Wednesday, December 20, 2006

An explosive encounter

Kim Hypswell

It was unusually cold. I continued to work at my computer. The phone rang, ‘Do you want me to pick you up?’ Odd. Why? He never usually did. I had my own car. “look outside” I turned towards the window. It was completely white. Snow? No. Ash! Volcanic ash!

Copyright, 2006, Kim Hypswell

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mysterious Encounters

I don't really like posting from work because (eh I should be working? No, that's not it) the formatting gets all messed up. But necessity calls. I'm off to Blighty in two days time and Nooy (THANK YOU) has just invited a whole bunch of other people to join in! So, if you guys can wait, the next challenge will be set sometime between the 3rd and 7th January. I'll try and post everything that comes between now and Thursday morning, but (sob sob) I'm going to have to set a closing date. The Fifty word challenge will officially end on the 3rd January at 12 midnight (my time).

Atyllah the Hen

“Why are you felling the forest?” she asked, her stomach dropping within her.“Has to be done,” the man said, shrugging.Around her the air was dense with the shriek of chainsaws. Someone has to stop it, she thought.She moved into the path of the falling tree and waited.

Copyright, 2006, Atyllah

The Challenge Meister herself (or the one who set the challenge in the first place)

“You!” he gasped, as she shook off the snow and placed a small, well-clad foot firmly in the door before he could shut it again.“You know why I’m here”, she replied. “We can get it over with quickly, or else we can take our time”.

His heart sank.

Copyright, 2006, Fanny Powers


Up and down the winding path she knew it’s bumps and corners. The trebles and emotion leading her into another world so craftily created that she lost touch with the here and now. Lost until the record player broke and Tchaikovsky and his Valse became part of history again.

Copyright, 2006, Nooy

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Book thing

Marie was tagged with this and offered it up for every one to have a go.
Book/s that changed my life

Ooks now that’s difficult. To a certain extent every book’s perspective slightly changes your life and opens you up to the world, but OK if I have to go for life changing experiences: The Lonely Planet Mexico guide. I still flick through it’s worn pages and the cover falls off in my hand even though it’s been sellotaped back on many times and I guess I never looked back since the day I bought it.

2. Book you’ve read more than once

Well, like Marie I think I’ve read Wuthering Heights more than once and Jane Eyre (because I had read Wide Sargasso Sea, so then I went back to the inspiration). As a teenager I re-read S.E. Hinton and Catcher in the Rye, I think that was all to do with discovering independence and craving it, so I looked up to these relatively free (if somewhat fucked up) teenagers. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (it was just so funny that you had to go back and catch up on the footnotes). E.M. Forster, recently I was reading all his books so I re-read Passage to India. And my comics, I re-read those all the time.

3. Book you’d want on a desert island

Love in the Time of Cholera, Midnight’s Children and Where the Wild Things Are.

4. Book that made you laugh

The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, Julian Barnes, Nick Hornby and a silly scene in Manolita Gafottas (but I think that sticks in my head because I was reading it in Spanish and I actually understood it).

5. Book that made you cry

My last day in Bali, I spent glued to my sun lounger desperately flicking through the last pages of The Time Traveller’s Wife. I knew it couldn’t end well, so I was glad for the sunglasses and the sarong which I used to discreetly wipe my tears away. The curious incident of the Dog in the Night also had me bawling my eyes out through the last few pages. Setting Free the Bears, more so the second time (oh that’s another book I’ve re-read) because I knew what had happened.

6. Book that you wish you had written

Skellig by David Almond, every time I read it I think, bloody hell this is brilliant.

7. Book that you wish you had been never written

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. Grr... just don’t get me started on this one.

8. Book you are reading at the moment

The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (and Skellig for the umpteenth time).

9. Books you’ve been meaning to read

Skint’s books, Minx’s book, Debi Alper’s books

10. Book you read in one sitting

The Cement Garden

11. Book you didn’t quite “get”

Ehm, not that I’ve ever gone back and given this a try again, but Portrait of an Artist as Young Man. It wasn’t so much didn’t get, as just didn’t have the energy to read it.

12. Three authors whose books you will always buy or read, no questions asked

Julian Barnes, David Almond, Marquez ... I could go on...

13. Forget the book and just watch the movie

I think I’m quite a visual person, so I don’t usually say this. You know the characters never look the way I see them or there is always something just not quite right, but ... I read the Black Dahlia a few years back (I think he wrote LA Confidential) and I just kept thinking to myself, I don’t have the patience to read this, I want to know what is going on now, if only there was a movie... Well, now there is, et voila.

Oh and don't forget to let us know if you're having a go. I love reading other people's lists of books.

Some Grizzly Encounters

These ones came in while I was sleeping peacefully on this side of the pond...


It was a day so unlike any day previous. Enough was enough. The cold steel rattled against my teeth. The taste of gun oil and fear flooded my senses. For an instance I thought about backing out, but I couldn’t face quitting on myself not even one more time. BAMM!

copyright, 2006, rockdog


“Quality of life!” she hissed through broken teeth as the power saw growled. “A better life!” she snarled as she chopped through the dead leg, muscle, flesh, gristle and bone, flying against the garage wall.

He’d hit her.

Take that!

copyright, 2006, Roberta

And then this one came in later, but it seemed appropriate here. Read on...


The handcuffs were tight on her wrists.

She stifled back a surprised moan in her throat,

“Please let me go, I’ll be good.”

“You have been a bad girl Suzie.”

