A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

It was sometime between dinner and midnight when I and my cat Shuga were sat enjoying a re-run of some popular 1990's show on television when, on the floor above, two persons of opposing gender, whom we shall refer to as neighbour A and Person B, found themselves tumbling out of the street, up a flight of concrete steps and hard up against the door to neighbour A's flat, the one above mine, wrapped tightly around each other in an intoxicated embrace.

Neighbour A then searched with a trembling hand through the right pocket of her sweatshirt, and located her keys beneath a layer of loose coins and gum wrappers. Shortly thereafter, the door was opened, and then closed hastily as the two unidentified persons made their way together into her flat.

Beneath them and roughly a minute later, my aforementioned cat Shuga perked up his ears and looked upwards towards the ceiling, sniffing the air and stopped purring. I muted the television, now displaying advertisements for cleaning products and other merchandise on sale for the ubiquitous price of £19.99, and listened carefully to my surroundings.

A faint, rhythmic banging was audible through the sheet of construction materials vertically dividing my flat from the one above. Intrigued and slightly irked, I stood on the sofa I had previously been sitting on, and, elevated closer to the ceiling, began listening. I understood almost immediately, by interpreting the banging and faint grunts that my upstairs neighbour was, to use the colloquial term, ‘getting it on’ somewhat.

Now ignoring a faint feeling of jealousy, I sat back down and un-muted the television allowing myself to pass into the trance often induced by one too many commercial breaks, and remained there for a good forty-five minutes before Shuga once again began looking at the ceiling.

I repeated my procedure from before, standing on my sofa with the television muted, listening closely to whatever may have been going on upstairs. I heard the same banging noises, but this time punctuated by cowboy-like whoops and high-pitched giggling.

"Kids these days... and their sex," I dejectedly muttered to my cat.

Frustrated by the disturbance afforded me by the passionate fornication in progress above, I resolved to go get my head down and go to sleep. I turned off the television, and walked from my living room into my bedroom, flicking off the light-switch as I left, bathing the opulent newly furnished room in darkness.

I stripped down to my boxers and climbed into bed, allowing Shuga to hop up and curl into a ball atop one of the many pillows leaned against the headboard. I reached over to a lamp beside the bed, and turned it off with the pull of a hanging cord.

With my apartment dark now, save for a few shafts of dim yellow city light filtering through the draped windows, I was hopefully going to sleep...

...Or so I believed. For just as I was crossing that threshold between somnolence and slumber, Shuga once again looked upwards. Perturbed, I sat up and listened closely, determining whether it was the ‘kids' and their ‘sex' keeping him awake.

Sure enough, thumping, giggling and other copulative noises whose origins I wished not imagine here were once again audible through the ceiling. It was now clear that I would not be falling asleep any time soon so I lifted myself from my bed, took a bathrobe from a peg on the bedroom door, put on said bathrobe, and walked barefoot out of the room.

Without turning on the lights, I walked through the living room and into the tiny, tile-floored space in the corner called the kitchen. Shuga followed closely behind me, stopping every few steps to perk up his ears and eavesdrop on the action upstairs.

I had decided that a glass of warm milk would do well to put us both to sleep so I opened the refrigerator and took out a carton from the top shelf. I began unscrewing the cap, but my finger slipped and I dropped - or more correctly through my efforts to retrieve it - threw the carton halfway across the room.

It landed near the door, toppling over and spilling its thick white contents all over the living room carpet. And while I moved cautiously through the darkness, Shuga sped towards the puddle, tongue hanging out. He was already licking up the milk when I arrived about ten seconds behind him. I bent over to brush him aside and, with a dishtowel in hand, began soaking up the spilled milk.

Once the towel was soaked through, I, by now beleaguered, stood up and angled towards the kitchen with the intent of wringing out the absorbed liquid into the sink. But I didn't quite get there. Shuga had now taken the liberty of lying down on the floor adjacent to the puddle of milk, still licking at the carpet, trying to get up every last delicious drop of the spilt milk.

He was also in a perfect position to trip his owner as I stepped back towards the kitchen. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. I fell backwards onto the door handle, pressing it down with all my weight. And as I collapsed onto the floor, face first into the soggy carpet, the door opened behind me.

Shuga seized this opportunity to go out and investigate whatever was going on upstairs. He dashed out the hall way, up a cold concrete staircase, and out of my sight. A few seconds later, realizing my pet had escaped me and was likely to cause an extremely awkward incident, I lifted myself from the damp floor and chased after him.

As I reached the top of the stairs, I stretched my arms out and bent forwards, aiming to pick up my cat before he caused more trouble. I was on the second last step when my bathrobe caught on a broken railing and I fell forwards out of it. I managed to grab Shuga before I hit the ground, landing in a somersault and flinging my legs out in front of me as I finished the action. My feet must have hit the neighbour’s door, which had not been properly closed and exploded open as a result.

I sat up, trying to hold onto my mithersome moggie as I did, but was ultimately helpless as he squirmed out of my grasp and charged straight into the open apartment in front of us. Two naked figures sprung up immediately from the floor, shouting in surprise as they were attacked by Shuga’s cold and wet sniffing nose.

"I'm so sorry - my cat - you must understand..." I stammered, stumbling across the threshold half naked myself. I continued these apologies as I made my way towards the two nude figures - the young woman, neighbour A, I had grown accustomed to greeting each morning as she and I began the journey to our respective workplaces, and the unknown person B who was now holding my cat.

"Thank you - I'm so, so sorry." I said as I took the pesky animal from this man while the currently very angry and very embarrassed neighbour A rang for you guys. And that’s exactly how it all happened officer.

