let's go.”
You said.
A kiss
Before we packed up the picnic.
And the bottles.
We caught the bus into town,
Then spilt the cost of the matches.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Open Up



It  is  a  rainy  Wednesday  lunchtime,  I  have  just  finished  my  chocolate  espresso  and  Michael  is  constantly  waggling  his  eyebrows  up  and  down  at  the  waitress.  She  is  not  impressed.
Myself,  and  two  of  the  workers  from  the  “Hokey  Cokey”  art  project  are  having  coffee  in  Utopia,  an  inoffensively  fashionable  coffee  shop.  Technically,  this  is  research,  so  the  council  are  picking  up  the  cheque.  In  celebration  of  this,  we  have  all  had  the  most  enormous  muffins  on  the  menu.  Mine  was  banana  and  nut.  Mmmmm.
So,  just  to  clarify,  we  didn’t  come  up  with  the  project  name  “Hokey  Cokey”.  We  all  hate  it.  It’s  called  “Hokey  Cokey”  because  it’s  about  bringing  what  is  often  termed  “outsider”  art  “into”  the  wider  community.  In.  Out.  See?  Well  exactly.
“Outsider”  art,  is  one  of  the  least  offensive  names  for  art  which  is  produced  by  groups  considered  to  be  excluded  from  “regular”  society.  This  is  all  pretty  much  straight  out  of  our  information  leaflet  you  understand.  Anyway,  in  the  case  of  “Hokey  Cokey”,  our  particular  outsiders  are  adults  with  learning  disabilities.  
There’s  me  and  there’s  Sasha,  our  artist  in  residence,  and  there’s  anyone  else  who  wants  to  turn  up  and  enjoy  themselves.  And  we  really  do.  Enjoy  ourselves.  So  anyhow,  we’re  opening  up  a  gallery  to  display  all  the  work  we’ve  put  together,  and  eventually,  it’s  going  to  have  a  coffee  shop  in  it.  Which  is  why  we’re  here  at  Utopia.  That  and  the  muffins.
“What  do  you  think?”  I  ask
“Nice.”  says  Michael,  who  has  now  moved  on  to  winking  at  the  staff.
“You’re  out  of  order.”  I  say.  “If  you  don’t  watch  out  that  waitress  is  probably  going  to  belt  you.”
Michael  is  undeterred.
“She  likes  me.”
“I  think  Anne  might  have  something  to  say  about  you  chasing  other  women.”
Here,  Michael  stops.  
“You  wouldn’t  tell  her?”
“Oh  really?  Stop  harassing  the  staff  and  we’ll  say  no  more  about  it.”
Michael  nods  solemnly  and  shakes  my  hand  by  way  of  a  gentleman’s  agreement.
“You’re  a  good  pal.”
“I  am.  She’s  way  out  of  your  league  anyway.”  I  say.  “I  mean  don’t  worry  about  it,  she’s  way  out  of  my  league  too.  We  should  both  just  chuck  it.”
Lisa  returns  from  the  toilet.
“Nice  soap.  Smell.”  she  says,  thrusting  her  open  palms  almost  entirely  up  my  nose.
“Mmmm.”  I  say.  “Are  we  about  ready  to  go  then?”
“I  am.”  says  Lisa,  hauling  on  her  coat.
“Me  too  pal.”  says  Michael.  He  looks  at  me  very  seriously  and  slaps  my  arm.  “Me  too.”
I  grab  my  notepad.  I’ve  been  scribbling  down  things  I’ve  noticed  about  Utopia  in  order  to  at  least  vaguely  justify  this  field  trip.  It  is  full  of  incisive  comments;  “We  should  definitely  get  those  syrups  which  make  the  coffee  go  all  different  flavours.  Hazelnut?”
As  we  leave,  I  half  heartedly  smile  at  the  waitress,  but  she  doesn’t  seem  to  notice,  or  care.  She  really  is  out  of  my  league,  I  wasn’t  joking  about  that.  
