Talk the talk…

 

Time

 

Days fall into

Weeks fall into

Months fall into

Years.

Time passes in the blink of

The laughter, smiles and tears.

 

We wander through our lonely lives,

Struggling to achieve,

Knowing what we think we know,

Believing what we believe.

 

But still we try and halt it,

Keep it from its goal,

Ineffectually, knowing

It still will take its toll.

 

But that’s because life is

Such a precious, short-lived time,

And short & lonely though it is,

It’s all I have that’s mine.

 

 

I pondered which blog post to write today.  I saw Man of Steel recently, and loved it.  I saw Bon Jovi in concert and liked it.  I saw World War Z last night, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

Two days ago, however, I was at Humberston Academy to talk about poetry as part of their Festival of Literature.  In the midst of the films and music, I had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful children, and so, it’s this that guides my hands across the keys today.

 

In my last blog post, I mentioned I was nervous and unsure what to talk to them about.  Right up to the last moment, as I walked up to the front, this was still the case.

 

You know, I really should learn to have faith in my power to waffle.  My wife tells me I can talk to anyone.  It seems I can.

 

Anywho.

 

I was nervous, I will admit.  Not as nervous, by any means, as the last time I was invited to the school, but still, my stomach was dancing like Travolta on a Saturday night.  I needn’t have been at all, of course, but tell my insides that!

 

Last year, we were in the library, I think.  This year, I was led into a hall.  Miss Palmer was handing out drinks to a variety of children.  I’d been told there’d be primary school pupils there, but I hadn’t twigged this would mean FOUR different primaries!  Not only that, but also some of the students I’d met last year were acting as learning mentors, and a few who had actually left and come back just for the sessions.

 

I have to say, it was lovely to meet them again.  Not only those I recognised, but also some new faces alongside the older ones.

 

Miss Palmer was the same warm, welcoming woman who’d made me feel at ease before and it was clear she had a great rapport with her students.

 

Then the bell went.  Then I was up…

 

I’d taken a collection of my books.  There was Sin, as I was to be reading an excerpt.  Now to choose something from a paranormal thriller that was OK to read to a group of ten to eleven year olds wasn’t easy.  Not because Sin is gory or overly frightening, but I wanted them to understand the language and references.  That the children at Humberston are bright, goes without question, it’s just that I wanted to read something that would appeal to them.

 

As such, the passage I picked was quite obvious.

 

I also had Dark Places with me.  As well as the thirteen stories in the collection, there are thirteen poems.  This was a poetry workshop, after all.

 

I included my Zits’n’Bits and Rudolph Saves Christmas collections, and Lily, a book of poems I’d written and created solely for my wife.

 

Firstly, we had the excerpt from Sin.  I told them that it was a little bit gory (in fact, it’s about the only part that has any actual ‘gore’).  Far from cringing, they cheered.  That’s what I expected – my daughter, who’s ten herself – told me this was the perfect section to read.  That’s what she’d want to hear.  I wandered the hall as I read, and, when mentioning maggots and such, I looked them in the eye.  Some smiled, some winced.  Perfect, like my daughter said.  When I’d finished there was a round of applause, not entirely, I think, merely polite.

 

 

The excerpt from Sin:

 

I looked up.  The trunk was obviously not as smooth as it had first appeared.  Knots as big as fists were digging their knuckles into my back and no amount of squirming on my part could ease the discomfort.  Even so, I didn’t bother standing or moving away.  I supposed I could have lain on the ground, but I knew I’d have felt exposed.  With my back against the bark, as much as the bark tried to put me off, at least I felt I had some protection.  Protection from what, I didn’t know.  I was fairly sure that, if I didn’t know where I was then Dr. Connors and the rest of the ‘sane’ world wouldn’t know either.  That was unless they’d subcutaneously implanted a tracking chip somewhere on my body and satellites were currently spinning across the sky, homing in on my location so the hounds could come a-calling.

 

Oh my, wee doggy, what big teeth you have!

 

All the better to tear you limb from juicy limb!

 

“Always one for melodramatics, eh?” Joy commented.  Her voice was like warm chocolate, velvety and smooth and, no doubt, high in calories.

 

“Oh,” I said, smiling, “you know me.  Why make a molehill out of a mountain?”

 

Joy was standing in front of me, looking much the same as the last time I’d seen her.  Her hair was just past her shoulders, brown with blonde streaks that were not-so-fresh out of the bottle.  Her eyes sparkled their usual green, smiling even when her mouth frowned.  She seemed taller than I remembered, but then I was slouched against a tree that was doing its best to make sure I never stood straight again, and she was…

 

… She was dead.

 

“You’re dead,” I said, matter of factly.

 

“You’re not looking so good yourself, mister,” she said.  “At least I can make a clean job of it, not like some I could mention.”

 

I assumed, by that little comment, that she meant me.  Joy had a habit of, where I’d make jokes, she’d make jibes.  Usually it was all in good humour, just a different slice of the funny pie to the one I tended to munch, but I couldn’t always tell if she was being serious or not.  She looked fairly stern right at that moment.

 

“Hey,” I defended, “I tried.  It’s not my fault I didn’t end up where I wanted.”

 

It sounded like I was sulking – a petulant child with my bottom lip dragging the floor.  I knew Joy was only teasing, but I couldn’t help it.  Perhaps I was just pissed off with myself.  Perhaps I was just pissed off with the world.

 

“Anyway,” I said, picking my lip off the floor in case it got dirty.  “You’re dead.  You don’t have an opinion.”

 

“Who are you to say what I can and can’t have?” she huffed.  “You’re still, even after that mightily pathetic attempt to do otherwise, alive.  You don’t know the first thing about being dead, so I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself, thank you very much.”

 

“Sorry,” I said, dropping my lip again.  I was angry enough at myself, not least because a seagull and boy were gone thanks to me.  Having my own sister picking on me was a shiver past too much.

