Thursday, 18 May 2017


Scene – Mrs May's personal office. Mrs May is present, alone, and reading a biography of Mrs Thatcher.

Enter, senior election adviser (SEA)

SEA: Mrs May, if I might borrow a moment of your time. I need to talk to you about social care.

MAY: [Snaps her book shut and puts it on the table.] Is it really important?

SEA: [Pause] Yes. One could say so.

MAY: Shoot then.

SEA: Right. What do you know about sandwich carers?

MAY: Sandwich carers? [Bursts into laughter.] Sandwich carers! What, women who care for sandwiches?

SEA: Can we try to pretend we're not sexist?

MAY: But the reality...

SEA: Yes, I understand the reality, but what have we said about reality?


SEA: Come on now! You need to get this. Reality...

MAY: Reality... can't...

SEA: Doesn't...

MAY: Reality doesn't... win elections!'

SEA: Very good!

MAY: Yes! [Air punches.]

SEA: All right, let’s go back a bit, what do you know about the current societal state of the country?

MAY: I think grammar schools are a good idea.

SEA: We'll go slowly then. You know back in the olden days, before there needed to be two employed wage-earners in a household...

MAY: Oh, happy days! We really should go back to those days!

SEA: I do think we need to accept that working women are good for the economy. Present company excepted. What I'm saying is, suddenly two adults in the household needed to work to make ends meet, so more women entered the workplace.

MAY: You just said that's a good thing!

SEA: It's a great thing! It just changes society. Remember about women working...?

MAY: Oh, I remember this one! [Chanting by rote] More women work, but they're still not paid or treated fairly, and often have to take menial or low-paid jobs, or ones where they have to be flexible or part-time to accommodate childcare, because, in the collective psychology, male workers are still considered more valuable than female ones, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy when women are hindered in the workplace because of the above. Phew!

SEA: Well done, Prime Minister! Just, don't say any of that outside this room, OK?

MAY: Because reality doesn't win elections!

SEA: Indeed. And now we want to make it just a little bit worse for those women.

MAY: Worse?

SEA: Yes. Here is what happened. As a response to this new social situation, women started to have their babies later, so that they could attempt to establish a career first. Because parents became older, grandparents became older. Because people often moved away for work, families no longer live in the same street and can't easily keep an eye on one another. So, they need us to help support them while they, in return, support the economy.

MAY: Wait, I thought it was lazy, sit-at-home people who we're supposed to supporting. You know, what are they called... what are they... Oh yes! Poor, sick, disabled, elderly, disadvantaged people!

SEA: We're the government. We should be supporting everybody. That's our job!

[Long pause, then laughter all round.]

SEA: The thing is, because grandparents are older, we now have an extra generation who need care and support. So, the person...

MAY: Woman.

SEA: Yes, but we really do have to pretend that this isn't a sexist thing. That person is a sandwich carer. The person in the middle generation is trying to work, progress through their career, raise their children, and care for their elderly relative all at the same time.

MAY: Those people are screwed, aren't they?

SEA: Yes. And we weighed it up very carefully, and decided that because those people are already screwed, things getting a bit worse won't feel as bad as it might for say... a large corporation having to pay fair and just tax for the first time ever.

MAY: Oh yes!

SEA: So, what we propose is this. You know how people are entitled to take a year off after the birth of their child, causing their career to stagnate while other workers progress...

MAY: The men.

SEA: Try not to keep saying that. Anyhow, we extend that so that they can also take a year off to take care of their elderly parents.

MAY: That doesn't seem too bad! Will we give them something equivalent to maternity pay?

SEA: No.

MAY: Huh. OK. That's...

SEA: Not fair, however, we have an additional solution.

MAY: Let's have it.

SEA: Everyone who owns property or assets over £100,000 will have to pay for any social care that's not provided for free by their family.

MAY: OK, so... what are we saying here?

SEA: People who have worked and saved for their entire lives to provide a reasonable estate for their children when they die, will no longer have a reasonable estate when they die.

MAY: But that's not fair!

