Wanted – Talented Writers Who Have No Personal Ambition And Are Happy To Give Away Content For No Remuneration Or Credit

James Proclaims (4)

A exciting opportunity has arisen for a creative, results focused and ambitious Content Writer who can take direction from written or spoken ideas and convert them seamlessly into quality content that is better than the stuff we’re currently churning out.

James Proclaims Ltd

James Proclaims is a multiple award-nominated blog based in the UK somewhere. The blog is quite possibly read and enjoyed by tens of people around the world, although this is based on some potentially misleading statistics. Nonetheless those stats point to a recent upward curve and so the time has come to consolidate that success by ‘employing’ someone who can actually, you know, write.

Content Writer

You will join us as a Content Creator and will draft all content for blog posts, ensuring it is of the highest standard, engaging, and will definitely get a lot of ‘likes’. You will be a valuable team resource in terms of industry knowledge, keeping abreast of trends and passing that knowledge on to the wider team. The wider team is, essentially, just one person, although that person does sometimes use the first-person plural to create the illusion that there is, in fact, a team.

Content Writer Responsibilities:

– Responsible for drafting all content and effectively marketing the content so as to generate lots of ‘likes’.
– Respond to comments on posts in a timely and, where possible, witty fashion.
– Research competitors to stay informed of what is popular on other blogs and, where appropriate, steal ideas and content.
– Make coffee for ‘the team’.
– Sometimes go to the pub with ‘the team’ and pretend to be his friend.

Content Writer Requirements:

Essential Desirable 
– Willing to work for no remuneration or credit – Proven experience of writing for web, email and social media
– Ability to write good, clear copy in a variety of styles and tones of voice with impeccable spelling and grammar
– Excellent proof-reading skills
– High level of accuracy and attention to detail


WE ARE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES EMPLOYER AND WELCOME APPLICATIONS FROM PEOPLE FROM ALL BACKGROUNDS, GENDERS, ABILITIES AND ETHNICITIES.

Expressions of interest should initially be in the form of a message in a bottle. This is not a real job advert but all applications will nonetheless be considered before they are rejected.

This one

Revealed: Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Coffee

James Proclaims (4)

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Hello, I’m James and this is my blog, ‘James Proclaims’.

I like coffee. I drink quite a lot of it and I’m something of a snob connoisseur.

But in all honesty I doubt I know ten facts about coffee that aren’t already common knowledge. It would be ludicrous to claim otherwise.

Regular readers will no doubt have spotted that this is, once again, my (now apparently regular) Wednesday ‘click-bait’ post. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and if I’m honest the experiment has rather run its course. I don’t really know why I’m still doing it.

Perhaps it’s because, when all is said and done, disingenuous, low-quality content is still content and given that most media outlets, even publicly-funded institutions like the BBC, allow some pretty low-brow and worthless content on their websites, I don’t see why I should rise above it.

I should probably provide a link to something trite on the BBC website to prove my point, but these days my understanding is that you don’t need evidence to back up the claims you make and also quality is subjective, so it’s really just my opinion rather than an actual fact.

Believe it or not, some people will really like this post and consider it the height of satire.

And who’s to say they’re wrong?

 

Important Information For Our Readers

This one

Dear Reader

Thank you for your continued loyalty and support during these past months, which we know have been difficult ones.

As life begins to return to some normality, we want to reassure you that we’re continuing to do everything we can to keep you safe while still providing the quality poetry and great art that James Proclaims is known for.

You will have seen some updates from the Government recently and I wanted to share our approach with you in light of this latest guidance.

FACE COVERINGS

From Friday 24 July, we’re asking you to follow the new government legislation on face coverings while reading our blog.

All readers, apart from children under 11 and those who have reasonable cause, such as a health condition, disability, physical or mental impairment, should wear a face mask, scarf or other covering. Not all exemptions are visible, so please be understanding of other readers.

You will also be pleased to know our writers will be wearing face coverings. These will be worn by all writers who are not exempt when they are in areas where two metre social distancing cannot be achieved or where other measures, such as screens, are not present.

 

SMALLER QUEUES

As readers return to their normal reading patterns, we’re seeing queues reducing, and no queues at all on many posts. If you do find yourself queuing, please try reading outside of the peak lunchtime and early evening hours when it’s quieter.

 

READING HOUR FOR THE ELDERLY AND VULNERABLE

At the beginning of lockdown, when some posts were in high demand and the blog was very busy, we created a dedicated hour at the start of each day for our elderly and vulnerable readers.

We know how much this was appreciated and so – although our posts are now less busy and we have effective safety measures in place – we will continue to keep the first reading hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays reserved for our elderly and vulnerable readers.

We hope these measures reassure you that we take the safety of readers very seriously. Thank you for your patience and support in these challenging times. I look forward to seeing you commenting on one of our posts soon.

Take good care,

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J Proclaims
Managing Director
The James Proclaims Partnership

This one

James Explains The Mask Situation In The UK

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Although Raphael is wearing a mask, it is the wrong kind of mask. However Raphael is a mutant turtle and consequently may not be affected by coronavirus.

It is officially mandatory to wear face-masks in some places in the UK as of today. It was already mandatory to wear them on public transport but previously it was not necessary to wear them in shops. According to ‘man of the people’ Michael Gove, it was basic good manners to wear them in shops, but there was no need to make it obligatory. Michael Gove did not, however, deem it good manners to wear a mask in Pret-A-Manger, which is now also mandatory, unless you’re eating in, in which case it isn’t mandatory, presumably because the mask might get in the way of the actual eating. But if you’re taking your food away, as Mr Gove was, then you will have to wear a mask. But not because it’s good manners, because it definitely isn’t good manners to wear a mask in Pret-A-Manger. But it is now the law or something. I mean I don’t think the law, if it is a law, actually specifies Pret-A-Manger. Unless Matt Hancock has shares in Pret-A-Manger. Then it probably is mentioned by name. But other sandwich shops are available. And some of them might even be better. Given that most of the Government seem to have been pictured in Pret-A-Manger this week, all wearing a mask, including, belatedly, Mr Gove, who has clearly been told to get ‘on message’, then I’d be considering venturing into another sandwich shop just to avoid them. Or making my own packed lunch. Which seems eminently more sensible in these corona-times.

Anyway, the point is that today there are new rules on the wearing of masks, which previously weren’t rules.

Fortunately the Government has published some guidelines on the new rules and they did it a whole twelve hours before the new rules came into effect, so there’s no excuse for getting this wrong. The guidance is only 2,752 words long, and frankly I’ve written blog posts about Star Wars that are longer than that. So if you had time to read any of  my 31 posts about Star Wars that I wrote in May then you definitely have time to read the Government’s advice about wearing masks.

Then again, even by the relatively humble standards of this blog, my Star Wars posts were not, on the whole, particularly popular . And they were definitely more entertaining than the Government guidance on wearing masks. So there is a chance that people won’t read that either.

But there does seem to be some confusion over the whole mask situation, so maybe I should help to answer some of the more frequently asked questions. Or FAQs, as I like to call them (I should probably trademark that).

I don’t know what the FAQs are surrounding the wearing of face-masks, so I’ve had to make some up. Much like Boris Johnson does with facts.

So without further ado, here are some possible FAQs regarding the wearing of face-masks and also some answers.

Question 1

Why is it only the law today, when coronavirus has been around for ages, supermarkets have always been open and other shops opened up weeks ago?

Essentially, before today masks were definitely ineffective against Covid 19, and the science definitely proved that and even though countries where people habitually wear masks have had much lower rates of infection, there was absolutely no proof that this was because of the mask-wearing. It could just have been luck. But a few weeks ago in the UK we beat coronavirus, because of our bulldog spirit. We sent it packing good and proper, never to be seen again. But some people keep saying that it’s actually still here and even though it definitely isn’t, we decided to close Leicester for a bit, just to shut up the moaners. But they kept moaning so we decided that if everyone wore masks then we wouldn’t be able to see their stupid moaning faces any more. And today just seemed as good a day as any other really.

 

Question 2

What is acceptable to wear as a face-covering?

Anything you like really. Have a bit of fun with it if you want. Think of it as one big fancy dress party. But you can’t dress up as Batman because his mask covers the wrong bit of his face. Batman’s nemesis Bane would be fine but he’s a baddie. If you want to be a hero then Spiderman would be a good option. Personally I’m going to dress as Darth Vader. But that’s because I already do that most of the time anyway and the costume has a built in ventilator so there’s a bit of long term planning with my decision.

Question 3

Seriously though, do I have to actually wear a face covering, or it it a bit like all the other rules and completely unenforceable?

The law very clearly states that you do have to wear a face covering unless (and I’m quoting the actual Government guidance here) “putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress”. ‘Severe distress’ is quite hard to quantify so, in actual fact, you really don’t have to wear one if you don’t want to. Also the police have repeatedly said they won’t be able to enforce this so it really all comes back to Govian “good manners”. 

Also you can print off your own exemption certificate or just write yourself a note, like you used to do when you didn’t want to do PE lessons. Only this time you won’t have to forge your mum’s signature, because it is apparently easier to get out of wearing a mask during a pandemic than it was to get out of cross-country in secondary school.

 

Question 4

What will happen to me if I don’t wear a mask?

As most people probably will comply then you’ll likely get lots of disapproving looks. But there are no other consequences.

At all.

Right, I hope that’s cleared things up.

Now get out there and start spending your money!

 

 

 

Ten Reasons That You’re Underperforming And Five Ways You Can Fix It

James Proclaims (4)

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Just five years ago I was a mess, like you probably are. I was failing at life and I didn’t know why. Then one day I picked up a book by Dr Willhem Grimaldi and my life has never been the same. I realised that I had been making the same ten mistakes as all stupid loser people make and I decided I wanted to be a clever winner person instead.

Dr Willhem Grimaldi showed me that in five simple steps I could stop doing the ten stupid things and be a better me than I thought possible.

And now you can also be a winner person like me.

Except that I just made up Dr Willhem Grimaldi.

And I have no idea if there are ten specific things that would make people unsuccessful. It seems unlikely that there could possibly be ten universal truths that account for every single person being successful or not. And if there are, it seems utterly without credibility that there would be five solutions to these ten problems. That doesn’t make mathematical sense.

Hello, I’m James, and this is my blog, ‘James Proclaims’ and I hope you’re here because you regularly read my blog and you’ve recognised that this post is just the latest in a series of posts I’ve been writing for the last few weeks (for some reason on a Wednesday) that have ‘click-bait’ titles.

Because if you really came to a blog called ‘James Proclaims’ to find out how to make your life better then I really don’t know if anyone can help you.

 

Remember Vincent Montcetti? You Won’t Believe What He Looks Like Now!

James Proclaims (4)

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Do you remember 90’s heartthrob Vincent Montcetti, star of teen comedy ‘Saved By The Prince’?

It seems unlikely because I just made him up. And I made up the show too. The photo above is just something I found on one of those websites that has royalty-free images. I have no idea who the bloke in the picture is. He could conceivably be called Vincent Montcetti but he probably isn’t.

If there really was a show called ‘Saved By The Prince’ and it really did have a star called Vincent Montcetti then I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to any genuine fans who clicked onto this post hoping to read about their favourite former teen idol.

