They Shoot Horses

I’ve posted a version of this story a while ago, but now it’s going live!  I’m uploading it to a fiction site where it may get taken up and published online.  So when you’ve finished reading, go to and vote for it!

They Shoot Horses

Queue is a lame word but it’s better than line: I seem to think it’s French for tail.  I wonder what sort of animal would have a tail like this queue – something mythical, probably.  A dragon.  Which makes us all knights, I suppose.  I like that thought – it makes the queue a little more bearable if you can be a hero instead of an idiot.

They say queuing in Britain started during the war – not the Satellite War; the one before that – because of the rationing.  Everyone had to queue for their food – and now it’s ingrained like democracy in our character.  Like the mantra of equal opportunities: that’s what this queue is all about.  You take your turn and you wait.  Then you get your fifteen minutes.

I wonder how much of my life I’ve spent in queues?  Days, maybe – even weeks?  How many hours at the airport?  How many at the supermarket, the dole office, the bus-stop – the food-bank?  When I look back, my life seems like one long queue.  One long line for admission to the human race.

Sure, I could leave, but I’d just end up coming back again – because the Queue is the only game in town.  I’m not rich enough to afford a stand-in – not at today’s prices – and for every one of us here there’s a dozen more waiting to join on.  It’s crazy – but what can you do?

This Queue is a whole other dimension; you’ve got time and space, you’ve got vertical and horizontal – and you’ve got the Queue, winding in and out of it all like a giant snake.  Which city is it where they say a great serpent sleeps under the streets?  Edinburgh?

I don’t remember.

It’s disorientating.  I can’t afford the Q-app, and without it you can’t get any perspective – unless you can find a drone, and there’s not many of those left now.  Sometimes you think you’re closing in and then you turn a corner and all you can see is that damned serpent winding off into the distance.  You’ve got no perspective.  It reminds me of India: you can sit on a train for days, but according to the map you’ve only travelled half an inch.  So you learn to wait.  You wait without hope or expectation; because life is waiting and waiting is life.

You soon stop trying to talk to anyone.  You’re not a human being to them, you’re the competition – and after a while you start to think the same way.  If someone gives you a smile, you wonder what they’re after.  It’s terrible, but what can you do?

What gets me is, there’s no need for the guards; yet there they stand shouldering their stun-rays like extras in a war-movie.  It winds me up.  What do they think we’re going to do?  We’ve sacrificed everything to be here: why would we screw it up?  Yet on every corner there’s another glaring numpty, like a bouncer on the stairway to heaven.

The thing is, the queue polices itself.  Anyone gets out of line, they’re thrown off by the others: then they either go right to the back or they leave.  I’ve only seen it happen once, and once was enough.

But boredom’s your main enemy.  I guess that’s what pushes people over the edge; just not being able to occupy yourself.  You get tired of the screens pretty quick, and the further in you get, the more adverts there are.  They’re all targeted, advertising stuff from the booths or the Q-runners; and in between adverts they run the Show.  Every so often they replay the big winners, just so you don’t forget.

You try not to, but in the end you all watch the screens.  There are only so many hours a day when you can practise and after that you get bored.  It’s out of kilter; all this waiting compared with the few seconds of your audition.  But then you’d better be ready to do the whole act.  You have to be prepared for anything, at the drop of a hat.  Anything, up to and including the sad old Loser’s Handicap.  But I’d take that – if it was the only thing left.  Hell, I’d even take an internship, and at my age that’s a very long shot.  So I leave nothing to chance: I spend several hours a day going over my first lines and then honing the main act.  I wish I could afford some coaching as it really gives you an edge.  These days you can even take a degree in Showmanship; but nothing’s guaranteed.

First few days, you’re going to get antsy.  No-one tells you how long it takes, so you think you’re going to get In pretty soon – and when you don’t, you fret.  People jiggle their feet or jump up and down; they start swearing and looking at their watches.  Scuffles break out.  Words are exchanged.  And I get that, I really do – because it’s hard.  Patience is hard, especially when supplies are low.  But impatience is like foreign currency here: there’s nothing to spend it on.  So hour by hour you calm yourself: you train yourself to wait.  I learned that in India, too.