 

“Sin,” she said, the melted chocolate back in her voice, “Get a sense of humour.”

 

I looked up at her again.  She winked and I realised what I should have known anyway – she was teasing.

 

“So,” I said.  “Death hasn’t dulled your edge then?”

 

<I jumped from here to the ‘gory’ bit…>

 

“This is a strange dream.”

 

Joy smiled.  The dimples in her cheeks made her look, as ever, like a mix of cute and sultry, carrying her smile up to her eyes.

 

“Who says you’re dreaming?” she asked.

 

How did I know she was going to say that?  I felt like I was in the middle of a horror movie, where I knew I shouldn’t go down into the cellar – especially with the light not working – but I was going to go anyway.

 

“So, I’m awake and you are really my dead sister’s ghost, come to haunt me?”

 

“What makes you think I’m a ghost?  What makes you think I’m haunting you at all?  Just because I’m dead doesn’t make me a cliché, you know.”

 

Fair point, I thought.

 

“Well, if you’re a zombie,” I pointed out, “you’re not baying for blood and you haven’t got half of your head missing.  I know you don’t like horror films, but remember when we watched Dawn of the Dead together?”

 

“That was Shaun of the Dead, and if you’d prefer I look the part just to convince you, then I suppose I could play along.”

 

As she spoke, I noticed movement in the corner of her eye.  At first I thought it was a tear forming and was going to ask her why she was crying, but when I saw it wriggle and plop out onto her lap, my mouth dried up.  There on her tan coloured trousers, creamy and bulbous, was a maggot.  I stared at it for a moment, my usually smart mouth staying dumb.  When it was joined by a second, equally bulbous cousin, I looked back at my sister’s face.

 

Or what was left of it.

 

OK, so her roots needed touching up before, but now they were a mass of movement as maggots swarmed across her skull making her look like an adolescent Medusa.  Sections of hair, along with the skin it they were attached to, slid down across her face leaving streaks of red and brown.  Carried by the added weight of the larvae, they dragged over her still sparkling eyes until they reached her jaw and fell onto her lap.  She smiled again and a cockroach worked its way out of her mouth, all spindly legs and antenna at first, then seemingly all body, hard, black and glistening.  The cockroach joined the scraps of head and crawled over the writhing maggots until it fell onto the ground and scurried away, thankfully in the opposite direction to me.

 

One shining eye bulged outwards at me until I thought it would explode, spraying me with gloop and cornea.  Instead it popped out and hung by its optic nerve, swinging lazily on her cheek.  It still sparkled, even though it was now bloodshot and yellowing.

She raised one hand.  The hand was missing its flesh.  Skeletal, with withered tendons struggling to stay attached, it pointed at the remains of her face.

 

“Is this better?” she asked.  Her voice oozed from between decayed lips, no longer velvet but slime, still smooth but bubbling slightly and on the edge of coagulating in her throat.

 

I regarded her for a long time as the maggots feasted on her flesh and wriggled into her ears and nostrils.

“Nothing a bit of foundation wouldn’t fix,” I said.

 

She laughed, spraying blood and teeth on the ground between us.  A molar landed on my foot and I picked it up and handed it back to her.

 

“You dropped this,” I said.  Whether Joy was a ghost or not, this was a dream, so there was no point in being disgusted or frightened.  None of it was real.

“That’s the Sin I know and love.  Thank you Doctor for injecting some humour back into the old misery!”

 

This was how I remembered our relationship.  We always seemed to bounce of each other, sometimes like Sumo wrestlers but more often than not like two balls in a Newton’s Cradle – tick-tack-tick-tacking, trading funny little comments with smiles on our faces – what was left of them in some cases.  I relaxed and Joy’s face returned to its normal pretty self.  She picked up the sections of scalp off the grass and laid them back on her skull, pushing her eye back into its open socket.  I’m sure this was more for theatrics than necessity as, when she opened her mouth all her teeth were back in their original places, lined up on parade for inspection, Sergeant.  The maggots were gone, though I didn’t notice them disappear and the bloody streaks across her face faded to nothing.

 

“Ugh,” I said, pulling a face.  “You can take off the Halloween mask, it’s not for a couple of months!”

 

“Oh, funny boy,” she smirked.  “You should be on stage.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“Sweeping it.”

 

 

Then we moved onto poetry.  Now, when I was at school, I seem to remember poetry being boring.  I loved the stories but the poems… I didn’t see the point.

 

Now, of course, I do.  Poetry, for me, tells how I feel.  In Dark Places, I was in – strangely enough – a ‘dark place’.  My poetry reflected this and was well suited to a book called exactly that.  Though the title comes from one of the stories therein.  I wanted the children to realise poetry doesn’t need to be like that.  It can be enjoyable.

 

Oh, and it doesn’t have to rhyme.

 

I began with a couple from Zits’n’Bits.  Firstly, there was Spider on my Ceiling and And So On…

 

 

A Spider On My Ceiling

 

There’s a spider sat on my ceiling.
I’ve watched it all day
And I’ve watched it all night.

 

There’s a spider sat on my ceiling
And I’m not letting it out of my sight.

 

This spider sitting on my ceiling
Hasn’t moved since
I saw it there.

 

And, as there’s a spider right there
On my ceiling,
I’m not moving either.
I just don’t dare.

 

I’m watching this spider,
Sat there on my ceiling,
Laying here,
In my bed, on my back.

 

And I’m sure that this spider
Sitting on my ceiling,
Is,
Calmly,
Watching me back…

 

 

And so on…

 

Who was a witch
Who had a little itch
On the bottom of her right big toe

 

When was an elf
Who lived up on a shelf
And followed Who wherever she would go

 

A leprechaun named What
Had got tied up in a knot
When a spell he’d cast just didn’t seem to work

 

And the goblin called Why
Pretended to be shy
But that was an excuse to sneak and lurk

 

Where was an ogre
Who picked each up by their leg
And used them as soldiers
To dip into his egg!