Although, I’m not that sorry because if there were such a person as Vincent Montcetti, then the ‘clickbait’ title of the post could really only have enticed you here to see what he looks like now. And the implication of the title was that, if he once was something of heartthrob, then he isn’t any more. So shame on you for wanting to revel in someone falling off the pedestal that you once put him on.

I imagine most people are here because they often frequent my blog and they’ve worked out that this is the latest entry in my current ‘blog project’ of giving some of my posts ‘click-bait’ titles to see if more people visit my site as a result. This is my third week of doing this and frankly the last two efforts did yield more visitors than would be normal. I doubt this is actually a good thing, because I can’t imagine many of those additional visitors stuck around.

Still, I expect I’ll post a few more click-bait titles in the coming weeks.

It’s a flawed methodology for attracting new readers but the comments sections of those posts have been highly amusing.

James Interrogates ‘The Science’

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Like many people I’ve been slightly perplexed by the way the British government has handled the ongoing pandemic. It’s not that I fundamentally disagree with anything the government is doing. I would like to disagree, but while I lack any remote understanding of what they are doing, I’m not sure I can disagree.

Because to my, possibly untrained, eye, it’s not so much that they are employing ‘the wrong strategy’ as much as they seem to be employing absolutely no strategy at all.

From the outside looking in, it appears that Boris and co have been winging this from day one and that every action seems to be in direct contradiction to something else they have said previously. They don’t always even seem to agree with each other.

But one of the more troubling aspects has always been the fact that they keep telling us that they are guided by ‘the science’. And while that seems relatively easy to refute, given that all along this journey a large number of eminent scientists have spoken out against government strategy, it seems even more in doubt since a number of scientists on the government’s own advisory team have also contradicted some of the more recent hyperbole.

And to me ‘guided by the science’ is quite a troubling phrase, because surely, given the limited scope of human knowledge and the diversity of views within the scientific community, you could, at best, only ever claim to be guided by ‘some science’.

But, after much digging, I have been able to establish the truth behind this seemingly chimerical claim.

Because when Johnson, Raab et al. refer to being guided by ‘The Science’ they are actually referring to former semi-professional wrestler Tommy ‘The Science’ McVitie.

I was able to catch up with Mr McVitie, or as he prefers to be known ‘The Science’ earlier this week, via one of those video conferencing apps that everyone seems to enjoy using at the moment. I’m pleased to be able to share some of that interview with you now:

Me: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me, Mr McVitie.

The Science: Please, call me ‘The Science’.

Me: Erm…ok. Well let’s start there then. Why exactly do you call yourself ‘The Science’?

The Science: I don’t. Other people do. Boris does. Govey does. Both of the Dominics do.

Me: Matt Hancock?

The Science: Who?

Me: The Health Secretary?

The Science: Never heard of him.

Me: Ok… erm…so why do people call you ‘The Science’.

The Science: It’s my wrestling name. It was a sort of ironic nickname, because I didn’t actually manage to get any GCSEs.

Me: What, none at all?

The Science: Not a single one mate.

Me: Why focus on science then? I mean if you failed everything…

The Science: Dunno. Just seemed funny at the time.

Me: It’s not funny though is it?

The Science: With the benefit of hindsight, no it isn’t. But the name stuck so what you gonna do?

Me: I can’t help you there. Anyway, it does seem quite a leap to go from being a, fairly unsuccessful semi-professional wrestler, by which I mean no offense obviously…

The Science: None taken, I was rubbish.

Me: Right, yeah, so it seems quite a stretch to go from there to being what seems like quite an influential advisory figure within the British government.

The Science: Well you know Dominic Cummings yeah?

Me: I’m aware of him.

The Science: Yeah well you might be aware that earlier in the year he was trying to recruit weirdos and misfits to work in number ten.

Me: I had come across that notion, yes.

The Science: Yeah, well I’m one of them.

Me: Ok, it’s starting to make a bit of sense now, but I still don’t get how you have become such an influential figure.

The Science: Neither do I. But it’s a bit of a laugh isn’t it?

Me: Not really. I mean we are now one of the countries that has been the worst hit by this pandemic and that seems to be largely down to your advice.

The Science: Hardly seems plausible does it?

Me: And yet it weirdly makes more sense that any other explanation.

The Science: Even I’m not always comfortable with it to be honest. But they keep asking me what they should do, and I’m not even remotely qualified, so I just ask Dominic and he tells me what to say. He’s nice like that .

Me: Cummings or Raab?

The Science: One of them yeah. The one that’s in charge.

Me: Raab then? The man that stood in for Boris when he was sick.

The Science: No, it’s definitely the other one.

Me: Ok, but Mr Cummings is just a special advisor surely? He’s not in charge of the whole country?

The Science: If that’s what helps you sleep at night mate.

Me: Right, well speaking of Mr Cummings, what did you make of the recent controversy surrounding his behaviour in lockdown?

The Science: No problem with it. He behaved completely within the rules.

Me: I think that’s a generous interpretation of events. At the very best you could argue he manipulated a rule surrounding childcare to suit his own ends.

The Science: No, I’m not talking about that rule. I did find it strange when he kept banging on about childcare. No the rule I’m talking about is the rule that says you can do whatever you want if you’re an overprivileged t*** who thinks he’s better than everyone else.

Me: I wasn’t aware of that rule.

The Science: Well you wouldn’t be would you. It wasn’t written for you.

Me: What about the trip to Barnard Castle?

The Science: Yeah he was definitely taking the p*** there.

Me: So what are your views on face masks?

The Science: Not for me mate. Some wrestlers like them but I prefer the punters to see my ugly mug.

Me: No I didn’t mean…never mind. I think we’ll leave it there. Thanks for your time Mr McVitie.

The Science: Call me ‘The Science’.

Me: I’m not sure I feel comfortable doing that.

The Science: Call me ‘The Science’ or I’ll show you just how bad a wrestler I really was…

Me: I’m not being funny, but I’ve seen the footage. Even in your day you were average at best, and frankly you look like you’ve seen better days, so I don’t think threatening me is as intimidating as you think it is.

The Science: Fair enough mate. Always works on Govey though.

Me: I can imagine…

 

 

 

Desperate Lover

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I know I said I’d write
A poem about you
But I can’t do it now
Cos I really need the loo

You know that I adore you
And I would try to write it first
But I just can’t hold it in
Cos I’m about to burst

My poem will be lovely
I’m sure you will agree
But it’s hard to be creative
When you badly need to pee

It might be disappointing
And you might feel aggrieved
But I can’t find the right words
Until I feel relieved

So please excuse me now
I’m afraid I must disperse
But I’ll soon be in a state
To woo you better with my verse

My Poem Is Better Than Yours

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It might seem disrespectful
To compare poems that we wrote
But in a poetry competition
Mine would get my vote

I’m not saying yours is bad,
I’m sure it is just fine
But alas it isn’t really
Quite as good as mine

No, I don’t think as a poet
You can compete with me
But I will try to teach you
To improve your poetry

No more soporific sonnets
Or repetitive refrains
Say goodbye to boring ballads
And quotidian quatrains

Metaphors are monsters
Holding back your verse
And as for snake-like similes
They are even worse

Alliterations are annoying
Personification looks askance
Bang goes onomatopoeia
Who can stand assonance?

You can enhance your work
By trying less hard to be smart
You don’t need all those tricks
Stop embellishing your art

Instead just keep things simple
And stick to this paradigm
It cannot be a poem
If it doesn’t even rhyme

Magic Penguin And The Season Finale

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Magic Penguin, Fat Giraffe, Mystic Mouse, Stupid Donkey, Ed The Ostrich, Happy Rhino, Anxious Bull, Mardy Puffin, Fast Gibbon, Mistaken Moose, and Wise Owl were enjoying a drink in the Shoe and Phone one afternoon.

“Wow, there are a lot of us here today,” said Fat Giraffe.

“Including some characters who don’t usually come into the Shoe and Phone,” said Mistaken Moose.

“I think you’re mistaken there,” said Mardy Puffin.

“Well they don’t call me Mistaken Moose for nothing!” said Mistaken Moose.

“Actually, on this occasion I think it’s Mardy Puffin who is mistaken,” said Fast Gibbon, “given that Mardy Puffin, Mistaken Moose and myself were all part of an ill-conceived comic device used by the writer when we starred in a Magic Penguin story which didn’t feature any of the usual main characters and was set in a different – though equally badly named – pub to the Shoe and Phone.”

“Oh yes, that’s right,” said Mistaken Moose, “so I was mistaken about being mistaken. Well they don’t call me Mistaken Moose for nothing!”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Mardy Puffin, “but if the joke is that we don’t feature in the main Magic Penguin stories and never drink in the Shoe and Phone, then why are we currently in the Shoe and Phone?”

“That is a good question,” said Fast Gibbon.

“I’m not sure why I’m here either,” said Anxious Bull, “I’ve only briefly featured in one Magic Penguin story and that was as the punchline to a rather stupid joke about ‘grabbing the bull by the horns’….”

“I quite liked that joke,” said Happy Rhino, “but I too, as an entirely unmemorable and forgettable character, am wondering why we’re all here.”

“It’s political correctness gone mad if you ask me!” said Wise Owl.

“That doesn’t make even the tiniest bit of sense,” said Ed the Ostrich, “and no-one did ask you.”

“You don’t make any sense!” retorted Wise Owl.

“Why are there so many of us here though?” asked Stupid Donkey, “I mean there’s rarely ever more than two or three characters in any of the stories. I should know, I was on the cusp of becoming one of the regular characters until Mystic Mouse came along and ruined it for me.”

“What can I say? The writer needed a token female character,” said Mystic Mouse.

“You’re so much more than a token female character,” said Magic Penguin.

“Am I?” asked Mystic Mouse with scepticism, “Can you see any other female characters here?”

“Well no,” conceded Magic Penguin, “but the writer assures me that he intends to correct this oversight at the earliest opportunity.”

“A cynic might say that this is the earliest opportunity,” said a peeved Mystic Mouse, “ and yet he has singularly failed to correct anything.”

Just then, the door opened and another female character came in. She was called Friendly Goose.

“Hello everyone,” said Friendly Goose, “I’m here to correct an oversight.”

“Oh that’s much better,” said Mystic Mouse making no attempt to hide her sarcasm and thus wounding the feelings of the writer, who really was trying his best in spite of evidence to the contrary.

“Now that is political correctness gone mad!” said Wise Owl.

“I’m not sure that it is you know,” said Ed the Ostrich.

“So why are there so many of us here MP?” asked Fat Giraffe, who was trying out a new ‘thing’ of referring to other characters by their initials.

“Well, this is likely to be the last Magic Penguin story for a while,” said Magic Penguin, who assumed, correctly, that Fat Giraffe was talking to him, even though Mardy Puffin could also have legitimately been referred to as ‘MP’, “the writer has decided, against all reasonable judgement, to take part in that A-Z blog challenge thing in April, so this is sort of like the end of Season 1 of Magic Penguin, and as such I thought it might be appropriate to have a Season Finale.”

“Hold on,” said Fat Giraffe, “aren’t we British? Isn’t ‘season’ in this context more of an American term? Surely this is a Series Finale?”

“You say potato and I say potato,” said Magic Penguin.

“You do know that comparing that way two people say potato doesn’t really work in the written form?” said Fat Giraffe.

