I (sometimes) call myself Mr. Pondersome. I'm a rather wordy, weirdy person. I say hullo a lot. I write a lot more. While you're here, why not give some of it a read?

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 (a.k.a. Some Thoughts on 'F**k 2016')

There's a calendar on the wall. Pages peel off it, it's ink representing the months and the days of a year that no-one can predict nor judge nor prescribe much meaning to.
           There's a finger that keeps pointing at this calendar on the wall. As the pages fall away, things start to happen.
           Time leaves space open for consequence and reaction, allows those who perceive it to create in the blank white box of each day in the grid of each month in the sheaf of a year.
           Create and cause and change. Bold decisions are made, lousy cop-outs occur, births, deaths, naming of life and loss.
           Pictures and words stop being records of the moment and settle into the lengthy discoloured stint of archives.
           The record makers throw up their arms, extend their middle fingers and thoroughly express their displeasure at the calendar.
           It lied to them. It disappointed them. Those black lines on white paper once made sense.
           What a tease. What a cheat. What a rotten development. This year was meant to be a good year, the year on which only good things happened or nothing new happened at all.
           Through opening up to zeitgeist, the calendar made a promise it could not keep.
           The hand that pinned it to the wall, now rips it off. The fingers that smoothed it, tear it to pieces. Money is spent on the next calendar.
           The new year begins. Everybody waits for something to happen as they stumble forth, about their own and the world's business.
           The first day is marked.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

DAUGHTERS OF SANTA (a.k.a. A Timely Exploration of an Awfully Specific Festive Delusion)

            Eliza worked in a Christmas shop, the kind that pops up during the latter days of October and hangs around till the January sales.
            I stepped in for some wrapping paper and received the warmest grin I've ever seen. She exuded the heat of a cup of cocoa.
            She left her counter to assist me. I admitted to her that I was no good at gift wrapping. She offered to teach me.
            We dated for most of November and touched on December. Every time we met she would be wearing the same bright red tights.
            I loved the way there were always bits of tinsel on her seasonal jumpers, silver on green usually. What I didn't love was how twee she got on the countdown to the big day. It was like the twelve days of Christmas except with more exacting standards and a sweet-tempered impatience.        
            'Always heavy baubles at the bottom of the tree,' she used to tell me, 'Pinecones too. And if those ties don't work, don't come crying to me. I already suggested the ones at work but you said no.'
            The Christmas chatter could be cute but it never stopped. Eventually she gave me a black Santa hat with BAH HUMBUG on it.
            Eliza seemed desperate to convince me of some seasonal magic within her. Beforehand she had never really mentioned her parents and I just assumed that it was a touchy subject, but then she started dropping hint after hint about her father. He was fat, jovial, had a big white beard, sang songs, had a sweet way with children.
            'You seriously expect me to believe he's Father Christmas?' I blurted out one day.
            She looked hurt but didn't play this down.
            I asked when it would be possible to meet this great man. She insisted that he was far too busy at the moment but maybe in January. We would have to go out and meet him, of course, he would be dog-tired by then.
            It clearly wasn't a joke, it was a genuine delusion. I felt betrayed, annoyed and a little reckless in how I spoke about it. We had long arguments from the ninth day of Christmas onwards, about my cynicism, her obsession.
            We broke up the week before her father's big workday.

