Friday Night

Mad dogs with guns and a brown-eyed hooker that goes by the name of Crazy Sue.

The sun bronzes the western sky and an inky blue seeps across the eastern horizon.

A calamitous noise from the bar, whisky soaked vocals drowning out any semblance of pleasantness and zero chance of meeting anyone with aspirations of total moral virtue.

The black tarmac shimmers with heat.

Eyes like billiard balls roll about in her sockets, aglow and askew. She collects her skirt from the top of her knees and dances an impromptu dance along the kerb, stepping up and out of the road in time. Her curled top lip is an invitation and a provocation.

The dastardly rasping chanteur is drowned out by a nonsensical and rhythmic repeating boom, muffled by the shuffling windows. A drum-beat ticks.

His shirt is stained, streaked diagonally with liquid. He lights a white cigarette and stares down the street at the golden sun, sucking the warm smoke in to his lungs. The cushion of smoke hides his face, he pauses, and then moves.

The angels are leading the sailors to their doom. The sailors just chalk off the signboards on the way.

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Interview with a Shakespeare

We secured an interview from beyond the grave with Harriet Shakespeare, William’s mother. She speaks candidly to about stockings, travel and cholera.

Interview by Paul.

What’s it like to have given birth to the most famous writer in living history?

Apart from the birth being a pretty gruesome and painful affair (laughs) it’s a tremendous burden, really. I mean, I used to be able to go to Lidl’s without getting bothered at all, but these days all everybody wants to talk about is the unbridled literary genius of my son. I can’t even go in to the centre of Stratford (Harriet’s home town, Stratford-upon-Avon) these days without being bothered by American tourists, which is the worst part. I can handle the Japanese, they are just so polite, but it’s the brashness of the Americans that really irks. I remember back when William was a boy and America hadn’t even been discovered. Life seemed so much simpler back then. Nowadays I travel further afield; I’m enjoying Dorking at the minute.

What was William like as a child?

He was adorable, but very mischievous. I would leave the bread out to prove of a morning before getting it in the oven, to hang up our clothes to dry, or wash some bits in the river, and it was only when I removed the bread from the oven that I realised that Bill had taken his chance and carved ‘TWAT’ or some other angular swearword in to the top of the bread with a knife! He never could stop writing!

Can you remember when he first displayed an ambition to be a writer?

Not as a definitive moment, no. I think it was more of an organic development of this insatiable urge to write and keep on writing. It probably started in earnest when he started writing letters to the girls he was courting. I think he probably realised it was very rewarding for him, and he had a burgeoning talent for it – so he just went for it. He also would regularly write letters to the Stratford Chronicle complaining about immigration in the area. Not many people know this, but Bill really was quite the racist.

Enough about your son, what about you?

I’m feeling really fulfilled at the minute, my personal life and career are really blossoming. Thanks to the recent increase in interest in Zombies and the undead in popular culture, it’s been really fruitful for me to possess my largely decomposed corpse and do tours around Warwickshire. Students and Metal fans seem to be a big market for this type of thing, although you’d be surprised at the varied sorts of people that book me! I’ve also just started going out with the ghost of Roy Orbison, and that’s really exciting, but early days. He’s really sweet though, and I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning it.

Tell me about your new book ‘Harriet: Conduit for Genius’

Ah, yes, the book. It’s an autobiography and the guy who did Phil Tufnell’s is helping me with this. He’s really nice and as soon as I read Tuffers’ autobiography I knew I had the right man. I tried for a few centuries to write my own biography, but sometimes you don’t appreciate how hard it can be to be incorporeal, and maintain the sort of discipline necessary to actually complete a book. The book goes through my early life and tries to pin down the reason why my womb was the perfect breeding ground for William to turn in to the man he did. I share my pregnancy diet, so other women can have the best shot at having a one-in-a-billion genius for a son. The diet can’t come with any guarantees, but I would be surprised if it didn’t at least give them a good chance of getting good grades in English Literature and Language at A-Level. And then we talk a little bit about William’s teenage years, how he would sit in his room listening to ‘Bullet for my Valentine’ and how he would re-write the lyrics in the form of an Iambic Pentameter and share it with his girlfriends. Later the book goes in to some detail about my middle aged crisis, where I dumped William’s father and ran off with the local purveyor of pickled lamb meat. Sounds fairly dull nowadays, but let me tell you, at the time it was completely wild! (blushes) I feel really self-conscious about how exposing the whole process was, but I think it has really helped me develop as a deceased human being. It’s another side of the whole William Shakespeare story, as well, so hopefully people will appreciate that – and not judge me too harshly.