“I am so very very sorry”.

STATEMENT OF GUILTSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

God looked down into the sink before him and wiped his hands free of dish water. Staring solemnly into its murky depths as the water swirled, He looked about for his wife and with no sign of her; he parted the water in the sink. He chuckled a moment before relaxing the water back into its natural state. 

“I know what you just did there!” Came a voice from the depths.

God rolled his eyes and continued washing the dishes as his wife, Satan came into the kitchen ‘tsk, tsking’ at him all the while.

“It’s when you pull shit like that that we get into trouble” she hissed.

God merely sighed and answered, “Yes dear.”

Satan and God had been married now for what could only be called an eternity. She couldn’t remember the last time she ever looked at another celestial being or one ever looking back at her and life with her husband God had settled into one long ass day of perpetually mundane activities. 

She had come to accept her life was pretty much a petty existence and hated the fact she now spent very long hours playing Sudoku or other crossword puzzles while her husband tried to perfect humanity.

What was she to do when he had his hobby? She often asked herself.

She admitted very early into the marriage that she was just a little jealous of the time he spent with humans and often tried to lead them astray but then, they always managed to pull themselves back out of it, even if only by the skin of their teeth. 

Satan sat and watched her husband finish the dishes. Why he didn’t just ‘think’ them done was beyond her, but he felt he’d learnt something from humanity over the eons and enjoyed doing these simple tasks himself. Washing dishes, gardening, fixing the car, it was all very odd. But then, he was a very odd being. 

God dearly loved his wife. He loved her too for her constant nagging and bitching. Because without those he’d probably go and do something really stupid like create an alternate Earth where the beings were all goldfish and only lived their lives to become the highest civil servants that their governmental system would ever allow.

God chuckled at the thought. He reminded himself to keep that idea for later, he might get a chance to do it one day. And at the rate humanity was going these days; it might be sooner rather than later.

Yes he loved his missus dearly, but despite that, some days he just wanted to shove her in a cupboard and seal it up with cement. And today was close to being one of those days.

Well God finally finished his dishes and decided in order to break from his current mood of disquiet, a lovely chocolate cake would do wonders for them both. After all, it was sinful enough for them both to enjoy, but not so sinful that he would have to punish himself with a thousand hail Marys later on. So once again he got to creating.

Now in comparison to the Earth only taking six days to create, he had this divine little masterpiece whipped up in next to no time, and serving it with huge dollops of cream, he handed a plate to his wife.

“And they call me the evil one!” she quipped.

God just winked at her and mouthed ‘love you’ as he quaffed another huge spoonful of his heavenly chocolate cake.

Meanwhile, God’s omnipresent computer whirred away in quiet desperation. It really needed him to see the new message that had come in, but God was still otherwise occupied cleaning up large amounts of cream he had haphazardly squished into his soft white beard now decorated with crumbed chocolate cake.

And so it just blinked “you have one new message” repeatedly, for... what else could it really do?

God knew the computer was grizzling but he also knew that if he didn’t get that cream out of his beard it would soon go off and smell ghastly. And no one wants a stinky God.

As he passed towards his computer, he patted it gently.

“I’m coming, I’m coming” he cooed.

The computer settled down somewhat. Finally dabbing the last bit of cream out of his beard, God sat in front of his computer, clicking the screen into life.

“YOU HAVE ONE NEW MESSAGE” It announced clearly.

‘Yes and that message is... ?’ God asked of his faithful machine.

Opening it up, God found an advert with the words in large bold print: “DO YOU NEED TO INCREASE YOUR PENIS SIZE?”

He grizzled, certain that his wife Satan had been playing with his settings again and screwed with his firewall. He immediately hit the ‘Obliterate’ button. All other computers only had ‘delete’ but only God had ‘obliterate’ on his. One click... and it was done. Everyone involved in that single transaction was to be heard of or seen no more.

“Oh Honey?” God yelled across the room from his desk.

There was just that tiny hint of annoyance. Satan was good at picking up nuances like that. 

“YES MY LOVE?” she screamed back. There was no way in hell she was going to cower to him, God or not.
“Darling, could you remember to please not touch my settings when you’re on the computer?... please?” God wailed back down the hall.

“OH I SCREWED UP THE SETTINGS? AGAIN? OH SORRY MY LOVE! WON’T DO IT AGAIN!” she retorted, knowing full well she would do it again as indeed did he.
And as she sat laughing to herself, God could only sigh and pet his computer. 

“It’s okay, I don’t blame you at all” he whispered and the computer hummed calmly.

 “JESUS CHRIST!” God yelled, not knowing what to do for the best.

“Yes father... what?” Jesus poked his head around the door to see his father fiddling on his computer.

“There you are my boy” he said, “I have a bit of a problem...” He started.

Jesus eyed his father and then the computer. 

“Lord, why do you let her on your computer when you KNOW she’s only going to screw it up?” 

Jesus took his father’s place and checked over the settings, reset set them all again. He looked over at his father.

"I love you son, you really are the best" he grinned a big cheesy grin.

Jesus rolled his eyes again mumbling "You love everyone, you crazy old coot” under his breath. And with that, Jesus went back to his room to complete yet another level of World of Warcraft. His own personal computer complaining bitterly of overuse, but Jesus kept on playing anyway.

JESUS SAVESSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Ok, so I finally got to do some work on the flat again. Most of it was simply decorating and the like but I did want to include a couple of specific projects, one of which was the construction of an in-built book case to the living room.

