Monday, 26 December 2011

Parthenogenesis - FridayFlash

In certain Latin countries, fathers take their sons to visit a prostitute to confirm the age of majority upon them. Probably a smut too far as far as British sensibilities are concerned, but I can render you the next best ministration. So, given what’s good for the gander is good for the gosling, this is what I’d consider doing for you. When you’re a bit older of course. I’m wagering you’ll like this and that you’ll concede your old man does boast some worthwhile merit after all. Bearing in mind you’re currently such a fan of wrestling, we'll move you on to a different form of burlesque. I can hardly contain the secret, but in time it will be all the more special.


My Best Man had procured an exotic stripper for my stag night. A self-impaler, a woman who inserted all sorts of found objects into her fundament. I think one can venture the kind of objects that are around, when men congregate in a boozing establishment such as our rugby club bar. Bottles, matchboxes, packets of pork scratchings, ketchup and pickle sachets, beer mats, pool balls, cue chalks, a cribbage board (sans spilikin pegs), a neglected shots glass (occasioning an impromptu heated discussion between us over its state of hygiene), ice cubes (which failed to rematerialise), ice tongs and the ubiquitous cigars beloved of lubricious American presidents.

All manner of aides de pleasure that help us rub along in the drinking environment were douched. With the steam arising consequently from us. Only to re-emerge and avidly get passed around and inhaled at. Or licked. The re-entry was truly tantalising and had us all teetering on tenterhooks. This was us at base camp, tracking our sherpas and pathfinders as they disappear into crevasses and over the edge. Dangling out of sight on their swinging lifelines, only to reappear triumphantly and intact at the summit, unfurling the glistening ensign of survival. Of conquest. Of colonisation.

And though many of our party at the conclusion of the act, wheedled and importuned with their tip notes to try and be granted exclusive mining rights, all of them were rebuffed with a winning smile and simultaneous fierce nostril flare. Sort of akin to her ability to swivel either breast in contrary directions, as analogued by the whipping nipple tassels. This woman had coaxed all our tongues to loll out along the ground and then proceeded to catwalk up and down their length with her stilettos.

Male hopes and fantasies so spiked, yet she remained a topic of fantastical reconstruction among us long after my wedding (effectively meaning that I had to start from the pit lane once I returned home from the honeymoon). The fabulous configurations we composed for the contents of her act, had us debating long through the night. All around us lay cues, humble mnemonics, quotidian bar optics. Yet we could barely bring ourselves to believe in the truth of these objects, in the veracity of their testimony, now outlined in the dim light truncating their solid depth. I know I haven’t played pool at the club since that evening.

And then a chance for verification. For polishing up the dreamy vision into super-sharp clarity. To wipe clear the smearing that our blurred reminiscences had conferred. Fly-Half fly boy Matty had come by a public appearance from her at a pub, in which she had a residency. Matty, like me, wanted the chance for a double take. To rectify the refraction, of eyes made watery, for pile-driving through their own aqueous humours in the press to sprawl out at the end of their stalks. I wasn’t the only one of our squad Matty asked along, but I was the only one to take up his offer. Presumably the lone musketeer not to run it up the flagpole with the wife. To my mind it can’t possibly be deemed unfaithfulness if I don’t actually do anything transgressive? Same thing Amsterdam’s Red Light district, can hardly avoid having a gander, but you still don’t have to drop off any Euros down there. Look but don’t touch should be the presiding guideline. Twice does not make a propensity. Yes the figment becomes a stitch more solidified, touched up with some detailed brushstrokes. Fixed and set more in the mind, but not to any lasting consequence. On closer inspection, she was not to persist in my faculty, as a succubus draining fealty. She would not come to represent an aide de memoire to anything beyond the marital pale. This was to be no more than scratching an itch. Lancing a boil. Laying to rest of an apparition. A one time only show. A penicillin thunderclap of reality.

And you know what? I was correct in my supposition. Upheld in my belief that it closed the book, or the sesame in this case. There were to be no local objects de pub taking up residency during her residency. For seemed she had built up a loyal and devoted following. Each invited to bring along sundry items from their familial homes for her to suction. Every patron opened up their secret hearth to offer her up a gift. An oblation. A fetish to their intimately untouched inamorata. A little desirous piece of each. How they envisioned themselves. The nub into which they abbreviated themselves.

Accordingly she encapsulated their physical beings. Enshrouded their puissance, then rebirthed it. She anointed their motifs. More lingam than eucharist. She had them eating out of the palm of her hand. Or rather she ate up what they delivered up off their palms and then handed it back to them consecrated. I imagined them at home. Ransacking their knickknacks in search of something with the right dimensions. Or conducting a forensic search for the same. Nothing too asperous nor whetted, since these are reverential votaries. I pondered on their precise choice of object. What made them plump for the snow globe, the poker chips, the bottle with miniature ship inside, the spectacles case, the referee’s whistle (no notes emitted), the nutcrackers (irony intended? - didn’t seem that sort of crowd). Enthralled and in thrall.

What would my object of choice have been?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Rebarbative Me - Friday Flash

I have spent a tender lifetime trying to efface myself. To purge the bovine features of my father that have conferred their genetic tyranny upon me. I may bear his loathsome visage, but none of the violence that leaches from his pores and creases every time the skin blazons his disgust.

Yet that same genetic despotism ensured I could no longer continue to shrink my presence from him, once I no longer folded into the nooks and niches under tables and in cupboards. The serpentine lash of his strop unerringly bit the small of my back and rump. Places where I could never apprise myself of the lacerating damage wrought there. Physical pain wasn't visual. Psychic pain was ineffably so. Triggered at the mere sight of him. At the vision of a slightly grizzled version of myself.

To compensate, as soon as I was able, I started to grow a beard. Praying that the bristles would be tensile enough to bury my flesh from sight (having had no modelling from my father who religiously shaved everyday, whetting his razors on the dread strop. And for those hairs adhering to me after a beating, like tiny porcupine quills to prolong the scourging).

My solitary daily ritual, far removed from any ablutions, was to raise my hand to my fluff and gauge its overnight growth. For I could not bring myself to consult a mirror. Partly for fear of the hair betraying me with its feebleness, but also because I might have to engage with my eyes. And see the defeat indelibly etched there. The melding of his sadism with my masochism, I must be heaping it all upon myself right?

But the follicles proved fecund and strong. In time they occluded both me and presumably my father from my features. He of course fulminated against the beard, but he had grown sick and weak, while my transformation only seemed to embolden me. I left home for a place without mirrors. Mirrors mirror only isolation. That and duality.

I was out of his immediate clutches, but I could build no kind of life for myself. I could never look people in the face. I could scarce lift my chin from my sternum. As if the skin there was made of velcro.

However today I have made the decision for the beard to come off. To celebrate news of my father's death and my possible rebirth. I went out and purchased a small round mirror that pivoted on a stand. It resembled a squashed globe.

I laboriously cut the hair with scissors until it lent itself to razor shearing. I was thrown when my face was completely eclipsed beneath a snowdrift of shaving foam. I stared at such wonderful inchoateness for ages, until the chemicals in the cream started stinging my flesh beneath.