The great thing is to keep busy.  First thing in the morning, I do my twenty minutes.  Doesn’t matter what it is: jogging on the spot, stretching, jumping, touching my toes.  Everyone has their own routine and sometimes you get into little contests.  Of course, before that you have to pee.  Your toilet buddy is the most important person in the Queue, because you don’t want to be paying a Q-runner every time you have to go; and you have to resist the temptation to – pardon the pun – take the piss.  If you spend hours out of line you can lose your toilet buddy and it’s hard to find another.  Mine’s called Cormac and he seems to go about twice as often as I do.  Weak bladder, he says.  So after our usual pee-exchange, it’s time for breakfast.  It won’t be much, just a bar or some fruit, but I make it last like the full English with extra toast.  Sometimes I pretend I’m eating a huge platter with eggs and bacon, sausage, fried bread (fried bread!) tomato, even baked beans.  I imagine the colours, the flavours, the textures.  Sees me through half an hour, if I’m thorough.  At the end of it I almost feel full.

You’ve got to pace yourself: after breakfast I can spend ten minutes just brushing my teeth.  Because all those hours when the queue hardly moves, if you can’t occupy yourself, you’ll start thinking – and that’s when it all kicks off.

When someone’s kicking off, you can feel it.  There’s a restlessness goes through the queue like a ripple through the body of a snake; and everyone’s thinking, uh-oh! – a jumper.  We’ve all been there.  The trick is to wait it out: sooner or later the feeling passes.  You have to keep two things in mind: the life you left behind, and that long snake of zeroes in your future.  One hundred pounds for every man, woman and child in the queue – you just think about that.  Your island off the coast, your helicopter, your farm.  Your ticket out.

Even so it can get to you.  Maybe you’ve been here too long; maybe you’re out of money.  Maybe you’ve lost faith in your Act.  But if you jump ship you’ve only got one life left – as a Q-runner – and everyone knows a Q-runner’s life is not worth living.  So when someone’s kicking off a ripple goes through the queue; and your senses are on high alert, listening for a cry, a bang; a siren.

            I feel a thrilling vibration close to my heart.  I jump; then I realise it’s my phone.  I’m tempted to look, but texts are my only entertainment in the evening, so it stays in my breast pocket.

Sometimes I get to reminiscing.  I can see the whole of my life laid out before me like a film winding from the opening credits all the way up to this scene.  I want to be the director instead of an extra: I’d like to cut all the bad scenes; the bits where I acted badly or forgot my lines.  And then I think I want to cut the future; edit out all the swirls and loops of the queue which stand between me and the Studio.  Cut to the chase: to my big scene.  Because I’m ready.  God knows I’m ready – but right now the only camera I can see belongs to some bloody queue-tourist.  I wouldn’t give those bastards the snot from my nose: poverty-porn merchants is what they are.

I don’t blame the refugees.  I don’t blame the unemployed; I don’t blame the dispossessed.  I blame the government.  Two million homeless after the last floods and what do they do?  Build more houses?  Deal with climate change?  Nope.  They make us stand in a queue.  Of course, they all live on the high ground, so they can afford to ignore it.

Again a movement ripples through the line: I pick up my bag and wait, but by some weird queuing alchemy, by the time it’s my turn all the space has gotten squeezed out.  I’ve seen it happen loads.  When I used to wait for the bus the people at the front would take up so much space that the rest of us were left standing in the rain.  Sometimes I’d shout: Hey guys, can you move up so we can get under?  Mostly they’d look sheepish and start shuffling.  But this ain’t no bus queue and by the time the movement reaches me I’ve got room to take one pace forward.  I measure the step like a Roman.  Pes, pedis. 

There were Romans here, once upon a time.  Led by old Claudius, they stuttered up from Kent, threw up a city wall and dug in some baths and sewers.  I used to live on the old Roman road; it went straight as a die from here to Chester.  But there’s not much of it left now.  The modern town’s a ragged conurbation, with the monorail slashing across like a line through a careless essay.

