Archive for June 2013

Magic carpets and their poor cousins

June 30, 2013

One of my favourite series of stories as a child was The Arabian Nights. The cartoon versions of these fantastical fables were exciting when seen through a child’s eye. The book is slightly different from the animated adventures as I found out later. This didn’t put me off my enjoyment of the more celebrated tales.

Who would not want to have a magic lamp with a friendly genie granting three wishes? My three wishes have changed through the years. My current three are-

A limitless supply of beer

A limitless supply of pizza

A doctor handy at all times

The voyages of Sinbad (sometimes spelled as Sindbad) the sailor have been retold many times and they never cease to amaze. Of all the various adaptations I particularly liked the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Released in 1977 it featured cutting edge special effects courtesy of the master of the visual technology arts, Ray Harryhausen. Another thing that sticks in the mind about that day at the movies is that the B-movie (this was back when the admission price got you two films) was called Spider-Man Strikes Back. This was the first ever live action Spidey and it was as camp as those old Adam West/Burt Ward Batman TV episodes. For the record if anyone ever asks Nicholas Hammond was the first ever Spider-Man.

Another gem in the One Thousand and One Nights oeuvre is the magic carpet. This is the way to fly. Forget about planes, copters and hot air balloons the carpet easily wins the Jet Wars flaps down. You don’t even need a pilot as the rug wings it itself. This is your carpet speaking we’ll be in Millport in ten minutes. (I’m not a globetrotter as you all know)

 If I can now show off a bit, in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude a magic carpet is mentioned as being used by the travellers that pass by the town where the book is set. Like me, the Noble Prize winner must also have marvelled at the stories in his youth.  It has also been noted that our writing styles are similar though Gabriel was offended when a journalist said he was a poor man’s JW.

One place where carpets are not magical is WH Smith. As a regular user of the news retailer I have walked a thousand and one miles on their carpets. Something has got to give, for sure. A twittering friend of mine showed me a page on Twitter called WHS_Carpet. This is one of those unusual and unique places that makes the internet worthwhile. Users are invited to send in their snaps of shabby flooring that “adorn” the WH workspace. I was hours on there looking at worn carpets; it’s addictive. Next time I’m trudging in my local WH I’ll check out the floor and see if it‘s as bad as the rest.




The shortest horror story ever written

June 24, 2013

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.

This terrifying tale, Knock, was written by Fredric Brown based on a plot by Thomas Bailey Aldrich. It’s a little story with a big history.

Seeing this yarn as a challenge to myself because I do write exceedingly short stories I wanted to outdo or out little perhaps Brown’s vignette. The bin was overflowing with discarded foolscap of inferior text and threatening to drown me with paper. Struggling to breathe over the sea of A4 at last I finished my saga.

I tap your shoulder. Boo.

These five little words are cinematic in their scope. Consider it, how many times has the camera frightened the audience by giving them a sudden jerk by revealing quickly an unknown entity in their midst. This trick is called in the game- the jump scare. My “jump scare” short story may be filmed, we’ll have to wait and see. The text is frightening enough what will it be like accompanied by creepy music?

My publisher informed me that Quick Books are interested in my work. Quick books are a new company that specialise in condensing major pieces of fiction making them accessible for readers that don’t have time to complete the full novel. Therefore they will be printing an abridged version of my tour-de-force. I am quite happy to re-print the Quick Books adaptation here for your delectation.


Love in Renaissance Italy

June 21, 2013

The tragic account of the Veronese lovers Romeo and Juliet as written by Shakespeare (or Marlowe or Tom, Dick and Harry) was pre-dated by a hundred years or so by a tale of even greater tragedy. Seventy miles from Verona stands the city of Ferrera and this was the place where the heart-rending story takes place.

The young Girolamo Maria Francesco Matteo Savonarola studied at the university of Ferrara. It was here thatsavonarola Girolamo studied humanism from a wide variety of philosophers. Polymath that he was he could play the lute and write poetry. He could knock out andantes on the instrument and fire off Ciconian sestets like there’s no tomorrow.

