This week, Monday 7th January 2013

Happy New Year to ye!

LittleWolf_DanielWhiston_greenMay it be filled with splendour and treasure surpassing the last. Did you have a good Christmas? I did. That and the pre-Christmas preparations washed all my writing plans and good habits overboard. Since I now have the pre-work horrors (I return to work on Monday) it seems a fine time to reassert those yarn-spinning and webifying habits. I could phrase that as a resolution of some kind, but I do despise the whole making promises to myself thing. I’d rather disappoint others as usual rather than me.

Let’s go with vague intentions shall we… I’m already aware this is going to be a fairly mental few months at work, and socially with improv and gigs it’s looking pretty busy (in a good, heart attack busy kind of way) so fear not if I disappear for the odd week – I’m probably just dead. Tuesday and Thursday stories are go. Random babble and media intake updates on Mondays. I desperately want to write some super-short reviews on films and books I inhale, just as a matter of course. So we might see some of those erratically I guess. Or I could plan to do them. Hmm. We’ll see. Further recordings for Flash Pulp and Reverbnation commenced today in a bout of near-proactivity.

So with that in mind:

This week’s scribbles


The Sacrilegious Adventure – a short pirate tale featuring Captain Pigheart, a mean judge and a saint’s head.


Audio Tales for Ye Ears – direct links to some fresh pirate words for your listening holes.


The War Alone: The Beta-Haris, part One a further delve into The War Alone world with an excerpt from the oral histories.

Updates on my thrilling life


The ship’s galley is almost complete. Painfully close, especially since closing that gap will now require the horrid messing up of the lovely tidy kitchen we’ve been using since Christmas.


I have received many books for Christmas, and foolishly acquired still more. Joy! I also spent a day reorganising my book cupboard. I realise that sounds dull, but it was a necessary archaeology to get at the first two in Peter F Hamilton’s Void trilogy. I received the final doorstop last year but started it and had no clue what was going on. I need to re-read the 2,000 pages that precede The Evolutionary Void as well as all the other books. Naturally they were both supporting the stacks and were right at the bottom. Frankly I had a marvellous day in the cupboard. The photos should provide some idea of the scale of the excavation. We need shelves. We need more shelves.

Book cupboard - disarrayBook cupboard restored

In the interests of following my own reading (and you may possibly share this interest), I’ve added the Goodreads feed down the right-hand sidebar somewhere. I read about 115 books last year (need to double-check) with my various lists and have told you about almost none of them. I am bad.


From the wonderful Lego Star Wars advent calendar!

I have been playing with Lego again. It is a wonderful stuff. I bought a huge bulk load before Christmas just to mess about with and have found it very relaxing. There was much Lego-ing all round. My other half is extremely fond of the mini-figures, so it’s nice to share an obsession. I can’t hope to match the astonishing efforts of many Lego designers, but I’d like to share them with you anyway. It also gives me an excuse to take pictures of them and justify devoting a shelf to them. Soon to come! I’m also the proud owner of a charming Cyberman collection and a wind-up Chewbacca. My dear brother got me 3D printed trinkets which are very cool – I shall share in future!

Events and Excitement

Improv shows

Thursday 17/01/13      Gorilla Burger: Improv Comedy Carnage – The City Gallery, Nottingham. An open show – available for anyone to take part in. It will be lots of fun.

Friday 25/01/13           MissImp in Action: Improvised Comedy Show – The Glee Club, Nottingham.

Friday 08/02/13           Mission Improbable – Create Theatre, Mansfield.

Pirate stuff

Yet to be confirmed but I think I’m compering at The Bookcafe in Derby again on 16th February, and so shall be reading pirate stories too.

The Sacrilegious Adventure

The Sacrilegious Adventure“No your honour, we’ve quite sworn off all that piracy malarkey.” Of course, that was a lie. Perhaps if they offered something other than hanging for our pastimes I’d be inclined to toss ‘em some form of truth-telling. Quiddities such as this frequently beset me when I was forced to endure the rigidity of the legal profession. Reassuringly though, a few tots of rum soothes such concerns from me breast. Since such sweet succour is rare and frowned upon in the courtroom I put more effort into my honest face.
The judge scowled at me with a rather hurtful scepticism: “Unless you and your crew give up your wicked ways I shall be forced to confiscate your vessel, goods and also your lives.”
The babble of Vespers had been venting out into the dawn when we’d cruised out of the fog and blown one side of the monastery to the rocky afterlife. What once was stone was now a hole. Exhibited in the heart of the monk house was our prize – their famed golden bust of John the Baptist’s noggin. Ye might consider its nickery a sacrilegious act, but we mainly considered the gold. Zachary (the judgmental fellow who presently regarded our iron-clad feet so sternly) considered it criminal.
A few foolish monks required slapping with the flats of our blades before we could make off with the brightly beaming bodiless Baptist’s bonce and bear it aboard the ‘Bastard. Once we’d done so a sense of calm and wellbeing fell over the ship; a large lump o’ gold’s apt to do that to pirates. Bringing the statue up to melting temperature also brought forth a terrific moaning and wailing which chilled the hearts and stilled the hands of even my fiercest mates.
Contained within that auric masque, ye see, was a still-living face – twas Dunking Johnny No Neck himself, screaming with lungs he’d lost in life. Damn me if, in a sudden fit of fear (or piety – I’ll come back to that notion) I didn’t hoof the howling thing into the ocean. Everyone looked a mite shocked. Fine control of me peg leg for punting’s a tricky matter and I’d managed to impress us all. Gold lay in gobs and nuggets on the deck, so it was hard to deny that we’d had the head in our hands when the soldiers boarded us.
Having a slick and silvery tongue’s an invaluable tool in me pirate bag of tricks (like a teaspoon, tis versatile). We were inevitably hauled before the bench, where I passionately asserted the deep and profound faith which lights me heart and takes the edge off our frequent darkest hours. Just because it looked like we’d thieved it for the gold hardly matched the monks’ terrible sin in sealing up the sacred gent’s skull for centuries – we had in fact liberated the saint’s holy head and returned it to its spiritual home.
Knowing the minds of criminals is likely an important aspect of judgeish training, and Zachary was possessed of all these skills and more. He was somewhat taken aback by me claims and sought to summarise them: “Let me make sure I understand: you destroyed a monastery to rescue the still-living decapitated head of John the Baptist and then ‘released’ it into the bosom of the ocean?”
I fear he was not convinced; my boys and I were to be hanged at dawn.

Piratical Noise for Ye Lugholes

Picture by Dani Peppiatt
Picture by Dani Peppiatt

Ahoy shipmates! It’s taken me many moons and much indolence but here’s one of the tales I read for Pirate Coves way back in September.

Tis The Mermaid’s Tale. There’s a fair bit o’ background noise, but that’s The Golden Fleece for ye:

Listen on line

Ye may also enjoy The Polar Adventure, freshly recorded with a modicum o’ quality for ye ear’s delight:

Listen on line

Should ye fancy it ye can also just go to me Reverbnation page and click madly upon all the buttons:

The War Alone: Beta-Hari Part 1

Part One

“They never really wanted us here. Man you should have seen their faces when we turned up. But you have to understand how desperate it got, and how fast. I mean, like immediately we were fucked. I’m not sure if we’re any closer to getting unfucked now. No one ever wants the old folks around, I mean, war’s for the young isn’t it? Not that I’m old. Well, maybe to you. In a proper war they send the youngest and strongest out to die first. Then it’s us, in a draft. The real old folks just get bombed in their sleep. They never got that chance this time.