            And that would have been that, just a sad ridiculous tale to tell in pubs with all the other Grinches.
            By October this year I had all but got over Eliza and then I saw a news story on TV. There was a letter writer in Canada claiming to answer children's letters to Santa on her father's behalf. I couldn't let it slide. I went out to Colorado.
            Her name was Bea and she was a little over ten years older than Eliza. She wore frumpy clothing with muted colours but she had the same smile. The exact same inviting open fire grin.
            'I do so love interviews,' Bea told me, 'Though, heaven forbid, it slows down my work.'
            I asked about the letter writing.
            'Dad would so love to get on with it himself but he's a busy fellow obviously.'
            I didn't like her effected speech, it seemed put on to me, something for these interviewers she was supposedly entertaining all the time. I pressed her on the point: did she pick this curious way of speaking from her father?
            'Yes. Santa loves precision in all things. Including language.'
            I asked her if she meant Nicholas. Santa meant Saint and who would refer to their father as that?
            'He's used to have so many names,' Bea replied, 'Incidentally, he loves it when people call him Nick.'
            I asked her if she would be seeing Nick before Christmas?
            'Probably not. He only ever drops off in places during the eve. He usually calls though.'
            Would she mind calling Nick now then?
            Bea gave me a flustered look: 'He'll be busy. He prefers evening calls and doesn't like to talk to strangers.'
            I point out how she said that there is at least one eve when he won't be making the call.
            'Why wouldn't he? There's a lot of space between drop-off points sometimes. He tends to ring then, even on the sleigh.'
            I ask her about her religion. Does she go to church?
            And would she agree that the day is more about Our Lord than one of his more reverent servants?
            'Of course.'
            Then where were the crosses in her office? Why was there only the Saturnalia tree and the Coca Cola red hat? Surely her father wouldn't really wear such a thing, would he?
            Bea folded her arms. 'He wears what he likes. Now would you mind if we talk about my letter-writing?'
            I apologised, asked her how many letters she answered in a day.
            'Somewhere between thirty and forty usually.'
            Did the children ever reply?
            'Frequently, yes.'
            Then didn't she feel horrible about lying to them?
            'I'm not lying, young man. I have my father's permission.'
            That doesn't mean that what you're doing isn't lying. You are actively deceiving children who do not know any better. Most of them seriously believe that they are in correspondence with the real Santa Claus.
            'And they are.'          
            I dispute this.
            'Forgive me for saying,' Bea said, 'But it seems like you don't believe, young man.'
            I admitted to not believing a lot of things but I could believe in a person deliberately misleading youth, prolonging their innocence to the point of arrested development.
            'I think this interview is over, dear,' Bea replied.
            I agreed. I couldn't stand being in the same room as that genial expression any longer. That being said: 'Do you know Eliza?'
            Bea looked bemused.
            'She must have been one of Old Nick's bastards then.'
            'Goodbye, young man.'
            Originally I thought, if the story was to go anywhere, it would surely need to broaden into a generalised view of people with Christmas-based delusions. I was sure that I would find more Santas labouring under a Miracle on 34th Street misconception, Christs reborn or even men who insisted that reindeer could fly.
            I did find an elf. Nora of Brisbane, Australia.
            'I was dropped off here for a very special mission,' she told me at a mall cafe.
            And what mission was that?
            'A family.'
            I almost rolled my eyes. I asked her if, by any chance, they were low on Christmas spirit?
            Nora nodded. 'Though personally I think it was to get me out of his white curly hair.'
            I had to laugh at this. The first thing I noticed about Nora was her obvious cheeky sense of humour. She was clearly well-aware of all the nonsense she was spewing. She was in her mid-twenties at earliest, looked more like a grotto Santa helper than an actual fairy. That being said, the ears were bright red and naturally pointed at the top.
            So didn't Father Christmas like her then?
            'He finds me...frustrating.'
            Frustrating how?
            She gave me a look. 'Ever seen that Will Ferrell film?'
            I had.
            'Height. Half-breed. All that stuff except for the blissful naivety.'
            So was that another reason? The fact that she wasn't in tune with the rest of... Elfkind?
            Nora shrugged. 'There's a reason why you don't see many teens in the workshop.'
            How long had she been here on her special mission?
            'Just under a year now.'     
            Had she approached her family yet?
            'Too late. The parents divorced. Irreconcilable differences.'
            She genuinely looked hurt by this. For the first time I had an inkling that this wasn't a joke for her. I almost felt sorry.
            So why hadn't the big man been to pick her up yet?
            'Like I said, I don't think he wants me back.'
            Nora had mentioned something in passing, something that you wouldn't think as ever being a mere thought: she described herself as a half-breed.
            'Half-elf, half-human.'
            Did she know her human parentage?
            She barely blinked. 'Three guesses.'
            This cinched it for me: I was now writing about a very particular group of holiday delusionals.
            Wasn't there a Mrs Claus?
            We despaired. A promiscuous saint.
            So the old man did have bastards. I kind of wanted to believe her now; the one thing I couldn't stand about Santa was how faultless he was. All that selfless gift-giving had to be a way of redressing a past.
            I asked her what she was doing now.
            Nora straightened up. 'I have a job.'
            She did. A mall Santa helper. She had just finished a shift when we met for the interview. When the green cap fits...
            Nevertheless what did she do the rest of the year? Three other seasons and not much call for elfin women.
            She shrugged. 'I'm here and there.'
            I asked her how she felt about Christmas now, all things considered.
            'I still like it well enough,' she said, 'Parts of it. The kids mostly. The songs drive me insane though.'
            I agreed. The Little Drummer Boy had been following me all around the world.
            'I put in earphones now so I can listen to something else during the day.'
            I asked her what her favourite music genre was.
            I was shocked.
            'What can I say? I'm a Marley girl.'
            I love Reggae. I love Marley.

