‘There’s an imperative.’

‘This isn’t a grammar lesson.’

‘Don’t be obtuse Leahan.’

‘I’m just saying that there are different ways of approaching this.’

‘And I’m quite clear there aren’t and I’m giving you an order. Comply with it.’

‘But it’s a sentient being. The rules say we have to consider that in a response. If it was a virus or a…’

‘They are laws, not rules. And I have complied with the laws. I’ve considered it. My consideration is clearly recorded in the determination. I have considered its characteristics at every level, and it is my determination, based on those considerations, that the threat posed outweighs any benefits or moral guidelines about the sanctity of life.’

‘But think what…’

‘It can teach us? Show us?’

‘Yes, and what we might be wiping out if we remove it.’

‘You think there’s just one of those things in the universe?’

‘I don’t know, but what if it was the last one and we wipe out the memory of an entire species? If we lose all chance of finding out where it comes from, why it’s here?’

‘As we appear to be unable to communicate with it using our senses, and our scientific probing lends us little insight beyond the basic biology, it strikes me as highly unlikely that we can learn anything by direct communication. On the other hand,’ the commander flicked a switch on the desk top console, ‘these records discovered on the craft, show an aggressive, violent and self destructive species, constantly fighting itself and destroying competing civilisations.’

As he spoke a series of images flashed across the screen in the room. Explosions, kinetic energy weapons, projectiles, thermonuclear explosions, destruction from chemical and biological attack flooded the room.

‘Happy to let it run amok in our solar system now you have an idea of what it did in its own?’

Leahan looked at the images that continued to flicker in horror across the screen. Hundreds, thousands of the creatures died, tormented and in agony from the actions of others of their own kind.

‘It might be a refugee from all that. The whole crew could have been escaping. We don’t know until we learn how to communicate with it.’

‘And the contents of the various pods and projectors of the craft?’

‘Have we determined definitively what they are?’

‘Thermonuclear warheads. Stimulated light emission beam weapons. And other destructive devices whose exact mechanisms are unclear, possibly electrical interruption of nervous pathways.’

‘That doesn’t mean…’

‘Leahan, your desire to learn, your desire to reach out and share with alien races, your essential kindness does you much credit. But that is why I am in command. Sometimes kindness has to be tempered with a hard eyed appreciation of the facts.’


‘That being may individually not be a threat to us, although two of the crew are already severely ill with parasitic infections it is carrying. But if it tells others of its kind what we are like, where we are, what we may offer them and their, I hesitate to use the word, civilisation, we may have to fight a brutal campaign against their predations simply to survive. They are clearly not a pacific species. We cannot take the risk. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Yes sir.’

‘Good. Now for the sake of all we hold dear, terminate the creature painlessly, and pray that it is last thing from planet Earth to come our way, wherever that God forsaken planet may be.’


Photo credit: <a href=”″>NASA Goddard Photo and Video</a> on <a href=””></a&gt; / <a href=””&gt; CC BY</a>


Someone doing something.

Door opening. Trolley sounds. Trolley being pushed in, could hear the rattle and clunk as it went over the threshold. One or two pushing it. The number would determine the type of indignity and discomfort to be inflicted. Let it be one. No pissing about being rolled around and lifted and dumped in a ‘more comfortable’ position.

Two voices. Shit. More inane chatter then.

Angels eh?

Angels of death he’d welcome. For fucks sake turn the fucking shit off. Turn me off.

But no, it would be angels of mercy. Prodding at him, wetting him and rolling him. Scrubbing and dabbing and checking tubes. Fuck, that made him gag and the sores were worse he was sure. They hurt more.

‘Hello Steve. How we doing today?’

Nice voice, a big wide grin moved into his peripheral vision, it was the black girl, great hair. Wished he’d been what, twenty? No, who was he kidding? Thirty years, younger. It would be lovely to flirt with her and more if he were lucky.

