This week, Wednesday 1st January 2014

Egad, The Year Is Upon Us

Santa MechaclausI love Christmas, and last year’s was very lovely indeed. We met our desired aim of spending short but intense periods with friends and family and having plenty of time to ourselves with the Marmalade Badger. It has of course sped by with remarkable speed. That’s most likely because we’ve become nocturnal once more and so are sleeping in until 11 or 12 each day. Oops. Never mind, I wanted to catch up on sleep, get some reading done, watch the odd bits of TV and laze around. Achieved!

I have many, many new books to read which I’m very excited about and I’ve been assembling Lego with a blissed out frenzy for days. New bracelets and cuffs adorn my wrists, I have discovered The Octonauts and enjoyed the faces of people opening presents. I also have a gorgeous double-headed dragon!

Bye Bye 2013

It’s been an odd year, filled with plenty of cool things in our improv world, writing and home. The end of the year was rather sad though, with Colin’s death colouring October to December with darker shades of charcoal. I don’t know how that balances out for an overall assessment of the year. I guess it doesn’t, because that whole ‘great year’ stuff annoys the crap out of me. I still don’t really get why we end the year a month into winter. It would be much neater (for me, and those living at similar latitudes) to end the year with February, then we’d get the nice four seasons in one. Silly calendars. It’s not an especially relevant time of the year for me; I see my birthday in August as being the end and beginning of the year. Luckily that gives me seven months to improve on the last few.

This Week

Well there are many more beers to review. I have a handful of notes, some of the bottles and a dim recollection of what I’ve drunk. I’ve got some stuff to post about Lego too, and a backlog of builds to photograph and share. I have also read some books. A lot of the last week is a blur of sleep. I did manage to write more last week than I have done for ages though, so maybe the old creative brain is repairing itself a bit.

♥ Last Week’s Scribbles

Christmas Beer Review: Imperial Russian Stout – the first of many, many beers over Xmas

Christmas Song: Santa Slayed My Gal ~ Misk Hills Mountain Rambler – fine seasonal songs.

Christmas Beer Review #2-6: An Inebriation Of Ales – Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Mud City Stout, Deuchars Imperial Pale Ale, Huber Bock, St Peter’s Christmas Ale – ah… beer.

Lego Blog: Merry Christmas Scene – Happy Legoing fun.

TV: Agents of SHIELD 

We finally managed to replace our television after it fritzed out and became unwatchable. To my slight suprise the replacement BT Vision box had actually taped stuff from the middle of November for us. We have finally caught up with the rest of SHIELD before it took it’s unnecessary break mid-season to return sometime in 2014 (bastard channels). Thankfully it does seem to be improving at last, with more action, some personal revelations and the edge of conspiracies and plots just starting to show. I have hope once more.

TV: Doctor Who

As with Agents of SHIELD, no TV meant no watching of The Day of The Doctor.  We caught up with it just before watching the Christmas special and I was just blown away. I adored John Hurt as the War Doctor. It was a story line I was thrilled to catch up with and it reminded me just how much fun David Tennant was as the Doctor, plus how enjoyable all the other multi-incarnation episodes have been. It’s the plotline I’ve been most intrigued by in the recent series and I’m happy to see it played out so well. The darkness of the story arcs is great – the genocide of two races made for a brilliant pre-Christmas vibe. I’ve just realised I missed the second of the minisodes that lead up to the big event (The Last Day) and so shall immerse myself in Doctor Who later on. Also, very cool to see the Zygons again! And Tom Baker! Granted, I don’t understand how we can see an aged version of a previous incarnation… but what do I know?


Obviously we had to see that before the watching the Christmas Day special. That was a proper tear jerker. I’m always saddened to see a Doctor go, and this time they really tugged at the heart strings by making all the characters suffer, especially the Doctor who’s added a good century or so onto his age. I think Matt Smith may well have become ‘my’ Doctor (it used to be Peter Davison). Still, I’m hopeful for Peter Capaldi who is a marvellous actor, even if I do want the sweary Scottish Doctor now. It’s something of a shame that they didn’t take the bolder but much needed step of switching the Doctor’s gender (and skin colour would be nice). It struck me as a perfect opportunity to do so. Sniff sniff.

Events and Excitement

Wednesday 8th January 2014

Pub Poetry_SQPub Poetry – Open Mic Comic Lit

An evening of poetry karaoke – bring your stories, poems and songs just so long as they’re funny.

The Canalhouse
Canal Street
8.00pm – FREE

Thursday 9th January 2014

Gorilla Burger: improv comedy carnage

Gorilla Burger2_SQ_SM

Jam show – a chance for anyone to get on stage, and a superb opportunity to get an idea of what Nottingham improv is all about.
The Corner
8 Stoney Street
(off Broad Street)
7.30pm – £4

Friday 10th January 2014

Pub Poetry_SQPub Poetry – Open Mic Comic Lit

An evening of poetry karaoke – bring your stories, poems and songs just so long as they’re funny.

The Old Cottage Tavern
Byrkley Street
Burton on Trent
7.30pm – FREE

Film Review: Frozen (2013)

Early Cinematic Joy

P1.43 (FROZN_014M_G - Intl Payoff (Traditional))The first film I ever saw on anything larger than the (now) tiny television my parents had was Disney‘s The Jungle Book, at Bircotes swimming pool – or rather in a room fittingly full of monkey bars and ropes. It was great, and began a lifelong love of Disney films (enhanced no end by the astonishing stroke of genius that had Jungle Book characters recurring in Robin Hood). They made many splendid films before a sad decline. It was arrested briefly by the brilliant but apparently loathed The Emperor’s New Groove but it seemed to be just a minor boulder on the mudslide of invention.

Disney’s bouncing back! It may be an effect of putting John Lasseter in charge, recognising his influence on Pixar’s earliest and best films (I try to forget about Cars, which I find to be the worst thing Pixar ever did, to say nothing of its sequel or Disney spin-off). I’m not too fussed about the reason – I’m just pleased they’re recovering (though with Cars 2 and Brave, possibly at Pixar’s expense).
Weirdly that recovery comes with startlingly awful trailers. Tangled for example, I almost didn’t go to see because the trailer made it seem so abysmal. But I dragged myself out, hoping that Disney would have made a new Aladdin. They bettered it, especially with the horse-that-thinks-it’s-a-dog and chameleon partnership. Happily, they’ve done it again with Frozen. The trailer is appalling, making it seem dull and flat like the worst of their straight to DVD films. Olaf (the snowman) looks like the worst thing ever put in a cartoon and I determined to never suffer him on screen. The only thing that looked interesting was the ice and snow, and that’s not really enough to draw an audience in.

The Perfect Setting For Disney

Despite my Olaf-rage we did go to see it, on Christmas Eve with very low expectations. The screening was packed with children and parents taking pictures of their children and a reasonable amount of crying. Oddly it’s the perfect setting for Disney – an equal mix of delight and misery. The trailers were for more dreadful looking Tinkerbell films (game suggestion – swap the term ‘blue pixie dust’ for ‘meth’ while watching the trailer – it makes more sense) and the mind-blindingly awesome-looking The Lego Movie which left me in a state of considerable pre-film excitement.

Before Frozen they have a short – I was really hoping it would be with the horse from Tangled but instead it was a new Mickey Mouse ‘toon. It crushed my hopes for the main event. The cartoon is clever but reminded me how without merit, appeal or interest Mickey Mouse and his cohort are. They drag the black and white slapstick out into colour and 3D, presumably to wow the kiddies. but instead simply perplexed them. We heard a child in front of us ask a parent “Mum, why is this on?” It’s sad to report that the only laughs the cartoon got from the audience were when Pete is repeatedly stabbed, electrocuted and crushed by the sadistic mouse. In fairness that was after Pete abducted Minnie, with his lascivious tongue action and bulging eyes. Then there’s the bit where the lady cow (Clara?) lifts her skirts in alarm but raises her udders instead. It was just peculiar, really really peculiar…

Magic Icicle

Thankfully Frozen vastly exceeded my lowered hopes. The opening is strange, but effective – we see the ice cutters in the mountains hacking out cubes of ice (also introducing the hero Kristoff and his comic reindeer sidekick) which provides gorgeous dawn views of the mountains and a work shanty song about cuttting ice. That shifts to the two young princesses in a charming magical ice romp through their ballroom. An accident – an icy blow to the head leads to the decision to erase all memory of her sister’s (Elsa) magic from Anna’s mind. They are separated and grow apart until… their parents are summarily wiped out in a storm. It feels like a curious development in childrens’ films that parents are so frequently killed off – I’d have thought we could empathise with the main characters without them being bereaved. Oh well. With the parents gone the kingdom will be repoened to the public and secret-snow girl Elsa is to be queen. It all goes wrong very soon afterwards.