“You remember Day One right? Total fuckstorm. I don’t think I’ll ever get that ringtone out of my ears. I hear it in my sleep. If I hadn’t been up all night drinking whiskey and playing video games I might actually have answered it. I suppose that’s one of the advantages of being hungover. Is it an emergency? No? Then don’t call me at ten in the morning. Indecent time. I know we’re supposed to be up and at ’em, in the gym or achieving something. I think that was my grandparents’ generation. My Dad would have taken the dogs for a walk and hit the beers by ten. Me – I’ve never been a morning person. Godawful time of day. Nothing worse than seeing dawn. Give me a sunset any day of the week.

“Anyway, when that damn phone just kept getting louder I threw it in the wardrobe and went back to sleep. For maybe five minutes. Then it all went fucking crazy. But you already know that. Fuck. I don’t know how they did it. There’s theories. There’s always theories. Me? I think it was – oh I don’t know. Does it matter anymore? All the mobile phones rang at exactly the same time and everyone who answered it turned into a killing machine. People talk about claws sprouting from kids hands and teeth stretching out. All kinds of mental stuff. I didn’t see that. I saw the massive pile up outside the flats – cars smashing into each other and up the pavement. People climbing out and attacking anyone they saw.

“They never did enforce that ban on mobiles while driving. Fucking Bluetooth. Imagine if we didn’t have Bluetooth or headsets, think of all the calls that wouldn’t have been taken. Kids with phones. But you’ll have seen that yourself. First class of the day, or first break? Still in class eh. Probably got lucky. Anyway I nailed the front door shut and stayed there till the screaming stopped.

“No way we could have prepared for that – I mean, what plan could you have? It’s not like blowing towers up with planes. That wasn’t unimaginable. Surprising sure. But totally done in books and games, and simple. No master plan there – fly a plane into a building; hardly the work of fucking geniuses. There wasn’t even time to shut down the phone networks. No point either. It was too late. Half the fucking army answered their phones too. Police, doctors, nursery teachers. You name it – everyone’s got a mobile phone. I never got how it worked everywhere else – I mean, it was only 10.04 here. It was night time in Oz. Voicemail? Jesus that sucks for a message.”

To be continued next week.

Film Review: The Hobbit

Snow White and The Fourteen Vertically Challenged Fellows

I haven’t read The Hobbit since I was ten. I say this because I’m not going to make any comparisons with the book – I don’t really remember it. I’ve got more interest in the on-screen work of Peter Jackson than I do J.R.R. Tolkien on paper.
I loved the film. Partly it was a series of pleasant surprises. I didn’t have incredibly high hopes with them stretching it out to a trilogy and besides, the poster looked like a sequel to Willow. It felt like there was great potential for disaster, but the dwarf songs are not annoying (though I still wouldn’t miss them) and very importantly Martin Freeman is not awful. He’s not great, but like in Sherlock, he isn’t fucking it up either. Maybe he’s getting better at this.
Being back in Middle Earth is wonderful. It’s like meeting old friends. I especially love that they’re reframing The Hobbit as a clear prequel to Lord of The Rings (which may well drive fans crazy). The film begins with a flashback from Ian Holm’s (proper) Bilbo just before his party at the start of LOTR and the connections made me very happy.
The dwarves are the main deal and though their makeup is so heavy you can’t really spot the marvellous British actors behind the beards they are great fun. There are too many of them to get to know properly anyway – I know them as the fat one, the ginger one, the prettyish ones, Happy, Sleepy… They fight well though in the lovely action scenes and the battles are full of axes and bludgeoning.
What else… the spectacular Stone Giants, weird but great casting choices (Sylvester McCoy and Barry Humphries). Oh, and it’s funny.
I say watch it. The next two Christmases are booked in.

This week, Monday 14th January 2013

Week One: Completed

Happy CatI have survived the first week back at work. I was pleased to find it was exactly as stressful and full of nonsense as I had anticipated. It’s sort of nice to be right. Getting up in the morning hasn’t been too rough and I successfully stared at my writing book each day last week. So that’s partway to victory. I did succeed in publishing something every day last week which definitely counts as a win, though it might prove a tough target to hit each week.

This weekend has certainly helped crush the New Year – we went to watch Labyrinth (the one that features David Bowie’s penis so prominently) in Broadway Cinema‘s Lounge theatre. It’s a great place for a birthday party as it’s just like a big seventies lounge with sofas and bean bags. Lots of people, huge laughter and much drinking. We played the likely well-known Labyrinth Drinking Game: you have to drink whenever someone says “It’s not fair”, and whenever David Bowie changes costume or presents his package to the camera. You can drink quite a lot while playing it…

With the Goblin King’s crown in mind, here’s what’s coming up this week:

This week’s scribbles


Lego Creations: Woodland Whimsy – pictures and jabber about my first reacquaintance with Lego.


Pulp Pirate 14The Selachian Damsel Adventure was included in last week’s Flash Pulp podcast.


The War Alone: The Beta-Haris, part Two continuing one man’s story of survival in The War Alone.


Book Review: Subspace Encounters by E.E. Doc Smith – a dinky short review of a Doc Smith’s last book.

Updates on my thrilling life


Last week was a good week. I’ve got several short stories that now need to be edited and tidied up. Most will be multi-part tales on the website as I’ve come to the conclusion that 500-800 words at a time is probably a reasonable episode for most folks to read. It also gives me a chance to do some extra editing once the story is live. There’s a new Alex Trepan / Galaxy Team story in the works and a pirate story that needs to be kicked into shape. If I can just nail that morning discipline…


We are even nearer to completion now. We have doors and tiles and everything. Painting is yet to be done, though I’m sure we’ll manage to prevaricate over that for a good while yet. Ultimately it shall be blue and have even more shelves in it, and a hat stand. My hats currently live on a glass head, and dwarf it with their higgledy-piggledy height. It is lovely to have a neat, pretty kitchen for possibly the first time in our adult lives.


I am continuing to enjoy scattering Lego about. So too is our delightful cat, who likes that I will sit still for hours cross-leggedly crippling my knees. She seems to consider the noise of the Lego an acceptable cost. Work is in progress on my castle diorama, which features a waterfall and a queer temple. I’m pleased with it and have been happily embellishing the crenellations and adding pretty bits and mini figures. You’ll get to see the woodland diorama tomorrow. Wonderfully a dear friend has offered me her box of Lego bits and bobs including a whole bunch of vine/creeper pieces. I am terribly excited about it and even now planning where to put them.