Hokey  Cokey  HQ  is  a  former  charity  shop  on  short  term  loan.  If  the  gallery  and  the  cafe  all  work  out  as  planned,  we’ll  take  on  the  lease.  In  theory.  We  really  have  to  get  it  right  first  time,  which  is  why  we’ve  invited  the  Provost,  the  social  work  department  and  the  entire  council  to  our  opening  party.  It’s  in  two  days.  I’m  sure  it  will  all  work  out  fine.
Michael,  Lisa  and  I  arrive  back  at  the  same  time  as  Susan,  another  of  the  workers.  We  are  barely  through  the  door,  when  Lisa  spies  someone  exciting.
  “Craig!”  shouts  Lisa  and  runs  off  into  the  workshop.
Sasha  walks  over  smiling.  Sasha’s  always  smiling.  And  it’s  one  of  those  ‘weak  at  the  knees’  smiles.  I’m  sure  you  know  the  kind  I  mean.
“Hiya.”  says  Sasha.
“Hello.”
I  am  about  to  ask  Sasha  how  her  morning  was  when  I  notice  Susan  standing  very  still,  and  very  close.  Susan  seems  to  have  almost  no  concept  of  personal  space,  but  is  far  too  polite  to  butt  in  on  a  conversation.  It  is  easier  therefore,  to  just  ask  her  what  she  wants.
“Hi  Susan.  Can  we  help?”  I  ask.  
“Today...”  announces  Susan  “I  have  brought...for  you  and  Sasha...a  special  treat.”
“Smashing.”  I  say.  “What’s  that?”
“It  is...home  baking.  Buns.”
“What  kind  of  buns?”
“Coconut.  And  I  have  also  added...a  small  number...of  chocolate  chips.”
“Thanks  very  much  Susan.  You’re  the  tops.”  says  Sasha.
“Well  Sasha...you  deserve  a  treat.  But  now...I  must  go...and  finish  my  sculpture.”
Susan  wanders  off  into  the  workshop.  She’s  been  making  a  model  of  the  Yellow  Submarine.  Our  toilets  have  an  undersea  theme.  It  certainly  makes  going  to  the  bathroom  more  fun.  There  was  a  big  octopus  which  was  going  to  hang  from  one  of  the  ceilings,  but  it  fell  on  my  head  and  so  we  had  to  remove  it  for  health  and  safety  reasons.  And  also  because  I  was  very  angry.
I  examine  the  buns.
“These  look  excellent.”
“Mmmm.”  says  Sasha  “She’s  really  come  on  since  she  got  her  own  place.  How  was  Utopia?”
“Well  Michael  failed  to  score  with  the  waitress.”
“What  about  you?”
“Well,  I  wasn’t  really  trying.”
“Waitresses  aside,  do  you  think  we  can  make  our  coffee  shop  as  cool?”
“Oh  easily.  Well,  not  easily...it’ll  be  murder.  But  we  can  definitely  do  it.  Probably.”
“Mission  accomplished  then.”  she  smiles.  God.
“Come  and  see  some  of  this  new  stuff.”  says  Sasha  excitedly.  “People  are  just  going  to  be  blown  away.”
She  leads  me  through  the  gallery  and  into  the  workshop,  to  the  untrained  eye  a  chaos  of  colour  and  plaster  and  wire.  But  when  you  stop  looking  and  just  see,  there’s  clearly  alchemy  at  work  here.  A  secret  science.  Admittedly,  we’re  not  actually  making  gold  or  anything,  but  there’s  so  much  gold  paint  all  over  the  floor  that  it  almost  doesn’t  matter.
“Anne’s  made  a  vase...just  feel  that  texture,  and  with  those  colours...outstanding!  And  over  here  Simon  started  a  painting  of  a  dolphin.  And  look  at  this...yesterday  Lisa  drew  this  picture  of  a  policewoman  on  the  computer.  And  she’s  copied  and  pasted  lines  of  them  all  on  screen.  Loads  of  them.”
