Magic Penguin And The Further Lowering Of The Bar



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But you totally are,” said Mardy Puffin.

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

“Can’t do it,” said Mardy Puffin.

“Why not?” asked Magic Penguin impatiently.

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

“What!” exclaimed Magic Penguin incredulously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic Penguin And The Return Of The Main Characters



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do you mean?” asked Fat Giraffe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Never mind,” said Mystic Mouse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic Penguin And The Missing Main Characters



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




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


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


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.


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



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



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)


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…


…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



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.