Imagine you’re on a train. You’re looking out of the windows at sheep and clouds and wondering where sheep would go if they could fly and what clouds would do if they had to wander about in fields when you hear a dog barking.

A dog in the fields? No, this barking is coming from closer than that. It’s coming from this very carriage. From just behind your seat!

Imagine that dogs have been illegal since 2033 when a law was passed forbidding anyone to own a live dog (dead dogs were exempt, which was fortunate because there were many of those following that time) due to the danger posed by canine-flu.

A terrible plague had swept through the dog population in the last month and there were fears of a crossover into the human population. In fact, scientists had proved the risk to be very real. Death was the result of infection. A very quick death. A gruesome death involving a black, icky substance seeping from all orifices.

Imagine the panic in the train after the dog bark was heard. Imagine the rush to the end of the carriage.

Imagine the look on the face of the pensioner as he heard a barking coming from his bag. Imagine his thoughts.

He’s sure there isn’t a dog in his bag. He packed it himself that morning and all it contains are two cheese sandwiches, a biro and a paperback copy of a classic from twenty-fifteen: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Oh, and his mobile phone.

Imagine that he opens his bag, aware vaguely as he does so that the carriage is very quiet. His phone is flashing and the barking sound is coming from it. He looks at the screen and realises that he has a call. He taps Answer and the barking stops.

Imagine that when he listens to the phone he hears his grandson’s voice.

“Hiya, Gramps, you in the train?”

“Yes I am.”

“You got the carriage to yourself?”

The pensioner glances around and, to his vague surprise, finds that this is so.

“Yes I have!”

“Remember how you always complain that the other people in the carriage are always talking so that you can’t concentrate on your book?

“Yes I do.”

“Well, I fixed that for you.”

“Ah, excellent, thank you, Brad, that’s very kind of you!”

“You’re welcome. Have a good one.”

“You too, Brad.”

The line went dead.

Imagine that the pensioner turned off his phone, put it in his bag and, with a smile of satisfaction, took out his book, settled back in his seat and opened it to page 86.


Productive and Good

Been a busy day. On days like this, I write a list of things to do. I have to. I didn’t get everything on my tick-list done but I still end with a feeling that it’s been a good day. Productive and good. That’s all.

Hope you end your day feeling nice.

I Shared My Secret

I found this site where you can share your secrets:, so I shared mine. It might not be there yet because the notice says that it’ll be considered within the next 24 hours, but here it is now:

I sometimes sneak off in the night, leaving my wife and children sleeping, and roam the neighbourhood with a paper bag on my head. It’s a rural place and so I don’t meet many people at two o’clock in the morning. The ones I do meet are always wearing paper bags too and so we don’t exchange any conversation. Maybe a quick rustle and then we move on. Still, it gives me a slight frisson of excitement. A quick thrill. When I get home I put my pyjamas back on and slide silently back into bed where my wife’s warm form awaits. Sometimes she murmurs a question and I’ll tell her that I went for a pee. She hasn’t questioned me further on this matter. It’s autumn now here in England and so it is still quite warm, but I’m not looking forward to winter too much. Maybe I should change my ways, but it seems like such a small thing to ask of the world, just to put up with me. Just to turn the other cheek in the wee hours of the night. Just to live and let live.

There. I guess it’s not a secret anymore.

Confession – the Big Issue Seller

I have a confession to make. And this one is a terrible one. This one might consign me to the flames. Are you ready? Have you girded your loins? Here it is: I sometimes avoid the Big Issue seller. There, I’ve said it.

I know, I know – he’s not begging and he’s not extorting money and he’s not doing anything illegal; not in the slightest. He’s following a legitimate path to making his money. But still – I feel an unreasonable panic whenever I see him.

He doesn’t just stand there like the rest of them. He has his ear buds in and he dances to the music he hears through them. But it’s not that he’s trying to cut himself off. No. He’s always ready to pull an ear bud out and chat to whoever approaches him.

“Hello, hello,” he’ll say as he sticks out his hand to shake, as if we’re the best of friends.

And I suppose, to some extent, we are.

I’ve listened to the sounds coming from his ear buds and we’ve discussed the merits of Rumanian music (it’s got a good beat) compared to English music (rubbish).

I’ve stood chatting to him for extended periods. He doesn’t speak much English, but he likes to use the little he knows and he does it to good effect. He understands almost nothing that I say to him.

This morning, I tried a little Rumanian on him. Just before I got to where he stands, er, sorry – dances, I pulled out my phone and asked it to tell me the Rumanian for ‘good morning’.

“Buna dimineata,” it said.

“Buna diminetta,” I said to him.

“Buna?” he said.

“Buna dimineata. Runmanian!” he said when he’d caught on. He catches on fast.

Then he ‘taught’ me another five phrases. Simple ones that would be useful in any conversation. None of which I can remember now. Maybe I’ll look them up later and learn them, because I remember the English: ‘how are you?’, ‘what is your name?’ and … okay, maybe I only remember two of them in English.

I even bought a Big Issue from him once. I usually decline after waving my book at him. I always carry a book. I prefer books. But this one time, I was feeling flush. I had the £2.50 in my pocket and was feeling magnanimous.

I didn’t like it much. I read it from cover to cover, and although it was well written and attractively laid out, I didn’t find much there that interested me. Perhaps I should have chosen a better week when the lead article was something that I’m into. Perhaps I’ll do that in the future. Let’s see.

He tries to shake my hand, like, all the time! And in response, I present him with a fist, and he bounces it; sometimes several times during the conversations we have.

I don’t know why I won’t shake his hand. I suppose (ah, look at the depths to which I sink here) it’s because I don’t know where it’s been. I mean, if he does this to everyone (and I’ve watched him – he does) then there’s no telling how many germs may be lurking on his palm ready to infect me with all manner of disease. Yeah, I know, I feel ashamed of myself even as I say it.

He told me his name this morning. I think he said Zahid, but I could have misremembered. I’ll ask him again the next time I pass. I’ll pretend I’m practicing my Rumanian on him. He’ll tell me his name again and maybe I’ll tell him mine again. It’ll all work out.

So can you see now why I sometimes avoid the Big Issue Seller? Can you see why I’m uneasy when I see him shouting out his friendly greetings to passers by? Can you understand?

No, neither can I.

Oh No, Not Another Zombie Novel!

After I’ve finished the novel I’m currently writing (which will be today, if I can get my finger out my *** and my *** into gear) I want to write a Zombie Novel.

Thing is though, I want to write it about work and publish it, day by day, on Workplace (a corporate Facebook that only my company’s employees can access). I’m wondering though whether this is allowed.

When I say ‘allowed’ I mean in terms of using the work’s servers and also in terms of writing about people that might be identifiable (and who might get their brains eaten out as they die screaming).

I can imagine this being popular with the wider workforce, especially if I include the very senior management in the book. I could even include votes in the story, much like Big Brother, so that the readers decide who gets … er … eaten next.

I reckon that this has the potential to go far if I can get it off the ground. But what do you think; has it got legs? And, more importantly, how will I get permission to write it for this company (substitute the name of any big company)? Hints and tips as to how to approach the project, please.

Do Something Nice

I came upstairs
To do this.
Hardly seems worth it.

I should make it
Worth the trip.
But instead, there’s this.

What should I do
With my life
To make it worthwhile?

All this food and
All this air.
Take and take and take.

I’ll go downstairs
After this.
And do something nice.

a daisy