I started ploughing, barely able to fix my face in the tilted concavity of the mirror. The white layer stained red in places. Yet more effacement.

But gradually, the alluvium bristles were swept away and the contours of my cheeks emerged. I peered hard at the tiny mirror, barely able to frame me as I leaned right into its purlieu. With difficulty, I looked into the doppelganger's sightless eyes. It wasn't my father, but then nor was it anyone I knew either.

Does the butterfly that metamorphoses from the imago of the grub have any connection to it other than what lies within its genes?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

12 Angry Men (or 11 and 1 woman)

Pop music soundtracks all moods. The celebratory and the rousing as you punch the air in syncopation, or the downcast and the blues as you mope in your bedroom with the curtains drawn.

Then they are angry songs. It's not just the usual suspects of punks and rappers either. Who of these dozen in your view is the angriest?

1) Marianne Faithfull - "Why D'Ya Do It?"
A ditty composed for her betrayal between the sheets by Mick Jagger. Pulls no punches. Trouble is, I'm guessing Mick is flattered by it. Still, great lyrics and wonderful rancorous delivery.
2) The Bug (featuring Tippa Irie) - "Angry"
The man who puts the 'ire' back in "Irie". I don't know, the singer of "Hello Darling" isn't someone you naturally associate with vexation, but he sounds proper miffed here. Respec' to The Bug for teasing it out of him.
3) The Jam - "Mr Clean"
This one sneaks up on you as Paul Weller's flat nasals build up a portrait of a drab suburbanite, before unleashing his class bile on such a lifestyle. From the 1978 "All Mod Cons" album which was full of vitriol, before Weller himself sunk into the bourgeois smugness that was The Style Council. The impetuosity of youth eh? I prefer to remember him this way.
4) Ice Cube - "We Had To Tear This Mother Up"
Rodney King, LA Riots, nuff said. Cube declares war on the LAPD. Hard to reconcile with the Cube who acts in Hollywood family friendly movies of today.
5) Discharge - "Fight Back"
Can't decide if they were angry or just had a sore throat.
6) Nick Cave - "Scum"
Cave's usual cheery Gothic demeanour and delivery here are replaced with a song that sounds like it's sung with real feeling. I like the way he clears his throat of spittle to open up the song. A touch of class.
7) Swans - "Time Is Money Bastard"
Are you listening bankers> All Swans songs were pretty damned brutal. This is actually quite poppy. But Michale Gira sounds pi**ed off alright.
8) John Holt - "Police In Helicopter"
This one goes up to 11 when it comes to anger. It's not his voice, in which you hear the adamantine resolution, just the simple formula of an eye for an eye.
9) Dead Kennedys - "Moral Majority"
I love the slow build satire of this, before lapsing into swearing and middle fingering at the target of rage. Ah, they don't breed 'em like this any more
10) Husker Du - "Broken Home, Broken Heart"
Bob Mold gives it everything and sounds pretty irritated to say the least. A fine and much missed band.
11) Linton Kwesi Johnson - "Sonny's Lettah"
Police brutality delivered in an icy cold heat, showing that it's not all about screaming at full lung capacity.
12) Crass - "How Does It Feel (To Be The Mother Of A Thousand Dead)?"
Anarcho-punks quite angry shock. I probably wouldn't include this song, other than it got banned for being unpatriotic about the Falklands' War. It's an odd structure with the female vocal section sort of fading out to be replaced by Steve Ignorant's trademark guttural snarl.

So there you have ladies and gentlemen of the Jukebox Jury. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the angriest of them all?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dad What Did You Do In The War?

Why nothing of course son.

Merely through the circumstance of being born in the UK in the second half of the twentieth century. A country free from invasion, aerial bombardment and which maintains only a professional army rather than a conscripted one, augmented by weekend soldiers who also only did so voluntarily.

Mind you, having said that, British armed forces have been involved in bloody conflict every single year since the end of World War Two, save a handful.

Yet, while never having been exposed to a battlefield, war has still exerted a distant recoil on me.

The community I grew up in was concerned with the Middle East. I remember my parents donating blood to help the Israeli war effort during the Yom Kippur war in 1973. After that war our family housed injured Israeli soldiers for a holiday in Britain. Our first was a conscript who's war lasted 20 minutes until his tank was hit by a new hand-held anti-tank weapon supplied to Egypt by the Soviet Union. He'd suffered severe burns and bore skin grafts all over his body.

And yet even at whatever tender age I was then, I couldn't buy into the mythology of the Middle East's goodies and baddies as I was supposed to. I think I just wanted to keep my head below the parapet, since I knew I couldn't voice any dissenting opinion within a community that was fervently parochial. Also, I was a bit more struck with a war occurring on my doorstep, relatively low level as it may have been.

Images on television of armoured cars, soldiers in camo with automatic rifles, patrolling eerily familiar streets, with the same makes of cars bearing the same number plates and obeying the same road signs as existed just outside my window. Northern Ireland always seemed way more relevant to my life, than Middle East colonial wars by proxy between the US & the USSR. Northern Ireland really, really troubled me for the familiarity of its settings, and this was way before I was aware that occasionally it did actually spill over on to my London streets. And yet no one, save the Republicans, talked of it as a war. It bothered the hell out of me every day, even if it didn't seem to bother anyone else in mainland Britain (outside of Glasgow).

The same thing happened with the Falklands Conflict. Not a war mind, but a conflict, due to the legal nicety that the UK hadn't declared war on Argentina and had no stated intention of invading the mainland (which would have scaled it up to a war). I remember throwing darts at the dartboard in my bedroom thinking that 6000 miles away, my country was fighting a war and yet the birds outside were singing, the cars were driving past. Everything seemed normal and undisturbed. It felt completely schizoid. I couldn't make sense of the detachment all around. The lack of televised coverage made that far away war seem even more remote.

I became politicised by the war that never happened. The third world war and mutually assured nuclear destruction. That's where I did a lot of reading and conversing and formed my world view. It was when I really turned my gaze outward from my domestic realm of school and play. Around the same time was the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia falling to the invading Vietnamese. I had been dimly aware of the Vietnam War, but I hadn't elected to invest my interest in it despite the bombardment of Hollywood movies on the subject. But the Cambodian situation, perhaps because it was so extreme, I very much did. It seared itself into me and I still religiously read any gobbet of information on that period even today. It took me 30 years to write my fictional response "1979 Gothic" to that horrendous period of history. Why did Cambodia move me and yet the wars of the Middle East, Israel and Palestine, not so much? I have no idea.

I assume there are some people who invest energy in opposing or at least taking an interest in following every single war. I'm not one of them. But I'm struck by the fact that I'll be moved by some wars but not others. Am I any different form the global media, who beat the drum for some wars, while others burn away virtually unreported.