I’m finding this year incredibly hard to get into. Even though we only had one week off over Christmas, our enforced seclusion and unsociability has I think left me a bit behind in dealing with others. There are a bunch of shows coming up, and I’ll be going to Fisticuffs to prepare for Martin‘s Unspeakable Acts in early February. That’s going to be wonderful fun. I just need to learn to be with people again…

Last week’s scribbles


The Sacrilegious Adventure – a short pirate tale featuring Captain Pigheart, a mean judge and a saint’s head.


Audio Tales for Ye Ears – a freshly recorded version of The Polar Adventure and a live and rather noisy retelling of The Mermaid’s Tale.


The War Alone: The Beta-Haris, part One– the first of a three-part retelling of how The War Alone began, by a survivor (obviously).


Film Review: The Hobbit – I loved it, and this is why.

Events and Excitement

Improv shows

Thursday 17/01/13      Gorilla Burger: Improv Comedy Carnage – The City Gallery, Nottingham. An open show – available for anyone to take part in. It will be lots of fun.
Friday 25/01/13           MissImp in Action: Improvised Comedy Show – The Glee Club, Nottingham.
Friday 08/02/13           Mission Improbable – Create Theatre, Mansfield.

Pirate stuff

Yet to be confirmed but I think I’m compering at The Bookcafe in Derby again on 16th February, and so shall be reading pirate stories too.

Lego Creations: the Woodland Whimsy

Make Do

I’ve been babbling about my love of Lego for a while, and why not. It’s great stuff, teaches you how to make things and cooperate with inanimate objects, to project creativity into three dimensions. It’s wonderful for kids… except they make the wrong things or choke on the bricks, thus entirely wasting them.

I bought a huge box of Lego from eBay a few months ago, ostensibly to build a neat shelving solution for the Lego mini figures my other half and I obsessively collect. We have delightful half hours of frumbling blind packs in Tesco until we get the whole series. Ah, happy relationship times. Anyway, that was basically a lie – I had every intention of playing endlessly with the stuff. I will eventually build some sensible display cases, but not until I’ve had a lot of other fun too.

There was a lot of other crap mixed into the Lego, so I reckon I ended up with about four and a half kilos of the stuff (plus all the other Lego sets I have anyway!) First sort was to sift out the junk, then to sift for colour or shape. I was thrilled to realise I had loads of green and brown and fun foliage pieces, so clearly a woodsy thing was in the offing. I’ve also got a lot of black, grey and sand so castles would naturally follow.

Design Time

I recall being obsessed with symmetry when building with Lego as a child. It was frustrating to never have quite enough pieces to create sleek symmetrical spaceships without marring them with odd misplaced colours. I am no longer beset by such thoughts. I took the same approach to Lego building as I do to my writing and improv – make it up as I go along. As a consequence I have quite a lot of head scratching time, dismantling and rebuilding. It’s incredibly soothing. Now I haven’t really played with Lego for a long time, so this was my first attack on the building blocks of my mind.

Here’s the front view of the finished model:


I wanted to get as much in as possible, so at the front we start with Christmas Yoda outside his little hut (occupied by Little Red Riding Hood), with a nice speeder bike and ewoks nestled amongst elves, fairies, Robin Hood and a steampunk lady at the back.

The darker red/not quite brown bricks are delightful and I’ve found they break up the shapes really pleasingly. I think they’re from some of the newer Star Wars Lego sets.

I hope you enjoy the pictures – let me know! And remember, it’s never too late to get back into Lego.


Pulp Pirate 14

Flash Cast 76 – Ten Foot Jesus

In the process of getting my act together after Christmas I recorded several new and old stories for my favourite podcast: Flash Pulp! Last week those good folks saw fit to accept my submission of The Selachian Damsel Adventure which goes down the ear tubes well. I also sent in some feedback and enjoyed listening to Opopanax read it in a fine piratical tone! There are the usual entertainments within – pulp film and TV gossip as well as more creepiness in A Spot of Bother, a fine review of The Hobbit (with damn fine Gollumisms) and a review of the splendidly mean and funny card game Cards Against Humanity. I don’t normally get the time to play card or roleplaying games but this one was coincidentally whipped out in the pub at a friend’s birthday party last Saturday, so it deserves special mention. Gigantor can tell you all about it below.

Listen to it now:

The War Alone: Beta-Hari Part 2

War Alone
“We’ll never know how many survived Day One, or even Week One. Doesn’t matter now I suppose. It was dead quiet when I did leave the flat. I felt scared driving it was so quiet, but there was no fucking way I’d be walking around. There must have been other people locked up in their houses like me. But mostly it was just bodies everywhere. Didn’t see anyone living but the few stragglers I picked up. From what they said, it sounded like all the fucking phone jobs wore themselves out fast – like they’d all run a marathons. Just started collapsing. That’s all it took though. A few days.
“We got out though, out to the country first. Well ahead of those fucking Spines. Day Two was later of course. We just drove to the nearest army base in XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. I’ve never been so glad we pissed all that money away on military spending. Not that they were ready either. Like I said, they’ve all got phones too. They’d lost two thirds of their soldiers already – either as phone jobs or to them. Phone jobs with guns. Thank fuck this isn’t America. Anyway, their chain of command was coming apart fast and they were not pleased to see us, or the others. But they took us in.
“I guess it shows Their contempt for our armies – They never even attacked directly. Not at the start. I mean the phone jobs were everywhere, but that’s not exactly a surgical strike is it? In places like XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX they could contain them. The Spines only showed up in cities and towns. They just didn’t care about these outposts. If you can shoot people through their phones why bother fighting at all.
“So yeah, they took us in, and it started getting joined up again. No one wanted to use phones though, or even walkie talkies. Freaks people out properly when you see someone put a phone to their head. Doesn’t mean ‘call me’ anymore. After a while they started training everyone. I’d never held a gun before, except in games. Paintball, Call of Duty. We were only supposed to be back up, guard duty – it gave us something to do. But once they started going into towns and attracting attention. Well. They used up the real soldiers fast – that’s what they’re for isn’t it? War I mean – to kill off the young. Like a plague for the modern world. But there was time, while the Spines finished off the big cities and move onto the towns. Time to dig out those mothballed army toys.
“We’d get odd reports of drastic measures – Syria managing to wipe out the whole Middle East – they all just went nuts at each other. Even more nuts. The US and Russia nuked their own cities. No one knows what happened to China. No one will tell us anyway. You’ve got to speculate though right? China had even more phones than the rest of the world put together, all packed into their cities. Fuck. Can you imagine what it must have been like when they started ringing? But they’ve got millions of miles of countryside. Sounds like some apocalyptic Kung-Fu film. I’d have watched that. But not now. No. We’ve all seen too much.
To be continued next week.

Book Review: Subspace Encounter

Smith-Subspace Encounter

Like most of E.E. Doc Smith‘s books, this is an enthusiastic space opera romp. It’s a weird genre that I’ve always felt he made his own. They have the Edgar Rice Burroughs vibe of continuous adventure and charging off to finder greater villains and greater allies in a lurid and fantastic pseudo-science fiction. This one does it less well than others, partly because it’s a posthumous re-stitching of an unfinished manuscript. That rarely goes well.