“I did know that, yes,” said Magic Penguin, “perhaps I should have used tomato/tomato instead.”

“Same problem,” said Fat Giraffe.

“Anyway, whether it’s a ‘season finale’ or a ‘series finale’, this is the last ‘episode’ of Magic Penguin for a while, so I thought it’d be good to go out on a high,” said Magic Penguin.

“I’m not sure this is a high, “ said Fat Giraffe, “It kind of feels like the opposite to a high if you ask me.”

“Perhaps we should just get Red Herring to show up with another of his misleading cliffhangers,” said Mystic Mouse, “they’ve always served us pretty well in the past.”

“Yeah, ok, let’s just do that,” said Magic Penguin.

There was a brief silence while the ensemble waited for Red Herring to come bursting through the door.

Friendly Goose broke the silence.

“Actually, I’ve just remembered, Red Herring can’t come and do a cliffhanger this week.” she said.

“Why not?” asked Magic Penguin.

“Well, it’s just that he’s disappeared without a trace,” said Friendly Goose, “no-one knows where he is. He just seems to have vanished.”

“But that means there’ll be no more cliffhangers for the Magic Penguin stories!” exclaimed Fat Giraffe.

“I dunno,” said Mystic Mouse, “that kind of sounds like a cliffhanger to me.”

“It does indeed,” said Magic Penguin, “and a pretty feeble one at that.”

“Oh, well that’s a relief, “ said Fat Giraffe, “I’d hate to think we were going to end our first series without a slightly rubbish cliffhanger.”

Will Red Herring be ok? Or will season 2 of Magic Penguin have to survive without cliffhangers? Will the writer even bother to write any more Magic Penguin stories?

Only time will tell.

But he probably will I expect.

And I should know, for I am he.

But maybe he won’t.

And maybe he isn’t me at all.

Who can tell anymore?

Pedantically Proverbial

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Music has charms to soothe the savage beast
But it can annoy the neighbours at four in the morning
And even at other times of day
I’d imagine the savage beast
Is soothed by some genres more than others

The early bird catches the worm
Although in truth
So the late bird probably catches the worm too
There are plenty of worms to go around

He who laughs last, laughs longest
He’s really irritating in that regard
He takes ages to get the joke and then finds it disproportionately funny

Great minds think alike
Which is why everyone should agree
On everything
All of the time
Otherwise we might just keep on evolving
Like idiots

A bad penny always turns up
But as it’s still legal tender
That’s not necessarily a bad thing
Although these days, good or bad
You can’t buy much for a penny
Though a penny saved is a penny earned
Which, again, will have little impact on your finances in the short term

A watched pot never boils
Except for when it does
Eventually boil

Early to bed and early to rise
Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
Although there is no medical, economical or scholastic evidence
On which to base this assertion
And when that idiot next door
Keeps trying to soothe the savage beast
An early night does seem futile

Magic Penguin And The Further Lowering Of The Bar

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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.

Magic Penguin And The Return Of The Main Characters

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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.

Magic Penguin And The Missing Main Characters

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Mardy Puffin, Fast Gibbon and Mistaken Moose were enjoying a drink in the Sandal and Fax, as was their way.

“Something’s not right,” said Mistaken Moose.

“I think you’re mistaken,” said Mardy Puffin.

“That’s right, I am,” agreed Mistaken Moose, “I’m Mistaken Moose. What’s that got to do with my original observation?”

“No, I mean that, in addition to your name being ‘Mistaken’, you are actually mistaken,” said Mardy Puffin, “as in you are wrong.”

“Well, you might have used the word ‘wrong’ to begin with,” grumbled Mistaken Moose, “it’s really confusing when you use the word ’mistaken’ in that context.”

“I apolgise,” said Mardy Puffin, “I can see why that would be confusing. But you’re wrong about things not being right.”

“So you could say, I’m wrong about things being wrong then,” argued Mistaken Moose, “which would be a double negative. Which would mean I’m right.”

“No it wouldn’t,” said Mardy Penguin, “you’re mistaken about that too.”

“Well they don’t call me Mistaken Moose for nothing,” laughed Mistaken Moose.

“No, they call you that because that’s your name,” said Mardy Puffin, who was feeling slightly irritable and sulky and thus also living up to his name.

“I think Mistaken Moose is right about things not being right though,” said Fast Gibbon who had been uncharacteristically silent up until that point.

“So I’m right about being right!” said Mistaken Moose, “which is a double positive, so that must mean I’m wrong.”

“It doesn’t mean that at all,” sighed Mardy Puffin, “none of what you just said makes any sense at all!”

“But Fast Gibbon said I was right!” cried Mistaken Moose.

“I said you were right about things not being right,” explained Fast Gibbon, “but actually Mardy Puffin is also right, mostly everything else you have said today is utter gibberish”

“Well you’d know all about gibberish,” said Mistaken Moose, “what with you being a gibbon.”

“That doesn’t make any sense either!” moaned Mardy Puffin, “while I acknowledge that the words ‘gibbon’ and gibberish’ look quite similar in the written form, they aren’t at all similar in the spoken form, so there’s no way you could possibly have come to the conclusion that a gibbon would know all about gibberish!”

“But I did,” said Mistaken Moose, “so there.”
“Anyway, the point is that things aren’t right,” said Fast Gibbon, “I think we can all agree on that.”

“I can’t agree on that,” said Mardy Puffin, “I very much disagreed with that observation in the open exchanges of this story and nothing has happened since to change my mind.”

“Oh yeah,” said Fast Gibbon, “I’d completely forgotten that you thought the notion that things weren’t right was in fact wrong.”

“Which is another double negative,” pointed out Mistaken Moose.

“Shut up!” said Fast Gibbon.

“Yeah shut up!” agreed Mardy Puffin.

“Yeah, shut your stupid face,” said Mistaken Moose.

“It’s you that we were telling to shut up,” explained Fast Gibbon to Mistaken Moose.

“Oh,” said Mistaken Moose, “sorry, my mistake. They don’t call me Mistaken Moose for nothing.”

“Anyway,” said Fast Gibbon, choosing to ignore Mistaken Moose’s last comment, “back to my original point, which was that, although Mistaken Moose is usually mistaken, he wasn’t, in fact, mistaken in his original assertion that things aren’t quite right.”

“How so?” asked a perplexed Mardy Puffin.

“Well, we seem to be in a Magic Penguin story that doesn’t actually feature any of the usual characters and instead features characters who have names that share the same initials as Magic Penguin, Fat Giraffe and Mystic Mouse, but who are not them,” explained Fast Gibbon, “also we’re currently in the ‘Sandal and Fax’ which is a different, although equally badly-named, pub to the usual setting of the ‘Shoe and Phone’.”

“Oh yeah,” said Mardy Puffin, “you’re right. I wonder why the writer chose to do that this week, particularly when last week’s Magic Penguin story finished on quite a promising cliffhanger.”

“It does seem an odd choice,” said Fast Gibbon.

And he was right. It was really odd choice indeed.

If only someone could explain it.

Magic Penguin And The Need For A Nemesis

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Magic Penguin, Fat Giraffe and Mystic Mouse were whiling away the afternoon in the Shoe and Phone as they were sometimes inclined to do. Fat Giraffe was slightly irritated that he had mostly been left out of last week’s story, seemingly only to be used as a cheap device to conclude the narrative with a misleading cliff-hanger. It was the second time the writer had employed that trick and Fat Giraffe was concerned that the standard of the Magic Penguin stories was not improving. He was considering striking out and starring in his own spin-off series of ‘Fat Giraffe Adventures’, particularly now that Mystic Mouse seemed like she was going to become a regular fixture. Fat Giraffe had never been too bothered about the arrival of Stupid Donkey as a potential rival sidekick, but Mystic Mouse was different. She and Magic Penguin had more in common, both being of a slightly supernatural persuasion, whereas all he, Fat Giraffe, had to bring to the table was his improbable obesity. Then again, trying to make it on his own could be risky whereas Magic Penguin was now an established franchise. Maybe he could stick around for a bit longer and see if he could make it work.

“So, whatever happened to the private investigation business?” asked Mystic Mouse, “Had any interesting cases lately?”

“Well, yes, quite a few actually,” said Magic Penguin, “though surprisingly none seem to have actually made it into the stories.”

“Yeah, it’s a bit odd that,” agreed Fat Giraffe, “I mean we had that whole corruption case recently, a conspiracy that went right to the top of government, and yet for some reason the writer chose to ignore that and instead he always seems to focus all of the stories in the pub, on the days when we’re not really doing much at all.”

“Well, hopefully now that I’m around, things will change a bit,” said Mystic Mouse, “Now we’ve kind of got that whole ‘Harry Potter’ vibe going on.”

“How so?” asked Fat Giraffe.

“Well there’s three of us,” explained Mystic Mouse, “and Magic Penguin is kind of like Harry Potter, the de facto leader and I’m like Hermione, the clever and talented one, and you’re a bit like Ron, the slightly useless, but ultimately loyal one.”

“Oh, ok,” said Fat Giraffe, unsure whether he was offended by the obvious slur or pleased that he was definitely considered to be part of the group.

“I think it’s a bit of a tenuous link,” said Magic Penguin, “I mean, apart from the fact that there’s three of us, there really isn’t that much that we’ve got in common with the Harry Potter novels.”

“There’s no denying that they were really successful though,” pointed out Fat Giraffe, “I wouldn’t mind being part of something as big at the Harry Potter franchise.”

“Obviously that would be nice,” agreed Magic Penguin, “but I just don’t really see it happening for us. Literally nothing ever happens in these stories.”

“What we need is an antagonist,” said Mystic Mouse, “that’s what makes Harry Potter work. You need a nemesis.”

“Well there’s always Red Herring,” said Fat Giraffe.

“No, he’s just a bit of a timewaster,” said Magic Penguin, “He likes to appear at the end of the more nondescript stories to build up a level of excitement for the following week that we can’t possibly live up to.”

“Which is pretty evil when you think about it,” said Fat Giraffe.

“True,” acknowledged Magic Penguin, “but it’s hardly on the same level as Voldemort is it?”

“No, I think we can do better than Red Herring,” said Mystic Mouse, “what about if an already established character were to betray you? What about someone like Stupid Donkey?”

Stupid Donkey, who was skulking in the corner feeling rejected by the trio, looked up hopefully at this point. He would rather be one of the good guys, but he’d take being a villain if it meant he got to be back in the stories again.

“No, I don’t think Stupid Donkey would be any good,” said Magic Penguin, “he just doesn’t have what it takes. He’s a tertiary character at best.”

There were audible sobs as Stupid Donkey rushed out of the pub. Barely anyone noticed.

“No, I think we’re going to need to introduce a new character to be my nemesis,” said Magic Penguin.

“But who?” asked Mystic Mouse.

“I don’t know,” said Magic Penguin, “but I’ve irritated my fair share of people over the years. There are plenty of people who don’t like me.”

“I’m not sure that ‘not liking you’ is going to be enough of a hook to keep the readers interested though,” said Mystic Mouse, “surely the baddie needs to have some kind of evil-scheme that’s about more than getting one over on you?”

“Well that’s going to raise a whole new set of problems,” said Magic Penguin, “I mean if they’re that dangerous, how are we going to overcome them?”

“But that’s where the intrigue comes from,” said Mystic Mouse, “we need to prevail against all the odds.”

