Keyboard Warrior


The tea was hot, milky and very sweet, just the way Byron liked it. He took a sip as he stared at the screen. The match was not five minutes over and already the furore had begun on the forums.

Red4eva2001 had posted the first inflammatory comments about the game, citing the poor refereeing decisions as the main reason for the ‘Reds’ defeat.

Uptheblus04 had been quick to respond to the slight, suggesting that the Reds had benefited from more than their fair share of dodgy refereeing decisions in other games that season.

The forum continued to be abuzz with comments, many about the game itself, some about the ramifications for other games, still others lamenting the sport as a whole, deliberately trying to provoke a reaction from die-hards who couldn’t see that their enraged responses to these comments were exactly the reason they had been written in the first place.

“Don’t feed the trolls” Byron said to himself, taking another sip of tea and continuing to watch more and more comments appear on the screen.

Some commenters had already descended into personal battles with others, some were posters they had jousted with before, although there were also newbies who had been naively sucked into a war of words with some of the more experienced wind-up merchants on the forum.

Byron had yet to post anything himself that afternoon. Partly this was because he was enjoying the vitriol that had already been unleashed by others and partly because he hadn’t actually seen the game in question, and was trying to get a feel for the main areas of controversy before diving in with his own words of wisdom.

The main crux of a lot of the arguments was whether a penalty that had been given in the 38th minute was really a penalty, or whether the Blues striker had gone down a little too easily. There also seemed to be a contentious tackle in the 73rd minute which perhaps should have resulted in a Blues player being sent off.

In truth, Byron was ill-equipped to comment on either of these incidents, but, in the absence of any other information to go on, he was more than prepared to nail his colours to the mast. He took another swig of his tea and, assuming his identity of blueboy439, he began typing.

Typical whinging pinks, can’t take losing to a better team. Always got to blame the ref #pathetic

He was particularly proud of the ‘pinks’ slight – the emasculating of the Reds was always guaranteed a response.

Indeed he needed only wait a few minutes before he’d reeled in his first catch of the day. Redking2005 responded with a very personal attack, indeed so full of vitriol was it that Byron was certain the moderators would take the comment down after a few minutes. He took a quick screenshot of the comment just in case it was deleted. He saved the image into a folder he had named  ‘The Trophy Cabinet’. There were already well over a thousand such screenshots in there, but he was particularly proud of this one. It was always fun to get under the skin of a ‘Red’.

He was all set to type a response, partly to further incense Redking2005, but also with the hope of sucking in more prey when he heard a call from downstairs.

“Byron sweetheart, dinner’s ready!”

Byron sighed. The forum would be overloaded with comments by the time he made it back upstairs. Still, there was bound to be another comments section opening up on another news site, as various pundits wrote up their post-match analysis. There’d be another Redking2005 to irritate that day.

He closed his laptop and went down to dinner.

It’s The Taking Part That Counts


Mike wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked at his crestfallen team-mates who were gathered round him for his half-time talk. It was not going well, they were being out-thought, outplayed and simply outclassed by their opponents.  As team captain, it was his job to re-motivate the boys, lift their spirits and get them pumped for the second half.

“Come on guys,” he said, “we’re still in this. We just need to tighten up at the back and get the ball to Darryl.”

Darryl, who was by far and away the team’s best player, and was more than gratified by his captain’s faith in him, still felt a reality check was in order.

“Mike mate, we’re 10-0 down,” he said, “I don’t think we’re still in this at all.”

“Come on Darryl, we need to be more positive,” chided Mike sternly.

“No, I mean obviously, I want to be positive,” acknowledged Darryl, “but I mean, I think we’ve misjudged this a bit – they are quite a lot better than us.”

Mike siged. He knew what Darryl was getting at. When they’d first contemplated entering a five-a-side league, a few weeks back in the pub, there had been some concerns expressed that the sum talent of the team didn’t really amount to much. Darryl was fine, Pete was not without skill, although a little out of shape, and Roger was certainly keen, if not entirely what you’d describe as gifted. Eddie, Pete’s brother-in-law, was a reluctant recruit who’d only agreed to turn up because he ‘owed Pete a favour’ and there was certainly no guarantee he’d be back for future fixtures. As for Mike himself, well he was definitely the least able player out of the five. But he was enthusiastic and a natural leader. Or, at least, he was the only one who could actually be bothered to sign them up to a league.