‘Come on, let’s be having you. Another voice, not as rich and warm, more business. And they were off. Nappy changing. He thought of the beautiful tone of the black girl’s skin, tried to imagine the feel of her curls in his hand but it was too big a leap when they were so busy exposing his inadequacy, his disgust with himself and bodily functions. You could put up with having to shit if you got to love as well. But having to have it mopped up without even the flicker of the compensation of living of life was too much.

How many times had this happened?

He cast around but there were no records written. He tried the roller index of his brain. It was in there somewhere. He’d discounted the initial period of physical and mental pain, the feeling of swollen red terror after first waking. He’d realised he’d never work out how long that had been. No doctor was going to stand over him chatting to a nurse and laying out the time scale.

So he’d started counting. But then he didn’t know what it was he was counting.

He’d looked for patterns trying to work out what was likely to be one once a day, what three times a day. Tube changes. Liquids rigged, feeding bags replenished. He wondered what they called the bags but no-one gave a running commentary of what they did to him.

He was carrying too much information in his head and pattern recognition was difficult. He laid out spread sheets in his head and got what he thought was a pattern and counted the events. But really he knew there were too many variables, too many anomalies.

Artificial day night cycles seemed best, lights up in the morning, down at night, but he had suspicions this was not a simple 24 hour on off cycle. There were too many anomalies with washing, feeding, deshitting. He hated being coarse. He was, no, he had been, a very fastidious person, private and almost embarrassed about such evacuatory processes. Fart jokes had been and remained a mystery to him.

Not that anyone told him jokes anymore.

The pulling and scrubbing was lessening in intensity and changing in nature. The rustling and clanking of disposal was ceasing and they were sticking his legs into other positions. They’d be going soon.

Please don’t put the fucking television on. Not the inane fucking rubbish they left him with. He had been a radio man. A radio four man, with a helping of radio three on the side. A cut and thrust of intellectual debate, discussion of cultural trends, exposés of government, corporate and personal criminal ineptitude and mendacity. Leavened with some baroque music and the odd foray into jazz.

Now he had jabbering bobbleheaded idiots peddling the latest drivel in primary colours.

‘Now, that better?’ The smile flashed into view again. Kind eyes above.

‘Put the tele on Alesha, he likes that. Doc says it’s keeping his brain active, the sound and movement you know.’

‘You sure?’

‘Yeah, everyone likes the breakfast shows don’t they?’

Alesha, lovely name, walked out of his vision and the idiot box flashed into life.

‘There you go. Keep him happy for a bit won’t it?’

Alesha wavered into view again and she stared into his eyes; how he wished she could have done that before this happened.

‘I dunno. He looks sad to me, poor lamb.’

‘Leave it Al, lots to do, come on.’

‘I suppose.’

The door opened as they went on their way.

‘There’s nothing going on in there anyway love, no offence but he’s just bed blocking. Just a vegetable. Should turn him off.’

The door swung shut.


I went on a course once. Nothing new there, I went on every course going; from Health and Safety to Advanced Silent Killing. Well, if they’d had a course on that I’d have applied for it. The advanced killing thing, not the Health and Safety one. They had a whole series of those and I went on them all.

One or two proved useful beyond getting me out of the office for a while, but I don’t remember most of them. Fire Safety was useful I think, and I once stopped someone bleeding to death from a cut artery using emergency first aid skills learned in a bowdlerised version of ‘Don’t Let Him Die’. Well, possibly. I suspect someone else could have worked out what to do before they bled out, but you never know. Kinetic Handling may have stopped me pulling a back muscle moving furniture about and Assertiveness Training made me realise there was nothing wrong with my self esteem, just something wrong with my bosses who wanted a shouty idiot rather than someone who might actually think about stuff before opening their mouth.

But none of them would have helped me in my current circumstances.

I remember the jokes we made in the meet and greet coffee break before the course I am thinking about started. Effective Time Management. Was this effective use of our time? We were disappointed when every speaker made exactly the same joke before each slot designed to make you a better corporate drone.