He sliced her throat with the knife as she choked through the blood pouring from the gash, “Against the rules.”

copyright, 2006, Nothingman

Friday, December 15, 2006

Late Encounters

And they are still coming. Tonight I need to thank Jefferson Davis and Susan Abraham for linking to this challenge. I'm really enjoying these stories and I'm beginning to wonder how to go forward. I've got a little idea growing in my head, I'll keep you posted.

Jefferson Davis

I hear you calling, as I’m free falling down the tunnel of love. Down I go, with all of your lies foretold. Every blot depicts where other men tied the knot. I may be blind, but don’t think that I won’t have the presence of mind to leave you behind.

copyright, 2006, Jefferson Davis


Late again; the rain danced in frenzied rhythm on the cowering cobblestones. Manicured fingers rapped an agitated tempo on the polished tabletop. A check of her lips, red, throbbing scornful pout. Running towards the cafe dark coat over head. Screeching brakes, a thud of flesh hitting metal.
Late again; forever.

Copyright, 2006, Brian

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Many more encounters

Beau Blue's via Books Inq.

Silly server switches set wrong
kept me from posting my song
a French pain in the ass
this site seems too crass,
its sole purpose to keep Google strong.

Reviewing the Bookstore Massacre

And when I asked where they kept
The Cummings and Pounds?
She pointed lemon lips at me
And spurted primly, "Paper bound
Poets are on the backside of humor.
Aisle thirty-three B!"
And that's what I found.

Copyright, 2006, Beau Blue

DBA Lehane (a dab hand at this me thinks, he posts a 500 word story every day)

The fortune tellers face went white with terror. I begged her to tell me what it was. What was so terrible about my future? She refused to explain and asked me to leave. Instead I strangled her slowly to death. You’d think they could predict I was a serial killer!

Copyright, 2006, DBA Lehane

Susan Abraham

He was dangerous. I was scared and locked him in a box. He escaped as I lay in bed, while high on cake and wine. In his hand was the box, where he said the ocean waited for my soggy end. And so I died while partying on my bed.

Copyright, 2006, Susan Abraham

Minx (of course, thanks for the post)

If I thought about her too much I was in danger of embarassing myself in public. Her wanton curves and loose morals drove me to distraction - I lost more than sleep. She was a secret best kept between the covers but editing would surely put me out of my misery.

Copyright, 2006, Inner Minx

And Jude

She said something that always stayed with me. ‘Each word is precious- like time. Each second brings you closer to the moment when death cuts short your breath, closing the book that your footprints wrote. Your words end mid sentence, mid flow- so make sure your words, your life count.’

Copyright, 2006, Jude

And lastly thanks to Frank Wilson, Skint and Minx for helping me share the challenge. I'm loving these, keep them coming.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006



Afterwards when she wondered how she had ended up alone in the remnants of his life, she put it down to this. It was raining. The lights were red. She hit the brakes. The bike slid. She slid along the slick surface, her head coming to rest by his boots.

Copyright, 2006, Verilion


Jake’s girlfriend challenged him to write fifty words about his love for her. If she liked the result, she would marry him. He did love her, but didn’t want to get married, so he wrote about how she had a great personality and was kind to animals. She dumped him.

Copyright, 2006, Skint Writer

… Atyllah is yours a story or a comment? I’ll post it if you want.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The fifty word challenge.

Write a story in fifty words she said. Fifty words, I said. Blimey, can I do that? Fuelled by some wine, fags and chocolate I thought about the encounter I was to write about and by gum I did it. Then thought: but could YOU, would YOU do it too?

Friday, December 08, 2006

What about next Monday?

It wasn’t always a Monday, but it was definitely the last two Mondays and for arguments sake shall we say it was the Monday before that too.

During my autumn of disconnection I started writing this story. It just sort of poured out of me one day. When I’m like that I don’t stop it, even when I know that somewhere along the line it’s not quite right. When I was finished I was pretty exhausted but I really liked the beginning and from there on in I liked the plot but not the way I had written it. So, the next day I sat down and rewrote it. It got longer and some of the characters changed their names and became a little more real to me and then I got stuck. Somewhere in that second draft I had deviated from the first draft and I no longer knew how I was going to get to the end – which had been the beginning in the first draft. I scribbled away in the journal. I started working on a poem that had run through the second draft and wondered whether to ditch the story altogether and just produce the poem. I laboured some more over the poem and then it just sort of sat there mulching like a piece of compost, turning into something else.

Then Monday came around again and I sat in front of the computer and wrote something else. This something else was scary and different. My characters were changing again and becoming other people, but that story was still in there somewhere, hiding underneath these characters. I added version three to the mulch of version one and two and left them to warm and mix together.

The next Monday I sat down again and yet another version poured out. I started at half past four and at eleven after many cigarettes, a few glasses of wine and the odd bit of cheese when my stomach had reminded me that it needed filling, the last full stop was added. Now I had four versions and I still wasn’t a hundred percent happy. Each version was a development of the last with a little bit added, a little bit cropped, but where was I going with this.

This Monday, version five came out. Same deal, fuelled by cigarettes and alcohol I knocked out another six thousand words and still there were things that were missing from earlier drafts, but something new had grown, someone new was developed.

On Tuesday I came home and realised something. I sat in front of the computer and summarised each version and this is what I realised. Each time I’ve knocked something out it’s been gradually getting longer. Anne had suggested earlier this year that one of the stories I had written should be lengthened and I had tried and got horrendously lost. So, I had gone back to the safety of 5,000 words, but this one was slipping out of those confines. Each of the five versions adds something to the story, tells me something new about the characters and I suddenly realised this was a bigger story. If each bit of the story is to be given its full justice then 5,000 words just won’t cut it. So I have these five bits of paper with notes scribbled on them, bits I like highlighted, characters who will stay and questions, questions, questions.