 

There was nothing they could do
Being stuck in the ogre’s tum
And they thought, to pass the time,
They’d try to have some fun

 

And so they had a party
And began to dance and sing
So much so that poor old Where
Thought he must have wind!

 

The ogre moaned
The ogre winced
Then let out a mighty burst
Then Who, When, What and Why
Flew out of him, head first!

 

They landed in a heap
And Where tried to grab them back
But they ran out of the kitchen door
Straight into How, the cat!

 

Now Where, the ogre’s, hungry
He hasn’t had his tea
And Who, When, What and Why
Are no-where to be seen

 

And How, the cat,
Just sits outside
(Where won’t let him back in)
But at least he isn’t hungry
He just licks his lips
And grins…

 

 

I spoke to them about how, though I may be an adult, I’m not necessarily a ‘grown up’.  Hence the silliness in the Zits’n’Bits poems.  They were fun and not to be taken seriously.  Well, they do have titles such as FartzBrian the Bog Monsterand My Cat, the Vampire…

 

We also discussed inspiration.  There’s a great many companies where I work and, one day, I saw the name of one.  Watson Nory.  Straight away, my Muse picked it up and ran with it.  Watson Nory had a story, he had a tale to tell, of how, one day, he angered a witch and she put him under a spell…

 

With Spider on my Ceiling a good few hands went up when I asked how many didn’t like spiders, and how many would be in the same situation – not daring to move or blink in case the spider vanished…

 

Then, I moved on to the serious works.  How poetry doesn’t need to rhyme.  How it doesn’t even need to tell a story, but can simply describe a feeling.  I read them The Sea, and I read them once from my wife’s book.

 

I love the sound of the sea.  The crashing of the ways, the sweep of the water.  The Sea (the poem) describes exactly how the sounds make me feel.  When I was on holiday, recently, I recorded the sound.  It’s almost as therapeutic as writing as Sin…

 

To finish, I had to give them something to smile about.  These were ten to eleven year olds, with some fifteen to seventeen’s thrown in for good measure.  There was only one choice.

 

 

Fartz

 

Some people call it

A Bottom Burp,

Some people call it wind.

Some think it is

Oh, so funny,

And others believe it

A sin.

 

To one it might be

Called a Pump,

While another might say

“No!

The proper name for

doing a trump,

Is, actually,

‘Letting one go!’”

 

Some are silent,

As quiet as a mouse,

While some erupt

Almost shaking the house!

Some are a hiss,

A mere escaping of air,

While some are like thunder,

Almost curling your hair!

 

Then there’s the other feature,

Not pleasant at all.

A feature that’s been known

To make the strongest man fall!

The smell, the stench,

The pong, the reek.

It turns your stomach,

And you can’t even speak.

 

And though you might hide it,

And not make much of a fuss,

And say “I don’t do that!”

Well, EVERYONE does!

And it may not be pretty,

And it may not be art,

But, come on, really,

It’s only a fart!

 

 

I have to apologise to Miss Palmer for stopping at the ‘curling your hair’ part and pointing out her own curly hair…  The children thought it was immensely funny, so it’s only a little apology…

 

From then on, I gave the pupils a task.  Write a poem.  I wanted them to have fun, so I gave them one rule.  Make it silly.

 

And they did.  As I walked around, dipping in here and there to help, ask or chat, they seemed to be having a great time making poems about chicken or pigs or left toes.  One came up with the excellent idea of writing down a list of random words and then putting them together.  Others were laughing and joking – but all were working.  All were creating.

 

I was surprised to have a conversation with a certain young man – Bailey – about subliminal suggestion.  This particular boy had a group of older students in his grasp, calling them his Judi Dench gang (I asked if that made them ‘Dentures’…).  They were to have t-shirts and a hideout.  Our conversation then moved onto Dame Dench’s merits as ‘M’ in the Bond films (in my opinion she’s been the best ‘M’ to date).  I wasn’t expecting this from one so young.  And he said everything with a cheeky smirk on his face.

 

I was very pleased to meet Jordan.  He was one of the new faces, but one of the school leavers.  He’d chosen to join his friends for the day.  He had a journal filled with various pieces of poetry and prose and showed me some.  I was very impressed, indeed.  I believe Sin has spoken to him, in fact, regarding being interviewed on this very site (though I don’t always get told what Sin has in store for me – isn’t that meant to be the other way around?).

 

After a time, we had some of the children read out their creations.  Many came to the front of the hall and proudly (rightly so) recited to everyone their poem.  Each earned applause in turn.  A couple were a little embarrassed or had someone else read their poem, but no-one had seemed reluctant to either join in with the poetry class or with clapping for their peers.

 

I finished by saying that, as I’ve said, I wanted them to see how poetry can be pleasurable.  Yes, it can be serious.  Yes it can be meaningful.  Much of my own falls into both of these categories.  But, above all, I wanted them to see that poetry can be fun and as enjoyable as their favourite book, comic or film.

 

I didn’t want the day to end.  I was having this thing called ‘fun’ myself.  I wish I had their talent and drive when I was their age.  Perhaps I did, I don’t recall.  I did have a teacher similar to how Miss Palmer appears.  And Mr. Staniforth, as many of you probably know, is the reason I can not only talk to you, but why I am honoured enough to be invited to workshops like this.  I hope some of these children become as inspired as I was.

 

I was very pleasantly surprised when Miss Palmer told me she’d like to see me again next year, and the year after that.  I’m honoured to be asked!

 

On a closing note, whilst there, they had a book exchange.  A number of volumes were laid out on tables for the children to take.  Everything from the Twilight trilogy to Don’t Wipe Your Bum With A Hedgehog.