This year, two of the best books I've read - and bear in mind I favour fiction over non-fiction- have been written by two men either side of the Russia-Checheyna conflict- sorry WARs- from the 1990s. Again, wars I was dimly aware of but unmoved by in the sense that I didn't follow them. And yet here, 15 years on I pick up 2 books by combatants in those wars and am utterly swept up (can't say blown away) by them. The first was Nicolai Lillin's "Free Fall", quite simply the best book from a battlefield I have ever read. One that updates the scene from the plethora of Vietnam memoirs, to account for the infinitely more destructive power of weapons and moves us resolutely into the 21st century. It was a dirty war, becoming elided with the global War on Terror as the Russian Federation claimed it was fighting Al Qaeda and Islamic Fundamentalists within its own borders. The other book may not even be non-fiction at all, so mesmerising and hallucinatory is German Sadulaev's book "I Am A Chechen". In truth it doesn't focus all that much on the war, but gives the contrary view of a minority culture struggling to assert its own identity. But it packs no less a punch for all that.

Again, apart from my happenstance of coming by these books, I am curious as to why now, a decade after the end of those particular wars, these books suddenly come into the light of the market. Both were published within the last year. Before that was it too soon? Not for an English-speaking audience unlikely to have had any personal stake in that conflict. Maybe it took that time to throw off the PTSD, for the combatants to rebuild their lives enough (and in exile) to feel able to write. I don't know, but the book market decided somewhere along the line that 2010-11 was the time to look back at this war. We had a spate of African child soldier books a few years back, but commercially that bird now seems to have flown. Wonder which war will be thrown up next for the literary market?

So my thoughts on all of this are just, well conflicted. Yes we make money from misery, but I am unsure as to how and why we decide on which wars to patronise (myself included). I'm glad those books have come out. They certainly had an impact on me. And yet they are unlikely to change anything of course, for all their brilliance. Wars will still be fought. Populations on the outside will still shake their heads at the misery and awfulness of them. They may even donate money to help refugees. And future generations may or may not be influenced by observing such wars being covered by the media.

Dad, what did I do in the war? Nothing son. Other than the privileged freedom of getting utterly confused and not having to pay for my ignorance.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Speak To The Monkey Not The Organ Grinder - Friday Flash

As with the rest of the species, I was to discover ones parents were capital betrayers.

For they were to spoon feed me the cod liver snake oil of language. The viral broadcasts of talk Radio Malt. The contagious pathogens of linguistic wheat germ. Antibody inoculations against self.

The inheritance conferred post-natally, rather than at the cessation of their own lives. The baby reins that shackle us our whole lives.

It commenced sat at my mother's knee. Insidiously. The incandescent glow in her face- her maternal pride before my imminent fall- a fleshy interrogator's beam blinding me. Effacing all my features, save for my mouth. Freud's psychosexual developmental continuum, freezing at the initial oral stage.

Mincing and dicing her own words into gobbet sounds. Mummy bird regurgitating the syllable boluses and spitting them into my mouth. Coated in her indelible mucus. All the while I still clamoured for the pulpy plasma emitted by the teat. But jabbed in my face now, was only the solid heft of language etched on the labial contortions of her moon-face. Duty eclipsing love.

Apparently it no longer sufficed for me to smile, blow raspberry bubbles nor catenate saliva strings of unadulterated joy. Now I must append clarifying sounds for such emotions. Ghee whizz.

Every day mother takes me through my facial calisthenics. To coax the pink fleshy worm from its lair in the floor of my mouth. To start waggling and perform a dance of the seven veils as it exposes my inner being, plastic and unformed as it is. Therefore it is what my mother tells me it is. The intravenous word stock she salts away under my skin.

Now that I am a fatted calf chock full of lexemes, she addresses me differently. Dice becomes splice, as I have to string them together like amino acid chains. Any avoidance of syntax is met with a scowling sin tax demand, rigidly posted on her visage. She will countenance no deviation.

So now I'm sat there bouncing up and down on her lap- no, since I am being armed with this depleted expressive ordnance let's wield it with laser precision shall we- I'm jouncing on her lap. Parading before house callers (not to be confused with bingo callers calling "House"). Each ruffled my hair or pinched my cheek as inspection, eliciting a forced/natural (depending on the pressure imparted to their gambit) performing monkey smile from organ grounded me.

As each well-wisher approached, I could feel mother's shaped breath parting my downy hair from behind as she went over my head. Sotto voce family lore delivered on each and every one of them. Their unimpeachable blood relationship to me, underscored with her tone indicating her judgement on their moral values and behaviour. I believe I only wanted to go with my own impressions, the moisture of their hands, the lingering dab of their fingers, the unmodulated pronouncement of their grip on me. But her cadences overrode every thought I might muster. They coloured each gladhandler's touch, so that caress could be turned into pinch just by her envenoming word.

While she layered the domestic realm with monochromal spite, my father took me out into the world and immediately shrunk any expanded horizons to be derived there.

We would go for walks and he would point at the clouds and name the object shaped therein. A veritable bestiary of terrifying giant creatures in spectral white. He would pounce on flowers, inform me of their poetic, lyrical names, before trepanning them as he plucked them from their coddling soil. Back home he revealed to me his collection of butterflies, each delicately staked out with a brutal, unseen pin on to a cork. To be named is to be tagged and labelled. To be held still and lifeless in place so as to uphold the name. No sliding off into grey areas of the inchoate. Purity and therefore no danger.

Nouns therefore seemed wholly pernicious to me. Stultifying, static, strangling. But my muscles developed and my body began to inhabit verbs. Father couldn't just march me hither and thither through suburbia's green killing fields. I demanded to exercise my rights, wrongs and scraped knees on the playground obstacle course. All he had to do was sit down on the bench and let me run free. He relented, albeit with a corrosive parting shot. He named the bloody apparatuses. The slide, the see-saw, the climbing frame and the roundabout. Cunning devil had ginned me. All my physical surety drained from my body.

It may have been his enunciation of the word 'swing'. My favourite playground activity as I was wont to push myself to ever vertiginous heights. And yet I had also been sternly counselled against swinging my arms when walking, a most unladylike motion. In the realm of the domestic I'd been forewarned against swinging on the furniture, "like monkeys in the arboreal". Father had painted me a picture of frightening men sat on the benches quaffing from tin cans, whom he advised me would inevitably be taking swings at each other with their fists, such was the countermanding control exerted by the "demon drink" (alcohol was always diabolic, inhibition and self-restraint divine). He had further clotted up my ears on a previous occasion about swing votes in elections, demonstrating the lack of constancy and muddied thinking of "the great unwashed".

Then there was its near cousin "spring", rhyming but no more poetic in his throttling epiglottis. An even more terrifyingly promiscuous word with a welter of inferences. Spring was first and foremost the season associated with maximal tutelage as he laid bare Nature's pullulation (sans birds and bees causality). The season when father most definitely had a spring in his strident step. Then there was the spring mechanism for the rusty rocking frog in the playground, that has since been removed by Health and Safety, for fear of being a death trap. Traps waiting to be sprung. Gaol breaks springing dangerous criminals from their incarceration. A springing leap for freedom as he demonstrates his spring heels to stay out of the clutches of law and order. Mother's blessed spring clean. Springing up, springing forth, springing back in recoil. Springing for someone as you steadfastly refuse to change your nationality to Dutch. Springing a leak, like porous language itself, unable to hold meaning through its riddled apertures. Springing from the source, in this case the primordial soup of obfuscation.