So, we’ll see what happens next Monday.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Plea

In France people say that if you clink glasses and don’t look the other person in the eye you’ll suffer seven years of bad sex. Personally that’s one little old wives tale, urban myth, superstition, whatever that I am not willing to mess with. But what I really want to know is what did I do to piss off the Electricity and all things Electronic Gremlin? I’m a fan, I don’t live in a mud hut and shun him, so what did I do?

You see when I think about it he’s had it in for me in lots of ways for a while now. Just before I moved all the eco-friendly bulbs blew. Half my hallway was dimly lit, finding my shoes in the coat cupboard was a little expedition and my clothes were dried in gloom. Then when I moved here I was got two shocks. One of them becomes more frightening every time I think about it: standing on the metal sink in bare feet. Then one night the toaster popped and all my electricity cut out. I got on a chair and stared at the fuse box that resolutely said ON and wondered what to do. I flicked it on and off, nothing. I called Colleen, she was indisposed due to quite a few pints of something or the other and all I could hear on my end of the bad connection was ‘Press the button’. What fucking button? I’d flicked the switch. I was hungry and in obscurity. I rang the neighbour’s doorbell and explained in a flash that I was in the dark. He came round and pressed the biggest green button you have ever seen. I warmed my toast up again and the electricity blew again.

Then my phone got cut off, I know I’ve mentioned this a few times, but that’s it now OK. One Saturday morning I woke up thinking it was really late and I turned on the hall light and it exploded. Did I fix that light wrong? I wondered as I tootled off to the loo and then forgot about it. At ten am when I tried the light again I remembered it had blown. So I turned on the bedroom light to see better and that didn’t come on either. The whole fuse had blown.

One night there was a Europe wide power cut. I don’t actually accept responsibility for that. I just sat here in candle light reminiscing about the winter of discontent when Mum would cook in candlelight and brag every single time about how glad she was that her cooker was gas, while bro and I set up his plane on a wire up along the length of the corridor and watched the luminous yellow thing take yet another perfect landing. The giant Chinese weeble was always a willing onlooker and would rock from side to side as the plane landed. And I wonder now why someone made me a huge CHINESE weeble?

Anyway, there were several more toaster electricity blowing episodes. It seems having the stereo, two heaters, the oven and the toaster on is a no no.

And then just when I thought all this was over, Thursday night happened. I watched Incroyable Talent. There is no unbelievable talent on that programme, I was just sucked in by the troupe of muscly gymnasts, the muscly gymnasts who were also ALL firemen; Parisian firemen. I discovered that I live down the road from one of the BIGGEST fire stations in Paris one early morning when I got the wrong night bus home and wandered in the general direction of home. OK I’m digressing. So, it was bedtime, I set my alarm on the phone and shoved it in my back pocket and went to brush my teeth. I did that and then I pulled my pants down and heard a mysterious clatter. I stood up, turned round (hard when your pants are round your ankles) and watched my phone skid round the edge of the bowl and just as I reached in SPLASH, my phone sank to the bottom.

I swear my initial thought was: Shit how am I going to wake up tomorrow? I have NO clocks in my flat. After solving that problem (computer speakers on the adjacent pillow connected to the i-pod which was tested several times) I turned to the problem of the water logged phone. It was wet, and it wasn’t working and I was kind of expecting a phone call.

I tried drying it. I dried it all night, I dried it all morning, and then when I got home from work I dried it again. It only works erratically when it’s been heated up, but you’ve got to admit that’s impractical and I was kind of expecting a phone call.

So I decided that considering that even if my phone did regain all its former functions that still included a 5 key that doesn’t work very well and can you imagine sending text messages without j, k or l? Try it, it’s not easy. So I went and bought a new one. It’s pretty cool. I have finally entered the camera phone age and it slides up to reveal the keys, so that when I play my favourite sport of phone tossing the keys won’t get buggered up. It’s also got a fairly rubbery outside again useful for the above reason. But of course now I need to learn how to use it. The phone call I was expecting came, I slid up the phone and pressed answer at the same time. I cut him off.

Please Gremlin, I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry now and surely I’ve paid enough. Could you please pick on someone else now? Although maybe not that German electricity company that caused the Europe wide power cut, because my heating is electric and it’s colder now.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Prestigious Review

Apparently there is some debate raging about whether blogger’s have the required qualifications to review. It certainly seems to have inspired some witty fiction, vitriolic debate and a backstage look at reviewing. Anyway here’s my contribution:

I don’t know if I mentioned this but this is how 2006 started. Myself, Colleen and Siobhan were stood in front of Sacre Coeur and as the midnight hour chimed out two German Magicians wished us Happy New Year and performed a small trick for us. For one tiny second my face slackened and that look of childish wonder crossed my face.

I’ve just been to see The Prestige. Why? Well, because I like Christopher Nolan. What has he done? Memento and Batman Begins. Why do I like those films? Well, because Memento was a clever way of presenting a story and Batman Begins finally presented the Batman I know and love. What have these two films got in common with The Prestige? Well, it’s clever and Batman and Alfred are in it, except Batman is Alfred and Alfred is someone else, but really the same person he always is. Confused? Well that’s kind of the way the film leaves you.

I went to see it with Claire. Before hand she had sent me two reviews. Quite amusing really; one was in the Guardian, one in the Observer, one hated and reviled it, the other loved it (actually I skimmed over the second, but I think that was the gist of it).

