This week, Monday 1st July 2013

Welcome to July.

July? How on earth can it be July now? I’m sure it was April last week. Maybe it’s an aspect of getting older but (my remaining) time seems to bound forward alarmingly. I suspect I notice it most in the run up to my birthday – it’s now a month away so I can’t ignore it any more. My other half keeps tempting me with Lego – she’s been/will have been to two Lego Stores in a fortnight. I bleed with envy. I may settle for a cup full of pretty bricks.

Furthest From The SeaFFTS_2013_1Miraculously the sun has appeared and produced some semblance of summer this last weekend, which was fortuitous for the Furthest From The Sea Festival. It’s been a very fine weekend with the regular monthly show at The Glee Club on Friday and the long day in the sun on Saturday. It was a fiercely early beginning of the day as I attempted to put up flags and carry chairs with Scott Thomas; it shouldn’t have been quite so challenging.

The comedy stage under Tony Bigissue Peppiatt‘s guidance kicked off at 11.30 and I rolled out my Captain Pigheart nonsense to a satisfying crowd. I didn’t get to see much else on the comedy stage as it became one of those days of wandering between places and talking to people about improv. There was however the regular sound of familiar musicians drifting across the square which made for a rather lovely day.

We finished it off with a MissImp trio performing an Unspeakable Act based on the Rocky screenplay. I don’t think it usually ends with priest Rocky knocking out the Pope shouting “Jesus was a Jew”. Fine work! I think it was one of those lovely days that cements friendships; nothing bonds people more than dismantling a festival. Thanks to friends and family who could make it along for the ride.

Huge thanks to Matt McGuinness and Tony Peppiatt in particular but with tonnes of respect for the fine graphics of Matt Newton and everyone else who put an awesome amount of work into the best free festival in the East Midlands (I don’t know what happens out West).

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Hayfevered Dreams: A Brain-Scrambled Story #1 My mind is filled with goop, that’s bound to go well into a story.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Disordered Man, this Lego is a mess.

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 12 “Hark, The Wings” The series is back!

Friday Film Review Round Up: Man of Steel, Despicable Me 2, Snitch, World War Z  Super short multi-film review time.

Updates on my thrilling life


I got a surprising amount of last week’s scribblings done on time, though not necessarily in the order I wanted. Ho hum. I’m ending up writing more stuff about myself, particularly my mental health than I’d ever really planned to. I’m not sure why that’s happening – apologies if it’s distracting from the fiction. I suppose it’s just what I feel driven to write at the moment; the gap between my day and my brain is narrower than I’d like.

Last week’s scribbles

Lego MemoriesAutofiction: Betrayal When I’m angry I like to let it out; you’d like me when I’m angry.

Autofiction: Anxiety Games The weird experiences of anxiety and panic.

The Desert Crystals – The Journals Biologinary #3 The third zoological interludes – The Tooth-Furred Gambimole.

Lego Blog: Lego Memories I dig out my old and beloved Lego Space from the ’80s.


I still have a huge bucket of black, white and grey Lego to sift through, and possibly wash before I can do much with it – the warm weather may make that less of a hassle this week. I’ve also been the recipient of yet more lovely Lego bits from last year’s Lego City advent calendar (thank you Jefuz!). And, in further acquisitorial news The Daily Racist, sorry – Mail had Lego giveaways this weekend. Normally I can’t bear to see a penny spattered on their worthless hate-filled words but Lego will persuade me to give them money and hand back their newspaper. Even better on Sunday we foudn a copy on the train and filled in the coupon. So I now have three Gandalfs and a cool little black car. Victory!

Improv Comedy

Fun show on Friday, it was a bit odd being back down in the claustrophobically ceilinged floor one performance space but I very much enjoyed the work of our team. We did some pretty thoughtful, theatrical improv I think.

Get up Rocky, ya wuss.

Martin, David and I took to the comedy stage at the Furthest From The Sea Festival too. I was very tempted to change our intended show and just do a bunch of scenes off the back of the previous stand up comic whose material was filled with weirdness. Sadly the daytime nature of the show and the kids in the audience didn’t really help her out. Instead we stuck to Unspeakable Acts, offering the audience a choice of Rocky, Titanic and The Phantom Menace as base material. They chose Rocky. It is a terrible screenplay and I don’t think we got further than opening scene where Rocky is battered by (and I kid you not) “BLACK FIGHTER”. We were sold, and proceeded to tell a story about racist Rocky turning to the church via going to war and ending up fighting the Pope in the ring. Great fun, and the audience loved it. Most satisfying…

Parky and I had our last session with the beginners’ class last Monday too. It’s been a wonderful experience; we’ve got as much out of it as the students I think. We need to figure out what to do next for them, to facilitate their development and interest. Personally I’m also glad to have Monday evenings back again! I’ve been consistently impressed with their ability to absorb improv ideas and apply them – we’ve seen some wonderful scenes and I look forwards to playing with them in future.

Media Intake


I burned through A Planet For The President by Alistair Beaton. It’s an easy reading little political satire and I enjoyed it despite it being rather predictable – I just didn’t find the idea of the American government killing the rest of the world that suprising, or much of a stretch. I’ve moved on Peter F Hamilton’s book of (long) short stories Manhattan In Reverse and am finding myself on reassuring and comfortable sci-fi ground.


I’ve taken a couple of days off and overloaded on okay films – too many to compactly scribble about here, so I’m going to try to update you on those later in the week. For reference, I’ve seen The Losers (again – still good fun), Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, World War Z and Snitch. I have eaten a lot of popcorn.

Events and Excitement

Gorilla Burger – Thursday 11th July

7.30pm at The Corner, Nottingham.
Live improvised lunacy from anyone willing to get up on the stage. Bring your own booze!

Knickerbocker Glorious – Saturday 20th July

11-3 at The Fountain, Market Place, Derby.
I’m compering a day of free music, comedy and spoken word entertainment.

MissImp in Action – Friday 26th July

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.
Weeks That Have Come Before

This week, Monday 3rd June 2013 (

This week, Monday 10th June 2013 (

This week, Monday 17th June 2013 (

Hayfevered Dreams: A Brain-Scrambled Story #1


I’d run, if I could. But I can’t get more than two steps before I convulse with sneezing. My skull’s trying to escape straight through the front of my face. Its weight hangs on me; I’m sure my skin is stretching. Fearful of corruption, my bones might be the only part of me that survives this mucosal hell. I’ll have to stop – it’s gone midday and with the sun’s success the plants are celebrating. I’d hoped to get further today – the rocky plains beyond these damnable meadows are almost dead except for some weird lichen, but I think I can handle them. With luck I’ll hit their barren charms tomorrow, I can almost taste the sea breeze that scours the air there.
There’s no shelter here, unless you perversely count the trees (already preparing to toss their load of twig jism into the air). My eyes are twitching, my face is swelling. Soon my nose will be a twin stream juicer drooling snot down me. I’d literally kill for a packet of tissues; my sleeves have barely dried out since yesterday’s torture. I reckon I can tell the difference in taste between the pollen now. It’s always the grass first – a thickness I can feel at the top of my lungs that makes my ears tickle. A thin layer of slime spreads across the roof of my mouth and I know it’s time to stop. I can’t do anything about the next seven or eight hours.
I fall down a steep bank and roll into a stream. It’s not ideal, but I’ll be able to regularly dunk my face in the water. I’m avoiding thinking about what might be in the water. And that’s my afternoon and evening: eyes swollen shut, nose and sinuses so overwhelmed that they gum up and hemorrhage simultaneously. I can barely breathe. Harsh, choking breaths that just draw in more of the foul pollens that infest the air.
It’s the flowers. They’re trying to breed with me. Trying to fuck my cells into new baby plants and flowers. The survey showed nothing – six months of scans and probes in the planet’s winter: no worries. Plenty of plantlife’s supposed to be a good thing, especially when their proteins are miraculously the right way up making for a sustainable food resource. That’s pretty rare – the universe doesn’t usually twist in our favour. My hayfever was a minor problem – irritating but entirely treatable, especially by the military grade pharmaceuticals we were dropped with. I wish I’d had them as a child. Anyway, it wasn’t long before it got badly fucked up. Spring changed everything. I guess it was Clark who we have to thank for it. The guy liked flowers; botanists do. I like how they look, that’s as far as I’ll go – and now, I don’t think I’ll go that far. He insisted on some of the prettier varieties getting potted up inside the compound and in his cabin, said they smelled nice.
We found him dead, obviously. His plants had bloomed. Everything in his cabin was covered in a thin coat of pollen. I left immediately I was sneezing so badly. We hardly needed the post mortem. There were bristled stems and leaves punching through his skin, his eye sockets had nurtured two beautiful tulip like plants. Everyone was upset. The next day Clark got up and started wandering around. We were all upset then. The fucking pollen had burrowed into his nervous system, hijacked it and taken him over. It wasn’t him of course – Clark was dead, very dead – but the flower was now mobile. Until I flamed it up. Yet more upset.
Contamination and containment procedures were reinforced, scouring showers swept the rising pollen count off our suits; the environment units howled with the effort of scrubbing that crawling flower spaff out of our air. It all failed. The machines died first, overwhelmed by the pollen. We followed. Without the jets and sprays we couldn’t get ourselves clear of the stuff. We doubled, tripled, quintupled doses of antibodies but they just didn’t work fast enough. Once that herby jizz was in your eyes or lungs it was just a matter of time. I took to carrying the flamethrower around with me. I suppose that might seem harsh, but until you’ve seen your friends fall to a bunch of fucking flowers and then seen them get up and wander around, maybe delay judgement for a bit.
It wasn’t long before I was the only one left. Turns out my natural over-active histamine response was keeping me clean. I suppose I should be grateful for that, but it’s hard to be thrilled when you’ve got mucous flowing down your throat. So yeah – this is me. Running through a forest full of fornicating flowers that want to fuck me in the eyes, nose and throat. I almost feel like I’m going to make it. Almost. I gashed my hand open falling over a tree trunk yesterday. It doesn’t look too bad, but it itches abominably. I prised open the edge of the wound underwater to clean it and I’m not sure, but I think I can see a thin line of green under the skin. There’s not much I can do about it.
Before I left the camp I made myself a badge. It doesn’t say much, just “if I’ve got flowers in my hair burn me”. I hope that’s clear enough.

