Double A Side: Then And Only Then / Collage Of Facts


Big raindrops.  The rain stops and you can see now how big the sky is.  Your heart reboots like an old computer left to gather dust, but which is, it turns out, miraculously still alive, though breathing unsteadily now.  Joyous, you think words to yourself, processing.  There is always so much to do – the clock wheels away in delight.  The winter sky is big and you are getting up late, going to bed early, turning in smaller and smaller circles.  And all those three-in-the-mornings when you’re awake, you are super-determined to do your absolute best the next day.


The sad beauty of failures,
the quiet injustices in success.
This is fantastic, this is reality.

“Just how many leaves do the trees
actually have in them?”
we wondered.
“How many times will we sweep them in to a pile?”
“What can we do with them afterwards?”

Were they legal tender
we might afford to
embrace madness,
the local legend
we do not know
whether to believe
or not.


There’s a kid on the bus screaming his little head right off, looking round to make sure we all know exactly how awful it all is.

The bus stops and a man gets on, carrying a small dog under his arm.  The kid, wide-eyed with dog, forgets the awfulness and stops screaming.  Man and dog go upstairs and the kid remembers he was in the middle of something, so starts up again.

I wish – and I bet everyone else on the bus does too – that I could turn in to a dog, like in that old programme Woof!  But when I try – and I try really hard – it comes out more like the awful transition from man to wolf in An American Werewolf In London.

About The Fire Brigade

I tell my friend that I am writing a short piece about the fire brigade, based on a story my neighbour told me.  She agrees to cast her eye over what I have so far.

The fire brigade received a call from an elderly gentleman:

“All of my furniture is collapsing, and I cannot hold it up on my own.  Please come and help, quickly.  I don’t know what to do.”

The fire brigade chastised the caller and did not attend the emergency.  Furthermore, when the time came for their annual publicity drive to warn members of the public against wasting fire brigade time by making inappropriate calls, they released the recording to be played on local radio.  When the elderly gentleman wrote to complain, telling them that their inaction had caused him to lose many valuable things, and that their subsequent actions had caused much embarrassment, they did not reply.  He could only imagine them passing his letter round, taking turns to laugh at it.

She hands the piece of work back to me.

“You can’t use this,” she warns.  “Even if it’s true, you can’t.  The fire brigade are brave and courageous.  They’re the good guys – people don’t want to read bad things about the fire brigade.”

“But it is-”

“I don’t care.  People won’t want to know.  Trust me.”

First Hive On The Moon

The general rule of thumb is that a hive of bees should be moved either less than three metres or more than three miles.  But this was the day when my hive would begin their journey to become the first colony established on the moon.

Why my bees?

Why not?  What’s wrong with my bees?  They’re a healthy hive – no varroa, a strong, young queen, fifty pounds of honey last year.  Any earth-orbiting lump of rock would be lucky to have them.

I’m going to miss them though.

I went in this morning for one last look.  Workers were coming and going, busy as.  I removed the roof of the hive and breathed in the rich, sweet smell you never get tired of, even after so many years.  And I’ve been doing this for quite a long time – so long that my old beekeeping buddies have all dropped out or dropped dead or dropped out of contact, just like so many people have drifted away from me.

There was a pleasing weight to both the dense droning sound of the bees and the heft of the first super, filled with honey.  Further down the hive I removed the frames one by one and held them close to my face so I could check for the eggs the size of a comma that were evidence the Queen was laying.  I spotted her unmistakeable long body – she was scuttling over the mass of subjects, trying to get away from the light.  Using my thumb and forefinger, I held her in place for a minute and gave her one last look.

Back at the house I updated my records.  Queen spotted and marked – yes.  Capped honey – yes.  Eggs – yes.  Larvae – yes.  Sign of mites or waxmoth – no.  This would be the last entry, but it seemed important to me to complete the record.

I typed all this on the computer and submitted it to the government, just as I had done every week since I received the letter announcing to the nation’s beekeepers this wonderful opportunity.

First bee hive on the moon – imagine that!

Only I didn’t have to imagine it any more – the van was on its way.
There’s not a lot happens around here and I’d been told there would be a Police presence, a guard of some sort, so I’d warned the neighbours.  But I hadn’t expected the convoy of Police and Army vehicles that accompanied the unmarked van.

Two fellas in full beekeeping get up hopped out, declining my offer to help move the hive, without resorting to words.  Before I could remind them to handle it gently, they had the hive strapped down in the back of the van.  Their exit was as swift and efficient as the rest of the operation.