The particular highlights of Frozen for me were the beautiful ice and snow effects. It’s clear that the artists have spent months studying the process of freezing and replicate it to wondrous effect. The ice palace that Elsa builds is stunning, and the snow provides opportunities for unexpected and predictable comedy and alarm throughout. There are a number of chases through snow and ice and a very dramatic scene across the frozen harbour in an ice storm. Maybe this is what Disney have really learned from Pixar – the value of making the environment as real as possible. It certainly pays off here, with the creeping deadly ice frosting up the insides of buildings.

A Song Of Snow And Ice

The snow also brings us Olaf, the snowman. I hated him in the trailer, but he’s actually likeable and funny in the film. Oddly self-deprecating and cheerful he provides one of the best and funniest songs ‘In Summer’. It’s about how excited he is about the prospect of summer and doing whatever it is that frozen water does in the sun… There’s an innocence and sarcasm in the other characters’ responses to him that I rather enjoyed. He’s not quite as much fun as the relationship between Kristoff and his reindeer (and their “Reindeers Are Better Than People” song), and there’s no real reason for him to be in the film at all, but he still made me laugh.

Frozen has a full on West End / Broadway musical style to all of the songs which I found arresting. It helps that the leads are proper musical stars who can belt out a tune. I always find counterpoint style songs very affecting and there are several which punched me in the heart strings with hopes for freedom, independence and resisting conformity (“Let It Go”, the song accompanying the creation of Elsa’s palace is a great example). It’s the first soundtrack for a film that I’ve bought in ages, and I made sure I got the deluxe edition which includes unused songs, outtakes and acoustic versions so you can sing along!

Take Me Up The North Mountain

As I said, Frozen exceeded my expectations (possibly because the short lowered them so much) and I laughed and possibly even came close to tears at some points. Two lines in particular had us weeping, largely for the wrong reasons I concede: “I want you to take me up the North Mountain” (repeated twice for emphasis) and “*chuckle* I’ve been impaled”. I thought it was great and I’m looking forwards to enjoying the soundtrack for years.


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Lego Blog: Star Wars Advent Calendar 2013

I Think I Must Have Been Good

Lego Bespin Cloud CarThere was never going to be enough time to build stuff before Christmas, so I’ve been making use of my holiday time instead. There was many Lego received (with gratitude and jaw splitting grins) so for most of the last week I’ve been enjoying ‘morning Lego’. It followed quite naturally on from the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar, but with greater complexity and schinkling. We tend to get into epic length breakfast when I’m not at work, so I’ll often find myself still in pajamas with a box of Lego and croissants at about half past two. This is a good thing.

Advent Doors

Overall this year’s advent calendar was pretty good, though there’s a depressing focus on the prequels (or “fan films” as we’ve taken to calling them). So I only vaguely recognise most of the mini vehicles we’ve built. Despite that most of them are very neat little builds, with a couple of ridiculous exceptions – the lame seagull ship (at the back) being one of them. There were of course new versions of the Star Destroyer and Slave I, though the latter is just a slightly less interesting version of last year’s.

They’ll soon be stripped down for parts in any case because as usual there is a nice scattering of the dark reds, bright greens, lots of lovely tiles (including a load of 1×1 slopes which I cannot resist), nice multi-studded connector bricks and the unusual dark green bars. A very pleasing bonus of these advent calendars is the number of spare studs and slopes you get right through the month. Sure – this would be a crazy way to buy new Lego but it’s a bit like a Kinder egg, without the disappointment and gender bias.

Make Mine A Miniature Man

As ever the real joy was in the minifigures – 9 new figures in all. That does include yet another battle droid, and a more interestingly coloured fellow on caterpillar tracks (a cool use of the body which had never occurred to me) – I’m sure he’s instantly familiar to a seven year old. A new Clone Trooper, and a Biker Scout, plus an Endor Rebel with a good scowly face made me quite happy. There’s also a young Boba Fett (who will be mined for parts immediately), a weird-noggined Geonosian chap (I think), Christmas Jango Fett and the R5 droid I really wanted. I do like the obsession with supplying weapon racks for the minifigures though, and the Geonosian-style setup is a nice use of parts.

These are the minifigs I was looking for.

If you can pick the set up for a tenner there’s probably enough to keep you happy. I can barely resist the Star Wars calendar, but in retrospect the Lego City was a stronger set with far weirder builds (the astronaut with a wand for example). I was also tempted by the Lego Friends set, for the marvellous colours. Roll on next Christmas..!

This week, Monday 6th January 2014

No More Christmas

Merly BooSo I must return to work tomorrow. This brings a sadness upon me. I haven’t done a huge amount with my fortnight off, but I suppose that was the idea. I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with other people- to talk to them, look at them… It sounds frightful. I’ve had a very restful break – a break not just from work but from all the stuff that happened before Christmas. It’s always hard to tell if we’re genuinely rested – I tend to sleep abominably in the run up to going back to work but with luck I’ll knock myself out on a cat or something. I have seen most of my family for at least a little while and have had much time with just my other half and our adorable cat.

Also, the joy of ‘lounge pants’ has been conferred upon me. They are Superman-styled and fuzzy; it’s like wearing an inside-out cat. They also attract Merly, so I have a furry purry lap. She’s been quite exhausted by the amount of lying down, sitting and stroking she’s received this Christmas – we have had a grand time.

There are no Christian superstitions that matter to me one jot, so it’s always disappointing to be taking down the festive decorations at the beginning of January. Thankfully it is now clear that our winter Lego diorama is a seasonal rather than Christmas setting, so that can stay. I usually keep at least one set of fairy lights through the year too. I like the pretty sparkles.

Xmas Display1

This Week

It is going to be a rather hectic week, so it’s possible I won’t even notice being back at work! Monday night is an evening of peace (and probably more Boardwalk Empire), but on Tuesday I see my improv for confidence client again (time to check on homework), Wednesday is Pub Poetry Nottingham, Thursday is Gorilla Burger, Friday is Pub Poetry Burton and on Saturday it’s a good friend’s birthday. That’s the way to do a first week back at work!

Somewhere in all of that I hope to squeeze some writing time… I’ve almost (finally) finished the next chapter of The Desert Crystals which has had a shameful absence these past few months. I’ve also photographed my Christmas Lego fun and just need to add some wordses and pictures and make them available to the loving eyes of the internet.

♥ Last Week’s Scribbles

Film Review: Frozen (2013) – I loved it, despite my fears about the awful trailer.

Lego Blog: Star Wars Advent Calendar 2013 – a good, if a bit repetitive advent calendar made up for by the minifigs.

TV: The Mentalist 

The catching up has continued and we watched all the episodes of The Mentalist that we’d missed in one exciting rush. That’s brought us to the mid-season finale (?) where (*spoilers*) Patrick Jane finally slays Red John. It was all rather satisfying, showing us Jane’s characteristic arrogance, good cheer and shockingly manipulative behaviour in full effect. It seemed a bit odd that the rest of the main cast were sidelined for most of the last two episodes, handcuffed in a car.

I’m also very much hoping they haven’t really killed off Bret Stiles, the charismatic cult leader of Visualise. It’s been a great recurring role for Malcolm McDowell as well as a fun jab at the Scientologists and other loons. I’m not sure where the show has left to go now that Red John is (apparently) dead… but this is only the halfway mark of the season, and I’m pretty sure there’s a season 6 after this too. Yay?



The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung

I’ve managed to get halfway through this thriller that was banned in China, but I’ve abandoned it. It’s very rare that I give up on a book but this one just feels as if it has nothing going for it. In principle it should be thrilling – lies and deception in China, government secrets and cover ups – a whole missing month and a change to the entire country’s mindset. But somehow it’s slow and tedious and it’s a genuine effort to get through a page of boring naive characters.

It may just be me, or maybe the translation but it feels leaden and completely lacks tension or intrigue – the things almost every review I can find of it tells me I should expect. I was reluctant to give up, but I needed to read something that would grip me. Maybe I’ll continue it one day.