SEA: Well, obviously, because people with £100,001 will feel it more than, someone with £1,000,001. But it still might actually be the fairest thing we've ever done.

MAY: No! I don't mean for them! I mean for me! The Grey Voter might not vote for me anymore!

SEA: Yes, but you'll gather the racist... no, sorry, I meant the UKIP voters, and everyone else who wants Johnny Foreigner to leave, and those voters who still believe that the NHS will be given piles of European money.

MAY: They still exist?

SEA: In for a penny, in for a non-existent pound, and all that.

MAY: OK. So, let's see if I get this whole sandwich carers thing right.

SEA: Go on.

MAY: Women are already disadvantaged in the workplace for a whole heap of reasons, and because they’re disadvantage in the workplace, they tend to be the one taking parental leave.

SEA: Yes.

MAY: And then, just when they've returned from that and moving upward again, they're required to take another, year-long break, for which they'll receive zero financial help...

SEA: To be fair, we'll give them £62.70 a week.

MAY: For which they're expected to do gruelling, specialist work...

SEA: Vital work, where they have to ensure their parents get meals every day, organise their medication, sometimes assist them to the toilet or the bath, make sure all medical appointments are attended, be on-call 24 hours a day in case of emergencies like falls, or their parent with dementia wandering off.

MAY: And they're doing all this while simultaneously being on-call for their children who might need taking care of while they're sick, or might want a parent to attend an assembly, or might also need additional care with disabilities or special needs...

SEA: Yes.

MAY: And who might have been relying on some inheritance so that they can afford to take that year off with no salary. And the grandparents who might have been able to help pay the tens of thousands pounds it costs to put the children through university, and they might want to help their children buy homes which really aren't affordable, now can't do that.

SEA: Yes.

MAY: And this will lead to a strong and stable economy?

SEA: What do we say about reality?

MAY: Because Brexit isn't going to screw the economy big time?

SEA: But what do we say about reality?

MAY: So, remind me again who benefits from all of this?

SEA: The Conservative party, big business and the rich.

MAY: Ah. Yes. OK then, let's screw the women.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

So, who should I vote for?

Originally this piece was called, ‘Who the fuck do I vote for??!!!’ but I changed it to protect my public image for the three people on Earth who still think I’m genteel. I don’t overuse punctuation though. Promise. (Apart from brackets.)

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve been a card carrying Labour member for my entire life. I was a member back when I was about 16 when my father enrolled me in a complete misunderstanding about where his control over my political beliefs ended. To be fair, he has not done this since he switched his allegiance from Labour to Lib Dem to Labour to UKIP. I think he was a Tory once. So I have had a little more Labour consistency than some, even when I haven’t always had the card in my wallet. I did, in 1997, go out campaigning on behalf of Ivor Caplin who won Hove for Labour, bringing about the awesome Paxman line to a squirming Conservative, ‘If you can’t keep Hove, then what can you keep?’ I did that. Me.

So I’m really, really sorry about Blair.

'No! It wasn't me! It was that dastardly Pip! (Picture EPA)

I strayed since then, wandering into Lib Dem areas when Clegg was shooting up like a glowing flower of liberal glory in 2010.

'I'm not sure how I got here, really, but I'm pretty sure it's Pip's fault...' (Image PA)

I’m really sorry about that too.

But, in general, I’m Labour. I joined Labour again in 2015 in the week following the general election. I wanted to have a say in who led my party and who would stand up in parliament and argue for the people I care about. I wanted someone who would fight for the nurses, the teachers, the sick, the disabled, the poor. I wanted some belief in a party that is strong enough to give a shit about the people who need it most.

Initially, I was fairly unfocused, even though I knew I wanted a say. I looked at the candidates finding them all a little bit bland, a little bit too prepared to trot out trite catchphrases and have the bog-standard politician’s response to every event;  ‘I will fight for the working person!’ ‘I believe in trust!’ ‘I want a country full of hot air because there are Words which are Words That I Think People Want to Hear and I should say them!’ And the one that has been making my flesh crawl for the past five years; ‘I’m shocked and appalled!’ No you’re not. If you were, it might be possible for you to have an actual, human emotion or at least dig deep in your thesaurus for a couple of different words. I’ve heard that phrase three times in the past month.