There was scheduling of course. What time is the most productive and tips to overcome the mid afternoon slump. Thoughts about how to get the most from meetings, one to one to full committee. Don’t use them to decide anything was the best tip from memory. Get the decision first and use meetings to stroke the egos of participants to buy in. There was no choice but make them feel appreciated. Cynical but effective. Oh yes, and always have a cut off time. And stick to it.

I didn’t like that course. I really did need it but I couldn’t see any of the ideas put forward being anything other than pie in the sky, or ‘aspirational’ as far as I was concerned.

If there was a task did I stop doing it because there was a cut off? Did I plough on if there wasn’t ‘buy in’? What was the methodology if everyone else’s prioritisation dynamics were on a slightly different stovepipe track to mine? Did I dismantle the stovepipe and construct a flat bedded, horizontally integrated, low rise hierarchy before declaring the task nugatory?

I noted that effective time management in the field seemed to take second, third or hundredth place to presentism, whereas the theory said define boundaries and don’t be there if there was nothing to do.

I remembered one of the segments on setting time boundaries suggested having due regard to the practical sensibilities of everyone in the task or project and being flexible where possible, and firm where necessary in light of the goal.


That was my main problem. No goal. Some people had callings, vocations, needs and commitment. I’d waited all of my life for some sort of revelation which had yet to arrive.

Or it had been my main problem up till now.

Now, an apparent lack of flexibility on the time boundary appeared to be the problem.

I hadn’t got a major goal in life, but I had many things I wanted to do. It had become clear to me that life obviously closed down certain avenues of choice as it progressed. One of the mantras I had worked out for myself rather than trawling through the list of training courses was you can’t go back. Yet I had spent a lot of time waiting for the second route to certain options to present themselves, which of course they never had. But I accepted the idea in general and had planned, or rather not planned accordingly. Rather than ploughing the same furrow, I had taken new forks in the road at random and looking back the forest had closed behind me. It felt like an odd corollary to the crap mantras on desks of the put upon and petty office tyrants ‘your lack of planning is not my emergency’. My emergency was my lack of planning.

Though I suddenly had a worryingly imminent deadline in my project diary I had an apparent infinity of tasks yet to complete.

What would my course notes say I should do?

They were long gone of course. Sacrificed on the altar of low physical storage in the era of the paperless office, designed by low clutter architects for those with the attention span of a three year old. But even had I been able to access them from some digital repository, I couldn’t see they were going to tell me what to do with my last six months.

Make a list of prioritised goals I should imagine would be the best to be culled from the pages.

Sod that.

Never needed any stupid goals so far.

Stop worrying and plough on as fast as you can.

And don’t look over your shoulder.


Just in case anyone is wondering/worrying – this is fiction remember, and in no way autobiographical. As far as I know I have many future occasions for procrastination, lack of goals and hedonistic irresponsibility. (fingers crossed).


The Project Gutenberg EBook of Constable, 
by C. Lewis Hind: The Hay Wain

Having too much time on your hands, yet frequently not enough in a continuous run to get into a really productive writing session (children^, cat, wife in the NHS and very busy, cooking, general inability to concentrate) you find yourself trawling through old flash drives going; ‘Uh? What the…?’ and ‘Oh, I like that!’ The latter unfortunately being outnumbered 10 to 1 by the former.

One of the latter however was this – written by the look of things in 2005 for a BBC Radio4 Front Row spoof on the then very hot ‘Da Vinci’ Code. The brief was to write a 100 word (or shorter) pitch for a Dan Brown*-esque treatment of a well know cultural artefact and the mystery/conspiracy/plot around it.

They didn’t use it and I had no idea what else to do with it – haven’t written the book yet – thank goodness – so here it is, for you, in all its glory!


Blair, Kennedy, Howard, each from a Celtic country. Could the prophecy be true? Wilson seized Charlotte’s hand, evaded the grip of the three Arch Druids and dived through the fourth floor window.