The object of Savonarola’s affections was his next door neighbour, the beautiful illegitimate daughter of the house Strozzi, Laodima Strozzi. A narrow alleyway separated the two houses making it possible to converse between two opened windows of the overhanging upper storeys. Soon he was serenading Laodima with his lute. The parents of the youngsters forbid any romance -the lute had to go- and there it should have ended except the deviously clever Savonarola devised a code that would outfox the guardians. Using this secret system he would be able to penetrate into Loadima’s bedroom.

The night came when Loadima stood on her balcony. Down below Savonarola put his plan into action. In his hand was a candle and by putting his hand over the flame for either a short or long time he would snuff out the light. This series of dashes and dots would send a coded message to his love. If she responded using the same method it meant the coast was clear for him to accost her.

This ordeal by fire was burning his hands but he hoped it would not be in vain. He sent his message and had no remorse for the sin he was about to commit.

dash,dash,dash-dash,dash,dot-dash,dash,dot-dash,dot,dash,dash. ­­­­­­­­

He waited and then Loadima replied.


She was alone. Savonarola climbed the wall like a bat out of hell so hot was he for the Strozzi girl. He vaulted over the balcony wall. He let loose his passion unbounded and done a Catullus by giving her a thousand kisses.

“Loadima, Loadima will you marry me?”

She wriggled her hands about, they were still stinging by the heat of the candle. Bloody friars. She told him in plainsong.

“I would have a one night stand with you but no way will I marry you. No Strozzi would ever sink so low to marry a mere Savonarola.”

This rejection stung Girolamo. He vowed there and then to become a monk and left her with a rebuke before jumping off the balcony.

“Don’t flatter yourself, harlot. No legitimate Savonarola would ever be as desperate as Dan and stoop to marry a Strozzi bastard.”

Reflections on inflections

June 20, 2013

The old maxim there’s someone for everyone is redundant. There’s now hundreds, nay, thousands of everyones for someone. Romantic entanglements are only a few mouse clicks away. Dating agencies have proliferated on the internet and been taken advantage of by various individuals for different purposes. Some are looking for true love some prefer a more amore fleeting adventure. Women, yes women, under the cloak of anonymity are unchained and use the facility.

Irresistible. Moi?

Lies are not uncommon in the user profile on these pages and fake photographs have been used. Sometimes the photo doesn’t fit the chosen person and the excited expectant dater is in for an almighty fright when Plug walks through the door. Libellously, I’ve even seen some nefarious souls use my copyrighted coyote picture as an enticement. Who could resist Wile E? Now I’m not seeking a stranger soul mate but if I was there is one important criteria I would look for in a woman. I will keep you in suspenders for a moment before telling you.

Obviously, the more desirable the look the better the chance of being selected but as said you need to look past this. Further questions ask what your hobbies are and what kind of person you are looking for. It makes sense if both of you have the same interests, though sometimes opposites attract. Taking for granted that all the facts are correct true matchmaking can be attained. The match wasn’t made in heaven it was made on the internet.

If I ever endeavoured onto the personal ads the thing I would most look for is a nice voice. This is problematic. With no video accompaniment to the profile I would have to imagine what the voice would be like. You really need a nice voice. Think about it, if you wanted to spend the rest of your life with someone they must be pleasing on your ears. Mrs W has the most charming brogue in town and her mellifluous tones are music to my ears. I even told her I married her for her voice. She retorted, sweetly, it was for her money but that’s her story.

In the distant past a relation of mine was going out with this woman and she had a unique set of vocal cords. She spoke like a ghost! Every time she opened her mouth if you shut your eyes you imagined she was flying through the room as a white sheet.

Example small talk conversation.

Me: Hello. It’s not a very nice day, is it?.

(I dived under the sofa)

There are many famous actors with distinctive voices that are heralded. We could be hear, sorry here, all day going through the lists. Maybe the gravely Clint Eastwood makes your day or the underlying menace of Vincent Price. Tony Curtis? Though that’s a blog in itself.

