rush hour conversation

Chloe and Emily have been friends for nearly three years, they flat share, both work for the university, and share the journey into work – in Emily’s car. Chloe isn’t a morning person, but Emily has gotten used to that.

“… so, what I am saying is this, that by observing ants closely, you’ll see they don’t do anything stupid,” Chloe said, “they always walk in orderly lines, carrying leaves, twigs and so forth, back to the nest.”
“Well not always, they sometimes fall off branches,” Emily interjected, looking left and right for an opening in the queue of traffic, “that doesn’t seem too clever.”
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For All Your Worldly Sins

In fractional time, right before you expire, your soul flies out from your body and begins the journey heavenwards. If you could see yourself, you’d notice your eyes closed, your mouth agape. Naturally, you are without clothes. You are smoothed-out as you ascend, a gentle breeze flattening out wrinkles and your hair developing a beautiful lustre. The results, are pleasing.
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the joy of song (short story 3,443 words)

Section 1
Stood in his narrow
kitchen, staring vacantly at the blister pack held between his fingers and thumb, the new pills – Johnson concluded, simply weren’t working. Like the ones he’d been placed on before, and the one’s before the one’s before. The same as always, his deep depression, chronic introversion and social anxiety paralysed him. This, despite the elapse of two years since his first prescribed treatment. Read more

what did you just say? (short story 1,865 words)

Warning: this short story contains some swear words, implied nudity and chauvinistic ‘pigotry’, all deemed as essential to the plot.

Finally, what took you so long? It’s a bit late to still be lazing around in bed. Here, take the bloody parcel, I’ve got a shed-load to get through this morning and I’m falling behind just by talking to you. You’ve absolutely no idea.” Read more

Su, ‘nam, me.

So I knew Su, we were kinda friends. We’d met as members of a group of people who got together in a cafe twice a month. We were writers, we weren’t professional, fully fledged writers, but Su and I were two people writing stories and poems who sometimes thought to compare ourselves to writers. With a view to help bolster this belief, we attended a collective of like-minded folk. Read more

space time communion

A short burst of escaping pressurised air caused his closed eyelids to lighten, lift, fall shut and re-open. Three blurry impressions of the outside came inside: a white ceiling, a monitor emitting a pulsing tone and an hourglass figure dressed in light blue standing nearby. A voice reverberated inside his ears, words initially overlapping each other, gradually becoming clear. He felt the touch of soft fingertips stroke the top of his hand; his head hurt like a hangover.
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more than two

“Basically,” Sue said to Hannah, “computer simulation theory is split into three separate suppositions.”
Hannah, sitting opposite Sue, stared into a space, her attention drifting. A gingham patterned tablecloth, wooden chair and contrasting coloured floor tiles blurred together, swirling in a clockwise direction. Taking hold of the teaspoon in her coffee cup, she stirred the brown milky liquid in an anticlockwise direction, hoping to counteract the effect. When this failed she blinked a few times, restoring focus and easing the sensation of soreness in the corners of her eyes.
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exclusive interview

Utilising the marvels of interweb technology, the following is the transcript of my recent radio show broadcast where I am in interview with Jan Futchinelle, l’enfant terrible investigative reporter creating a name for himself in the modern medieval city of Oxford and well beyond these county lines. For anyone out there who calls living under a stone home, Jan has spent the last few weeks talking up the #roadsituation.
I invited him onto the show, to learn a bit more about both the story and the man. Judging by the several emails received following broadcast, audience feedback suggests public opinion sits firmly behind the journalist.
Without further ado, here!

06:32hrs GMT
“A-nd welcome back after the news, you’re tuned into Brinkinfield’s Fried Breakfast on Radio OX72FM. If you’re travelling into Oxford city today, I have been passed some traffic info for you to take heed of. The lights are out at the Wolverine roundabout, causing some cavalier cavorting by road-users with the area classified as immediately dangerous for  all nearby pedestrians. We’ve also just received news of the Botter’s Road bridge down to one lane, cordoned off by police while frogmen search the canal. This follows the report of a rather large man falling from the bridge during yesterday’s rush hour. Police are appealing for witnesses.
“Right, back to business. As listeners, you may be interested in my next guest on this morning’s show Jan Futchinelle, who’s writings on the road situation has attracted stacks of attention over the last month or so.
“Welcome Jan, I am glad for us to meet.”
“Thank you and thanks for asking me onto your show.”
“It’s a pleasure Jan, I feel we share many of the same ideas. Which is why I’ve asked you to come on and discuss what has become known as, the road situation in Oxford.”
“Yes, well, of course it’s not only effecting Oxford. Towns, villages, hamlets and cities all over the country are suffering in the same way as here.”
“Right, but here in Oxford, this is where you live and what you know and what you see, am I right Jan?”
Exactment.”
“Oh, a little bit of French there Jan!”
“I speak 7 languages, French, Swiss, Italian, German, Austrian, a little Scandinavian.”
“I imagine it must come in handy from time to time.”
“Very occasionally, yes.”
“So Jan, what’s it all about, this road situation you’ve been writing of for the last few weeks?”
“Well, it’s been more like a year now. It breaks down into three inter-linked component parts: potholes, congestion and road-user behaviour.”
“Ok, briefly take me through them.”
“Well, has it occurred to anyone listening the idea of there existing a more suitable product for surfacing roads than the current materials, with all the technology we have at our disposal today?”
“Yes Jan, it has occurred to me before. There’s got to be, surely!”
“It’s an absolute certainty. Look at our present situation, whatever the weather conditions the roads crumble, crack and sink. The surfaces break down, unable to take the extremes of cold, warmth and wetness our seasons produce. The current materials used simply aren’t fit for purpose.”
“Certainly Jan, the road travel in on each day provides a dreadfully bumpy ride, physically lifting me off my seat. I find myself weaving around the road to avoid the worst potholes.”
“And it is unsafe, the potential for accidents doesn’t require much imagination.”
“Agreed, I worry about my suspension and wheel axles too. I don’t believe cars are made to withstand this kind of exposure. What material do you believe would do a better job for surfacing roads?”
“Almost anything, but my favourites are re-cycled rubber from tires and re-cycled plastic.  At a stroke, the inadequacies of the current recycling system we have, would be solved. There’d even be money in dredging the oceans to remove the vast tracts of discarded plastic floating around, which endanger sea life. The technology is here, the raw material is close to being free, it is a no-brainer.”
“Okay, we’re going to take a break for a tune by the Velvet Underground, Sister Ray, picked to help ease your  journey into work this morning. When we come back, I’ll be reading out some recipes you’ve tweeted in, specially themed to this morning’s interview. Then we’ll talk more with Jan, on the subject of Oxford’s road situation.”