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindquist

This was what I picked up to read after giving up on The Fat Years and in terms of tension, writing and interest is its polar opposite. I’m cheerfully plowing through pages of horrible characters, killers in the woods and really really creepy children. It seems like a winner to me. I haven’t seen the film, and though I’ve heard it’s good (the original at any rate) the book is certainly excellent.

Events and Excitement

Wednesday 8th January 2014

Pub Poetry – Open Mic Comic Lit

Pub Poetry_SQ

An evening of poetry karaoke – bring your stories, poems and songs just so long as they’re funny.

The Canalhouse
Canal Street
8.00pm – FREE

Thursday 9th January 2014

Gorilla Burger: improv comedy carnage

Gorilla Burger2_SQ_SM

Jam show – a chance for anyone to get on stage, and a superb opportunity to get an idea of what Nottingham improv is all about.
The Corner
8 Stoney Street
(off Broad Street)
7.30pm – £4

Friday 10th January 2014

Pub Poetry – Open Mic Comic Lit

Pub Poetry_SQ

An evening of poetry karaoke – bring your stories, poems and songs just so long as they’re funny.

The Old Cottage Tavern
Byrkley Street
Burton on Trent
7.30pm – FREE

Pub Poetry – TONIGHT! – Wednesday 8th January

Wednesday 8th January 2014

Pub Poetry – Open Mic Comic Lit

It’s poetry and wordplay time! Join us tonight for beer, spoken word comedy and a limerick competition (legendary prizes) plus an evolving segment of improvising beat poetry (as seen at Knickerbocker Glorious of late!).

Fun, Free and Informal


Bring your own poems, short stories, songs – whatever you have, as long as it involves words and might be funny. If you don’t want to read your own, bring someone else’s. Or just listen, have a drink and a giggle and meet some new folk. This is one of my most favourite of events. We usually get a lovely mix of the strange, comic and wonderful words and wordsmiths. I will be compering/hosting and will probably read a pirate story or maybe some Shankanalia.

There’s no need to book a slot in advance to perform but feel free to contact me with any queries below.

Starts at 8pm with periods of reading, drinking and writing limericks. All jolly good fun. See you there!

We’ll have some poetry books lying around, so should the urge take you…

Price: Free

The Canalhouse
Canal Street
Nottingham NG1 7EH

Tomorrow (Thursday 9th January) it’s Gorilla Burger – Improv Comedy Carnage!

Lego Blog: Homemade “Winter Village Toy Shop”

Happy Lego Building Season

As I promised a little while ago, I’m finally posting some pictures of my version of Lego’s Winter Village Toy Shop . This is what Lego’s rather lovely set looks like. I didn’t really care about the tree, it was the toy shop itself that caught my eye.

Variation and Variety

The original Lego design calls for a number of specialist parts that I just don’t have – but there was no reason for that to stop me. Once I’d adjusted to the need to improvise I had a lovely time.

The bricks that caused special problems are the neat Technics curved half-beams used to create the main pitched roof. The build opposes two of them producing a neat attractive little roof. How hard could that be duplicate with other bricks…

Well since I didn’t have those I tried a few different variations and ultimately made the possibly terrible decision to prioritise the shape of the front of the roof. The best thing I had is this weird hinged beam brick (from Mindstorms?) that produced a whole series of new engineering challenges that resulted in a dramatically pointed roof. I could more or less match the angles produced but then had to build completely different roofs and a way of fixing it to the rest of the building. Ultimately though I think it looks lovely!

I also had a huge empty space to fill, and continued the pink/green tile choice I’d made inside for the floor and the window overhangs (since I didn’t have enough of the bricks with arches in even three different colours to follow the instructions) and added the three joined wheels. It feels playful and matches the spirit of the toy shop. I also stuck in a nice tile ‘Veni Vidi Vici’ from the Caesar minifigure – it filled the gap and looks nice!

I also didn’t have any of the nice framed windows as intended (I could have dismantled my Colby City Shootout but that would have caused even more problems later on…) so I chose a set of matching blue-tinted windows from various police sets. The narrow windows in the garret have panes from early ’90s train carriage windows.

How It All Turned Out

So yeah – that’s how it worked out. The roof is dramatically braced and I’ve had to reinforce it inside so it doesn’t tear itself apart! I have subsequently thought of dozens of ways to make it more easily.

I tossed in some extra gold to gussy the building up a bit, and added the snowman R2-D2 from 2011’s advent calendar.

I think the inside is much prettier than the Lego original – they used tan and brown for the flooring, but I thought bright colours would be much more fun!

Extra Bobs And Bits To Peek At

Other than the flooring (ground and garret) I’ve stuck quite closely to the interior design, only varying colours and adding some more toys depending on what I did or didn’t have. The aircon/TV/thing above our Abominable Toymaker (one of my favourite minifigs ever) is a placeholder for a white light-brick. The only ones I have are red which would have been creepy to say the least.

I added some textural variations to the snow-laden roofs to give it a snowier feel. Other than that I had to vary the side-window because of parts (again!) and so ended up with a display window including a toy turtle. I decided to rebuild the chimney entirely using my beloved ‘brick’ bricks: I like the jumbled effect.



You can see the full set of pictures here:

The Toy Shop In Our Winter Village

Finally – the Toy Shop at home in our final festive winter village diorama using slightly adapted The Lone Ranger Lego sets, the Winter Feast set and a bunch of other random things! Naturally it got invaded by the steampunk gang. Oh, and all the buildings are on rotating bases for even more joy!

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This week, Monday 13th January 2014

The Week Past

CosinessSo, it turns out that going out for 4 of the five working nights of the first week back at work after Christmas is a little tiring. Thank fuck there’s only Saturday to go… that’s a good friend’s birthday film at the cinema followed by drinking and the usual tomfoolery. I’m taking the strange opaque bottle of Chinese grain alcohol I’ve taken from my uncle’s house. God knows what it really is; Marilyn’s translation gave us words, but not meaning. We’ll know on Sunday I suspect.

I have every intention of wearing my cosy slippers and trousers all day on Sunday.

Tuesday – Improv One To One

A return to the one-to-one improv for confidence coaching I’m doing. I’d have to confess that at first I was unsure that I could deliver something that would be genuinely be useful, inspiring and exciting. I’m thrilled to find that with every session that passes I’m even more excited and interested in it. It’s even better to find that my client is finding it delighting and challenging. Outside of a group setting improvisation feels very different, and at the same time its benefits seem even more obvious – gaining confidence and boosting self-esteem works when you completely commit to another person’s ability to create, perform and grow. I’ve never done anything so intimate in teaching and it’s very, very satisfying.

I did of course then cycle home in driving wind and rain. It’s a swift slap with the real world I suppose.

Wednesday – Pub Poetry

Pub Poetry returned to Nottingham. We’re damnably erratic but I can tell you upfront that we’ll be poetising on a Monday in May and in September as well this year. If the gods of calendar are good to us we’ll also dance in December.

Pub Poetry_SQWe only had a dinky turnout, but as usual that pushes the attendees that bit further (gently, gently) to unexpected readings, laughter and enjoyment. I also picked up some book titles to seek out on Mr Kindle by our regular poet Mr Chris Pearson. I deeply love science fiction and look forwards to indulging in his novels.

This is the second time that we’ve had an Improvised Beat Poetry segment. Last time it was just me and Martin (he of the gorgeous words) but we got another four unsuspecting folks to stand and deliver. Since we had six I divided us into sets of three, acquiring a word of inspiration from the audience and then demanding a poem from each of the team. Wow, but it gets dark quickly! And interesting. With or without any particular metre this seems to plumb the creative depths of the psyche – a combination of the pressure and freedom I suppose, but it produced remarkable results. Improv always brings forth the unexpected, but it’s not always as well married to wit, imagination and colour. I was very impressed with what we produced – Martin, Orla, Martin (at the back), Richard, Lloydie and I. A range of styles, length, content. Oh gosh, just FUN.

Thursday – Gorilla Burger

wpid-Gorilla-Burger2_SQ_SM.jpgGorilla Burger – the first improv (proper) of the year for most of us. I was hosting and whipped up a whirlwind of two minute scenes. I was especially delighted with the turnout – I think there must have been about forty of us in total. We had the pleasure of inducting a chunk of the Furthest From The Sea posse from Derby into the improv mix. Adam, from Karl & The Marx Brothers hit the improv keyboards for the first time ever, pimping scenes into song and making a trio of astonishing Cell Block Tangos pop musically and comedically (thank you Heather & Joe!). It was a great night all round, and I happily took a back seat to compere from my desk (a desk – I got a desk) from where I could easily harangue, direct and end scenes with the sound of Teddy Bear the porcupine eating pumpkins. A kick ass night for one and all.