The story lurches between two groups of Psiontists (psychic scientists, how can you not love that?) in First and Second Space on either side of Subspace. One bunch are basically us, the other belong to a violent merciless culture. Needless to say they turn out to be pals regardless and gang up on the “red-skinned, hook-nosed” bad guys and remorselessly exterminate them. Oh, did I not mention that E.E. Doc Smith also has some of the most questionable near-racism and sexism laced throughout? If you’re easily offended by what feels to me like a genuine accident rather than deliberate prejudice then you might avoid some of his work… However, the relationships between male and female characters is always between the hulking super-masculine hero and the ballsy and smart chick, who is probably also a heroine. It’s confusing. And sometimes they are smart, courageous and sexy.

There is also classic dialogue, especially when the characters are in dialect:  “I’m hungrier’na bitch whanker with nine cubs, so let’s get to scoffin’ huh?” The story’s not much in this (it’s a sequel to Subspace Explorers which is more fun), but the political system and cultural differences presented in Second Space and gleefully over the top, such as all criminals being “eaglemeat”, and the fantastical engines and machines they have make this enjoyable sci-fi fun.

It’s okay, but if you’re looking for his good stuff, read Skylark.

Pirate Hot Chocolate

The snowflakes are turnin’ bloody at me feet. Battle’s found us even here in these icy cliffs. Damn the war-walruses and their tenacity. We’ll gore ’em all eventually. In the meantime I’ve found a moment to nip into the galley and make meself a warming drink.

Hot Chocolate for Arctic Heroes


While a traditional sea-toddy’s brimful o’ rum, frankly tis a waste of god’s tears. Especially if ye options include Angostura 1919 (aye, sink ye lips and peepers into that fine bottle) or even the less-fine but still mighty-fine Kraken Black Rum. Since ye be muddying it’s flavour with a mug o’ milk and chocolate may I suggest ye enjoy the remarkably cheap and tasty Sainsbury’s Kentucky Bourbon. Tis light and a mite smokey, and complements ye chocky burn. I’m usin’ the delightful Liquid Chocolate from Hotel Chocolat.

The Art of Blending a Simple Drink

I’ll not insult ye intelligence too far, save to bung a mugful o’ milk in ye pan, mix in five or six teaspoons of molten liquid flakes until tis all brown and creamy (full fat milk’s the only sane approach unless ye have a Guernsey cow to squeeze cream from). I like to pop the marshmallows in the mug first and douse ’em in the whiskey (or good rum if ye be wealthy) before drowning them like enemy soldiers in hot chocolate.

The Remarkable Beverage
Aye, tis a gorgeous sight, and it’ll warm ye hart and the cockles of ye mind. A few sweet sips and you’ll find yourself ready to rejoin the battle.

This week, Monday 21st January 2013

The Year is Full of Days

Merly Lego Beast

I’ve spent most of this week anxiously looking out of the window and willing it to snow. I consider this a week well-spent. It would be nice to have more snow though. We’ve had a few inches, which proved sufficient when slushed and refrozen to toss me off my bike and thoroughly smash my wrist up again. Not good. So now I’m having to endure the train for my morning commute instead of the aggressive peace of cycling. If it’s less icy this week I’ll probably go back to cycling… because I’m an idiot.

Most of the best things have happened between leaving work and going to bed this week.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankaz’eroth: The Dead God of Bitter Verse

Time for a little more bitching and whining in poetical format.

Wednesday The Magical Space Engine

A dinky little flash fiction story of magic and science.

Thursday The War Alone: The Beta-Haris, part Three

The final part of one man’s story of survival in The War Alone. Part 1 and part 2 here.

Friday Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

A short review of the new Disney film.

Updates on my thrilling life


Another good week for le scrawl. I’m sticking more or less to my routine (ooh, for a whole two weeks…!) so that feels pretty darn good. I have an idea to write more The War Alone  stuff as super-short tales of death in the early stages of Day One. Y’know, cheery stuff like that. I’ve also been neglecting the good Captain Pigheart as well (this coming week is no exception) and that needs to be addressed. Maybe a new pirate story a week? I don’t know – would that be a good thing? I think perhaps I need some feedback… hint. Anyway, some friends have said some nice things about the current Beta-Hari three-parter for which I’m grateful, and also some gentle pats on the head for still playing with Lego at my age.

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Lego Creations: Woodland Whimsy – pictures and jabber about my first reacquaintance with Lego.
Wednesday Pulp Pirate 14 – The Selachian Damsel Adventure was included in last week’s Flash Pulp podcast.
Thursday The War Alone: The Beta-Haris, part Two – continuing one man’s story of survival in The War Alone.
Friday Book Review: Subspace Encounters by E.E. Doc Smith – a dinky short review of a Doc Smith’s last book.
Saturday Pirate Hot Chocolate – a fine, whiskefied way to do hot chocolate, shipshape style.


Chima much?I hope you enjoyed seeing the Woodland Whimsy last week! I’ve taken some pictures of the Christmas Eve Hoth diorama but I haven’t yet done anything with it. The Pirate Hot Chocolate (with a lot of alcohol in it) was very useful over the weekend in both banishing the cold and assisting in applying finishing touches to the Castle of Hopeless Indulgence (which I might call it). It has many minifigures in it now, but I’m still sure there are further touches required. Have you seen the new Lego Chima stuff?


Crazy. I may need some of the awesome beast-headed figures even though it’s all very expensive. They remind me of the Fabuland characters from the ’80s. Merly (our beloved feline princess) has taken to playing in the Lego with me. This troubles me, despite the sweetness of it, as she kicks bricks around rather like in a litter tray…


I am back on my game, which is inordinately satisfying and exciting. Also timely, since I’ve got three shows in the next few weeks. I think what fixed me was going to Fisticuffs (or just “fisting” as it’s known colloquially, much to other folks’ confusion) and rehearsing for Unspeakable Acts. A ludicrously good time was had crafting three new plays out of the shattered ruins of the old. The middle tale is unrepeatable for vileness. I enjoy attempting a Scottish accent, but holding it for thirty seconds, much less thirty minutes is beyond me. I had to feign a stroke to account for its wandering. The last scene we did alternated between Man and Woman (I can’t recall the names of any of the base plays) who were in the middle of a siege and having weird (possibly fake) premonitions, and a frustrated musical director with two performers who could not stick to Les Mis for love nor money. As I said, I enjoyed it!

Gorilla Burger (an anyone can play show last Thursday) needs tightening up badly with a firm hand running it before anyone will really benefit from it. No one got to do more than a handful of scenes in quite a long (and chilly) evening. Fun often requires a degree of control and focus (and organisation) to make it more fun for everyone. However, the scenes I did, especially a nice one with Eddie at a lost property dept and with Marilyn and Lloydie discussing the destruction of Peterborough, were very enjoyable. Oh well, the next one’s on 14th February so we might be off Valentining anyway.

Events and Excitement

Improv shows

Friday 25/01/13           MissImp in Action: Improvised Comedy Show – The Glee Club, Nottingham.
Wednesday 06/02/13 MissImp Presents… Fisticuffs in: Unspeakable Acts – The City Gallery, Nottingham.
Friday 08/02/13           Mission Improbable – Create Theatre, Mansfield.