Then, out of the darkness, came a wonderful light…

'Look at me, thinking about higher things!' (picture, Telegraph)

Oh yes! Corbyn! Oh the absolute joy of finding someone who thinks and feels exactly what I think and feel.

I once told my children that if you want to have an MP who agrees with you 100%, then you have to stand yourself.

Corbyn hits my ideology at about 95%.

There was no question in my mind that I would vote for Corbyn. I put the X in that particular box because I wanted to. Not for kicks, not for fun and not because I wanted to screw everyone. I wanted to. He won. And in some ways, I’m sorry about that.

I spent the first couple of weeks making the excuse that he was just settling in. Just getting his feet under the table, as it were. That accounted for his quietness.

The ‘real questions from real people’ strategy was interesting and based on excellent ideals. There was suddenly a hotline to parliament rather than the old fashioned way of getting off your arse, going to your constituency clinic, explaining your point to your MP and allowing that MP to try to get that question into Prime Ministers Question Time. In practice though, it kind of made Corbyn seem as though he was hiding behind ‘Carol, from High Wickham’. He liked her question. But don’t think her question might be his question.

He needed to straighten his suit. I don’t give a rat’s arse about anyone’s clothing from Prada to Primark. I have no right to judge given that I show up to work in jeans every day because I honestly believe that doing my job well is a higher priority than wearing formal clothes while doing it. But I’m not standing up in parliament while doing it. If I were, I don’t think I’d allow my choice of clothing to score higher in people’s minds than what I was saying. 

He didn’t sing the National Anthem. I do think it’s better that he didn’t do something didn’t believe in just for the look of things. I agree with that sentiment 100%. Or maybe just 95%

I also think there is a sort of rudeness to it. Making a point, fine. Making a point that’s going to deliberately upset people in the context of a moving and solemn event is not fine. My atheist friends managed to choke out an ‘amen’ at my wedding, and even join in with hymns about Gd, even though they clearly don’t amen. My wedding simply wasn’t the right place to make that point. Even if they didn’t speak it, they didn’t use it as a photo op to demonstrate their non-amen qualities. So hurrah not saying something he didn’t believe and instead, bowing his head respectfully, but not-hurrah for using the Battle of Britain memorial to push that image home.

That memorial happened because of the collective belief that the magnitude of what happened in two world wars leaves a hole that never goes away. We don’t want to forget these people, who said the amen, who polished their shoes, who saluted senior officers, and who did it not necessarily because it spoke to their core beliefs but because they valued and loved this country which does, I have to point out, have a monarchy. Whether we want it to or not, it does have one, and it was a part of what these people were doing when they polished their shoes and went out to die. We don’t just want to remember what they did but who they are; we want to speak for them because they can’t. Just mime the national anthem when you’re standing on their graves, then talk about republicanism or atheism loudly in the appropriate place.

Or maybe don’t. Maybe you know that stance would cost you the support of an awful lot of people. So maybe stay silent.

The silence pissed me off a lot. One of the reasons I know that I could never be a politician is that I know you have to make a lot of noise. You can’t do it quietly. (The other reason is that I’m God-damned lazy, and, y’know, the brackets thing.)

Be noisy. Be angry. Be aggressive. Attack when you need to attack. There’s no point having all these beliefs and making all these choices if you’re not being loud while doing it.  

You can’t have a leader who won’t shout back. I know it’s the old sort of politics, and I know there’s no need to stoop to their level, but there actually kind of is. You can’t talk softly and carry a big stick if you’re not carrying the big stick. Sometimes you have to shout.

And then the silence that’s really offensive; if someone accuses a member of your team of bullying, then you respond to it pretty fucking quickly, and you do so clearly and visibly. You can’t say, ‘there’s no place for bullying…’ when you are making a space for bullying by appearing to do nothing at all. That’s not a deterrent in school, in work or in a political party. Investigate, determine and resolve, do it quickly, and make sure everybody knows you’re doing it.