The symbolism of The Hay Wain shrieked at him louder than Charlotte’s fear as they plummeted towards the Thames. The Lydney dog cult of the Silures, the horse of the Iceni and Trinovantes from Constable’s own country, the Lindow Man like water sacrifice. The Celtic Twilight was coming.

Constable! Of course! The keeper, of a castle, the country, the dark secret! The black water closed over their heads.


I was frequently a bit snotty about Mr Brown, but while you can be sniffy about his literary style, it’s *****y hard to argue with the sales figures, and to be fair they are rollicking paced action stories with loads of hooks into bits of European cultural history (however weirdly presented) most people would never think about. He has also done some really good work with the cash; making obscure and unattainable books available online for example.

^ As if to prove my point just after I wrote that, my son arrived seeking sustenance – so I cooked our lunch, my daughter complained incessantly about Royal Mail not arriving with her birthday present – over a month late and a very long story – and parcels my wife ordered online began arriving in a volley of knocks on the door, rung doorbells and me piking them up from the drive. 


I have as I think I said recently,  been trawling through some old electronic files. These normally turn up a combination of ideas that were abandoned, and quite rightly in many instances, first x number of drafts of things I eventually liked and were used or are still being peddled, and occasionally weird finds like this.

This is my original version of an idea written for an exercise someone suggested. As I said when I posted the finished version here I don’t normally like that type of thing, as for me it feels artificial, but I can do it if needed.

What surprised me here was that the version I found and offer here is hardly recognisable – certainly not in tone – as the same basic story.

I put it here as a sort of amusement and possibly as an encouragement or a warning. Which, and about what you’ll have to decide.

If you want to compare with the original go to Flash Fiction and read the Better Get On With It in that section



Under the cover of fading twilight Piers Lomond narrowed his eyes against the drizzle coming up river from the west. North and south banks sprouted orange lights that twinkled in the rain. Piers knew that in the darkness of night they would blossom into glowing displays marking the warmth of humanity behind them. They were trying to tell him something. He didn’t want to listen.

The lights were like dames, clamouring for attention, sparkling in the darkness, leading you on and then snapping off when you needed them, when they found someone else to impress.

Out west was another world, a glitzier ball of light, the biggest, the brightest in the heavens, but now it was sinking into the waves that marked the horizon. Even that was lost in the darkness of the coming storm.

Lomond shook his head flicking water like a dog shaking its fur. It wasn’t going to bother him. He wasn’t planning on being around for no storm.

If he had any regrets it was the rain he guessed. He’d imagined beams of sunlight through fluffy clouds when it finally happened. Even the end was going to be grey and downbeat like a slow Sunday in Pontypool.  Out west was the land of eternal youth. He guessed that boat had sailed. He laughed. He didn’t need no boat where he was going. Below the bridge the second biggest tidal reach in the world turned and began dumping millions of gallons of water into the Irish sea. The biggest was in the Bay of Fundy almost two thousand miles due west of where he stood. Everything bigger and better was out west. He snorted , well he was coming to join them. Onwards and upwards he guessed. He stared down at the black troughed waves, not yet blown into white caps. Well onwards at any rate.

He turned and leaned back on the safety rail, wishing he had a cigarette. He wasn’t sure why. He didn’t smoke but it seemed like something you should do at a time like this. He stared north and west up river. All he could see was the carriageways crossing the bridge. He shook his head. He couldn’t even get to stand on the right side of a bridge for a dramatic gesture. He wondered who was writing the scene. Some schmo out of writing school he guessed, too lazy to go back and change the beginning so this scene would work better. He shrugged into the belted raincoat and turned up the collar against the rain that was dripping from the brim of his fedora down his neck. He hadn’t noticed he was wearing a raincoat and hat before now. It seemed a strange thing to be dressed in under the circumstances but he was feeling less comfortable about the whole deal by the sentence.

