Published again…

I’ve neglected writing news lately.

Bit odd, for a blog on a writer’s website.

But fingers in pies etc.

So the news…

Words Magazine have very kindly published one of my shorts.

Nice.

Frankly I feel embarrassed and a little self-conscious.

It sits in the company of work of some excellent authors.

But it’s nice to see it there.

Words Magazine is available at www.wordsmag.com and you need to pay money to read it.

Or you can read my short stories on my main website and try to guess which one they’ve chosen.

Words Magazine have made a couple of nice edits, one in particular is visually stunning.

I’ve decided not to steal their edits though.

🙂

And I have an idea.

It’s a germ of a longish short story based on a kind of cultural parallax as seen through underground events in 21st Century society.

Sounds a bit deep when I see it like that.

But in my head it’s punchy and not a little bit scary.

It’s based on events that recently occurred to me in London.

And I think in format it’s a radio play.

I’m going to work out a synopsis and see if I can get BBC Radio Drama interested.

Stay tuned.

B.

Writing? Of course!

My friend is running a writing course.

A course for those wishing to improve their writing.

Style, technique, voice – the lot.

And she’s holding this course…

In Umbria, Italy.

Now come on people.

Doesn’t this sound good?

Trouble is, I don’t know if she’s got any spare places.

But if you’re interested, drop me a line.

I’ll ask for you.

Brennig.

Books and Language

I’m so excited.

The first batch of set texts for my OU course have just arrived.

Of course, getting excited about the arrival of (plucks a book off the pile) ‘Medea and Other Plays‘ by Euripides isn’t the same as getting excited about reading the said work.

Actually, it’s being a very literary day.

I’m trying to finish a short for publication. Yay.

I’m working on a book review. Yay (again).

It’s Book Group tonight. Yay.

And, as mentioned, some set texts have arrived. Double Yay.

Unfortunately I’m struggling with Billy Bragg’s polemic on the meaning of national identity in modern Britain – ‘The Progressive Patriot‘. Boo.

In simple terms Billy – a guy I’ve admired for a couple of decades – has lost the plot.

He demonstrably fails to understand what it is to be English let alone British.

Billy doesn’t even consider what being English or British means within the context of being Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Mancunian or Liverpudlian.

But he does have an excellent grasp of what it is to be a middle-aged white male from the south-east of England.

Ho hum; Billy Bragg seems to have become the typical Guardian reader.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the Atlantic…

A group of people called The Simplified Spelling Society have launched a campaign to cull the English Language of all those confusing words and phrases in an attempt to make things easier.

I’m not altogether who they’re trying to make things easier for.

But as The Simplified Spelling Society are a US organisation (they would say ‘organization’ and therein, I suspect, lies the rub) it’ll be interesting to see if they have any impact on society – British, Candian, New Zeland, Australian or even American.

Brennig.

Best Served Cold

a short…

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

When I was a boy my father used to say it to me.

He meant ‘don’t be impulsive, play the long game’.

Decades later I used the phrase in combat.

Mount Tumbledown.

My troop – all three of us – were the point force for 2 Para south of Darwin when Colonel ‘H’ (who clearly hadn’t heard the phrase) picked up an SMG and stormed a well-dug-in-and-fortified Argentine position.

While H was getting himself killed on the Ajax side of the Mount we picked off the Argies from their own left flank.

Executed them under the clear, cold, black south Atlantic night sky.

Shot them as their silhouettes, strobed by the fire-fight with the main force, highlighted every moment.

It was like shooting big, stupid, slow-witted bears.

By the time the three of us had downed 80 – who previously thought they were so securely dug-in they were invulnerable – the rest realised they were being slaughtered like animals.

So they surrendered.

The media made much of H’s sacrifice and that 1,200 Argentines surrendered to such a small British force.

But the truth was that three specialist snipers played the long game and then expended our entire stock of ammunition in thirty-five minutes.

Twenty-seven years since the Falklands and I’m still playing the long game.

My target walked across the pedestrian precinct.

Same time every Friday.

Same routine.

It’ll be his downfall.

I smiled through the window as I sat on a stool in the cafe window.

Watching.

Playing the long game.

Three years I’ve been watching.

I’m going to teach you a lesson, friend.

You don’t screw with me.

As he walked up the steps to the building I entered the date, time and event in my notebook.

For the last time I checked back to the previous week’s entry.

Nothing different.

He was met at the door with a handshake.

I imagined the conversation.

Come in.

His host waved his hand in front as if to part the air for the Great and Worthy Bastard.

How’re your children?

And your wife?