An especial delight came for me and Marilyn at the end of the night. We’d stayed out a bit late to see off Seth who is sadly moving back to the States (ace to see him, and we were really nice in not giving him a hated Shakespearean scene) so got home at about midnight. I swear, really swear we saw the faintest tongues of the Northern Lights – green infusions drifting across the sky. It was a beautiful clear night, and whether we really saw the faintest traces of the Northern Lights or not, we felt that we saw them. It was awe-inspiring and beautiful.

Friday – Pub Poetry

As you might imagine, the preceding evenings plus going to work during the day had left me a touch drained. Plus I’ve been waking up unnaturally early and suffering weird dreams (damn you amitriptyline, why do you fail me now?) which really doesn’t help do anything except make me feel crazy. Ho hum. Working at home helps a lot – I can sit in my velour Superman lounge pants with a Merly-Boo on my lap all day. I do get more done at home; it’s nice. I used my lunchtime to finally write about the Lego Winter Village Toy Shop we built before Christmas. It was nice.

In the evening I headed back to my Dad’s in Burton to attend the original Pub Poetry – Adrian Thompson’s fine and inspiring event at The Cottage Tavern with their delicious beers. Mmmm, Stout. Before that I’d headed up see my Dad and step-Mum. I was treated to a blood pressure and urine test. Yes, that should seem odd. I believe I’ve been mistaken for my brother… I am not diabetic and internally seem fine, yet my blood pressure is a trifle high. This is unsurprising – frankly, work can have aspects of cuntitude.

I escaped the nightmare of pseudo-medical awkwardness on my uncle’s bike. Not a great plan… I usually ride (a fairly beaten up) mountain bike, but this is a lightweight racer with incredibly thin wheels, drop handlebars with brakes to match and small pedals with straps for your feet. Oh, and the gears – I’ve no idea how they work. Best advice I can offer is to not try out a bicycle set up for someone else in the dark, down a steep hill and roads composed solely of potholes. And in the rain. It was a terrifying ride and I bravely ditched the bike at the station and walked to the pub.

A smallish turn out again (just a quiet week for poetry?) but nice to see some familiar faces. My Dad gave a good reading of Les Barker’s Amnesia which was rather satisfying. I offered up Captain Pigheart’s Triffic Adventure (a small tribute to John Wyndham’s masterpiece The Day of The Triffids), a spot of poetry to offend and horrify (Shanktart) and took the night in a somewhat darker direction at the end with Franklyn de Gashe’s Theatrical Entertainment. As it turns out, the latter is more upsetting than funny. Oh well, now I know. It’s still my favourite event to go to though, and I like being there with my Dad.

This Week

Ah bliss… only a couple of nights out this week! That may (possibly) mean I actually get some online stuff done – exciting.

♥ Last Week’s Scribbles

Lego Blog: Homemade “Winter Village Toy Shop” – nice pics of my modified Lego model.

WinterVillage Cover

Events and Excitement

Friday 31st January

MissImp in Action – live improv comedy show


Thrilling all-action end of the month show sporting the best of MissImp inventing scenes and playing games.

The Glee Club
The Waterfront
Canal Street
8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4.50 in advance/£6 on the door (£3 students/MissImp)

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Awesome Things: 2 Films – Fist of Jesus and Two Fingers: Vengeance Rhythm

Shorter Is Better

Over the weekend I caught two amazing short films. As ever I’m about a million years behind the crest of the cool wave, but that means I shall land on the flapping suffocated corpses of all those who ride it well. Both are rather gruesome and gory and if you don’t like that sort of thing I can guarantee you won’t like these films at all. According to the cool people I know, these were both included in the Mayhem Horror Films Festival at the Broadway Cinema last year.
2 Awesome Films

Fist of Jesus


The title is instantly delighting and the rest of the film rises to it well. I love zombie movies and low budget high-gore action. This reminds me very much of Peter Jackson’s awesomely fun and gory first film Bad Taste as well as The Evil Dead. The tale is a simple one, offering the only sensible story behind Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. It is hugely over the top and the zombie violence is seemingly never-ending. It’s still rare to get a film that’s better than the book it’s based on, but Fist of Jesus nails it (to a cross). The fish-throwing, spine sword (a bit Nightwatch that), screaming and the final line all made this the best thing I watched all Saturday.

Two Fingers – Vengeance Rhythm

Technically this is a music video (admittedly for a banging drum and bass tune) but it far outstrips the track. I’m not sure, but this might be even more disturbing than Fist. Only you can judge. It’s brilliantly filmed, the combination of stop motion and high speed slow motion creates some vivid imagery… I especially love the ending. It’s always struck me as really weird that we encourage kids to play with soldiers – the inevitable result is them killing their toys off and it would be naive to think that in kids’ heads the dead ones just lie down and go to sleep when they’ve been stabbed or peppered with a machine gun. This is exactly how I saw it in my mind when we executed the Decepticons for crimes against humanity.


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Lego Blog: The Collectionary

Sharing and Caring

Very occasionally I get emails that I actually read, though I admit that I do read more emails than I do real paper post. It’s very liberating to shred your post without opening it. The folks at The Collectionary website sent me an email asking if I’d swap sharing some of my Lego Blog posts for their clickable logo as a widget. A reasonable deal, plus I’m a sucker for people being nice to me.


The Collectionary

Generally The Collectionary seems to be another ‘gathering of all things’ website, Lego being only one of the billions of groups and sets available to browse through. Quite a lot of the Lego posts are pictures of (gorgeous gorgeous Lego) eBay items for sale. I think the whole thing started off as a local sell ‘n’ buy page. The Facebook page name certainly looks like a flogging page. However, they also list a range of interesting Lego blogs and postings from across the web. From my point of view, it’s another place to put my beloved Lego stuff and revel in the Lego love and hopefully find some other cool stuff to enjoy. Check it out, if you like.

Lego Blogging A-Go-Go

I hadn’t realised how much I’ve written about Lego… it seems to be quite a bit. Since I got back into Lego sometime last year I’ve found that it’s something I want to do more of. I write about the Lego I buy, the Lego I play with, build with, desire (but may not buy), as well as how Lego fits into my personal self-help mental-health needs and why it calms me.

I post most of the pictures of what I make on Flickr before I get round to writing about them:

This also seems like a good time to list all the posts so far:

Lego Blog: Homemade “Winter Village Toy Shop”

Lego Blog: Star Wars Advent Calendar 2013

Lego Blog: Merry Christmas Scene

Lego Blog: Brick-a-brac

Lego Blog: Rummaging In The Body Bank

Lego Blog: Making Stuff and Finding It Strange

Lego Blog: Jabba’s Palace Part 2

Lego Blog: Series 11 Minifigures

Lego Blog: Pigs Vs Cows

Lego Blog: Jabba’s Palace

Lego Blog: Birthday Minifigure Gallery

Lego Blog: Demolition

Lego Blog: Steampunk Squad

Lego Blog: Galaxy Squad Love (70707)

Lego Blog: There’s An Ogre At My Castle

Lego Blog: Disordered

Lego Blog: Lego Memories

Lego Blog: A Little Bit Robot

Lego Blog: Steampunk In Progress

Lego Blog: Weird House In The Jungle

Lego Blog: MiniBot

Lego Blog: Lunchtime Building

Lego Blog: Minifigure Madness

The Desert Crystals – Part 25: Ghosts of Dawn

Part 25 – Ghosts of Dawn

Desert Crystals 3

His bunk had become his refuge. The childhood appeal of his hammock fort and the close darkness had reached out through the years and seized him. For all his mature years and gentlemanly ways, Guldwych Ryme still found himself huddled beneath the thin blanket. It was a poor shield from the world. Not thick enough to block the light that poured through the porthole between the opposing bunk and his own hiding place. Not thick enough to block out the sounds of the airship’s crew screaming as it plummeted from the sky. He supplemented the shadowing sheet by squeezing his eyes shut. Just as a child he had kept out the cold and angry fights between his parents he now closed out the shouting of skymates and the creak of wood and the ratcheting cracks of the wings sweeping up and down.