Unfortunately Mike had rather misjudged the standard of the competition he had committed them to. Their current opponents ‘The Kingsmen’ (so named because they all drank at the Kings Arms) were clearly superior in every department. They also had a contingent of more than five players, meaning they were able to use substitutes, which was a luxury Mike and his team could only dream of. Nonetheless, ‘The Kingsmen’ had only managed to finish tenth out of fourteen teams last season. It was unlikely that future fixtures were going to get any easier for ‘Mike’s Machines’.

“To be honest guys, I don’t think this is really for me,” said Eddie, to the surprise of no-one, “I’ll see out the second half, but you might want to look at getting someone else for the next match.”

There were a few half-hearted efforts to change Eddie’s mind, but no-one realistically believed that there would be any need to recruit an additional player for future games.

Mike though, was not going to walk away without an attempt to rescue some pride in what was almost certainly going to be his team’s only fixture.

“Come on guys,” said Mike, “we’ve got to give it our all for another twenty minutes!”

There were non-committal grunts of unenthusiastic assent.

“And the first round of drinks is on me after the match,” continued Mike.

There were slightly louder, more enthusiastic murmurs.

“Now let’s get out there and give Eddie the send-off he deserves!” exclaimed the captain, loud enough to draw amused glances from their opposition.

“For Eddie!” bellowed Darryl as he charged onto the pitch.

“For Eddie!” came the slightly muted chorus from the others as they followed, with the exception of Eddie himself, who looked less than comfortable with the battlecry.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, albeit the goals did not come quite as thick and fast as they had done. ‘The Kingsmen’ had rather taken their foot off the gas, what with victory being so completely assured, and were using the remaining minutes as a training exercise, trying audacious passes and shots that they would never have contemplated in a closer fixture.

Perhaps it was this complacency that permitted Darryl to steal the ball of a rather cocky sub in the dying moments and smash what was the first strike on target for ‘The Machines’ all game. It was easily parried away by the goalkeeper, but, in the most unlikely of flukes, the rebounding ball was caught by an unintentional knee belonging to Mike as he bounded up the pitch with his unwavering enthusiasm. As the ball crossed the goal-line in what was the final act of the game, changing the final score from an embarrassing 15-0 to a much more credible 15-1, Mike was swamped by his team-mates.

The Kingsmen, for whom winning was nothing of note given the ease of their victory, were more than a little perplexed by the resulting celebrations from their opponents.

Mike, for his part, was in a reflective mood as he was carried out off the pitch on the shoulders of his friends. There may be no future outings for his ‘Machines’ but he would never forget his brief tenure as captain of this fine group of players.

The Teapot


The old china teapot was not the most glamourous of vessels, the design had long since faded and the spout was chipped in such a way that transferring the scolding liquid into a mug was often something of a lottery.

Nonetheless, Bruce was convinced that the tea, which survived the perilous journey from pot to cup, tasted better for the experience and thus the mild inconvenience of spillage was worth it. No other pot, opined Bruce, could ever match the quality of the beverage that was produced in his antiquated teapot.

In the early days of their relationship, Clara had tried to convince Bruce that this was nonsense. She had argued the merits of making the tea in the cup, had attempted to turn his head with other teapots, had even, through much research on a well-known internet auction site, managed to track down a near identical model of pot in better condition.

To no avail.

Bruce, not ungracious, had accepted the gift, indeed had accepted many a hot drink produced therein, but, as she discovered one morning when he had thought she was still sleeping, he continued to use his favoured teapot whenever charged with making his own drink.

In the end, it was an idiosyncrasy that Clara felt that she could live with. In all other respects Bruce was a model partner – kind, considerate and not generally given to strange obsessions in other aspects of his life.

But the infatuation with the teapot was perplexing.

It was not, as Clara had first assumed, any kind of heirloom. Bruce’s mother was as mystified as anyone as to its origins.

It had just appeared, one day, at some point during Bruce’s years of living alone. Even Bruce was sketchy as to when he had acquired it.

He just knew it made a fantastic cup of tea.

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Clara wanted to do something nice to mark the occasion. Though she normally refused to use the chipped china repository, reasoning that tea-making should be a less arduous affair, she felt she would indulge her husband with an early morning cuppa made the way he liked it.

What happened next was unclear. Clara couldn’t recall any recklessness on her part, but as she poured the hot brown liquid into the mugs, there appeared to be more errant fluid on the work surface than was usual. The moment when the spout detached from the pot seemed to take an eternity but there was, nonetheless, a parting of ways.

Bruce found Clara in tears, and reassured her as best he could.

But no matter how much he tried to play down the importance of the teapot, Clara knew that it meant something.

Bruce, for his part, took it well.