            We talked again the following morning. Seeing how vulnerable encroaching sunlight makes people, I asked her the hard questions again.
            'Are you really an elf?'
            'In a manner of speaking.'
            'Are you really Santa's daughter?'
            'That's what I was told.'
            'Is Santa real?'
            'Now that would be telling, wouldn't it?'
            'How many other daughters are there?'
            This gave her pause for thought. I leant in closer to hear her answer.
            'I'm not sure.'
            'Have you ever heard of Bea?'
            'Who hasn't?'
            'And Eliza?'
            'Nice girl.'
            And I realised that she was a nice girl. For all of her obvious shortcomings, she was still angelic.
            I had to pull away right then, had to get out of there. My objectivity was completely compromised.

            Nevertheless I've put everything down. I won't ever make an investigative journalist but then that's not what I set out to do. I didn't even set out to be a writer. I set out to fall in love and then find a reason for it.
            I'm not sure that I did. What I am sure of, however, is that Eliza wasn't the only one suffering such delusions. Apparently it's a problem all over the world, a complex that hasn't received its fancy name yet.
            These aren't case studies. No tests have been given, no objectivity applied. I just met people. They would have you believe that they were eccentric but no. Eccentricity, if anything, is a coping mechanism.
            It's hard this time of year. All the bright lights and colours lure you outside and then a bitter wind bites down on your every extremity. Besides you have things to buy, food to prepare, promises to keep. And there's such little time. It's dark out before you even know it.
            And yet you cling to the magic. There's still a child inside that tells you to go out and find it everywhere. Some people really don't know when to say no to children.
            I think I understand now, a part of it at least. I hope I do.

            Eliza, I'll admit I was unfair. I'm done with all this. Honestly.
            I can't face the New Year without you.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

CHRISTMAS SONGS GO ON AND ON (a.k.a. A Festive Thought about Replay Value)

            People are complaining about Christmas songs being played up and down shop aisles. You've heard maybe two songs and one of them was Stay Another Day which isn't really a Christmas song; it was just popular during the season two decades ago.
            So you play Wizzard. You play Slade. You play Wizzard more than Slade because Slade really has been overdone. You give Fairytale of New York a rest.
            You take Wizzard, Mudd, Jona Lewie and all their friends from Christmases long, long ago with you as you move around.
            With your headphones in you feel gleefully against the world. You can keep your Christmassy mood quiet until everybody gives in and catches up.
            A matter of weeks later and that glee has gone. Showaddywaddy becomes shoddy and, if you hear the perfect blend of Bowie and Crosby one more time, you might just be relieved that neither lived to see this Christmas.
            So you change tact, you try lesser-known Christmas songs. Drinking White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin fills you with a lovely warmth. I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas by The Goons helps you to accept the mad stumbling around. I Believe in Father Christmas is always a good song to listen to when you're fed up of Winter Wonderlands and whatever Santa is doing in them. Like Greg Lake, you start really thinking about this time of year.
            You run out of shops on the first bars of Maria Carey's melisma, you avoid all carol singers and especially Carols from King's. You might put a music channel on for Christmas morning but it's usually covers of really old songs.
            By Boxing Day all these sleigh bell tunes are defunct, packed away as you unpack all your goodies. Jingle, jingle, rattle, gone.
            Prince pops into your head and you start humming 1999. You seek out New Year's Day by U2. Thankfully these aren't mandatory and their relevance is done within a week.