Thanks for your time, Harriet, when can we expect to see the book hit the shelves?

Thanks! It’s a real pleasure to talk to you. I’m an intrepid reader of, so it’s a real honour. The book is due to be released in November 2011, and I will be doing some book signing sessions in the Midlands around the end of November, so keep an eye out at the local Waterstone’s.


Harriet’s book ‘Harriet: Conduit for Genius’ hits the bookshelves (available hardback)  21st November 2011.

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I never had a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or a Super NES Console.  I did, however, own a Nintendo Gameboy at some point.  I followed that up with a Nintendo 64 and finally a Nintendo Wii.  I also (somewhere) own a Nintendo DS, the first model, not one of these 3D ones – Nintendo 3DS.  I decided, if I wanted to look at things in 3D, I’d turn away from the viewscreen and soak up the real world.  If I wanted to watch something that looked like it was ‘coming at me’ I’d get my girlfriend to throw things at my face.  The joys of binocular vision.  Literal items coming at you at speed is a far more invigorating experience than the impression that a paper thin cardboard cut out looking Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio is about to slap you in the face.

I have never understood the appeal of 3D.  It has been tried in the past, it didn’t work then, why should it work now?  The first attempts at flogging this gimmick involved colourful glasses that gave you an impression of an extra dimension that you live in anyway.  You are, and were being charged for something that is free all around you!  The latter day version is very similar, it’s just the glasses now make you look like Roy Orbison rather than a dyslexic.

Now you may comment that this is the same as adding sound to films, films started off without sound and now they have sound.  That is utter, utter, bollocks.  Shut the fuck up.  Now.  The addition of sound added far more than contrived depth that only really works when the credits are rolling.  All it does is to make half brained simpletons maul out into thin-air, encouraging them to behave like massive, giggling twats in an attempt to protect their worthless heads from a ‘Directed By’ chinning.

All this gimmickry, all these idiots, all this wasted research and development and all this propoganda and advertising.  No one, surely, wants to pay for this?  From here, it looks like it is being forced upon us.  The cynic in me says the cinemas are struggling for our money, so they see this as a last ditch effort to sway people into their theatres with the promise of ‘the 3rd dimension’.  You must pay the extra to watch the 3D version, otherwise you will be laughed at by your peers.  2D is for poor people!  This can’t be the next generation in visual entertainment?  Maybe there will be no escape with all this money being thrown into this overrated shaggy dog story, what do we do and how do we escape?  There must be something that wasn’t hatched in the 50’s (guess) that needed rebranding.

This is all just an opinion.  My opinion.  I have yet to be convinced by anyone or any involvement in 3D to accept it as any good and a worthwhile addition to the viewing experience.  A lack of imaginiation has led someone to think “oooh, how about 3D? we haven’t tried that in the last 20 years?”  This man/woman/troll needs gutting with a pair of sugar tongs.  I hate you 3D man and your re-idea.  Come up with something new.  “How about smell-o-vision?”  Oh, fuck away you shit-witted oink.

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An Englishman’s home is his castle. Or so they say. Of the available definitions for castle (source: I am (personally) mostly taken by ‘A strongly fortified, permanently garrisoned stronghold’.

In this regard an Englishman’s home is not literally his castle. Mores the pity. Had the course of the British Empire run ever so slightly more successfully and the whole world was run by moustachioed buffoons with stiff upper lips and resplendent paunches, the above, however, could be a true statement.

Had the Brits maintained an economic stranglehold on all the lesser nations, if Victoria was still alive today, it could have happened.