She  almost  dances  round  the  room  as  we  go.  And  she’s  right.  The  artwork  is  impressive,  but  I’m  honest  enough  with  myself  to  know  that  I  am  spending  more  time  being  impressed  by  her.  We’ve  been  planning  this  party  for  three  weeks  now,  and  coincidentally,  that’s  exactly  how  long  I’ve  been  coming  up  with  ever  more  complex  reasons  to  avoid  asking  her  out.  So  I  nod  and  I  smile  and  I  give  the  big  thumbs  up,  taking  the  opportunity  just  to  enjoy  how  close  she’s  standing  to  me.  I  know.  I  know.
It  is  mid  afternoon  and  I  am  sitting  in  the  tearoom  imagining.  Susan  walks  in  purposefully,  and  I  suddenly  realise  that  I  haven’t  yet  had  one  of  the  buns  she  baked  for  us.  Susan  can  get  very  hurt  if  you  ignore  her  bakery  and  so  I  grab  the  little  bag  and  make  to  open  it.
“Have  you  eaten  my  special  treat  yet?”  asks  Susan,  pointing  at  exhibit  A,  the  unopened  buns.
“No  Susan.”  I  say,  holding  up  the  bag,  “I  was  actually  just  about  to...”
“Oh.  Good!”  she  says,  and  snatches  the  buns  away.
“What...I...”
“I  have...just  remembered...that  today’s  special  treats...were  I  am  afraid...not  for  you.  They  are  for...the  MacDonald  Centre  staff.”
“Oh!”  I  say  “No  buns  for  me  then.”
“No.  Perhaps...a  special  treat  for  you  and  Sasha...tomorrow.”
“Fair  enough.”  I  say  “I’ll  look  forward  to  that.”
“Although...I  am  making  marshmallow  cakes...for  the  party...so  I  may  be  unable...to  bake  anything  for  you.”
“Well  I’ll  just  have  one  of  your  marshmallow  cakes  then.”  I  suggest.
“They’re  for  the  party!”  exclaims  Susan.
“Yeah.  But  I’ll  be  at  the  party.”
“Oh.  Of  course...how  silly  of  me.”
Susan  slaps  herself  on  the  forehead,  smiles,  and  walks  away  with  the  buns.
I  should  have  eaten  them  at  lunchtime.  
I  am  so  disappointed  by  the  loss  of  the  buns,  that  I  decide  to  see  them  as  a  symbol  of  my  inability  to  seize  the  day,  even  with  confectionery.  I’d  be  the  first  to  admit  that  this  is  rather  flimsy,  but  y’know,  I’m  of  a  mind  to  feel  sorry  for  myself.  They  had  chocolate  chips  and  everything.
It’s  late.  Dusky.
All  the  workers  left  around  four  hours  ago.  Right  now,  Sasha  and  I  are  slumped  against  an  enormous  papier  mache  banana.  We  are  The  Velvet  Underground  sweating.  Still,  the  workshop’s  tidy,  except  for  the  bit  of  floor  where  Michael  has  painted  “Rangers”  in  a  nice  Royal  Blue.
“Time’s  it?”  I  ask.
“Just  after  nine.”
“There’s  hardly  any  point  in  going  home.”  I  say,  which  is  meant  to  be  just  one  of  those  things  you  say  but  comes  out  sounding  like  a  sinister  proposition.  I  adjust  my  big  black  top  hat  and  twirl  my  evil  moustache  in  anticipation  of  her  response.
“More  iced  coffee  I  think.”  she  says.  Read  into  that  what  you  will.
Sasha  wanders  over  to  the  fridge.  It’s  covered  in  magnetic  poetry,  which  today  reads  “atonal  balloon,  sasparilla  nightmare  windmill”.  So  true.
“What  are  we  making  to  eat?  For  the  party  I  mean.”
“Sausage  rolls?”  I  suggest.  “Go  traditional.”
“That’s  rubbish.  The  food  should  be  y’know...as  exciting  as  the  exhibition.”