Newsreaders and show hosts on TV have to have a presentable pitch. From the distaff side there is only one winner. She presents the Book Show on Sky Arts TV. Mariella Frostrup. Her novel voice is perfect. She’s not too bad looking either.



Megadeth still draw breath

June 8, 2013
Dave Mustaine

Dave Mustaine

The current Megadeth album, Super Collider, has been slated by most of the heavy metal press. Their bone of contention is that the record is too much hard rock and not enough thrash metal. For the uninitiated there is a subtle difference. Basically, thrash metal is very fast guitar playing with the Fretboard a blur of fingers. Hard rock is, well you know what hard rock is.

The critics can be cruel and would probably have complained that Megadeth are stuck in a rut if the long player was the same as past albums. To me, the songs hold up well and have their moments. This is the band’s first album on their own record label, Tradecraft. I’m quite happy that they have left Roadrunner Records, for obvious reasons. Work that one out for yourself.

Dave Mustaine is the founding member of the band. He also sings, plays lead guitar, is chief songwriter and writes all the lyrics. In the Megadeth canon there are lots of examples of Dave touching on serious topics. On the Super Collider track, Forget to Remember, Mustaine draws on the fact that his mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease. The song itself is a cracking rocker and proof that our Dave can still produce the goods.

Quasimodo, ring those bells, son!

June 3, 2013

Old Father Time catches up with the best of us. As a sporty type of individual I still swat a few forehands on the tennis court and feint a few Mols turns on the five-a-sides pitches. The aches and pains from my exertions are put to the sword by that old placebo, Arnica Gel. Works wonders you know. Sorry for the product placement, we all have to make a living.

While still possessing my sporting prowess ( aye right- sub-editor comment) my concerns are of the more vain category. I mean you read about it and you even have a few chats with close friends about it but you never think it’ll happen to you. Then you believe that the mirror, mirror on the wall is lying. But you’re kidding yourself on. It’s a fact. You’ve just accumulated your first wrinkle.

Dearie me
I always thought I was going to be
footloose and wrinkle free

Forgoing the problem for the moment it’s always good to plant a rhyme in a blog. It’s a feel good thing. Poetry is close to my heart though like a thousand and one other things I’m dreadful at it.

So there it sat. A lone wrinkle. Looking for a buddy. Call me cruel if you want, from this day forth I will deny the crease a companion. There will be no more laughing or smiling from me. No grimacing or frowning. No eyebrow lifting a la Roger Moore. My face will be set in stone.

As I sit stony-faced with just the one wrinkle at my computer screen I’ll give you some news about my week. While visiting Tesco on the look out for Coca-Cola I ran across, not literally as I’m a dab hand with the dodgy wheeled shopping trolley I’m just like a rodeo rider that controls a bucking bull, an old school friend that turned the boys heads back in the day. Well, I say friend she actually knocked me back for a date in those adolescent days; a reason for this was never given, one can only guess.

This awkward moment from the past was forgotten as customary hellos were followed by customary how are you getting ons. It was a short conversation. She left and I stuttered on my way with the metal juddering pony contraption. It hit me how much the girl had changed in thirty years. Weathered, she had. She wasn’t the beauty she was then. To be fair, neither am I, what with my solitary wrinkle and all that.

The memories came flooding back of that unrequited love. I was Cyrano de Bergerac and she was Roxane, the red light of my life. The self pity I went through. Famously, George Costanza said that pity is very underrated. I’ll go along with that. Costanza knows best.

Around the time of my rejection I went through a phase of playing this song by Cliff Richard. After seeing the object of my youthful affections I went back to my old tune. It didn’t have the same emotional impact on me but seeing it in a new light I think it’s a cracking little number written by no less than Neil Diamond. And Cliff is my mum’s favourite.

So each night I’d dream that you’re mine
And wake each morning only to find
That I’m just another guy