And then the Screens appeared; right after the war.  It’ll cheer people up, they said.  They slapped ours right on top of the old Roman baths, and before long you had a Screen on every corner.  Then they seeped into the houses.  The small screen is dead: long live the Big Screen!  They were wired right into the wall.  There was no off-switch and no plug: once they were in, they were on.  Some people took out their windows and put Screens up instead.  Herds of wildebeest; much nicer than the back yard.

The old style of news reporting was dead, since the advent of the Street Brothers and video-drones, so a fair number of journalists had joined the Queue.  And of course The Show had thrown most actors and musicians out of work.  Talented or not, we were all equal now.  You had to admit, the idea was genius: to solve unemployment, inflation and the housing crisis all in one fell swoop – you’ve got to take your hat off to whoever came up with that one.  But I heard he joined the Queue too, in the end.

At first there were folk who wouldn’t have a Screen in their house.  But they all caved in eventually, because if you didn’t have a Screen nothing else worked.  You’d have no kettle or fridge or washing-machine; no heating or hot water.  No computer.  It was the latest thing: a holistic and totally compliant home.

An hour later we’re outside the shopping mall.  A group of droids are in a window showing off the latest smart-suit: ‘a must-have for all executives.’  What does it do, I wonder?  Answer emails?  Field phone-calls?  Be your avatar at a meeting?  I’m out of touch these days, but it’s probably not much more than a wearable laptop.

Time for lunch: I take a couple of soggy sandwiches from my chill-bag.  Only a few left now, and once they’re gone I’ll have to buy in.  There’s plenty of food available: you’ve got burger stands, fried chicken booths, chip bars, ice-cream stalls, donut diners, you name it – and for anything further afield you can use a Qrunner.  Finding food is not the problem: the problem is paying for it.  We’re a captive market; so they can charge whatever they like.

Another shuffle – and now we’ve hit a Blind Spot, out of sight of a Screen.  There aren’t many blind spots left now – they’re working to cover them all – but here’s where I get the only few moments of quiet in my day.  I close my eyes and bathe in the silence.

A shout wakes me like icy water: with a sigh I pace out the space that’s opened in front.  We’re in Sight again now: wearily I put down my case and lob my sandwich-wrapper at the nearest rubbish-chute.  It’s only 12.30 and I’m bone-tired.  Some days sleep can seem like a distant memory.

But at least during the day you can tell yourself you’re headed somewhere.  The evenings are when I miss home the most: I miss my tiny kitchen and my fireplace; I miss Patchouli, my fierce feral cat.  I wonder if she’s still alive?  Cats are vermin now: if they catch you feeding one, they’ll shoot the poor thing right in front of you.  And then you’re out.

Mid-afternoon, I take a peek at my phone: it says 3 new messages.  My heart skips a beat but I save them for later.  Late afternoons are hard: hour after hour you glance up at the sky, trying to discern a tinge of dusk.  When it comes, the sky is lined with orange.  If I could climb up just once and watch the sunset, I’d go to bed happy.

As the orange spreads across the sky we shuffle forward again.  I might have come a hundred yards today.

Everyone’s flicking glances at the street-lights: when they come on we’ll halt for the night.  Then the Q-runners start swarming, yelling, place your bets!  You get odds according to your place in the Queue: then when you’ve paid, you can go home and sleep.  It’s not enough for them to have us queuing all day, they have to have a race at night for us to bet on.  Since horses are mostly farmed now, they race Q-runners instead.

I watched it once, and once was enough.

But even if I could afford to bet, I can’t go home – because my home isn’t there any more.  When I came here the Screen was disconnected and the house condemned.  No Q-deposit, no house.  You’re here for the duration.  It’s terrible, but what are you going to do?

The lights come on; runners and homers start shouting the odds and the rest of us stake out our sleeping-pitch.  The best places are by air-vents – you can sleep there till dawn, with any luck – but tonight all I get is a step outside the arcade.  I spread my sleeping-bag and sit on it, marking out my territory before it’s time for cocoa.  I keep my head down: the homer deals are still going on and tempers can run high.  The odds change all the time and if your runner gets a better deal, you can’t blame them for switching.