However, he remained reluctant to part with the pot, and though it clearly had no serviceable function any more, he held on to it.

Superglue was purchased and spout reattached to body, but, even then, it was clear that it would no longer be suitable for its primary function.

Still Bruce kept it as a kind of ornament, nostalgic for the halcyon days of the best cups of tea he had ever known.

He learned to appreciate tea from other pots –  he acknowledged that the near identical pot that Clara had tried to sway him with did indeed produce a fine cuppa. But it wasn’t quite the same.

Until the day, some years later, when Bruce accidentally chipped the spout.

At least he claimed it was an accident.

Clara was never sure.

But it turned out the chip was the solution. Bruce rediscovered tea nirvana.

Clara, for her part, still couldn’t taste the difference.

Lessons From Dystopian Fiction


Today I read a book
A novel set in space
It depicted the bleak end
Of the human race

It was set in future times
Many years from now
It predicted our doom
And it detailed how

We wiped our planet out
Through wars and pollution
How we failed to change our ways
How we ignored obvious solutions

I suppose it was quite sad
A reflection of our times
A punishment quite fit
For environmental crimes

So perhaps I missed the point
And you may think I’m a fool
For the lesson that I took
Is that spaceships are quite cool

Morning Is Broken


Gordon took a sip of his lukewarm tea, his fifth cup of the morning, both in terms of volume of tea and indeed receptacles. The previous, now empty, mugs sat on the pine coffee table (bought second-hand from a charity shop and by far the nicest piece of furniture he owned) in front of him, alongside a trio of plates, the first containing the remnants of a bacon sandwich, a breakfast he hadn’t actually been able to stomach, the second a congealed mess that he knew to be the remains of last night’s chicken chow mein (as per his usual pre-pub Friday night ritual) and the less said about the third the better, he’d obviously picked up something on his way back from the bar but he couldn’t honestly identify it now – a vaguely unpleasant taste of garlic sauce at the back of his throat suggested it may have been a kebab. Surrounding the various  unclean ceramics were several empty beer bottles. Continue reading Morning Is Broken

A Shred Of Hope


Brian had been on ‘shredding’ duties for over a week. It had just been him, the machine in a tiny room on the seventh floor, away from the comforts of his desk, the camaraderie of his colleagues and, more pertinently, a long way from the coffee machine. Continue reading A Shred Of Hope

The Dilemma


Jeff emptied the contents of his right trouser pocket onto the cheap, faux-pine, laminate and chipboard, coffee table. Spread out before him were a battered  imitation-leather wallet, one he’d had since his late teens, and a handful of coins. There was a barely discernible logo on the front of the wallet, representing a brand that had been very much a-la-mode at the time of purchase, but one that was no longer particularly in vogue. The wallet, he knew, contained a debit card for an overdrawn bank account, a credit card that was alarmingly close to the overly-generous limit his bank had permitted and several supermarket loyalty cards, which demonstrated that Jeff was not, in fact, especially ‘loyal’ to any one particular provider when it came to grocery shopping.

What the wallet did not contain, sadly, was any actual money.

Continue reading The Dilemma

Dinner Time


Janice cut the chicken into strips and tossed them into the frying pan, along with the onions and peppers she had prepared earlier. Adding a little sauce, she stir- fried her composition for a few minutes, singing along to compilation of late-eighties pop acts that were the mainstay of her decade-old MP3 player. The kitchen was not her most natural environment, but, on reflection, she realised that this cooking malarkey wasn’t all that hard.

The family’s usual chef, Pete, was upstairs repairing the broken drawer, a task he was neither enthusiastic about, nor particularly skilled at, but he was ‘damn well not going to fork out another hundred quid’ for a replacement unit. Continue reading Dinner Time

The Game



Crispin looked at the board despairingly.

There was nothing he could do. He had played into Franklin’s hands, and it was now just a matter of a few moves before inevitable defeat. He could cede the game now, but that was not Crispin’s way. If his late father had taught him anything, it was never to surrender even when all seems to be lost.

Admittedly Crispin Senior had, perhaps, taken the philosophy a little too far, and the moral certitude over who actually had ‘the right of way’ was arguably a little redundant when cycling towards an articulated lorry. Continue reading The Game

Sick Day

The resentful growl of the slow moving traffic indicated that the city had grudgingly woken up to Monday with the same collective reluctance shared by its morning commuters. Eli could hear the revving motors and the occasional plaintive horn from his bedroom as he made the phone call that would spare him from joining the gridlock for today at least. Continue reading Sick Day