 So there I am. I can still see that Jeremy Corbyn believes in all the liberal and socialist things that I believe in, but I can also see that he’s not a great leader. He can’t manage people and situations well. But then… I’m not sure Owen Smith can either. He’s already pissing me off, and he’s been on my radar for less than three weeks. His major selling point is that he’s Not Corbyn. The understanding is that he’ll gather all the Not Corbyn votes. That’s precisely why they haven’t split the Not Corbyn votes between a number of candidates. But I don’t want to give mine away so easily.

'Can I have a beige background? I think beige is nice. My whole house is beige.' (Picture, Getty)

We seem to have returned to the bland. We have returned to the, ‘I’m a feminist!’ because ‘That’s what feminists want me to say!’ and ‘I hope they don’t notice that Corbyn’s shadow cabinet has a greater proportion of women than there has ever been!’

We have returned to the, ‘I’m a socialist too! Honest!’ He wants to ‘Fight for the workers!’ We’ve returned to ‘Shocked!’ and fucking ‘Appalled!’

This is what 'shocked and appalled looks like. You might as well post it on Twitter.

But on the other side, we’ve still got the, ‘Speak softly and try to work out what a big stick might look like.’

I just want to shake them all up and yell at them to say what they fucking believe rather than what their campaign managers want them to look like they believe. I want to yell at them to shout it from the bloody rooftops rather than just feel it in their hearts.

I don’t feel pulled towards either camp and there isn’t a third camp to pull towards. I am frustrated.

I need someone to vote for. Someone to give the party and country I love to.

I know that I really can’t complain. I know that I don’t want to stand either. I know I can’t handle the pressure.

(I also use too many brackets.)

Monday, 25 July 2016

Political Incompetence Race

Commentator 1: Welcome back to the Rio 2016 political incompetence race. This one has been rumbling along for a while now, but we should be able to take you all the way to the end of this heat.

Commentator 2: Can we hear the story until now?

Comm 1: Yes, just to recap, the UK Conservatives got off to a very good start with their ‘No plan’ move.

Comm 2: I understand they’d forgotten they’d be in power for Brexit negotiations!

Comm 1: Indeed. I believe they were able to make hay with the over-reliance of independent polling.

Comm 2: A good move.

Comm 1: We then saw them plunged into a leadership debate. They made excellent use of Gove with his bleeding knife, and they did manage to have a gloating mother who would not hire a male nanny…

Comm 2: Was the word paedophile mentioned?

Comm 1: It was. Unfortunately, this was under-reported by the press, and she dropped out of the race much sooner than anticipated. While May has pulled in a lot of Thatcher comparisons…

Comm 2: Any discussion of any traits other than her sex?

Comm 1: None at all. She’s deliberately making comparisons to Thatcher herself, and she’s made at least one joke in parliament about it…

Comm 2: Already?

Comm 1: Immediately. They also had the wonderful foresight of moving a racist into the Foreign Office, but I fear they may not catch up with UK Labour now.

Comm 2: I hear that UK Labour been gearing up for this for quite some time.

Comm 1: Yes, this is the culmination of a year’s worth of preparation. Most of the mass sackings were unfortunately just brushed over following the Tory Gove manoeuvre, but they did manage to pull out an early vote of no confidence.

Comm 2: A good move.

Comm 1: And they were able to follow that up immediately by the leader refusing to resign after that vote. And now, and I think you’ll agree that this is a sterling decision, they have split themselves into two parties, and have to put themselves into both first and second place!

Comm 2: So they’re running against each other?

Comm 1: Rather brilliantly, they are not split in any official regard, but they have definitely split ideologically.

Comm 2: That must be generating quite some confusion among the party membership!

Comm 1: Yes, indeed it is! They’ve been given a real boost by the membership standing by the current leader who has the respect of just a tiny proportion of the parliamentary party!

Comm 2: So I see they’re running towards the home straight now…

Comm 1: Let’s take a look at where we are…

Comm 2: I see we’ve got the continual batting between each other of general bullying.