When everyone’s gone to watch the race I pop across to the vendor for cocoa.  Now comes the best time of day, when I sit and look at my phone and enjoy a hot drink.

The first few days, I had visitors dropping by.  But no-one’s been for a while, so I look forward all the more to my texts.  I take a mouthful of cocoa and swipe my inbox.  Still just the three messages.  True to form, two of them are junk; but the third is from Julie.  My heart gives a little skip as I thumb the icon, and see her smiling and waving.  I smile and wave back, even though I know she’s just a collection of pixels.  Then I open the message.

            Nearly there!

Julie’s always so up-beat.

The bars are lighting up and drinkers start to shove their way through; stepping over us like garbage.  I can’t remember the last time I had a night out.  I remember Carol and I were together.  I don’t want to think about it so I get out my diary and write a few lines about the day; then at ten o’clock Cormac and I do one last pee-exchange before the siren.  You should get to sleep as quickly as you can, before the clubs open; before the muffled trance-beat makes your ribs start to vibrate like a wild heartFriday nights are the worst: you get pissed on and beer-bottles thrown at you.  We are the vermin now.

I curl up small on the steps and lay my head on the pillow.  Maybe tomorrow we’ll be in sight of the Studio.  Maybe we’ll even get in!  Imagine – this time tomorrow, I could be sleeping indoors!  I try to picture it; all the bodies lining the corridors and stairs, all the way to the top floor where the Audition room is.  As I fall asleep the Screen is crooning a jingle about the new Sweet-Dreams App…

3100 words


Going to Blackburn

I’ve never been a fan of Tony Blackburn: the relentless smiling got on my nerves and the anodyne humour made me groan.  But he always seemed like a good bloke.  When I heard about Jimmy Savile it shocked me to the core but didn’t surprise me; I didn’t find it too startling that ‘cuddly’ Dave Lee Travis might have taken his cuddles too far.  Even Stuart Hall’s style kinda fitted with possible abuses.  But Blackburn?  Surely not.  It didn’t seem to add up.  And I have to say, having heard the guy speak on Radio 4 I am even less convinced by the evidence against him which seems to amount to hearsay and a complaint once made and previously abandoned.

Questioned in depth about these things, he expressed sorrow for the suicide of the girl involved and maintained his innocence without once attempting to blacken the names of any who had accused him.  His protesting never seemed too much and so I have to say I’m convinced – or as convinced as anyone can be who wasn’t there and doesn’t know him – that he is innocent.  It seems the BBC have gone from believing no-one to believing everyone; from covering up or ignoring horrific abuses to hauling everyone accused before an inquiry and seeming to presume that they are guilty.  In other words, they have gone from a presumption of innocence to a presumption of guilt, and neither of these is the way to go.  And like so many of these affairs, they’re doing it for all the wrong reasons; because they want to be seen to do something.  Of course, if you’re going to err on one side rather than the other then there’s no contest; if you weigh a DJ’s career and reputation against the life of a young girl then it’s clear which is worth more.  But why err at all?  Is it not possible to examine these things impartially?  Or at least to try?

I feel for Tony Blackburn – I really do.  But listen for yourself: it’s close to the beginning.

Kirk out


Interesting Times?

Well, it’s been an interesting 24 hrs.  Sadly I have to report that I didn’t get the job at LAEC: apparently lack of Ofsted experience was the reason. I have always regarded lack of Ofsted experience in the same light as lack of experience in being mugged; something I’m quite relieved to have (or not to have).  But even though the micro-teaching went very well; even though they were impressed with my teaching skills, my IT skills and all my other answers, apparently my failure to engage with Ofsted – and apparently, to praise them fulsomely – weighed heavily against me.  I think I made my mistake when I said that I’d heard a lot of teachers’ experiences of being inspected and the interviewer said, ‘All good, I hope,’ and I thought she was joking.  I honestly did – so I said ‘well, I think I should answer with a no comment.’  And then I realised she was serious!