The issues with modern life could be seen as one of expectations amongst the population. It’s not what we have or haven’t got, it’s what society tells us we do and do not want.

With this in mind, if my British ancestors had sufficient foresight and skill, successful and broad application of social engineering could have made us the rulers of the globe. Whoever taught the working class that a factory accident was a bad thing are the real enemies in all this. If we could have kept everyone else expectations low, we would have been fine.

I mean, of course we could start letting those from the Northern Towns and Scotland in on the joke – after they had built us a few ships, and enough yards of cotton for the sails – but once we can outsource this to some of our other lands, we would be sorted.

Imagine it, Yorkshireman sitting alongside a Lancastrian, being tended to by Indians and Africans – perhaps even the Dutch. If we had successfully convinced our subjects of the righteousness of the Empire and the perils of sitting alone, we could be the worshipped – a higher class. The glory-smattered subjects under a higher kind of human.

And united with our underlings, we would have swept all up amongst us.

You see it yet? My imagined modern life involves everyone but a Brit being subject to a lesser economic wellbeing. 5 billion people working to create goods and food and weapons for the 50 million or so Brits, who can subsequently afford to maintain private armies in heavily fortified living accommodation. Such a beautiful thought.

But if this hypothetical social engineering exercise was a success, why would we need private armies and huge steel walls and complicated digital access codes on all our gates?

Of course, most Western politicians and social engineers are actively trying to maintain this absurd imbalance. They keep the rich as wealthy as they need to be, and they keep the poor far richer than most of the world. And most of the rest of the world sit beneath us all, making shoes, growing coca plants and stitching footballs. And every person’s expectations more or less in line.

What’s the point in all this? Will China take us all over?

It’s not about sitting in our fortified homes pouring boiling pitch off our roofs – wouldn’t it be better if we took our castles apart, brick by brick, and built roads to all our neighbours? With a bit of luck they’ll meet us half way.

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I was 12ish, me and my family I had an Amiga 500 (not 500+, not 600, and certainly not 1200), Xenon had been played to death and Menace just got impossible.  I was impatient!  Gaming was far more creative back in the early 90’s.  Developers didn’t have the technology available to them to create massive MMO’s, or sandbox style GTA games.  They relied on their ‘imagination’.  Whatever that is…

This leads me on to Electronic Arts and Bullfrog.  Remember Populous?  What a game.  Never completed it, didn’t really care, played it for years (and incidentally is now out on for $5.99, whatever that is in her majesties currency – a bargain!).  I don’t want to talk about that, groundbreaking as it was, I want to talk about one of their hidden gems that, apparently, and much to my surprise was a box office flop.  Flood.  What a cornucopia of unbridled irreverence this game turned out to be.  I stumbled across a copy of this via my cousin who used to procure illegitmete copies of Amiga games via his science teacher.  Anyway, the protagonist of this game is a green amorphous character called ‘Quiffy’ (I had to look that up on Wikipedia, his name) and you lived in the sewer.  Your task was to escape through the flooding sewer you lived in collecting ‘trash’ as you go along, defending yourself with an assortment of weaponry.

The graphics were quirky and comic.  The settings were excellent and well drawn (again, in the days of sprites!), colourful and creative.  The sound was the same.  When you picked up any items of trash it made a crunch noise.  In today’s gaming currency of mp3’s and gigabytes of data for each game you’d not be impressed, but given that the individual sound files would be measured in bytes rather than megabytes, I’d say proportionally they were much more pleasing!

Playability on this title was second to none.  Always challenged and always enjoyable, you could walk on the walls and ceilings (I think?), spraying your enemies with fire from any choice of the wide array of weaponry at hand.  Now that last bit was the most memorable bit of this game for me.  You could pick up, throughout each different level, a varying selection of terror weapons.  I’m not going to cheat here so I’ll remember what I can.  There was a flame thrower, grenades, boomerangs and dynamite.  I’ll have to check Wikipedia for any more – turns out there were shurikens as well.  Nice one.  The highlight of the weaponry was the flamethrower – it would appear as if from nowhere, as big as yourself springing forth from you ‘hand’, emitting an enourmous line of flame.  Every now and again, when you tried to pull this weapon out (fnrr fnrr) you would release a rubber chicken instead.  Outstanding.