Somewhere up there, he nodded across the four lanes of motorway He needed a better agent. And quick.


Earlier today I was talking with some other writers about viewpoint and how to write a scene involving an injured person, slipping in and out of consciousness, possibly on the edge of death. We wondered if it were possible to convey the scene from the injured person’s point of view without making their consciousness too integrated and yet leave enough for the reader to understand what was happening.

I’m still not sure, but here is an attempt:


There were bright lights, little white swirly things, where his field of vision should be. Stars. Too much of a cliché but sparkly spiky things. Red as well, and a booming and a lot of wanting to throw up.

‘Dave, Dave!’

Was that him? Was he Dave or was someone else called Dave there? There were hands.

‘No don’t move him.’

Something. Smell. Definitely earth. Wet, wet earth and grass.

‘Check his tongue.’

Voices but he couldn’t hear them. No, he could. Couldn’t understand them. Maybe it was Russian. In a Gloucester accent?

No. No. That was sort of English. There was copper in his mouth, Swallowed a coin?


He spoke. He was speaking Russian too.

He pushed himself up, but the grass gave way. Fingers poked his teeth, fucking dentists.


‘Is he moving?’

‘Hand twitched just then.’

‘Don’t move him.’

‘What about the blood?’

What about blood? He should tell them he was A positive. Needed to blow his nose. Full of snot. Something. Wet anyway. Dripping snot. Coppery snot. Give it a wipe. Fuck that was hard work. His arm was stuck. Lying on it. The snot bubbled. Hot snot flooding.

‘Dave. Dave, can you hear me?’

Course I can fucking hear you, you Russian twat. Stop shouting. Fuck that river’s loud, all that white water. And his ear was exploding. Must be the shouting. Shit he felt sick.

If he sat up he’d get this stinking grass away from the copper, then he wouldn’t be sick. Best tell the Russian he was moving.

‘He said something.’

‘Tried to anyway.’

‘Dave are you okay?’

‘Kind of fucking question is that? No I feel like hell.’

‘Did he say something?’

‘Sort of, something.’

‘What was it?’

‘Dunno sounded like a foreign language to me.’

Foreign language? You should talk. Please shut up. Let him sleep. Move his legs, got cramp.

‘Careful boy. Stay still a sec.’

Still? He’d never catch that stand off like that. Move like the wind, hit him hard. What’s that?

‘Watch out he’s puking, keep his airway clear.’

Bloody hell. God that hurts. What the hell happened? Shouldn’t be anything there. Stand offs didn’t hurt like that. Oh his head.

‘He’s coming round. Keep checking his airway. Ambulance is here.’

Ambulance? What they on about ambulances for? The Russian guy had gone.



‘Thank God. It’s okay. They’ll just check you can move, put a collar on you and get you away, okay?


‘You, you prat.’

‘Oh okay. My car’s…’

‘Don’t worry we’ll sort it.’

‘I didn’t know you could speak Russian.’

‘He’s out of it still.’

‘Not surprised, hit like that.’

‘Dave, Dave? Sorry mate. Didn’t see you on the other side of him. Didn’t expect you to get there that fast. See you at the hospital later, okay?’

Steve? He blinked. The darkness was still half there but he could see a blurry man leaning over him. About four blurry men leaning over him. He nodded. The blackness washed across his eyes again and the coppery taste got worse.

‘We’d better move him now.’

‘We start again ref?’

‘When they get him off.’

He was floating. The spectators looked pretty ill. That woman turned her head away. People were weird sometimes. The sky had purple edges and then he was being slid into a vehicle. It was too light inside and water was drowning out the engine noise. He closed his eyes. It didn’t seem to make much difference, still too bright.

Home soon.