Pirate stuff

Still few plans. Maybe I need to get some. I will do some recording next weekend in any case and bung some more snippets on Reverbnation.

Shankaz’eroth: The Dead God of Bitter Verse

Shankanalia 6Well, hello New Year. As ever the new yule brings with it an identical blend of sunny optimism and bleak defeatism as the previous endless year. Fantastic. I’m cheerfully pinballing between genuine enthusiasm and cut-your-throat frustration. I’m certain that the unreasonable expectation others place on this time of the year drags me under with their incipient despair as they prepare to fail in the banal promises to the universe. I dislike New Year’s Resolutions.

So it’s time for another miniature anthology of @shankanalia Twitter verse. I tap these out whenever I’m getting too angry during the day to actually accomplish anything. It’s looks set to be a productive end of the financial year. Hurray / kill me now.

Shankaz’eroth: The Dead God of Bitter Verse

Inappropriate Punctuation
I’ve got a 5 bullet plan for improvement
No, not bullet points
They’re bullets, one for each of you
And one for myself

Too Touchy Feely for Meely
If I beat you
To within an inch of your life
Would you hug me
As I pulled out my knife?
If I bled you
Of all of your blood
Would you just die?

It Am An Sale
Bumbling pygmies
Fill the streets.
Fat footed,
Over mediocre thrills
And plastic filth.
Leggings stretched into unitards.

Imaginary Deja Vu
Brain funked
and gashed with
Thoughts and memories
Of a time never happened;
Trapped in the
Bite of neuronal flare
and wake
and sleep
and wake confused.
Basic Lies
Reassure others about
Their incompetence
By pretending we are as inept
As they
But it’s a lie.
We’re good
You’re just shit.

Trust Exercise
So I delegate
To shift the weight
And share the work.
In my error
I asked you:
A mistake,
I see.
Take it back
Or let you fail,
And who’s to blame?

Happy Places
Fucking hate
Cuntiferous rending
Vile despised anti-human
Spittle-coated bastardy
Viscous cuntmongers.
Gin time.

The Magical Space Engine

Magical SpaceMagic, when it was finally all worked out, proved to be at once disappointingly simple, and generally disappointing. The application of imagination and desire was found to be achieved by few and lusted after by millions.

Albert Mackeltonky put the finishing touches to his magical space engine. He had wisely judged his imagination insufficient to maintain a magically created spaceship, as well as make it fly and do all the other splendid things a vessel of the stars would be required to do. The craft was admired by neighbours, friends and the local press: fifteen feet long and lovingly polished oak, studded with brass and glass ornamentation that would gain life and meaning once he bent his will to it.

He would be the first magician to pierce the atmosphere and become a space-wizard, the envy of his peers (those poor few there were). Not one of his cheering companions saw the need to point out any one of many possible difficulties. Such is the allure of magic to the common and jealous man.

Albert sat within its woody embrace and poured into the force of his desires, saturating the ship and fuelling it with the elusive energy of his heart and mind. Sparks, bubbles ad rainbows fountained from Albert’s creation as he concentrated further. He conjured within his imagination the vista of the sun rising about the curve of the planet, the blackness beyond and his beautiful star chariot hanging there in the night. Onlookers gasped as the spaceship shuddered where it lay upon the slabs of his patio and then gasped further as it vanished with the familiar pop of a finger being forcibly extracted from ones own cheek.

Three weeks later Albert’s frozen corpse was discovered inside a large wooden coffin when it nudged a telecommunications satellite out of alignment. Scientists dismissed the death as more “obvious stupidity”, noting that the oft-omitted but vital third component to successful magic is intelligence.

The War Alone: Beta-Hari Part 3

Read part one first, then part two.

Part Three

War Alone

“It’s such a weird enemy. No contact. No demands. No nothing. That’s why some people reckon it’s the Chinese – explains the radio silence. Yeah, if it had just been Day One I could maybe have bought that. I mean, they made all the phones right? But no. People didn’t do this. They left everything intact, except the people. Like they didn’t care we still had cars or satellites or power stations, for as long as they kept going on their own. Most of it broke down with being abandoned I suppose. Then by the Spines, as they started to spiral outwards. That’s what they did – the Spines I mean. When they couldn’t find people to pull apart they started tearing down buildings, roads, anything that was ours.

“That was the first time I went up in a jet. You can hear them now. Just listen to that roar. ‘Beta-Haris’. Brilliant planes. Like nothing I’d ever seen. Half fighter plane, half zeppelin or something. Some Euro/US secret design, they just pulled them out of a mountain. Seriously – there was a door on the fucking mountain and it was just full of all this experimental war stuff. Maybe that’s we got to use it – no one else was ever going to. They’d lost so many soldiers going head to head in the towns. So that was where we came in. More meat for the table.

“So they started putting us up in the Beta-Haris. At first it was just to watch, y’know – figure out where they were going, what they were doing. We tracked them, from the sky. You know they’ve got no real sense of ‘up’? It’s fucked up. It’s like they just don’t get it. They’ve got no long range weapons either, so we just stayed high and watched them. Later we’d drop bombs on them, or just anything heavy. There was this idea going round that there was no collateral damage anymore – how many people could there possibly be once the Spines got started? Those fucking things were relentless. So no one cared what happened to the stuff around them. We put a lot of holes in the world.

“That was before Day Three. Stupid names, suggests they’re all consecutive days. Makes no sense, like naming events after the dates they happened on. Americanisms. But Christ, when that started. I don’t know, worse than Day One. We saw it happening, everyone did. So did the radio guys. They said it was like someone had put a call through the whole planet. It scared the shit out of everyone. It was like a backwards mining operation – the millions of dead digging themselves out of the rubble and the streets and dragging themselves to the Spines. Not zombies, but just… crawling.

“Look – I don’t want to talk about this. You know. Someone else can do this bit. I don’t like to think about it. That’s how they made the domes alright. Look, I’m almost out of time. I need to suit up. My Beta-Hari’s waiting. We’re going to burn Birmingham today, scour it of those fucking necro-domes. They used to talk about a purifying fire, well that’s what we’ve got, and if you ever wanted to be buried – tough. We all get cremated now. I just hope there’s something left at the end of it all. If there is an end.

“You want a scary thought? Yeah, another one. Well there’s global warming already obviously – we’re dumping more fire into the atmosphere than ever before, plus the nukes and the power stations breaking down and the fires we didn’t even start. Hey, maybe it’ll help. I heard the tsunami that hit Japan killed everything, and I mean everything. Smashed the Spines to pieces.

“Oh yeah – scary thought: what’s Day Four? Yeah, exactly. Anyway, I’ve got to go. Wish us luck.”

The War Alone will continue… but not next week. Probably.

Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

I like kids films. I’m even starting to enjoy Disney again, which is good since they now own everything I’ve ever loved (Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars). Their animated films are finally getting better – Tangled was a good start and Wreck-It Ralph is delightful. The setup is all there in the trailer – the bad guy from an ‘80s 8-bit arcade game has had enough of being an outcast and quests through other games to win a medal and the respect of his pixelled pals.