Lego Blog: Disordered

Automatic Building


Lego continues to hold a magical sway over me, even when I can only use the bricks within arm’s reach. Sometimes this happens because I’ve been enpickulated (trapped by Merly), other times it is the result of my natural laziness. I think there’s a lot of value in the random, purposeless building. It’s like automatic writing, or blind painting – you let go and allow the patterns and shapes that reside in your mind to find expression through one medium or other. I guess with Lego more structure is imposed than with drawing, but on the other hand we’re (probably) expanding out in multiple directions. I like that. It feels… like it has potential.

Now whether you attach meaning to those loose-minded rambles in word, ink or brick is a different matter I reckon. I’m sure psychologists have much to say on the subject. I feel it’s more that we identify a pattern of some kind and follow it. It feels like the natural and right thing to do – pursue and promote the pattern; to break the pattern might feel like rejection. That already might be reading too much into it.

Shuffle Heap

I need to reassemble my travelling Lego case. It’s for lunchtimes and train travel… Tricky to get yourself a decent mixture of Lego though. Usually I dismantle a couple of small-medium kits and use the resulting brick broth for joy. If I don’t have that option I’ll just go for what’s in reach. As I haven’t sorted the stuff from home I just swept the top layer into a tray and reclined. And kept adding bits… But I ended up with a weird stressed structure- it’s interesting to see how far bricks can be stretched and bent!

While it’s not a build I especially wanted to continue- the jumble is too jumbled to ever have been a proper building, but it has made me think about damaged stonework in a different way. It’s also lead me to disassemble it and begin again. This time with more bricks of course. And yeah, I think those are supposed to be flamethrowers. I’m not sure why.

The Desert Crystals – Part 12: Hark, The Wings

desert crystals5

Part 12 – Hark, The Wings

Angel Flame, proud owner of the finest wingship this side of the Great Bane Desert hawked and spat at the feet of the man on the other end of her gangplank. She did it daintily though, conveying both distaste and a curious refinement with the projectile. She stood, hands resting lightly on the handles of her pistols which in turn rested lightly on her hips. Her gaze was fixed on the somewhat obese gentleman sweating at the other end of the plank. The gentleman looked politely mortified and mopped the concern from his brow.

“Miss Flame,” he began, lamenting the sound of her name emerging from his mouth, “our mutual friend Mr Chem has, I believe, chartered your vessel for our trip. I merely wish to embark.”

“I take issue with almost every word you uttered. For starters, it’s Captain. Anything less and I’ll put a bullet in you. Further, friend’s a stretch for both us I reckon – I consider this not to be a charter of my choosing, but that’s between me and Eslie. He said nothing about a passenger of your girth, and I’m sure I’d have noted it in his kind instructions.” Sarcasm was not unknown to Angel and she wielded it like her spittle.

The fat man spluttered and reddened further. He was unused to being addressed so discourteously. In addition he had packed his own bags, having dismissed his manservant for a month (his proposed journeying time) and made his own way to the airfield (excepting the taxi of course, but he had at least dragged his cases from the taxi, if not to it). And now he was being denied permission to even board.

“My apologies Captain,” pride could be choked back for a moment, and rank was something he understood, “allow me to introduce myself. I fear Mr Chem may have let us both down in this regard. I am Professor Guldwych Ryme, of Meriodonal University, and the commissioner of this charter.”

“Ah, well. An academic life would explain your waist, though it poses me a problem. I’ve eight rough lasses and lads who’ll double for crew and cook, plus myself and the inimitable Eslie Chem, wherever he might be at present. I’ve space for one more, but you’ve the diameter of two.” Ryme began to get the impression he would not be enjoying a luxury cabin for this adventure. “You may bring a bag and a case and what you can carry, but that chest remains. We’ve neither space nor the wings to put it all aloft.”

The object of Ryme’s subsequent muttered curses lurked in the stairwell that lead to cabins and engines and was most importantly out of sight. He had a certain fondness for both Ryme and Flame, associates of old from whom he was owed favours and held secrets in reserve. There was something satisfying about pairing the two; he knew they’d get on. Choosing not to supply either one with all the details was a game he barely knew he played, so naturally it came to him. He chose to end their suffering.

“Ryme, Flame. I see you’ve met. How wonderful.”

“Ah, there you are. This… Captain,” Ryme selected the appropriate term with barely a pause, “informs me that my luggage will not fit.”

“Were you able to empty your belly your chest would be welcome,” replied Flame.

“Indeed. The Captain does have the final say aboard ship I’m afraid Professor, but I daresay we could squeeze a few of your keepsakes under a bunk here or there.”

Flame snorted, “you’ll be leaving your bottles behind in balance then Eslie?”
“Let’s see what you can live without shall we,” Chem suggested, stepping past the Captain with iron in his eye.

Flame smirked and withdrew from the end of the gangplank, “the third cabin’s for you Ryme – you’ll be sharing with Knocker and Tosser. They’ll give you a hand stowing your things. You’ve five minutes to make your selections.” So saying she returned to the wingship’s cockpit with a whistle for her mates.

“Sharing?” Ryme began before Chem shushed him and popped open the chest.

“It’s the fastest most available ship there is Professor. There’s always a trade off. We might be a week behind The Dove’s Eye but The Sky Viper will make up that time and more.” He gestured to the ship behind him, “it’s fast, her crew’s dependable – you can rely on Captain Flame alright, and the crew will see our purpose when we do catch up. Now you can’t possibly need all ten volumes of this anatomical encyclopaedia!”

The debate over goods took up almost the first four minutes of their allowance until a terrifying bald man, scrawled over liberally with tattoos stomped down the gangplank and stared at Ryme. That sped the process remarkably. Within five minutes Ryme’s luggage was crammed into a storage locker or kicked under a bunk. He didn’t have the heart to urge caution.

“By the way – Professor, this is Knocker.” Chem encouraged the pair to shake hands. Ryme’s soft hand was enveloped by the coarse fist.

“Oh, that’s a plainsman’s tribal tattoo isn’t it?” Ryme asked, spotting a familiar symbol on the knuckles of Knocker’s right fist. Oddly this proved to be the right thing to say: Knocker’s formidable features softened into creases that would only seem threatening in a bar. In moments they were engrossed in conversation.

Somewhat disappointed, Chem left them to it. He joined Captain Flame in the cockpit as she snapped orders into the horns, directing her crew in the engine room and motor pits. A tremendous flapping commenced, shaking the ship with each beat. It was shortly followed by the propeller roar which tugged the The Sky Viper down the runway field. The beating increased in vigour until they suddenly separated from the ground and soared into the sky.

Next Week: Part 13 – A Chamber of Horrors

In the same series:

Film Review Round Up: Man of Steel, Despicable Me 2, Snitch, World War Z (2013)

A Small Caveat

Spoilers ahead! There’s no point me telling you what I thought of a film (if indeed you care at all) if I don’t talk about the film and what happens in it. Besides – make up your own damn mind. This is what I think, I assume you won’t necessarily agree. I’d also like to state that I like comics, superheroes, zombies, cartoons and action films. That should set you up. And… go.

Man of Steel (2013)

‘Ard as Nails

Superman… It starts in a way I love – a view of Krypton just before its destruction. They’ve given it a cool future fantasy vibe (any technology sufficiently advanced will always look like magic stuff) which dark, gothic and spacey all at the same time. Loved it. Michael Shannon as General Zod is extremely satisfying – the guy always looks nuts and this role is a good boot for him. Kal-El gets sent off to Earth with a dissolved skull in his tummy (sounds weird – is weird) and I really feared that it would slow down to the usual tedious Supes growing up story. Mostly however, they skip it. We get more of his past in flashback, much of which doesn’t add a great deal to either his character or the story. I am developing a deep loathing for the superhero origin story – we all know the stories – there is no more to tell… skip to the action.

I quite like Henry Cavill‘s mercifully quiet Superman. He looks the part; he’s got some impressive bitch tits on him. The film really kicks off when Zod and co. turn up to bring Clark’s genetic diversity back. Or something – they’ve wrapped a confusing racial purity thing in, but I don’t think it really matters for the story. Some marvellous fights follow, interrupted briefly by the Doctor from Star Trek Voyager – sorry – his Dad in holographic form via his key fob. It’s all good fun, plus they toss in a gravity bonking terraforming machine for good measure. Tens of thousands die, no one cares, Clark and Lois have a cuddle. I hoped, really hoped they would do something different and not do the crappy journalist story line but it’s set up at the end. Oh well, they did get the first decent Superman film in so far.


Despicable Me 2 (2013)

I don’t really remember the first one, only that I didn’t like it as much as Megamind. I did however love the Minions, the silly yellow fellows who speak a daft blend of European languages and nonsense. Thankfully this film is mostly about them. Oh sure, there’s a plot where Grue gets picked up to help finger a super-villain and find a girlfriend who can be mother to his three adopted daughters (because god forbid a lone male should care for children – that’s what women are for), but almost all the gags and the maguffins are the Minions.

In places I found the film extremely funny – the slapstick and silliness are infectious (at least one viewer slipped on the stairs) and I was kept happily entertained. The final songs from the Minions are wonders. Looks good, moves snappily and bodes well for a Minion solo movie too.


