Snapped a fingernail.

It’s James Brown’s fault.

And Mark and Lard Radcliffe and Maconie on Radio 2.

At 21.45 they played ‘This is a man’s, man’s, man’s world‘ by James Brown.

One of the greatest, softest, bluesiest, soulest records ever.

So I jumped out of bed, grabbed my guitar and joined in.

Got the arpeggio section perfect – that’s the bit that goes:
Dum di dum di dum, dum di dum di dum, dum di dum di dum, dum di dum di dum…

Except I tore off a fingernail going for an open chord.


Bloody James Brown.

Decisions, indecisions

flash fiction

Sometimes it’s a problem.

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



Where was I?

Oh yeah.


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.


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.


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

I was 20.

Yeah, I know; late starter.


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?


20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and…


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?


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!


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.


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.


Really must learn to pay attention.


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.


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!


A slightly damp and dusty memory

I detoured this evening.

Spur of the moment, probably brought on by the hailstones.

Partway en-route to Brixton I turned left on a whim.

In to Vassal Road, SW.

And pulled up outside the church I used to attend.

Saint John the Divine, Kennington.

SJDK is a large, red-brick structure topped with an imposing spire that stretches upwards to almost pencil-thinness.

My head began playing tricks.

I believed I could smell the dusty/clean scent; the perfume that the wood polish gave off, but with a hint of dustiness from the vaulted places that no cleaner could ever reach.

The smell was a powerful jog to my memory.

My brain revelled in its memory focus, my mental view shifted from the knave to the vestry which brought a new smell; freshly washed and ironed robes.

In those days I was less ‘not religious’ than I am now; I used to go to church for the booze and the singing.

We had an excellent choir.

The organist/choirmaster Floss (his nickname lies in an unflattering story involving the wickedly barbed wit of Fr Geoffrey Kirk); the Divine Helen and her lovely sister Mary, the saintly-voiced Caroline Lenton Ward, Laura McGeary and her husband Peter, Andy Stribley, Roy Truscott.

Not many, no; but what we lacked in numbers we more than made up for in ability and aspiration.

Pauses for thought…

I got back in the car and continued down Vassal Road, then turned right and threaded my way through the one-way system to Calais Street where I lived for a while, and then turned right in to Cormont Road, also where I lived – but briefly.

And then on to Brixton, where I currently stay during the week.

The earlier hailstorm seems to have wreaked massive damage on south London; a couple of stores in the High Street have been flooded; staff sweep floodwater out as I drive past.

Pete and Shane’s house is untouched though.

Except for a small area in my bedroom.

Because I left the window open this morning.



Settle down

Sit down somewhere quiet.

Plug in your earphones – isolate yourself from the rest of the world.

Take a deep, calming breath.


And listen to…


(n.b. large file, over 3mb)


It is the end of the world

Lightning flashes towards the ground somewhere between my office window and The Gherkin…

Thunder makes this building vibrate.

The sky is dark, stormy, ominous.

Yet over there (gesticulates in the general direction of the Post Office Tower) is a blue sky with harmless-looking, white fluffy clouds that resemble a kind of pale candy-floss – the kind you’d get if you made candy-floss without adding the pink dye to the sugar?

There’s a large in-bound airliner slowly cruising north-east to south-west at about 1,800 feet.

But outside, on the ground, nothing moves.

Even the cars are taking temporary refuge from the battering rain.

No pedestrians venture out.

The light continues to fade, street lamps flicker in to life - activated by their light-sensitive devices.

Welcome to the end of the world.

Or July in London.


A slogan isn’t just for Christmas

T-shirted (and polo-shirted!) slogans.

Last Wednesday the waitress in the Deli had a message for everyone.

“A good girl is just a bad girl who hasn’t been caught…”

Guaranteed to get every male (and those females who may be interested) looking at her chest.

But while I was waiting for The Lovely S in the heart of London’s Glittering Theatreland last week I saw the scariest of scary T-shirt slogans.