“Confrontational  food?”
“No.  Y’know,  just...fun.”
“Fun  eh?  How  about  papier  mache  banana  sandwiches?  They’re  really  chewy.”
“Too  bland.”  she  smiles.
“Maybe  the  way  you  make  them.  Anyway,  sausage  rolls  are  fun.  We  could  call  them  ‘pigs  in  a  blanket’.”
“I  think  we’ll  ask  the  team  tomorrow.”  says  Sasha,  unimpressed.
“Goddamn  you  free  thinkers  and  your  blasted  democracy.”
“Yeah  well  it’s  either  that  or  you’ll  have  us  cutting  the  crusts  off  triangular  sandwiches.”
“Nobody  likes  crusts!  And  what  are  you  suggesting...sandwiches  cut  into...spaceships  or  something?”
“Bingo!  And  we  could  lay  out  a  big  table  with  all  the  identically  shaped  sandwiches,  except  we  dye  the  bread  all  different  colours,  Warhol  style.”
“I  don’t  think  he  ever  branched  out  into  catering.”  I  say,  and  for  a  moment  I  consider  cracking  a  joke  about  everyone  being  hungry  for  fifteen  minutes,  but  thankfully,  think  better  of  it  just  in  time.
“So...”  I  say,  loudly  announcing  Some  Serious  Conversation.
“Mmmm?”
“Are  you  bringing  anyone  to  the  party?”
There  is  a  silence.  But  is  it  the  silence  of  someone  who  doesn’t  like  to  talk  about  their  private  life,  or  the  silence  of  someone  who  can  see  an  unwanted  proposition  approaching  waving  a  big  red  flag  and  banging  a  drum?
“I’m  not  actually  seeing  anyone  right  now.”  says  Sasha.
More  silence,  but  not  the  sort  which  is  a  cue  for  me.  
“I’m  kind  of  down  on  relationships.  I  finished  with  this  guy  last  year  and  well...it  wasn’t  very  nice.  Not  a  good  break  up.”
“None  of  them  are  exactly  good.”
“No  this  was  really  terrible.  The  police  had  to  take  me  away.”
“Oh.”  I  say.  I  don’t  know  what  to  do  with  this  information.
“But  he  dropped  the  charges.  I  mean...he  provoked  me.”
“What  did  you  do?”
“Well,  I  was  painting  him  and  he  didn’t  like  it  so...”
“What,  a  sort  of  caricature  thing  or...”
“No.  Him.  I  was  actually  painting  onto  him.  In  gloss.  I’d  found  out  he’d  been  messing  around  on  me  from  day  one.  Well...day  three,  so  I  decided  to  paint  him  bright  red.”
“Right.”
“And  I’d  just  started  inking  on  the  word  ‘wanker’,  when  he  woke  up.”
“That’s  when  he  phoned  the  police?”
“That’s  when  he  phoned  the  police.  I  couldn’t  get  the  paint  off  the  phone  for  weeks.”
I  laugh  nervously.  I  am  working  with  Zelda  Fitzgerald.  Perversely,  this  mental  health  issue  instantly  makes  Sasha  ten  times  more  attractive.  I’m  not  even  going  to  attempt  to  justify  that.
“What  about  you?”
“Girlfriend?  Nah.  My  mum’s  stopped  just  short  of  putting  my  name  in  Exchange  &  Mart.”
“Well  your  biological  clock  is  ticking.”
“I  think  it  might  actually  have  stopped.”
Just  there,  I  catch  myself.  I  really  do  pull  off  being  feeble  and  non-threatening  with  aplomb.  It’s  not  deliberate.  I  have  a  mate  who  intentionally  turns  on  this  sensitive  loser  act  around  women.
“When  women  don’t  feel  threatened,  you’ve  more  chance  of  getting  them  to  shag  you.”  he  says.
It  would  be  a  lot  easier  to  get  annoyed  about  this  statement  if  it  didn’t  turn  out  to  be  true  on  a  fairly  regular  basis.