Snitch (2013)

I’ll always watch Dwayne Johnson – he’s a big good looking guy with beautiful delicate eyebrows. He uses them for most of his acting and generally it pays off, along with his entirely credible stage fighting. This is a bit of role shift for him – he’s playing the father of a kid rather meanly imprisoned in some (entirely likely US) legal entrapment/cahoots shenanigans. He carries it pretty well and I enjoyed his solution to the legal wrangle – going undercover into drug trafficking to snare some baddies and get his son released. I suspect it’s a measure of how much I like him as a comic/action actor that I felt let down that he doesn’t get to go all out and go on a proper revenge spree. He does smash a bunch of cars quite nastily off the road and fires a shotgun one-handed, so it’s not all bad.

The rest of the cast support well and add credibility to the overall scenario (“based on true events” so it’s presumably miles away from the source story), but really it’s about him and the ex-con he harangues into returning to his violent life. It was a bit long, and I found the end a bit of a let down, but only because I still felt the need for more violence. Oh – I also kind of wanted his son to die in prison, but only just before he’s supposed to be released. It sounds mean but it would have been a better ending and made far more of a statement about America’s cruel and inflexible punishments.


World War Z (2013)

So they’ve ruined Max Brooks’ excellent book collating survivor stories. It really is very good and would have been fantastic if adapted into a TV series where each 3 hour episode was one of the stories. Oh well – let’s move on.

So they’ve ruined Max Brooks’ excellent book collating survivor stories… instead replacing it with a generic zombie apocalypse with a few nods and locations to the source material (e.g. Israel is in it and there are scenes on boats). What it does have is suspense – lots of it. Surprisingly they manage to maintain that despite the 15 rating (aiming for 12A?) with no deaths on screen and precious little blood. Nonetheless, through some remarkably contrived scenes (if you don’t laugh at the last bit in Wales you either haven’t seen enough films or have become overly invested in Brad Pitt’s survival) they get genuine tension, mixed up with the laughs that you need and some great massive crowd scenes (pity about the rubbery Count Dooku people).

I’d have preferred slow zombies and for the filmmakers to resist that urge to explain everything – it doesn’t matter where the rabies variant came from – the film should be about survival, not winning. For pity’s sake. It’s very obvious they had a nightmare shoot and re-shot a tonne of it later. The Israeli soldier lady is a great character but naturally neglected – they do at least have her lose a hand so she can’t be a very effective female soldier and has a man to do stuff for her. That all sounds a bit mean, but it’s okay – I enjoyed it. I just won’t remember it.


Related articles

This week, Monday 8th July 2013

Oh god the sun – it burns!.

Sun bleach beastsIt’s like a fire in the damned sky. I am of course the only person I know complaining about the weather. Apparently it is wonderful. I’m a snow and gloom kinda guy though and this heat really wipes me out. So far I have evaded sunburn despite spending more time out in the sun than in the last year over this last two weekends. I’m not really looking forwards to a week in our greenhouse office (where we routinely consider 28 degrees to be normal). I may even wear shorts. Even if I’m too hot at least others will be frightened by my knees.

Still, despite the weather vile it’s looking like a fine week – I have my other half back, since she’s been getting people killed by zombies again with 2.8 Hours Later‘s Asylum game in Leeds. But she’s back and not stained too badly red this time. It sounds like amazing fun – this time she’s been playing a dying van driver (who dies in front of the audience) who sends the survivors into the back of a van full of zombies. I cannot wait for it to return to Nottingham.

We also have Gorilla Burger this week (see way below for time and place), being run by the marvellous Dr Findell. The recent feature of three specific performance slots emerged out of last month’s superb show with Shannon O’Neal. This month I’ve got the privilege of being in two slots – Eddie’s Top Story team and playing in bromantic duo Bitchcock Kerfuffle with David. There should also be a third team emerging out of new play/show jam night Up and Coming Improv on Monday. Exciting.

Then I get to dick about all day in Derby for Furthest From The Sea and The Cathedral Quarter‘s Knickerbocker Glorious. I’m compering four hours of free live music, comedy and other awesomeness at The Fountain in the Market Place 11-3. Hurray!

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shanktart: Toasted Sugar Rage Poetry Ah poetry, such sweet release.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Abandoned Castle I have successfully made a thing.

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 13 “A Chamber of Horrors” Trapped in the dark tunnels of a flying mountain…

Friday Something Review: Oh God What Will It Be?  I haven’t decided yet…

Updates on my thrilling life


Back in da house. Oh yeah. I’m finally back in the swing again – I have slightly more time and I was very happy to hit my writing targets. It’s the first time in a couple of months I’ve had the time to scribble a random short story and it felt good. I’m even more pleased to finally put in part 12 of The Desert Crystals. Being slightly out of sorts with where I’d gotten to I made the dubious decision to add another story thread. Yay for weaving. Or possibly knitting…

The multi film review got a bit challenging, but then I remembered I only have to say what I want to about a film. They seem to get read, which is nice. Personally I never do read reviews for films – I haven’t found anyone who I trust – so often they’re just really wanky and pretentious. I tend to enjoy fairly trashy action and sci-fi stuff – pulp films I suppose and reviewers seem to be unnecessarily mean without considering that they were going to hate it anyway. I realise I also fall into that latter camp (but After Earth really is fucking terrible)… I am finding myself increasingly aware of the lack of a female presence in films. I noticed it when I started writing reviews and in a brief review I can’t get into all the characters so I usually cover the ones I remember or who seem important to the story – and the ladies aren’t getting a look in. It’s disappointing – I like variety, especially in performance and film is sorely lacking (especially the genres I favour) – poor show film makers, poor show.

Last week’s scribbles

desert crystals5Hayfevered Dreams: A Brain-Scrambled Story #1 The pollen! The pollen!

Lego Blog: Disordered Fun and joy fiddling with bricks.

The Desert Crystals – Part 12: Hark, The Wings We’re back! The adventure continues with pursuit.

Film Review Round Up: Man of Steel, Despicable Me 2, Snitch, World War Z (2013) Lots of films, short reviews.


I consider this week to be a Lego success. I have drooled over Lego online at The Brothers Brick and elsewhere and been continuously taunted with Lego rumours by my other half while she messed about at the Lego Store in Leeds. I have also had a ‘Lego playdate’, finished sorting my Lego by colour – only to doubt myself and begun exploring sorting by shape (thanks Doc!). Not only that but I’ve actually finished a thing! No, not the steampunkery stuff, but the odd little castle diorama I was tinkering at last week. You may see it in full on Wednesday. It’s not large, but I’m quite proud of it.

Improv Comedy

Well it’s all the week ahead really, though I’m also excited beyond that point to soon be getting some training avec le team by Susan Messing (she of US improv mastery), and be sharing the stage with her too, though probably not at exactly the same time. It’s all to play for folks! And then of course we have the show at The Glee Club at the end of the month. In excellent news, we’re booked there until well into next year already.

Media Intake


I finished Peter F Hamilton’s second collection of shorter stories Manhattan In Reverse which were consistently excellent and satisfying. I was especially pleased that several of the tales are based in the Commonwealth timeline with some of my favourite characters like Inspector Myo. Then I started on Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science. It’s a frequently hilarious and deeply worrying assault and expose on the bullshit of “alternative” medicine, nutrition and other deceitful scams and science failures. I’m enjoying it very much- it’s nice to have confirmed the things I see and find myself suspicious of. Critical thinking and scepticism of any kind are horribly neglected.

Last week I downloaded the latest Humble Bundle pay what you want set of books – if you pay over the average you get an extra two books as well. I paid over the average. A splendid set, including two that I already have on paper (Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker) and four others – Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (which I’ve just started) and the two extras The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle and Wil Wheaton’s Just A Geek. Buy now – the average is just $9.52 (or fuck all). It’s a great website – you see how much has been paid in total, average and get to choose how the money you pay is split (authors/charity/tip). Very cool.


Well, after massively overdosing last week I’ve taken it a bit easier and just watched most of the episodes season one of Star Wars The Clone Wars. I’m rather enjoying it – lots of battle, and the anime styling is nice. They keep almost inadvertently hinting at the massive ethical problems of mass-producing clones to be butchered by semi-sentient disposable droids. That’s a bit odd. Anyway, I tend to forget that the prequels (including this) have anything to do with the real Star Wars films or my brain might explode, so they’re proving rather fun. Unless of course that racist mockery Jar-Jar Binks shows up and ruins everything in total absence of humour. Worse, he ends up the hero. I wish he would be killed.

Oh no – did watch one film: Hummingbird with Jason Statham. Yeah, I’m actually going to leave it there.

Events and Excitement

Gorilla Burger – Thursday 11th July

7.30pm at The Corner, Nottingham.
Live improvised lunacy from anyone willing to get up on the stage. Bring your own booze!

Knickerbocker Glorious – Saturday 13th July

11-3 at The Fountain, Market Place, Derby.
I’m compering a day of free music, comedy and spoken word entertainment.

MissImp and Friends and Messing With A Friend – Wednesday 24th July

Time and place to be confirmed, but will feature the Fisticuffs team, London’s sci-fi twoprov Project 2 and Susan Messing.

MissImp in Action – Friday 26th July

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Shanktart – Toasted Sugar Rage Poetry

Shankanalia12On the good ship burning hot… it’s time to smear a little anger on the sweaty hot days of Nottingham’s doubtless brief summer. It’s other people who wind me up (not, I scream at you, the result of my own intolerance, no no…) and their pitiful need for constant support at the exact same time as making out like they actually know what the fuck they’re doing. For pity’s sake – you can’t eat both ends of the candle.

Follow @shankanalia on Twitter for irregular poetic updates.

Shanktart – Toasted Sugar Rage Poetry

Everyone Has A Contribution To Make
If you really think you can do it better
Have a go.
No, go on,
Just have a go
Oh, don’t get it?
Well shut the fuck up
And keep your dumbfuck ideas.

I’m Listening To You
Oh you fucking people.
Shut your fucking mouths.
Your tongue-lip fuckery
Makes me sick;
Jisming nonsense spurts-
Speechly drool drips from your lips.