Wreck-It Ralph

I very much enjoyed John C Reilly as Ralph – a sad, yet hopeful voice like a dog left outside a supermarket. The film opens with him attending a support group for game villains (including Zangief and Bowser). A zombie has his heart torn out to make a point –my kind of film. The cheery conceit of game characters having their own lives after hours is done so much better than in Tron, plus you can coo over forgotten game characters from your childhood.

Ralph blunders through a Halo-esqe Duty Calls first-person shooter (it looks amazing) and nearly destroys Sugar Rush, the racing game in which he is redeemed and finds friendship and all the stuff you’d expect.

It’s funny (apart from an epically unfunny and dead silent minute when the bullied “glitch” racer gives a string of tiresome duty = doody gags. Not one child laughed: this is because in the UK we often pronounce the letter T and don’t find turd jokes as funny as the writers), there are gun battles (with the female hero of Duty Calls, voiced by Jane Lynch), love and candy car races. Gosh, everything really. It also looks amazing, moving between comic pixellation to gorgeous 3D dreamscapes. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.


If only Cineworld could focus even a single film I’d be able to tell you how good the Paper Man  short was at the beginning. I liked it, but couldn’t really see it. Imbeciles.


This week, Monday 28th January 2013

Life is a Lot Like A Spreadsheet

Merly Lego Beast2One of the greatest, and most ignored tragedies of human existence is not war, or famine or disease – all of which are terrible yet somehow intrinsic to our species Darwininan blundering – but spreadsheets. I spend hours staring at those imaginary grids of data, verifying, analysing, cursing and burning the wee hours of my life away. Many of us do. It is utterly without value. Even the purported organisation value of the activity is likely to be ultimately worthless as well. I will grudgingly concede that the activity does provide the money that keeps me in a house, Lego, whiskey and books. But still…

In recompense I create. I have my mind returned to me at the end of the day, albeit in a dissolute state of statistical angst and then I can do something with it.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday The Reluctantly Hospitable Adventure

Ye captain returns in another short piratical jaunt about the relative merits of hiring ye ship out.

Wednesday A Second Cup of Coffee

Poor stupid Percy continues his cafe-based experiences. It gets a bit more serious than choking.

Thursday Lego Creations: The Hoth Christmas Wonderland

I know it’s not Christmas yet/still, but I haven’t had the heart to take this apart yet.

Friday Book Review: Nodal Convergence

A short review of the eBook by Terrence E Zavecz.

Updates on my thrilling life


Quite good – mainly fixing and tidying up stuff that I’ve scribbled in my “challenging” handwriting. That already appalling hand is not aided by having my right writing hand in a splint, or rather my modified rollerblading glove from back when I could face that much exercise. Yes… I continued to cycle this week. But I didn’t fall off in the ice. The wrist is still bad on its own. I now have a radiology appointment (which always sounds awesome, even though I know it’s “just” for an x-ray) after which they’ll probably tell me to splint it, like I have done. So that’s a probable win.

I’m pleased that the The War Alone has been popular with some of my friends. I shall definitely visit it further. The two short stories for this week were both written in the last fortnight. I’ve wanted to get back to Percy for a while, and find some purpose for him. That appears to be evolving as we read.

This week I’m going to type up some of the longer stories I have been toying with. I also need to get to grips with typing stories directly into the electroverse. I often struggle with this, I think it’s because I see an immediate opportunity to tinker and edit which I don’t feel I have when handwriting. Discipline required. Balls.

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankaz’eroth: The Dead God of Bitter Verse A little more bitching and whining in poetical format.

Wednesday The Magical Space Engine A dinky little flash fiction story of magic and science.

Thursday The War Alone: The Beta-Haris, part Three The final part of one man’s story of survival in The War AlonePart 1 and part 2 here.

Friday Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph A short review of the new Disney film.


Fresh LegoA relatively quiet Lego week – mostly because I haven’t been at home much. On Monday I finished the course of counselling I’ve been going through, which has wiped out a good many Mondays in an alcoholic blur of self-indulgent introversion. I’m pleased, partly because I get Monday nights back (ooh rah, cinemah!) and partly because I think I’m better. I have new Lego though! From a dear friend who is making space for another dear friend to move in with her I have received a number of loverly bundles of new Lego to play with. Step one: disassemble. There’s some lovely stuff in there, including vines and Ewoks. Some of it may require an expansion / rebuild of The Woodland Whimsy. Excellent news. We also acquired a couple more mini figure cases to contain more of my other half’s obsession with Lego mini figures.


A splendid week of improv; this being a show week it has taken its toll physically and mentally. Tuesday continues to be Fisticuffs night, and this time I persuaded my other half to join us, to great comic effect and satisfaction for us both. We’re still practicing the Unspeakable Acts format which Martin has devised. We begin with a play (or screenplay) and use it to give the scenes a solid grounding and context, then abandon it after maybe a page and create it for ourselves. We did three different sets; the first using The Empire Strikes Back – I played a Tauntaun concerned that Luke didn’t know my gender, or my name. That lack of awareness of difference and cultural sensitivity carried through much of the scene, with tonnes of fannish nonsense thrown in. It was definitely harder making something new out of what we already knew so well, but the play we performed was certainly not Star Wars: “Tatooine, desert planet, spice…” Then we re-created The Godfather (a film I find too tedious to endure) in Yorkshire with a lasagna cabal. Lots of fun, much playing with metaphors. I can’t remember the third one… I’ve recorded them somewhere.

A fun jam on Thursday preceded an outstanding show at The Glee Club on Friday. It probably helped that the team had also all played together on Tuesday at Fisticuffs (Lloydie, Martin, Ben, Marilyn, Parky and myself). We had a wonderfully large and noisy audience and some really funny and peculiar scenes for them. We’ve slightly shortened the show’s running time and it works better. We ended with the popular Party Quirks and seriously made Ben suffer to guess Kurt Cobain (he’s only young), but managed to get Hetty Wainthrop and the sandworms of Arrakis fairly quickly. A fine night that concluded in a huge snowstorm! Awesome.

We got up painfully early the next day to get some quality workshop time with Alan Starzinski from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theatre in New York. We’ve spent good time with several folks from UCB and Alan was no exception. There were only six of us, so we got a lot done and I found Alan’s manner and attitude very productive. I like his use of film and video games as metaphors for improv. He introduced us to ‘flashing’ for inspiration, and trying to use all of that which inspires us, and also to two forms: the Eventae (maybe just with an acute French accent, but I like the latinish ring to this) and Tracers. We had a few cracks at the former where you present a set up scene – some major event for all players, then bounce through a series of scenes leading up to it exploring each character in more depth. The finale is returning to that original scene with all that extra information and re-creating it. Tricky, but worth playing with further. Tracers may appeal to some of our elements even more as it obeys the traditional unities of time and place allowing only scenes that take place in the same five minute (for example) slot.

A busy week. No wonder we slept until one o’clock today!

Events and Excitement

Improv shows

Wednesday 06/02/13 MissImp Presents… Fisticuffs in: Unspeakable Acts – The City Gallery, Nottingham.
Friday 08/02/13           Mission Improbable – Create Theatre, Mansfield.
Friday 22/02/13           MissImp in Action: Improvised Comedy Show – The Glee Club, Nottingham.