“I don’t know, that sounds like a lot of work,” said Magic Penguin.

“Well we definitely need something to up the pace of these stories, and it can’t just be another cliff-hanger that doesn’t really go anywhere,” said Mystic Mouse.

At that moment, the sound of nineties classic ‘Informer’ by Canadian rap-artist ‘Snow’, filled the room. It was Magic Penguin’s ring tone.

“Hello,” he said answering his phone.

A voice spoke briefly on the other end.

“Oh,” said Magic Penguin, “are you sure?”

Again, the voice spoke.

“I see,” said Magic Penguin and he ended the call.

“Who was that,” asked Fat Giraffe.

“It was Red Herring,” said Magic Penguin, “with another cliff-hanger.”

“Oh,” said Fat Giraffe, “well we can probably ignore that one then.”

“Not this time,” said Magic Penguin, “Red Herring told me that my cousin is back in town.”

“What, Lovely Penguin?” asked Fat Giraffe, “I haven’t seen her in ages. It’ll be great to catch up with her.”

“No, my friend, it’s not Lovely Penguin who’s back,” said an ashen-faced Magic Penguin, “It’s Evil Penguin.”

There was a loud thumping sound as Fat Giraffe fainted.

“Now that sounds more like it,” said Mystic Mouse, “I expect things are going to get interesting now.”

But as ever, Mystic Mouse was being far too optimistic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Targeting Success

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Red-faced and drenched in sweat, Ryan pumped out his final set of reps on the bench-press. With a grunt of relief he lowered the barbell for the last time and staggered to his feet. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was still only 6:30. Plenty of time before he had to start work, so he donned his gloves and took out his remaining aggression on the bag, demonstrating a power and ferocity that suggested he was more than capable of looking after himself.

In point of fact he was. Ryan’s physical prowess was a huge source of personal pride. A keen amateur pugilist, and certainly not a stranger to the odd bar brawl, Ryan’s skills for violence had recently resulted in a long overdue promotion.

As well as being handy with his fists, Ryan also knew his way around a firearm and this had not gone unnoticed by his superiors. Of course, maintaining security was, essentially, already a significant part of the role that he and his colleagues carried out on a daily basis, but a few months earlier, Dan, the head of the Elite Squad, had notified Ryan of a vacancy within the unit and suggested that he apply. There had been other applicants, but Ryan had blown them all away. Quite literally in one unfortunate incident, though Ryan had been vindicated of any wrongdoing – all the candidates had known the risks and willingly signed a waiver prior to the exercise.

In the end, Ryan’s physical fitness, alongside his substantial skill with a handgun, had made sure the job was his. Following his successful application, Ryan had enjoyed a lengthy holiday, so today was his first day in the role and he was rather looking  forward to getting stuck in.

After his workout, he showered and dressed in his new uniform. It was a sleek, black affair, with a badge on the shirtsleeve carrying the corporate logo, and an insignia which indicated his new rank.

He exited the gym and entered the courtyard. It was 7:20 and there was still some time to prepare before the new inmates arrived.

Of course, alongside the augmented security aspect to his role, he still had to perform a lot of his previous duties. It was something of a drag, he’d never been keen on the other bit of his job but, he supposed, it was still a necessary evil.

He went to the armory and checked out his weapon. He was pleased with his new equipment. Gone was his simple revolver and instead he was handed a more substantial semi-automatic. He checked his watch – he still had time to get in a few practice rounds before the day started properly so he went the range to try his new kit. After thirty pleasurable minutes it was time to get to work.

First he needed to attend a briefing with the rest of the team. The chief was in there giving his usual spiel about it being a big year, and raising standards. Nothing new or especially interesting on offer, but it was good to catch up with his colleagues. He saw Dan across the room, who gave him a solemn but friendly nod. Dan was never one to display too much emotion, but when you had as many kills to your name as he did then emotions were best left buried deep.

Briefing over, Ryan made his way to his room. He saw the buses, which carried the inmates pulling onto the site, through the security gate. In a few minutes he’d be coming into contact with his delegated group.

He got to his room, took a swig of coffee from his thermos and watched them trickle in and take their places.

He looked at their expectant, slightly fearful, faces. He knew he cut a formidable figure, but surely they realised he was there to protect them first and foremost.

Then again, they were only eleven, they still had a lot to learn. He smiled and began his usual ‘first day of term’ speech.

“Morning class, welcome to Broadacre High School,” he said, “I’m Mr Northcroft and I’ll be your form tutor this year.”

James Explains Nothing Very Much At All

James Explains

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Admittedly it was something of a risk when I started a regular feature on my blog that was entirely reliant on ‘audience participation’ that there might come a day when the audience chose not to participate.

Or more specifically when I started a feature, which was entirely dependent on other people asking me questions, that there might come a week when no questions were asked.

And that time has arrived, for I have no questions to answer this week.

Or very few anyway.

The ever-reliable Pete did ask a question this week, and actually I believe there remain some unanswered ‘Pete’ questions from previous weeks.

But this is not all about Pete.

It’s a bit about Pete obviously.

But it’s not all about Pete.

Yet.

So I’ll answer one or more of Pete’s outstanding questions next week, but this week I thought I might try my contingency plan for when the day arrives that even Pete can’t be bothered to ask me any questions.

And my contingency plan is that I will ask myself some questions.

Because, if I’m honest, I am the kind of person that talks to myself quite regularly anyway, so there’s really no harm in doing it in blog form. They say it’s the first sign of madness, but in reality I’m pretty sure that the ship of sanity sailed a long time ago for me.

I mean I’m obviously not claiming to be mad, because that would be conclusive proof that I’m boringly sane and a bit on the dull side. And while I offer no denials that in real life I am a mind-numbingly dull person to spend time with, I’m not sure I always make the sanest of choices.

I’d give you an example of what I mean, but actually that might save this car crash of a post with something resembling interesting content and I’m far too committed to making this as perplexingly bad as I possibly can to allow for anything resembling an interesting narrative at this juncture.

Instead, in for a penny, in for a…

…well a pound seems like bit much, but I’ll certainly go as high as 20p…

So, without further ado, here are this week’s questions:

James, from James Proclaims asks:

What’s going on right now?

Well James, you appear to be having something of a breakdown on your own blog. It’s all quite distressing really.

James, who is also from James Proclaims asks:

Seriously though, why is this happening?

Great question James, and truthfully I’m not sure. Maybe this is some kind of self-aware satire that is genuinely meant to be funny, or maybe this is the very worrying decline of a man in his late thirties, who has finally realised that many of his long-held ambitions are pipe dreams.

James, who to be clear is still the same James as before and is in fact me asks:

Am I going to get through this?

I’m not sure James. Only time will tell. Perhaps lay off the red wine for a few days though eh?

And that’s it for another James Explains. If you never want to see anything quite as tragic on these pages again then please ask a question, any question, in the comments below.

James and I are depending on you.

Disclaimer: I actually did end up getting asked a few questions this week but I’d already written the above nonsense and decided to post it anyway, so apologies if your question went unanswered this week, I’ll definitely answer it next week! Although still ask more questions below and consider the above a cautionary tale of just how low I’m prepared to sink on these pages if I don’t get my own way…

 

Magic Penguin And The PC Brigade

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Magic Penguin and Mystic Mouse were enjoying a drink in the Shoe and Phone.

“It’s nice in here,” said Mystic Mouse.

“Is it?” said Magic Penguin in surprise, for he had always felt that the Shoe and Phone was a dingy backstreet watering hole, and certainly not the kind of establishment that anyone would ever describe as being ‘nice’.

“Well, no. ‘Nice’ probably isn’t the best word to describe it,” admitted Mystic Mouse, “It’s actually kind of horrible. But it’s nice that you invited me.”

“Well I thought we were overdue a catch-up,” said Magic Penguin, “after all there are precious few female characters in the Magic Penguin stories.”

Mystic Mouse pondered this for a moment.

“Are you saying you only invited me, so I could be a token female character?” she asked.

“Oh no,” said Magic Penguin, “I genuinely wanted to meet up again. It’s been ages. But it certainly won’t hurt in trying to alleviate some of the criticisms we’ve been getting of late, in terms of the lack of female representation in the Magic Penguin stories.”

“Oh,” said Mystic Mouse, “I’m not sure how I feel about that really.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” said Magic Penguin hastily, “We really wanted to include you because you’re an interesting character in your own right. It’s really just a happy coincidence that you’re also a strong female role model.”

“So, I’m definitely not just a token female character then?” asked Mystic Mouse with genuine scepticism.

“I mean, not intentionally, no,” said Magic Penguin, “although, as things stand, given the lack of any other female characters, with the exception of last week’s villain, ‘the Melancholy Tomato’, one might mistakenly make the assumption that you are the ‘Smurfette’ of the Magic Penguin series.”

“But I’m not, right?” verified Mystic Mouse, “The writer is planning on there being other female characters in the stories soon?”

“I’d imagine so, yes,” said Magic Penguin, “as I say, it’s not intentional sexism on the writer’s part. It’s just, as has been mentioned before, he’s really not a very good writer.”

“Well it’s political correctness gone mad if you ask me,” said Wise Owl from a nearby table, where he was completing the ‘angry word’ in the Daily Hate (the ‘angry word’ was like a crossword but much more incendiary).

“Well no-one did ask you,” said Magic Penguin, “and you can keep your stupid intolerant ‘Daily Hate’ inspired bile to yourself”

“Is the Daily Hate, basically just our version of the Daily Mail?” asked Mystic Mouse.

“Essentially yes,” confirmed Magic Penguin, “But the writer thought it would be clever and satirical to rename it the Daily Hate.”

“Hmmm,” pondered Mystic Mouse, “It’s really not that clever or satirical is it?”

“On reflection, no,” agreed Magic Penguin, “but the writer does what he can, which is not easy when you’re as utterly talentless as he is.”

“It can’t be easy,” nodded Mystic Mouse, “I think he does very well for even having a go, particularly given his recent legal problems.”

“It’s a load of rubbish though isn’t it,” grumbled Wise Owl, “and it’s particularly bad now he’s busy pandering to the PC Brigade.”

“I mean I don’t think he is especially pandering to the PC Brigade by just including a long overdue female character,” argued Magic Penguin.

“Yes, he is, he’s bloody pandering,” said Wise Owl bitterly, “and they won’t be happy, that PC Brigade, they’ll want more.”

“Did someone mention my name?” asked PC Brigade, of the local constabulary, who was also in the pub, enjoying a few whiskies, while on his lunch break.

“Er, no officer,” said Magic Penguin, “Wise Owl was referring to the erroneous notion that there is an entity known as The Politically Correct Brigade, often abbreviated to the PC Brigade, who like to go around being offended by stuff and ruining everyone’s fun, when in fact there’s no such thing and actually Political Correctness is just a way of trying to make the world a fairer, more equitable and ultimately nicer place for everyone.”

“Oh, ok,” said PC Brigade, downing another scotch, “as long as you weren’t talking about me.”

“We definitely weren’t officer,” said Magic Penguin before adding, “should you really be drinking so heavily if you’re on duty?”

“Who are you, the Health and Safety Police?” growled PC Brigade.

As it was obviously a rhetorical question Magic Penguin chose not to answer.

There was a brief moment of silence as everyone went back to what they had been doing prior to the conversation.