Work Out
Tearing off your head
Will exercise the muscles
In my sprain-ed wrist.
A little digitation
To tug out your paltry brain-sac
And toss into a ditch.

You Can Be The Uniquest Snowflake
Your name is unspeakable,
Common and crude,
Indistinguishable from the mass
Of writhing morons.
Liberate yourself
Be a Moonfish or Fucknut:
It’d help.

Identify Yourself
Who are you?
Are you the guy who used to be a gal
Who had a name
Bisected by a vowel?
I don’t care
I hope your dead now
I’m assigning you a code.

Spreadsheet Sickness
The codes!
The codes!
My god:
The goddamned codes.
I don’t know if you’re numeric,
Or going septic
But you’re making
Me dyspeptic.

Fractionally Less Useful
Dumb as a plug and twice as ugly;
Half the sense of a halfwit.
Quartered with the babbling
Fools that occupy your mind-
Hiding in a moron miasma.
More of The Same

Lego Blog: There’s An Ogre At My Castle

Castle Fun (playing for keeps)

Rediscovering my brother’s old castle Lego inspired me to tinker about with lovely grey bricks and do some castling myself. Initially it was just a bumbling wreck (early versions), but then I stumbled across the quarter circle bricks (dammit, I need proper names for bricks!) and those were the seed pieces for the rest. I soon discovered that building across round bricks is not easy and I’d created a considerable problem for myself. Nothing unusual there. I ended up building both upwards and downwards alternately, holding the castle wall awkwardly in my hand and frequently firing bricks across the room. I’ve very much admired the rock formation techniques displayed by many wonderful builders on Flickr, and so I had a go.

I think it’s turned out well. You can check out all the photos on my Flickr photostream.

Ogre's Castle - front

As the castle grew I realised I’d built a corner and felt no particular desire to expand it sideways (one day maybe) but it seemed to keep going up; I couldn’t find a top I liked. I finally forced myself to stop, although I’m still not certain that I like it now… I did an awful lot of swapping of bricks and unbuild, rebuild, explode, rebuild until it finally had to be attached to something. From there it all felt very natural. I like the plants with the flowers removed and I really like the various leaf and branch pieces.

Up Above And Roundabout

I soon discovered I had quite a lot of space to play with and decorate. I like models you can see and enjoy all the way around. Building up the rocks gave me a natural cellar and what can you put in cellars but the dead… I also had a proper floor and plenty of flat tiles to play with, so I ended up with some quite pretty effects (I think). The skeletons are almost complete, I had to do quite a bit of messing about with parts to get the chap in armour to stay put (he’s clipped to the floor) and I had only one arm (from the wrong skeleton figure), so there’s a lever pin holding the shield in place and a white droid arm holding the axe. I also decided to build the base up and make a bit of a feature out of it, as well as experiment with fitting the awkward boulder shapes in.

Miniature Ogres

The cyclops ogres that came out in Series 11 are fabulous – they have two one-eyed faces and a helmet head. Brilliant. I wanted to make them a bit cuter and increase the appearance of scale so they all have Hobbit legs. I think they’re adorable. I’m not certain whether they live in the castle or just scavenge in its ruins, but I’m glad they’re there.

Ogre's Castle - Happy Ogres


Everything, in even more painful detail can be found here: Flickr photostream

Related articles

The Desert Crystals – Part 13: A Chamber of Horrors

desert crystals5

Part 13 – A Chamber of Horrors

Jacob Bublesnatch had never been an especially troublesome youth, even on his adventuring days, when he would try his parents’ patience sorely by vanishing into the tunnels beneath and around Ortheria. Even in his later adolescence he had been respectful of girls and polite to his parents. When he finally left home to beg work and passage at the airfields he did so with their blessing. He’d been a good lad, was becoming a good lad. A bit shy perhaps with over large hands and a tendency to become involved in the journals he was reading.

He’d done nothing bad – certainly nothing worth worrying about. There had been that one time when he and the younger mates had been chased out of a pub in Goloschek. In high spirits they’d stripped half naked and made something of a mess with beer and the local spirit Kamchz, and possibly embarrassed a lady. But that was nothing, even the constable had admitted he’d done much the same as a lad. They weren’t even fined. Jacob, like most people had a vague notion of reaping what you sow, getting what you pay for and other hazy philosophies intended to grant a person safe passage through the world. As a result of this naïve and gentle upbringing he was utterly unable to grasp his present hideous condition.

Seized by a vile monster in the night sky (following a lamentable steering slip), torn from the comfort of The Dove’s Eye, dangled thousands of feet above the ground by the nightmarish creature, and dragged inside its impossible lair were only the beginnings of his misfortune. He’d blindly stumbled about the black interior of the sky cliff, his eyes itching with the revolting gunk he’d peeled off his face after waking in the dark. Blindly stumbling is almost always the antecedent for a worsening of one’s general affairs, and so Jacob had discovered when he found his foot touching nothing but air, and followed it with the rest of him.

It is perhaps a tribute to his mental resilience that while plummeting into unknown depths he was not disturbed by the prospect of where he might land, or how much worse his condition might become, but by the sheer unfairness of it all. In those seemingly endless seconds he wracked his memory for any event, action or thought that might have merited such punishment. It is more likely to be a cruel jest on the part of fate, anticipating that Jacob would be unable to conjure a worse outcome than he had already suffered. In the scoring system that must surely exist, cruel fate was way in the lead.

Darkness makes fools of us all and Jacob was to be no exception. After the first moments of falling his body grew used to not having hit anything and relaxed, in concert with his mental recriminating. Jacob’s only hint that he was nearing the bottom of his drop was a powerfully fetid odour that rose from the depths, filling his mouth and nose with a retchsome stench. It was only a breath of what was to come.

He slapped down hard in a moist, stinking pool of foul lumpy liquid. He immediately commenced a panicked thrashing – the smell was like the alley behind the butchers’ in high summer, only a thousand times worse. Like quicksand the mire began to drag him down. Jacob forced himself to hold still, and spread his arms out. Horrid lumpy shapes nudged against him in the dark, pressing into his ribs and arms. They felt upsetting, and terribly familiar. Jacob gagged and retched as he tried to spit out the slimy filth and rotting flavour. His skin crawled with nausea, and very possibly tiny creatures wriggling under his fingernails and into his ears, nibbling at the soft flesh and burrowing deeper. He was in little doubt that he was lying in awful gore, offal, bone and liquefying body juice.

Unable to contain himself further, and near vomiting continuously poor Jacob Bublesnatch made a further attempt to extract himself from the ghastly mess. Carefully he stretched out his arms and legs and began to swim. He made what he felt was good progress – surely there must be a side, an edge, an end to the pit of foulness he’d ended up in. Then his arm got caught, on some slimy sticky shape, he flinched and tugged a mass of something back at himself, his arm bent and locked at the elbow and wrist inside it. A mouth: he was sure he could feel teeth, just beginning to bite down, to snap his arm in half.

Frantically Jacob tore his arm from the surface of the sludge. It came loose with a sickening burp of gases and smacked Jacob in the face. In a burst of adrenalized fear he beat the creature against the thick morass until he heard something wetly snap and then his hand was free again. Breathing heavily while your body wants to throw up is difficult and Jacob found he had to compromise with shorter breaths and more choking. He was soon distracted once more from his terrible misfortune by an unusual sensation below him. A curious swelling beneath his legs, tugging the grim slurry around him. A tiny lurching progress began, pulling him down again. The suction became fiercer, and Jacob was twisted round, the swirling charnel became a whirlpool of unspeakable gore.

Once more Jacob tumbled into the abyss, falling with streams of vile smelling gobbety mulch all around. He realised that this was most likely the end, the final mockery fate had in store for him. Then hope surged up in his heart – below him was a dim glow – some source of light – even falling out into the sky wouldn’t be as awful as what he had endured. Then he smacked into a hard slick surface. Instinctively he grappled for a handhold. His slimy hands skittered over the smooth familiar shape – a rope! But too wet, his hands failed to grip and he slid around the edge, tracing an increasing curve, desperately pressing his whole body against it, squeaking his way to vertical and a further release.

He didn’t have far to fall, landing atop a sliding heap and almost tumbling further when something grabbed and hauled him back up, letting him down on reassuring solid wooden planks. Jacob fell to his knees and held his hand up over his eyes against the suddenly blinding light. He peered out between his fingers. The huge mandibles and clacking jaws that filled his blinkered sight made the poor boy finally faint.

Next Week: Part 14 – A Timely Intervention

In the same series:

Product Review: Fat Jack’s Tash Wax

A Moustachioed Man

I must confess this is less a review than an out and out product endorsement (befitting of my celebrity pirate role no doubt). I have worn a moustache for (I think) the last six or seven years. It didn’t come easily. I am not an hirsute gentlemna; indeed the prospect of excessive bodily hair is likely to leave me shrieking for escape. Nonetheless I do manage to tolerate my furrier friends. I first began the facial furze project at university (some fifteen years ago now). It took a while to take root, and only ever found its footing in the lower steppes of jaw and throat. Over time the hairs have extended their reach, occasionally appearing worryingly close to my eyes, and finally (at about 25 or so) edging tentatively over the hideous ravine of the filtrum. It took some coaxing, but once the moustache got going I have never since been without it. I was positively thrilled when it became clear that it would be comfortably long enough to furl, twist and curl into charming idiosyncratic whorls.

Apply Gunk To My Face

There are many, many hair products out there – aimed at both the noggin fur and that of the sub-nasal regions. For a long time I used some of the more hardcore gels and waxes for ordinary hair. The existence of gentlemanly barbering tools had passed beneath my notice. They were right under my nose the whole time… I’ve experimented with a range of excellent tasche tools- from very stiff waxes that need to be coerced into applicable putty to far drier compounds (which still do the trick), and found them all to have their place. Obviously this is going to be highly dependent on what sort of moustache hair you have, and indeed whether you possess a fine lip rug or not. In the latter case this is probably of little interest.