Now on to the enemies, I can’t really remember these so have reverted, again, to Wikipedia to refresh my memory.  ‘Bulbous-headed Vongs’ apparently, some kind of squid thing that drops further litter for you to clear up.  Bastards.  There was also a giant teddy bear enemy called a ‘Psycho Teddy’.  It had teeth in its gut… one touch from it and you were dead.  Ace.

I don’t like nostalgia much, you only remember the good bit’s of the past usually, but that is just my cynicism.  It was a game that show-cased creativity and wit that seems to be  rationed nowadays.  I suspect you can get a copy of this game along with any Amiga emulator on the internet.  I’m not condoning piracy but have a look anyway.  Now enough of my getting older ‘everything was better in those days’ outburst.  This was a good and memorable game. If you want more details, have a look on Wikipedia.  I’m now going, I have things to do.

Posted in Nostalgia, Vidya Games | 3 Comments

20 sides to every story

I must admit I can’t remember if I ever did use the 20-sided dice correctly whilst playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I knew of a concept of THAC0 which was to be modified by something or other, to decide whether you ‘hit’. But to be brutally honest – all the pen and paper sessions during my youth (and currently the only pen and paper sessions of my life) were generally weighted towards getting the players to level 20 as quickly as possible and then going on to create strongholds and single-handledly vanquish dragons. All in the space of a 6-hour session.


Stefan and Stefanie Stormblade, two human fighters, being rewarded instantly with enough XP to immediately progress to level 20 (I forget the detail – don’t suppose it’s important) and through some chance meeting to gain the complete and utter trust of the ruling Elite of Darokin. Probably via that little collection of villages where the halflings live.


In no time at all the d20 had only really become a means of deciding whether the Orc being attacked would be hit successfully, or in about 5% of cases, his head would be removed from his shoulders. Probably with one of the several vorpal blades found whilst travelling as level 1 greenhorns.


When you are twelve years old (with completely non-serious friends) and you start to get immersed in the magic stemming from the late Monsieur Gygax, you don’t really want to go through the rigmarole of heavy role-playing. I should know, I have eye-witness accounts.

You want to rise from obscurity in the course of the afternoon to be the most feared and trusted warrior in the land. You want to use your spoils of war to build a huge rock stronghold, raise an army, and commission an armada to travel with your sister across the seas to Alphatia.

You order them to bow in front of you as you make landfall, they immediately sense your heroic presence. Perhaps it’s the bag of holding filled to the brim with magical swords, picked earlier that afternoon out of the equipment list in the hardback tomes that sit in the middle of the bedroom floor. Enough treasure to outfit each of your hired arms with a full complement of deliciously savage and arcane weaponry. The dungeon master indulging you without restraint.

And then you dream of taking to the stars, and find someone somewhere to make you a huge wooden butterfly capable of magically exiting the planets gravity well.

Four, six, eight, ten, twelve and that iconic twenty sided dice. The destiny of your character in the rolling and spinning forms, apparently.

But the contract for your fate has already been signed by the conjoined imagination of four small friends.

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Zombies, yeah!

Zombie, zombie, zombie!

Zombie-tastic! Zombie-licious! Zombie-rama! The Zombiemeister! Zombie-riffic!

I do enjoy the presence of zombies in films, be they the tear-arsing sprint bastards on 28 Days Later or the dullfully incompetent and slow brain-eaters in any of Romero’s back catalogue.  The pure animal nature and carnality of them.  Excellent.

What, in essence, is the appeal of a zombie in a film?  They’re mindless, seemingly hopeless and clumsy.  They probably smell too.  Why do people enjoy them? What is their charisma?  I can obviously talk only on a personal level but let’s analyse the facts.  My facts:

1. They’re expendable
I think my this is a good point.  They come in their thousands slaughtered in their thousands.  Gunned down with numerous species of weaponry, mown down by a multitude of vehicles, cut to pieces by a plethora of sharp/mechanised weaponry and burnt to cinders by anything that can produce a flame.  Despite being shells of humans, but humans nonetheless they are killed off in large numbers.  You might even reference genocidal tendancies here, but lets just move to my next point:

2. Emotionless
They are run purely by their animal ego, and insticts, namely hunger.  The thirst for brains is what drives them.  They don’t feel for each other, they don’t feel for their vicitims, they are solely steered by ensuring they are filling their zombie guts with cerebral matter.  Their decision making abilities are purely limited to finding the nearest source of the grey stuff.  Ace.   What else though?