So I left the cinema undecided and wondered. I skirted past the hordes of tourists quickly to reach that piece of open sky above the cemetery. The bit of the walk where you can appreciate the stars and the moon and that’s when I understood and a smile crossed my face. Ah, so that’s what it was all about. So I’ve decided I liked it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Forty Three Days

On October 16th 2006 my phone was cut off for some bizarre reason or other. So according to my journal this is what I was up to:

· I spent hours on the phone to France Telecom and was consistently given different information from different people who were pretty consistently god damned rude;

· I lost my temper many times with various people at France Telecom and shouted and swore more in French than I have done in the last six years;

· Over a very nice glass of red wine, Colleen, Siobhan and I wrote a poem for Minx’s Samhain competition (never got the chance to post that);

· I reworked the spirituality story for Skint’s competition (never got a chance to post that, but you see there was hope there at first);

· I wrote a list of things that I couldn’t do without a telephone or the internet.

· Floppy moo pissed me off (see previous post);

· The dentist got pissed off with me because I had smoked in the three intervening weeks since he had begun cleaning my teeth and salt blasted my face as he did the rest of my teeth (but I do have clean teeth);

· I thought of a way to rewrite Sirens;

· I got stood up for the first time in my life;

· I became infatuated with a man who parks his bike down the road (I am now intimately acquainted with his battered silver bicycle, but have not seen him since);

· I joined/went to a writing group and turned up like a keeny with Heart Attack to share and discovered I had to read it aloud. On later reflection I realised that when I said that the inspiration for the story was a dream that I probably came across as completely bonkers;

· I wrote three versions of the same story, this story actually makes up the vast majority of the last month’s notes and for some bizarre reason it only came out right last night;

· I missed trains (nothing new there);

· There was a Europe wide power cut and I sat wrapped up in my sleeping bag bathed in candle light writing (there is now candle wax all over my phone);

· I decided to quit my Masters course (although that decision was kind of taken out of my hands as I missed all the e mails asking me what I was up to and they kicked me off);

· I took to wandering around Montmartre before ending up on the steps opposite Sacre Coeur and viewing the city;

· I had writer’s block for thirteen days

· I got plastered on bad Beaujolais Nouveau and discovered that my porn star name was Goldie Heythorp, although we all agreed that Goldie Nelson was better;

· I had a bad experience in a Chinese Karaoke restaurant;

· I went to my first ever opera, although it was an opera/spectacle. I liked the opera bit, but wasn’t sure about the random balls of fire that kept being shot into the air;

· I reviewed the book shops of Paris;

· I tried to inhabit the skin of my brother and discovered that I didn’t really know too much about him;

· I went to see The Prestige, which I loved for various reasons (I wrote it down somewhere);

· And finally in the writer’s group last week I sat through the worst story I have ever heard in my entire life, while the group leader sat opposite me trying to make me laugh (bastard – I probably had nail marks imprinted in my cheeks by the end of that).

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Where the Wild Things Still Are

I grew up with Maurice Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things are'. There's probably a little or a lot of Max in me. I love the Wild Rumpus, but I also love the coming home to the hot dinner. When did I fall in love with the line: 'and he sailed off thorugh night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are'? Was I five or twenty five? I was without the book for many years, but I always remebered that the last five words were: 'and it was still hot'.
So Floppy Moo. Well the other day she was in here with her reading group and they were reading it. Did she read it because she had heard me claiming it was my favourite book of all time a couple of days before? I don't know, but the group sat and read it and pulled it apart to reconstruct meaning and then she did it, she ruined it. The book has been around all my life and never has anyone asked: 'What happened to Max?'. She asked with such persistence over and over that finally she provided her own answer. And every cell in my body screamed out NO!
As a child with big eyes and slightly open mouth, I just believed. As an adult I still believe in Max. Maybe I believe now more than ever. Maybe as a writer I have to believe. So my plea is just believe in Max.
And would someone somewhere please end my nightmare with France Telecom. I am at work using their phone and their internet connection in the hope of sorting out this rubbish SOON.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Beware the Phone Snatchers

For Your Information...

Miss V will be unavailable until further notice as someone has stolen her phone line. She has spent the morning going round in circles being passed from France Telecom to Orange and back again only to discover that Free have taken liberties and freely stolen her line. She is now feeling emotional and exhausted and really should be doing some work but is unable to concentrate as she contemplates the full weight of the possibility of a week without a phone line, no internet, no MSN, not being able to check the weather forecast during this tricky autumnal season so that she is not over or underdressed, no...

Miss V has been disconnected.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Shop till you drop

2nd August 2006

Ubud is definitely the place to do this, but first we spent the morning trying to plan our next move. Wayan – Ketut’s wife – informed me that our route via Gunung Batur (a volcano which will feature more later) was not the best. We ummed and ahhhed and booked things and cancelled things. Estrella came up with some alternative routes and then Ketut turned up and sorted out our Bali light trip. Driver to Amed with a wee tour thrown in, a hotel booked and all this in time for us to go and sample another of the restaurants down cheap street. The toilet was out back through this labyrinthine family compound and you needed a guide to find it, but man the food was good.

So with full stomachs and wallets we hit the streets of Ubud. Shopping tally? Estrella? Well this could be difficult cos boy that girl can shop: there was definitely a skirt, some trousers, a couple of tops and then I start to lose count. Kim: wedding present, a couple of pictures and a wedding outfit which was a whole experience of wrapping her up, unwrapping her, pinning her up, tying knots here and there and then just to make sure she gets it right on the day a whole step by step photo shoot. The shop assistant was well into the step by tiny step so in the end I had to pretend I was taking the shots. Me: two barong pictures, some cushion covers, a pair of trousers which could probably fit me and a couple of friends in and a nice new ring to replace the one that got too big and the one where the stone fell out.