This started life as the beginning of a novel. Then I realised it was the same novel for which I already have about six starts, several middles, and a couple of different endings, none of them joined together. You only need one beginning, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t shoehorn it in anywhere else. So I kept the basic idea and structure and tried to turn it into a short story but that was going nowhere. I’d started too discursively and I was caught in a halfway house type of thing where I either needed a lot more time to develop character, plot etc. or there wasn’t enough information fast enough to make a short story work. Harsh editing ended up with this very short piece of short fiction that says something more than I had thought possible when I started .

Waste not want not.



The old railway sleepers were wet from overnight rain. Slap, squelch, every step, trainers fighting for grip. Cheap steps, but they were slippery beggars. He pumped his arms. Careful now; no repeat of the fall last year. Old wet wood soaked in diesel fuel, lubricating oil and the contents of British Rail toilets. But without them the hill would be almost impossible to run up.

Another couple of minutes and the steps ended, a track crossing his path. Thighs burning, Will turned left and the climb became less steep. He burst out of the trees and a long vista opened before him, down the valley to the spires and roofs of the distant town. He felt himself slowing as he stared. Try as he might his pace always dropped here. It was cruel to put such a view after that first dramatic climb. It was almost impossible not to slow down and peer through the haze at his distant Shangri La. She was down there, in those streets, somewhere among the warm yellow glow. A few miles away. Could run it in under an hour. Might as well be the other side of the world.

He glanced at the stop watch on his wrist. Damn! Three seconds slower. Supposed to get better. He kicked on. Lost time to make up. Only a few seconds. Might as well be the end of time.


This was written in response to an exercise set by a member of a writers group I belong to. I confess I am not usually that asiduous in completing these types of tasks as I probably should be as I have quite a lot of my own ideas awating attention. Julie has brought such a fresh approach to the group with her writing however, that I wanted to do this. I also felt it I was worth an attempt because it seemed so simple at first, and yet the more I thought about it the more perspectives it offered.

The brief was to write a short piece about a crime connected with something in the room we meet in. Here’s my attempt.


‘Hello Delyth, what you doing?’

‘Trying to move these shelves a bit.’

‘Why’s that then?’

‘We’re going to have to clear this room before the redesign.’

‘I know that, but that’s not for weeks yet.’

‘Pinner wants the shelves out before then.’

‘They haven’t moved for years – aren’t they screwed in or something?’ Bob said.


‘Well, don’t you need a note or something to start doing that?’

‘Are you going to stand there criticising or are you going to help?’

Bob stood in the doorway and watched as Delyth, a small bird like woman with grey hair and over large glasses, tugged ineffectually at the edge of a bookcase full of children’s stories.

‘I don’t think I should Delyth. Not with my back.’ he wandered into the room a little despite himself. ‘You know what Pinner said, we aren’t covered for that sort of thing anymore. If you need to move anything bigger than a chair you need to get a qualified kinetic handler in.’

‘Stuff Pinner. I only need it moved a few inches.’

Bob considered this. It seemed a bit unreasonable to phone someone to book a mover to come round to shift a set of shelves a couple of inches, and then presumably put them back. But his sciatica had only just subsided after the last bout of agony, and he didn’t want to tweak the nerve again. Then a thought occurred to him.

‘Why do you just want to move it a few inches if you’re getting ready for the redesign?’

Delyth gave up her fruitless assault on the shelves.

‘I… never mind.’ She started pulling books off the shelves and stacking them on the table. ‘Give me a hand with these then. They aren’t heavy enough to damage your back, and they’re smaller than a chair.’

Bob conceded the point and shuffled round the table. He began to follow Delyth’s lead, taking small groups of books from the shelves and placing them neatly on the table.

‘What are we doing?’ he asked.

‘Moving books.’

‘But why?’

‘To make the book case lighter, then I can move it.’ Delyth said through gritted teeth.

The logic was impeccable but didn’t explain why Delyth suddenly wanted to move the shelves a couple of inches. He moved a set of Harry Potters in Welsh and felt the need to clarify.

‘But if he’s arranged to move them out before the move, why are we doing this now?’