With such a variety of meaning, it appears that context is all. But I want to flow free, like a babbling brook. I don't desire word lumps and slabs to be sewn blocking up my bed. Damming and channelling the course of the flux.

But parents are the organ grinders and we the children, their dancing monkeys.

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Brief Note On Identity

In the parochial world of man, I have a fair idea of who I am.

Aware of the helical stock where I hail from

I can trace the atavism and their heritable avatars

The lineaments which inscribe the lines of my face

The flushes, freckles and wrinkled folds of my skin

Well versed in my ethnicity, nationality, creed and culture

Their heritable language and those idiosyncratic flourishes of my own

I know who I like and like what I know

I'm informed whence my creativity and how it unfolds

I'm alert to my foes, vexatious or merely nettling

I'm cognisant where the moral voices in my head come from

While I'm also on first name terms with the delusional ones

I'm acquainted with my aspirations, ambitions and appetites

My drives and their inhibitors, my phobias even to their irrationality

My blindspots and prejudices and the adjustments I make

My fantasies, my attractions, my lusts and their objects

I apprehend my body's taints and physical failings

Possessing a map of how it will further unwind in time

Yet what I remain unenlightened to, is the identity of Man himself

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Why I'm Not Pre-occupied with the Occupy Protest

A protest against the iniquities of capitalism? Count me in ...

Only I hate camping, come out in hives when near religious institutions and well UK Occupy have got their tactics wrong haven't they?

The biggest problem is there is little they can offer up about their protest other than an ill-defined disgruntlement. Though they have garnered lots of media coverage, little of it engages with their purpose and few media outlets seem that interested in trying.

Already the counter-reformation has led to media obsessions with tents being revealed as uninhabited at night, through the use of (battlefield?) infra-red cameras and questioning whether office commuters are being tripped up on the way to work in the City in the morning. The agenda is being shunted into obscure sidings. Also, if you propound the lack of leaders and spokespersons as an organisational and political strength, it does make it hard to convey your viewpoint on serious TV news programmes.

The assembly of people under canvas say that they are debating and discussing ideas. Now this strikes me as a generational thing, because I have all my arguments against capitalism long marshalled over the years. (I've written fictional books to prove it!)But it's true that pace Thatcher and merrily continued by Blair and Brown, there has been a decreasing public space for debate among the demos, as collective and social institutions are eroded (libraries anyone?) and the Executive agglomerates more and more power to itself so that Prime Ministers can take the country into openly unpopular wars.

There really is nothing new under the sun, either about capitalism's opprobrium, or the lack of any credible economic system of organisation to replace it. There has been no new political or economic thought since John Maynard Keynes. Even the radical free marketers espousing Milton Friedman in the 1980s, were only rehashing John Bright And William Cobden's nineteenth century credo. Movements like UK Uncut and Occupy display wonderful creative organisational energy in the nature of their protest, but are completely stumped for offering up alternative systems to replace that which they're protesting.

If you were going to be both rigorous and spectacular with your approach to protest, then maybe rather than occupy a cathedral's walkup space and hit the concessions kiosk takings, maybe construct a simulacrum of the Houses Of Parliament and hold a genuine discussion of politics and constitution, which in the British case is actually to figure out what our 'invisible' constitution actually is and set it down and make it accessible for all. Symbolic and practical resistance and protest all in one. So far the only casualties of the protest have been some clergymen, as the Anglican Church is further rent down the middle by the spasming twitch of its radical rump suddenly getting a jolt. This from an institution beset by strife over gender and sexuality among its own priesthood.

But in fact we don't even need this symbolic form of protest I believe, since the means for change have already been laid, somewhat unwittingly by government themselves. Before I go on to suggest what this might be, I do commend the sentiment behind Occupy of talking and debating those areas of politics and finance that the worlds of Politics and Finance don't want us to discuss and have effectively kept us in the dark about these past 30 years. For me, a crucial precursor involves a politicisation and an education of the electorate and such debates and discussions, if there is an upswell, can only help contribute to such a process. (Hence Occupy can only be termed successful if people are inspired to go and raise these issues in their Parish councils and WI meetings and the like).

I think the government have opened up a whole can of worms with their online petitions and plebiscites. We've already had the disclosure of the details behind the Hillsborough disaster finally after 22 years of suppression of information, because the public managed to get sufficient numbers of signatures online to force the issue. There ought to come a time when people realise that rather than sign up in order to have the Parliamentary talking shop discuss a particular issue, we the people are perfectly capable of discussing it for ourselves and voting online, without recourse to craven representatives doing it on our behalf and defanging anything remotely threatening to the status quo. The will of the people directly transmitted to the Civil Service who would then expedite our actual needs.

Of course the politicians may look to withdraw online democracy if it proves too menacing to their livelihoods, but the genie is out the bottle on that one and any attempt to deny us service will make them appear as craven as Mubarek's attempts to hold on to power. And yes not every household has access to online technology (didn't Gordon Brown promise every household would be digitised by 2012 and not just its television services?). And no doubt there can be fraud and technological jerrymandering, but hey there are enough rotten boroughs up and down the realm already extant.

The two greatest barriers to this bloodless revolution, are our own will, (not grasping the nettle out of timidity or deference) AND our paucity of political education and awareness of the issues and a lack of commitment to take responsibility and get to understand the affairs of government - self-government in this case. So I do salute the faint stirrings of public debate offered by Occupy, even if they seem to be starting from a very low base. But only if such a will to debate and discuss and exchange ideas grows countrywide, can it possibly lead anywhere. But oh my, how radical a destination could it take us to?

with thanks to Alex Butterworth,Bibi van der Zee, Ted Vallance and Dan Hind for panel discussion hosted by Little Atoms that helped me order my thoughts above

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Reifi Fy Fo Thumb - Friday Flash

Geneticist 23:XLVI The people muttered, gnashed teeth and shook their heads and fists heavenwards at the absentee godhead. For he was yet to resurface from his siesta taken after day 6 of initial toil (a state much like death itself really). They cursed he who had seemingly abandoned his children.

Exodontics UL1 People had prostrated themselves afore the overseer sun in adoration and awe. Making his people toil under his searing whip-handed stringencies. The cooly detached adjutant moon too, had followers to the end of the earth. The storms and tempestuous winds at sea had led sailors and island races to worship vaporous sovereigns of the Main, yet their divine afflatus remained will o' the wispy. Sacred cows and their golden calf kine. Minerva and her owl, Bastet and her kitties. Pan and his ruttish kids offspringing hither and thither, causing him to be painted as the troublemaking very devil himself (there goes the neighbourhood). A veritable bestiary of divinities, but none which could come up to scratch and deliver any further miraculous creation. Nor cast sufficient a scoping eye over the realm of the earth they were supposedly charged with superintending.