So  anyway,  I’m  not  trying  to  sound  pathetic,  I’m  just  being  myself.  Unfortunately,  I  genuinely  am  pathetic.  Bonus  though,  I  think  she  likes  that.
“Well...”  I  say,  incisively.
A  policeman  passes  and  checks  that  we  haven’t  just  broken  in  to  stage  an  art  exhibition.
“I  suppose  we  should  lock  up.”  she  says.
“Mmmm.”  I  say,  downing  the  chilly  dregs  of  my  iced  coffee.  “Yeah  we  really  should.”
Smooth.
We  pull  down  grilles,  lock  the  doors  and  go  our  seperate  ways.  I  stalk  home  alone  to  watch  “Annie  Hall”.  See.  I’m  pathetic  even  when  nobody’s  watching.
The  party  food  production  line  is  in  full  technicolour  effect.  My  sausage  rolls  were  unceremoniously  howled  down  at  yesterday’s  morning  meeting,  and  so  while  Susan  humanely  dyes  the  bread,  Michael  is  using  a  cutter  to  turn  them  into  flying  saucers  and  rockets.  Elsewhere  Lisa  pours  fruit  salad  into  tall  glasses  which  have  been  decorated  with  stick  on  smiles  and  crazy  eyes.  Sasha  meanwhile,  surreally  sculpts  carefully  dripped  icing  across  the  tops  of  cakes.  
I’m  out  of  my  depth  here  and  so  wander  into  the  workshop  where  Anne  sits,  painting  one  final  piece  for  the  gallery.  She  looks  especially  focused  this  morning,  meticulously  coating  this  last  canvas  in  end  to  end  green.  
“How  you  doin’?”  I  ask.
“Painting.”  
“Painting  what?”
“Green.”
“It  certainly  is  green.  What  is  it,  a  field,  or..?”
“No.  Just  green.  The...the...colour.”
“Very  relaxing  Anne.  Good  stuff.”
“This  bit  is...a  different  green.”
“Like  a  Mark  Rothko  print.”  I  observe  cleverly.
“No.  Like  my  dress.”
Anne  gestures,  and  sure  enough,  she’s  decked  out  all  limelike.
“Green.”  she  explains.
“Got  it.”  I  say.  “Good  one.”
“Have  you  decided  what  to  call  it?”
Anne  nods.
“Boyzone.”
“Really?  ‘Cos  I  would  have  gone  with  ‘Green’.”
“No.”  says  Anne  very  definitely.  “Boyzone.”
“You’re  the  artist.”  I  say.
“Yeah.  And  Sasha.  Sasha’s  the  artist.”
“She  sure  is.”
“Is  Sasha  your  girlfriend?”
“...eh...no.”  I  say,  and  then  cleverly  mask  my  embarrassment  with  an  enormous  Brian  Blessed  style  laugh.
“No  we’re  just  friends.”
“How?”
“...”  I  say,  for  a  while,  and  then  “Let’s  make  party  hats.”
“Do  you  know  my  boyfriend?”
“Michael?”
“Yeah.  Michael.”  she  giggles  “He’s  gorgeous.”
“You’re  right  enough  Anne.  He’s  a  fine  lookin’  man.”
“Yeah.  We’re  gettin’  married.”
“Excellent.”
“You  marry  Sasha.”
“No!”  I  laugh.
“Don’t  you  like  Sasha?”
“Of  course  I  like  Sasha.”
“Woot  woo.”  giggles  Anne  as  I  fall  into  her  trap.
“Very  good.”
“Sasha  likes  you.  She  said  she  wants  to  do  a  slow  dance  with  you  at  the  party.”
Anne  emphasises  this  point  by  waggling  her  eyebrows  up  and  down  in  the  manner  made  popular  by  her  boyfriend  Michael.  
“Oh  really?”  I  say.
“Yes  really.”  says  Anne  and  goes  back  to  painting.
This  conversation  is  clearly  over.