“Seven down,” said Wise Owl returning to his ‘angry word’, “a scourge on society, eleven letters, starts with ‘I’.”

“Well, as long as I haven’t just been included on the basis of my gender and I’ve actually got a full role to play moving forwards, then I’d definitely be delighted to be part of the Magic Penguin stories,” said Mystic Mouse, “after all, last week’s story actually had something resembling a narrative, and if that’s going to be a regular feature then  it could be quite a lot of fun moving forwards.”

“Yeah, the writer seems to have lost his way again this week though,” said Magic Penguin, “and truthfully, last week’s effort was really just a rehash of something he wrote back in 2003 before he lost all hope and resigned himself to a life mediocrity and disappointment.”

“Well, there’s still hope he’ll find his way again,” said Mystic Mouse with naïve optimism.

“Possibly,” said Magic Penguin, “but to be fair, this week’s story is not a particularly promising sign that things are going to get better.”

At that moment Fat Giraffe burst in through the doors of the Shoe and Phone.

“You’ll never believe what’s happened!” he exclaimed.

“What is it old friend?” asked Magic Penguin.

“No time to explain,” said Fat Giraffe, “but come quickly, I think we’re about to have the adventure of a lifetime!”

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” said Mystic Mouse leaping up to follow Fat Giraffe.

Magic Penguin followed too, but he was a tad more sceptical. This was a little too much like the cliff-hanger in Magic Penguin And The Third Character and he suspected it was the work of his old nemesis, Red Herring.

Tune in next week to discover that Magic Penguin was right all along and there was absolutely nothing to get excited about whatsoever.

 

 

Magic Penguin And The Melancholy Tomato

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One day, after a competitive game of squash, Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe decided to pop into the Shoe and Phone for a few drinks. As Magic Penguin had narrowly won the match, Fat Giraffe had to get the first round in. He went to the bar to order the drinks while Magic Penguin went to see if there was a pool table free. As luck would have it there was, so Magic Penguin inserted some change into the slot and proceeded to set up the table. When Fat Giraffe returned from the bar with the drinks he was accompanied by Edward the Ostrich.

“Alright Ed!” said Magic Penguin, “Haven’t seen you in ages.”

“No, I was hoping to be in the last story, but the writer went with Stupid Donkey instead” replied Ed.

Yeah, that was a strange choice,” acknowledged Fat Giraffe, “but that Donkey can certainly hold a tune.”

“Yes, I heard he was good,” muttered Magic Penguin, “shame I missed it.”

“Well it’s good you’ve turned up for this story,” said Ed, “after all, what would the Magic Penguin stories be without you?”

“I think I kept things ticking along nicely last week,” protested Fat Giraffe.

“I mean it was alright,” acknowledged Ed, “but it’s just not the same without Magic Penguin.”

“Cheers mate,” said Magic Penguin as Fat Giraffe bristled slightly, “hey what’s that?”

He was referring to the red drink that Edward was holding.

“It’s a  Bloody Mary,” replied Ed, “I’m nursing a bit of a hangover. I had a few too many with Happy Rhino last night.”

“Fair enough,” said Magic Penguin as he picked up his pool cue to break, “Fancy playing the winner Ed?”

“Don’t be stupid,” replied Ed, “Ostriches can’t play pool. That’s just silly!”

“Yeah I suppose it is really!” laughed Magic Penguin as he took his shot.

Sometime later, after Fat Giraffe had managed to exact his revenge on Magic Penguin for squash by beating him at pool, the three friends sat down in a corner of the bar and whiled away the afternoon drinking and catching up on all the latest news from each other. Fat Giraffe was in the middle of telling a racially insensitive joke when they heard a loud sobbing. They looked up and saw a young tomato crying her heart out at the next table while drinking a large vodka.

“Hey there little tomato, what’s up?” asked Magic Penguin

“Nothing.” replied the tomato before bursting into a flood of tears.

“It doesn’t look like nothing to me,” said Magic Penguin kindly, “why don’t you tell me what’s troubling you? I might be able to help.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” wailed the tomato “you’ve got friends.”

“I’m sure you must have some friends too,” said Magic Penguin “things can’t be that bad.”

“None of the other fruit will hang around with me” cried the tomato, “Angry Banana says that I’m not a proper fruit like the others because you can’t put me in a fruit salad but you can put me in a proper salad. He says that I must be a vegetable but I’m not a vegetable I’m a fruit!”

Magic Penguin shook his head sadly, he had been a key figure in bringing about peace between the vegetable and fruit communities and it made him sad to see this kind of petty prejudice still existed.(Younger readers probably won’t remember the fruit and vegetable wars of the 70s.)

“I think it’s time we taught Angry Banana a lesson,” he said, “but how I wonder…”

“I’ll punch him if you want,” said Fat Giraffe.

Magic Penguin smiled, it would be a very unlucky person to be on the receiving end of Fat Giraffe’s wrath but violence wasn’t the answer. Angry Banana was well respected in the fruit community and assaulting him would just make the tomato’s exclusion permanent.

“There’s nothing you can do,” cried the tomato, “All the other fruit look up to Angry Banana.”

“I’m sure we’ll think of something,” said Magic Penguin, “in the meantime I think we should have another drink. It’s my round I believe, Ed do you fancy a pint?”

“No thanks,” said Ed,”I wouldn’t say no to another Bloody Mary though.”

“No problem mate,” said Magic Penguin, “Wait a minute that gives me an idea!”

Later that day, Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe knocked on Angry Banana’s front door. It was opened by Jolly Apple, Angry Banana’s good friend and housemate.

“Hello Magic Penguin, hello Fat Giraffe, what brings you two here?” asked the apple.

“We’d like a word with Angry Banana if we may?” said Magic Penguin.

“Certainly,” said Jolly Apple, “I think he’s taking a shower at the moment but you’re welcome to come in and wait.”

So the two friends entered Angry Banana’s house and awaited him.

After about ten minutes, during which time Fat Giraffe entertained them with his humorous impersonations of minor celebrities, Angry Banana entered the room.

“Hello!” he exclaimed “I wasn’t expecting guests!”

“Hello Angry Banana,” said Magic Penguin, “I’m afraid we’ve come to talk to you about a rather sensitive matter.”

“Oh yes?” said Angry Banana looking interested.

“Yes it’s about young Melancholy Tomato.” said Magic Penguin, “She feels that you’ve excluded her from the other fruit.”

“I see…” began Angry Banana but Magic Penguin interrupted him.

“I know she’s not like other fruits and I agree that she does belong in a normal salad and not a fruit salad, but that doesn’t make her a vegetable. Essentially, she does match all the other credentials of a fruit including one that, if I may say so, you lack yourself.”

Angry Banana arched one eyebrow, “And might I ask what that is?”

“Well you can have orange juice, apple juice, pineapple juice, “observed Magic Penguin, “and as my good friend Edward the Ostrich reminded me with his choice of drink in the pub earlier, you can have tomato juice, but I’ve never, in all my experience, come across banana juice!”

Angry Banana looked slightly sad at this remark and Jolly Apple leapt to his defence.

“How could you say something so hurtful?” the apple snapped, “Angry Banana’s very sensitive the juice situation, and anyway, it is entirely possible to get banana juice, but it’s very difficult to separate the pulp from the juice, so it tends to be sold as a ‘juice drink’ with the pulp supplemented by additional water and sometimes other fruit juices, but ideally with no added sugar. Also bananas make the basis for many a smoothie !”

“It’s not quite the same though is it?” observed Magic Penguin, “ I didn’t wish to upset Angry Banana but perhaps now he understands how Melancholy Tomato feels.”

“But I didn’t exclude Melancholy Tomato at all!” protested Angry Banana. “It’s just that there is still a lot of tension between the fruit and vegetable communities, as you of all people should know. I merely pointed out to Melancholy Tomato that her involvement in normal salad might be a conflict of interests at this sensitive time”

“Well I think the sooner this issue is resolved the better,” said Magic Penguin, “as it happens, Melancholy Tomato is waiting outside, and perhaps if I bring her in we can discuss this properly.”

“Of course,” said Angry Banana, “bring her in.”

So Fat Giraffe went to fetch Melancholy Tomato and Magic Penguin smiled to himself. He enjoyed being a diplomat again, and if only it hadn’t been for the unfortunate Kipper Scandal perhaps he’d still be doing it for a living.

Melancholy Tomato entered with Fat Giraffe. Angry Banana rose to greet her but before he even had time to speak Melancholy Tomato pulled out a dagger and stabbed him.

“Die fruit scum!” she cried, “Long live vegetable-kind!”

And she ran out laughing. Fat Giraffe ran after her but she was too fast and managed to escape.

Jolly Apple rushed over to Angry Banana.

“Oh no!” he cried “hang in there old friend.”

“It’s too late,” gasped Angry Banana “the wound is fatal.”

“No!” cried Jolly Apple

“Avenge me,” sighed Angry Banana and with that he died.

“See what your meddling has done?” growled Jolly Apple at Magic Penguin, “Fruit-kind will not allow this insult to pass without retaliation. Those vegetables will pay!”

Later that same day Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were back in the pub discussing the day’s events.

“So there’s going to be another war then?” asked Fat Giraffe.

“Looks like it, yeah,” replied Magic Penguin.

“I suppose it’s our fault really.” said Fat Giraffe.

“No arguments there.” said Magic Penguin.

“Not really our problem though.” said Fat Giraffe.

“Nope, not really.” said Magic Penguin.

“Fancy another drink?” asked Fat Giraffe

“Yeah go on then mate,” said Magic Penguin with a grin, “I’ll have a Bloody Mary!”

And the two friends laughed.

A Second Referendum?

 

James Proclaims (4)

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Since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, it’s barely been out of the media. The election of a racist misogynist billionaire to the White House has provided some light relief on occasion, but you can’t turn on a TV, listen to the radio or open a newspaper in the UK without encountering some kind of Brexit debate.

Ok, that isn’t strictly true, obviously there are myriad TV channels which don’t feature any kind of political debate, I can’t recall ‘Heart Radio’ featuring too much in the way of topical news shows, and who on Earth reads newspapers anymore?

But my point is that Brexit is kind of a big deal.

It’s a big deal because, it actually is, legitimately, quite a big deal – the economic, legal and security ramifications of Britain leaving the EU are confusing and will almost certainly mean significant change and long periods of uncertainty.

It’s also a big deal because not everyone voted for it. It was a pretty good turn out at the polls and 52% of voters were in favour of Brexit, meaning that 48% were not. That’s a pretty close call, and those of us who voted  to remain are rightly irritated by claims that Brexit is ‘the will of the people’. At best it is ‘the will of some people’.

But I’m ok with losing a democratic vote because obviously the proponents of the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign had a plan. I might not want Brexit, but handled correctly I suppose, in the longer term, it might not be that bad. There may even be aspects of it that are quite good. Because they absolutely had a plan.

Except that , apparently, they didn’t.

And this is really why Brexit remains a big deal. Because, just over a year and half on from that fateful vote, no-one has the slightest idea what Brexit actually means.

Our beloved Prime Minister did coin a phrase when she first came to office, which was, if I recall, that ‘Brexit means Brexit.’

And I’m sure that is true but, and maybe I’m missing something obvious, it doesn’t actually tell us what Brexit means at all.