 

I saw a copy of Bridgette Jones Edge of Reason on a table and asked the school leavers whose it was.  One laughed and admitted, sheepishly, that it was hers.  Another held Jane Eyre, and was almost apologetic for doing so.

 

I told them not to apologise or be ashamed.  Any book can be enjoyed by anyone.  Every person has the right to like or dislike the Bridgette Jones’, the Jane Eyres, even the Sins, as they see fit.  Each to their own.  It’s better to read and dislike it than not bother and miss the chance to lose yourself in a story that might really move or inspire you.

 

I knew someone who admitted he’d never read a book in his life.  Why bother when you can see the film?

 

I don’t think I need to say anything more on that.

 

The work produced will be displayed on this blog from tomorrow.  I’ll add more as often as possible.  Please return to see the excellent work the children produced.  Remember, last year’s Asylum workshop is showcased on Sin’s blog, on the Humberston Asylum page.

 

I’m extremely grateful to the staff and pupils of the schools that joined in the fun.  They were a delight to work with.

 

 

Middlethorpe Primary: http://middlethorpeblogs.net

 

 

Cloverfield Primary: http://humberstoncloverfields.co.uk

 

 

New Waltham Primary: http://www.newwaltham.net

 

And, of course, those from Humberston Academy’s own primary.  You were all wonderful.

 

Learn More

Talking about talking…

Last year, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Humberston Academy to do a writing workshop.

 

To say I was honoured is an understatement.  The Academy is one of the top 100 schools in the country and the two classes I attended were voluntarily signed up to – the children wanted to be there.  And they were full.


 

I have to admit to being nervous.  My problem is the kick-off.  How to start?  Once the initial ice is broken, with a big sledgehammer of a stumble, I’d imagine, I knew I’d be fine.  I can talk to anyone (my wife tells me).  Sometimes it even makes sense (I tell me…).  But, how to start it off?

 

Of course, for those seasoned speakers amongst you (do you say amongst or among?) this is probably piffle.  Man up and grow a pair Shaun!  Well, I’m trying!  But, unaccustomed, as I am, to public speaking and all that, I still get nervous.

 

I needn’t have been.  I was greeted by the wonderful Miss (Helen) Palmer who made sure I was at home.  She had a lovely rapport with the children and they actually seemed to be interested in what I had to say.  I’d chosen a couple of parts from Sin to read to them, which I hope they enjoyed, and asked some questions they readily answered.  I think I had to tell myself to stop talking!

 

Then, we had the workshop.  The pupils grouped together in pairs and threes, with the odd ones preferring to work alone.  The idea was that they were in an asylum.  They were in school, so I figured they’d be able to relate.  They could either be one of the staff or an inmate.

 

I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that they all wanted to be inmates.

 

I wondered what might have to say about writing that might be constructive.  What did I know?  Oh yes.  I wrote a book.  A couple in fact.  And people said they were good.  So maybe I did have something to contribute.  As it happened, I did.  I wandered around, along with Miss Palmer, helping to prompt and guide the students as they came up with ideas and worked on their stories.

 

I have to say, I was incredibly impressed by the work they produced.  Some of it was very deep and even troubled.  Powerful stuff.

 

The second class was of the year below.  I followed a similar route, again being nervous to start with but then getting into my stride.  And again, the workgroup created some outstanding pieces.  It was an absolute pleasure.

 

Much of the work appears on Sin’s blog at http://singularityspoint.blogspot.com and there’s more to be added (I haven’t forgotten guys – it’s just been a very hectic time!).  Look for the Humberston Asylum page.

 

I’m honoured, again, to be invited back this year.  This time, I’m to talk about poetry, and the age group has dropped.  I’ll be meeting with Y6s, aged around 10 to 11 years old.

 

GULP.

 

I’ll be talking to them about Sin and reading an extract. Potentially, this will be the part where Sin meets Joy for the first time.  OK, so her face melts, but it’s done with humour – and a wee bit of gross-out will appeal to them.  That’s why I wrote Zits’n’Bits, actually.  Poems about farts, snot and vampire cats made my own daughter laugh, so it follows others would too!

 

My own daughter is ten.  Maybe I should test out the Sin reading on her to see her reaction.

 

Anywho.  Then, I’m meant to talk about poetry…  I find I can chat about my fiction writing readily, but I’m not sure what to say about my poetry.  Perhaps this is because I’ve not been asked about it before.  As I’ve not really discussed it previously, I’m not sure how to express it verbally.

 

My poetry seems to fall into two areas.  There’s the juvenile fun of Zits’n’Bits and Rudolph Saves Christmas, then there’s the deeper and darker work that appears in Dark Places.  Much of the darker poems were written whilst I was in my own ‘dark place’ and reflect the mood and situations I found myself in – not really suitable for the younger ears.  But, with Zits’n’Bits, I could express the child within me.  I’m a firm believer in ‘To grow old is mandatory, to grow up is optional.’  My wife will agree with me when I admit I’m a big kid at heart.

 

Of course, I watch Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom for my two year old, not for me, but I will say that Dory, from Finding Nemo, is my all time favourite film character!

 

More than one person has mentioned that my fiction writing is poetic in itself.  Not least of these was the superbly talented Connie Jasperson.  She wrote a wonderful blog entry comparing my writing to that of James Joyce and his Finnegan’s Wake (http://conniejjasperson.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/sin-and-finnegans-wake/)  and she also makes comment on Dark Places (which she was kind enough to be my editor on) in another blog entry, saying that it’s a very poetic book, both the fiction and poetry pieces therein.  But that’s writing.  It’s nottalking about the writing.  And I’m to give them a writing exercise.

But poetry isn’t necessarily an exercise, is it?  It’s a feeling?

 

I’ll be reading them a couple of poems.  I think The Sea, for one that doesn’t rhyme and is intended to instil a sensation, and something from Zits’n’Bits.  Something to make them laugh.