LeviStubbs 4:Tops Yet man still managed to fructify and produce. He expanded and colonised. The chances of any singular beady eye having wide enough focal depth and peripheral vision to encompass the range of the species, was growing progressively less likely.

Hummers Hum:V And veritably the people threw off the reified halter they had yoked themselves under. Nietzsche beseecher what need of they for any numinous foreman? Their technology was untrammelled. It could lead them like the polestar to the outer reaches of the cosmos with their click-clack camera shutters. Their virtual reality modelling software encompassed all possible future creations and imaginings.

DueToMetronomy 00:00 Until they reified even that over and above themselves too. More laser eye than lazy eye, the Argus eyed satellites became the new elevated spy in the sky. Zooming and swooping down on their roads, their homes. Through their keyboards and personal phones. And thus did mankind plunge itself back into the realm of the Greek Gods. Capricious game players and serial sexual predators, all to yield up juicy tittle-tattle to lubricate their gossip glands. So that our major achievements withered on the grapevine, surfeited under the welter of prying and prurience

Revelation 3:IV Google Earth came to collect on his dominion. The beadiest peeper of all.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Ice Breakers

Yesterday I attended an all-day set of workshops run by the really rather fabulous 26 Characters organisation, who look to produce fresh fructification by bringing writers, designers and other creatives together. Their opening publication "26 letters: Illuminating The Alphabet" was the work that launched my interest in typography and design within novel texts.

At yesterday's "Wordstock" event, they made the valid observation that at such gatherings, people tend to cohere around the people they already know and to this end they produced a menu to go with lunch that listed 26 topics of conversation to break the ice between strangers and asked that we didn't talk to people we already knew, but made new introductions.

I thought it was a reasonable idea in itself, but when i saw the questions I was convinced by their boldness that they ought to do the job rather nicely!

I'm reproducing the questions here, with my answers and please feel free to do the same on your blog if you want, but please credit 26 Characters.

1) What will be the most brilliant moment of your career?
I have a career? If life is my career, then I'd quite like to extend it by cheating death
2) Do you look before you leap, or leap before you look?
Well my feet never leave the ground, (I won't fly for example), so I'm unlikely to leap at all. But if we're talking metaphorically, then I guess even though I try and think things through, I'm not averse to the radical swerve and the unpredictable. Ornery aren't I?
3) Is the pen mightier than the sword?
As a writer you'd expect me to say yes of course. But come on, a whetted blade is way more cutting edge than the arts when it comes to effecting behaviour (if not change). Even as a political writer, I do view writing as a bit of long-distance sniping, rather than full frontal engagement when it comes to political action
4) What was the most difficult conversation of your life?
Not sure, but a surprisingly easy one was with my father in a halfway house where he was being readied for a return to society after a serious suicide attempt at checking out of it. He was trying to make sense of his actions and in our conversation I remarked that if he stayed in his unhappy marriage he would be the one to go under and if he left the marriage, then it would fell my mother. Someone was going to suffer, that was just the wretched dynamic as had evolved. It seemed to give him some clarity on the whole thing
5) Describe your dream day...
That's easy, one in which I fill all 24 hours with writing a novel. Someone would have to be on hand to put bite-sized pieces of toast in my mouth for me and break my chocolate into squares. And we'd have to suspend toilet functions for the period of 24 hours and the like. But I just know that Tweetdeck's insistent ping would yank me from full concentration. Seems we are destined to be social creatures rather than anchorites...
6) What's the biggest risk you've ever taken?
Hmmm, I'm not a great risk taker. But I've fairly consistently made some crazy purchasing decisions. I bought my parents' Sony Betamax just as VHS was crushing the life out of it in the market and needless to say I never even got it plugged into my TV. I did similar with some Hi-Fi I was bringing together. Had a fantastic amp, bought a tape deck from a music studio, but never completed the job by buying turntable or speakers. Sold off the two pieces I had for next to nothing. Readers of an earlier blog piece of mine can read about my ludicrous investment in a car before I learned to drive...
7) What don't you want to be doing in five years time?
Working for a living, but that's a dream right?
8) Is normal desirable?
I'm going to have to be really disciplined to not devote a thesis to this question. Let's just stop at NO. What is normal, who is defining it? What percentage of the population does it take to constitute the threshold of normality? Do those outside have the freedom not only to stay outside any such definition, but to criticise and dissect it? Who wants to be normal and fit into an insane society?
9) What would you ask a visitor from outer space?
If I could be his agent and would 15% be agreeable as my cut... Failing that, I'd talk to him about collapsing scale since he'd managed to cross the cosmos
10) What rules do you ignore?
As many as possible, but especially that one that states 'Thou must know what the rules are before you consciously attempt to break them'.
11) Is writing closer to thinking than speaking?
In a really significant way it isn't. Written language is largely formal, linear sentences syntactically constructed. Speech rarely is so. Having said that, my writing attempts to render the thinking mind and presenting simultaneous thoughts, the bombardment of notions, the colouring by emotion etc etc. So my answer is it should be, but largely isn't at least within literature
12) What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?
Even though I don't 'do' Nature, the colours in the Grand Canyon and the sunrise while waking up on a boat approaching Dubrovnik. I find some of Rothko's paintings beautiful too. I do find a certain despairing beauty among ruined/war torn buildings too, but that's just probably me. There are certain sounds in music I find beautiful, but they're kind of hard to portray in words
13) How do you break habitual behaviours?
By not habituating in the first place. And where I do, I probably have a blind spot to the fact that they're habits and therefore am never aware enough to try and change them
14) Is a picture worth a thousand words?
I'm torn on this one. Firstly I detest art works that rely on words to convey and referential meaning, even to the artwork's title. But clearly visual art can convey meanings that words can't, or only through massive over-elaboration. Mind you, I'm an author, so I'll always defend the power of the written word too. I do conceptualise my works in broad terms through things such as abstract, or cubist. All art forms are about ways of seeing after all
15) What emotions do you feel most uncomfortable with?
Another tricky one for me, though not in the 'normal' manner I would credit. My problem is that the emotional lexicon is actually very poorly defined. Both our understanding, our vocabulary, our shading of the emotional spectrum. What is an emotion and what isn't? Is fear an emotion? Is vengeance? So I feel uncomfortable with the whole darn lot of them as we currently conceive of them. To me the happy-sad spectrum of the emoticon range just about sums up the infantile nature of our understanding
16) What was the happiest moment of your life?
Well I hope it is yet to come, or I want a refund... certain ecstatic states dancing & exhausted at gigs, after sporting triumphs, (played at very low level of ability), witnessing certain achievements of my children etc
17) What is the best piece of advice you have given to someone else?
Probably that you can only do what you can do, to pursue the art of the possible and not beat yourself up about what you can't achieve and waste energy doing so. I know it wasn't my father's perennial 'Don't do what I do, do as I say'
18) What did/do you dare not say to your mother or father?
There is nothing that I wouldn't dare, but I would try and couch it in the best possible terms with their wellbeing in mind. But I would never refrain from not airing something
19) What do you fear most?
The lights going out for eternity that is death. It colours everything I do
20) Would you rather be a novel or a poem?
A novel, though not one with monolithic blocks of text. Can I have majuscules? No footnotes though
21) How do you reward yourself?
Either with the quiet inner satisfaction of a task well done, or lashings of chocolate. depends if the shops are shut at the time
22) What organisation would you refuse to work for on ethical grounds?
As a non-believer in the bounteous munificence of the free market, the quodlibets of which corporation is worse than any other is not really something I expend time in ruminating on
23) How would your friends sum up your identity?
A non-believer
24) How would you get away with a murder?
By plotting every last detail. However as I have poor eyesight, am quite clumsy and faint at the sight of blood, I don't believe I'd be much cop at it. Other than that, I could talk someone to death, but only where they had no means of escape
25&26) What is the thing you haven't done yet and why haven't you done it?
Changed the face of literature. Hey it's a marathon not a sprint

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Iago Imago Magoo - Second Campaigner Challenge

The Challenge is:
Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
include the word "imago" in the title
include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!