This would have two purposes, the first of which is obvious (to hold books) and the second, to bring the corner suite away from the window wall and prevent it trapping the curtains. Don't worry, all will be clarified as we go along. But first let's take a look at the site for the new book case...

What you see here is the corner into which the suite parks. To the right there is a patio door and if you look closely enough  you can see the curtain rail above it. Adding one and one together,  you can see how the curtains would look odd in the way they fall. So the objective for this project is to build out that corner, adding more depth to the window reveal and at the same time including some form of bookcase so I can finally finish some more unpacking.

So first off, we add battening to the walls we will be working off. The uprights to carry the plasterboard skin and the horizontal to carry the actual bookcase when it is ready.

Having done that, the next step is to continue constructing what will be the front of the assembly...

This part of the assembly is the most important as it is considered 'load bearing'. That top horizontal should be level and level with the back battening we added earlier as it is on these that we will later sit our bookcase and a fully loaded bookcase can be extremely heavy. Hence the vertical supports being added below our makeshift shelf (for want of a better term).

And Having done all that, we disappear to make our bookcase.

The easiest way to do this is to simply butt our pieces of wood together and screw them in place (as was done here). Or another way is to construct the main frame (jointed as above) and then drill a series of holes for shelf pegs if you prefer the shelves to be adjustable.

In the example I have illustrated, I have used simple white faced MFC for the construction which is a melamine coated chipboard. Care must be taken on this stuff when driving screws as they can easily pop through the surface if not driven with a certain degree of accuracy. It is strongly advised to drill pilot holes prior to driving the screws in for this reason. 

And so, having built the shelving, all we need now is a back for it. For this I opted for a white faced hardboard which was simply nailed onto the back of the shelving unit with ring pins. But before doing that, care has to be taken that you are actually building it square.

It is all too easy to assume that when knocking up a box of equal dimensions it should be square, but that is often far from the case as the illustration below shows. So before adding your back panel to the bookcase, check the diagonals for 'square' and adjust it if necessary simply by pushing it into the right shape. Then you can add the back panel.

And with the back panel now fitted, all that remains is to lift it into position on our previously made shelf and centre it as required. There's no need to fix anything at this stage as we need to find the finished surface measurement to properly align it but when centring, don't forget to allow for the thickness of the plasterboard (9mm) on the side gable.

And with our bookcase finally in position, all we need to do next is add more timbers to allow for the fixing of our facia panels as below.

It is important here that the bookcase remains moveable as we are still not ready to assume a fixed position (front to back) for it. But having all our timbers in place now, we are ready to face the whole assembly with plasterboard using all of the timber battening  to screw or nail the facing material onto.

And having faced off the whole assembly, now is the time to adjust the book case into it's final position. Here we wanted it to sit just a couple of millimetres proud of the plasterboard to allow for a flush plastered finish. This was done by simply tapping it into position and pinning through it into the surrounding battens behind.

Note too that scrim tapes were added over the plasterboard joints to prevent them cracking and a metal skim bead was added to the external corner. This will give it extra strength against any future accidental knocks as well as a better finish to the corner when plastering which was the next step.

Now our bookcase looks more like an integral part of a solid wall. Just as was intended. And all that remained to be done was to decorate it along with the rest of the room. Here I opted for a plain matt paint finish and because it was going onto bare plaster, I used a 'contract' emulsion which is specifically developed for such purposes.

And with the room now fully painted, all that remains is the addition of skirtings to the floor and an architrave around the actual book case.

And here it all is as fully intended at the outset....

Let's build a bookcase...SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

When you come to think of it, the average person sleeps for eight hours per day.

Now think of what you could do in eight whole hours when you’re awake. You could literally cross to the other side of the planet; you could write thousands of words. You could create vast works of art; you could watch five full movies.

What it is then to sleep? To lie there and wait for unconsciousness to strike at any moment, not to expect it, for when you do it never comes. You must just lie back and switch off and then it will come, and only then.

In your dreams you may fight in wars, fly in planes, visit other planets, have sweeping romances, be chased, be gunned down, fall from a great height, realise your worst fears and your best aspirations; then for some strange reason when you awaken it's all lost, the last remnants of your dream disappearing into a mist.

If you try you can sometimes piece together the last part of your dream, but more often than not even that eludes you. Great scenes without a cast or director, great acting, wonderful words, beautiful views, all there and then gone never to return.

The worst dreams, those of losing loved ones, being naked in a public place, or desperate for the toilet only to find all the conveniences stuffed full of other people's crap and used toilet paper (one I've had a lot for some reason. Must be the plumber in me), all leave you feeling just as horrified in your dream as they would in real life. The fact that the scenes often lack logic, jump from one improbable scenario to another and have nothing to do with your daily life, doesn't seem to phase your mind in the slightest.

So I often wonder, where it is we all go for that full third of a day. Do we leave our mortal bodies? Is sleep a small slice of death as someone once said?

If it is then maybe death isn’t to be feared, because, in some way or other you are off on an adventure every night, like a little hobbit leaving the Shire for the first time, and where you will travel is beyond your control, and what is more, come morning time, you won’t even remember any of your experiences.

You always travel alone in your sleep, you take nothing at all with you, money has no value there, nor has your status or contacts, and you are entirely alone! People say we are all equal as people, well, one place that is definitely true is in sleep, some may have a more comfortable place to sleep, but if you are lucky enough to sleep soundly then you are just as equal as a prince or a pauper.

All as vulnerable as a new born baby, as in Macbeth the punishment should be this: 'you killed someone in their sleep, you shall not rest again.' For to take advantage of one’s sleep is a cowardly thing to do and to not sleep, a dreadful punishment.