Fat Jack’s Tash Wax


I found Fat Jack’s on eBay about two years ago and have used it pretty consistently since then. It comes in a dinky 15ml tin in either fragrance free or mint. I’ve tried both and they work exactly the same, except that the mint one does leave a pleasant scent right under your nose: ideal for plague work. The wax is like a refrigerated butter, but without the oily quality.

It mashes up very easily and the clincher for me is that it takes about 30 seconds to sort out my moustache, rather than several minutes with a harder wax. That does vary, depending on the current length of my moustaches – a full curl still takes a bit longer to ensure some evenness between them. It also holds really well – even in the appalling summer heat we’re experiencing. Rain can give it a bit of a kicking though. Since I carry the stuff always (I’m a rucksack person) that doesn’t pose a problem and it’s easily reapplied for some extra definition. I frequently do that before going on stage where the heat of the lights plus perspiration can make one’s lip branches wilt rather. This is all normal though for a wax which remains firm yet soft on the face.

Some waxes can be very rigid and even hard, which feels a bit weird – Fat Jack’s Tash Wax is perfect, ideally firm and swiftly applied. Most of the compliments I’ve received on my moustache (and this really does happen in the street, shops, pubs…) have been since using Fat Jack’s. It’s nice. This is also a well-priced moustache wax – the pack I got this week was £6.99 for two tins from eBay (free P&P). You can now buy it from their website too for slightly less. If it matters to you particularly this is a UK made and produced product.

I commend their services to you, if you have a moustache to wrangle; if you don’t possess a moustache I suggest you either grow one or groom someone else’s.

Book Review

Film Review

Gigs Saturday 13th July 2013 – Knickerbocker Glorious! and Rum Ahoy!

I’ve got two fun piratical gigs this Saturday (tomorrow):

Knickerbocker Glorious

Knickerbocker Glorious

Furthest From The Sea and Derby Cathedral Quarter present four hours of live street entertainment – music, poetry, comedy and theatre.

11-3 – Four hours of FREE street entertainment at the Fountain area in the Cathedral Quarter
Starring Emma Bladen Jones, George Formby (Ewan Wardrop), Leo Swarvett, Chris Allen, and compered by our very own Captain Pigheart…

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Aye, ye saw me name a-right – I’ve got me own tale slot at 12.20 but I’ll be fillin’ the gaps and dying from heat stroke for ye amusement.

Rum AhoyRum Ahoy!

The Orange Tree in Nottingham are celebrating their new rum menu with a pirate themed evening of fun and drinking:

The Orange Tree presents RUM AHOY!
Kicking off at 5pm, we have entertainment to take you swashbuckling (something pirates do) throughout the night!
What’s even more exciting is that if you buy a Sailor Jerry, you’ll receive an awesome collectible cup and a chance to win a trip to Hawaii! Ooo aaar!
Bring ya mates & yer pieces of eight!

A marvellous notion. I’ve been invited to share some yarns with the fine folk between 5-6pm.  Following that there will be pirate music, dancing, cocktails and a best dressed pirate competition.

This week, Monday 15th July 2013

Miraculous Avoidance of Sun Stroke.

Hiding From the HeatLike any Englishman worth his beaded perspiration I am still complaining about the weather. This heat is unnatural, energy sapping and brain-wooglifying.
I have been unable to spurn it with customary disinterest however. I spent all of Saturday out doors, beginning quite early (i.e. before midday) in Derby with the erection of gazebos before compering Knickerbocker Glorious in the blazing sunshine from 11-3. I did live in the shade, which must have been cooler than the metal chairs used by the audience for inflaming their buttocks. We had wonderful singers, some of whom I already knew and others new to me. I’ll do a post with a link and track for each of them later in the week. In the usual scheduling shenanigans I got to fill a few gaps with stories. I was surprised to find that Franklyn de Gashe’s nun gangbang story went down quite well… After that my other half and I stumbled wearily through the vast air-conditioned Westfield centre and gazed with awe at Toy Planet‘s Lego wall. I left with Lego. I was happy. I was also very ready to collapse in a wheezing heap of sleep.

Alas, no such succour was to be had. The train back to Nottingham was possibly the coolest part of my day, which is certainly worrying. Next stop – The Orange Tree pub. They’ve always had an excellent rum menu and they’ve just launched a new one and celebrated it with a pirate night. I was nicely asked to read a few pirate stories for ’em. Which I did! It was crazy hot in there though as their performance space is right in front of huge windows. Phew. I also had a delightful cocktail whose name eludes me now but is a full pint (excellent rehydration!) containing two kinds of rum, condensed milk, Guinness and nutmeg. Gorgeous.

After that it was off to Mr Parkhouse’s for a fine garden party where we enjoyed the cooling night. All very good. I have attained my highest level of suntan – I have a few freckles.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Autofiction: Overheated MusingsWhy is it so hot? The sun’s like, miles away.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Galaxy Squad Love I guess it’s a kind of review…

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 14 “A Timely Intervention” Trapped in the dark tunnels of a flying mountain…

Friday Film Review: Pacific Rim  YES

Updates on my thrilling life


I swear it’s too hot to write. I can feel my brain slowing down. I shall not let it stop entirely however. The two weeks of madness is about to kick in though which may play hell with my schedule. Just so’s ya knows.

Last week’s scribbles

desert crystals5Shanktart – Toasted Sugar Rage Poetry Letting off a little steam.

Lego Blog: There’s An Ogre At My Castle Cute cyclops-ogres at an abandoned castle.

The Desert Crystals – Part 13: A Chamber of Horrors The story finally swings back to poor Jacob, lost in the dark.

Product Review: Fat Jack’s Tash Wax Lots of films, short reviews.


I have barely tossed the bricks this week, which is a shame for I do love ’em. I’ve been quite pleased with people’s feedback on the Ogre’s Castle. It’s certainly the most satisfying model I’ve built. What next? Well the Galaxy Squad stuff is pretty inspiring with lots of pretty parts.

Improv Comedy

In readiness for a week of incessant improv, we’re having a quiet one this week. Last week we enjoyed Gorilla Burger – I was lucky enough to be in two of the three show slots. The first was a round of Eddie’s Top Story (with Marilyn and Lloydie too) with strict three sets of two person scenes. We had a good time in them – the emphasis was on premise-based scenes and I was pleased to find we were all in accord on guessing and matching at each others’ ideas.

I think I was hankering for a little more freedom, weirdness and organic development and that’s how David and I did our bit with BitchCock KerFuffle (we are now agreed on where the capital letters lie). It felt great – freewheeling through scenes that all began organically and mockingly but developed rapidly until we felt they should end. Highlights for me included negotiating the return of stolen goods, unfortunate erotic conditioning and valuing chairs as people. We had a marvellous time.

Media Intake


I’ve slowed down a bit this last week. I finished off Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold which I really did enjoy. She has a different slant on the sci-fi novel (I’ve never read her work before, except maybe a few short stories) and I found the romantic plot-line compelling and touching. Since I’ve now got a new Kindle (the dinky Kindle 4) I moved straight on to The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle. Although the title seemed familiar I hadn’t twigged that it’s the book which the wondrous and bizarre animated film (of the same name) is based on. I loved the film as a child, though I haven’t watched it for a long time. I have powerful memories of the Red Bull and the weird sexy lady tree. I spent the weekend pestering other people to see if they’ve seen it. No one has. Guess what they’re getting for Christmas…


A fairly quiet time – we’ve been busy and that conflicts with the joy of spending hours in a large dark air-conditioned room, but we did watch Pacific Rim yesterday. Best. Film. Ever. Okay, it’s a huge B movie but I loved loved loved it. I shall babble more on Friday. By then I hope to have acquired merchandise!

Events and Excitement

MissImp and Friends and Messing With A Friend – Wednesday 24th July

Time and place to be confirmed, but will feature the Fisticuffs team, London’s sci-fi twoprov Project 2 and Susan Messing.

MissImp in Action – Friday 26th July

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Autofiction: Overheated

Panic FlowerToo Hot To… Type

So I’m lazily reposting a bunch of personal stuff instead. I hope that doesn’t suck too badly.

Things That I Have Felt and Written

Lego Blog: Galaxy Squad Love (70707)

ExoSuit Heaven!

Galaxy Squad - Alien AttackI got really excited when I saw the new Lego Galaxy Squad sets advertised. There are lots of lovely clean colours and neon yellow-green alien bug beasties. It’s basically Starship Troopers (the finest of Robert Heinlein’s work). The new moulded helmets and the Galaxy Squad sidekick (droid?) heads are pretty cool too. The orange and white colour scheme puts me very much in mind of the Series 9 spaceman/Power Ranger figure and I think a mash up is in order.
The big mech dude / exo-suit is awesome. It’s a fun build and takes a satisfying amount of time with the neat specialised bricks that enable accurate posing and ball sockets and such. I’ve found that pretty helpful as I’m not the most engineering minded person and have been struggling to figure out the best way to do joints. Most of the build is on the body which turned out to be cooler than I’d expected. The body is a detachable spaceship with a clear canopy and pleasing back and sides. It bolts on neatly, and comes off easily. When you do take it off, the back swings up and replaces the body with a smaller gun platform and the back up robot. A nice feature! The arms are just guns, with the push-power missiles as usual. I really want an elbow joint and massive robot fist!


Neon Creepy Crawlies

The reason I love this set is that you don’t just get the huge mecha, you also get a pair of creepy bugs! The neon abdomen/tail things (my biology is adrift) are wonderful pieces – they come in half so you can put a minifig inside and cart it off for unspeakable horrors. They don’t stand up brilliantly, which is a shame – the arrangement is those odd arm pieces and a big sword piece. They look awesome, but you have to balance them carefully to prevent the legs splaying instantly. If you put a minifig in the tail you’ve got no chance. They are super-creepy though.