Captain Flame’s actions had profoundly shocked the rotund academic. In principle he knew that there were pirates and had read accounts of such in the Meridional newspapers. At least one colleague had reported losing valuable cargoes from far off cities and digs to accidents of the air (as the conservative language of the insurance houses had it), as well as the more common accident of nature – the beasts of the Northern Continent. Ryme’s heart raced and he sweated a thin grey dismay that left his clothes and blanket rank with the scent. He feared he might be having a heart attack, save that he had thought he might be having a heart attack for some hours now, since watching Flame put a bullet in the other ship’s captain.

The venture to challenge Rosenhatch Traverstorm and his ego-blushed expedition was feeling rather hasty as he lay curled in the cabin of a pirate ship. Not just hasty, but downright foolish. He could have just as easily booked passage on a larger vessel, though he’d have had to wait a few weeks for departure and still longer to arrive. The haste, he reminded himself, had been necessary, to ensure he could intercept the idiot before he got another exploration team killed. That didn’t feel quite as important as it had done yesterday. But he could have waited – even until Traverstorm had returned in order to denounce him (though whatever lives the maverick academic were to expend would have already been lost by then).

Ryme’s mind happened to be one of those for whom personal responsibility and blame slide smoothly from the self and pool insidiously on others. The nature of Flame’s crew and vessel had been obvious from the start – how many captains threaten a paying passenger before take off? Nonetheless, that had been Ryme’s first encounter with the bold and dangerous captain. But Eslie had been confident of the captain and The Sky Viper’s ability to put Ryme ahead of Traverstorm. Possibly Ryme’s trust in his colleague, Eslie Chem was less well founded that he had thought – had the man known he was booking passage with a band of outlaws and murderers? Surely the need for haste had not necessitated that they associate with such people.

But then, as Guldwych pondered further (accepting any line of reasoning in which he was not directly at fault), the nature of his relationship with Chem became a source of consternation in itself. For several years the man had provided a discreet, helpful and relatively inexpensive service… in regard of whatever need Ryme had had. Precisely how they had met, and become so entwined was lost in a fog of professorial handovers, favours, the subtle puncturing of reputations and loaded gifts. All Ryme could be sure of was that he had grown increasingly to depend on the slight fellow – seemingly omniscient, endlessly capable, always available. Yet Ryme had seen little of Eslie Chem (the only man he knew on the vessel) since they boarded, which was disconcerting in itself – the Viper was a small enough space for eight crew, the captain and two passengers to see more of each other than most people could handle.

Ryme wrestled with his mounting anxiety while outside Eslie Chem leaned against the cabin door, listening to Guldwych’s panting sighs and choked sobs. He drew a deep breath for himself and knocked hard on the wooden doorframe. Within, Ryme jerked upright under his blanket, only its thin cushion preventing another concussion against the upper bunk. He cautiously pulled the blanket down over his face until he resembled an anaemic grub emerging from its pupa. It was that sweating picture of dishevelment that greeted Chem as he poked his head around the door.

“Hello there Professor. How are you?”

Ryme’s desire to blame Chem for his current state fought with his need for a familiar face to talk to.

“Hello Eslie. Well, I don’t feel terribly good, if I’m to be entirely honest about it.”

Chem thought he looked appalling – as if Ryme had been the one shot in the chest. “Oh dear. The captain was concerned, as her passenger, that you might not be feeling well.”

Ryme shuddered violently. “Oh, well that’s kind of her to consider me-”

“Since of course, sickness while on board is a serious matter,” Eslie added with a careful frown, “Any hint of contagion is to be dealt with severely, and swiftly.”

If anything, Ryme contrived to look even paler and more sickly.

“The usual course of events Professor, begins with an inspection by the ship’s doctor. Obviously it’s a mate’s duty to prevent their airmates from falling ill.”

Ryme managed a weak “oh”.

“I’ll look in on you later then.” Chem managed to withhold a sneer as he closed the door behind him.

The portly academic sank back into his bunk, realising that it might not be the refuge he craved for much longer.

Next Week: Part 26 – Spirals

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This week, Monday 20th January 2014

Last Week – Peace and Princes

Sticklebricks HeadJust a few weeks after Christmas I’m already craving peace and quiet again. That’s probably the fault of the week before last which really was a rude re-emergence into the realm of humanity. Last week was a lot quieter, with just two slots of improv in the evenings and an almost empty workplace during the day. Bliss!

It meant I could actually get some writing done, which felt amazing. It’s possible I’ll even be returning to a decent and reliable writing schedule, and that would make me happy. I’ve still got plenty of Lego stuff to write about and the Desert Crystals  is bubbling away in my head quite nicely.

♥ Last Week’s Scribbles

This week, Monday 13th January 2014 – a run down of the events of the previous week: Pub Poetry, Gorilla Burger & more.

Awesome Things: 2 Films – Fist of Jesus and Two Fingers: Vengeance Rhythm – two great short films.

Lego Blog: The Collectionary – some nice folks who showed an interest.

The Desert Crystals – Part 25: Ghosts of Dawn  – the adventure’s return, catching up with Guldwych Ryme after the brutal pirate attack.


Fairly quiet as I said. We had a small Fisticuffs session on Tuesday with just four of us. We messed around, laughed and did three longform pieces. It was the first improv I’d done since before Christmas (I was compering the Gorilla Burger and didn’t play much). There was something deeply reassuring about sinking back into the ritualised warm up and getting really well synchronised again.

First a Henrietta, which is a slight extension of The Henry (which I think Geoff brought back from Birmingham for us) or La Ronde in which a string of players are given locations from a fictional village (in this case ‘Little Shankling’ and a population – 492) aand they play out scenes in order. Martin and I began at the railway station, then me and Lloydie were on a street corner, he and Ben were at the duck pond then Ben and Martin were at the retirement home and then back to me and Martin at the railway station. We do two full loops of that strict structure before allowing characters from all four locations to interact. That extra freedom and self-editing the scenes seems to give it the opportunity to leap forwards and find a satisfying conclusion. They also feel like they’re more naturally attuned to narrative. I like that. This one concluded with ducks consuming a body.

After that we enjoyed a pair of montages, the first inspired by a round of improvised beat poetry. I can’t for the life of me now recall what the suggestions we used were, but they tookk us into some really weird and lovely scenes. Two in particular stood out – the burglar breaking into a flat but is interfered with by all the neighbours, and the deep friendship between the accused and the judge, and then everybody he meets on Death Row. Sweet.

James took the jam this week, bringing in sound effects, vocal foley and music to inspire and add to the scenes. It’s great fun, and potentially enormously disruptive. James kept reminding us (rightly) that it’s exactly the same as having another person in the scene – you have to accept their offers (which should also be receiving offers) and incorporate them into the ongoing scene. Ignoring them feels profoundly wrong.

I’ve been invited to perform with The Same Faces in Leicester on the first of February, so I’m looking forwards to that, although I haven’t met or seen any of them play before!

Faking and Credulity

It wasn’t always going to be such a peaceful week. I was booked in to complete a week of PRINCE2 training with several hours of reading and practice papers each night. In every respect I’m glad that I withdrew; there are numerous demanding tasks to complete at work, plus the wider overview of the havoc being wrought on our organisation over the next year (although, inevitably and pathetically the time scales for that have started to slip and slide already).

Additionally I’d made the mistake of getting into the course pre-reading which was making me angry. If you don’t know, PRINCE2 is the Cabinet Office branded project management method. Like all project management techniques it involves a combination of the blindingly obvious wrapped up in a dozen layers of reporting and bureaucracy. I imagine it’s generally no better or worse than the dozens of competitors. The pre-reading though , is mind-numbing and filled with circular reasoning (it’s good because it’s self-proven) and tonnes of classic logical ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacies (essentially, if a PRINCE2 project ever fails it’s because it wasn’t PRINCE2 enough).

It also quickly became clear how it is that public protests are simply ignored in government planning – the ‘dis-benefits’ of public whining is easily balanced by stating the (limited, government-oriented) benefits. Terrifying. Finding out that the course is also that classic example of Gove education – being talked at for a week and being instructed solely in how to pass a multiple-answer exam – was the nail in its own coffin for me.

I know I don’t learn well like that; my favoured learning experiences are those of learning by doing, experimentation and discussion. Learning and teaching improv has lead me to the conclusion (for now) that the only way to assess learning is by getting the student to teach someone else. It also didn’t help to realise that the massive projects we’ve been trying to implement, or been involved in implementing must also have been PRINCE2 projects – and they have been fucking terribly thought out and implemented. As ever the success of a project depends on the people involved, not just the application of a structure.