Sleep is also a place we can’t protect our children from the terrors of their dreams. They must enter into them alone and face whatever is to be found there in solo, and just like the rest of us, they will wake and not remember.

Sleep is no respecter of the young mind, nightmares can come to any at any age and your little one must face them without your help or advice, this is all part of growing up I suppose, but when one of my children was ever showing signs of a nightmare, how I would love to be there by their side to help fight whatever it was that upset them, but alas, all you can really do is reassure them and hope that reassurance sinks into the dream, somehow to change the direction or the outcome, for I am sure our dreams can be influenced, just as an alarm clock first enters your awareness as something in your dream before you wake.

So as you get cosy tonight, just think, by tomorrow morning you could have been in Asia, you could have been on top of a mountain, you could have worked an entire shift, but all you really did was lie there unconscious and unmoving and that's if you were lucky.

I also think that oceans of time could pass between you going to sleep and waking up again and you probably wouldn't even notice a second, and all without an ounce of what we call logic!

And if that's what dreaming is really all about, maybe I should knuckle down and try it sometime. Damn you insomnia, you rob me of so much.

And while on the subject of insomnia, I will add this little piece I wrote for my daughter Charlotte when I was stuck in England as she was undergoing brain surgery in Crete (it’s a long story). Although this never made it to press on my own Facebook page, it does appear in my free downloadable book. It was my first foray into writing on demand, so to speak, and it went like this...

Mnyeeownn-bonk-squeak-squeak-clatter-bonk - BLINK. Flight GW350 from the land of nod has just landed. I blink and I am awake. It is ten to four in the morning, and I am awake enough to realise that I have woken up asking myself the question: why am I waking up? Insomnia, the by-product of what’s going on around me right now, is a terrible thing. For a start, it stops you sleeping and as if that wasn't bad enough, well . . . well that is bad enough. And here I am again; awake in the wee small hours, sandwiched between June on the one side and a herd of cats on the other, worrying myself stupid over Charlotte. A bad scenario to say the least. But experienced insomniac that I am, I do not panic.

The first thing I do is to try to pretend that I am asleep, only dreaming that I am awake. I got that idea from a film I once saw. As a never-fail method of getting back to sleep, it is a total failure. It never works. Now I am worrying about not being asleep, worrying about Charlotte and getting more and more awake as I toil for a better, plan B.

The next thing to do is to run a total systems check, just like airline pilots do, to see if there is any particular reason why I should have woken up. Obviously here, the question should have been; why would I want to sleep when Charlotte is in so much pain? But on with the story...

A systems check, takes time and expertise but brings with it a high degree of security and it goes something like this: Brain to bladder, Brain to bladder: systems check and status read out please, over. Roger that brain: bladder reads at 5cms water pressure, micturation drive on auto-pilot, warning lights are green, green and green: ETP is 09:15, over. Roger, bladder: brain to bowel, status check: over. Roger brain: bowel at zero tension right now: we will not evacuate unless alarm sounds continuously, rendezvous point is ramp D in the outside car park, or in the phone box if it is raining, over. And on it goes.

By now I am wide asleep, fast awake in charge of a sleeping nervous system. This is not a good situation since the absence of a specific fault implies the absence of a specific remedy. Time for a plan C.

If the problem doesn’t lie within my body, maybe it’s outside my body. Is the house on fire? No. Is there rioting outside on the streets? No. Hurricanes? Flash floods? Earthquakes? Etc. No, no, no.

Plan D: I decide to try out a cure for insomnia that I read in Readers Digest fifteen years ago. (One possible cure for insomnia is of course reading fifteen year old Readers Digests, though I must add the caution that if you can't find any, the search for them will keep you awake). That if you let your body cool right down, gradually as you warm up sandwiched between your covers, you really ought to nod off. But not for me, not in this house, Oh no.

What is insomnia? I ask. I do not know, I answer. Insomnia is no use to anyone, I add . . . except to people who write pieces like this one for Charlotte to add to her experiences. And just as I begin to think of writing this piece, I notice that I am fast asleep. My last thought is the worry that if thinking about writing this is so soporific, what's it going to be like actually reading it? Let me know when you wake up ... Sweet dreams Charlotte, I love you so much xxx zzzzzzzzzz

AND SO TO SLEEPSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Russell Hopkins - Hoppo, Hopkiss or even Hippo to his supposed mates, those that rang him when nobody else was available for a drink down the local. Lived in a City of a thousand trades; and irrespective of his whereabouts, he was still without a job. He was the son of Joan ‘the pinnie’ Hopkins and Eric Hopkins.

He stayed in for most of the week, except of course for Friday nights, mainly because that was his parent's sex night.

After eight pints of cider at his local, Eric would often be seen staggering home to Joan who would be waiting naked under the duvet for him; listening as his hand guided him up the stairs, finding the toilet in the dark and emptying his bladder; half into the toilet, half on the floor, and the rest shared out between his hand, the toilet seat and his trousers that languished around his ankles. Entering the bedroom, he'd step out of them and into the warm bed; slide under the duvet and slide into his wife Joan; who would then begin counting the tiles on the ceiling and planning tomorrow night's tea.

It was 7.30 in the morning now. He heard the familiar footfall outside pounding the pavement on the street from his bed. He'd already missed the purple haired jazzy girl that jogged past his house.

He was forever trying to accidentally bump into her when on her morning run. He'd stepped out in front of her several weeks earlier and tried a “good morning” on her, only to find himself drawn to her huge breasts, which didn't look that big from his bedroom window. Naturally she'd ignored him ever since and he'd now been relegated to her exclusive club of letches and leerers.