 

Then, I think, I’ll have them think of something random.  A sock.  The left one, as the right has a hole.  Give it a name.  What does it like?  Toast?  Coronation Street?  And on we go.  We shall see.  I’ll, no doubt, be fine once I get going.  I just need that sledgehammer to get me going!

 

Ideas and thoughts would be gratefully received!

 

The Sea

 

Standing on the beach

looking out

the waves wash over my feet

as their whisper

washes over my soul

I can’t remember my troubles

I forget my woes

and forgive my foes

vast

depthless

teeming with life

and

even the roughest sea

makes me calm

if I listen to the whisper

 

Sweet Dreams

 

You lay there in your bed,
the echoes of your mother’s words
rolling around in your head.

 

“Sweet dreams,” she said,

 

You can see the light
under the door,
casting shadows
across the floor,
shadows that move
when there’s nothing there,
waiting to drag you
into their lair.

 

You can see the moon
through the gap in the curtains.
You can see that it’s full,
and you are, oh, so certain
that, should you look out
you’d see more than you’d like,
all manner of creatures
preparing to strike.

 

You can see your wardrobe
is slightly ajar,
and from inside
reaches an old, grey claw.
As it opens the door,
you can hear the low moans,
and you know it’s just waiting
for your eyes to close.

 

But your covers are pulled tight
right up to your face,
your armour against the night,
as your heart starts to race.
Your tired eyes dart
all around the room,
and you hope beyond hope
that the sun will rise soon.

 

You listen to the breathing
of the monsters under the bed,
and you remember your mother’s words

 

“Sweet dreams,” she said.

 

Igglepop

 

Igglepop Utterby was a strange sort of fellow,

with his hair all shades of green,

and his skin each shade of yellow,

with his eyes of bright orange

(except when they were brown),

and a voice that could be heard

all over town.

 

He’d a time machine

in his belly,

which he used twice a day,

and the complete Enid Blyton

on his wellie, carved in clay.

(The left boot, of course,

certainly not the right!

He was strange but not crazy!

That would be such a sight!)

 

Round his right wrist

and along to the other

was the recipe for

pancakes that were

made just like his mother’s.

(As the recipe was dear Mum’s

he didn’t want to forget,

so it went up right

and down left,

and twice around his neck!)

 

As for his clothes,

well, we’d best not mention those,

for although they were smart,

they were made from garden hose!

It was, I suppose,

a spare garden hose

that he’d cut

and he’d sown

to make all his clothes.

But clothes made of hose?

Well, how strange can you get?

At least they’d be useful

if he ever got wet…

 

Soooo…

 

A strange sort of chap

most people might say,

though ol’ Igglepop never

let that get in the way.

 

It mattered not a fig,

not a doowhip,

not a jot,

whether those people

liked him,

or not,

for he’d meet them

and greet them,

and say ‘Hi’

and such,

and completely ignore

all the sniggers and looks.

 

And he’d be nice

and be kind,

for he knew everyone,

and they thought they knew him,

though they couldn’t think where from…

 

They hadn’t met him

while shopping,

or walking the dog,

or swimming,

or sailing,

or driving through fog,

or watching the TV,

or standing at the bus stop,

or jogging in the park,

or watching a lark,

or playing a prank

in the queue at the bank,

or climbing a mountain

right up to the top…

 

They just couldn’t think where,

try as they might,

but that wasn’t surprising,

they only met him at night!

 

Normally, that is…

 

You see,

Ig (as his friends called him)

was stranger than most.

He still ate cornflakes for breakfast,

and liked cheese on toast,

and a nice cup of tea

to wash it all down,

but most people I know

don’t look like a clown.

And as I might have said

he was faintly absurd –

he could bark like a dog

and sing like a bird,

and mimic a wallaby

like you’ve never heard,

and when running a race,

he’d come first, second

AND third!

 

But that was him

and how he was;

strange and weird

and slightly odd.

A puzzlement

to all he met,

though still

they managed to forget

what they had seen

and who they had saw,

and where it had been

they just couldn’t recall.

 

That was all fine,

as good as it could be,

and, ol’ Ig thought,

just as it should be.

No memories remained

once he walked away,

and just who he was

nobody could say.

Good and fine and well and so

He could meet and greet

and nobody would know.

His secret was safe

as if wrapped up in chains,

when not one could recall

even his name.

 

Where did he go,

when he went where he went,

and what did he do when he did?

And why would he what,

when he’d would

(or would not),

well, for that we must find

where he hid.

 

It’s a place not that far,

but you can’t get there by car,

you can’t fly in a plane,

take a boat nor a train.

You can’t run,

you can’t hop,

you can’t spin like a top,

and if you think that it’s easy to find,

well, it’s not.

 

Except it is,

really,

I suppose, and in fact

it’s even easier to find

than where you’re already at!

You see all it takes

(and here’s the surprise)

is for you to,

quite simply,

close both your eyes!

 

And you’re there…

 

Almost…

 

But where?

But where?

I guess I should say.

It’s where,

when you’re sleeping,

your mind goes to play…

 

You stand at a door,

thrice bigger than you,

that’s carved in designs

of tigers and lions,

of platypus, parrot

and pig,

of ozzlefot, fuzzleshank

camel and crikklebank,

lemur and leopard

and lemon-nosed lig.

(A lig is a cat

that flies like a bat,

with the tail of a horse,

but you knew that of course.)

 

A sign outside the door

promises wonders galore

if only you’d like to step inside,

so you think

‘Yes I would,

if only I could,’

and with that, the doors open wide.

 

Splendid splendours stretch out before,

as you, cautiously, walk through the door.

You can see down the aisles

(which seem to stretch on for miles),

and as you see what they hold

you become a little more bold,

as you cross the threshold

and you see what’s in store.

 

Shelves and shelves

and stacks and piles

line the walls and fill the aisles.

Colours and hues

and wondrous shades

dance in your eyes

and leave you amazed.