Comm 1: Yes, and this slow, steady manoeuvre is what’s been keeping them nicely ahead.

Comm 2: Oh! And an accusation of conspiracy!

Comm 1: Nicely done!

Comm 2: And what have we got here… it’s a… it’s a failure to address the bullying!

Comm 1: Yes, this has also been a much used tactic. And now we’ve got…

Comm 2: Let me see… we’ve got…

Comm 1: Accusation of sexism! Intimidation! Further conspiracy and the de-registering of Labour Party members!

Comm 2: Brilliant work from UK Labour there!

Comm 1: We’ve got some Socialist slurs going on…

Comm 2: Is that alienating core membership?

Comm 1: It is! It is!

Comm 2: Wait! What are we seeing here?

Comm 1: Look at this! Look at this! This is Turkey’s president Erdoğan!

Comm 2: Yes! Turkey have shot ahead with an attempted coup!

Comm 1: Military?

Comm 2: Yes! And it’s chaos! I believe it’s based on… yes, it’s based on a chronic failure to deal with the Kurdish issue!

Comm 1: I don’t think I’ve seen a move like that since… what was it? The seventies?

Comm 2: Early eighties I think!

Comm 1: Early eighties! Wait… we have UK Labour trying to catch up…

Comm 2: What have we got here?

Comm 1: Another accusation… this time it’s… it’s… invasion of privacy!

Comm 2: Was the office vacated?

Comm 1: It was… No! It was not vacated!

Comm 2: For how long?

Comm 1: A month! No office space, apparently!

Comm 2: No office space! But what have we got from Turkey?

Comm 1: A return… I’m just trying to make it out… No, it’s a threat to return to the death penalty!

Comm 2: That should scupper any attempt to join the EU!

Comm 1: Mutterings of torture!

Comm 2: Mutterings of torture! Brilliant!

Comm 1: But we’re coming up to the finish line now!

Comm 2: And we’ve got…

Comm 1: Yes! It’s Turkey’s Erdoğan in Gold, and UK Labour take both Silver and Bronze!

Comm 2: I don’t think I’ve seen a finish like that for…

Comm 1: Well for many, many years.

Comm 2: I would go so far as to say that this was a monumental fuck up all round!

Comm 1: A monumental fuck up!

Comm 2: The final is going to have a lot to live up to here! Who are they meeting?

Comm 1: Well, the shock story of the first heat was the USA.

Comm 2: But they’ve been quiet for an awfully long time!

Comm 1: They have, but I hear that they have a trump card to play! So let’s see how that pans out…

Meeting The Queen

Queen: Are you able to form a government with the support of parliament?

May: I am.

Queen: Are you sure?

May: I am.

Queen: Excellent. So what the fuck are you going to do about Brexit?

May: I know! I mean... really? Where the hell do I even start?

Queen: Dude. Rather you than me.

May: But can't you... maybe... can't you do one of those royal edict things where you just say that you're not gonna do it? That you like a bit of united Europe and remember the blitz innit? Or the other way: I evoke article 50 right now, fuck all of you!

Queen: No bloody way. I'm apolitical, remember?

May: Oh fuck it.

Queen: Go on then, give me a sneaky peek of your cabinet.

May: No, you’ll have to wait and see.

Queen: Come on! You know I like the spoilers!

May: OK then. Just one though, but this one’s really funny… Boris in the Foreign Office.

Queen: … Boris Johnson?

May: Yeah.

Queen: BoJo?

May: Yep.

Queen: In the Foreign Office?

May: Yes! <sniggers>

Queen: Really? Hehehehe!

May: I know!

Queen: Hahahaha!

May: Hahahaha!

Queen: Oh my God! Oh my God! Hahahahaha!

May: Oh! Oh! Hahahaha!

Queen: Oh no! Oh no! I can’t breathe!

May: Hahahahaha!

Queen: Oh my! Oh dear! God! Why didn’t you just ask for Phil and have done with it?

May: <Falls about laughing>

Queen: Oh God! Oh God! This hurts! Oh stop!

