The Homecoming: Chapter 3

Confused about what on earth this is? There’s an explanation here. In the meantime, bad, silly prose follows below.


The door to the barracks opened and a potent cocktail of smells, the dry, wretched tang of stale beer mixed with the acrid biting sharpness of the local spirit, wafted in. Markus glanced up, annoyed at his routine being broken. Six months of comfortable regularity since the transfer from the training base on Rhosix to Şcrade were shattered in an instant.

A large man, outweighing Markus by at least twenty kilogrammes and topping him by half a foot, tumbled over the threshold, toppling like a felled tree and smashing his face into the solid synthcrete floor.

“Shit, are you alright?” Markus had heard the door open and saw the man falling, although the sickening crunch that resounded round the empty room as he impacted the floor would have drawn his attention any time.

The man bounced up with the invincibility and vigour of the very drunk, and put a hand to his face to wipe away the wetness he felt on his lips. He discovered that where before a majestically aquiline protuberance had cut the air in front of him with the authority of a battleship, now his face was as sheer as a cliff. The cliff effect was completed by a bloody waterfall, so, numbed to pain by the extreme amount of alcohol he had consumed, he wandered over to the mirror to have a quick look at what interesting new shape his face had taken. Examining himself in the mirror, he caught sight of Markus looking at him with concern over his shoulder. He stared for a long moment, then returned to absent-mindedly jiggling his nose about his face.

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The House of Lords and Constitutional Crises

Last night, the House of Lords performed the function assigned to it by the British Constitution. As the appointed second chamber of the British Parliament, they amended a piece of legislation in line with their scrutinising role, sending it back to the elected House of Commons for further consideration in light of new information. They didn’t block the measure, nor did they destroy it.

Or, depending on your politics and your spin doctor, the House of Lords just posed an unprecedented challenge to the balance of powers within the Constitution that hasn’t been seen for over 100 years, and one that’ll have to be punished.

So which is it? Does it really matter? Is posing rhetorical questions to oneself a lazy and hackneyed introductory device?

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Everyone speaks foreign languages better when they’re drunk

“Qu’est-ce que vous avez fait ce weekend?”

As ever, I sit and silently perspire. I try to remember, think back the four days it’s been since Sunday.

The question progresses round the class, circling like some genial predator. Our teacher waits, then dives, closes in with a name attached to the interrogation.

“Et vous, Philip? Qu’est-ce que vous avez fait ce weekend?”

One by one, the others rattle off their activities, their hobbies, their lives. There are trips to the cinema, visits to museums and parties, outings to festivals or exhibitions. People reveal themselves to be cinephiles, doting grandparents, fitness obsessives, pretentiously cultured. Weddings are being planned, families seen. Life, in halting, primary school level French, goes on.

The guy sitting to my left has just gone on for five minutes describing his trip to Newcastle to watch Scotland play Samoa. I’m still racking my brains trying to think of what I did that weekend.

“Et David?”

“Uhhh…” I growl from the back of my throat.

Saying it with a comically ludicrous French accent always sounds a bit better when you’re trying to fake it. Or maybe everyone I ever talk to is just too polite to comment that my French is shit.

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Longform Disappointment: Samoa

In your classic three act story structure, the second act is the part when everything goes a bit tits up.

The first act is for introduction, world building and so forth, combined with the gradual sense of things going well. The story progresses quite nicely along and up, with the hero or heroine or hermaphroditic space lizard generally going towards their goal. The third act is when Zzzlarr the Scaly triumphs and becomes both King and Queen of the Omicron Nebula.

Which leaves the second act. Things can’t be too easy, or else there’s no narrative tension. If the plot simply cruises towards a resolution, there’re no stakes or obstacles to be overcome, no real reason for the audience or reader to get emotionally invested in Zzzlarr’s battle for recognition and equality in an oppressively gendered society.

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The Homecoming: Chapter 2

Confused about what on earth this is? An explanation can be found here. In the meantime, here’s some silly prose.