Some ‘Remain’ campaigners (hilariously dubbed ‘Remoaners’ by the right wing press) have suggested that there should be a second referendum.

Others have suggested that a second referendum flies in the face of democracy.

And I can see their point.

Because obviously giving people an opportunity to vote on the future of Britain’s relationship with Europe is all well and good, but giving the public two opportunities is completely undemocratic because…

…er…

…nope can’t see how that is undemocratic actually.

Having said that, I can’t see that a second referendum would go any differently to the first one. Indeed, such is the regular anti-EU fervour stoked by sections of the British media that I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a second referendum produce a result that was more emphatically in favour of leaving the EU than the first vote was.

But the problem remains that we still have no idea what it is that people did actually vote for back in the golden summer of 2016.

So perhaps a second referendum would be useful just to drill down into what it is that the British people actually want. Perhaps a referendum with a range of choices rather than the straight dichotomy of Remain or Leave.

Here are my suggestions:

Option 1: No Brexit – or ‘this all seems a bit too complicated and it’s better just to keep things the same as they are now’.

Option 2: Soft Brexit –  or ‘leave but don’t actually leave. Like say we’ve left so we can stick two fingers up to Europe, but actually stay part of the Single Market and Customs Union because actually leaving properly seems a bit scary.’

Option 3: Hard Brexit – or leave and cut all remaining ties. We’re British and we’re awesome. Even if it looks like economical suicide it definitely won’t be. After all a stiff upper lip and traditional family values will see us through any problems.’

Option 4: War – or ‘this has always been about hating foreigners and we’ve always been pretty good at wars. That’ll definitely show those European bastards who’s boss. Plus war time is brilliant – remember the good old days of the Second World War when everything was black and white and Britain was great? Let’s go to war again!’

There we go, a referendum to reunite Britain.

You’re welcome.

 

Magic Penguin Phones It In

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Fat Giraffe and Stupid Donkey were sitting in awkward silence in The Shoe and Phone.

“I’m sure he’ll be here any minute now,” said Fat Giraffe breaking the silence, “he’s normally very punctual.”

“Well let’s hope so,” said Stupid Donkey, “I’m not sure if we can carry this one on our own.”

“I mean, I’d sort of thought I could,” said Fat Giraffe, “but now it comes to it, I am a bit nervous.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” said Stupid Donkey, “you’re not a bad secondary character, but he’s the star.”

“Well, I think I’m more than a secondary character,” said Fat Giraffe, “but certainly, it is a double act, and it definitely doesn’t work as well without him.”

“I think it’s a bit much to call it a double act,” said Stupid Donkey, “the stories would definitely survive without you, but I’m not sure they can work without him. He is the titular character.”

Fat Giraffe and Stupid Donkey both paused to giggle at the word ‘titular’.

“I think the stories would definitely lose something if I wasn’t in them,” argued Fat Giraffe, “after all, what would Sherlock Holmes be without Dr Watson? What would Batman be without Robin? What would Danger Mouse be without Penfold?”

“I think you’re proving my point,” said Stupid Donkey.

Fat Giraffe pondered this for a moment.

“I suppose you’re right,” he conceded, “you’re quite insightful for a tertiary character.”

“I think I’m more than a tertiary character,” grumbled Stupid Donkey, “after all what would Sherlock Holmes be without Mrs Hudson? What would Batman be without Alfred? What would Danger Mouse be without Colonel K?”

“I think you’re massively overstating your importance in comparing yourself to those characters” said Fat Giraffe.

“Maybe you’re right,” sighed Stupid Donkey.

He then started singing a musical number about the woes of being a tertiary character. It was quite a moving rendition but it’s quite difficult to convey the magic of the performance in prose.

“Fairplay,” acknowledged Fat Giraffe, “that was pretty good mate. If these stories ever get adapted for TV, as the writer seems to naively think might happen one day, then that could win us a BAFTA.”

“Well let’s hope so,” said Stupid Donkey, “but I doubt we’re going to get the TV deal if our main character can’t even be bothered to turn up.”

“True,” nodded Fat Giraffe, “it’s a bit shambolic to say the least.”

At that moment Fat Giraffe’s cheap Pay-As-You-Go mobile phone started ringing. Or more precisely started singing, as his current ringtone was 1988 dance track ‘The only way is up’ by Yazz and the Plastic Population.

“Hello?” Fat Giraffe answered, “oh hi mate. How’s things.”

He paused to listen to the voice at the other end of the line.

“No, we’ve started already,” he replied to the mysterious voice, “we’re about 473 words in at this point. Where are you?”

He listened again to the response.

“No, it’s going quite well actually,” he said, “Stupid Donkey is a bit rubbish, but I’m doing quite a good job I think. Although to be fair, that Donkey can sing.”

Fat Giraffe again paused to allow the caller to speak.

“”Ok mate,” he replied, “well get here when you can.”

Fat Giraffe hung up and turned to Stupid Donkey.

“That was Magic Penguin,” he explained, “he’s been held up in traffic. He was late setting off apparently. Something to do with the Kipper Scandal.”

“Oh, is that still a ‘thing’?” asked Stupid Donkey, “I thought he’d put that behind him.”

“Well, I’m not sure you can ever put anything as big as that behind you forever,” mused Fat Giraffe, “but he says he’s just around the corner and he’ll be here in a few minutes.”

“I doubt he’ll find it easy to park at this time of day,” said Stupid Donkey.

“Well, we’ll just have to hold the fort until he gets here.” said Fat Giraffe, “how about another musical number?”

So Fat Giraffe and Stupid Donkey sang a duet to pass the time.

And eventually, after he did indeed have much trouble parking, Magic Penguin arrived at the pub.

But by that time the story was already over.

Magic Penguin And The Continuing Lack Of Action

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Magic Penguin, Fat Giraffe and Stupid Donkey were enjoying a few drinks in the Shoe and Phone one afternoon. Fat Giraffe was a little irritated by Stupid Donkey’s appearance in  a second successive story.

“So you’re going to be a regular fixture then?” he asked, failing to mask his animosity.

“Yeah, the writer felt that the series needed another regular character,” said Stupid Donkey.

“Well I thought the first two stories worked quite well as two-handers,” muttered Fat Giraffe.

“I don’t think it really matters,” said Magic Penguin, “as long as I’m in the stories. After all, I am the principal character.”

“Well I think I’m quite important too,” said Fat Giraffe, “what would the Magic Penguin stories be without Fat Giraffe eh?”

“I think we’d get by,” said Magic Penguin.

“Oh, I think you’ll find that the stories would lose something without me,” said Fat Giraffe, “to be honest I’d go as far as to say I’m the only thing holding them together at the moment.”

“I’m not sure that the stories are working though,” said Happy Rhino, “they’re a bit samey really. Nothing much seems to happen in them.”

“Who are you?” asked Magic Penguin.

“I’m Happy Rhino,” said Happy Rhino, “I’ve been brought in to reinvigorate the franchise.”

“But you  weren’t even in the opening paragraph to this story!” exclaimed Fat Giraffe, “where did you come from? This is preposterous.”

“Oh, I’ve been here all along,” said Happy Rhino, “I’ve been in the background of all the stories. You didn’t think it was just you two in the pub all this time did you?”

“I suppose that would be strange,” acknowledged Magic Penguin, “there were bound to be some other patrons.”

“Not to mention staff,” added Ed the Ostrich from behind the bar.

“Hey Ed,” said Fat Giraffe, “how come your name is slightly different to ours?”

“What do you mean?” asked Ed.

“Well, we all seem to have an implausible adjective as our forename and then the kind of animal we are as our surname. Whereas you have a normal name followed by the definite article and only then the kind of animal you are, which suggests that your species isn’t actually part of your name.”

“Oh yeah,” replied Ed, “I’d never noticed that before.”

“Well to be fair, you’ve only been in the story for a few lines,” said Magic Penguin, “maybe we’re asking too much of you.”

“Anyway,” said Stupid Donkey, slightly irritated that he hadn’t had anything to say for a while, “what happened about last week’s cliffhanger?”

“Oh yeah,” said Happy Rhino, “I forgot about that!”

“You didn’t forget,” said Fat Giraffe, “ you weren’t even in the story.”

“Yes I was,” explained Happy Rhino, patiently, “ but as I said before, I was just in the background.”

“So you say,” muttered Fat Giraffe.

“But seriously guys,” continued Stupid Donkey, “what did happen about the cliffhanger.”

“Well, you were definitely there, so I’m surprised that you’ve forgotten,” said Magic Penguin, “but allow me to jog your memory. If you recall, the mysterious stranger was just a red herring. Who went by the name of Red Herring.”

“Oh yeah,” said Fat Giraffe, “and if I remember correctly, Red Herring had a problem, that necessitated an investigation, which resulted in a compelling adventure, with lots of action and some thrilling twists in the tale, before it was all resolved in a satisfactory way”

“That’s right,” said Magic Penguin. “It was exciting stuff alright.”

“So why isn’t that adventure the basis for this week’s story” asked Happy Rhino, “that would seem a much better premise for a tale than whatever this is.”

“True,” said Magic Penguin, “it does seem strange that the writer has chosen to focus the narrative around a boring conversation rather than an exciting adventure story.”

“It’s almost as if he has no respect for the reader,” said Stupid Donkey.

“Yes,” laughed Magic Penguin, “it does seem if he has no respect for the reader at all.”

But Magic Penguin and Stupid Donkey were wrong. The writer did respect the readers.

He just wasn’t a very good writer.

Magic Penguin And The Third Character

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One afternoon Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were imbibing alcoholic beverages in the Shoe and Phone, as was their way, when in walked Stupid Donkey.

“Alright mate?” said Magic Penguin greeting his old friend.

“Not bad,” replied Stupid Donkey, “How are you guys?

The exchange of banal greetings continued for a few more moments as the three friends established that they were all in adequate health and generally doing well, even though such exchanges were merely platitudes and not entirely true.

Fat Giraffe, for example, despite claiming to be fine, was actually concerned about a worrying growth on his right buttock, while Magic Penguin was more than a little preoccupied by a letter he had received from his bank that very morning. Stupid Donkey also had his woes.

“I have my woes,” he said to the other two.

“That’s a strange way of putting it,” observed Fat Giraffe.

“I know, I’m not sure why I phrased it that way.” acknowledged Stupid Donkey.

“What are these woes?” asked Magic Penguin.

“Well, it’s a bit of a long story,” began Stupid Donkey.

“Oh, well then I’m not really interested,” said Magic Penguin, who hated long stories.

“Oh, ok,” said Stupid Donkey, “I won’t tell you then.”

“That’s a shame,” said Fat Giraffe, “I had a strong inkling that your woes were very likely going to be the basis for the plot of this story.”

“True,” acknowledged Magic Penguin, “It would seem the obvious direction for this story to take. Go on then Stupid Donkey, let’s hear your woes.”

So Stupid Donkey told Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe all about his woes. And really they weren’t all that interesting.

“Nope, no plot there,” sighed Magic Penguin, “bit of a waste of time you telling us really.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” said a visibly wounded Stupid Donkey, “but my woes are very real to me.”

“Yeah but they are first world problems aren’t they?” said Magic Penguin, “Not the sort of thing I can investigate as part of my new role as Private Detective.”

“I thought you were a Private Investigator,” commented Fat Giraffe.