According to my inside sources, the college are gearing up for an inspection so there’s a lot of nervousness around, meaning that they are more likely to go with a candidate who has Ofsted experience.

Ah well.  It clarified where they are and where I am, and I guess that’s valuable.  I can’t say I want to break my winning streak as far as Ofsted’s concerned…

Onwards and upwards, people!

Kirk out

As We Speak

As I write this I am in the library waiting for my interview.  The little bunnies are jumping in my stomach but they’re not too boisterous today and on the whole I feel fairly calm.  Maybe this is because I’ve been to the Peace Café.  If you haven’t been here, you should: it’s a lovely building on Guildhall Lane with a large meditation room containing the only statue of the Buddha that IS haven’t blown up yet and a very restful café.  I had a pot of tea and wrote my diary.

I’m back now.  The interview went as well as could be expected.  I don’t think I screwed up on anything although my photo failed to load onto the interactive whiteboard and so I was forced to resort to stick figures; however it didn’t seem to matter.  Everything else went fine except that I expressed a less than fulsome enthusiasm for Ofsted – but what do they expect?  I’m only human.  And I should hear tomorrow, which will be good.

After that if I’m accepted I may get work in one of several departments, so we shall see.

Kirk out


I’ll Read What She’s Reading

Mark and I sometimes have some fairly surreal conversations and this morning over coffee the abysmal ‘Novel’ 50 Shades of Gray came up.  Now just so you know, I haven’t read the whole thing but I have read enough of it to give me an idea of just how bad it really is.  I forget how many chapters I trudged through trying alternately to avoid spluttered laughter and splattering vomit (neither is particularly welcome in the library) but it was, shall we say, more than one and less than ten.  By the way, I loved Charlie Brooker’s review of the film on his ‘Weekly Wipe’ where he referred to Christian Gray as ‘a sort of Lego Colin Firth’.  This sums him up beautifully.

And here, should you choose to subject yourself to is, is the trailer:

Where was I?  Oh, yes – having coffee with Mark.  Well, after the usual half-hour rant on how crap everything is, he make the joke that actually reading 50 Shades is in itself a masochistic act.  Whereupon I mimed turning the pages and making noises as Sally does in that famous cafe scene…

‘I’ll read what she’s reading,’ he quipped.  Oh, how we laughed.

Now, on the subject of days having a theme, I went to Pingk last night for the first time in ages and was presented with a beautiful book of poems of the ‘Earthworm-Blackbird’ genre.  This included one of mine entitled ‘When Harry Ate Sally’.


Kirk out




A Novel Experience

I am pleased to report that the novel I started in July, which still has the title ‘New Work’, is now finished.  That is to say, the first draft is finished: I shall now begin re-reading and thinking about where I might pitch it.  There are novel competitions but these require a certain length and sometimes a certain style – and besides, the whole thing has to be perfect before you send it in.  Whereas if you pitch an idea to a publisher or an agent you can regard it as a work in progress.  I used to find it very daunting; the idea of finishing a novel, getting it perfect and then sending it out to publishers where you have to go through the whole process of waiting, wondering, hoping and despairing before suddenly! – absolutely nothing happens.  It’s a very life-sapping process.

The novel tops out at 93,400 words, which translates to about 280 pages.  A reasonable length, I think, especially since I have the opposite problem from most writers, which is writing at length.  Most writers seem to have trouble being brief; I have trouble being long.  My instinct is to shorten everything; make it snappy, get in and get out again.  Why?  I suppose because I fear the reader’s boredom.  It’s the same when I perform a poem: I scan the audience and if I see the slightest sign of disengagement, I panic and start to rush.  So, all things considered, 93 thousand words is not too bad.

What’s it about? I hear you cry.  Well, as I now realise (I never know what a novel’s about before it’s finished and sometimes not even then) it’s about a woman of around my age who is in some kind of coma; a state where life is arrested.  She begins to reminisce and for some reason cars figure largely in her narrative: turns out she’s been hit by a car and hovers between life and death.  This liminal ‘in-between’ state is very significant as she looks back on her life and towards the end, begins to look forward and wonder about death and any possible afterlife.  Languages and translation play an important part in the novel and she tries to imagine what country the dead live in and what language (or languages) they might speak.  But then there’s a twist; a decision, or a realisation that her time here is not over and that she needs to return.  And that’s how it ends.