The Reluctantly Hospitable Adventure

Bantams Spank“Turn ye face away, I’ve no wish to endure the dim-witted gaze of ye mooncalf features.” Under me fierce scowls the thick-cheeked passenger sulkily turned his face back to the sea. Very soon he’d be filling the belly of one of the excitable sea beasts which presently cavorted in the bloody lumps that used to be his companions. Wesley was his name, Wesley of Oingham, a lord of minor repute with acres of land – a  worthless commodity to the ocean and its folk. Within an hour of boarding he was exhibiting all the traits of one born with silver forks up his arse by chundering copiously about the decks and demanding the feathers of a baby swan to swab his sticky chin. Ye will likely sympathise with me immediate instinct to set the fellow a-fire. “Zero tolerance for boorish landlubbers”: that’s me newest motto and we’d be executing the notion, and the lord, at ten bells.

Ye see, after a difficult few months while we lingered in the economic doldrums (for piracy and even honest tax fraud may be challenged when no one’s got gold for thieving), No Hands Mick had proposed that we draw in ye tourist shillings by offering passage on The Grim Bastard, or rather on The Bantam’s Spank as we’d renamed her so as to appeal to the soft-witted and gentrified land algae. By the second Thursday of offerin’ a boating service we’d ferried endless elderly matrons across the river and filled our books with those keen for seaborne adventure and the thrill of seeing a fishy in its proper place.

Coddling’s not the way to deal with pirates, for they takes every inch ye offer and are then reluctant to cling to the mast in a storm. However, we found that the lard-swaddled lord and lady had different expectations of their “cruise”. The shit-seats at the stern disturbed ’em and they were noisily resentful about bunking with the mates in the Stenchhole. Don’t get me wrong, tis a vile and villainous deck on which I’d not set me foot without first dousing it (the deck, not me foot) with alcohol and fire, but this Wesley lad was furious and bellowed fit to affright an amorous walrus. Even his lady-wife expressed alarmed by the shade of scarlet his cheeks achieved. For the sake of peace from his wobble-chinned rage we emptied out the little cupboard by the powder room, kicked a bed into it and rammed the pair into their executive suite. Gimpy, the powder monkey was a mite put out but since he could fit neatly into a drawer beneath the galley’s clam drainer, everyone was equally unhappy.

Half a week later in the middle of a fine dessert of neck custard and knee biscuit, in spite of our sightings of a dead dolphin, a killer squid and just two minor sea battles, the ham-faced lord slammed down his fist in protest. In doing so he propelled a knife across the table and into the remaining eye of poor Gimpy (t’other was lost to a fuse error) who stood by the table, bearing a lamp so as to light our meal. Justly, for cutlery belongs to the table not the face, Gimpy ran off screaming. Knives in the eyes will do that to a young lad. We were plunged into darkness and surprise. Uncommon laughter spilled out of Lord Wesley’s mouth and he slapped his breeches with glee. Less than a second later he was flat on his back with Mick’s cutting hand pressed to his throbbing throat. No Hands Mick’s a touch protective of the young ones: he mourns them all, crab-eaten, gull-snatched, accidentally made into yoghurt – they all have his prayers.

Now I must confess myself torn: I likes a spot of slapstick and the be-flung blade had the hallmarks of the circus. And yet but our passengers had been naught but grief since they’d boarded, and they had just blinded me powder lad. Of course he might have some use yet as bait, or decoy. Me mind was made up when planking and caulk fell upon us from all directions and a vast boom rocked The Bantam’s Spank. Poor Gimpy had fled to his old comforting nook but in his blindness had bumbled into the powder room with his lantern a-dangle.

Quelling the Lord’s moans with me fist and a light touch of peg to rib, I stomped off to assess the damage. Twas not good. We debated our options, in accordance with honest piratical practice. Realising that we’d already taken Lord Wesley’s payment was a moment o’ brilliant revelation for me. So in short order we tossed his servants overboard and perched him on the diving board and jammed his wife in the jacuzzi for later ransom (we’d made a number of alterations for cruise comfort). That’ll teach him for being rude about me ship. Oh and the eyeball thing. And the explosion. Bloody passengers.

Slightly Broken: New Year; New Me

It’s been quite a long time since my last post. I am still alive, in case you were wondering. Before Christmas I felt that I had reached some critical point in my counselling and understanding of myself in relation both to the abuse that I was the victim of and the convolutions of emotional distress that resulted from it. It was like turning a page to the next chapter in a book, the lightening of the sky at dawn, the opening of a box of chocolates… I don’t know. Similes fail me. I felt different, untroubled by the past, or at least untroubled by this specific aspect of the past. I knew that I’d be having a three week break from counselling. So that was a test of sorts, while my sleeping tablet prescription ran out I had two weeks of holiday over Christmas, in which I’d be with the Lady M and really very few other people. An excellent test of whether the stress of my past had simply been overtaken and displaced by the various stresses of work (fucking crazy leading up to Christmas) and whether it would resurrect itself in my mind, some hideous Lazarus monster reawakened and wreaking havoc.
Perhaps inevitably I slept very strangely over Christmas – lacking both the routine (hey, it’s Christmas) and the reassurance of drugs. That was okay though; I was prepared for that, and mostly it really didn’t matter. I can deal without sleep, I just forget that I can. I was delighted / didn’t really notice that my mind was mostly clear. I wasn’t troubled with thoughts of Ric and all that shit. On the rare occasions that something drifted up to the surface I found it easy to bob along to other matters. I don’t really know why. I put myself through a lot before Christmas. I suppose I was ready to do so, and I knew what I wanted to force myself to do. It seems to have worked.
My mind is… different. I feel like a different person; one unbound by the past. I can conceive of the future – I don’t know what is in it, or what I’m supposed to do with it, but it doesn’t feel impossible. I could be in it. I have to decide how. I’m already looking forwards to shows, and writing and activities. It doesn’t fill me with horror to fill a date in my diary.
I was supposed to see my counsellor on the fourteenth of January, but it was delayed a week by the snow. That was a slightly tense week as I waited for the awfulness to rise once more, and worse still as I anticipated the session: I feared that having to talk about abuse and things would bring back the feelings. My hope was for one session, maybe two to assure myself that I was on the right path and that Christmas was alright and so might the future be. We met on the twenty-first and it was fine. I had been fine. There was no reason that I ought not continue to be fine. So that was our last session.
I can go back if I want to, if I need to, if that submarine terror rises again. I don’t know whether it will or not. I hope it doesn’t. But if it does I know that I have all the material I need to make it go away again. The experience of counselling has been fascinating; as my counsellor pointed out – I have painstakingly retained all of the items (diaries, letters, photographs) I could need to revisit, relearn and comprehend what my mind had misplaced, forgotten and misunderstood. I don’t know what I would have done without that ghastly archive. I was looking after myself all along by retaining them, wrapping them and hiding them from my prying, forgetful eye. Our minds care for themselves? I’m not sure.
Whatever sorting and sifting I needed to do has been done. Now I just have the ordinary worries and concerns; I suspect I am still shielding myself from some of them. I have not fully grasped the concept of future. I feel the tension of work, and of working and socialising with people I don’t trust or like in a different way. They aren’t cloaked in the shadow of abuse; that’s not my overriding paradigm anymore. I don’t know how to deal with those problems, but as I said and felt with my counsellor, those aren’t the problems that I needed help to resolve – those are ordinary, standard problems; sexual abuse and the destruction of self are rather different. So I’ve freed my counsellor – an excellent and wonderful person – to go and help someone else, someone who needs what I needed. I’m free.