The Full Set

So here’s the heap of stuff you get – it’s a decent set for the price (£34.99), it’s already given me a great deal of pleasure and I’ve been greedily eyeing some of the new bricks in it… I’m especially looking forwards to customising the mecha and expanding it. It’s hard to see just how big the mech build is – it towers above the minifigs in very satisfying fashion. The minifigs are cool too, and come with chunky weaponry. The binoculars stuck on the end of the pistols are effective, and the robot’s huge gun is fun – but again, makes it tough to balance the guy. Get one – enjoy!

You can see all my pictures in glorious colour here on Flickr.

Related articles

Gig: Splendour in Nottingham 20th July 2013

Ahar! Cabaret Fun

I’m compering and telling pirate tales this Saturday at the Splendour Festival at Wollaton Park. Sure, there’s lots of great music on, but there’s also a cabaret stage with a themed bar!

Lambhorse Cabaret and The Alley Cafe have joined forces to provide Big Tops and Tall Tales.  It’s going to be a great day! My stuff starts at 4pm, but there’s circussy wonders before that too, and hours of stilt walking, trapezey and generally mental stuff. You’ll find us at the Cabaret tent.
image  Splendour 2013

The Desert Crystals – Part 14: A Timely Intervention

desert crystals5

Part 14 – A Timely Intervention

Falling to your death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. Sure, there are subjective forces at play, but I’d fall before being cut to pieces, drowned, burned or pulled apart. See – you probably feel better about falling now too; I know I do. Reflecting on your situation usually helps.

I know I don’t have long, though it feels like I’ve been falling forever. I could turn myself round and look down, but since I know my future I’d rather regard my past. It’s beautiful. The dawn spreads over the world, catching me up in its illuminating curtain – the moment I passed from night into day was like a second awakening. The first was when I exited the caves – straight down. But I’m jumping ahead.

I’ve never been afraid of heights. If I had been I’d never have been a rigger on airships. Bad enough on a sailing ship, crawling around sixty feet above the deck. In the air though – that old air bag’s sixty feet high or more, but hangs thousands of feet in the air. Alright, maybe I was scared the first few times clambering up the top ladder to check and patch the canvas. But the view – the Northern continent reaching out over the horizon in one direction and the glowing blue of the ocean to the other. I knew it was the place for me. Everything so small and inconsequential. All that matters is you and the crew, your ship and the weather. It’s like a family. Another family, in my case.

Emaille understands. He always did. Not that he’s a flighter himself; he’s the grounded sort. Though we did meet in the air, funnily enough. I’ve never seen a sicker man. I was fourth mate on a freighter – the Agile Barnum, humping kit and baggage to the Far Colony. We returned with their reports, casualties and prizes; Emaille was of the second kind.

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight. Poor Emaille had fallen victim to a Cactus Lion (a common plight of those new to Far Colony, and the unlucky), he was the only survivor of a group camped out in the dark fields. It had taken too long before their lack of contact was noted and acted on. Poor man; half the spines were turning septic and his skin was a mottled grey. He drifted in and out of consciousness during the trip back, but he had a nice smile despite the pallor and pain. His delirious babble was oddly charming and I found myself visiting him often.

Once we’d made port Emaille and the others were unloaded and taken off to the hospital. I thought of him often, but I didn’t want to find out he’d died, so I left a well wishing note and kept working. Flights come and go. Back then it was before I was fixed crew, so I took what I could. The next journeys took me through storms to far off lands, excitement, adventure and the boredom that we forget about when we’re grounded. When we returned from a round trip of the archipelagos he was there at the field. The marshal told me Emaille had been camped out by the hangers for weeks, waiting for me.

He looked like a different person without the spines, though his smile was the same. What can I say? He was charming, funny… He fairly swept me off my feet. It wasn’t long before we were living in each others’ pockets. Mind you, a pocket’s got to stretch a bit when one of you is in the air for a living. He never asked me to stop, and that made me love him all the more. There’s nothing like coming home to someone.

By the time we got married I was on Lord Corshorn’s crew. Following air tradition he married us himself and we were released into the air in a basket balloon for our first night together. Poor Emaillle, he handled it well and there were ways to distract him. They’d let us up a long way and it took a while to be hauled back down – the length of the tether represents the trust and love in the marriage. A good sign. I took pity on him and we laughed at each other, and we rented a little house near the airfield and made a proper home.

I only stopped flying for a short while, when the twins were very young. Chilai and Erlaigh. They picked up my love of flying and I’d take them with me on the shortest of routes. Emaille coped well with that, despite being terrified for them. His work – metamorphology – kept him busy when he wasn’t busier being a fine stay at home father. The university was surprisingly accommodating, though a friend in the department confided that he’d ruined his chances of tenure by falling for me, and the twins. Emaille never mentioned it. The twins were five just before we set off with Rosenhatch’s expedition. It was a lovely day of cakes and silliness and friends.

The sky cliff is just a dot now, far above me. I long since lost sight or care about the nightmare fall through the dark of that place, or the horror of losing my grip on the ladder. They say your life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die- the good things or the bad depending on your nature. As a flighter I always knew I’d die in the air, but I never really thought about the fall. It’s beautiful. The sun bathes me with her warmth as I rush into the Great Bane Desert’s morning.

I only think of Emaille and our twins. I think that’s enough.

Next Week: Part 15 – Blood’s The Thing

In the same series:

Film Review: Pacific Rim (2013)

pacific rim

I loved this film. Utterly and completely – I was hooked from the opening moments right through to the end. I ditched all my critical awareness and was thrilled. I’d also been avoiding the trailers and posters for months (la-la-ing with my fingers in my ears), so I was in a completely receptive state, unaware of anything other than the deep bassy soundtrack and knowing it was giant monsters vs giant robots. If that already sounds silly or annoying to you then don’t watch the film. If you don’t like Godzilla (the proper ones, not the mincing ankled crap turned out by Schumacher with a hateful cast) or anything remotely like it then you won’t like this. I loved such series as Evangelion: NeoGenesis and Transformers (not so much the recent films, although seeing giant robots on screen was like a preview of heaven) and this is very much in the spirit of them, and of all the B-movie science fiction films we’ve ever had. In other words, this is so far up my street it’s been entirely renamed after me.
We open with action and a potted history of Kaiju emerging from a rift in space above the ocean floor and the splendid destruction of San Francisco. It’s great – nothing is spared, the vast monster is half-concealed by fog wrecking the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s no waiting around for the cool stuff to happen, no tiresome story leading up to a single kickass scenes – those scenes are frequent, intense and begin right at the start of the film. Yay. Humanity is under threat – that’s always a great setup – and these monsters just keep coming. To deal with that threat we abandon long range guns and missiles and divert global resources into the Jaeger programme: massive robot suits. This is basically the plot of Evangelion (minus the angels / human evolution storylines) and I like it.
Drama exists through the paired consciousnesses it takes to pilot a Jaeger, who are mentally synced in ‘the drift’ and that allows them to do stuff together while being able to talk and argue. Don’t think too much about that bit, it’s fairly silly. But it doesn’t matter – a film with fewer giant metal bolllocks on show would flounder at this point, trying to explain away the techno-babble nonsense. Pacific Rim just shrugs it off and shows you a giant robot punching an alien in the face. That’s exactly what I want to see. Our primary hero, whose name completely eludes me (character development ain’t exactly high priority) loses his co-pilot brother in a fantastic night time at-sea scrap with a shark faced Kaiju. Gipsy Danger takes a kicking and crashes down on shore. That’s also quite a scene.
After that we’re into the madness of it all – more fights, between pilots and the project vs the governments who want to build walls instead of awesome robots (why are politicians always such wankers?), and pilots and project managers (Idris Elba on splendid hero form). It’s predictable, silly and enjoyable. Clearly no cliche police were available for the production: the film is awash with character stereotypes and genre nods (watch out for the Chinese and Russian Jaeger teams, they are hilarious). I think it has to be the incredible fights and CGI which overwhelm all such objections and issues. Basically it’s a classic storyline where they have to get the old model/grizzled OAP out of storage to beat the enemy.
There’s a possible marring of the film in the choice of Burn Gorman (otherwise known as the fish-faced guy from Torchwood who has been asked to play the most cliched English mathematician imaginable. He’s somewhat irritating, performing as if electric current is being played through his face. His character is matched with a Kaiju-enthusiast who manages to plug his mind into a chunk of alien brain and finds out some stuff about the invasion. It doesn’t really add much to the plot other than a bit of comic relief – and a reason to meet Ron Perlman’s badass Kaiju-bit-flogging character (stay post-credits for this too).
The characters are forgettable, the script and plot hackneyed but the visual effects are out of this world. The design teams have obviously had a field day designing different Jaegers – my favourite is Cherno-Alpha (the Russian behemoth), but the three armed guy is also amazing. The Kaiju vary delightfully, spitting acid, fists, shark faces (“they all have exactly the same DNA!” – this is the Prometheus stupid error. No they don’t…) writhing fighting and being evil. The sight of seawater cascading off these beasts and Kaiju and Jaeger tossing each other over buildings (dragging a boat along to use as a sword!) and the underwater scraps make this a win. I’m saddened to learn it’s busy tanking Stateside, because this is B-movie as it deserves to be done. Thank you Guillermo del Toro – every moment delighted me.


Related articles

This week, Monday 22nd July 2013

Glorious Anti-Climax.

Galaxy Squad DudesAt the moment of writing this I’m filled with a greying, bland sense of disappointment. Today (Sunday) ought to have been the culmination of literally months of work, stress, frustration and anticipation. I should have a fuzzy glow of success… or something. Instead I’m just angry and annoyed. I didn’t get much sleep as I had to be in early for verifications and it’s just… a sense of disappointment I suppose. So much work and the failures on the other end keep going. We’ve done everything we can do, but that can’t compensate for the fuck ups of others. And now that we’re finally on to the next phase, well, that’s going to be just as much grief. Ah fuck it. I’ve gone to BrewDog Nottingham for a celebratory / grumpifying drink.