 

And you stop,

and you look,

and you blink,

and you stare,

as you realise there’s sweets

absolutely EVERYWHERE!

 

You look to the left at a lollipop man

with eyes of allsorts

and peppermint hands,

and right next to him is a custard cream cake

that’s covered in icing as big as a lake!

On the shelf up above is a chocolate dove

with a coconut sprig in its beak,

and on the floor down below

is a strawberry gnome

(with a marzipan home

and a caramel phone)

and butterscotch socks on its feet.

 

Raspberry ripple deer run

on a cream covered shortcake hill,

and pineapple parrots

(with legs made of carrots!)

perch on a liquorice pelican’s bill.

 

There’s a rumbling noise,

as you pass cherry toys,

and your belly begins to protest.

And if you’re hungry now,

just think of how

you’ll be when you get to the rest!

 

You walk slowly past

a toffee giraffe

beside a vanilla bee,

and you suddenly gasp

at the fudge squirrel that clasps

to the side of the almond tree.

 

There’s no end in sight

that you can see

with more varieties than

there should really be.

An impossible range

and a crazy amount

start to make you dizzy

as you spin all about.

But then you stop,

dead,

right in your tracks,

as a figure steps

from between the racks.

 

A strange looking person

with strange looking clothes

(which you’d swear were made from

spare garden hose!)

walks briskly towards you

with a big beaming smile,

and reaches out his hand

and says

“It’s been a while.”

 

You frown.

You think.

You scratch your head a bit.

You don’t really want

to seem like a twit,

but you are pretty certain

and you are fairly sure

that you haven’t met this person

ever before.

 

You’re sure you’d remember….

 

“You don’t recall,” the strange man says

“Just as I thought,” he sighs.

He ruffles his hair

and looks down to the ground,

and you can just see a tear

in his bright orange eyes.

But then the tear’s gone

and the grin bounces back

and he dances around

making strange sounds

like a cluck

and a bark

and a mighty fine quack.

 

“Well, if you do or you don’t,

or if you will or you won’t,

I don’t mind

so don’t fret.

It’s not bothered me yet.

Please look around

and if your fancy is took,

don’t be content with just

having a look.

I just don’t have the patience

for fighting temptation,

it just tends to get on my nerves.

And if push comes to shove

(which it quite often does)

I usually come off the worse.

So if you see something you like,

remember

you not here all night,

you’re welcome to just help yourself.

Whether it’s treacle or toffee,

or caramel or coffee,

who cares if it’s bad for your health?”

 

He grins and he laughs,

and you feel slightly daft

just standing

with nothing to say,

so you give a shy smile

and he bounds off down the aisle,

prancing and dancing away.

 

“Well,” you say, to no-one near,

“I wonder if I should really dare?

He said that I should,

so maybe I could.

I don’t think that he’d really care…

 

Whoever he was, that is!” you say,

“Who and what and why.”

You’re about to say more,

but suddenly before

you can, he appears by your side!

 

“Well, come on, come on!”

he says with a giggle.

“Choose what you want,

it won’t add to your middle.

You can eat it all night,

you can scoff

ALL that’s in sight.

Come on, reach out your hands

and then take a big bite!”

 

You pause yet again,

you’re just not really sure.

There’s so much to choose from,

(treasures and treats,

candies and sweets,

biscuits and breathtaking

bounties galore).

 

The strange man dances about,

a big grin on his face.

“It’s difficult I know

but you really should try to make haste.

Nights don’t last forever,

for they end up as day,

and when that comes about

I’ll be going away.

So if you’d mind taking your pick

(it won’t make you sick),

please choose what you want,

and please be double quick!”

 

You look at the man,

who just can’t seem to keep still,

a man whose own feet

seem to have their own will.

A man whose smile seems

wider than his own face,

and a man whose confections

seem purely designed

(I think you will find)

to make your heart race

at an astonishing pace!

 

So you reach out, slowly

and you take a hold

of a caramel cocktail

in a peppermint fold.

And, just to be friendly,

you have just a try

of an orange and parsley

double-tangy pie.

 

Your taste buds explode

with the fabulous flavour.

There’s so many to taste,

too many to savour.

You melt all inside

at the feelings you feel

and just can’t believe

any of this is real!

 

And the strange little man

with skin all shades of green

gives the biggest, widest smile

that you’ve ever seen.

He stops his wee jig

and looks you right in the eyes

and says “About time!

And now it’s goodbye!!”

 

All of a sudden

the room starts to blur.

The man and his sweets

All become unclear.

And just before things

completely fade away,
you hear, from a distance,

your sleepy voice say…

 

“Thanks for the sweets,

I’m so glad I came,

though I don’t understand how,

but what is your name?”

 

The man laughs with a sound

that sounds like a pound

of Cough Candy Twist

rattling around.

 

“Igglepop Utterby

is my fanciful name,

this Under-The-Bed Sweet Shop,

my wonderful domain.

I’ll see you tomorrow,

as I did yesterday,

for this is where you come

when,

at night,

you hear your mum say,

 

Sweet dreams…”

 

And so on…

 

Who was a witch
Who had a little itch
On the bottom of her right big toe

 

When was an elf
Who lived up on a shelf
And followed Who wherever she would go

 

A leprechaun named What
Had got tied up in a knot
When a spell he’d cast just didn’t seem to work

 

And the goblin called Why
Pretended to be shy
But that was an excuse to sneak and lurk

 

Where was an ogre
Who picked each up by their leg
And used them as soldiers
To dip into his egg!

 

There was nothing they could do
Being stuck in the ogre’s tum
And they thought, to pass the time,
They’d try to have some fun

 

And so they had a party
And began to dance and sing
So much so that poor old Where
Thought he must have wind!

 

The ogre moaned
The ogre winced
Then let out a mighty burst
Then Who, When, What and Why
Flew out of him, head first!