Did they catch the attacker yet?

Be patient, I’m sure they will soon.

He went inside.

I finished my cup of tea.

The irony is that I could have stopped the attack on his wife.

But it would have caused ripples.

I might have left a profile – an image on a CCTV or a security camera or in someone’s head – as I decked the adolescent mugger.

I’d been following her for an hour as she threaded her way through the shops, streets and markets.

The boy came out of the alleyway.

I saw him look her up and down, guessing her ability to fight back.

He ran down the pavement, threaded his arm through the loops on her bag, smashed hard in to her and ran off.

I was eighteen feet away, could have stopped him with a rabbit punch to the larynx.

Let him pass, said my head.

I obeyed.

She hit the pavement with a dull thud like a sack of potatoes.

Fractured her skull.

I could have stopped it.

Could have taken him out before he got to her.

I had the range, had the pace and had the ability.

But protecting her wasn’t my role; I was on surveillance.

He ran past me not knowing how near to death he’d just come.

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

This time, another form of assassination.

I’m going to assassinate the character of someone who loves to be at the centre of his community.

Three nights ago my target’s wife and children spent the night away; the first time in a year.

A family party; they went last year.

And the year before.

Coincidentally, three nights ago the Essex Constabulary had photographed my target’s car as it kerb-crawled around two notorious red-light areas of the county.

At noon yesterday photographs of the vehicle, its registration number and description were posted on one of those ‘goody-goody’ neighbourhood watch-type internet websites.

At 3pm yesterday The Daily Mail knew about it.

At midnight last night two undercover reporters jumped out of a Ford Transit, loaded up the target’s rubbish bins from outside his house and drove off.

I can imagine their shrieks of laughter as the Mail‘s reporters undid the rubbish bags that contained – amongst the usual household rubbish – the vilest, most horribly graphic images of child pornography.

They probably rubbed their hands with glee as they discovered the torn-up-but-easily-reassembled stories of child rape and violent incest.

As I waited for the next stage of the plan to occur I turned the car keys over in my pocket.

Keys to a duplicate car, identical to his, the same registration details, same colour and even the same slightly fractured number plate on the rear.

This evening I’ll remove the identifying marks and then torch it.

In the glove compartment will be the mobile phone I used to call The Daily Mail.

And a computer hard-disk, a clone of the PC in my target’s office.

Just like his reputation and professional career, everything will go up in flames.

That’s right my friend.

When I’m done, you won’t be able to get a job selling shirts on a market stall.

In an hour and a half, when you go to your office, the police will be there, waiting.

And they’ll find more pornography.

As well as evidence that you’ve been spying on the occupants of the ladies toilet.

And a sign-on for an on-line bookmaker’s account.

In three years – or two, whenever it is they’re going to let you out – I’ll still be here.

Watching.

Waiting.

Playing the long game.

And I’ll get you again.

And again.

Don’t screw with me.

Softly, softly catchee monkey.

Decisions, indecisions

flash fiction

Sometimes it’s a problem.

Maintaining a focussed train of thought while you’re in a long, tedious…

Yawn.

Sorry.

Where was I?

Oh yeah.

Tedium.

Not Te Deum, that’s entirely different.

Chuckles to self.

Ho hu…

Did she just say what I thought she said?

Must concentrate more.

Ah, no.

No-one else has edged forward on to their chairs, no-one sniggering behind their notepads.

Must have misheard.

Bit tired.

Last night’s 18.00 meeting didn’t end until 19.10.

Got out of the building at 19.15 (just in time to rescue my car from the Cheap’n’Cheerfulâ„¢ vehicle-leaving-place before it closed at 19.30. ‘£25 fee for after-hours services‘, as the notice on the wall says).

Pauses briefly to wonder what services the Cheap’n’Cheerful vehicle-leaving-place Old Lady might provide, in an ‘after-hours’ kind of way.

Eeeww…

Beginning to feel ill.

Move on.

Ummm, sorry.

What was it?

Oh yeah, inability to concentrate on…

God I feel sick in a hollow kind of way; haven’t eaten enough today.

Looks out of the window and thinks some very rude thoughts.

Can’t help it.

It’s in my genes.

Or jeans, maybe.

I used to know a girl called Jean.

I think I went out with her.

Twice.

I was at that awkward stage (virgin) and she couldn’t really be bothered anyway.

I was 20.

Yeah, I know; late starter.

Sorry?

Oh yes, entirely, Mike.

And if we concentrate more on the process mapping whilst looking for quick wins in the corporate banking application arena, whilst concentrating on the foreign exchange division…

That’s pretty bloody annoying.