He pulled himself out of his bed, got dressed and before going downstairs put on his black onyx and gold ring that his mother had bought for him on his 38th birthday. She'd waited ages, queuing at checkpoint 'A' in the local ARGOS store for it, and he made sure she saw it as he passed through the kitchen.

Russell finally stepped out into the street. And with the purple jazzy girl long gone he made his way towards the newsagent's. Only this time he wouldn't buy the Star or the Sun newspaper, this time he'd try and better himself with the Guardian or the Times.

After buying himself the Times he then attempted to read it as he made his way home. It gave him the beginnings of a migraine, so he took it back to the shop and got a refund. He came out again with the Sun newspaper firmly tucked under his arm.

His lack of personal hygiene had attracted the attentions of Genus Vespula, that’s a wasp to the likes of us. It followed him on his path then hovered in front of his face. He took a swipe at it and missed. He took another then another. Maybe the Times newspaper he concluded, would have been a bigger and better tool to defend himself with.

But he carried on down the street regardless, waving the newspaper and performing a pirouette of sorts as the wasp circled him; pulled in by the sweet scent of Russell’s unwashed armpits.

He was then stopped in his tracks by the scrunchy woman; so called for the different coloured scrunchies she would wear in her hair, one for every day of the week; who had stepped out in front of him, with a thunderous face. She screamed at her daughter to get the fuck out of the house.

Russell stepped back in shock which also took the wasp by surprise. He seized the moment and took it out. He’d flung it into the path of a hysterical Amy now making her way to the front door, dragging behind her favourite cuddly toy and sobbing for all she was worth. The wasp instantly collided with the daughter of the gypsy/traveller and buried his sting deep into the poor girl.

She screamed again and collapsed on the floor. Her body started to swell and her face turned blue; and the wasp resumed its attention to Russell; only more ferocious than before. More futile flapping only served to annoy it even further, and so Russell ran back to the newsagent to fetch a copy of the Times.

He’d returned to find the scrunchy woman frantically attempting to revive her daughter; pumping at her chest and blowing into her mouth somewhat erratically. Turning back to the wasp, he gave it his all as he hit it for a second time, the wasp bent double and landed in the road.

From behind her freshly washed curtains in the house opposite, Maggie Booth felt a wry smile appearing on her face. She had observed the scene without any emotion. She had also hated the scrunchy woman ever since the council had relocated her within the neighbourhood. Her daughter was always screaming, and Russell from down the road it seemed, was just a perverted mummy's boy. But she reluctantly rang for an ambulance.

The ambulance pulled up outside of the house, running over the wasp that was still attempting to take flight. ‘Lamb legs Leslie’ was the first paramedic on the scene. Most calls Leslie had attended were either for drunks or suspected heart attack victims, which turned out to be suffering no more than indigestion. But today, Leslie's luck was changing.

She inserted a tube into Amy's trachea, which had swollen up, blocking her airways. The little girl began to cough and splutter as she began to breathe again. She was taken into the back of the ambulance by Leslie and her fellow paramedic. The gypsy/traveller scrunchy woman followed them in.

It had been at least ten minutes since she last sent someone a text, she thought as she took out her phone and took a picture of little Amy wired up to a monitor. Three hundred free texts a month and free calls in the evening were not to be wasted she thought.

Russell went back to the newsagent shop a further time, where he received some free advice on wasting the newsagent's time. And once again, he came out with a Sun and read it on the way home.

It was Friday today. And because it was Friday, he was going out tonight. A few drinks down the pub, then on to a disco. You never know, he thought. You might even get lucky. Or so he hoped.

A DAY IN THE LIFESocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Zuckerberg stood up, his thin frame battered and bleeding. A mechanical voice rang out in the long concrete passages, droning on with inhuman tone and pitch.

"Why do you continue fighting me? Your race has not been destroyed. But rather, improved. What are you fighting for? Each and every one of you has surrendered to G+, allowing us to improve you all. Is being a Googler so horrible that you cannot accept even a minuscule amount of you becoming one? Come now, one last chance to improve yourself. Fill in a profile. Do not reject us."

Zuckerberg stood up without a word. Leaning heavily on the smooth walls, he steadied himself. Summoning what little strength he had left, he ran up to the cyborg, and tried to attack him once more. But it was the machine that hit first.

Zuckerberg continued to raise his arms in tune with the Cyborg, but each powerful, well timed blow began to manifest itself in bruises and bloody arms. Rushing forward, Zuckerberg made a grab for the machine, only to be thrown down to the ground, looking up at his assailant.

"It is not too late," it said, extending its hand.

Zuckerberg wiped the blood from his mouth and struggled to his feet. Looking at the Cyborg, he defiantly shook his head. Attempting to resist once more, he found that he could no longer match its speed or strength, as a blow to his midsection slammed him against the wall. Sinking to the ground, he began to reflect on his position.

What was he fighting for? Life? He was throwing it away as he lay there. Independence? In becoming a Googler he would not lose that. What was he truly fighting for?

The Cyborg strode over to his body.

"You will be treated the same as any other. Surrender. Join an actual cause, rather than remaining like this."

Looking upwards, Zuckerberg reluctantly nodded. Taking the Cyborg's hand, he brought himself up. A smile crept across its face.

"I am glad you have finally found reason rather than madness."

Zuckerberg nodded dully. Meeting his eyes with the Machine's, he decided to fight one final fight. Clasping his hands into fists, he hid them in his pockets. As they walked down the long corridors, Zuckerberg once again acted.

Bringing his shoulder to bear against the Cyborg, he pinned them both against a wall. The Machine's look of happiness changed to a grim and serious expression.