A scream echoed through the cold night, almost shattering the delicate frost on the trees as the chill of deep winter flexed its choking grip. Markus whipped around, his body taut as he sought the source of the cry. He couldn’t see anything in the clear air of the frozen night and frantically scanned the fields in front of him, rolling endlessly in undulating, snowy waves. Then, just as suddenly as it had arisen, the tension was tossed aside again. There was a laugh from his feet, and Lara clambered unsteadily up his side, giving Markus the ignominious duty of handle for his fiancée.

“Sorry,” she giggled through the layers of scarves gently embracing her face, “Just stood on some black ice.”

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Talk to Someone

You’re always told to talk to someone about mental health stuff. Don’t let it stay bottled up, let it out, don’t let it all fester. Go talk to someone.

There are phonelines to call, people whose entire job it is to sit and listen to concerns and neuroses and worries. Others who get training, have years of experience listening, understanding. There are levels of service, all sorts of professionals who your doctor can point you at, therapists and psychiatrists, counselors and psychologists. There’s so many people out there willing to listen, paid to listen. Go talk to someone.

For some, there’re family and friends, people who care and worry and want to help. People who’ll notice when you’re not yourself, who’ll realise something’s not right. People who’ll insist that they want to listen, that they’re there if you ever have anything you need to get off your chest. Go talk to someone.

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you find some other way, you start a blog or a journal, you pour your thoughts and your feelings out and try to explain what it is, what the problem is, why you feel so terrible. Maybe you paint or draw or sing or run or whatever, trying to drive the thoughts out of your head and into somewhere else, somewhere they aren’t constantly circling one another in your mind like a flock of vultures waiting to tear into the barely breathing body of your psyche.

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Longform Disappointment: Australia

SLOUGH – Yeah, that’s a hell of a dateline, isn’t it? The exotic holiday paradise of Slough, a town that elicited the sentence “Oh, that’s not a pub, it’s an exotic dance club” on Saturday night. A town with a name that, in medical terminology, means “a yellow fibrinous tissue that consists of fibrin, pus, and proteinaceous material”; that is, a bit of yellowing scabbiness in normal person speak. I mean, the metaphor writes itself.

And since ‘yellowing scabbiness’ might not be a bad way to describe the England performance against Australia, let’s talk about that. Because the reason I’ve written this from Slough is the same reason that I missed the Scotland-South Africa game and the same reason I watched the England-Australia game from an English pub surrounded by English people. Since it’s none of the wider internet’s business what I was up to, though, that’s all the explanation you’re getting. My blog, my rules.

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The Homecoming: Chapter 1

Confused about what on earth this is? There’s an explanation here. In the meantime, here’s some silly prose.


The carrier burst through the last, low layer of cloud and began its approach, prompting the occupants of the hold to stare slack jawed out of the tiny windows at the scene emerging below them. An industrial complex spilled out onto the landscape, a pool of gradually expanding, featureless grey polluting the pristine valley. It was like an acidic spillage, scarring the ground and burning away the lush, rich jungle that it touched, leaving a ragged hole in the treeline. As the carrier approached the panorama, cutting through sheets of driving rain, the landscape gleamed with a weird, rippling light, the trees and leaves glittering with rainbow flashes as they swirled in the wind of the carrier’s passing. The metallic structures of the complex, belching smoke and chemicals, looked hard and sharp in contrast, clear, defined angles marking them as out of place.

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Longform Disappointment: USA

I think I’ll probably begin this piece by listing Scotland’s major sporting achievements in the period I’ve been paying attention to them. An Honour Roll, a Greatest Hits collection, perhaps, if you will, a Hall of Fame of moments. Something to be proud of, a celebration of success as we collectively bask in the reflected glow of a win over the sporting might of the USA.

/wind whistles.

/somehow, a tumbleweed drifts past, rustling softly in the stillness, even though you’re indoors.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

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