“Aren’t they the same thing?” asked Magic Penguin, suddenly concerned about the three hundred business cards he’d recently ordered online.

“Dunno,” conceded Fat Giraffe.

“Wait, you’re a PI?” asked Stupid Donkey, “Don’t you need a license for that or something?”

“Probably,” said Magic Penguin, “I’ll get round to that eventually.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure you do need a license,” said Stupid Donkey, “Do you think they’ll let you have one with your history?”

“I don’t know what you mean” said Magic Penguin.

“Well, I mean, what about, you know…the thing?” mumbled Stupid Donkey.

“What thing?” replied Magic Penguin haughtily.

“Well…you know…The Kipper Scandal!” said Stupid Donkey

Magic Penguin sighed. He’d managed to get through two stories without anyone mentioning the Kipper Scandal. He’d started to think that people had forgotten about it. But, he realised, something as big as The Kipper Scandal was not just going to go away.

“Oh yeah, I forgot about the Kipper Scandal!” exclaimed Fat Giraffe, “You’ll never get a PI license mate!”

“I’m sure I will,” muttered Magic Penguin, even though he was not at all sure, “but it doesn’t really matter anyway does it?”

“Why not?” asked Stupid Donkey.

“Well because I’m the eponymous hero of my own series of short stories,” replied Magic Penguin, “so I can definitely be a PI if I want to be.”

“I suppose so,” said Stupid Donkey, “but don’t you think you should actually investigate something then? I mean this is the third story in as many weeks and as far as I can see nothing much has really happened in any of them yet. In fact there were only two characters until I turned up.”

“I’d hardly call you a character,” said Magic Penguin bitterly, “and if your so-called woes had been more interesting we might already have a story on our hands. So it’s your fault really.”

“I don’t see how,” said Stupid Donkey, “but I think something needs to happen to retain the interest of the readers.”

“Oh I imagine we’ve lost any readers we ever had by now,” said Fat Giraffe, “but I agree, something needs to happen on the off chance anyone is still reading this.”

“Like what?” asked Magic Penguin.

“I dunno,” said Fat Giraffe, “what about ending this story on a cliffhanger?”

“Yeah, that’d work,” said Stupid Donkey, “What we need is a good cliffhanger.”

The three friends were pondering what kind of a cliffhanger might work to retain the interest of an already diminishing readership when the door of the Shoe and Phone opened and a mysterious stranger walked in.

“I need help,” said the stranger, “and it’s a matter of life and death!”

“Yep,” said Fat Giraffe, “that’ll probably do it.”

Tune in next week to find out if the mysterious stranger is going to lead to an actual adventure for Magic Penguin or whether it’s just a red herring to dupe you into committing to reading another of these, frankly awful, stories.

I’m Not Being Racist But…

James Proclaims (4)

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As someone of mixed race, it is, of course, technically impossible for me to be racist.

Except that it isn’t.

For, despite being a remoaning bleeding-heart leftie, I am capable of the odd moment of prejudice. I don’t want, or mean, to do so, but I have made judgements about people based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and various other attributes that may mark them out as different to me. For the most part these judgements are innocent enough. They don’t come from a place of hate, they come from a place of ignorance, of misunderstanding, of genuine confusion.

But they are prejudices nonetheless.

And when I realise I have been guilty of making snap judgements based on accepted stereotypes, I try to learn from the experience.

Because it’s actually ok to make mistakes, even mistakes that may have unintentionally caused someone else mild offense, if as a result of that mistake we become better, more rounded, people.

Because we can’t all be like ‘The Donald’ who recently informed journalists that he was the least racist person that they’d ever interviewed.

Which is a very bold claim to make and leads me to conclude that either Mr Trump:

  1. Genuinely is a paragon of virtue when it comes to racism
  2. Is perplexingly well-informed about every single person that those particular journalists have ever interviewed and has hard evidence that each and every one of them is definitely more racist than him.
  3. A liar

It’s not for me to judge.

Closer to home there has been the shocking revelation that the leader of UKIP has a racist girlfriend.

I was shocked anyway. I didn’t realise that UKIP actually had a leader at the moment. Indeed I’m a bit surprised to discover that UKIP think they even have a purpose anymore.

But apparently they do have a leader and his name is Henry Bolton. And his girlfriend apparently said some racist things about soon-to-be-royal Meghan Markle.

Racist things which are pretty horrible truth be told.

But it’s OK because, according to Mr Bolton, some of the comments have been taken out of context.

Although when questioned about the comments on TV this morning he did concede that the most offensive ones weren’t take out of context.

They were just really offensive.

But some of the other ones were taken out of context so really we just need to get over it

And to be fair, after being shocked that UKIP still exists and that they have a leader, I wasn’t massively surprised that he would have a racist girlfriend.

No more than his wife probably was anyway.

Apparently he’s got one of those marriages where it’s OK for him to also have a girlfriend who is half his age.

And racist or not, I find I judge him a little bit for that.

Which makes me prejudiced I suppose.

I’ve got so much to learn.


 

Magic Penguin And The Career Decision

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Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were spending the afternoon playing darts and drinking heavily in the pub of their choice, the inimitable Shoe and Phone. Fat Giraffe was winning easily.

“One hundred and eighty,” bellowed Fat Giraffe as he landed a third consecutive treble. It was a treble seventeen, which made Fat Giraffe’s claim slightly erroneous, but as he was nowhere near good enough at maths to work out what his actual score was, he maintained that all trebles were worth sixty points.

Magic Penguin, for his part, had no interest in the honesty of his friend’s scoring. He was happy when any of his darts even made contact with the board, so he knew the score was irrelevant. Cheating or not, Fat Giraffe would eventually win. Magic Penguin didn’t much care. Losing at darts to Fat Giraffe was still far preferable to the alternative of ‘actually going to work’.

Although, he realised as he scratched around in his pocket for enough change to purchase another pint of overpriced craft IPA, he did need to find a source of income soon. And he certainly wasn’t going to make any money through maintaining a blog. He wondered why anyone would ever commit so much time and effort to writing blog posts when they had no chance of ever making it their career. Talk about an exercise in futility. But he needed to do something to get some cash…

“Why don’t you try being a private investigator?” said Fat Giraffe almost as if he had read Magic Penguin’s mind.

“Did you just read my mind?” asked Magic Penguin.

“Yep,” said Fat Giraffe, “It’s an old trick I picked up in ‘Nam.”

“You were never in Vietnam!” exclaimed Magic Penguin, “and even if you were, that still doesn’t make sense.”

“Sorry, did I say ‘Nam?” asked Fat Giraffe, “I meant to say Nandos.”

“That still doesn’t make any sense!” said Magic Penguin, “and do giraffes even eat chicken?”

“This giraffe does,” said Fat Giraffe, “anyway, that isn’t the point. The point, my friend, is that you need money and you aren’t prepared to work for a living.”

“I still think we need to discuss this mind-reading thing,” said Magic Penguin, “but you’re right, I do need money and I’m not prepared to work.”

“So, become a PI,” said Fat Giraffe.

“Doesn’t that still involve work?” queried Magic Penguin, “and wouldn’t I need a license or something?”

“Details my friend, details,” soothed Fat Giraffe, “Sherlock Holmes never had a license, did he?”

“I don’t know,” pondered Magic Penguin, “but wasn’t he a fictional character?”

“Aren’t you a fictional character?” replied Fat Giraffe.

“True, I am indeed a work of complete fiction,” agreed Magic Penguin, “but even so, I’m not sure I have any skills that would allow me to become a PI.”

“You’re the titular character in your own series of short stories,” argued Fat Giraffe, “what more skills do you need than that?”

Magic Penguin pondered this for a moment. Then he giggled at the word ‘titular’. Then he pondered some more.

“Ok,” he said, “I’m up for that. Private Investigator it is.”

“And obviously, every PI needs an assistant,” said Fat Giraffe.

“Yes, but who could it be?” mused Magic Penguin, hoping that it might be someone glamorous.

There was an awkward silence.

Then the penny dropped.

And, as he bent down to pick up the penny, Magic Penguin realised that it was a metaphorical penny and also that Fat Giraffe had been referring to himself.

“Only joking mate,” he laughed, even though he hadn’t been joking at all, “of course you can be my assistant.”

“We’ll have the best of adventures!” enthused Fat Giraffe, “this is going to be brilliant.”

But Fat Giraffe was sadly mistaken. It wasn’t going to be brilliant at all.

 

Magic Penguin And The Broken Fourth Wall

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Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were frequenting their local public house one afternoon, as was their tendency. Fat Giraffe was drinking a generic lager, but Magic Penguin had opted for a more pretentious craft IPA. The Shoe and Phone (for that was the name of the establishment that they were currently patronising) was relatively empty, suggesting that either it was not a particularly thriving business, or that Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were drinking when most of the rest of the world was at work. There was more than a little truth in both theories.

“I mean, it’s hardly the ‘Will of the People’ if only 52% of the electorate voted for it,” said Magic Penguin.

“I dunno mate,” reasoned Fat Giraffe, “I’m no mathematician, but 52% does sound like a majority to me.”

“Yes, but it’s a slim majority,” argued Magic Penguin, “and, if you take into account all the people who didn’t vote, then you could argue that more people didn’t vote for it than did.”

“Yes,” acknowledged Fat Giraffe, “but I’m not sure that’s how democracy works. If you don’t vote then you don’t get to have a say.”

“Fine, said Magic Penguin, “but surely you must agree that quite a lot of the 52% didn’t actually know what it was they were voting for.”

“That’s certainly true,” acquiesced Fat Giraffe, “I thought I was voting for breakfast.”

The two sat in contemplative silence for a moment before Fat Giraffe broke it. The silence that is.

He didn’t break anything else, though he was not unknown to break wind on occasion. Sometimes he broke wind and silence at the same time.

But on this occasion, he just broke the silence.

With words.

“Is it me,” he began, “or were we just debating Brexit”

“Sounded like that to me,” affirmed Magic Penguin.

“In which case, does that mean that we are, in fact, in Britain?”

“That would seem the logical conclusion,” said Magic Penguin, “Why do you ask?”

“Well, I’d fully accept, that as fictional beings created by a UK ‘writer’, that we’d probably have certain British characteristics, but I wasn’t sure if we weren’t in some sort of made up place that isn’t actually Britain, but more Britainesque.”

“You mean like how Thomas the Tank Engine is based on the island of Sodor, a place that seems a bit like the UK but really isn’t at all?”

“Exactly so.”

“I’m not sure,” pondered Magic Penguin, “I don’t know if the ‘writer’ even knows.”

“Well to be fair, I wouldn’t put a lot of store by what he says anyway,” said Fat Giraffe, “I mean, I’m not sure if that bloke even knows whether he’s coming or going half the time.”

“That seems a little bit harsh,” contended Magic Penguin, “I mean he did create us after all.”

“Yes, but he’s basically ignored us for the best part of 15 years,” countered Fat Giraffe, “he found us entertaining enough when he was avoiding writing essays during his student days, but this is the first time he’s bothered to let us out in ages. I mean he’s had this blog for nearly three years now, and yet this is our first outing. It’s not like he’s been writing much else that’s any good. He could at least have given us a shot before now.”