Monday, 31 October 2016

HORROR FOR 99p! (a.k.a. Affordable Fright for All Hallows' Eve)

    Here's what I did for my kid last Halloween.
    I went down to Pound Trove, went straight to their shitty seasonal section.
    Cut-up bin bag capes, slutty makeup packs, bone gloves with the plastic knuckles already coming off. American pumpkin trick or treat bowls, glow-in-the-dark bat stickers, fangs that would snap as soon as you bit down properly.
    I sifted through the bargain bucket full of scythes, bright red pitchforks and even sodding skull axes. Double-edged, mind.
    He said he wanted one of those but one pound for a plastic stick that would fall apart as soon as batter a wall? I left them all exactly where they were.
    I went down the way to the 99p shop. I bought a mop, a trowel, a squeezy bottle of super glue and some silver glitter. I was home in half an hour.
    First things first, I cut the mop in two; just needed half the black handle really. Then I took the trowel out to the garden and found Dusty. I brought her up to the surface.
    Have you ever seen a pug's skull? Ugly, deformed thing. Pitiable but also nasty. I stuck it right on the end of the mop. I managed to fix the tube into one of the eye sockets. Those crooked teeth really shone when I started painting them.
    At the end I had a truly fucking horrible mace. If he hit one of the neighbour kids with that, I thought, I'll marmalise him.
    There was just one thing missing: with all the glitter paint it looked far too camp. So I cut open my ring fingertip and let a little trickle of blood out, winding down the stick. I even briefly considered one of Dusty's feet as a stopper for the other end but that would be cruel to her memory.
    So I left it at that, let the boy have the thing.
    Chuffed, he was. Didn't get many treats though.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

VOWEL LOVE (a.k.a. Something That Struck Me As Funny the Night Before)

Shall wee saaay goooodniiiiight?
Suuuuuureeeeeeely aaaaaaaa kiiiiiiiiiss wiiiiiiiiiill  dooooooooooo?

Yeeeeeeeeeeees, aaaaaaaaaaaaa beeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiifuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuul seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeentiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeent beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiips!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

WRITING ON WRITERS (a.k.a. Advice to Absurdity)

Writing is like eating spinach whilst doing cartwheels.

Writing is responding to a pillar box.

Writing is wondering why only one half of the chimney is wet.

Writing is like pretending you're a goat herd when really you're a cow herd. Same height.

Writing is the exact same thing as thundering.

Writing is a synonym for helmet hair.

Writing is artfully melting an ice cub between two oven gloves.

Writing can and should be wroting.

Writing should never be Bob Newhart in his best beret.

Writing is just like adapting in a half-chewed shoe box.

Writing is a Glaswegian Penelope.

Writin g is w riting.

Writing is the third vestige of the sarcophagus-eclipsed.

Writing to flick off elves is glib.

Writing at a Tuscan tugboat is surely prescient.

Writing should be in the prescient tense.

Writing with zebra-striped ifs is a crux.

Writing after Thursday 3rd makes your turban horny.

Writing before the Figgy Wives Club is a charitable implosion.

Writing towards talcum powder rations.

Writing away from the interviewer's garden nozzle.

Writing poetic haymakers.

Writing prosaic blue handles.

Writing out of the frog's clammy gulag.

Writing inside the Pollack door frame.

Writing somewhere Fallopian.

Writing somewhere among the woodchip.

Writing somehow to stammer Howarth Howard.

Writing as a a gnitriw.

Writing with an eye gouge.

Writing without a Teresa CD.

Writing because of ample sideburns.

Writing is like form-fitting form-filling.

Writing is just about kebabs at dawn.

Writing is like perishable trapeze glands.