 

They landed in a heap
And Where tried to grab them back
But they ran out of the kitchen door
Straight into How, the cat!

 

Now Where, the ogre’s, hungry
He hasn’t had his tea
And Who, When, What and Why
Are no-where to be seen

 

And How, the cat,
Just sits outside
(Where won’t let him back in)
But at least he isn’t hungry
He just licks his lips
And grins…

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Crispy witch, anyone?

Allo.  No, I didn’t say ‘Hello’, I said ‘Allo’.  But that’s close enough.

 

Come inside and meet the lunatics.

 

For those uninitiated among you, I nicked that line from Labyrinth.  Am I sorry?  Guilty?  Repentant?  Well, not really.  If they put funny lines in, someone will pinch them out.

 

Anywho, it’s me.  Sin.  I’m joined, today, by Tim.  Why do I like Tim?  Because his answer to my question about the crispiness of a certain delicacy close to my heart tickled me.  It made me laugh, much like a particular scarf-wearing worm.

 

So.

 

What’s your name?

 

Tim Stevens

 

Hi Tim.  Where are you from?

 

West Essex, England.

 

Do you like living there?  If not, where would your favourite place to live be?  Is yes, where would you least like to live?

 

It’s a great place to live. Essex isn’t at all the way it’s portrayed in all the jokes. Well, not entirely. We read books and stuff here, innit?

 

The place I’d least like to live is somewhere with no books or internet access. I like my creature comforts.

 

The plasticine animals from Ardman?  Oh, you meant…  OK.  If you’re a writer/film-maker, is this your ‘day job’?

 

No, I work full-time as a doctor in the NHS, and cram in the writing wherever I can find a free minute.

 

I know a certain doctor who likes to cram in a little writhing when he’s free.  That’s of the patient writhing kind.  I think he should look up the word ‘care’.  Tell me about your latest project.

 

It’s a spy thriller called Jokerman, the third featuring my series protagonist John Purkiss, who’s a sort of policeman to the spies, hunting down British Intelligence agents who have gone rogue.

 

Like Bond, Sherlock Bond?  Or not…  How do you feel about bacon?  A crazy person once said it was the food of the gods.  OK, I admit that person was myself…

 

I love bacon but chasing the pig is hard work, so I often don’t bother.

 

That’s part of the fun!  Fast little tykes, though, hmmm?  What is your favourite film?

 

Disney’s The Jungle Book. Well, maybe not my favourite. It’s certainly the one I’ve seen most often, and the one I know the words to almost off by heart. I have a five-year-old, you see.

 

Any excuse.  We know the truth…  Have you always wanted to be a writer, or is it something you found yourself doing one day?

 

Always wanted to. I started writing adventure stories when I was six or seven, started again as an adult at the age of about twenty-seven, did the whole pretentious artiste thing of writing only when my muse struck – and consequently didn’t finish anything for ten years. I began writing seriously in 2007 and it’s just gained momentum, particularly with the advent of the fantastic self-publishing opportunities we now have at our disposal.

 

Excellent.  So you grabbed the muse by the throat and didn’t let him go?  That’s the way to do it!  Do you have so many ideas they dribble out of your nose if you don’t get them down, or do you have to hunt around the floor and the back of your sofa to find where your Muse is hiding?

 

My muse is an imaginary being, like the Loch Ness Monster or the Tooth Fairy. I’ve learned not to wait for it. As for the ideas, yes, they dribble out of nose, ears and other places, but like a primordial soup they’re unformed. Moulding them into shape is hard graft for me.

 

The Tooth Fairy is imaginary?  Really?  Gee.  Thanks…  If you were in an asylum, what would your particular delusion or psychosis be?

 

That I’ll one day earn enough to be able to continue my day job part-time and working for free. And there’s no “if” about it – I live this delusion every day.

 

Good for you.  What genre(s) do you write?

 

Thrillers, mainly of the action variety with a strong element of espionage. Think Alistair Maclean but with a modern, gritty ethos.

 

Ah, so a Sherlock Mallory then?  Nice.  What genres(s) do you read?

 

Quite a range. Thrillers, mostly, and not just action but suspense as well. Some crime novels. A lot of literary fiction. Some SF, some horror, though I’m very picky about authors in these genres.

 

If these are the same, what attracts you to them.  If they’re different, why do you think that is?

 

I read in my own genre to plunder ideas. Seriously, though… I like any story that can surprise me. Being quite gullible, I’m easily taken in by plot twists, and I love them. I was a big Agatha Christie fan growing up, and could never guess whodunnit, which was part of the fun for me.

 

I think I’m drawn to espionage thrillers because I reckon I have many of the qualities of a great spy myself. I like to travel, for one. Of course, I have a few qualities that wouldn’t make me all that suited to the life. Gullibility, technological cack-handedness and extreme physical cowardice, to name but three.

 

I actually agree.  Not on the plundering part, of course, but on the whodunit point.  I don’t even try to work out twists and culprits.  I want to be surprised!  Bacon – just cooked or crispy?

 

Burnt as a Salem witch.

 

I love that phrase!  Now you’re in the asylum with me, how do you aim to get out?  Do you have an escape plan?

 

My plan is to distract you with these answers while I undo these… oh, rats. I shouldn’t have said anything.

 

Hey, you don’t have to distract me, I’d happily help.  I’m one of the inmates, not one of the orderlies.  Quick, while no-one is looking!

 

 

Tim Stevens was born in England and grew up in Johannesburg. He lives near London with his wife and daughters, and works as a doctor in the National Health Service.

His debut novel is the acclaimed thriller Ratcatcher, and its sequel Delivering Caliban, featuring the return of John Purkiss, is also available on Amazon Kindle. Severance Kill, a thriller without Purkiss, was published in November 2012.