May: <Wiping away tear> It even rhymes! ‘I’ll have Boris, in the Foreign Office!’

Queen: Oh God! Please stop! <Falls of her chair>

(This piece gave me such an Under Pressure earworm.)

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Dress like a pterodactyl day

Once a term, the school unleash two weeks of hell on me. Once a term my children will dance home with a homework sheets that starts with, ‘We thought it would be fun if the children come to school dressed like a pterodactyl on a pirate ship time-travelling from the 19th century! It’s a really good way for them to engage with this term’s topic on asphalt! Your child can wear the costume to school on that special day when they all get to compare their costumes to work out who has the shitest parent or carer!’

Then they stick it in the child’s bookbag and run.

I hate this homework. I hate it for a number of reasons, and it’s taken me seven years of making costumes for various topics, and costumes for book week, and one fun year, a costume for maths’ week, which, in total, equals 44 costumes, to work out why I hate this particular homework.

It’s because the children don’t have to bloody do it.

I am not a supporter of homework in primary school. I've read (heard about) reports that show that homework in primary school serves no academic purpose. I don’t buy the idea that it prepares the child for when they have to do homework at senior school because they’ll learn that when they’re at senior school. I do respect the fact that homework does encourage a parent or carer to engage with what their child is learning at school. However, for that to work, the child has to be in the same bloody room as the homework in question.

There are some homework tasks where my sole input is to hand them a piece of coloured card and let them get on with it. Occasionally, my input is to sit beside them to explain the bits that they don’t understand. Usually, my input is to stand by the table yelling, ‘Just do the sodding homework! If you’d started it before you started this whining session, the homework would already be done! We all have to do things we don’t want to do, and do you hear me whinging about it? Well, Yes! Obviously you do, but it’s not the same because Reasons!’

But then the dress like a pterodactyl homework comes around and I get my comeuppance because this is a piece of homework I have to do or my child will be all left out and will look at me with wide, sorrowful eyes full of tears while I bribe them out of their misery with cake and ice-cream.

Sometimes there is input from the child, in that they come home and say, as they did for the current topic, ‘You have to make a, Egyptian costume, and I want you to make me into a pharaoh!’ So the first part of your homework is trying to sell, ‘Wouldn't a slave be more fun? We could make a wonderful slave costume… I know pharaohs are more important, but slaves are great too! I thought I could put you in one of Daddy’s t-shirts and put a belt around the middle… No! We haven’t done t-shirt-and-belt for every costume! Sometimes we do the cut-arm-and-head-holes-in-a-pillowcase costume! Sometimes we even stick things to the pillow-case with glue!’

Child's vision

Then the child will wander off in a fug of unfairness that they’re going to be a slave and not a pharaoh.

My ability

Then the real fun starts. Herewith the Mulgrue process of completing the dress like a pterodactyl homework:
  1. find a man’s XXL t-shirt that is no longer needed without starting the row that it was the only possible t-shirt that he could ever wear, and then you have to buy another t-shirt which will sit in the back of the wardrobe unloved and forgotten until the next costume homework whereupon it will suddenly turn into the best t-shirt that he’s ever owned. 
  2. find a belt that will go around the child without needing to be looped around three times. Prepare yourself for the inevitable crying about how uncomfortable the belt is, and understand that they will shed it in the first 5 minutes meaning that your child’s costume is now, ‘A t-shirt’.
  3. be crippled with guilt that your child will be deeply disappointed when they see all of their friends in sparkly pharaoh costumes while she’s the only slave in the classroom.
Meanwhile, the child engages with their homework by lounging in the living room watching Stampy videos where, if you’re really lucky, he might be building a pyramid.

So I get to work with the homework.

I think it should be abundantly clear by now that I cannot do this homework.

All through my school life I was a good student. I worked hard, got my homework in on time, worked through a beautifully formatted study timetable for exams, and never missed a morning lecture because I’d been out the night before. Yes; I was that kind of smug student.