Mirror mirror on the wall, who's fairest of them all?

Compared to you, I would opine the imago of the miasma-loving fly that emerges from the maggot boring through rancid carrion

Whose vanity table did you adorn originally, Tamerlaine's or Stalin's?

A dreary synchronicity of cruelty, but none that can rival my own waspish tongue

A lacuna in your logic that oscitates so achingly

How so?

A mirror faithfully reflects what it's confronted with does it not? Light and optics and what noptics...


Your glass can tarnish. Your silvered back degrades. Your focal plane slowly unhinged, your vision is not so true after all

A tad less sharply focused, but then I redeem that with the tartness of my verbal judgements

Only, you are limited by the lacuna in your vocabulary

I credit I express myself adequately. Sufficient to cut to humanity's quick

Then a maven such as yourself would know that 'imago' has a further, more modern rendering?

You're aware Freud sniffed cocaine off my vitreous body 'for medical purposes', or so he claimed

I'm more Lacanian. His positing of the 'mirror stage'. So with this big, slobbery osculation, I'm agoin' to attain the ideal form of me

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Written on The Skin - friday Flash

Daphne was born with a strawberry red wheal upon her angelic creamy face. Though a hemangioma unsightly yet harmless, her mint copybook was already blotted for her spotlessly jaundiced mother, who turned her back on her. Blighted in the incubator's hothouse.

In her stead, Ambrose the father struggled might and main, night and day, to rear the baby girl. Yet for all his efforts, the onset of cradle cap appeared to signal that Daphne's diaphanous halo had collapsed under its own flimsy weight and shrivelled to wreathe her crown. Unlike the rash maternal repudiation, Ambrose only gradually withdrew his defeated affection from his reptilian daughter. Signalling the singularly endearing strawberry on her cheek, being sent packing for a promiscuous outbreak of impetigo. To the untrained eye, the weeping scabs looked like herpes longing for the oedipal kiss to cast her back into a princess. The cold saw day in hell that would never be redeemed.

Deprived of human contact, Daphne cuddled up to the pet cat for affection. But for her pains contracted only ringworm, circling her leg like an ancient henge. A monument to perpetual desertion, even by her own recoiling flesh. No kisses under the mistletoe, just the pruritus of poison ivy. Daphne the honeyless sweet pea developed hives.

Hormonal eruption of adolescent acne bubbled and battled with a livid recrudescence of shingles. The tender nodules under her skin raised red raw. She tried to purge the blistering torture by bathing. Scourging the skin with soap. Rubbing, chafing it dry, rather than a soft patting, only further causing the skin to gape wide in fissures and cracks.

She rattled her eczematous abacus beads, counting off her teenage years. Rasping the chalky skin with her nails, scritch-scratching five-bar gates as she worried at the fleshy worry-beads on her arms. The roseola rosary. Her yearning carapace a desiccated river bed thirsting for water. A desquamation mark on her parched desire.

In her stewing loneliness, she reached out for a man. But each occasion she drew close, skin bumps and flakes erupted, shredding her scarfskin and shedding her resolve. The pustulent vesicles formed an archipelago along the roiling sea of her flesh. A catenation of anxiety alternatively submerged and then raised, by the tidal magma of the shifting tectonic plates of ravaging emotion. Inflamed feelings blown off and solidifying into crusts.

She took herself off to dermatologists. Despite a bombardment of salves, ointments and emollients, her skin continued to flare and rage. The hide specialists knew that the protrusions and spherules were caused by the bubbling passions beneath the rind. That there was nothing they could do for her.

And yet, she finally found herself a lover. He was colourblind, suffered from floaters, and had cataracts in both eyes, so her skin afflictions didn't register with him. She still insisted on making love with the lights off however.

Despite her newfound happiness, or perhaps because of it, psoriasis struck her. A folding in of her own skin, like a sheath of self. An immuring just for her man. Sadly he was to unwrap her from herself and she unpeeled herself yet further.

For once her lover's infidelity revealed itself with little guilt flushes in his face, the scales fell from her eyes. They tumbled on to her forearm and coated the flesh like chainmail. That inveterate male itch which demands fingerless lancing, now sprouted across her own forsaken flesh. But her burning tenderness couldn't be lanceted. Her nails like gauntlets, harrowing ridges across her pale wrists. The moraine of pared being, winding serpentine around her inviting arteries.

Time for a different type of unrequited love lettering to be inscribed on her flesh.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Artists and Writers

I think in another life, I would have liked to have been a visual artist or a musician to express my creativity. But I can't draw stickmen, nor hold a note, so I have tried to channel both visual and rhythmic languages into the written word.

But when I meet an artist who is also a writer, then I am always in awe of their twin gifts. Today I interviewed just such a wonderful creative mind in Marita Hansen and tried to get inside what both gifts share and what differentiates them.

Welcome Marita -

Which did you start doing first, art or writing and what led you to take up the second one?
I started art first, then became interested in writing, probably in primary school, but more so in high school. I suppose keeping a diary and writing stories for school is what led me into writing. I also have a couple degrees in Art History, and a shared major in Italian Studies.

Are the initial processes of creating the same for both art sources, how do they differ?
I suppose they are the same in the sense of coming up with an idea. But art is definitely different in that it's very much a physical thing for me, whereas writing is cerebral. I get lost in art, not thinking about anything, just concentrating on getting something physically perfect, just right. And I always need music when I paint, but with writing I don't like distractions. However, I do visualise when I write, imagine how a scene is played out, like in a television drama. That has affected my stories very much, which I think is related to my artistic side.

"To The Point"

Do the two creative pursuits inform one another?
I tend to keep them separate, with the exception of my book covers. Plus, my art is about beauty, whereas my writing is about the harsher side of life. However, they are just different views of realism, because there is both beauty and ugliness in the world.

How do you know something is definitively a story or a painting before you sit down to approach it?
With paintings I get my ideas from photos and photocopies. The image usually catches my attention. With writing it comes organically, while I'm at the computer tapping away. Though, sometimes it may come from exercising or while I'm out and about. For instance, some woman were talking incredibly loud on the bus one day in a different language. From there I got an idea for a fantasy, but as I sat down at the computer the Singapore setting didn't work so I altered it to one of my old neigbourhoods in New Zealand. And suddenly it became realism, totally different from my original idea.

"Military Haka"

How do you see the relationship of the two forms within the body of your work? Do you ever approach something twice, once through art and the other through writing?
I suppose I have done this through creating my own book covers. I did the story then depicted the main bad guy, which I continued for my followup novel (due out in 2012). Plus, I have used specific colours and typography that symbolises both the title and story. The red in "Behind the Hood" relates to the Maori use of this colour, as well as representing blood, while the knife-like "I" relates to Tama's fascination with knives. The typography is also like graffiti, which goes with the story and nature of some of the characters. The blue in the sequel, "Behind the Tears," instead relates to the teardrop tattoos on the bad guy's face, the title, and what happens in the novel. I have also depicted the title as a tattoo, because that character has a number of them.

Do you want to say anything about image in art and image in writing?
Depending on the work, image in art (such as drawing and painting) is largely static and retrospective, whereas image in writing is animated, more alive in the sense that the story is happening right then and there as you read it. However, both art and writing evokes emotional responses, they just do it different ways.

Would you combine the two within one artefact, a novel with your artwork on some of the pages?
As said above, I have done this to a small extent by creating my cover, and I will also draw all the characters so that I can use them in a Youtube video. But inside a novel? Maybe, never say never.

Marita's cover art for her novel "Behind The Hood" available by clicking here (USA) or here (UK)

Wednesday, 31 August 2011


I'd be very grateful if you wonderful guys out there would help me come to a decision what to name my new genre book. I'll list the possible titles and if you could vote your fave in the comment section. At the bottom I'll give a brief blurb as well, so you can actually cast 2 votes, one just on title itself (grab factor) and a second if necessary given the outline of the book.

many thanks

Marc x

The Candidate Titles are as follows:

1) The Third Eye Policeman
2) Cuban Decay
3) Procedural Death
4) The After-Image Man
5) The Sum of The Parts
6) The Death Of Procedure
7) An Eye For An Eye For An Eye
8) Dead To The World

The Blurb:

You can tell a lot about a society by its murderers... Simon Moralee has the gift of decocting the faces of murderers from the last images witnessed by their victims. His clear-up rate is 100%, but such is the dystopic society's slide into predation, how much is his work making any kind of difference? The Police minders assigned to him have nothing to do except cultivate their resentment; for with Simon's advent, all police procedure has become redundant. But when a criminal mastermind with his own psychic talents comes hunting for Simon, a deadly game is joined.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Death Masking Love - Friday Flash

To mark the kindle publication of my collection of flash fiction "52FF", I've reproduced one from the book and which appeared in #fridayflash in December 2010.

She brought the end of her fingers to her mouth and moistened them in her warm saliva. The whorls of her prints glistened in the meagre light of the room. But it wasn't her own outlines she was interested in raising.

His hand lay outstretched in his sleep, palm exposed. She splayed out her fingers so as to graze each pad with his. To seal her contours with his and have them sear into hers. She would not allow that we are each born with our unique stamp woven into our fingertips. The perfect match, that seamless superimposition of one upon the other, must exist. Unfortunately, even in his sleep, his was too broad for her to span with her dainty little hand.

Undaunted, she caressed her index finger downwards and began to trail the creases and wrinkles across his palm. She wasn't a trained chiromancer, yet maintained her own superstitious credo of the significance of the lines. She understood the notions of the heart, the head, the life and fate, each having their own thread. Just she couldn't unravel them to yield the centre of the labyrinth. They refused to give up their runic Braille quite as easily as the digital phrenologists claimed.

Instead the lines offered tiny windows into how sensitively a man used his fingers. Whether the ridges and folds suggested a tendency to a closed fist, a restlessly flexing tension, or a more open-handed receptivity. The portents on this one were good.

Having crisscrossed his hand enough times to make him flinch it reflexively in his sleep, she carried on down the exposed wrist. Veins and arteries picked out against his pale skin. The hair there so fine and blond as to efface itself. Unlike on the reverse side of the forearm, where it flourished like jungle vines. But here, the red and blue lines stood out like a road map. The major trunk routes of pulsing blood and the minor tracks back to the heart. She knew that a wedding band was always on the fourth finger, because people used to believe it to have a vein leading from there all the way to the love muscle itself. With such a mish-mash of venous vermicelli in the wrist, she couldn't be sure how they could have traced it so limpidly. Before the dawn of the anatomists with their scalpels.

There was always something too fragile suggested by the upturned wrist, too vulnerable. So she moved quickly on. She found herself at the elbow and wondered at the change of skin topography. The permanent fold there raised a livid red scale. Yet here was the most symmetrical set of features on the whole skin. There could you witness the cellular architecture of the human body in all its intricacy. Tiny parallelograms, each with a facility to shrivel or stretch, to concertina and overlap their neighbour. The shuffling orchestration was simply divine. She licked the elbow with her tongue in appreciation. It tasted of interrelatedness.


When she woke up, he was gone. He hadn't even extinguished the overhead light, even though it was morning and ribbons of light were streaming through the blinds. Lashing her to the sheets. Seemed like they weren't such a good fit after all.

She stared at the indentations left in his pillow. The case rucked where it had cradled his head, bearing the sunken contours from the downward pressure. More wrinkles and creases, only this time turned inside out. Lacking for the supporting body they served. The vacated lines, the abandoned seams, having opened the quarry of her own body the night before. The death mask of another potential relationship, pressed down with airless finality.

Once, just once, she yearned to wake up and find the smooth impression of a fully-drawn face still lying on the pillow next to hers. Not having to commit the features to her wistful memory, but to be able to revisit them afresh everyday, in the flesh.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Writing Prompts

Story prompts are great aren't they? They can help get the creative juices roiling, maybe even leading to the writing of a flash for Friday publication.

Whether they're the wonderful photos offered up by Icy Sedgewick. Or the word prompts freely offered at Three Word Wednesday or by Lily Childs' Prediction Challenge and others I'm not even aware of. For someone like me who loves riffing off words, what could be better than being tossed 3 words and told to weave a tale from that?

But, I love the frisson from spotting something in my everyday life that sets off a whole chain of associations that may just end up in a story. Something that drags you away from the ordinary and demands you to don your writer face, whether it's convenient then and there or not. That live alchemy, from something equally random as word or picture prompts, but personal to me in how it leaps up and grabs me by the throat. These prompts are not sought after, nor provided with writing in mind. They are everyday details and observations, but one day your mind is just in a place that transforms them from out of the ordinary.The alchemy begins the moment they leap into the imagination and start sparking ideas.

I think they probably speak in the same way as a word or picture prompt, to ideas that are already bumping and boring inside your head awaiting being given birth. But it is perhaps taking them from that context in which you experienced them that adds something a little bit extra, than to say something provided precisely to jolt the writing process.

Today I have released a collection of 52 pieces of my flash fiction on kindle. As part of the fridayflash twitter community, I wrote one a week for a year, bookended by some beforehand as I learned the art and a few afterwards as the impetus wouldn't let me go even after I achieved my goal of 52 in 52. This collection is what I hope are the best 52 of the 70 or so I wrote.

In the appendix I provide the writing prompts for all but the very experimental last 5 in the collection, which were less inspired by prompts and more by the form of language and words themselves. Most prompts were quite ordinary, sights witnessed on the London Underground, or in a supermarket. One was a single word in a review of a book. Some were fundamentally embedded in the heart of the final story, others just helped me tap into long-held ideas and probably provided the skeleton to hang them on. A couple of the stories I couldn't even remember what the prompts were.

Here are those prompts. I hope you find their genesis potentially useful for coming across your own in the rich pageant that is everyday life.

Plato's Cave: Kebab houses from both when I was at University and when I moved back to London afterwards

Caritas: After attending a charity fundraising auction, where there was the prize of being a character in a Booker winner's next novel

Death Masking Love: I've always had a thing about the smoothness of the outside of a death mask and the wrinkles reproduced inside

The Caller To The Bingo Caller's House Calls 'House': After a twitter hashtag punning game, I was struck by the violence of the rhymes for bingo numbers

In The Nursery: After talking to a child psychologist about the use of play in diagnostics

Confessional: During the 2010 General Election campaign and Prime Minister Gordon Brown's gaff when he was caught describing a voter he'd talked to on camera as 'a bigoted old woman'

Captivation: I was writing a novel with a different police interrogation scene and wondered what it would be like if the suspect started withdrawing from drugs

Loss Of Function: From the phrase 'falling in love' and reading Tom McCarthy's book "Remainder" that week

Bowing Out: The image of the bulbs around a mirror in actors' dressing rooms. I don't know why that image came to me that particular week

Totentanz: I spotted the word in a review in a publication which I was only reading because it had a short piece of my own

Digging For Australia: After failing to excite my own children's enthusiasms for beach holidays

Café Sensorium: After reading a review of a restaurant in which you eat in pitch dark and are served by the blind

8 Legged Army: The tarantula is my animal totem (along with the vulture, see below). Reading about an Amazonian tribe and their relationship to the animals of the forest

Badges: I used to collect rock band badges and pin them to a split open T-shirt I never wore. I was also a cub scout of fairly limited proficiency

Cosmologist's Hangover: Thinking back to a monster hangover at University after a day of five garden parties, working my way back to my college rooms from the furthest one away, stopping off at each of the others on the way. Why this came to me when it did I don't know, as I haven't drunk alcohol for many years

Morning Assembly: I can't remember exactly, but this may have been one of those where the story proceeded from its title. Child soldiers have always been an interest since the days of the Khmer Rouge

2 Up, 1 Down: I attended Tom McCarthy interviewing an architect for his semi-fictional Necronautical Society and it, made me consider the everyday home in ways I'd never thought about before

End of The line: Come on gentle reader, admit you scrutinise what your fellow commuters are reading on the train! Something that kindle readers will prevent us from doing in the future, as there is no readily visible cover art

Deadheading: Another commuter train inspired one. A man sat near me reading a book, with two angry looking scabs on his hairless pate

Pigeon English: I can't remember the inspiration for this, but the pidgin/pigeon homophone led to the grounded bird's eye point of view

Trespass: The anxiety abounding about identity theft and credit card fraud, brought together with the internet's affording of crafting yourself a different online personality from your real life one

Cinderella's Crystal Tips: Seeing a woman's metal ring that covered two fingers between the upper and lower knuckles. It looked like a knuckleduster...

Prometheus Northbound: Looking up at map of the Northern Line during yet another interminable journey along it and the fact that during my peripatetic youth I'd temporarily lodged at about half of the places on the map

5 Items Or Less: Queuing up in my local supermarket to pay, the whole thing came to me all of a piece as I spotted a woman with 3 stars tattooed on her foot

Crazy Gulf: Having played a round with my kids, I began to think back to the props for the holes. Why do all such courses have a clown hole?

The Names: Just something about lists constituting a narrative story in themselves

Basic Geometry: Attending a poetry recital, the word 'fuselage' really resonated in my head. Once it rattled against notions of geometry, I had the juxtaposition that lead to the Twin Towers. I wrote this almost whole on the train journey home

Fairground Attraction: Knife throwing as a metaphor for hurling insults meant to wound but not mortally. At some point I hit upon twinning it with the fire swallower and that made it into a married couple

Cysters: A way of exploring our anxieties about death and abandonment, once I'd read about the calcification of an unborn fetus inside the womb

If It Were Thee: I gutted a previous short story written in the second person that had ground to a halt. Not quite sure how I hit upon the cyborg thing, but once I did then it became all about linguistic programming

The Ties That Bind: "Mr and Mrs Smith" really wasn't a terribly good movie was it? I'd always had the idea of a serial killer who invites hit men to kill him as his series. The husband and wife thing helped me realise it here

Bad Apple: We have an apple tree in our garden. Though fecund, we only get to eat about five apples a year for many of the reasons outlined in the story. We are also plagued by urban foxes and had a rat living off the fallen fruit. Uggh!

Hard Time: I can't remember the impetus for this, but I do write about being imprisoned, or held against your will quite often

Lost Sole: I stepped off a bus and saw a lone woman's shoe on the grass verge. It jolts you out of your familiar associations when an everyday object is seen out of its regular context

De-Terence: Not sure how this became wrapped around a bouncer and I know that came before the stripping away of his youthful illusions, but I can only trace the latter to my own experiences

Bittersweet: I liked the image of injecting poison into the soft centre of a chocolate. An object associated with love, used to kill it off

Knell Quaternion: This started from the story of the Indian temple girl dancer-cum-prostitute and then rolled out into being four tales involving bells

Atlas' Daughter Inherits His Round Shoulders: Just wondered what it might be like to be called in to confirm the identity of your dead loved one

The White Elephant's Graveyard: Reading on Wikipedia about the desert resting place of decommissioned military aircraft

Statutory Statuary: Saying goodbye to visiting friends and wondering when exactly to shut the door on them and getting back to a piece of writing that was calling me. Irony was of course, I ended up writing this instead

Lunar Tic: Just something about your body clock being superimposed upon by authority. My chance to spin on the werewolf story

One Billion Virtuosos And Sos: Just considering how any literate person with access to the internet is now a writer

The Forsaken: The view from the raised platform of my local station. Given a considerable literary makeover, it's not that grim!

Dead Ringer: There would have been some news story about a celebrity lookalike that would have really annoyed me. But for the life on me, I can't remember which one. There are so many after all...

Rich Pickings: The vulture is my other animal familiar. I once stared deep into the eyes of one in a zoo and couldn't begin to describe it. Since then I'd always wanted to write a story about vultures and the increasing ubiquity of child soldiers gave me the hook to hang it on

Drying Out: Another story that may have stemmed from its title, that twin meaning of an alcoholic drying out from their addiction and the drying out of the skin as we age

Assassination City: Youth knife murders are reported every month in London