The rest of the week was good though, right? Well yes. A nice quietish week on the whole. A few trips to the cinema and some chilling out. Yesterday I was at Splendour in Nottingham festival at Wollaton Hall (Batman’s house). I enjoyed that. I was compering for the cabaret / circus tent area. Supported by The Alley Cafe it was a fun, chaos filled show with Lambhorse Cabaret, trapeze acts, singer and two burlesquey performances. I stayed in character as Captain Pigheart and had great fun filling the space between acts with the usual demented babbling. Very cool. I paid almost no attention to the music stages (they were mainly a pain as their slack running times screwed up our start and finish times – dicks).

I then spent an hour supervising a large pack of feral children. I don’t know why, but many parents seemed perfectly content to leave their kids hooting and scrapping in a tent with me. If you happen to be one of those parents who left their kids to be chased and bellowed at by a man in a pirate hat on Saturday, well… it was fun, but it was an odd assumption on your part.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Autofiction: An Unexpected Lament Sometimes we miss things.

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 15 “Blood’s The Thing” Heaps of steaming gore; and how was your night?

Friday Film Review Round Up: Monsters University, The World’s End , Now You See Me  Three quite different films I enjoyed

Updates on my thrilling life


I caught up well last week. I was especially pleased with the Desert Crystals episode which I felt had a different feel to many of the other episodes. I didn’t want to just abandon a nameless character lost overboard. I don’t think I’ve written anything quite like it before.
This week will be a bit manic and I’m worried that I may not hit my targets…
Last week’s scribbles

Galaxy Squad - Alien Attack

Autofiction: Overheated Musings  Why is it so hot? The sun’s like, miles away… an autofiction roundup.

Lego Blog: Galaxy Squad Love I guess it’s a kind of review.

The Desert Crystals Part 14 “A Timely Intervention” A poignant interlude.

Film Review: Pacific Rim YES.


More re-sorting of shapes and bricks this week, as well as a little experimentation with the larger struts and supports from the ole Space Monorail set. They are an odd height and have weirdly deep studs on top. May require further thought. I’ve been eagerly watching the cool Lego releases and announcements during ComiCon this week – the DeLorean set looks great!

Improv Comedy

Not much last week but this week is going to be ker-azy. We have Susan Messing up (from Chicago) to do a heap of training with us (Mon-Wed) with a show on Wed, then the improv jam as usual on Thursday and the Glee show on Friday. That’s five days back to back. I already desire sleep. It will be awesome though. We’re chucking a new player into the mix on Friday as well, as much of the performance team has callously fucked off to do other things this month.

Media Intake


I’ve finished The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle. I enjoyed it – it is a genuine oddity and I can see how they made such a mental animated film out of it. When I got to the end I noticed there was still another 40% of the ebook to go. That contained a sequel of sorts to the original – it’s quite pleasant but didn’t really add much to my enjoyment of the book. Then there’s who knows how many pages of interview at the end. I skipped that bit – I’m not a huge fan of these DVD special features in books. It may sound terrible, but it’s the book I want to read, not the author talking about the book.



We finally caught this on Film4 (at the insistence of Martin). It’s brilliant. Watching a man with clear delusional behaviour becoming a frighteningly violent vigilante superhero was at turns funny, shocking and very sad.


Events and Excitement

MissImp and Friends and Messing With A Friend – Wednesday 24th July

7.30pm at The Corner, Nottingham.
Featuring the Fisticuffs team and Susan Messing’s show.

MissImp in Action – Friday 26th July

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Autofiction: An Unexpected Lament

Goodbye My Friend

Lament2Farewell old friend. I find that I’m sad to see you go. For a decade we have known each other, worked together. When first we met I didn’t understand you; didn’t know your past or purpose. But we grew closer. I came to understand how you thought and worked, and you showed me the right questions to ask to tease out the answers we needed. I learned patience, and you were always there waiting for me to do so.

Not everyone understood you like I did. Not everyone liked you. I defended you often, explained why you were the way you are and how you ought to be approached. Some didn’t care – preferred to pout and curse, to sulkily reject what wasn’t their way. They tended towards failure. You helped me see that those who most vocally blame others are themselves to blame. There are those who will never grasp a need or necessity outside of their own selfish sphere, yet you were there for them all; even when reviled. You never failed to provide what was required, never turned away from those doubters, fearers, haters. They turned from you.

I turned to you for answers; for a fixed point in a whirling world. We have travelled together you and I. Changed, improved, grown stronger, clearer – resolute. When asked to provide, we did. When called to account, we did. When called to change, to explain, to assist, to shape – all these we did, and more. I feel keenly the loss of one I know so well, so reliable, so true. Farewell old friend.

I know you inside and out, can direct you from memory, tell the trail through you in my sleep. That trail will soon be gone, blown away in the breeze of change. Yet your legacy will live on. They won’t even realise until you’re gone, that your mind is retained, passed on into the future. The precision and decisions you required are all still present. But those who see only the outer, the superficial layer and think that this is all there is will believe your successor to be a wholly novel beast. As always, they will be wrong.

For those who never wanted to know you, who resisted the knowledge you would have granted them- the ease of query and response, from some futile gesture of innate arrogance, how soon will they miss you too. How sweet shall be the sound of their whining imprecations against the new. Never will they realise how old the new is. All that could be passed on has been, in memory, in action, in function. Those surface-dwellers will never learn the new, never grasp its use but will bemoan that which was lost, that which they never wanted, that which they never knew. Perhaps they will miss you the most.

Farewell old friend.

This week, Monday 29th July 2013

An Exhaustingly Grand Week

Bug City

I knew last week was going to be wearing, I just didn’t realise how much. The day times were filled with running around answering questions, figuring stuff out and attempting to provide guidance for others. Oh, and screaming down the phone at those who repeatedly failed, misled and deceived us. Ho hum. I actually rather enjoy the frenzied business of it all. It’s a fabulous change from the months of mind and soul numbing agony of preparation. Of course I’ve also been getting to work for a bit after half eight each day and leaving after six, so that’s taken its toll.

The evenings though… oh gosh the evenings! We have been fortunate enough to have the lovely and quite bonkers Susan Messing over to train and perform with us – more down below. Suffice to say we were training Monday and Tuesday evening, Wednesday afternoon, performing in the evening and then jamming on Thursday. It should have been a full five days of improv but the Glee Club let us down with some catastrophic scheduling failure and we discovered at 5pm on Friday that we did not in fact have a show that night. Fuck.

This Week’s Scribbles Writing

Last Week’s Scribbles

My Thrilling Life Events and Excitement
Lego Blog

Musings on Improvised Comedy

Media Intake


♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankistine: Pure Poetry Rage If you can’t say it in prose, use verse.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Steampunk Squad Progress of sorts with my dapper gents.

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 15 “Blood’s The Thing” Our heroic explorers get lucky, sort of…

Friday Film Review Round Up: Monsters University, Now You See Me, The World’s End (2013)  Three decent films in a row? Great!

Updates on my thrilling life


Last week was a total failure and I am still rather unhappy about it. Getting to work early, leaving late and being out every night kinda killed my capacity to scribble. I desperately want to get back on track this week – although I had tonnes of fun there’s a lot of personal satisfaction in getting the writing done and I find my self-esteem and confidence take a hit when I let my imaginary audience down. I think it also kicks in a strand of anxiety about somehow dying creatively. Ah fuckit. I have  to get it together this week! I’ve already penned this week’s Desert Crystals episode – part 15! I can’t believe it’s lasted so long without even hitting the expedition’s main objective yet.

Last week’s scribbles

Autofiction: An Unexpected Lament All sorts of things can make me sad.


I’ve been picking up a few odds and ends of Lego Friends this week. I still adore the colour scheme, but I need more bricks! I’ve also got to dismantle some stuff… aside from the minifigure collection I only have one shelf to fill with Lego glory and it’s pretty packed out at the moment. My birthday’s coming up though and with it I shall finally open and build the Lego Jabba’s Palace I’ve been hanging on to for the last six months. Now that’s will power ladies and gentlemen.

Improv Comedy

What a week! I’m no improv nerd, I don’t know the names and faces of the US improv scene. I’ve got a passing familiarity with the history and some of the major influences, but beyond that I don’t really care. I’ve got plenty of other stuff to geek out about in my life! What I like is adding something new to what I know and feel about improv. I have zero interest in just copying what someone else is doing and I don’t care how successful they are at it. That’s not the point – improv to me is not a formulaic exercise, it’s a continual learning experience of human synthesis. I don’t like being told what to do – it makes me walk away.

So Susan Messing was a blast of fresh air (much like the thunderstorms that accompanied her arrival). Monday and Tuesday were twin three-hour evening workshops on the themes of Joy and Specificity. A lot of it was listening to Susan expound on her feelings about improv and how she continually reinvests in the sheer joy that it gives her. She finds that joy by committing herself to the details and using them to generate and inform characters. It’s a fun approach and it certainly pays off. The organic way of beginning a scene, of discovery that leads to further and frequently more bizarre revelations certainly appeals to me. It’s great to hear someone else describe how you feel about something – hearing it from another’s lips makes it more real and concrete. Susan has numerous mantras that run through the workshops about being immersed in the reality of the scene, sticking to what you’ve established and milking the joy out of it.

I found it useful and I laughed an awful lot. It is always useful for someone else to confirm your experiences and feelings. We’ve had teachers before who have said much the same things about improv, but I’ve rarely encountered anyone who is so passionate about it and who believes so deeply in the art. That impressed me. We also spent a chunk of time with the Fisticuffs team, learning some new ways of playing and reinforcing the group. We talked quite a lot about our hopes for MissImp and what we could achieve together – it feels pretty good and hopeful for the future. Personally I shall take away the feeling of adding to a scene by participating in the world rather than trying to make an entrance funny or valuable as an end in itself, the value and fun of adding detail (something I already enjoy) and remembering and using it later, and of just how much I enjoy playing with my teammates.