I cannot do this homework. I will never get to feel smug again. When the picture of the costumes appears in the newsletter, my child will be the one with the sad-face at the back of the group, mostly hidden by someone else’s flung out arms as they bask in their brilliant pharaoh costume.

All my child will learn is that Mum knows an awful lot of swear words. And, because I'm regularly driving them somewhere, they already know that.

I do recognise that there are ways to engage your child in this activity. As well as teaching them the valuable lesson that life is full of disappointments, it is the opportunity to demonstrate that you can do an awful lot with Wonderweb.

You could even, as I tried one time, teach them to sew.

Quick tip for parents out there; don’t teach your child to sew.

Our sewing lesson went like this; ‘It’s a sewing machine! … Yes, I know it’s a bit dusty… Now this is called a bobbin… Yes, just like in the song… Yes, I know the song… Yes, it’s a good song… Yes, I remember the actions… Mostly because of that time when you sang the song for over two hours before I knocked you out with Piriton… OK, I'm just reading the instructions … Yes, I do know how to use it… OK, let’s go… Shit, shit… Shit… No, I don’t know why it’s crumpled… Right… Shit… Do you really need armholes? … Yes, it’s fine for you to go and watch StampyCat, but could you try to find a video with a pyramid?... OK, yes, death-race is just fine…’

I have, over the years and with long practice, become a little bit better at the dress like a pterodactyl homework. This term, my input was to yell into the dining room, ‘Honey, your daughter wants to dress like a pharaoh for the Egyptian costume day! You’d better get on that!’ before scurrying out the door.

She’ll be dressed as a slave in one of his t-shirts with a belt around the middle eating chocolate cake and ice cream while she walks sorrowfully to school.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Time to Invent!

Before the summer, the children's school gave the prompt for the summer writing competition. It was to be any piece of writing about inventors or an invention in any style. It was a nice prompt, because the previous two had been fiction prompts (first lines). This one opened that up nicely.

This is my entry.

Time to invent

Tick tock
Tick squock

Dials are wriggled
Nobbles are squiggled

Wind, wind, whirr, whirr

Tick tock
Tick splat

Teeny tiny
Weeny whiny
Cogs are rattled.

Wind, wind, whirr, whirr

Tick tock
Tick twang

Coffee is drunk
Thoughts are thunk

Tick tock
Tick tweee

Heads are scratched
Hair detached

Tables are kicked…
…catches are flicked

Wind, wind, whirr, whirr

Tick tock
Tick… tock

Tick tock
Tick tock
Tick tock
Tick! Tock!

!!! !!!!

A chime has chimed
Brass numbers shine

The invention of Time.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Quickfic - Runner

This week's Quickfic entry for the Faber Academy competition:


This is where I am now.

This place has been chosen with great care. I cannot see, not even with a wide scan or a narrow squint, any sign of another living person.

If I turn 180°, that’s where the people are. The houses sitting squat and sedate under the August sky, and the people within them cleaning their stoves, mopping their floors, flicking through channel after mindless channel on their flickering flat-screen TVs.

I have stopped being among them. I am leaving the food-encrusted pans to rot in the sink. The grimy mop rests on the floor, over which are scattered the remains of a thousand fishing trips or jolly jaunts to the allotment with a four-pack of rancid beer.

He can sit there on the sagging, dirt-brown sofa with his sweating neck staining the cushions, and his next can in his meaty fist.

Out there, in front of me, are miles and miles of solitude. Back there; those pans and mops and sweating fists. This is where I am now, caught, in this moment, between the two.

Right here is nothing but the quiet stillness of burning, budding potential. The calmness of it flows through my head, lifting me slightly onto flexing soles. I breathe twice.

This is where I am now.

I pull back just slightly, and spring forward, fast, and I run.

Friday, 31 July 2015


This week's Faber Academy QuickFic (250 word short story in 4 hours) was based on the following prompt:

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. (First line from Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome.)

I was feeling indecisive, so entered three. I have it on good authority that this was the best one. (I didn't win, obviously, but a friend liked this one best.)


That is my beach. I sit here with my chin on my knees and my arse on the sand, ignoring the barbecue with that family all laughing together.