“Eat, Drink, Pray.”

I’m sure there’s a place for religious messages.

I just haven’t found where that place is yet.

But emblazoned across the bulging-in-all-the-wrong-senses-of-the-word chest of a 23-stone, crop-haired, beer-glass-thick, bespectacled, oh-boy-are-those-way-the-wrong-kind-of-shorts-wearing, (I’m assuming) tourist in the West End of London when I’m within 20Km…

Isn’t the place.


Polite notice to London cyclists…

Dear cyclist.


You aren’t a superior lifeform.

You aren’t invincible.

You aren’t invulnerable.

You aren’t particularly clever.

You haven’t taken a test of competency.

You also aren’t insured.

So the next time I’m sitting in my car at a set of traffic lights waiting for the red to go away…

And you pull in front of my car…

I’m going to put you in hospital.

Or the morgue.

I really don’t care which.

You choose.

Or better still.

Choose not to get underneath my car.

It’s bigger than you are.

It’s heavier than you are.

It’s turbo-charged, fuel-injected, has a hopped-up, chipped engine management system that gives it a 30-70 the same speed it does 0-30 in.

And it’s automatic so I don’t have to waste time with gear-changes.

So just ask yourself, punk.

Who’s going to be away from the lights quicker?

You, struggling to catch your balance before the C of G has its wicked way with you?

Or me?

Do ya feel lucky, punk?



It’s an endangered species you know

My pillow.

listening to How to Save a Life by The Fray, by the way.

I was lying on my bed, partaking of some serious navel contemplation.

I pop downstairs for a drink, return to my bed and…

The pillow.

It’s on the floor.

I pick it up, drop it back in to the middle of the bed, sprawl across it untidily (is there any other way?) and do some more contemplation of the navel variety.

now listening to Big Girls Don’t Cry by Fergie.

After a while I lurch more or less perpendicular, drain my drink and head to the bathroom where I wash, clean my teeth and wonder which day this month I’m supposed to take my contact lenses out.




Back to my bed for a spot of reading and…


The pillow.

It’s on the floor.


I pick it up, put it at the head of the bed wondering precisely when it was I misplaced my marbles.

I get undressed, do my exercises, pick up my guitar, get in to bed and do a different kind of exercise.

I seem to have invented a new chord.

It sounds excellent by itself but strangely discordant when arranged back-to-back with any Major chord.

It’s a kind of G-sus-four-and-a-quarter but a semi-tone higher.

Sounds very bluesy.

The Best Is Yet To Come, Clifford T Ward on iTunes now.

He used to be a teacher of English you know.

In Worcestershire.

Go figure.


I get out of bed to put the guitar back in its stand.

Turn around and.

The pillow.

On the floor.


I pick it up and notice a thing.

In the pillow case.

A long, thin thing.

A long, thin, tortoise-shell-coloured thing.

A cat’s tail.

One of the cats has climbed in to the pillow case.

I ease the cat out of the pillow case and show it the door (the cat, not the pillow case).

She takes three steps then turns her head, fixes me with a baleful stare as if to say ‘why the hell didn’t you get me out of there sooner?‘ then flounces off downstairs towards the kitchen.

now listening to Hide Me by Grandadbob.

Oh well.

It’s the second week running I’ve had a girl in my bedroom.

But the maid’s been since last week.

Which means I can’t even smell The Lovely S’s perfume on my sheets.

Meanwhile, over in Spain

Daughter reports…

She’s going to Cadiz.


To a very special water park.

Is it the one where they film the children’s television programme La Banda? I ask.

Oh, Dad!



And she’s going to try out as a Majorette, just as soon as they’ve tracked down where this thing occurs – Juviles or Cadiar or maybe somewhere else.

She’s enjoying her school holidays – and thinks she’s done well in her examinations.

I’m sure she has, she’s bright.

I’d love to get over there to see her but there’s two chances of that happening right now; slim and no – and slim’s just left town.

Oh well.

Soon as I can then.