I haven’t thought of a title yet.  I think it was good not to give it one until it was finished, though: previously I’ve been tempted to give my novels a title much too early in the game, and that title has defined and limited what the novel was about.  ‘New Work’ is a good name for now.

Hang on, what happened to the Insecure Writer’s Blog?  Shouldn’t they have blogged a couple of weeks ago?  No, I forgot – it’s up to us to blog and link to their blog.  Well, I forgot.

My bad…

Argh!  I swore never to use that phrase!

Kirk out

Two Ronnies, Four Candles, One Ronnie and an Orange

When your sword fails, you draw your dagger – and so it is, friends, that I find myself here instead of writing my short stories because for some reason my document has frozen.  This reminds me of a most brilliant sketch, the best thing I’ve seen since the Two Ronnies’ ‘Four Candles’ and clearly a modern hommage to it, which was this:

It’s brilliantly written, so if you haven’t yet watched, take a look.  I think it’s easily as good as the classic hardware shop sketch.

Hang on, let’s see if my document’s still frozen or if it’s thawed a bit.  Nope, seems to be a problem with open office.  Back to Word then…

It’s been a day for problems.  This morning I heard a disturbing trickling sound: at first I thought it was just the bath emptying but then I realised that water was coming from the base of a cupboard.  Weird.  It was also trickling through the ceiling.  Something was clearly wrong: I went upstairs to find Mark mopping the bathroom floor with a succession of towels.  It seems that the automatic plug thingy, which had stopped working a while back, had come unscrewed from its moorings.  It appears that this device performed an essential job in draining the bath and was now not performing it, due to lying on its side on the floor.  I got the side of the bath off and tried to screw it in again: however the assembly is broken (which is why it stopped working in the first place) and so I shall have to get a new one.  In the meantime the bath is out of bounds so if you were thinking of coming round to have a soak, you’re out of luck.

Sometimes it seems there’s a theme to your day.  I’m not sure how an overflowing bath, a broken plug and a frozen document all add up but I’m working on it.  Can’t do a thing with the document. Hey, do you remember a time when women supposedly used to say ‘I’ve just washed my hair and I can’t do a thing with it?  What were they were expecting to do with it, I ask myself.  Perhaps my hair can sort out the frozen document and the broken bath plug?

Nope, for the latter I think I’m going to have to go to the hardware store.  I wonder if they sell fork handles?

Kirk out

Stuff I’d Like to Say

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how human relations might be improved if people adopted the Quaker approach to speaking, which is to ask yourself before engaging gob (or keyboard) the following four questions:

is it true?

is it helpful?

is it kind?

is it necessary?

For example, was it necessary for a driver, when I was trying to get across a road on my bike in a limited time, to hoot angrily and repeatedly at me?

Was it kind?

Was it helpful?

It was not.  I was quite proud of my reaction though: instead of growling or howling I smiled sweetly and made a gracious ‘you go ahead’ gesture.  And then I was reminded of the words of the Buddha about anger: that to show anger towards someone is like holding a flaming spear by the lighted end.  I can’t find the quote but I’m sure he said it – or something like it.  Oh, apparently it wasn’t him although it is within the Buddhist tradition and entirely consistent with Buddha teaching:

There’s also the old saying that when you point a finger at someone there are three pointing back at you.  So although I was slightly shaken by this driver’s excessive and unnecessary anger, I reflected on these things and also on the fact that he has probably shortened his life by several seconds due to increased blood-pressure, heart-rate and tension.

I’ve had a great day so far: first Tomatoes, then the Real Junk Food Cafe where, having had breakfast already I restricted myself to a mince pie and an apple.  This is the first time I have been there since it opened and I have to say it’s a great initiative; collecting ‘rejected’ food from supermarkets and turning it into delicious meals which are free or ‘pay as you feel’.  There, serendipitously, I ran into Christine who is going to help me with my ESOL interview as she teaches something similar; we had a really useful chat.