‘There we are.’ Delyth ignored the question. ‘That’ll be a lot lighter.’

Bob pushed at the shelving. ‘Yeah, it is.’

‘You can go then if you like. I can manage now.’ Delyth said turning and managing a smile at Bob. ‘Thanks’.

‘No. It’s okay Delyth. I’ll help.’

And with that he took one end of the shelving and waited while Delyth stood there hands on hips.

‘Come on Delyth, before Pinner comes and fires us both for breaking health and safety orders.’

Delyth’s smile returned

‘Couldn’t have that could we.’ she said.

They lifted and slid the shelves forward.

‘That’ll do thanks Bob. You can go now.’

Bob stood up.

‘I’ll help put the books back will I?’ he said.

‘No need. Off you go.’

Bob shrugged and as he did so bumped the shelving with his shoulder. There was a thump as something hit the floor and then another.

‘What was that?’ he said.

‘Just a book. Off you go Bob.’

But Bob was already behind the shelving.

‘There’s something down here. Two. Two packages. Looks like they were sellotaped to the back of the shelves. Thin but wide and long mind.’


‘Don’t worry Delyth I can get them.’

With that Bob dragged the packages out from behind the shelving.

‘This one’s weird. Actually they’re both weird.’ And with that Bob ripped open the brown wrapping paper.

Delyth hadn’t wanted to hurt Bob, but hitting him with a copy of “Harri Potter y Maen ar Athronydd” seemed a decent way for him to go. She picked up the two packages and the £50 notes that had fluttered loose from the one he had ripped open, before pushing the shelving over to make sure the sharp heavy edge hit him neatly on the neck with a satisfying crunch. She scattered the books from the table about his body before putting the packages in her large shopping bag. She walked out of the room and wondered whether she should ring to tell Pinner there had been an accident before she left on her half day. Best not. He’d like the ‘I told you’ so moment of discovery. Not to mention filling in the health and safety forms.

Besides she needed to put the £100,000 somewhere safe from Council cuts.


You can find this and other pieces of flash fiction here


All In It Together Farm was on its uppers. Everyone said so. Especially Mr Shiny the farmer. He looked at his chickens in their long gleaming barn. He addressed them. He wasn’t sure why. To him they were simply production units. Yet something, perhaps something his father or maybe his grandfather, had instilled in him once upon a time, continued to suggest to him that it was something he should at least pay lip service to.

‘Happy beasts make rich pickings.’ Was a phrase that came to mind now and again. Of course he had the latest interactive music and soothing sounds technology installed so he didn’t need to do that. But just occasionally he felt the need to talk to something, anything that wasn’t a machine. So today it was the chickens’ turn.

‘Morning ladies.’ He said. Just because they were in cages and stupid didn’t mean you had to let your own standards of civility drop he reasoned.

They cackled welcomingly at him. At least that was what he heard. If he had been able to speak chicken he would have not basked in the glow of his imagined reception.


‘Oh God he’s back! Watch out girls, lay something or he’ll be back with the emptiers.’


‘Why can’t the fat git leave us alone? Its bad enough being cooped up in here without him droning on about his problems.’

Was a more representative sample of what the chickens were saying.

Fortunately for Mr Shiny’s self esteem, he had not the faintest idea what animals of any variety said or thought. His cows were in a concrete bovine support unit and his sheep were herded by a Romanian chap on a quad bike, cheaper than keeping a sheep dog and less fuss he had found. Thus his personal life was animal free. Personally he didn’t like animals. And as for plants…

So he spoke to the chickens out of his own need not any desire to genuinely interact. No, his communication was definitely one way.

‘The thing is ladies, we are in a bit of a pickle really. It looks like we won’t be getting any EU money shortly and I’ll probably have to let Nicolai or whatever is his name is go. Can’t really claim his abilities are special, after all a dog used to do most of his job. So we’ll have no-one to fill your feed hoppers either, unless I can get one of the layabouts from the Britannia Estate to come and do it on a zero hours jobby.’