When it was all over I felt a bit lost, but I was mighty proud to have done my bit.

First beehive on the moon!  I kept shouting it to myself.  First bloody beehive on the bloody moon!

I never watch the news, but halfway through that evening I suddenly wondered whether there was the slightest possibility that my old bees might have found their way in to the bulletin.

So I flicked the telly on.

There they were – the police and the army and that little truck with the two fellas in the beekeeping get up, making their way through the streets, all that and then at the bottom of the screen the headline: LAST BEEHIVE ON EARTH.

How Badly I Wanted The Hat

When we are in the shop, we spot the hat.  It is a fine hat.  We try it out on my head.  “Nah,” I say when you ask if I am going to buy it.  No, even though it suits me perfectly.

We leave and look in other shops, consider other things, things that are not hats.  But damn, I think.  I want that hat.

I have my reasons for not taking it.  It costs more money than I intend to spend, especially with the ownership of hats feeling like such a fragile thing – it is so easy for them to blow away, or for someone to quickly swipe it from your head and run away laughing.  They get lost so easily around the house, there being no logical drawer or cupboard in which to store a hat – and when out and about it is easy to set a hat down somewhere and then forget to pick it up when leaving.

And still.

We look at things that we have planned to buy, but I am not paying full attention to these things, thinking constantly as I am of the hat, which I could always go back and get, only it would now feel a like a defeat.  A small one, but still a defeat.  If I was going to buy the hat, the time to do it was when I first tried it on, a glorious moment of spontaneity, consequences-be-damned, lets-just-buy-a-hat.

Now, I would have had to make a special trip back across town, creep in to the shop under the watchful gaze of the shopkeeper, and a thin smile would creep across her lips… there would be no need for me to try on the hat, to go through all that usual tomfoolery of putting different hats on my head, which is the whole fun of the hat-buying process.

I give only short, disgruntled answers as we discuss purchasing the things we have actually come to buy, and my lack of input in these discussions leave us having made decisions with which I am not fully happy.

As we make our way home, the hat and any idea of hat ownership now long gone, I try to rationalise the situation.


It’s William Faulkner’s birthday today.  Here is a Lego version of the author, posing with a Lego version of the author of the .357 project, which I have recommended a few times here before.

Today, in a rare press release (which included the above picture), the author of 357 wrote:

As today marks the upload of the 357th blog post, archiving a longer text from 1997 (Faulkner’s centenary!), I thought I should at least mark the occasion with some attempt at drumming up a little genuine traffic.

So here’s what might pass for a Lego version of me (caught somewhere between getting ready for bed and going to an aerobics class) endorsing .357 by toasting it with what appears to be a flask of weird green fluid.

There’s a lot of words on that website, so if you want to tackle the whole thing you probably want to get comfortable with a coffee and / or whiskey.  But if you’re looking for a super-short post to get started, I recommend this one, which made me laugh.

Epitaph For A Thought

Without having the thing in front of him he could not be certain it was of value, but having lost the thing it began to feel important, or potentially important.  He could not remember the details of the thing, but he did know when he had had it and where and who was there and what had been happening-

“it was when we were talking about…”

-though it may have been that the thing had nothing to do with any of that.  At least it might be possible to recreate the conditions, to get everyone together again in the same place and strike up a similar conversation-

“I mean, if that’s ok, if you can make it, it would be…”

-and if all of that was in place, maybe he would find the thing again.  In the meantime, he continued searching, trying out words, the idea being – it felt – on the edge of his tongue, a thin slither of hair away, a distance of only a few words.

In The Shadow

In the morning it’s raining so you don’t go outside – you just open the back door so the horses can go out and run around. You spend all morning in the shadow of lunch, which has been set to bubbling on the stove whilst you mend things.

When everyone is hungry, you ladle lunch out – only then you have to de-ladle it because someone has sounded the warning. You call in the horses, set lunch back on the stove.

Afterwards, you re-ladle lunch back in to the same bowls, though it is now late. The horses whine to be back outside, but you don’t let them, not just yet.

Pizza Box / Art Object

The pizza comes in a box with the words, ‘Your fresh baked pizza!’ printed on top of the lid.  He takes a felt tip pen and crosses out the ‘y’.  Though this is still incorrect, being the plural.  Whilst he eats, he watches whatever is on, which turns out to be a program about dinner parties.  Once the pizza box is empty and he is full, he takes the felt tip pen again and decorates the grease-stained cardboard with the names of all his favourite naked women from the internet.