Writing is rockstar huh

Friday, 1 April 2016

MARCH FOOLS (a.k.a. The Truth)

            Happy April Fool's Day! On the 29th March.
            That's right: the day has already passed. On whose authority, you might ask. Who else but the comedians?
            The entire community has banded together to make this joke work. It's been this way for three years now. They had a meeting, conference call mostly. It wouldn't have done to all meet in person.
            In 2014 they moved the date to 31st March. They slapped their knees at that one: a day out and nobody noticed. Still only a day: midnight caused confusion amid their number. What if a joke was committed then? It might as well be 1st April. Too close, no pause between set-up and punch line. They changed it the next year.
            In 2015 the date became the 30th. A few of the more numerically-minded comedians were ecstatic: a clean, round even number. Then again another faction was starting to rise, one claiming that ideal numbers just weren't funny. The dispute had to be settled by a show of hands. The comedians who weren't terribly bothered about numbers still didn't think it was the best date to fall on. It was a Monday; as far as jokes went it was a bit predictable.
            So in 2016 they changed it to 29th March. Still not a perfect day but the comedians finally feel comfortable about springing the prank on the rest of us. The way they see it, it'll keep being fresh until the time they finally agree on one day. Many suspect the 25th but that's still a few years down the line.
            Now they wait on our reaction.  A laugh or a groan please. Awkward silence might just cause them to tear their collective hair out and a backlash they can't control will doubtless kill the humour dead.

Monday, 15 February 2016

MINISTRY OF YOUR SILENT SMILE (a.k.a. A Belated Valentine Day's Token)

            I love the way you look. It's tax deductible. It's a corner, an unexplored niche in an unexposed market.
            I started off proceedings with the initial twitching of your lips. I bought the office space, a small building at first but this enterprise has an implicit potential for growth.
            Currently it is just me but I'm already running interviews for PAs. They all seem to meet the specification. The sparkle in your eye will indicate which one will best suit the role.
            I've kept on the cleaners from the last use of the building, they've been doing an outstanding job at upkeep. They leave the walls and floors as clean and tidy as the crow's feet on your face but, just to be certain, I've shown them the new aim for which they're now expected to reach.
            I've got rid of all the white walls, chosen a cream that approximates the colour of your midday skin. I've reshaped the windows so that they look out on the city below a la your clear gaze. The carpet is, of course, of a similar consistency to your auburn hair immediately after a shower. I even managed to incorporate the coconut extract.
            With the building on its way to being sorted, I've since turned my attention to how we'll regulate numbers. If your smile turns out lopsided we'll be wary but if it's full we'll rest assured. Considering the general lack of middle-class employment in this area, I'm sure we'll see these offices fill up soon enough.
            Yes, I can hear it now. Walking down from my office patterned with your light green iris and desk the salmon of your lips, pre-stick, post gloss; I will hear only the slightest hum of life as if from within a closed mouth: inhalation, exhalation. The front, what the world will observe, will only be silent. They won't see the productivity but they won't be able to take their eyes off the product.
            It'll be complete adoration. It'll be quiet communication of the fact. Your smile keeps me running and now the world.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

101 WORD STORIES (a.k.a. Promotion of an Awesome Website via Shameless Self-Promotion)

Hello all,

So I've been published online again recently: two flash fiction stories this time. Most recently:

BIG NEW BUMP - https://www.101words.org/big-news-bump/

and before that:

HOURGLASS - https://www.101words.org/hourglass/

I wish to thank 101 Words: a tremendous website for tiny creative gems; so much variety, many better than my own admittedly meager offerings. Your fantastic promotion of my work keeps me writing. You can surely expect more from me in the future.

In the meantime, why not pay them a visit?


Friday, 1 January 2016

HAIR BECOMES A SILVERY GHOST (a.k.a. The First Thing I Wrote in 2016 - A First-ish Minute Gimmick)

            Kelly scoops up some of Mrs Eastwood's yellow hair, holding it taut between her fingers. She brings the scissors to it.

            'This is a lovely colour now,' she says before cutting. She turns back to Jackie at the other end of the room. 'Well done, girl.'

            Mrs Eastwood stares at them both through the mirror in front of her. 'Doesn't she usually do dyes then?'