The hens who had continued their clucking as they got on with eating, fell silent at that piece of news. Mr Angle noticed the change in noise level and looked quickly around to see if anything untoward was happening that he had not seen. Satisfied that there was nothing out of the ordinary occurring he looked back at his production units.

‘So we might have to get rid of you lot and put in a zip wire and a beetle bank or something. Can’t make enough out of them bloody supermarkets just selling food can I? Let them Europeans do it, shiftless sods.’

With that he got out his iPhone and checked a satellite picture that showed some weeds growing up in the cereals by the 40 acre. He walked out of the barn to get on his desk top and direct a spraying drone to zap the little green bastards. The practice he had got on ‘Nuke PyongYang II, This time it’s Fun’ would prove handy he thought as he slammed the door shut behind him.


This picture was given some time ago to a writers group I attend, to act as an inspiration for an exercise piece. I’ll be honest: I don’t normally like ‘artificial’ inspiration like this. If I am writing to a brief for cash – fine, I’ll do it. If I am looking for inspiration for a piece of fiction, long or short, I rarely have any shortage of ideas that spur me on. Finishing a piece may prove difficult as joining that initial flourish to my destination meanders about but rarely do I feel the urge to have creation kickstarted.
So this sat around for ages before I sat down and thought about it. It has a surreal quality to it. Although a photographic medium nothing sits as photo-realism should. The car is perched, the woman’s hair and clothes are dry as she climbs over some sort of water covered ledge, and the perspective is shot to hell. And so at 0645hrs yesterday over a cup of tea and Red Leicester cheese and toast this appeared unbidden. (The photo was not present and no aquatic mammals were harmed in the writing of this piece).  

Consuela Martinez Agrande del Arroyo Norte had, she was forced to concede, been once more deserted. She knew it was in the nature of Sea Lions to be fickle but she had thought his love true. It was not as if Lester hated her. Indeed only the night before he had presented her with a lovingly arranged platter of Sea Bass. They were of course raw and bloodied where his teeth had taken their flashing silver souls, but what was an aquatic mammal to do? He had licked as much of the red, seeping life from them as he could. In his own way he understood her needs as well as anyone and knew that Sea Bass blood, however delicious and life giving, was not appreciated in some quarters. She thought of her reaction. Had she driven him away? But no. It was in the way of Sea Lions. A Seal may be for life but it was the mercurial nature of the Sea Lion that attracted her. The constant shapeshifting love that burned as the fires in Villarrica burn; bright, fierce viscous magma which can spill unconfined at the whim of God. If you wanted the plains around Madrid, stick to Seals.

She drove the Mini he had never quite mastered, a stick shift had been hubris too far, to the Rio del Sueños, and begun combing the banks for him. She had warned him against freshwater. The electrolytic imbalance drove him wild. Which, of course, was why he did it. Thrillseeker. Bad Sea Lion. She had shaken her hair in joy at the thought. And now she laughed suddenly as the car lurched and spun.

It was Lester!

His old party piece.

She had only half believed his tales of circus wildness when first they met. All Sea Lions had been on television, in blockbuster movies made by famous auteurs, or so they would tell you over a glass of brandy and tapas. But the first time she saw him flip a grand piano on his nose and spin it with his flippers, she had understood that here was a Sea Lion of veracity, mano a mano with the sea and the truth, not a pouting boy.

And now she could hear his grunting at the weight of the car as it began to spin wildly, each turn marked by a honk from his old theatrical horns. But she remembered amidst her excited giggles and laughter the flaw in his act. The cost of grand pianos when the good times dried up. One last spin and flip with his nose and then ‘Thwack!’, away with his tail flippers.

She crawled across the parapet of the Punto del Engaño to the honking of horns and Lester, once more in his pomp. barking her name.

Bloody Sea Lions.


But the heart wants what it wants.