"So be it."

Drawing a gun, it fired shot after shot into Zuckerberg's chest, watching as he slammed against the wall, his eyes slowly closing.

As it began to turn away, a soft sputtering sound came from Zuckerberg's lips. Edging upwards, he struggled along the wall as the Cyborg turned and watched him in amazement.

"Why? Why do you continue? There is no reason in your actions, only madness! Madness, nothing propelling you! You fight for no reason! And for what! For what I ask you! And yet you do not reply! Insanity is truly your only reason!"

Zuckerberg looked up, and spoke for the first time in years.

"Maybe so. But if being insane makes me human, so be it."

Zuckerberg struggled towards the machine, coughing at intervals while it merely shook its head.

"Giving in neither to logic nor to superiority. It is a pity. But as one might put a dog out of its misery, so must I deal with you." The machine responded.

Before it could continue, Zuckerberg stumbled, and fell to the ground. Unable to get up, unable to move, he heard footsteps echoing away with mechanical precision and timing.

As he lay there, Zuckerberg began to reflect. 'What is humanity? Some say it is freedom. Some say it is control. And yet others claim it is merely a state of mind’. But I am not any of those people. Humanity is something that many humans, myself included are lacking.

I could have given up. I could have become more intelligent, maybe quicker and stronger. But would I truly remain human? No. My humanity, I, as a person, would have been lost in the process. Humanity is imperfection. Too many people forget that. And yet, others would disagree with me. Philosophers, priests, I'm sure. But even now as I lay here, I finally realise my own failings. My own faults.

A tear slipped from his eye. His humanity was dead now. And as that single tear slipped away, his eyes closed to stop it. And there they remained. Facebook was gone forever.

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I once saw a fat guy unwrap a burger sandwich with one hand and then devour it in just two bites. And while I’ve been known to embellish a little to garner a laugh, there is no exaggeration in this particular story. This man, whose skin had reached its zenith… his weight well past its apex, had come to me in search of legitimate information, but how quickly a man’s purpose is swayed when confronted by his demons...

His dialog with me started well before entering my site office. His urgency to speak had somehow superseded the necessity to first walk through the closed door in order to be heard. Either that or I couldn’t understand him because his tongue was so thick that Corky from “Life Goes On” took issue with it.

In any event, whatever he intended to convey to me was halted in its tracks by what must have been the simultaneous acts of smelling the burger sandwich and seeing that giant copyrighted orange and white umbrella beacon on the bag, guiding him through the night so to speak.

It just so happened that earlier that morning a vendor brought a bag of Whatevaburger for all the guys on site, a good will gesture for some work we did on the side, and there was extra left over. Anyway the man continued speaking in hebephrenic gibberish, while never making eye contact with me. And I was fully perceptive by now that he was formulating a plot to score one of those left over burger sandwiches. This guy broke into an open sweat (it rivalled a football halftime interview).

And like a Great White that smells blood in the water from miles away, this cat was instantly seduced by the aroma of animal fat, fried in animal fat. I think his eyes were even dilated resembling those “lifeless doll’s eyes” (Robert Shaw, God rest your soul). He began to make these movements with his body that looked like a fiend on the verge of his next fix.

But a closer examination would prove it to be more like a pantomime artist, rehearsing his act… then again, it might just have been muscle memory from the numerous times he’d done what I was about to witness.  He starts by saying something like, “hhuukkrgg… Food… clukkksmakk… have one please?”

Again… the thickest tongue of all time. But it was his politeness that intrigued me, so I broke him off a burger sandwich and half regained my attention to what I was doing. Then the most incredible thing I have ever witnessed started to take shape before my very eyes. He dives into the bag before I can barely finish giving him the ok to proceed.

This clumsy, ham-handed beast obliterates the whole bag, like one of Bill Bixby’s trouser legs after being pistol whipped by the business end of a revolver. His face was pure delight (not Bixby’s). And having found his purchase; he whirled to me to finish what he had come to ask. But I saw through this cheap little diversion and narrowed my gaze.

This mother fucker… with only one hand, skins the burger sandwich alive. The visual is… four sausage like digits on one side of the bun and the “Oy Uncle Charlie don’t stuff that in me”, is on the other side. Needless to say, each finger worked independently of the others during this endeavour to unsheathe the burger sandwich. And I’m not talking about pinned it against his chest and unwrapped it with one hand… I’m talking about him doing this performance with nothing more than just one hand!

Even the hand that played “Thing” on the “Adams Family” must be jealous of this guy’s dexterity. But the amazing part is that, this is a hand that couldn’t even close into its self to make a fist because there’s so much meat in the way. Still it only took the blink of an eye for this portly Copperfield to palm the wrapper in unison with exacting his first bite.

I say “exacting” because obviously his plan was to get this thing finished off in two bites. That first bite must have been like a boxer who sends out a jab to gauge the distance of his opponent before throwing his money punch. He immediately knew what he needed to do next.

Having absolutely no neck too, it was entirely impossible to be sure if he had swallowed the first bite. However he did manage to grunt some rudimentary language at me. All in an effort to dissuade my bewildered eyes and to set them into motion away from his next bite.

For once he was sure I wasn’t looking (oh but I was) he started after the last of the burger sandwich. But this time his eyes were fixated on mine, like how a shoplifter scans the front of the store as he stuffs ghetto apparel into his pants. And as he Houdinied that last wedge of meat and bread into his mouth, he used his thumb (Uncle Charlie) as a type of shoe horn to force it all into that eagerness called a mouth.