A Second Cup of Coffee


“Total Removals. You say where, we say when.”



“You said ‘you say where, we say when’.”


“So I said ‘where’.”

“You trying to be funny?”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I’m just a bit nervous.”

“That’s quite all right sir, there’s no need to worry. We’ll take care of everything.”

Percy’s face sagged with relief and he gave a quick thumbs up to the barista. Killing the man in the cafe had not been part of the plan. Not much had been; the plan was sparse at best: meet the man, take the briefcase, leave. It sounded good. Simple, uncomplicated. It sounded like a good plan to someone who didn’t do planning well. The clarity had especially appealed to Percy, for whom planning was alien.

He had arrived at the cafe on time and remembered not to have a coffee – it tended to get caught in his throat when he was tense. Instead he got a large muffin, loaded with raisins. The barista stabbed a fork into it and sulked off into the backroom. He hated staying late for these people. Percy managed not to notice and sat at the sole illuminated table in the coffee shop.

He didn’t have to wait long. A tall man, carrying a case, slid through a narrow opening of the door, like a cat between legs. The miserable barista squeezed a few meagre drops of coffee into a mug and slouched off again. Percy beamed with anxiety and sweating good cheer. He pushed out a chair and gestured violently towards it. The man looked confused. Percy patted the seat encouragingly. The man looked at him as if Percy were an idiot (an apt summation). However, since the rest of the coffee shop was filled with shadows and Percy’s was the only table with a light above it, he sighed and dragged another chair over and sat down. He placed his coffee as far from Percy as the tiny table would allow and turned to face the window.

Percy grinned wildly as the gentleman placed his case on the floor. Percy nodded knowingly and reached for the briefcase. As his damp fist closed over the handle the man grabbed for it defensively.

“No no, it’s okay. I know what I’m doing,” said Percy with a reassuring wink. The other man gave him the idiot look again, seized the case and pulled hard. Percy pulled even  harder, hauling the perplexed and angry man across the table. Percy wrested it off him and fell backwards in his chair, the case clutched to his chest. The man fell forwards and let out a surprised “oof”, then lay on the table. Percy sighed in relief; he really hadn’t wanted to screw this up. He climbed back on to his feet and set the chair upright again. The man still lay, still, across the table.

“Up we get, all sorted now,” Percy said jovially, delighted with how easily the plan had played out – a full two thirds of the plan had been accomplished already. He nudged the man. No response. Anxiety filled Percy’s face and it crumpled like a dam under the flood of perspiration. He shoved the man harder. The man rolled off the table and on to his back on the floor. Percy’s muffin stood proudly upright in the man’s chest, quivering on the end of his fork. Blood soaked the front of the once-white shirt.

Percy’s high-pitched wail of distress brought the barista back out. He took one look at the body on the floor, sighed, and withdrew a business card from under the till. “Call this number,” he said. Percy commenced babbling. “Just call the number you…” his words were lost to Percy’s panicked ears as he retreated into whatever hole grumpy service staff lurk in.

Percy’s hands shook as he dialled in the number. He tried not to look at the body, but didn’t want to turn his back on it in case it came back to life.

“Total Removals. You say where we say when.” Percy got through the initial awkwardness, gave the address and was firmly instructed to exit the premises but leave the back door unlocked. Percy rang the bell on the counter for attention and received a scowl in return.

“Apparently we need to leave now,” he evaded the deepening scowl, “sorry about all this.”

“Why did you kill the guy?”

“It was an accident. I just wanted a muffin. And the case. I was only supposed to take the briefcase,” he shook the trophy he’d won in the tug of war.

“It’s not much of a briefcase is it? More like a satchel really.”

Percy looked more closely at the bag he was holding. The door to the coffee shop swung open. A tall man stood in the doorway, smartly suited with a briefcase under his arm. He took in the obviously dead body lying, as if in a tableau in the pool of light, then the sweaty sight of Percy clutching the bag and the indifferent barista standing in the gloom; he hastily fled. The door closed in his wake.

“Now that,” the barista commented, “that was a nice briefcase.”

Lego Creations: The Hoth Christmas Wonderland

A Winter Wonderland

We had no snow last Christmas, though the last couple of weeks have partially made up for that criminal absence. The first few days of  Christmas were occupied almost solely in resurrecting our kitchen after having it gutted and refitted painfully close to Christmas itself. I barely got to wrapping presents until Christmas Eve. Once I was finished with that and there was a series of programmes about Ronnie Barker to watch I got me Lego out.

What to make, what to make?

We had been enjoying the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar all through December and the final sets were these fantastic snow R2 unit and a Santa Maul. They were irresistibly destined to be used somewhere, in something. I just love the use of carrots and coal for the R2 droid. Overall the calendar was not as good as last year’s. The vehicles tended to be from Episodes 1-3, which just aren’t as interesting as proper Star Wars.

I’d used up most of the greens and browns to make The Woodland Whimsy (I have more now!) and had already separated out all the white and grey pieces. I had quite a bit, though no large baseplate to build on. Some kind of Christmas scene was called for, and what is more Christmassy than Hoth? I always think of Hoth whenever I think of snow, so combining it all was fun.

As I said, I had quite a bit of white, but no large structural pieces, so the base of the diorama is clumsily pegged together. However, I do like the uneven levels and surfaces it creates.

So here’s the whole thing, from the front. It is much smaller than The Woodland Whimsy owing to time and parts.

I wanted to create a series of min-dioramas in one, so right at the front we have the most Christmassy part with the 5N0W droid and Maul. Immediately behind them we have the Rebel troops on the left (including the fantastic facial expression on the dude in khaki), shooting up the Imperials on the right. The cannons they have here are adapted from those included in the advent calendar. I like to re-use.

Behind them (and sort of between them) is the Lego AT-AT (my single favourite model from the advent calendar) attacking the Rebel base defended by the snowspeeder. I found I had to add blue and the occasional off-white brick to stop the whole landscape blurring weirdly when I looked at it. In retrospect it works well.

Right at the back is the best scene in Empire (contentious, even with myself), Luke suspended in the Wampa cave waiting to be torn to pieces. I had particular fun making the ice cave itself. The horn/bone pieces are good for icicles, and again I enjoyed the irregular structures you can make. The beast is not a Wampa, because I don’t have that set. He’s from the Orient Expedition Yeti’s Hideout set. He’s on a revolving base and has the head of a Gungan. I couldn’t find my actual Jar-Jar but I figured any racial stereotype would do. Luke’s lightsaber is tantalisingly close, and can be wiggled. I was pleased to find I had a couple of skeletons knocking about as well.

Here are a few shots from different angles, so please have a look and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.