Saturday 5 October 2019


Medjool the Watcher stands at the Gate of the World. The centuries crowd there, eager for admittance. But Medjool decides.
In Aegypt, Medjool let a handful of centuries play for three thousand years, then let newer centuries sweep them away. In the Southern Continent, Medjool allowed a single century forty millennia, then banished it to the void.
The centuries come so fast now, that each brings some new wonder into the world. Some say that Medjool no longer stands watch, and the centuries press through the Gate pell-mell. Surely the Fûm is upon us, the chaotic end of all things.


The scholar-cleric with his furrowed brow
That labours long to pierce the ancients’ thought
Whose learning’s but a library of scrolls
And never once the truth of things has sought;
Who reads one argument and sets it by
Another passage arguing against,
Then other fragments brings from other books
And writes a new work patch’d from all the old,
Yet never steps outside to see the things
Of which these authors wrote—such dullards all
Know nothing of entangling with the Real:
Such is the only road to knowledge sure.

Better to make one observation new
Than endlessly debate about the True.

Friday 6 September 2019


“Americano and a croissant,” I said. The barista started working her arcane magic with the espresso machine. Then the telephone rang behind the counter. She listened a while, then replied, “Well, you need to speak to Sue about that, although if I was you I’d leave it until— no, don't bother Steve, he'll just say no, but if Sue isn’t in today ... yes, I see what you’re saying, but then it would have to go through Julia in Accounts, but it’s not really her job, and the supplier was really annoyed that they couldn't handle it last week, so if I was you...” and I stopped listening.

The espresso machine hissed and popped and clicked and shut down. The coffee began to cool. The sun set and rose and set again. I fainted from hunger and thirst. My corpse mouldered and was eaten by feral cats. Civilisation fell. An asteroid impact brought on an ice age. Humanity devolved into bands of apes roaming the tropical tundra. After untold aeons the climate warmed again. Intelligence was once more kindled. The new humans invented fire, agriculture, metallurgy, science. Civilisation rose. Coffee was rediscovered, and cafes and espresso machines reinvented.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” said the barista. “Have an extra stamp on your discount card.”

Thursday 5 September 2019


“Dug” is the past tense of the noun “dog”. Something which was a dog, but is so no longer, is now a dug. An example is canine transmissible venereal tumour, which used to be a dog, but is now a cancer of dogs.

The much subjunctive mood of “dog” is “doge”. So amaze.

The ipsapudessive case is “dougal”, but although this has a theoretical existence, there is no situation in which it is correct to use it. This is the significance of Dougal’s name in “The Magic Roundabout”.

The superlative counterfactual is “dragon”.

The affirmative mood is “dig”. A dig is something that certainly is a dog.

Sunday 18 August 2019


None fare well in the Queue who queue alone. One must have a partner, to hold one’s place if one steps out for a moment, and you will do the same for them, allies in the Great Wait. And when you grow old and infirm in the Queue, to support each other, and if it comes to it, drop out of the Queue a while for their sake, supporting them even if you must lose a hundred places, or a thousand.

For greater love hath no man than this, that he lose his place in the Queue for a friend.

Monday 12 August 2019


I was in a taxi the other day, and the driver told me that he had had that David Attenborough in his car last week, who told him of a book in which Marco Polo recounted a story he had from an old Chinese nobleman, whose grandfather told him he had once known a sailor who had journeyed to the Western edge of the world, to the Land of Anger, or as they call it, Ire-Land, where he had seen the grave of St. Elvis who, the monks told him, would return at the hour of the world's greatest need.

So it must be true.

Image: The church of St. Ailbe of Emly.

Wednesday 20 February 2019


God, what was I supposed to do with the giant lizards? No way would they fit on board. And about the unicorns, sorry, but after forty days and forty nights we’d run out of food. Tasted of horse, if you want to know. You ask me, we’re better off without. Wicked temper and a big dagger on their heads.

If you want them, why don’t you just make some more? You can’t, can you? Well, well, how are the mighty fallen. Created all of this in six days and now you can’t do any more than piss on us all.

Image credit: Phabolais, a build by Squonk Levenque in Second life, June 2016.


After global warming, the oxygen crisis. We learned in school that the atmosphere’s 21% oxygen, right? Twenty years ago it was. It’s 22 now. So old folks get to breathe a little easier, nothing wrong with that? At 24%, you can’t fight city fires. At 26, you see long-term health damage: blindness, strokes.

No-one knows why it’s happening. Humanity’s grown so big, everything we do bumps up against something, like Alice in the White Rabbit’s house, but we still know almost nothing about how the world works.

At 27%, it’s the end. All the vegetation will burn until it’s gone.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, including the imaginary science.
Any resemblance to actual facts is coincidental.

Image credit: Cameron Strandberg, 2009

Monday 28 January 2019


I love adult entertainment. Intellectual conversation over a dinner of impeccable good taste, with incidental music from a baroque chamber ensemble. Philosophical lectures delivered to enquiring minds. Performances of the latest improvised conceptions of an up and coming young pianist. A private opening at an art gallery, for a select group of connoisseurs. A stroll through one of the great museums of the world, accompanied by a fellow expert on some singular piece of history.

But judging by the garish flashing neon sign, and the ladies standing alluringly within the red-lit doorway, I don’t think that’s what this establishment offers.

This piece also appeared in Crap Mariner's 100 Word Challenge, January 2019.

Concert for flute with Frederick the Great in Sanssouci
Adolph von Menzel  (1815–1905)
Source: Wikipedia

Social Media

If on a hot summer evening in Japan, you lean out of the window of your stifling apartment, often you will hear a whistle-humming like that of high-voltage electricity pylons. But it is actually millions of insects, all calling to each other.

And if on that hot summer evening in Japan, you lean out and hear only the distant silence of the city, and you jingle a bunch of keys, the insects will call back to the ultrasonic rustle, and then call back to each other, and they will keep going all night, calling to each other because they are calling to each other.

May 1998. A street in the old merchants' quarter, Nara.