3. Stupidity
They are incredibly stupid.  They walk into things, can’t climb ladders or start a car.  This is often used for comic effect, I mean who doesn’t find a lumbering bloke walking in front of a fast moving car exploding in a shower of blood and innards funny?  No one.  That’s who.  This has, though, been mucked about with to some degree in the ‘post modern’ remakes/new films where the writers/producers/directors feel the need for them to be quicker and smarter.  This, to me, misses the point of the ‘zombie’…  Anyway, next?

4. Relentnesness
They don’t give up.  Like a chimp with an accordian, they won’t go away.  They hang around outside the shopping mall (centre)/house/laboratory you are locked in groaning and just stick it out.  They’re not going anywhere… They just want brain!  This is exacebated by:

5. Sheer numbers
Hundreds and hundreds of them.  Everywhere.  As far as the eye can see.  No matter how many you kill, they will be replaced by the same again!  ‘Killing’ them is futile.  But how do you kill them?  This segways nicely to:

6. They’re bleedin’ difficult to nobble
How do you kill one?  Usually by shooting/chopping it’s head clean off.  You can stab them numerous times in the torso to apparently no effect. I guess you wouldn’t really want to stab them anyway as you’d have to get close, and you wouldn’t want to do that because of:

7. Infection
The zombies themselves inadvertantly pass on their zombie ailment.  If they scratch or bite you, more often than not you will end up being one of them.  How terrible!

So why were zombies invented? I’m sure I heard somewhere they were a metaphor (Romero I think) for something.  Might have been Communism or Consumerism or something, either way it makes sense to me (although the brain is very good at seeing patterns that aren’t there).  They are mindless drones driven by basal emotions.  They are followers with the same mindless aims, in the zombies case brain eating, in the consumers case wanting ‘stuff’.  The Communist representation, I suppose, is them following what they have been told with no obvious individuals.

Whatever the reason for zombies, I’d like to think they were written about and represented in film because of their pure ridiculousness.  They are stooges in a story, there to be slaughtered and laughed at.  They do, however, form excellent props in survival stories.  Imagine the futility of being chased by hundreds of them, no escape despite how slow and cumbersome they are.  You could just shoot and run away.  That wouldn’t make much difference, mind you, since there are another 150 of them round the corner.  Too many to kill, too many to hide from.  It’s cearly the apocolypse isn’t it?  So next time someone says to you a zombie film is shit because “look at them, they’re so slow, why do people always get caught by them in films, they’re idiots!“, look them in the eyes, lay them a punch in the gut and tell them to fuck off for being so ignorant.

Posted in Poppycock, Social | 1 Comment

Kin Ross

Wee Johnathan, with your curly hair –

Your incomplete linguistics.

And Paul, a tool there is no higher –

A face like broken biscuits.


Your shorter than your brother John,

And generally more insipid.

But at least your sycophancy knows it’s bounds

Unlike the yes-boy you grew up with.


In the name of the father and the BBC,

He throws praise about like jelly.

And presumably part of the idea

Is that we suck it all in merrily.


Witness to a funny man

Stroke egos of detached buffoons

Audience avoid thought

Gain unknown pleasure –

Lose soul.


Give me back Paul, the irritating little cunt.

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Camberwick Green

Isn’t that made of people?