Exhausted by the last few hours Estrella and I stopped for a fruit juice and a few moments to plan how we were going to pack all this shit, sorry I meant stuff. Meanwhile Kim went all the way down Monkey Forest Road to the Monkey Forest to commune with the nice friendly monkeys. She returned a wee while later with two more sarongs and the promise of two for one mojitos. It turns out they were a drink and snack all in one, lovely bits of mango and lashings of rum (yum). The girls had ginger ones.

So after our penultimate running of the gauntlet with the barking dogs of Ubud, we packed, checked our departure time, settled the bill and somehow ended up in the same restaurant as lunchtime. Well you know you can never get enough of a good thing...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Unexpected Expectorant

I may have mentioned in one of these past posts that I have a cold. Or rather, had a cold, it has now developed into a humourless hacking cough. I may also have mentioned (in more subtle tones) my ongoing love affair with Julian Barnes. I suppose it could be described as inevitably tragic as eventually I know I will be left wanting more, but soon the last page will have been turned. So you may be wandering what colds and Julian Barnes have in common. Well, as the narrator described the feeling of losing his virginity: ‘And why didn’t they tell you about the football fan in the back of your skull, the man with the rattle and the scarf who shouts Yippee and stamps his feet on the terraces? I began laughing so hard that I nearly phlegmed up on the rather dishy passenger who had got on an empty carriage and smiled and sat next to ME, who I was discretely pretending not to eye up.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Rise of the Doozers

While fishing for sympathy because I have a cold, Minx told me: ‘a cold is often a symptom of a dip in the mind state’. Well, I have to admit that I have dunked, dipped and slapped onto the bottom of my state of mind. No, I’m not depressed, just very disappointed and feeling stupid. But somebody else told me that women were conditioned to forget pain which is good, because you see I’m pretty god damn sure that I am a humanitarian. I googled it and it seemed to fit in with my slightly shorter belief system that we should treat each other with dignity and respect. Hey I don’t always live by that belief. Choice phrases like: “What a complete an utter Fuckwit,” And “Jeez, that person should just go out and play with the traffic,” Have also passed my lips. But that’s because I’m also contrary and do not suffer fools gladly.

So why the dunk? Dip? Slap? Well the dunk has been ongoing. I may have mentioned the choice phrase FUCKWIT in relation to someone before (quick scan through the archives and you’ll see who I am talking about). Well, I’m still talking about the same fuckwit and for humanity’s sake maybe this fuckwit really should go out and play with some serious articulated traffic. Of course, this raises questions and dilemmas. This will cause pain to the remainder of the family and wishing death on someone else is not a very nice thing to do. Also being realistic no matter how much of a fuckwit someone is they tend to have picked up the rudimentary skill of crossing roads safely.

Dip. Fuckwit is a bully. Fuckwit is stupid as implies the name I have chosen. Fuckwit will never say: I am sorry, I was wrong. Fuckwit crossed the line that separates us from animals (belief systems, imagination, creativity and opposable thumbs) and is now just a pair of opposable thumbs sitting in an office.

Slap. We doozers are aware of all of the above, but will we doozers stand together and do something about this, will we hell.

The problem with being a humanitarian is that there must also be a slight amount of blind sight attached to this belief system. Even though there may be evidence to the contrary, you still have to believe in the underlying good of humanity. Perhaps my -5 myopia is not enough at times, but I want to believe and that stretches the blind sight a few notches down. The next thing is that once you have hit the bottom there is only one direction to go. So I will arise from my sea of snot and tissues and strepsils this Monday with new plans afoot. The Doozers will rise.

Footnote – In the end it doesn’t matter who the fuckwit is, the thing is are you going to be set of opposable thumbs, or are you going to do something?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Inspired by Parenthesis

Every day I fall in love,
as your voice whispers in my ear.
The melody of sounds
turns the corners of my mouth.
My eyelids flutter downwards in delight.
The construction of phrases so carefully placed.
My fingers follow your body;
caressing, lingering, underlining.
And as I trace patterns on your front and back
my love comes to an end
as I turn the final the page.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Day trippers

1st August 2006 – Part II

Next on our list of places to visit was Batuan, home of the distinctive black and white paintings that depict scenes of daily Balinese life. It’s an art movement that started in the 1930’s which was more or less confirmed by our guide at the gallery where we had been deposited who explained how his parents had taught him this style and his parents parents before. He talked us though the process of creation and we watched an artist at work. There is nothing like seeing an artist at work to make you think ‘Mmm I’d like that’ (and that’s why I have a Nicaraguan weaving taking up vast amounts of space in my cupboard), but the little stickers in US dollars on the corners of the painting were at best extortionate. “Oh, those are gallery prices.” Our guide explained. “Here we have discount 60%”. Uh oh! Those words trickled into my brain and I began imagining what the pictures would look like in my new lounge. Of course I could have picked one with just the hairy old barong in it. Or I could have picked another one with no background, or no foreground, but I picked one with both and my small but detailed Batuan painting was the most expensive of the lot I had arranged around me on the floor, not to mention that I wasn’t even thinking about how it would fit into my rucksack.

Next stop was the craft market at Sukawati. It was an indoor market where the preferred way to get a customer to distinguish one sarong out of the hundreds and millions displayed there was to block said customers path with it. Kim bowed out and left me and Estrella to it and like the hardened marketeers we were we emerged breathless and emboldened a few minutes later clutching our masks and cat shaped coat hook.

After vital refuelling stop no.4 was FINALLY Goa Gajan, or the Elephant Cave, so called... well couldn’t exactly work that one out. Maybe the carved entrance could be an elephant, but not really. Maybe it’s because there is a Ganesh statue inside. There were some other bits and bobs in there too: a lingam, a yoni and some stones representing the elements and it was all very holy, but being a wee bit heathen I can’t quite remember why. We then lent on the wall overlooking the bathing pool with the enormous boobied lady fountains and wondered what lay to the south. You see the LP said we had to do some clambering and after the 1001 steps of the day before none of us felt like ‘clambering’ so we tootled back off to the car to be taken to Gunung Kawi.

Gunung Kawi is described as the place where you find these amazing candies (shrines) carved into the cliff face. Now cliff face suggests steep descent doesn’t it? Not to us, we were most surprised to find that we had to go down through a town, and then down through some paddy terraces, and then down again. It was all very pretty and all, but I just couldn’t stop thinking that in this case what goes down must come up later. However... when we got there it WAS pretty amazing. There are those shrines poking out from the forest with a river gurgling below and a temple opposite.

And finally to end our day of Balinese art and culture (with a wee bit of shopping thrown in) we decided to go to a shadow puppet show. I can’t remember when I first became aware of those delicately thin puppets with lace like designs, but I was definitely into them by the time I was eighteen and watched proudly as my little troupe of five year olds performed their own rendition of the Teddy Bear’s Picnic behind the screen my Dad had made.

The Balinese version is slightly more complicated and highly religious. It’s only recently that the Palang (puppet masters) have begun performing them to tourists. There is a set list of characters; good versus evil (that old tale again) and the shows can last up to three hours long. We didn’t quite last an hour. In retrospect I suppose something of this significance was never going to be performed in its true sense to a bunch of tourists, but the crude jokes were just too much. We laughed politely at first, but as the audience gradually trickled away we joined the flow.

The night before we had discovered this little side street where all the paving stones have inscriptions dating from 1979-2003; as well as the decorative paving it was remarkably free of dogs, tourists, touts offering ‘transport’ and flashy restaurants. We had our cheapest and best meal ever and I finally began to get some crucial vocab: Ikan – fish, terima kahsi – thank you. Oh and the onion rings were good too.

Bloody Blogger. There are meant to be more photos with this post, but I can't upload them. Will try again sometime soon. And I thought switching to beta would make all this easier... (shakes head sadly from side to side and sighs loudly).

Saturday, September 23, 2006


1st August 2006 – Part I

After experiencing Ketut’s late night rafting arrangements, we decided to test him to the limit. The LP pointed out that some of the villages around Ubud were worth visiting, but quite difficult to get to. So I asked and not only did he agree to what I asked, he even threw in a few extra things.

So the morning started off in Batubalan. Although this is the central stone carver’s village, we had actually come here to see the morning performance of the Barong dance. Like the Kecak dance, the Barong is an epic tale of good versus evil. This time the hairy dog type dragon thing battles...

against the equally hairy witch Rangda.

Of course the story was more complicated than that, but they are the main players; the ones the audience ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ over. There are beautiful princesses (I think she was a beautiful princess) and her son...

and at the end the Rangda almost gets her wicked way by putting the Barong’s army into a trance and making them stab themselves,

but clever old Barong has made the knives harmless so what we see is a group of men screaming ‘HAY’ and depending on their acting skills varying attempts to stab themselves which range from dramatic to comically absurd.

All this is played before us with the soundtrack provided by the now familiar Gamelan Orchestra.

Nevertheless it was a jolly good fun and I rated it second after the Kecak. I guess I just like a good yarn.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mind the Toes

This isn’t quite finished and these toes seem to be wandering their own way!

Mind the toes get their dose of
dew and wet blades of grass
between their inner most creases.

Mind the toes dig into the generations
of blunted glass
cooly cascading as they emerge.

Mind the toes dip and float
in the crystaline salty
blues and greens.

Mind the toes feel beneath them
the life, soul and grain
of the creaking floor.

Mind the TOES!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My Birthday

31st July2006 – Part II

The drive to the Sungai Agung river was up and up through coconut palms, banana trees, banyan trees, acacias, rice paddies and small villages all advertising the Ubud Festival: ‘Ubud the centre of culture and art for the world!’ In one village I saw a group of men sitting in a circle each one caressing the crest of his prized cockerel. I spun round in my seat and asked the girls: “Did you see the men on the corner stroking their cocks?” Estrella blinked at me, turned to Kim and said: “That’s why I teach kids to say rooster." Rooster, cockerel, le coq qui chant, anyway, cockfighting is a big thing here.

At the top of the Sungai Agung we were met by a guide who told us a bit about out descent: 9km, two hours and lunch when we get out at the other end. The other END! Two hours away! We were starving NOW. OK we were probably nowhere near starving, but we were ready for lunch now, it was lunch time after all. The guide ignored our long startled faces and pointed us in the direction of our rafting guides Yoga and his trusty sidekick (whose name was no doubt Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut, but we never picked it up). We were kitted up and pointed in the direction of the rafts and not one of us thought to ask where the raft was. Well, maybe after the first hundred steps when we were still thinking about the benefits of stairs for your bum. By the next hundred steps we were definitely asking, and after the next hundred any energy expenditure other than stepping down could have tipped the balance towards complete collapse. Which is practically what I did as soon as they dumped the raft in the water; straight into the front seat because it was the nearest. Estrella who has collapsed next to me scooted over to the back when she realised the repercussions of sitting at the front and so Kim was my brave front seat partner. Yoga taught us the important rafting terminology: paddle forwards, paddle backwards, stop, boom boom and jiggle jiggle. Mostly Kim and I didn’t need the stop and boom boom signals because we could see perfectly well where the rapids suddenly dropped away or the solid walls of rock we were being directed towards while the guides cackled boom boom behind us. Another of their favourite jokes was to count so that we could paddle in time and then speed up! Oh and then there was ‘Look at the waterfall’ which we would do just as we went under it. Some were like showers, but the biggest with its spray rainbow at the bottom was like a massage we hadn’t booked.