            'Not really for such fair hair.' Kelly lets the trimmed hairs trickle to the lino floor.

            Jackie switches off the taps at the rinsing sink. 'Usually just touch-ups, you know?'

            Mrs Eastwood nods. Kelly loses grip of her hair.

            'Sorry, love,' her customer says. 'It looks lovely.'

            Kelly returns to her original grip and carries on cutting.

            'Ooh,' Mrs Eastwood remarks suddenly. 'You know Leigh?'


            'It's her 51st today!'

            'Is it?'

            'You sound shocked.'

            'Sorry. If I'm honest, she always seemed older than that.'

            Mrs Eastwood waves her hand. 'Everyone says it. I think it too from time to time.'

            Jackie wanders past. 'What do you mean?'

            Kelly pauses, sharing a conspiratorial look with her customer. Should we let her in on the tragedy, Kelly's slow blink asks. I prefer to think of it as an in-joke, Mrs Eastwood's raised eyebrow replies.

            She holds Jackie's gaze through the mirror as she rummages around in her trouser pocket. Eventually she pulls out her phone and flicks through some pictures before settling on one.

            'Here,' she says, passing the phone to Kelly who passes it on to Jackie.

            'God,' she mutters, 'I mean, Oh, bless.'

            Mrs Eastwood laughs. 'She's a sweetheart. She just looks tired.'

            'She must have led an exhausting life,' Kelly says.

            'Actually, no,' Mrs Eastwood replies, wagging her finger, 'It's hereditary. Leigh looks much like our aunt did. Unfortunately she didn't get as far as fifty.'

            'Oh dear,' Jackie sighs, passing the phone back.

            'Yes. We Sedgwick girls go grey early.'

            'Not you though.' Kelly holds up some of Mrs Eastwood's hair.

            Her customer shakes it loose.

            Jackie arrives at the front counter. 'It's horrible what ageing does to some people. Can't be just genes, there's got to be some cruelty to it.'

            Mrs Eastwood smiles sweetly. 'Well, all I know is that it happens regardless. So don't you go wasting that bright, soft skin and beautiful red curls!'

            Jackie fingers a strand. She's a natural blonde but Mrs Eastwood wouldn't know that. Jackie checked the roots just this morning.

            'And you,' Mrs Eastwood says to Kelly, 'You have the right idea, love, you found yourself a handsome entrepreneur.'

            'Hank's just setting out on his own.'

            'Still. He's not a brickie.' Mrs Eastwood's husband was a bricklayer. 'You used your supermodel cheekbones well. I wasted mine.'

            Kelly tries to figure out the best way of denying this; to say that Hank was more beautiful without implying that he doesn't quite love her the same way, to state that his job doesn't really come into it without giving away that things aren't really going so well for him at the moment.

            'Can I see that photo again?' she asks instead.

            Mrs Eastwood brings out her phone with the picture on it. Kelly examines it closely.

            'It is unfair but if you let your hair go that poorly-treated you're going to look permanently exhausted.' She resumes her scissor position. 'Hair becomes a silvery ghost of itself if you don't keep it up.'

            Mrs Eastwood puts the phone away. 'I'll be seeing Leigh in a few hours. Of course, I won't pass on any comments.'

            'Thanks.' Kelly smiles. 'Tell her our door is always open.'

            'And our appointment book is currently wide open,' Jackie mutters.

            Kelly glares back at her but then sees the clean, white pages she is flicking through.

            During this distraction, Mrs Eastwood finds herself frowning at her reflection. Underneath her golden tresses she can feel her hair curling up and slowly giving in. It is, of course, gone as soon as Kelly turns back around.

            Kelly cuts in thoughtful silence for a while, pretending to focus on each lock of her customer's replenished hair.

            Jackie closes the appointment book and straightens up. 'I had my first grey hair recently.'

            Both Kelly and Mrs Eastwood look up.

            'I won't say where it is.'

            They all laugh.

            The amusement brings on a rush of truth in Jackie. 'I've also started to wear slippers a lot.'

            'Oh dear,' Mrs Eastwood says.

            'Bless,' Kelly adds.

            Jackie shrugs. Solidarity.