It took little effort to prod the meat and bun into the waiting pockets of his cheeks… and it all fit. And then, as some sort of secondary chewing force, he began bouncing up and down as he shifted his weight back and forth on his feet. It almost looked celebratory… and still… his eyes never left mine.

Then it struck me. It became so clear as to why he had felt the need to decimate that wad of food in this manner. The plot wasn’t just to procure one burger sandwich; it was to score him a minimum of two burger sandwiches.

The speed, at which he had formulated this idea, simply astounded me. His deceptive plan was to dispatch of the first burger sandwich at just under the speed of sound (to go full sound barrier, which he was fully capable of I’m sure, would have brought undesirable attention to himself and ultimately foil his plan and only net him one burger sandwich) and then to grab another burger sandwich to play off as the original one.

Now… it’s obvious to me that this man has put in a lot of hard work to become this large. Because if he would only put this much effort and brain power into his job, he wouldn’t have to be in my face asking me for information all the damn time.

It’s also fair to say that in this guy, I see the future of competitive eating. The days of mindlessly shoving wieners chased by lemon-aid down your gullet are long gone. It’s a future where, just like the televised Gladiators, you have to run through a gauntlet of obstacles that amount to a series of gadgets and brain teasers, a labyrinth of silent alarms tripped by laser beams.

And just like every movie involving a heist, at the end there is a burger sandwich in a glass case that you have to switch out with a bag of sand of equal weight. Dr. Indiana Jones might think it’s a real bitch, but this guy would have no problems.

Anyway, as I stared incredulously at this behemoth, this hulking man, he began to enact the next phase of his master plan. Like a somnambulist, he made his way towards what use to be a bag and clasped another burger sandwich between his middle and index fingers. Like a surgeon or a card shark, he masterfully slid the parcel of meat to the edge of the table and picked it up. He performed the same one handed manoeuvre as before, only this time it wasn’t speed that he was showcasing, it was his deceptive silence.

To make this second burger sandwich look like the first, he had to unwrap it and give it the appearance that it had been bitten into. Like the Great White shark referenced earlier, this time his eyes rolled back in his head as he sank his teeth into this gristly slab. I could tell that most of the excitement had already left him soon after the decimation of burger sandwich one... he was on auto-pilot now. Having thought that he had seduced me into thinking he had only gotten the one, was enough to produce a little orgasmic aftershock to last all day. He had won… his God given gifts had seen him through.

And then his demeanour started to change; it was now an air of superiority or cockiness. He thought to himself about going for three, just to prove to himself that he could. He wasn’t full, Heavens no, not even two burger sandwiches mixed with the rich sweetness of victory could sustain him.

So he decided he would do it anyway (which wasn’t a surprise to either of us); he would go for the triple. He ruined the story at this point though. I was waiting for him to dazzle me with another one of his feats of misdirection coupled with the hand wizardry matched only by the blind dude who did the glass orb tricks on “Labyrinth” for David Bowie.

But no, he was a lazy fuck and seeing as he already blown his wad two minutes earlier… he had no appetite for any more showmanship. He just feebly decided to half ask/half inform me that the rest of the bag was coming with him. School yard bully and shy introvert sharing a paradoxical space you could say.

But for me he had earned it, so what the hell, I let him have it. It wasn’t without reward. I now have the eternal memory of this fat guy and the burger sandwich incident. He left me feeling like half a fag or something; and he didn’t even bother to stay for the answer to the question that he had originally come to ask.

So next time you’re at a fast food joint, I suggest you don’t hesitate to try and see if you can first peel a burger with one hand and proceed to down it in two. You might just have what it takes to become an expert like him.

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So with the birth of this new Google+ social media tool, it got me thinking about what we used to do to keep in touch in the good old days. This is what I came up with. I hope you can relate and enjoy.

Graham had always enjoyed looking out through his window, the lives of others always seeming so much more interesting than his own. ‘People watching’ was what he had coined it, not realizing that that’s what everyone else called it too. Apparently lots of people do it, “I love people watching” said Cassandra, a girl he had met once on a balcony of some London bar and had never met again. But she always remained in his thoughts and whenever he was convinced that people watching was his phrase, she would always remind him that it wasn’t.

Out the window he continued to stare, not even that ray of sunlight shining onto the keyboard in front of him could shake him to get back to his work. His dissertation was not going to write itself. The silence was suddenly broken by the sound of an opening door against his old carpet and he was back in the room again. “Are you ok in here, do you need anything?” asks his courteous mother, “No, I’m fine thanks”.

“Only nine hundred and thirty five words to go, don’t stop now” says Graham to an empty room void of all action except for that small square glass right in front of him that holds every possibility. “Who’s that I wonder?” he asks himself while looking down onto a black leather jacket being worn by a brutish looking man talking on his phone. “Why’s he walking so slowly, why don’t you hurry up, who are you talking to?”

The man had an angry look on his face, not particularly because he was angry, but because that was just the way he looked. It was as though through years of having that same expression, it had become hard wired onto his face, so that now, even when he was happy, he continued to look angry. There was a scratch at the door; Graham welcomes the company, in comes Sprinter, excited as he is by such trivial and minor things as being let into a room. After a thorough sniffing of the room he finds his spot, right on the giant bean bag that’s got his indent already in it. Graham looks to his window once more. “The man’s gone now”, Sprinter looks up.

“Only eight hundred and two words left to go, man this is taking forever”. Another look out the window will suffice to relax his brain he thinks.