We had a show on Wednesday, allowing Fisticuffs to play together and see if we’d picked anything up. It was a great deal of fun, though I felt we were affected by the usual problem of jamming our heads full of information and trying not to trip over it. So unusually it was our group scenes that were the best and funniest rather than our two player scenes. Cool! We were followed by the glorious Project 2 with Chris and Katy. That’s a sublimely entertaining science fiction longform show, exquisitely crafted out of accident, ingenious choice and raw geekery. Fucking brilliant. The final act was Susan’s UK edition of her long-running show Messing With A Friend, in this case our lad Lloydie. It’s lovely to see other people perform and produce a show unlike any other (hell, ain’t that the whole damn point of improv?) and I think we nailed that as a show – three completely different sets by individuals and groups working together beautifully. Now we should have world peace.

Media Intake


A bit weird – I’ve been crazily busy (as you may have detected above) so reading has been squeezed into that ten minutes of breakfast or waiting to fall asleep (these slots may coincide). I’ve read a very odd book, Bukkake Brawl – I’m not certain how to characterise it… oversexed cyber-punk perhaps? I haven’t read the other shorter stories in the collection yet, but I will eventually, It has a certainly relentless insanity that I could appreciate though I fear it did call out some measure of prudishness in me. You’ll really have to read it yourself to get the idea. Next I switched genre, age range and many other things including e-ink to paper for Holly Black’s White Cat. I knew her name from the fantastic kids’ books  The Spiderwick Chronicles. This is the first  in a series of novels about Curse Workers (dab hands – those with the power to change memories, luck, life by laying bare hands on another). It turned out to be a most intriguing tale. I highly recommend it to you.

Events and Excitement

Gorilla Burger – Thursday 8th August

7.30pm at The Corner, Nottingham.
Live improvised lunacy from anyone willing to get up on the stage. Bring your own booze!

Knickerbocker Glorious – Saturday 17th August

11-3 at The Fountain, Market Place, Derby.
MissImp will be appearing three times performing the unique excitements of Unspeakable Acts.

MissImp in Action – Friday 30th August

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Shankistine – Pure Poetry Rage

Shankanalia 12Once more unto the scream dear friends once more. There is unceasing cause for anger I’m afraid. I’m almost certain it’s not just me – the whole world seems filled with idiocy and a pressing mass of mobile meat too busy sweating and blundering to use their minds. It’s a shame really. The most recent cause of extreme annoyance is the ever-enraging eBay, more specifically the sellers who lurk therein (don’t even get me started on the fuckwits who place a bid on an already reasonably-priced Buy It Now, and thus ruin it for everyone, leading to a final price of sixty quid more than it would have gone for).

It’s the term ‘vintage’ which is a real thing and is almost the opposite of ‘new’. I direct you to the 19,204 items labelled ‘New Vintage’ explicitly as well as the overall 2,109,630 items using both ‘new’ and ‘vintage’ in their descriptions. That is self-evidently incorrect, misleading – in fact a lie. How I hate these people. I really want to spend a day sending each seller a message about their deceptive stupidity. I ought to do something like gardening instead I suppose.

Follow @shankanalia on Twitter for irregular poetic updates.

Shankistine – Pure Poetry Rage

Twinkle Twinkle Little Wall
I want to kick your face so hard
It’s in the fucking wall.
Brick you up and plaster you in,
Your weak screaming
Will be my lullaby…
Happy dreaming.

Another Use For You
The purifying burn
Of icy blisters
Chilling your worthless flesh.
Iced up,
Packed up,
Better as meat
To stuff in a penguin.
Maybe you’ll please them.

Certificate of Achievement
There’s something
About the words you utter
That makes me think
That you’re a nutter.
Novel interpretations
Enable certification
Of you: twat.

It’s Everything About You
I’m sorry, I have to kill you now.
You’re too dumb to live:
The words you use,
The face you make,
The sound of your breath
Must be expunged
From the world.

I See *People*
My eyes have turned against me,
Rolled back inside my head,
Projecting out my inner thoughts,
On the whole world upside down.
Lots of people dead.

Pen Pal
Thanks for your note.
I read it with interest,
Wondering what you could have meant.
The words are misshapen
Meaning varies
From the real.

Just Pitch In Why Don’t You
Thanks for your contribution.
I’m glad you feel you can help-
For your self esteem I mean.
If you understood
The contribution you’d made,
You’d be quieter.

More of The Same

The Desert Crystals – Part 15: Blood’s The Thing

desert crystals4Part 15 – Blood’s The Thing

The world was a fire of light, blinding Jacob. He wrestled weakly, his hands and feet slipping and sliding under him; sharp points and unforgivably mushy lumps jabbed and fell away around him. He flailed, blind and terrified. The taste of death filled Jacob’s mouth and nostrils – rotting copper coated his lips and gums. Sound dimly began to penetrate the clag sealing up his ears and plastering hair to his face.

“Good lord, the stench! Dig him out lads.”

Strong hands seized his limbs, flinching at his slimy patina. Jacob though he could feel their resolution fade as the fingers reluctantly hauled him forward. He tried to scream at their touch, not knowing if they were friendly or another species of terror dwelling in the caves. That they might be his skymates was almost unimaginable after all his time in the darkness. Abruptly the shadows loomed in again and he shrank back before perceiving the glow of light limning the once familiar shape of heads and shoulders.

“Give the fellow some room, don’t crowd him so.”

“Sky, he’s been turned outside in!”

“Cease your foolish babble-words and find yourself a purpose.”

The sound of a slap cut cleanly through Jacob’s confused hearing, he blinked hard, trying to bring his newly lighted world into focus. Solicitous hands reached for him again, gently dissuading his own filth-encrusted fingers from pawing at himself. They firmly scraped the skein of blood and flesh from his face and tilted his head back and forth with calm assurance. The grip was familiar, casting Jacob’s frightened mind to when he was an even younger man and had taken a vicious knock to the skull from a cable clasp being whipped in the wind. He’d come over dizzy and sick and had received an examination from the ship’s Death Cheater that felt much like this. He began to relax, surer than he was before that the beasts who’d secreted him in their lair would be unlikely to check his health before eating him.

“Is he alright?” The voices were slowly losing their alien quality, and Jacob’s feverish mind offered up faces if not names; rank from tone alone. It was his Captain, hushed voice trying to shield his fears from the rest of the crew.

The press of bodies behind the informal cordon of Lord Corshorn and Rosenhatch Traverstorm were both excited and appalled by the mounds of offal which had flopped and slithered down half of the deck after The Dove’s Eye had been caught unawares as she quested through the bleak network of tunnels. The cataract of blood, guts and dismembered bodies had crashed frothing from a hidden channel, pounding down on the hard wood of the deck, staining it an ugly red brown. The weight of the falling carnage forced the airship down, twisting her balloon towards the sharp cave walls. Another tonne of gore would have ground her until the sacs ruptured, spilling gas up and the crew down into the dark. Only the cascade’s respite and the fierce course corrections of their captain had saved them.

The final gobbet to drop from the ogre’s mouth was Jacob. He’d struck the airship’s bag and slid terrified screaming down the ropes  to twist and thump into the revolting heap he’d followed. The crew jostled one another, morbidly eager to catch a glimpse of their lost mate despite his grim condition. Only the chitinous, insectile presence of Harvey kept them from prodding him with curious and unhelpful forefingers.

Harvey was not incurious himself, though he was mindful of how easily startled they tended to be after suffering some form of trauma. The spectrum of human emotions did not personally affect him, being a Giant Centipede of the Undergrowl jungles. His long association with the human society clinging to the fringes of the Northern Continent had made him something of an expert in their ways. In particular he enjoyed the company of Traverstorm and his feline associate and the opportunities for discovery they afforded each other. This journey was proving to be no exception. Even his remarkable senses had failed to warn him of the impending gore fall.

Despite his natural sense of adventure he was beginning to hanker after the feel of the sun on his shell once more. In addition, the scent of the decaying flesh from such wide assortment of creatures was really quite stimulating. He did however realise that it would be exceptionally poor form to sample that variety at such a sensitive moment. For now he would simply keep back the crew and allow their captain and Traverstorm to have their human moment. Though he could dissuade them from getting too close, he could not keep them from speaking their minds.

“Is he alright, Captain?”

“Look at the boy, how could he be? It’s like he’s been vomited by a Blood Ferret, only without the grace of being dead first.”

“Once more I’ll ask your desistance, then I’ll have you overboard.” The captain’s voice had its usual calm but with a core of sharpened steel that sharply jabbed the thoughtless speaker and pushed him back into the crowd. The mob retreated further than the centipede had made them.

Lord Corshorn turned his attention back to his , “are you alright there young Bublesnatch?” and snapped back at the gawping crew, “quickly now, bring water for the lad – no, not for drinking. To douse him with, man! Get that bloody filth off him.” Traverstorm pawed and dabbed at Jacob’s face, the warm water loosening the layers of blood, sweat and tears.

“There, that’s better, you can see the boy’s face again,” declared Lord Corshorn, “he’s alright lads, he’s going to be fine.”

“I don’t know about that captain – look at his eyes.”

Streaks of blood and dirt streaked Jacob’s cheeks and forehead like Soul Flowers. Beneath them, lying in thick ridges, something sticky and foul smelling was still adhered to his skin. Jacob’s eyes fluttered, blinking to dislodge an irritation in them. Bubbles of bruised scarlet welts laced his eye sockets and seamed his eyelids with thick pustules. The whites of his eyes undulated with a ghastly inner life, as if soup were broiling in his skull. As if some throbbing life sought to escape by bursting through them.

Next Week: Part 16 – Look But Don’t Touch

In the same series: