As Easy As ABC

James Proclaims (4)

As my output on this blog is currently quite prolific, I thought I might partake in another blogging challenge. Specifically the A-Z blogging challenge, in which the purpose is to write 26 posts in 26 days throughout April (there are admittedly 30 days in April but you you get four Sundays off so it all works out mathematically) , each focusing on a different letter of the alphabet. I did this challenge in 2016 and I found it to be more than a little taxing. This was partly because I hadn’t really understood the rules and just leapt into the challenge without any real direction. I did succeed in writing 26 posts, focusing on each of the letters in turn, but without having any kind of theme underpinning my efforts, it all got a bit boring very quickly and I persisted through to ‘z’ out of sheer stubbornness, with all the joy long having abandoned me by the letter ‘u’. Genuinely it was probably the nadir of my whole blogging journey to date. You can check out my abysmal efforts here.

Frankly I thought the whole thing was best avoided in 2017, but, as I’m currently in pretty good blogging-shape, I thought it might be time to re-join the blogosphere’s premier mass participation event for 2018.

Also I have a theme for this year, which should certainly help to keep things ticking along.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post, for today is officially the day when participants of the A-Z Challenge are supposed to share their chosen theme with the world.

And who am I to defy this fine convention?

So, with that preamble out of the way, I can happily reveal that, starting on the 1st April, my A-Z blogging challenge will be to write about a different character from a beloved cartoon of my youth.

They will predominantly be eighties cartoons, for that was the era in which I watched the most animation, but for the sake of a few awkward letters (I’m looking at you ‘x’!) I may need to borrow from the nineties on occasion.

So join me in April, when my usual staples, such as Magic Penguin, James Explains et al, will be taking a much deserved rest in order to make room for an A-Z festival of nostalgia!

Obviously feel free to continue joining me for the rest of March when I will continue to post my usual nonsense on a daily basis.





Magic Penguin And The Further Lowering Of The Bar



Magic Penguin and Mardy Puffin were enjoying a drink in the Slipper and Pager, an establishment neither was known to frequent.

“It’s alright in here,” said Magic Penguin, “reasonably priced, good selection of craft beer, and the food looks pretty good too.”

“It’s not bad,” agreed Mardy Puffin, “I prefer the Sandal and Fax, but it’s nice to have a change every now and again.”

“Yes,” mused Magic Penguin, “I’d be loath to give up the Shoe and Phone, but a change is as good as a rest.”

“It’s not though is it?” argued Mardy Puffin, “I’d much rather have a good rest, all things considered.”

“True,” acknowledged Magic Penguin, “a rest is actually much better than change. But in these busy times, perhaps a change is all we can hope for.”

“To be honest, I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about,” said Mardy Puffin, “why exactly did you want to meet up?”

“Well, it does have something to do with change,” said Magic Penguin, “do you remember how you covered for me a couple of weeks ago?”

“Indeed I do,” said Mardy Puffin, “I thought I did an excellent job in that story. What was it called again?”

“It was called Magic Penguin and The Missing Main Characters,” said Magic Penguin, “and I’ll concede it was ok, but mainly because of Mistaken Moose. You were average at best.”

“I think I was a little better than average,” said Mardy Puffin, “I think I pretty much held that story together. Mistaken Moose was just comic relief. I was the true hero of the story.”

“If you say so,” said Magic Penguin with thinly veiled scepticism, “but it definitely wasn’t as good as if I’d been in it.”

“I’m not sure you’re right about that,” said Mardy Puffin, “I know you’re the titular character in these stories, but, for me, Fat Giraffe is the real star.”

Magic Penguin and Mardy Puffin both sniggered at the word ‘titular’.

“Obviously, you’re completely wrong,” said Magic Penguin, “Fat Giraffe is just comic relief, I’m the true hero of the Magic Penguin stories.”

“If you say so,” said Mardy Puffin with thinly veiled scepticism, “so why did you want to meet me?”

“Well, I was hoping you might cover for me again this week,” said Magic Penguin.

“Sorry,” said Mardy Puffin, “I don’t think I can.”

“Why not?” asked Magic Penguin, “You’d be doing me a huge favour. I need to meet my solicitor. There’s been some new evidence uncovered relating to the Kipper Scandal.”

“”Is that still a thing?” asked Mardy Puffin, “I thought you’d put that behind you years ago.”

“You never move on from something as big as the Kipper Scandal,” said Magic Penguin, “every time I think I’ve established my innocence, someone else makes a disclosure and I’m back in the spotlight.”

“I think the problem is that you’re actually guilty,” said Mardy Puffin.

“That has never been proven,” said Magic Penguin.

“But everyone knows that you are,” said Mardy Puffin.

“Look, we’re not here to discuss my whether or not I’m culpable for the Kipper Scandal,” said Magic Penguin.

“But you totally are,” said Mardy Puffin.

“That’s neither here nor there,” said Magic Penguin, “the point is that I need to meet with my solicitor rather urgently and I need you to cover for me.”

“Can’t do it,” said Mardy Puffin.

“Why not?” asked Magic Penguin impatiently.

“Well, the story has clearly already started, and you’re very much in it.” said Mardy Puffin.

“What!” exclaimed Magic Penguin incredulously.

“The story is happening right now,” explained Mardy Puffin, “this is it.”

“This is the story?” said Magic Penguin, “but this is just an inane conversation with no clear purpose or direction.”

“Isn’t that what every Magic Penguin story ends up being?” asked Mardy Puffin.

“I suppose so,” nodded Magic Penguin, “but this still feels like a new low.”

“I agree, this one has been pretty bad,” said Mardy Puffin, “but look on the bright side. If this is rock bottom, then surely the only way is up.”

“That’s true,” said Magic Penguin, “the writer is bound to up his game next time.”

But alas, once again Magic Penguin was being naively optimistic. The writer could, and definitely would, sink to even lower depths in the future.

A Saturday Story


It was Saturday and therefore the day that James usually liked to post a short story on his blog. But this particular Saturday had been quite a busy one, and he wasn’t sure if he had adequate time to do so.

He had woken up relatively early, though by the gruelling standards set by his workday alarm clock he felt he had positively had a lie in, when he rolled out of bed at 7am. Being in a benevolent mood, he had proceeded to cook breakfast for himself and his beloved wife. She had declared it a triumph (for indeed it was), and thus, well in the spousal good books, the day had begun in the most positive of ways for James. After a satisfying morning repast, James then patiently awaited the delivery of his twice-weekly grocery shop. It was scheduled to arrive between eight and nine, though in fact did not arrive until ten past nine. He was mildly put out, but used the time to wash up the considerable mess left by his early morning  culinary activities, as well as the remnants of the previous evening’s delightful cod and chickpea curry. The delivery driver was suitably contrite when he did arrive, and the majority of the groceries were accounted for, though notably absent was the coffee that James had ordered, and he was, alarmingly, running low on supplies. He did have plenty of decaf, but that was not going to be enough to adequately get him through the day. He knew he would need to go out to replenish his caffeine stocks later on, but there was still an adequate reserve to get him through the morning, so he put the rest of the shopping away and proceeded to get on with his to-do list, which consisted largely of making a leek and cauliflower soup. Well, if he was being pedantic, he’d have to concede it was actually a leek, cauliflower, parsnip and potato soup, and he he was being super pedantic he might even describe it as a leek, cauliflower, parsnip, potato, onion, garlic, chilli, water, salt and stock-cube soup. While making the soup he also listened to music on his relatively old but still entirely functional iPod Nano. Currently he was listening to songs predominantly from the 2011-2012 era (if such a short time period could be described as an ‘era’). There was no particular reason for this.

Once the soup had been made, James proceeded to exercise in his living room, while simultaneously watching an old episode of Star Trek Voyager. Currently his exercise regime consisted of a combination body-weight exercises (he felt he should use his considerable body-weight to his advantage) and the use of a kettlebell. He had stuck to this particular regime for a number of months – it seemed to tick most of the fitness boxes he required from a work-out, with the added bonus that he didn’t actually have to leave the house to do it.

Exercise (and Star Trek) complete, James put the soup through the blender, and after ladling some of it into plastic containers to be frozen for later use, he heated up a portion for lunch. His wife, enjoying the second sampling of James’ cooking that day, declared the soup a triumph and James revelled once again in the spousal good books.

After lunch James walked into town. He needed to purchase a gift for his nephew’s christening the following day. It was a tad ‘last-minute’ but James still felt he should make an effort to get something decent. Granted, the six-month old recipient would be largely indifferent to the offering, and but James felt that the shop across the road would not be a suitable retailer for a christening present. True, he had purchased gifts from said establishment on previous occasions, but he was certain that a moderately-priced bottle of shiraz wouldn’t cut it this time.

The trip to town was relatively quick, town was busy, the weather was cold, and James did not feel inclined to hang about. He identified a suitable store, purchased an appropriate gift, stopped in a food retailer to buy some coffee and was home within the hour.

This should have left plenty of time for James to fulfil his blog commitment of producing a short story, but it was the last day of the Six Nations Rugby tournament and James had made arrangements to watch the final game in the pub with his friend. It was for this reason that he had worked so hard to establish himself in his wife’s good books, and he was due to depart for the pub shortly having earned her blessing.

This did not, alas, leave him sufficient time to write a brand new work of fiction, but he was reluctant to not post anything.

Suddenly James had a bright idea. He could create the illusion of a short story by just writing about his day so far in the third person.  He had seen this technique employed to great effect by fellow blogger Bryntin in recent weeks. It was therefore, as James acknowledged, not his own idea, but in the world of blogging, where people write unsolicited missives to the world at large for no financial recompense, surely intellectual theft was something of a given.

So, with his conscience relatively clear, James sat down and wrote what might well have been his most redundant post yet.

Pochi Vedono Come Siamo, Ma Tutti Vedono Quello Che Fingiamo Di Essere


It’s Friday, so hang up your scruples and enjoy a few vices.

But don’t do anything too Machiavellian.

Unless you want to of course.

I have gone with a Machievellian theme for this week’s ‘Artist’s Corner’

Because this week I present my fairly rubbish drawing of none other than Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, a man as underhand and duplicitous as they came.

I imagine.

I don’t know, I haven’t done even the most basic research for this.

Maybe he just wrote stuff with duplicitous character in and he was actually a nice chap.

Although, if my artistic rendition is to be believed (and in the end what other evidence do we have?) he probably was a little bit naughty.

A Post In Which I Answer A Load Of Film-Related Questions That Someone Asked Me In the Comments Section Of A Different Post I Wrote

James Proclaims (6)

Image result for darth maul

It’s Thursday, which in recent months has been the day I have posted an unnecessary review of a film I watched when I was younger. But this week I’m posting something a little different. Because a few weeks back, in the comments section of one my Tuesday ‘James Explains’ features, I found a load of film related questions from a fellow blogger called Paul S. It seemed rude not to answer them, but as there are so many and as they are so film related, I thought I’d answer them on a Thursday, when I tend to write about films, as opposed to on a Tuesday, when I tend to write about…erm…well other stuff…

So, here are the film-related questions and my film-related answers:

1. What film has been sitting on your shelf for the last six months waiting to be watched?
Alas, more films than I care to mention. Thor Ragnarok and Baby Driver are two recently acquired movies that I really should already have seen, but still haven’t quite managed to find time to watch. I’ll probably get around to watching them soon though. There are others that I bought a while back that I still haven’t managed to watch. Logan is the most surprising of those. I bought it when it first came out and still haven’t seen it, even though it’s exactly the kind of film I would definitely enjoy. I’m quite particular about the conditions needed for the first time I watch a movie, so on the rare occasions I do have a spare two hours, I’m as likely to put on a film I’ve already seen, on the basis that I’m slightly less irritated by interruptions if I already know what’s going to happen.
2. What is the one film you know word for word?
There’s more than one I fear. I’m pretty good on all three of the original Star Wars Trilogy as well as The Princess Bride, the first Die Hard movie, Airplane, The Commitments, and the first Austin Powers movie. Also quite a lot of Christmas films.
3. What screen character breaks your heart?
While I tend to towards the often-quite-mindless blockbuster, I have watched a few more worthy films in my time. La Vita è Bella has always stuck with me and the character of Guido Orefice is definitely heart-breaking.
4. If you could bring an actor back from the dead, and had to pair them on screen with a current actor (who is no older than 40), what would your combo be?
Not sure about actors under 40 – they all look under 40 but turns out most of them aren’t. Emma Stone is pretty good though. As for dead actors – there are lots of those I could choose from too, (although turns out some I thought were dead are very much not). Maybe James Stewart. That could work right?
5. How often do you check your phone in the cinema?
Never! People who do that are beneath contempt.
6. What film do you love which no-one else quite seems to ‘get’?
I’m fairly mainstream in my tastes so there aren’t many films that I ‘love’ that are generally lambasted by others. Having said that, I definitely don’t hate The Phantom Menace as much as most people seem to, but it’d be a stretch to say I love it. I love Star Wars in general too much to hate it though. There’s loads wrong with it, but if you ignore the excessive CGI, annoying characters and unnecessary plot-devices, there is a good film hiding in there somewhere. It’s just really well-hidden a lot of the time.
7. What is your favourite Al Pacino film?
A lot of my friends would say Scarface, but I think for me it’s probably Heat, as much for when it came out as anything else. Movies from the mid-nineties tend to have a special place in my heart.
8. Why do they always manage to make us go one size bigger with the popcorn?
It’s because they call the middle-size ‘regular’ and when you order pop-corn, they ask you if you want ‘regular’, as if that’s the ‘normal’ one to go for. It’s really hard to then ask for ‘small’, without seeming a bit miserly. Even though ‘small’ is usually still massive. I never have any trouble eating it all though…
9. Share one memory from a cinema visit long ago
To be fair, most cinema experiences are pretty unmemorable. The film might be good, but the rest of the experience is often not much to write home about. That said, I do remember going to see Groundhog Day with a friend back in the early nineties and we accidentally walked into the wrong screen. By the time the film started and we found ourselves watching 3 Ninjas we were too embarrassed to leave. To be fair we were stupid teenagers and therefore we did quite enjoy 3 Ninjas, but I’ve never watched it again since. We went back to watch Groundhog Day the following week (is there irony in there somewhere?) and that continues to be one of my favourite films of all time.
10. Have you ever used a line from a movie, in your life, without anyone knowing you stole it? Give details.
Almost certainly. Probably more than I’d like to admit if I’m honest. Back in the early days of our courtship when my now-wife but then-girlfriend told me she loved me, I’d sometimes reply with “I know”. These days she knows I’m just channelling my inner Han Solo, but I think she used to find it quite perplexing at the time. She still married me though…

So that’s all those questions answered. I think the world is now a more knowledgeable place. It’ll be back to the rubbish film reviews next Thursday (as in rubbish reviews of films that may or may not also be rubbish) but I’ll be answering questions on a range of topics on Tuesday, as is my way.

Thank You For Calling

Thank you for calling Faceless Insurance, Utilities and Mortgages
All of our operatives are currently busy
However your call is important to us and will be answered shortly
Here is some prog rock
To keep you entertained while you wait

If you’d rather not wait, you could just check
The frequently asked questions bit on our website
Although chances are, the question you want to ask
Isn’t listed in the frequently asked questions

Actually, I expect you already checked the website
Most people probably do that before calling
Because who wants to wait 17 minutes for one of our operatives to be free
When you can just check online in a few seconds?
So actually, we’re being more than a little patronising
By suggesting that you check the website
But then some people who call us are a bit stupid
We’re not saying you’re stupid
But we do need to pitch this message
To the lowest common denominator
Here is some pan pipe music
To keep you entertained while you wait

Thank you for calling Faceless Insurance, Utilities and Mortgages
All of our operatives are still busy
They’re surprisingly busy people
It’s almost as if we don’t provide a particularly good service to our customers
When you consider the volume of calls we get each day
It’s highly unlikely that those calls are from people who want to congratulate us
On our excellent standards
It’s far more likely that these are calls from people who want to voice concerns
So you’d imagine that the least we would do is employ enough operatives
To answer the calls promptly and efficiently
Nonetheless your call is important to us
No really it is
And it will be answered shortly
Probably in no more than 22 minutes
Here are some power ballads
To keep you entertained while you wait

Thank you for calling Faceless Insurance, Utilities and Mortgages
If your call is because you want to purchase a new product
And give us more of your money
Then please press 1 and we’ll probably answer quite quickly
If your call is to do with an existing product
Then press 2 and it’ll take us a bit longer to answer
But we’ll still try and squeeze some more money out of you
It’s called up-selling and if you’re particularly vulnerable
We’ll up-sell you products you could never possibly need
And definitely can’t afford
However, if you’re too smart to fall for our attempts to get more cash out of you
Then press 3 and we’ll make you wait even longer
Because we’re really not that interested in speaking to you
And if none of those options appeal,
Then continue to hold and eventually someone might speak to you
But it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to help
They might transfer you to another department though
And they won’t be able to help either
Eventually, after we’ve transferred you enough times
We’re hoping you’ll give up and go away
But your call is important to us
And we’ll probably answer it in around 35 minutes
Here is some smooth jazz
To keep you entertained while you wait

Thank you for calling Faceless Insurance, Utilities and Mortgages
We can’t believe you’re still here
Clearly we’re never going to answer your call
All of our operatives are busy
Stop wasting their time
They’ve got better things to do than speak to you
What’s your problem anyway?
Your call is of no importance to us
Our operatives aren’t even really busy
In fact there aren’t any operatives
We made them up
No-one has ever called our bluff and stuck it out this long before
Still if you’re really determined to speak to someone
A robot might possibly answer your call in 48 minutes or so
Here are some dubious cover versions of popular songs
To keep you entertained while you wait

James Explains Onomatopoeia Amongst Other Things

James Explains


Hello truth seekers, and welcome back to the bit of my blog where I answer the difficult questions that other blogs choose to ignore.

Mostly because they weren’t asked them.

But I was asked them.

So I will answer them.

Because that seems like the polite thing to do.

To kick us off, Pete asks:


This is something of a callback to a question that Pete posed a couple of weeks ago, and like then I will refer you to the answer my parents gave me to this question back in my youth, which in this case was… BECAUSE I SAID SO!

Pete also asks:

My cat, sitting on a mat, has just had a urinary accident………Is this onomatopoeia?

Alas Pete, it isn’t. Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds like itself. Which is, to be fair, all words. They all sound like themselves. I may have misunderstood what onomatopoeia means. There must be more to it than that. But I know it doesn’t refer to cats urinating on mats. The word you’re thinking of is catonomatopoeia.

Bryntin asks:

James, why haven’t I got any questions this week?

I had so many last week.

I tried but I simply couldn’t conjure one up, even when I looked in my wardrobe.

I must admit, I was perplexed to discover that you didn’t have any questions Bryntin, but I think I understand why. It’s because questions aren’t kept in wardrobes. Fictional lands with witches and lions and never-ending winters are kept in wardrobes.

Stolzy’s five year old son is back with this scatalogical question:

Why is it that my poop is brown when I ate nothing brown?

I was going to come up with a silly answer to this, but then I realised that I was answering the question for a five year old boy and so I feel that I would be doing him a disservice by not taking the question seriously.

So Stolzy, please read the following answer out to your son, in order to further his education.

Poop is brown because of a tetrapyrrolic bile pigment called sterconilin.

Or it could just be because the poo fairy likes brown.

Take your pick.

Suze asks:

“WHY do men collect crap?” Model parts, dried out glue bottles, modeling paints that are dried up with the cap on crooked…none of which can be thrown out as it “might be needed later”.

Now I can see why you’ve asked me this question Suze, because, as a man I’m fully qualified to answer. Although I don’t actually collect any of that stuff, because I’m the kind of maverick who hurls caution to the wind and throws stuff away. That said, I’ve often been left to rue my cavalier attitude when I’ve desperately needed some dried out modelling paints and haven’t had any to hand. What a fool I was.

And that’s it for this week’s James Explains. As ever, if you’d like me to explain the seemingly unexplainable then pop a question in the comments below.


Thawed For The Day

James Proclaims (4)


I was struggling to think of what to write today, and almost didn’t bother posting. But I’m on such a hot blogging streak at the moment (this being my 133rd post in 133 consecutive days) that I was reluctant to not write anything. I feel the run is likely to come to an end soon, but I think if I can get over the hurdle of today’s apathy, that I’ve got a few more posts in me before I run out of steam.

On the other hand I didn’t want to just stare at a blank page for hours on end, waiting for inspiration to find me. I have better things to do than that.

Like eating the rest of that ice cream that’s in the freezer.

And watching the next episode of that box-set.

And preparing for that presentation I’m meant to be doing in work tomorrow.

Well I’ll do the ice-cream and the box-set thing anyway. I expect I’ll be employing my usual ‘winging it’ strategy for the presentation.

So, in the absence of any genuine inspiration, I’ve imposed a ten minute time limit on myself to write today’s post.

Why ten minutes?

Well that’s the optimum time from taking the ice-cream tub out of the freezer to allow it to thaw sufficiently to transfer it to a bowl without bending the spoon, but not thaw so much that it loses its delightful ice-creamy consistency.

So, while this may not be the best post I’ve ever produced, I will get to enjoy a bowl of ice-cream at the end of it.

And that’s got to count for something right?

Magic Penguin And The Return Of The Main Characters



Magic Penguin, Fat Giraffe and Mystic Mouse were enjoying a few drinks in the Shoe and Phone one afternoon as they tended to do with monotonous regularity.

“So, we’re back then,” observed Mystic Mouse.

“What do you mean?” asked Fat Giraffe, “We’re always in the pub. We literally don’t do anything else.”

“Yes, but last week we weren’t in the story at all,” said Mystic Mouse.

“Oh yeah,” said Fat Giraffe, “I remember now. The story was set in a different but similarly named pub, with three characters who had the same initials as us, but who weren’t us at all.”

“It was a bit strange,” agreed Magic Penguin, “I’m not quite sure why that happened really.”

“I thought, in many ways, it was actually a little bit better than the usual stories,” said Mystic Mouse.

“I agree,” said Fat Giraffe, “I thought Mistaken Moose was really funny.”

“It’s a bit worrying though,” said Magic Penguin, “why weren’t we in the story last week?”

“Well, I’m putting it down to the snow,” said Mystic Mouse, “everything seems to stop when it snows.”

“So does that mean that we are, in fact, in the UK?” asked Fat Giraffe, “because I’m not sure if we’ve ever really established that.”

“I’m not sure” said Mystic Mouse, “but it snowed in other places, besides the UK last week, so I don’t think it’s conclusive proof that the Magic Penguin stories are set in the UK.”

“On the balance of probability we are based in the UK,” said Magic Penguin, “but if we are, then it’s a heavily fictionalised version. I mean there aren’t really any talking penguins, giraffes or mice in the UK.”

“No, that’s generally more of a Scandinavian thing,” agreed Fat Giraffe.

“I think you’re probably mistaken there,” said Mystic Mouse.

“Well, they don’t call me Mistaken Moose for nothing,” said Fat Giraffe.

“They don’t call you that at all,” said Magic Penguin, “you’re quite clearly called Fat Giraffe.

“Oh yeah,” said Fat Giraffe, “got a bit confused there for a minute.”

“It’s understandable,” said Magic Penguin, “It’s been a long time since anything made sense in these stories.”

“True,” said Fat Giraffe, “they do seem to tend towards the absurd.”

“Which would be fine if anything ever happened in them,” said Magic Penguin “but nothing ever does.”

“Although if these stories are a homage to the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ movement popularised by Beckett, Ionesco et al. then it’s perfectly reasonable that nothing ever happens.” said Mystic Mouse.

“How do you mean?” asked Fat Giraffe.

“Well it’s like Waiting for Godot,” said Mystic Mouse, “Much like Vladimir and Estragon wait in vain for Godot to arrive, we’re waiting in vain for something to happen.”

“But we’re clearly not waiting for Godot,” said Magic Penguin.

“I realise that,” said Mystic Mouse, “I was referring to that play as an illustration of my point and the situation we’ve potentially found ourselves in.”

“No, I understood your point,” said Magic Penguin, “I just mean that we’re not waiting for Godot, cos he’s already here.”

And sure enough, sitting near the bar, drinking a pint of stout and reading a battered copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, was none other than Godot.

“Hey Godot,” called Magic Penguin, “how long have you been here?”

“Since 1953,” said Godot, “I told those idiots Vladimir and Estragon to meet me here, but they still haven’t shown up.”

“Well that certainly explains something,” nodded Mystic Mouse.

“What does it explain?” asked a baffled Fat Giraffe.

“Never mind,” said Mystic Mouse.

“Well I don’t want to sit around twiddling my thumbs,” said Magic Penguin, oblivious to the fact that penguins don’t have thumbs, “I suggest that we stop waiting for something to happen and we take the bull by the horns.”

“You leave my horns alone,” said Anxious Bull.

“Sorry Anxious Bull, I was using a metaphor,” said Magic Penguin.

“Well, it’s a bit of an insensitive metaphor if you ask me,” said Anxious Bull.

“Anyway, I thought we were waiting for someone,” siad Mystic Mouse, “didn’t the last story that we were in finish on a cliff-hanger, surrounding the imminent arrival of your evil cousin?”

“Yes, but as he clearly hasn’t arrived yet, I think we should go and do something else,” said Magic Penguin, “I mean we’re a good 700+ words in at this point, so I think it’s reasonable to conclude that he’s not coming.”

“Not so fast Magic Penguin,” said the voice of a mysterious stranger who had just entered the pub.

“Who’s that?” asked Fat Giraffe, with trepidation.

“Oh, that’s just Red Herring, trying to set up another meaningless cliffhanger,” said Magic Penguin, “I think it’s safe to ignore him.”

“Not this time Magic Penguin,” said Red Herring, for it was indeed he, “this time I bring news that your cousin, Evil Penguin is about to return, and make your life very complicated indeed.”

“You already told us that two weeks ago,” sighed Magic Penguin, “we were literally just talking about that. And Evil Penguin still hasn’t shown up and this week’s story was just as pointless as the rest of them have been.”

“Oh,” said a visibly crestfallen Red Herring, “well I’m sure he’ll be along next week.”

And Red Herring might well be right. But equally he could be wrong. Irritatingly, the only way to find out is to read next week’s Magic Penguin story, which will, in all likelihood, be just as disappointing as this one was.

Quality Of Life


Neville rubbed his eyes wearily. It had been a long day of meetings. Meetings about progress, meetings about strategy, meetings about personnel, meetings about finance, meetings about data and at one point, Neville was fairly certain, there had been a meeting about meetings.

The majority of these gatherings had followed a similar format. They began with a review of the objectives set at the last meeting. Next came the acknowledgement that none of those objectives had been met. This was followed by a minor witch-hunt as individuals tried to pin the failure to meet their assigned objectives onto other people. This, in turn, led to some robust ‘conversations’ as the accused refuted the blame and tried to apportion the liability elsewhere. Ultimately there was a consensus that most of the failings were probably the fault of those reckless souls who hadn’t bothered to turn up to the meeting. Each conclave would end with a new set of objectives (or more accurately the re-stating of the last set of objectives) despite the near-certainty that none of these targets would be met by the time the next meeting rolled around.

But now the working day was finally over and Neville had a few hours of reprieve. He knew he probably should do some preparatory work for tomorrow’s meetings, but, as he was more than certain that no-one else would do so, he felt that any endeavours on his part to make the  following day’s assemblies anything more than a complete waste of time, would be an additional waste of his own time.

Neville had better things to do with his evening. There little enough of it, once his arduous commute home was taken into account, so he was certainly not inclined to spend it reading through the interminably dull, and predominantly out-of-date, reports that would be erroneously quoted by equally ill-informed colleagues in the various discussions he was due to partake in during the following day.

No, Neville’s time was his own and he planned to spend it, as he did every other night.

This entailed settling down on his sofa, sticking on a boxset, and consuming a moderately-priced Pinot Noir until he could see the bottom of the bottle or he passed out.

Whichever came first.