 

Tim’s Blog:http://timstevensblog.wordpress.com/

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/TimStevensAuthor

Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/TimGStevens

 

Buy links:

Amazon US –http://www.amazon.com/Tim-Stevens/e/B007YL78QC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Amazon UK –http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tim-Stevens/e/B007YL78QC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

 

 

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Star Trek: Out of Darkness

1966 was a very good year.

 

A certain, extremely talented, writer was born.  England won the World Cup.

 

Star Trek aired.

 

I’ve grown up with Star Trek.  Along with my avid reading of Marvel and DC comics, the likes of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica and so many others helped me visit strange, new worlds and boldly go (or baldly in the case of Jean-Luc) where I had no chance of actually going in real life.

 

Gene Roddenberry was a genius to my young mind, and a visionary to my older one.  Creating a western in space, along the lines of Wagon Train – except with space ships and aliens rather than wagons, horses and Indians, of course.

 

Okay, so Star Trek, the actual original pilot, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike instead of William Shatner as Captain James Tiberius Kirk, aired in 1965, but Star Trek as we know it – The Original Series, as it has become – exploded on our television sets a year later, the year of my birth (I’m that talented writer I mentioned, if you hadn’t guessed).

 

As we were born in the same year, I didn’t get to see the programme until I was older on one of its many re-runs.  It didn’t matter to me.  At the time, I didn’t know what a repeat was.  To this day, I’m sure I haven’t seen every episode of the three series made.  I didn’t get the chance, as a child, to watch it that regularly.  The main programmes I was able to see each week were The Muppets and Doctor Who – both still favourites to this day (season finale – John Hurt!?!?!?).  But I watched Star Trek whenever I could.  It was brilliant.  I wanted to be Spock.  I wanted to see what was in the scanner thing he always looked into.  I wanted POINTY EARS!


And then there were the spin offs.  The Next Generation.  Voyager.  Deep Space 9.  Enterprise.  All good (and occasionally bad) in their own way.  I loved TNG.  Ryker was a bit too much in places – he reminds me of the Captain Zapp Brannigan from Futurama a little, with his puffed out chest and stance and bravado.  Wesley grated.  But Jean Luc, Seven of Nine and most especially Data were brilliant.  I enjoyed Voyager, though I have yet to (and I have no idea why) watch the final episodes.  Deep Space 9 was ok.  Not bad, but it didn’t grab me, and Enterprise, I wanted to like, and for the most part did, but it was let down by not enough drive from the producers.

 

Either way, there was plenty to fill my Trekking time.  Also, we had the films.

 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was amazing.  I so loved that film.  I was elated when they made an actual movie of the series.  I enjoyed all the original movies, to be honest, with The Voyage Home being, probably, my favourite.  But then, horror upon horrors, they made a PREQUEL!

 

I don’t know if I was ready.  I think I figured they were going to be sort of cashing in on the name.  It wouldn’t be that good.  I could hope, but I think I expected to not really like it.

 

That shows what I know.

 

I’d been a fan of Zachary Quinto from his Heroes days, and love him in American Horror Story (both seasons).  I wondered how he’d fit into the role of my favourite Vulcan.  Extremely well, as it happens.  The first of the new Star Trek films was excellent, as far as I’m concerned.  Exciting, well plotted and full of life.  I wasn’t sure of the hot-headed young Kirk at first, but I quickly warmed to him.  As for the also young Sulu and Chekov, they’re very well written and cast.  Chekov is hilarious! 

 

So, it worked.  A big thumbs up.

 

Then, oh my gosh!  They were bringing out a sequel with none other than Benedict Cumberbatch!

 

I honestly couldn’t wait.  I am desperate for the return of Sherlock, which was my first introduction to Mr. Cumberbatch.  His portrayal of the seminal detective grabbed me by the bits and didn’t let go.  The way the show was done all together was sooo good.  If you haven’t seen either of the two series, it’s a definite must see.  Moriarty was brilliant and Martin Freeman as Watson was a delight.  I quite like Elementary, but Sherlock is something else!

So, Benedict Cumberbatch as the bad guy?  Bring it on!

 

And what a bad guy?  Khan, no less!

 

Star Trek: Into Darkness is great.  Really, a fab film.  It brings the Star Trek franchise quite firmly up to date.  Plenty of meat and a bit of gristle thrown in for good measure.  There’s excitement, pathos, humour (you’ve got to love the ever fine Simon Pegg as Scotty) and lot’s more.

 

I saw the 2D version of the film, but I’m told the 3D effects were excellent.  If you’re going to make a movie in 3D, give us something to make us glad we sat there with silly glasses on.  I was so disappointed with Wrath of the Titans (for many reasons but…) when, at the climactic explosion at the end, it cut to the base camp.  Where were the bits of god thrown in our faces, hmmm?  One of the reasons the effects in Star Trek (3D, I’m talking about) worked so well is because of the dark, spacey background.  Nothing to detract from the object in the foreground.  I didn’t see, so I don’t know, but it appears the 3D was used to good effect.  That’s what we want.  Make us duck out of the way.  Make us want to reach out.  Don’t just give it a bit of depth, as wearing those glasses detracts from the colour and essence of the film – we need something to compensate.

 

I’m not entirely sure of the romance between Uhura and Spock.  I don’t remember that from the original series, but hey-ho-daddy-oh.  I don’t mind.  It gives for some interesting dilemmas for Spock.  Otherwise, Star Trek: Into Darkness is a definite hit.  If you’re not a Star Trek fan, don’t let that put you off.  There’s a great deal more to this film than the name.

 

I wonder if they’ll bring the Borg to a third instalment.  That’d be good.  I still, occasionally, tell people that ‘Resistance if futile’.  Some even know what I mean. 

 

Oh, one thing.  I so wanted Kirk – or better yet, Spock – to, when wondering where they’d go for the start of their 5 year journey, say: “First star on the right, and straight on till morning.”


Live longer and prosper, people. 


 

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