Events and Excitement

Friday 31st January

MissImp in Action – live improv comedy show


Thrilling all-action end of the month show sporting the best of MissImp inventing scenes and playing games.

The Glee Club
The Waterfront
Canal Street
8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4.50 in advance/£6 on the door (£3 students/MissImp)

Saturday 1st February

The Same Faces – Improvised Comedy

The Same FacesThe Criterion
44 Millstone Lane

8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4 on the door

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Televisual Ambivalence

TV: Live At The Electric

We made a terrible mistake in not turning off the television after the BBC3 double-bill of American Dad.

It was followed by the most dire of comedy variety programmes – Live At The Electric. Apparently Russell Kane is a stand-up comic. He isn’t very good. Despite the drunken baying of the television audience he comes across as an utterly charmless wanker. His whole opening routine was a lengthy and unfunny spiel about how women are his preferred audience because even if they don’t like him to begin with, they will by the end. By contrast, men who don’t appreciate him never will, because he might be gay (or looks like Nick Grimshaw; I doubt I could tell them apart myself). He has a curious reliance on his ‘metrosexual’ appearance and seems to enjoy implying that he might be gay – as if this is some novel formula for comedy. It’s not.

Kane’s programme, and particularly the awful skits he’s in are laced with unpleasant homophobic gags that seem only to fit with his dead eyes and perpetual sneer. It was very hard to not want him to die, and at that time of night I don’t have much will power left. The supporting acts that he comperes through the show came across terribly, possibly as a result of his dreadful compering. There was series of awkward mock-back-stage sets, a painful character act Chastity Butterworth and some forgettable stand-up. The only act I rather liked was the Twins Macabre, a well edited piece about a creepy pair of goth serial killers. I’d watch more of that, and joyously you can – on YouTube.


TV: Uncle

Incredibly we left the TV on after the suckfest above, possibly because it had destroyed our will to live. I’d seen the adverts on the beeb for Uncle (there are a stunning number of ads on the BBC these days) and was fairly amused by the ramshackle uncle bribing his nephew to abandon a football game. It seemed unlikely I would ever watch the programme though, and I suppose we should thank Live At The Electric for making everything else in the world bright and good.

I was very taken with Uncle. It begins with the eponymous fellow preparing to commit suicide before being asked to pick up his nephew from school by his sister. It’s a strightforward setup, and the rest of the episode follows this simple favour. I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing and smiling along with it. I like the lead, Andy with his automatic lying, deep depression, and habit of speaking to Errol (his nephew) as if he were an adult. He’s a sad, troubled man played affectionately by that rarest of things on television – a stand up comedian who can act. All I know of Nick Helm is that he dragged one of my friends, Carl Jones (also a stand-up) onto stage during a show at The Fringe and spooned with him on a mattress for the rest of the routine. I found him very likeable and was touched by his performance.

The nephew, Errol is a classically peculiar teen – awkward and a loner. He is also played very well, and the relationship between them is tested and developed through a string of rather odd encounters with people in each of their lives.

I enjoyed it,. I really hope they have a music video in each episode too. I shall set the box to record it; I wouldn’t want to accidentally watch Live At The Electric again.


(apologies for the irritating “Feed My Funny” at the start of the trailer)

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Lego Blog: Santa Mecha-Claus

A Very Scary Christmas

I know it’s not Christmas anymore, and I’m sorry. Not just that it isn’t Christmas (which really isn’t my fault) but that it now makes this Lego build seem oddly timed. I didn’t have much time in the run up to the joyous festival of peace and schinkling, but I’d had the idea of a Santa Claus mech in my head for a few weeks. It was only after Boxing Day that I had the spare time to devote to it.

I’d been inspired by the Galaxy Team and the Lex Luthor mech (a lovely birthday present), which showed me something of how to use the ratcheting joints and ball-joints that I’d acquired in a big box of assorted Lego. There are also a million fantastic MOCs on Flickr constantly tempting me to play.

Put Yourself In Another Man’s Shoes

I started with the boots. This was a terrible idea, because they got awful fancy and neat very quickly, and also quite large. Before I knew it I had full ankle rotation and the stump of shinbones sticking up with no idea what was going to come next. The shoe size inevitably defined the size of the mech and I’m delighted to say that he ended up at a full twelve inches tall (to the top of his hat). I was quite concerned about stability so he got solid legs, adding a further knee and hip joint to the ankles.

I struggled to conceive of how the body should work, but I knew that I wanted enough space to insert Christmas Yoda (from the advent calendar a few years ago) as its pilot. With that in mind I found an appealing cockpit and went to work.


Luckily I’d just sorted my primary colour Lego, so all the neat little parts were safely tucked into relevant containers leaving just the decent sized bricks to sort through. I couldn’t find a way to work the waist – the body just pressed down onto the pelvis brick. In retrospect I guess I could have built a column down from the body that could clip onto a rotating disc. As it stands, Santa is far too easy to bisect.

I did a rough draft body to get the size about right before moving on to the arms and gloved fists. I tend to get obsessed with using a particular brick and had these nice shoulder ball-socket parts (probably from Hero Factory or similar). They’re nice, but spindly and I had fun building out from all sides of them using Technics pegs. I’m pleased with their overall result, and I couldn’t resist adding some Manga arm blades for good measure. If I remade him I’d ensure I had ratcheted shoulders so he could be posed properly (lunging towards the camera).

A Fistful of Lego

Sculpting Santa’s gloved fists was possibly the bit I enjoyed most. I found it very difficult to keep the size of them down when aiming for a nice rounded feel to the corners. In the end they matched Santa’s boots quite well, and I was unable to prevent myself from adding claws to finish the finger tips off.

They all clipped together well, but the body left me feeling unsatisfied. At length I realised he had no beard and I’d only built the brim of his hat. Demolition time! In rebuilding him I aimed to give him a bit more of a belly and reflect the white trim across his shoulders (and gave him a belt buckle. Once I’d added the beard and made a proper Santa hat he felt just right.


He Knows If You’ve Been Bad Or Good

He’s huge! Putting him behind the two storey Lego Creator house Marilyn gave me for Christmas gives a proper sense of scale – the young Boba Fett fits easily into his claws. I’d like to build him a ‘Santa’s Sack’ backpack too, but I think I’d have to rebalance him entirely to make that work. He’s fairly terrifying and should provide a reason for children to behave themselves…


You can see all the pictures here on Flickr:

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The Desert Crystals – Part 26: Spirals

Desert Crystals Part 26 – Spirals

DesertCrystals7The screaming started just after flames erupted across the throbbing rock. As the captain of The Dove’s Eye had hoped, the raging heat of the explosives jammed into the seeming walls stirred the strange cavern into motion. No one had quite foreseen the immediate effect of unleashing such a firestorm in a confined space. They were more concerned with forcing the curiously fleshy rock walls to escape the flames and grant them an exit. Unfortunately, since they were already near crushed by the contracting caves, and only feet away from the explosion, flaming debris set light to the prow of The Dove’s Eye almost immediately. It drove on regardless as the cave retched around it, vomiting the airship in a grinding rip of rock, wood and canvas.

The airship had entered the aerial cliff in the dead of night and at an altitude which had caused even their hearty balloons to sag, and caused their lungs in drawing satisfying breath. Though they had been within its humid confines for only a few days it felt like a lifetime. The eagerly anticipated relief of a blast of fresh air against their sweaty cheeks and the sun’s gentle touch on their eyeballs was cruelly denied them. Instead blinding light robbed everyone on deck of vital sight as the airship and her crew tipped and tumbled down into the day.

Fortune didn’t entirely mock the crew however. The air proved too thin to sustain the blaze and it snuffed out in a belch of smoke. The ashen remnants of the silk pennants tied to Harvey’s forelegs fluttered madly as The Dove’s Eye plunged into its fall. The canopy that restrained the huge balloons of gas had been gashed open by the teeth of rock on their rude exit, and canvas wings matched Harvey’s tattered semaphore. Ropes tore and whipped the falling airship, as if hastening the craft towards the ground.

The crew, wisely and in accordance with Lord Corshorn’s direction, were all firmly bound to the safety ring – albeit on lengths of rope themselves. In all, their experience was much like that of a Maypole’s worth of dancing children being abruptly hurled from a cliff. Skymates were tossed from the deck when the ship began her violent descent, to be battered against the ailing balloons till they reached the ends of their tethers where they flapped helpless against the chill racing air, and each other. The airship’s construction and integrity was based on keeping the gondola below the balloon. In its tumble from their stony prison the balloon had tipped forwards, dragging the gondola under and behind it. The natural balance of the lighter than air balloons attempted to rectify the situation and in doing so twisted lines and began an inelegant spiral.