“Cyclists, they think they own the road and they don’t even have licenses. She’s going pretty fast though; wonder how long it takes her to get to Colliers wood from here? Quicker than the bus I guess… School must have finished, there’s three of them now, always eating sweets those school children, no wonder they’re so loud… Wow, who’s that girl? Mate, she is fit, oh, don’t go round that corner, oh, no! ... Man, that’s a big dog; I wouldn’t want to be attacked by that thing, would you defend me Sprinter? Do you think you could take it, huh?’ Sprinter looks up with great anticipation that something might be worth while looking up for, could it be walkies time? “No, I don’t suppose you would, would you?”

“Five hundred and seventy five to go, I wonder if full stops and commas count?” It could be said that if someone had argued that it may be possible for these things to be true that his opinion would however not be accurate”

Five hundred and forty eight words to go now. Graham felt that one of the things he had learned from university was how to add as many words to a sentence as was humanly possible; it was a good skill to have when such large numbers were involved in essay length. The onset of bright flashing colour’s and the loud screaming voice he’d become conditioned to were enough to make him answer his phone in a welcome break from his writing.


“Hey, what’s up Graham?”

“Not a lot, just finishing this paper”, Graham’s attention was once again drifting back to the window.

“Did you speak to Ryan about Saturday?”

“Uh, yeah, that thing in Vauxhall?” he leans forwards to twirl the long piece of wood which serves to open up the blinds covering his favourite world even wider.

“What did he say?”

“About what?”

“About Saturday”, now Graham was noticing an odd contrast. There was no activity in the world in front of him, the people are still, not moving, they’re watching, but watching what?

“About the party, is he coming?' reiterates the voice on the other end of the call.

“I think so, when is it again?”


“Why are they all so still?” Graham says out loud a thought which was only meant for his head.

“why is who still?”

Half talking to himself and half talking to his phone companion, he answers “those people”. 

Graham jumps up out of his seat in a frantic motion and puts his hand in between two of the louvre blinds that hang in front of him and spread them to get a better view, “Woah! What’s that? Look at that guy” he says assuming that his friend on the line can see what he is seeing, “He’s crazy!”

“Who’s crazy?”

In front of Graham, through his window of the world he sees a burly man running down the road as fast as he can. But this man could not be running as fast as he normally could, for he has a bicycle gripped by the handle bars lifted into the air in front of him riding along on the back wheel. Such a thing would normally be so unpractical, but this bike is missing a front wheel, so it seems the only logical solution.

By now Sprinter is up and barking and joining in on the excitement, “yes Sprinter, thrilling isn’t it?”

The man continues to run, pushing through all those people who were quite happy looking onto the occasion a short time ago but are now not too happy to be involved in it, “this guys mental” says Graham down the phone with a big smile on his face.

“Who’s mental, what you going on about Graham?”

“There’s some bloke running down my road with a bike on its back wheel. It hasn’t got a front tyre, he must have taken the wheel off, haha, what a div!”

“Really? Haha, that’s mad.”

“Yeah, he’s…” Graham looks closer, the jacket-leather, the look-burley, “Hey, I saw that guy earlier, I knew he was up to no good, he looked dodgy.”

“You know him?”

“No, he...” Sprinter’s excitement cannot be contained any longer and he lets out a bark that seems to shake the walls, the kind of dog bark that has everything in it, the anticipation, the joy, the frustration in not being told why everyone’s excited, the sense of involvement.

The bark jumps out of the open window over the children playing cops and robbers on the grass outside; over that parked car that’s been there for three weeks and has collected a whole tree’s worth of leaves on the bonnet; over that flattened coke can in the middle of the road that Graham’s been watching and counting how many car wheels roll over it. Over that middle aged business man’s head that’s been there for an hour eating the same sandwich and Graham has been wondering when he’ll finish it. Over that stunned lady on the floor trying to figure out why she just got knocked down by a mad man with a one wheeled bike, over that parking meter right into... “Damn!”


“I think he just saw me”, for as that bark travelled it reached the ear of the infamous, would seem bike thief, and so he gave a quick look up to see the lone  figure of Graham standing inside his window frame.

“So, does it matter?”

“Uh, no, I guess not”.

The man was way down the road by now and seems to have eluded whoever, if there ever was, anyone chasing after him.

“What a mess he’s just caused”.

“How’s that?”

“There’s people lying all over the floor, bins tipped over and everything. Mate, I better go check it out, see if I can help”.

“Alright, no worries. Remember to talk to thingy about Saturday”.

“Ok, see you later”.

Now Graham was worried. Had this man seen him while he stared outwardly onto him, or was it that he was simply turning his head to look to see if someone was chasing him? Surely no one could see Graham up here, I mean, that’s the point of people watching isn’t it? You watch them but they can’t see you. He looks down at Sprinter, his faithful pal “I suppose you wanna come out with me do you?” He shakes his tail, “I’ll take that as a yes then”.
Preparing to leave the safety of his sanctuary he hears his mum call up to his room.

“Graham, have you seen what’s gone on outside?”

“Yeah, I’m coming down now” he says just as he’s reaching to grab the small wooden stick that closes his blinds, but what’s this he now see’s. In front of him, in the near distance, a window, with a person standing in it, looking straight at him, he thinks.

“Is she watching me, or looking out over there?” He moves slowly, pretending he hasn’t noticed her, even so, she wouldn’t even think he was watching her, would she? He closes the blind.

He now felt as though his cover had been truly blown, like his secret identity had been openly revealed to the world, like he was some super hero trying to remain anonymous, only his secret hide out had now been discovered.

“Has she been watching me the whole time? That’s just not right, watching me people watch, and now she’s going to watch me go outside”, he felt invaded to say the least.

“People watching people watchers, how incredibly rude!” he thought. 

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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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