“It’s true,” mused Magic Penguin, “and he did promise that he was going to bring us back as far back as January 2017

“Exactly,” fumed Fat Giraffe, “Why’s it taken him a year? What else has he been doing? He’s got time to write 24 rubbish film reviews during December, but he hasn’t got time for us?”

“I quite liked the Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) films,” said Magic Penguin, “but I take your point. He could have made a bit of time for us earlier.”

“Too right he could have done!” exclaimed Fat Giraffe, “and when he does finally decide to let us have our day in the sun, he buries us on a Sunday morning, fully aware that no-one ever visits his blog on a Sunday morning. And by the time Monday rolls around he’ll no doubt have written something trite about novelty egg cups which means no-one’ll ever read this!”

“That may well be for the best,” suggested Magic Penguin, “It’s not as though this is even very good is it?”

“That’s hardly our fault!” raged Fat Giraffe, “He’s the buffoon that wrote this! Even the title doesn’t make sense. Breaking the ‘fourth wall’ surely only applies to visual media. The man is an absolute idiot”

“You know, I’m not sure it’s all that wise to call the ‘writer’ an idiot,” mused Magic Penguin.

“Why not? He is an idiot!” seethed Fat Giraffe, “What’s he going to do about it?”

At that precise moment Fat Giraffe fell off his bar stool, almost as if pushed by an omniscient and slightly irritated narrator.

“That was a cheap shot,” muttered Fat Giraffe as he picked himself up.

“Anyway, I think the point is that our esteemed creator has had the grace to bring us back today,” said Magic Penguin, almost as if he was sucking up to an omniscient and slightly irritated narrator.

“I suppose so,” agreed Fat Giraffe, who had learned the errors of his ways, “and even if this story isn’t especially good, it is nice to be back.”

“And who knows,” said Magic Penguin optimistically, “Maybe next week’s adventure will be a bit more compelling than this one was.”

But sadly, as he would soon discover, Magic Penguin’s optimism was very much misplaced.

 

 

 

 

 

The (Now Traditional) James Proclaims New Year’s Eve Review Of The Year That Was

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Well here we are again.

The end of another year.

A time, if ever there was one, for reflection.

Which is something I like to do here on James Proclaims. Now, I’m aware I won’t be the only person doing this today but, lest we forget, I also did it at the end of 2015 and 2016, so I’m quite the trailblazer in many ways.

So how does one review a year like 2017? A cold hard analysis of the facts and figures? A zeitgeisty nod to some of the trends that have taken the world by storm? Perhaps nostalgic reminiscences of some of the more iconic moments?

Or should I just make a load of stuff up?

After all, if 2017 was anything, it was the year of fake news and alternative facts.

And frankly, I can’t really remember that much about what actually happened. Maybe it’s the champagne I’ve been drinking since 7am this morning…

Only joking – that’s the first alternative fact for you.

Obviously, I haven’t been drinking champagne since 7am this morning.

Champagne is way too expensive.

I’ve been drinking a reasonably-priced prosecco.

But back to the matter at hand.

Which is 2017. And more specifically what happened in it.

There was the Oscar fiasco of course. You remember, back in February. It’s pretty hard to forget a mistake of that magnitude. I refer, of course, to the moment when my mate Oscar accidently put unleaded petrol in his new diesel car. Ok, chances are that you don’t recall that particular incident. Because you’ve never met my friend Oscar. Because I just made him up. Fake News! Ha!

Of course, there has been some real news. British politics is in the worst state it’s been in since…er…2016?

On the one hand we’re got a prime minister who basically took her ‘strong and stable’ majority, a political mandate that just might have been enough to steady the ship to guide us through the choppy waters of Brexit, and decided to gamble it on the basis that no-one would ever vote for Jezza Corbyn. And she was sort of right. But not right enough to prevent her from losing her majority and having to form a government with some scary people at the cost of a billion pounds. Well played Theresa.

On the other hand, the only viable alternative to Mrs May celebrated losing like he’d just won the lottery. And went on Gogglebox. And headlined(?) Glastonbury. Which is obviously what we want and need from a prime minister.

Still things could be worse.

We could have an egotistical megalomaniac in charge. And to be fair there’s no point in trying to make humorous observations about all the stuff The Donald has been up to. That’s a man who satirizes himself whenever he opens his mouth. Or uses Social Media.

And it would be funny if it wasn’t all so terrifying.

But it does take a very special effort to make Kim Jong-Un seem like the sane one.

There’s obviously been some good news this year. Harry got engaged to Megan. I mean I hear it’s good news. I’m relatively indifferent to it, seeing as I won’t be getting an invite to the wedding. But it would take a particularly churlish person to describe the forthcoming nuptials as bad news.

Although Suits won’t be the same.

On a personal note, 2017 was very much a year for me. It began for me on the 1st January, and it’ll end today.  I was definitely awake on most, if not all, of the 365 days it took to get to this point.

I’m not sure if it’s been a particularly good year or a particularly bad one really.

All in all, it’s mostly been a bit covfefe…

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 12

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As November draws to a close, so too must my series of not-novels that I won’t be writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

If you’re actually participating in NaNoWriMo, and you haven’t yet given up, then worry not – you still have another two days to hit the coveted fifty-thousand-word count. Also, I salute you, I don’t think, in previous years when I have tried to do NaNoWriMo, that I ever made it past day 15, and even that year I’d really started to fade quite badly by around day 8.

But for my little series lampooning the modern novel, this is the twelfth and (for the time being) final contribution.

To be honest I’m amazed I’ve managed to churn out this many.

When I came up with the concept at the start of the month I only anticipated producing five. But it seems that, while I’ve oft struggled to find the requisite inspiration to produce my own novel, I seem to have no difficulty in finding the inspiration to mock the novels of others.

I’m not sure what that says about me as a person.

Probably nothing good.

But I’ve quite enjoyed it.

Particularly the fact that some people have told me that they would actually buy and read some of these nonsensical novels.

To be fair, they’d probably all sell a lot better than the kind of introspective, self-indulgent lament on modernity that would inevitably be the focus of any novel I might actually be bothered to produce.

And high sales figures is the motivation behind today’s, final, entry into the collection:

Dan Brown

What’s that?

You were hoping for an action-packed thriller starring everyone’s favourite ‘Symbologist’ Robert Langdon? You wanted a slightly incoherent plot underpinned by historical inaccuracy, written with questionable grammar and sentences like “the tall man picked up the big red book”?

You wanted conspiracy theories, implausible dialogue and easy-to-spot plot twists?

Sorry, you won’t find any of that here.

This is a slow-moving piece of high-brow literary fiction about the ruminations of a retired postal worker as he comes to grip with the passing of time and the ever-changing state of the world around him. ‘Dan Brown’ is the eponymous hero of the story, not the author. The author is me. James Proclaims. Surely that’s abundantly clear if you look at the cover of the book?

DAN Brown

No, you can’t have your money back.

A Slightly Confusing Metaphor To Illustrate How Utterly Redundant Cyber Monday Is As A Concept.

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Sometimes I like to think of Black Friday as the ‘bad guy’ in a second-rate action flick. He’s over-the-top and stupid, but poses a genuine threat to our hero – ‘Captain Common-Sense’.

Oh no! How will Captain Common-Sense survive that unbeatable deal on headphones? How will he remember that he already owns a perfectly good pair of headphones? Headphones that he barely uses anyway. With deals that good, surely, he’s going to be tempted to part with his hard-earned cash on another frivolous purchase. Curse you Black Friday!

Of course, if the movie runs true to form, Captain Common-Sense beats the temptations of Black Friday and wins the day.

And although it’s a genuinely dreadful film, the battle between Black Friday and Captain Common-Sense does well enough at the box office to merit a sequel.

And the sequel is vastly inferior to the already-bad original.

Because in an attempt to make a bigger, more compelling bad-guy, the studio massively misjudges what made the first film popular, which was that, although kind-of inane, Black Friday poses a genuine threat to the wallet of Captain Common-Sense because his deals are ‘for a limited time only’. That’s where the jeopardy is.

So, given that Captain Common-Sense has now prevailed, for any kind of sequel to work, the bad-guy needs to be a bit different.

Not exactly the same but with a different name.

And as far as I can see, the only difference between a ‘deal’ on Cyber Monday as opposed to a ‘deal’ on Black Friday, is that the Black Friday fake deals are available online and in-store, whereas Cyber Monday fake deals can only, by definition, be online. So Cyber Monday is exactly the same as Black Friday, only not as good.

And given that Black Friday is already pointless, Cyber Monday must therefore be worse than pointless.

And on that note…

Happy Cyber Monday everyone!

Let’s Make A Day Of It

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I enjoy a made-up-day as much as anyone. This month alone we’ve observed ‘World Sandwich Day’, ‘World Television Day’, ‘World Toilet Day’, ‘World Kindness Day’, ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Day’ and the ever-ridiculous ‘Black Friday’.

And those are just the ones I’ve mentioned on this blog. I missed the opportunity to cover ‘Hug-a-Bear Day’, ‘Spicy Guacamole Day’ and the truly oxymoronic ‘Use Your Common-Sense Day’ which are apparently also November ‘events’

But today brings a rare treat, for whoever organises the ‘World Days’ has made a double booking. That’s right, November 26th allows us to celebrate two different causes concurrently (well three if you count International Aura Awareness Day, but I’m afraid that might be a step too far for me)

Although there is a slight conflict of interests.

For today is apparently ‘Anti-Obesity day’ and, simultaneously, ‘World Cake Day’.

It does cause something of a quandary.

How can I support both days?

My only conclusion is that I must eat all the cakes, to save everyone else from obesity.

You’re welcome.

Not NaNoWriMo – Part 11

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Back by ‘popular’ demand, here is my eleventh suggestion for a novel that I could have attempted to write during the annual novel-writing festival that is NaNoWriMo.

But to be clear, I’m not writing any of them.

Because they are not good ideas.

And today’s ‘not good idea’ is the following:

Children Of Dystopia

Are you a young adult (or do you fit into the incredibly vague parameters of what might qualify as a young adult)?

If the answer is yes, then maybe you’d like ‘Papier Mache Gorillas’, one of my earlier efforts at a potential YA novel. Or maybe you’d enjoy ‘The Golden Socks’ a magical children’s novel that should appeal to all ages.

But if they both seem a little too saccharine for your tastes, then maybe you’d prefer something a little darker.

If so, does the idea of a dystopian world appeal? One where troubled teens do battle for some hard-to-define reason? Perhaps where many of the main characters meet violent and disturbing ends at regular intervals?

Perhaps you like your fiction bleak, humourless and set in a nightmare version of the future, a sort of ‘1984’ for young people but nowhere near as inciteful or reflective as Orwell’s masterpiece.

Despite the carnage and brutal loss of life, some of the main characters will make it to the end of the novel and there will be the beginnings of a romance forming between two of the central characters, but don’t get too attached, because there will be more death, destruction and trauma in the ensuing sequels, before the trilogy of novels concludes with the toppling of the antagonistic and corrupt authority figures and an ensuing, albeit vague, sense of optimism. Nonetheless any survivors will be so traumatised that there’s no conceivable way they can ever hope to recover any semblance of joy in their lives.

Enjoy it all again as the trilogy gets made into a series of films, although you’ll no doubt be infuriated beyond all level of reason with the inevitable plot changes that will be required to make the big screen adaptation of a such a convoluted plot even remotely possible.

The Lone Planet