Those skymates lucky enough to be inside the gondola (or in Rosenhatch Traverstorm’s case – standing in the doorframe and therefore bounced inwards via concussion) were treated to a smoother ride. Once their bodies had met each wall and settled on the new floor, and all the unfixed furniture and luggage had struck them more than once, centripetal force glued them safely in place.
Inside the cabin where poor one-eyed Jacob Bublesnatch lay bound to his bunk, the first few rotations of the airship had smashed the bunk back into the wall, acting according to its hinged nature. Maxwell, who had been toying beneath the bunk with one of the foul grubs that had popped from the cabin lad’s eye, froze perfectly in place on the floor, his claws rooting him in the instant of the firey explosion and terrifying scream that the Sky Cliff had uttered. He noted the bunk flip up and batter the boy into the wall.

Maxwell bounded from the floor to the bunk. He leaped from the bunk in the time between it bouncing on its hinges and returning Jacob’s bruised face to the wall (at which point the hinges snapped, flinging Jacob and bunk upwards. He nimbly evaded the cascade of jars containing the rest of the ghastly worms as they shattered against the wall, floor, porthole and Jacob. He defied gravity as he skipped over the flying glass. And, as the airship spun out into its downward spiral, dragging Jacob in his battered bunk to lie against the outer wall, Maxwell jumped once more, to land, claws extended into the soft cushioning comfort of unconscious Jacob’s stomach. He felt safe, but not safe enough to retract his tiny paw anchors.

‘Safe’ is a relative term at the best of times, and Lord Corshorn had eschewed its use for most of his sky sailing days. His present disposition – wedged in a corner of the cockpit, gripping his telescope and holding the map cabinet shut with one foot – was angry. From his vantage he could see the vast expanse of desert beneath them revolving behind the thrashing form of their Giant Centipede, Harvey who was still securely pinioned to the deck. He swallowed his concern for the crew he had seen whipped from the deck by the speed of their exit and subsequent tumble. His duty was to the ship itself; once secured he would be able to see to his crew.

The spin pulled at Lord Corshorn as he dragged himself across the cabin. It dragged at his hands and face and head, threatening him with blackness that seeped into the bright edges of his vision. He clenched his teeth, hard enough to hear them crunch, and reached for the levers that could redirect their reckless whirling. They had used their rockets to escape the crushing confines of the Sky Cliff, but their departure was so swift that it had torn Corshorn’s fingers from the switches. When his hand finally reached the switch he hesitated. Concern rippled across the lines in his face. He yanked the lever as far down as it would go. The airship shuddered and lurched. The pressure on his face abated and the map cabinet closed on its own. The spin would slowly ease but as yet the captain had done nothing to stop their descent.

Next Week: Part 27 – Fragile Things

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This week, Monday 27th January 2014

Sneezing Need For Speed

It’s been an odd week – alternately frantic and quiet. Busy days, quiet evenings. It’s not a bad combination I suppose. I am getting that horrible sensation of stress rising up out of the abyss and I’m not sure how to slow it down. More Lego probably!

More grogIt’s the stress that’s waking me up in the night and making me want that extra final whiskey of the evening. On Friday I finally allowed my cold to catch up with me and spent the day working from home in my pyjamas with a filthy stuffed noggin and headache. I made myself feel better in the evening with some serious grog, a Merly-Boo and a good book. I bought a cheap bottle of Cockspur‘s golden run, which is a decent grog filling. It’s even better in a mug half-filled with Caramel Sauce and a spot of milk. The second grogging round was just with the traditional golden syrup. Mmm, couldn’t even feel my face.

On Sunday I discovered that meatfeast pizza and Very Cherry Pop Tarts go rather well together. It’s the ideal combination of instant sugar and slow-burn carbo-fat-meat heap. It has served me well…

Scribbling and Reading

To avoid thinking any more than is strictly necessary I’ve dug myself back into reading and getting some writing done. I’m very happy to have been writing and posting stuff for four days of the week over the last fortnight. It’s a routine I’d be delighted to maintain. It’s a target I guess and one that just might be possible… until work turns thoroughly insane and tries to kill me.

Having now written two new chapters of The Desert Crystals I can feel the story coming back to me and the voices of some of the characters. Hopefully the rest of them will come back to me too.

♥ Last Week’s Scribbles

This week, Monday 20th January 2014  – mutinous princely babblings.

Televisual Ambivalence  – BBC3’s best and worst (right now). Strange you write about how much you dislike someone only to immediately have them follow you on Twitter. Strange. Or possibly just their media rep getting busy.

Lego Blog: Santa Mecha-Claus – huge robot Santa action!

The Desert Crystals – Part 26: Spirals – just because you get out a dangerous situation doesn’t mean another isn’t waiting to pounce.

Media Intake

Film: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

We watched Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit today. It’s not good. In fairness to the film-makers, Cineworld did try to warn us of this in their film synopsis:

You should see this because: ”

Chris Pine does for Jack Ryan what he did for Captain Kirk in ‘Star Trek’.”


Cineworld Magazine

I loathed him as Kirk in both of those terrible Star Trek films. He’s bland, blank and aside from his striking blue eyes has no merit or place on a cinema screen. At least in this he’s matched by Keira Knightley, so he doesn’t seem quite so freakish. It’s a pretty terrible film all round – Pine fails to convince as a person, let alone as someone in the marines / on a plane / in a bank / CIA / being upset / sweating. His hands shake a bit after he drowns a guy in a bath – that’s about the extent of his acting prowess here. Knightley’s actually not too bad. There’s a lot of jaw acting going on but y’know, with Kenneth Branagh to compete with on the firm lips and gritty jaw stuff she’s shown to be a mere amateur. Kevin Costner makes a brave effort to look remotely interested in what’s happening when he’s on screen but even he can’t be arsed to do much running around.

It doesn’t really matter what the film’s about – it’s some money thing where the Russians (damn those pesky ex-Commies) are going to blow a hole in the US economy (I thought that’s what the US government was for?) and blow a hole in Wall Street with a bomb. If you ever struggle to understand the plot of a film you should go and watch this as they explain every step the characters make. It’s a relief actually as it meant I could pay attention to how exciting monitors full of currency charts are. It isn’t clear why there’s the bombing plan. I suppose it would end (more) anti-climatically if they just uploaded the e-doohickey and went home.

By far the worst in a series of average films about Jack Ryan. It’s sole interesting feature was finding a new way to torture a lady (how else would Jack and the CIA be motivated to save the world if his girlfriend wasn’t in danger?) – an energy saving light bulb in the gob.

Events and Excitement

Friday 31st January

MissImp in Action – live improv comedy show


Thrilling all-action end of the month show sporting the best of MissImp inventing scenes and playing games.

The Glee Club
The Waterfront
Canal Street
8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4.50 in advance/£6 on the door (£3 students/MissImp)

Saturday 1st February

The Same Faces – Improvised Comedy

The Same FacesThe Criterion
44 Millstone Lane

8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4 on the door

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Pulp Pirate 19 – FC 94 Road Couch

Flash Cast 94 – Road Couch

Wow, this is a beast of a podcast. Weighing in at just over two hours (!) this is the Flash Pulp gang catching up after a busy pre-Christmas period. Listen in for slices of Horrible Histories, a Doc Blue seasonal story as well as pulp crime jabber and podcast and audiobook reviews!

Flash Pulp remains the only podcast I listen to every single episode of. Oh, and there’s the first part of Alex Trepan in ‘Midnight Shopping’. Jrd and co. have sweetly agreed to it being serialised, well, for the next three podcasts it will take to tell out the tale. It’s cool! They also read a long letter from Captain Pigheart and say nice things. It made me happy. I had some fun recording the three-parter as well. I haven’t read a story in my own voice before (no Pigheart or de Gashe growling at all). I was quite pleased at how it plays back. My stuff starts at 1hr 16m but really should listen from the beginning – it’s worth it!

Listen to it now: 


Shankery – Angry Poetry For Liars

Shankanalia 8I suspect there are going to be a number of aggravating aspects to the early part of the year. They will likely be compounded with later, more aggravating factors. In short, I anticipate the degree of vexation to be raised skyward by my diurnal activities. I suppose it will at the least inspire me to be more florid in my ejaculations of anger. 