The scenery around us was fantastic verdant forest (maybe rain) with little birds the size of large butterflies zooming across our path in a crazy zigzag way. Sometimes in the trees with gigantic leaves we would catch a flash of bright blue. These were Kingfishers. When still, you could see their bright blue breasts and vivid red beaks, but when they took flight and the sun caught their feathers, what I had mistaken for black wings and back transformed into flashes of blue.

Luxury hotels nestled in the hills above the gorge for the ‘honeymoon couples’ and below the sculptors who were working on a complex scene from the Ramayan dozed on the scaffolding.

Finally Yoga informed us that we were coming up to our last ‘boom boom’ and lunch. Suddenly we all remembered how hungry we were and perhaps rushed towards that last rapid ignoring the raft that had sprung a leak and was looking for a less exciting route.

In remembering our hunger we obviously forgot something else; the steep descent. The way up was equal if not worse and for the first time this holiday I recognised that this could be a near death experience. Would my lungs survive the whole way up? The only thing that buoyed me on was the thought of food at the top.

When we got there it was to be greeted by cheesy out of focus photos of us in the raft and a rather disappointing buffet affair that was being cleared away as we ate. Before we knew it we were back in the car fighting to keep our eyes open and our mouths closed, but after our forced halt behind the marching schoolgirls I could fight it no longer and the next time I was aware we were outside Ketut’s place.

To make up for lunch and Estrella’s altogether different near death experience (the whole rafting affair), she found us a restaurant in the grounds of the Pura Taman Suraswati (Ubud Water Palace). We sat slurping our Purple Lotuses (Fizzy rose and grape juice – yum) overlooking the lotus pond and filled our tummies, before running the gauntlet of the barking dogs and falling into bed. All in all it was a pretty successful birthday.

Erratum: In the previous post it was indicated to me by an irate reader that I may have lied to get them to go rafting. If I did do this I a) don’t remember and strongly deny lying and b) wasn’t going to let Estrella back out of rafing.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My Birthday

31st July 2006 - Part I

Thirty five years ago on this day I was born hours early (probably the last time I was ever early for anything) thus denying the midwife who had finished her day shift at Nelson’s Hospital her 100th delivery, or at least that’s the story I was told. I was also told I had blonde hair and blue eyes and my Mum told the nurse I was not her baby. But my hair turned black, and my eyes turned brown and over the intervening years my hair started to turn grey and I went through a succession of horrendous glasses before turning to contact lenses. And so I found myself in the company of a couple of mates at Ketut’s place cancelling our rafting trip, while Ketut called a friend and booked us on a cheaper trip with lunch included – yum.

Before the trip we decided to tootle down to Ubud Palace to catch it in the daytime. Because everything is so intricately decorated, in my mind I decided that the palace had to be hundreds of years old, but in actual fact it is full of red brick and concrete like so many of the other temples around here and was reconstructed in 1917 after an earthquake. I still took pictures aplenty because the architecture is so different to anything I’ve seen before.

In the outer courtyard are open pavilions (usually three). You then go up the steps and pass through the Kori Agung or Paduraska (doorway) before entering the inner courtyard. At the top of the steps is the Aling-Aling – in this one stood a masked woman, her enormous tongue hanging between her well rounded breasts warding off the evil spirits.

The Pavilions in the inner courtyard are dedicated to various gods or to the founder of the village and there is even one where the gods congregate to watch ceremonies. Nowadays they seem to be resting places for weary travellers waiting for ‘transport’ out of Ubud or photos of JFK visiting the temple hang there.

On our way back to the hotel via the shops we commented that in the daytime the dogs that lazed in our path barely had the energy to raise their heads let alone keep up the relay of barking that accompanied us at night time, but we couldn’t have too much of an in-depth conversation about it because our pick up was already there and we needed bathing suits and change of clothes and Estrella needed to be reassured that Rafting was perfectly safe – even though I had never done it before, but our travel insurance covered us, so how dangerous could it be?

Find out in the next thrilling instalment...

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I had a sudden realisation this morning while chopping up the last of my melon: Children like cats and dogs should not be kept in Paris apartments. I fear I may have been a little uncharitable to these children who are so proudly announced on the letter box label above mine ‘Philieas Fogg and their children’. I may have wished them nailed to the floor or cursed their parents, I may even have wished them an early death, but now I realise that if I am ever going to sleep in on a Saturday again I should wish for a pair of earplugs. My second wish should be to befriend the father (who always seems to be leaving or entering as I leave or struggle to enter my front door – haven’t quite got the hang of the locks yet) and subtly share my theory with him. No, if I am going to wish for slow, painful, early deaths I reckon I need to save all my death wishes for my absolute fuckwit of a boss; that is if I get through today.

You see this is the absurdity of the situation, yesterday my friends and I sat in an Ethiopian restaurant next to three of the funniest gay guys I have ever eavesdropped on, planning how to get a fridge down four flights of stairs. Actually I wasn’t planning, I was listening to the little guy explain how he feels who he is may have traumatised the younger half of his family and then talking about all the ‘lovely’ people in his new job without drawing breath. Then the tall one started in on his family and his favourite aunt this, and how he was close to cousin so and so and the middle aged on just provided the uhms and appropriate ahhs. After the three of them had whipped out these fabulous mobile phones – they all looked great compared to our cheapo plastic Nokias – the little one said that since he had lost his he wasn’t spending large amounts on phones anymore. At this point I think I had managed to miss the more absurd proposals for getting a fridge out the flat such as getting climbing rope and lowering it out the window or using the wheelie bit of a wheelie shopping trolley.

After I had ploughed my way round the injera covered in various delicacies in concentric circles we arrived at one of the more lucid plans. Cover it in blankets and slide it down, one at the top and two at the bottom. It was also probably at that point that we all began to phone Jim begging for help.

So this morning when the screaming herd of elephants made their presence known to me by cannoning into our adjoining wall every few seconds I woke up and gasped. But how the hell do we get the fridge out the kitchen, down the hall and at the stairs?

And unbuild the wardrobe? And clear the cave and... OK deep breaths and don’t panic. Colleen and Lise are going to help you and it will all be alright even if Lise does have to go and grab a perfect stranger from the street. OK calm, calm and calm.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kecak (chakachakachaka)

30th July 2006

I love water though I’m not very good in it and as teen/young adult I had certain pyromaniac tendencies; although this tended to be limited to picking up lighters and seeing what I could burn around me. I also have this vague memory of reading a description of fire personified as a licking monster which made me admire it in a new way. So I suppose I was looking forward to the Kecak dance which was described as the fire and trance dance. We were also kind of excited because Ketut had told us he would be performing. Would he be Rama or the White Monkey, or the Monkey King, or part of the 120 strong male choir I wondered as I sat entranced by the centrepiece of tiers of burning candles. Behind me I spotted some of the major cast members donning their elaborately decorated costumes and above me to the right of the stairs I could see groups of men in their checked black and white sarongs which symbolises the conflict between good and evil chatting away.

When it started it was nothing like I had expected. The choir came down the stairs chanting chaka chakachakachaka chaka. Every now and again someone would shout out and the chant would speed up, slow down, rise and fall in intensity. As they descended they waved their hands in the air, bowed to the left, bowed to the right and eventually formed a circle around the candles where they sat cross legged and continued to chant. An older member of the choir provided the haunting wailing melody which weaved and entwined with the chanting. But in a way the choir was more than a choir. They were the scenery and supporting cast; one moment representing fallen armies, the next the snake that swallowed Rama whole. They provided bridges and tunnels and the dignitaries welcoming the Monkey King, all the time keeping up the chant. And throughout the whole time that this dance kept me rapt, every single hair on my body stood on end.

But if that wasn’t enough after the Monkey King defeated the baddie and the choir disappeared back up the temple stairs and the candles were put aside, two members of the choir returned and piled up a bunch of coconuts. Once they were lit the heat off them was incredible and the three pronged prickly monster danced to a tune of its own as its innards glowered through shades of red and orange.

As I sat hypnotised by the flames a third bare foot choir member now sporting a hobby horse came flying down the stairs and straight through the fire kicking burning coconut shells at startled tourists. The two others swept the shells back into one burning mass and horseman ran through the fire again. This continued until the fire was almost tamed at which point the two sweepers decided enough was enough and began chasing the horseman kicking up a storm of embers and finally wrestling him to the ground.

Later Ketut told us that he hadn’t performed that night, but that he was the head of the village and they had only begun putting on the Kecak dance eighteen months ago. The villagers were all pleased with the result because now the door money paid for the upkeep of the temple. So Ketut’s talents add up to running his hotel, putting on feasts, Kecak dances and organising anything we wanted to do in and around Ubud (as we were soon to discover).

Unfortunately camera had even less to focus on then the night before, but I still kind of like these pictures. And I wonder if it's the same big head as the night before! Mmm.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Legong, Very long and Not Long Enough (a tale in three parts)

Part III – 30th July 2006

This is a fairly short story, for the hour and a half after we got back from the walk whizzed by. The Javanese Flower bath and deep tissue massage went too quick. It was kind of a birthday treat as Estrella’s was the day before and mine is tomorrow. So we were lathered up and man those hands were good. OK it was the most expensive yet (the third in four day) but so far it was the best.

Did I mention we were staying at Ketut’s place? The hotel is a kind of traditional compound, with the kitchen at the front as you walk in and our little bungalows behind. Ketut had warned us that our rooms were not deluxe. This meant no windows and a 5.30am alarm call from the neighbourhoods cockerels with harmony provided by the howling dogs and croaking frogs. But as we descended below the swimming pool for our massages we discovered the meaning of deluxe: windows, air con (not that you needed it), the sound of the river gushing below and the masseuse cooing over the colour of my hair as she plastered me in yellow exfoliating stuff and the promise of a flower bath.

As Made (pronounced Mah-day) kneaded into my tight muscles she asked me my name and what number I was. I was a bit drowsy by then and didn’t quite understand the question. “What number?” I tried to clarify. “Yes, first, second? Brothers, sisters?” Oh, suddenly something we had read dawned on both Estrella and I. “First.” Estrella said. “Second.” I said. “You Wayan.” She told Estrella. “You Made like me.” She said to me. Nyoman is third, Ketut is fourth and if there’s is a fifth child it goes back to Wayan and starts all over again.

Estrella and I got a bit chilly as we waited for the yellow goo to dry. It was at that moment that Kim decided to wander by looking all dreamy and relaxed. She took one look at us huddled up and laughed. “You think you’re cold now wait until you get into the bath.” “Oh yes.” Ketut said later. “The bath is new, no hot water yet.” Even the slug that had found its way into our flower bath was doing its best to escape quickly. The masseuses laughed and giggled as Estrella and I squealed and screamed. “Like babies.” They commented.

So yellow goo off, skin feeling great, muscles starting to relax we ambled back to our room before the evening’s Kecak Dance (performed by Ketut’s troupe) and Feast (made by Ketut’s wife).


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