And so home, where I began writing to you, dear reader.

Kirk out

Leave me to my Own Devices

It’s a great thing to have your own devices.  Up to now I’ve had to share devices with others: the main computer, the tablet and, yes, though I had my own little laptop thanks to some Anglican nuns (yes, Anglican nuns) who freecycled one of theirs, it never connected to the internet in spite of sporting a neat little dongle.  But it served me well for several years and was a permanent reminder of the fact that when I need something it will come.  It was far from perfect but in the end it did everything I really required of it and for five years it produced short stories, novels and the final drafts of poems – until one day a series of power cuts (don’t ask) caused it to have a nervous breakdown and chop up all my documents into tiny pieces before scattering them to the winds.

Here’s the post from when I first got it:

My poor old friend had reached the end of its useful life.  So for a while it was back to the shared computer.  Now, there’s something about a shared computer that does not sit well with me.  Maybe it’s because I’m a control freak or maybe it’s the modern equivalent of the ‘room of one’s own’ in that I need to inhabit that cyberspace alone.  So: I have a problem.  Enter a friend bearing a laptop which he had replaced with a shiny new computer.  Deep joy.

Now I have my cyber-room of my own where no-one hovers waiting to get in, no-one interferes with my icons and I don’t have to worry about things getting changed around or deleted.  It feels very powerful, having your own space.  It’s not about greed or individualism, it’s more like, say, having a table where you can leave your work and not have to clear away in time for dinner.

So that’s me, this morning.  Knowing that things come when you need them.

Kirk out

Sound the Retreat

Is there such a thing as a Quaker advance?  Doesn’t sound quite right really as it has military overtones; on the other hand a Quaker retreat strikes exactly the right note.  So: we engaged the Friends at Woodbrooke near Bournville (home of the Cadbury family) and underwent several sessions over a two-day period including a dramatic rendering of the Worst Meeting Ever, at which the following Joke was told:

Actually before I tell you the joke I have to tell you this story: a couple of years ago I was on the BBC Saturday Live programme talking about a poem I’d written about the Bowstring Bridge.  Well, the same people emailed me again about a message I’d sent them concerning my bags made out of videotape.  Hang on, have I actually told you about these?  I’d better check.  Don’t want to be repeating myself.

I can’t find a reference so let’s assume I haven’t mentioned them.  Well: imagine, if you will, a bag knitted from shiny black seaweed and you get the general idea.  You crack open a videotape box, take out the shiny black tape, wind it up into balls and start knitting.  Once I’ve knitted a strip large enough to make a bag, say, 6 in by 8, I cast off.  Then I sew on the lining, plait three strands to make a strap; cover the strap with a fabric sleeve and sew the whole thing together.  Voila!  The resulting ensemble is so striking and beautiful that they are now on sale in ‘All About Daisy’ in Clarendon Park, a shop dedicated to selling goods made from recycled materials:

So: when they had an item about hobbies on Saturday Live, I sent off a quick email.  Didn’t get on the programme but there was a message waiting when I got back, so I called and had a very interesting chat with one of the producers who seemed interested in doing an item with JP Devlin, possibly involving a home visit!!!

Watch this space…

More of Quaker retreat anon.  oh, but before I go I have to tell you the joke.

Three pieces of string walk into a bar.  The first piece of string walks up to the counter and the barman says:

‘Are you a piece of string?’

‘Yes,’ says the piece of string.

‘Well, we don’t serve pieces of string in here,’ says the barman.  ‘Get out.’

The second piece of string walks up to the bar.  ‘Are you a piece of string?’ asks the barman.

‘I am,’ says the second piece.

‘Well I told your mate already, we don’t serve pieces of string in here.  Get out.’

The third piece of string is a little older.  He is ragged top and bottom and thick around the middle.  He waddles up to the bar where the barman eyes him in disbelief.  ‘Are you a piece of string as well?’ he asks.

‘No,’ says the string.  ‘I’m a frayed knot.’

It works better when spoken…

Kirk out