For me, a combination of bad planning (or what they call ‘high level planning’ without bothering to do the ‘low level planning’, i.e. planning the actual work itself), ignorance and a morbid lack of responsibility combine to cause a great deal of stress and risk for myself and those I work with. That’s to say nothing of the effect on service users. Oh well, this is a Conservative government (following an alt-Tory Labour government) after all and it’s hard to be surprised anymore by the ravaging insanity that spreads out from London. At what point do we stop caring at all? How long does it take before it’s not even annoying anymore?

Follow @shankanalia on Twitter for irregular poetic updates.

Shankery – Angry Poetry For Liars

Exceeding Expectations Like A Train
For fuck’s sake,
You can’t be this fucking dumb.
Your ignorance
Almost strikes me silent…
Except for this scream,
Waxing and waning
With pain.

Your Competence Leaves Me Speechless
You no facking worky-worky,
You some kinda facked up monkey
Tossin’ your filthy jerky
Like a fackin’ jism turkey:
Gobble spitting twat-finch flirty.

Coping With Frustration
You know, fuck it.
Just fuck it.
Fuck it all,
And fuck it up
Fuck it back
And fuck it sideways
Till it’s proper fucked-
Then fuck off
You fucking fuck.

Oak Aged Murder
I’d like to drown you
In whiskey
So I can taste your pain.
Down your suffering
Like a tonic;
Revitalising me
With your death juice.
You taste gritty.

Walk A Mile In Another Man’s Face
Kick you in the face
With gusto and whimsy,
Jab my foot inside your eye hole
And wear you like a shoe
With an inelegant heel
And bloody laces.

A Perfect Specification
Fit for purpose?
Fit for a punch.
As per design?
Designed by a twat.
Fuckspoons for eyes;
Cocknut eared wanker.

Worse Than Fries
Stab you in your ignorant heart,
Split it like a lettuce.
Toss the leaves of your life
With a nice bloody vinaigrette
Of your happy memories.

More of The Same

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Terrible Dreams Made Into Stories: The Swans

The Swans

The bodies were found, finally, stretched out on the battered wooden boards of the old comprehensive school. It had been closed and derelict for years, a spooky ghost house, squat or health and safety hazard depending on your age. The police had been drawn in after a passer-by spotted a line of crows noisily queueing to squeeze in through a broken window. The window had been broken by a thirteen year old boy named John, not that anyone asked. He’d found the shattering glass went some way to pacify the anger and upset he felt with the world.

The bodies were incomplete. Of the seven, three lacked heads and all were missing an arm or a leg. They had been there for some months, lined up like toast soldiers getting soggy and seeping into the floorboards. The police forensics teams took the whole floor.

None of the bodies were identified. No one from the town was missing. No one else had heard of them either. The missing heads didn’t help, but the fingerprints were no use, the DNA was a dead end. No wallets, no badges, no clothes no nothing. Aged between fifteen and forty-five, three female, four male. They lay in the cold cold morgue like a charity shop jigsaw; with missing pieces and the wrong picture on the box.


Three months after the bodies were found and forgotten again the school was finally demolished. Spurred on in part by the failed investigation and the desire to erase those disturbing memories. The site was left newly derelict, bulldozed heaps of bricks and drainpipe, window frame and blackboard jumbled and smashed in a metal-fenced pen.

Behind the wasteland rose the forest, thrusting up into the stumpy hills that ringed the north and east of the town. They were not well-visited woodlands, being curiously devoid of rare fauna and flora. Had they been more interesting something would have been built there. A few thin paths blundered through the trees, edging the hills and descending to the town’s old beauty spot, Wendle Pool.

Despite being just a short walk from the town centre the woods and pool were the preserve of squirrels, small birds and teenagers. Two such, Michael and Evan who at the empowering age of sixteen considered themselves hunters and woodsmen, ventured out early on Saturday morning to inspect their attempts at rabbit snares and toss stones into the pool.

The snares remained empty and the boys’ pen knives remained pocketed and unused. They smirked at the routine disappointment of a failed hunt; acknowledging the failure had become an important ritual in itself. In commemoration Evan exchanged a loosely rolled cigarette for a Marlboro Light. The pair smoked and talked quietly as they hiked uphill towards the cliff that lurked over the pool. Even their conversation was routine, a form of words and habits that comforted and ordered the day.

They followed their familiar trail up through the scrappy birches and bracken that bedraggled the hills. The cold chill of the morning held a mist between the trees. It cast a glamour across the unremarkable landscape, imbuing it with softness and shadowy beauty that clarity would never grant. Beneath the furrowed brow of the ridge the boys climbed, the birches were supplanted by a small copse of firs. The green of their boughs mocked the emptiness of the needled earth beneath.

As they passed the last birch, Evan recoiled suddenly. The roll-up he was confidently dangling from the corner of his mouth stuck to his lip and he sucked it into his mouth as he cried out. He fell back into Michael, who failed to catch him and they both stumbled to the needle-strewn ground. Evan spluttered out the strands of tobacco and paper and choking managed only to point. Branches stretched across the clearing and hanging from the branches in the dead centre two heads leered at them.

An ancient scream was fixed in their faces; eyeless holes matched the gaping mouth as if they too were screaming. The boys recovered their fragile teenage swagger. Once they were assured that the heads were indeed just heads, a degree of self-deprecation and bravado could be reacquired. The hills were the regular domain of Michael and Evan, its contents their dominion, surely. With fluttering heart and an unusual physical proximity they approached the heads. They swayed with a breeze the boys had not previously noticed, swinging gently on their own hair which was knotted to the tree branch. The skin on the hanging faces was weathered, their gender was hard to guess. Being apart from their bodies and the hues that should have painted their cheeks left them neuter, inhuman; at once less and more frightening.

The mist clung to the edges of the copse, confining the boys and the heads in a grey cage. Neither boy felt inclined to touch them. A terrible sense that they would bite, or talk, or scream lingered in both their minds though it remained unspoken. There was no doubt that the decapitated heads had not been there the previous Saturday. This was the way they always came. They would have noticed. Of course they would have noticed. They must not have noticed. Perhaps the heads were tied to some higher bough, of course they must have been there. Just out of sight. Of course. Otherwise they were newly placed. Weird though. Really weird.

With their conclusion that the heads had always been present came a sense of acceptance, that this was normal. Concerns that had the heads always hung above their heads that those eyeless faces would have borne witness to a number of blushing youthful indiscretions were half-heartedly laughed off. They should continue with their routine. Finding that the path out of the copse was marked irregularly with amputated forearms, feet and hands pointing in the direction of their passage failed to alert the boys. Their fears screamed below a thin veneer of calm habit.

Leathery fingers crooked as they passed, toes curled. Knees and wrists flexed, dry and worn tendons tugged by unseen puppeteers. The mist was denser, followed them along the path as if the world dissolved behind them to reform before their feet. They breathed cold smoke into the woods. The copse opened out onto the ledge that frowned on the pond beneath. The boys stood shoulder to shoulder. Neither noticed that they were so close that their fingers almost touched; their digits twitched for the warmth and reassurance just within reach.

Below them the mists rose from the pool like a cold fire, burning away the vitality of the water. It lay black and still; clotted. Thoughtless, blinded by the icy smoke wreathing the teenagers they descended the steep path that lead down to the water. In a haze Evan splashed into the water. It rose up in languid waves which cracked and bled, blackly soaking the boy’s trousers. Michael remained on the bank, mutely watching his friend wade into the fracturing mire.

With each step Evan grew heavier. His skin mottled on contact with the diseased fluid that filled the pool. The flesh of his hands and face cracked, falling away in a fine rain. Michael swayed, held up by the smoke and smell of the water. Evan’s face collapsed, sliding down his jacket leaving only cracking bone which crumbled in turn, and Evan’s naked skeleton sank into the pool.

Michael lurched on the edge of the water, unable to draw his eyes away from Evan’s hair as it slowly spread out. The smoky murk lifted briefly as if a giant breathed over the pond. Between the fingers of mist came nightmare creatures. The swans glided through the rank scum, seemingly untroubled by its thickness. They were rotting as they swam, each kick of their feet blackening another feather that curdled. The swans dipped their faces to the water and emerged with rancid treacly beaks oozing bloody waste.

The corrupted swans gathered at Michael’s feet decaying wings raised. Their eyeless faces drooled a welcome call. Michael fell forwards and was embraced by the sludge.

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