Soon  they  will  be  here.  I  look  around  our  gallery  and  there  isn’t  anything  I  don’t  like.  Even  the  buffet  is  art.  And  I  see  her  smile  beaming  from  every  corner  of  the  room,  a  spotlight  laughing,  illuminating  everything  we’ve  done.  
Anne  stands  by  the  door,  ready  to  open  it  with  a  vengeance  when  our  guests  arrive.
“Where’s  Sasha?”
“Woot  woo.”  says  Anne.
“She’s  in  the  storeroom.”  points  Michael  “For  the  paper  towels.”
“Right.”  I  say.
And  suddenly,  This  Is  It,  as  if  perhaps  “paper  towels”  was  the  secret  trigger  placed  in  my  mind  by  a  benevolent  hypnotist.  I  am  going  to  ask  Sasha  out.  Right  now.
I  leap  toward  the  storeroom  like  a  man  in  serious  need  of  a  new  broom.
I  throw  the  door  open  a  little  more  melodramatically  than  I  had  intended  and  Sasha  is  struggling  to  reach  the  shelves.
“This  fucking  octopus.”  she  says.  Which  is  suddenly  the  most  romantic  thing  I’ve  ever  heard.
“We  had  to  put  it  somewhere.  It’s  a  hazard.”  I  say  “Anyway  never  mind  that.  Listen.  Do  you  want...I  mean...this  afternoon..why  don’t  we  sort  of...couple  up.  Host  and  hostess  style.  We’ll  be  like  the  Fitzgeralds.  But  with  less  cocaine.”
That,  was  brilliant.
“Couple  up?  What’s  brought  this  on?”  asks  Sasha,  who  is,  at  least,  smiling.
“Well...it  was  Anne  really.  She  said...she  said  you  wanted  to  do  a  slow  dance  with  me  at  the  party.”
“Oh  did  she!”
“She  did.  But  I’m  a  terrible  dancer.  And  so  rather  than  stand  all  over  your  toes  I  thought  it’d  be  easier  to  just  ask  you  out.  But  it  isn’t,  and  it  seems  to  be  taking  forever  and  it’s  very  hard  to  do  it  properly  with  that  octopus  looking  at  me.”
“Anne  eh?  She’s  all  there  and  round  the  corner.  She’s  been  talking  you  up  for  weeks  now.  Not  that  she  needed  to  really.”
Oh.
I  lean  forward,  time  slowing  to  a  near  standstill.  But  not  enough  of  a  standstill  for  the  door  not  to  open  as  I  lean  against  it.  And  as  I  tumble  backward,  I  grab  Sasha  to  steady  me,  but  she’s  already  tilting  badly.  So  Sasha  too,  grabs  for  support,  but  despite  having  a  full  compliment  of  eight  arms,  the  octopus  sculpture  is  of  very  little  use  on  this  score.  The  first  kiss,  the  door  opening,  and  the  octopus  poking  me  in  the  eye.  And  we  fall  together  into  the  party,  all  tinsel  and  kisses.  Wrapped  up  in  ourselves  and  also,  in  the  wire  frame  of  the  banished  octopus  sculpture.  The  team  are  clapping  and  laughing  as  we  roll  helplessly  around  on  the  floor.
“Will  you  go  out  with  me?”  I  ask,  crepe  paper  seaweed  sticking  to  my  glasses,  tinting  Sasha  a  pleasant  green.
“Yes.”  she  says  “But  I  think  I  should  warn  you  that  this  octopus  is  also  making advances.”
Party  poppers  for  big  moment  fireworks,  our  names  are  writ  across  the  skies  in  tissue.
We  kiss  again,  and  Lisa  pours  pink  lemonade  into  painted  paper  cups.  
Anne  opens  all  the  doors.

note : I spent seven years working with adults with learning disabilities, more time than I've ever spent in any other job, you were guaranteed a wee laugh pretty much every day. Some of this actually happened, making this particular entry just slightly more self indulgent than normal.