The way she flicks her hair back over her shoulder like that.

Every 24 seconds.

Does she know I’m counting?

Look!

20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and…

Flick!

For God’s sake, leave it alone.

Wonder if you’re like that at home?

Have you got a certificate in OCD?

Pauses whilst pondering whether it actually is possible to get qualifications in OCD.

Oh, I only got an intermediate because of a lack of imagination in behavioural repetition.

Chuckles quietly again.

Briefly wonder what the girl from the international currency division looks like with no clothes on.

Just out of curiosity, honest!

Genes again.

Prefer 501s.

See what I did there?

Genes/jeans?

This is interminable.

International Corporate Banking on a Thursday lunchtime.

Are the people who schedule these meetings mad?

Come to think of it, how could they be sane?

International Corporate Banking?

Wherever sanity ends I know which side of the line ICB sits!

Buggerit.

What did she say?

Really, what did she say then?

Foreign Exchange interest rate swaps with which currency?

Last time I missed the point in an ICB meeting I went out and swapped £500 million with IKR.

We had to buy a fish processing factory in Reykjavik because swapping that much money back would have cost us more in commission than the purchase price of the factory.

Felt a bit foolish for weeks after that one.

Oh.

That’s what she said.

Break for food.

Must learn to concentrate harder.

Icelandic herring, anyone?

Yes, the Icelandic Sushi is going down really well. In all senses of the phrase.

Ha ha ha ha.

Hell.

Really must learn to pay attention.

Aaaarrghhhhh!

An email flutters in.

Arthur Roberts, a US publisher who has a track record of being kind to me.

Based on synopsis only…

Would like to buy my two most recent short stories, Spelling Mistake and Transport.

Brilliant!

But there’s a problem.

I’m part-way through rewriting the former (like, again).

And I can’t say I’m happy with the latter yet.

He’s prepared to hold off on Spelling Mistake as he, like me, would be happy to see it published in the first quarter 2008.

But he’d like to have Transport now for a November publication.

Better get it finished then!

Brennig.

Holding out for a Hero

there’s been so much going on I’ll have to do a piece-meal catch-up

We spent yesterday evening at Stafford (not Stratford!) Castle, Staffordshire.

First we stopped off for an early evening meal at the Yew Tree Inn, a brilliant little ‘find’ tucked away in the countryside.

Sadly the options available to me lacked choice but the one vegetarian dish on the menu was absolutely brilliant.

After the meal we drove to the Castle where we enjoyed an open air production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing‘.

I’m not going to review the play, I’m not as qualified as The Lovely S.

I will say that I enjoyed it; the front- and back-of-house team made the comedy come alive.

The worst of the rainy/windy weather held off, and we drove home full of comment and conversation about the wonderful evening we’d just enjoyed.

But…

Although I enjoyed the play…

I feel as though Shakespeare could have done with a bloody good editor.

Some of the scenes were overlong, too wordy and not particularly focussed on the plot.

But it wasn’t a bad Saturday evening.

I feel very sanctimonious having not spent the evening lounging about in front of the television!

Brennig.

Why the BBC sucks (2)

clipped from the BBC News website:

Many young people do not know how dangerous roads are for inexperienced motorists, a survey suggests.

Some 32% thought that one in 40 drivers killed were aged under 25 and 5% thought it was one in 400, when the figure is actually 25% of deaths.

There are two problems with this slack piece of journalism.

1. What’s with the use of the word ‘some€™ in this context? Does the work experience trainee who wrote this piece mean ‘more than 32%’ ‘less than 32%’ or even ‘32%’? It’s a ridiculous use of the word ‘some’ in the professional world of journalism. And yet… have good trawl through the BBC News website and you’ll see they use ‘some’ in this context as a matter of routine. Twats.

2. How confusing is the second paragraph? 32% of people thought one in 40, 5% thought one in 400 – that’s OK – but the figure is actually 25% of deaths. What on earth? Where’s the consistency?

Shocking.

I’m starting to wonder if the BBC is employing an infinite number of monkeys…

Source.

Brennig.

Why the BBC sucks (1)

Man sets himself alight at cinema
More than 70 people were forced to leave a cinema in Bedford after a man set fire to himself in the foyer.
The man went into (sic) Cineworld in Aspects Leisure Complex on Monday evening and poured petrol over himself before setting it alight.

Source

Is it only me who thinks this article puts the inconveniencing of 70 people above the poor unfortunate’s untimely death?

 This is an accurate example of how bad the BBC’s written journalism has become recently.

Brennig.