Barring confused book/kid’s TV references, what other subjects did I think about as potential blog-mines?  “Daft Punk” was one, maybe the first, I wasn’t really keeping track.  Absoloutley no lifespan in that one, gave up straight away.  “Horse and cart” was another one, let’s call it the next thought.  The setting out on this particular ‘creative journey’ started with a horse and a cart (obviously) escalating to rag and bone men followed by an M1-esque diversion to something along the lines of that scene from “Young Frankenstein” with the Werewolf joke (there-wolf).  I ended it there, I think this particular story-gay’s leg’s had been hobbled a couple of minces in…

Other titles had travelled through my conciousness.   Some kids saying “innit” and stuff kicked their way into my sentience.  I tried to write something in a middle class tone concerning a 14 year old kid from north London wearing a cap at an angle quoting Busta Rhymes and/or Will Smith, or whoever else is famous to the yoof nowadays.  It involved words like “mutha” and “dontcha”.  That ain’t… I mean ‘isn’t’ going to work, plus anyway, it has been done far too many times to be worthwhile.  I’m not that linguistically agile or creative enough to write a whole piece in a colloquial tounge I have no knowledge, appreciation and understanding of.  I tried to use it when describing what I intended up there, and even I’m thinking ‘patronising twat…’  Just to further add a nail to this lexicographical coffin, the title for this was to be “Me and me crew”.  Jesus.

“Dave and the Seaguls”.  Now that one has legs.  That one could take many a route on the story train.  A musical group?  A lad who’s best friends were seabirds? A girl, who’s name was Dave and was a member of a gang of girl’s with boy’s names called “The Seaguls”.  It is endless.  Change the person, change the definition of “The Seaguls” and you have a plethora of stories to dig away at.  I might use that one later.

To cut a short story long, I couldn’t think of anything to write about.  I was scraping the bottom of the barrel.  What I did choose was my favourite title and first line that I imagined today.  It made me titter to myself (rightly or wrongly) so I stuck with it and went from there.  I was going to bang on about other things that were made of people but couldn’t be bothered.  I’m happy with it as it is, it made me smile for a few seconds.  If you want Booker Prize stuff then go somewhere else.  Go on, I’ve had enough of you people judging me.  It’s my writing anyway, fuck off.  Go on, fuck off?!

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Paul and Shark

The roughened skin allowed him to carve an elegant path through the chilly waters, tail batting gently to propel his lumpen frame of grey-coated flesh along the huge tunnel of shifting water. This jetstream would take him all the way to Acupulco, if he wanted, but that wasn’t on the cards. Acupulco was a shit-hole. Too much sun-cream clouding the waters.

He was going to Norway. Holy Norway, birth-place of the god-shark, seas as clear as cut-crystal glass (as witnessed whilst perusing a large steel wreck of a human boat three or four hours south of the Greenland coast) and lots of putrid, diseased fish to engorge oneself on. He would have to leave this tunnel soon and head out in to the still waters, up North and around the shallow waters and rocks of the Scottish Hebrides.

Another rather pleasant memory of his came to mind, of being a pup playing around with a rather boisterous crab called Eirik. If he remembered correctly, Eirik was Norwegian himself, but with his youth he lacked the education and the finesse to properly appreciate what a finely bred crustacean he had been spending his time with. Thinking on to his intermediate destination – he remembered the time well.

They played a game where he would swim very fast at Eirik, situated with his head and the front part of his body popping out of a small hole in the green rocky sea-bed. This tunnel seemed to be just the right size for his shelled frame. His claws would be in the air. How amusing – he thought, those spiny, mottled claws as clear as if they were in front of him now.

He would open his mouth as wide as it would go, almost dislocating his jaw but the harder he tried to open his mouth the greater the feeling of pain – and joy – in the straining of the joint. His teeth must have been pointing straight forward – a ridiculous notion now, but in his previous naiveté wholly probable.

His jaw opened wider and swimming through the water got harder, Eirik would disappear back in to the hole at the last minute, trying to nick his skin with his claws as he rushed past.

Such abandon, so free, as they repeated this simple act over and over. Of course, Eirik’s relatively gentle claws couldn’t make a scratch on the sharks young, supple skin, and the times he did touch him – so ineffectively – only served to make the whole escapade funnier.

Poor Eirik, he thought. It all went wrong when his claw got lodged in some teeth and his arm was torn off. He remember the shock, although at the time his mother assured it would grow back.

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