But when they dump their rubbish into the sea, I’m the one getting my feet wet to clear it up.

A letter in a bottle. How novel. Bloody hell.

There’s nothing to do but read it now. It might be from a dying kid in France or something. Full of bloody dust and a crappy piece of paper.

The pain of losing his daughter like that. Years and years of her being gone.

Loads of people lose children. It happens. Move on.

A second bottle floats by while I’m still knee-deep.

But it was him. He beat her. She turned up and showed me the scars and the chunk he pulled out of her hair. She kept it.

Once, long ago, I’d been beaten. A wooden spoon with my mother on the end of it. I learned to dodge.

The next bottle is green and small, like an old fashioned one from a chemist.

You never really know someone though. All I knew was his pain that she’d left.

The next is a pop bottle. I open it fast, spilling the grey dust onto the yellow sand.

Charles loved me. My lovely, gentle, funny, loving Charles.

I wait three hours for the next one.

So I’m sending him to you. Because it turned out I never knew him at all.


In case you're interested or would like to judge for yourself, here are the other two:


‘You’ll never guess what.’
‘You know Pete’s not been in?’
‘He were sacked for being a spy.’
‘A spy?’
‘A spy!’
‘God! I’d never have thought it of Pete.’
‘He was using work email to send stuff to competitors.’
‘And they caught him?’
‘Oh yeah. They can read your emails, you know.’

‘You’ll never guess what.’
‘You know Pete from work?’
‘Fat Pete?’
‘No, Tall Pete.’
‘Oh yeah.’
‘He were arrested for being a spy!’
‘A spy?’
‘A spy!’
‘Who’s he been spying on?’
‘Us! He was selling company secrets to competitors!’
‘Yep. Using work email an’all!’
‘They can arrest you for that?’
‘Apparently so! Fraud innit. He’s not been into work or nothing!’

‘You’ll never guess what.’
‘You know Fat Pete that my ‘Shell works with?’
‘Oh yeah. Drinks in the Pins, don’t he?’
‘That’s Tall Pete. This is Fat Pete.’
‘Oh yeah.’
‘He was arrested for being a spy!’
‘A spy?’
‘A spy!’
‘God! Who’s he spying on?’
‘Us! Police tracked him using his email!’
‘Can they do that?’
‘Apparently so!’
‘God! You’d think they’d focus on those others.’
‘What others?’
‘Them terrorists.’

‘You’ll never guess what.’
‘You know Andy’s bird’s mate, Phil?’
‘Tall guy? From the Fox?’
‘Yeah, right tall and fat with it.’
‘Oh yeah.’
‘Got arrested last week! Terrorist, in’t he!’
‘A terrorist!’
‘Yeah. Who’d have thought it?’
‘Who’d have thought it.’

‘Peter Connolly.’
‘Do you understand the nature of these charges?’



‘You’re not in trouble, OK?’

She sits with her blue eyes blinking under hair so white it’s almost transparent. Not in trouble.

‘We just want to know what you saw.’

‘I didn’t see much, Miss,’ she says, with that annoying little sniff that she adds to every sentence. ‘I just saw him on the floor, afterwards.’

But by all accounts, she was right next to him when it happened, playing right there.

This one is exuberant, caught up in the excitement of the morning. He can’t stay seated; he has to act it out for me.

‘It was Billy Jessop, Miss! Billy Jessop ran up to him and pulled at his legs, like this, when he was running, like this, and he pulled him, and he fell, and there was blood and brains everywhere!’

There was no blood. That was the strangest thing about it.

This one is a small boy; slight, red-haired and freckled.  His reports say, ‘Always reliable and mature’.

‘He was trying to get away from Billy, so he climbed to the top of the climbing frame and then he fell off.’

But he was found nowhere near the climbing frame.

This one, head in the clouds, tall and stringy with her long, brown hair. She’s wailing and gulping at the air.

‘It was just a game of tag, Miss! It was just a game that we were all playing!’

So there we are. Just a game of tag, that’s all it was. A game of tag.

Pip xxx