“A-nd, as we fade that out, you’re listening to Brinkinfield’s Fried Breakfast on Radio OX72FM where I’m in conversation with Jan Futchinelle, journalist, writer and all round good egg.”
“That’s a long track, Sister Ray.”
“Indeed it is Jan. Let-me-see, it comes in at 17 minutes 28 seconds… I hope no one minded me talking over the last 12 seconds as it played out.
“Now Jan, where were we?”
“Christ-alive, I’ve forgotten. Your listeners won’t know this, but during the musical interlude I got a quick trim at the barber shop located underneath the studios here.”
“Just so listeners know, Jan is sporting a clippered haircut – what would that be Jan, a zero on the number?”
“Yes, that’s right, zero.”
“But it looks like Francesco trimmed and conditioned your beard too.”
“Yes, well we could hear the Sister Ray track coming through the ceiling, and both being familiar with the song, we worked out we had enough time.”
“And you brought me back up a latte too, thank you Jan. Right, where were we? Oh, I am getting a voice in my ear saying we have enough time for some listener’s themed recipes and then we’ll go to the news.”
“I could hear that voice in your ear. It sounded like a busy bumble bee inside the flower of a daffodil. Can I just quickly mention about road tax?”
” – Not just yet Jan.”
” – About how less than 25% of the road tax goes on road maintenance?”
” – Later Jan. Okay, with the time now at exactly… six fifty seven, let’s go through some of the recipe ideas our listeners have tweeted in. Right, here’s one from Balthazar, thank you ma’am. Hm, what have we here? It looks like a hotdog from the photo – oh I see, the hotdog has cocktail sticks pinning cherry tomatoes and slices of cucumber into the side of the bread finger roll to look like car wheels. Yes, very good. And the wiggly line of mustard, that could be like a go faster stripe down the centre.”
“Normally, go-faster stripes are displayed along both sides of a vehicle rather than running down the centre.”
“True Jan, yes, but the mustard would just run and look messy I don’t doubt.”
“Depends on the mustard.”
“And what’s this we have from… Ge-ronimo…Cheeks, I think I have that right, okay let’s see, th-is, loo-ks like… oh, okay, it’s a slice of apple, with four grapes. Again, wooden cocktail sticks used as the axles. Right, I can definitely see a car theme developing here – keep them coming in. Okay, here comes the latest news and weather and we’ll be back right after this.”

this song is the mute button

“And that’s the sublime sound of Jason Lytle, formerly of the band Grandaddy, with a tune to melt your heart and make your eyes cry. In case you’ve just joined us, I am here with journalist and campaigner Jan Futchinelle, to talk about the Oxford road situation.
“Jan, we’ve talked about the road surfaces and what can be done about them.”
“Yes we have.”
“And I believe your campaigning initially came to my attention after you wrote an article entitled car ban or carbon? about the city council’s plan to exclude cars from Oxford. I also understand you have something to say about road-users, too.”
“Correct. Drivers of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians sometimes too.”
“So what’s your beef, Jan?”
That’s an unusual verb… but anyway, way back in the 20th century in the very early nineteen thirties, the Ministry of Transport published an 18 page booklet called the Highway Code.”
“And we’re still using it?”
“It’s been revised many times.”
“How many times Jan?”
“Regularly. The point is, the booklet contains guidance and rules about driving. Every learner driver knows that questions about the Highway Code form part of the test to acquire a full driving license.”
“Oh yes, I remember, all that stuff about stopping distances?”
“Yes and much more. Now, some of the rules explained are compulsory, whilst others are recommendations.”
“Like giving way to traffic on the right at roundabouts?”
“Correct, that’ll be a must-do rule. If you are brought to a British courtroom on a traffic violation, the Highway Code may – and probably will be referenced in a case against you.”
“I’m with you. So, what’s your point Jan?”
“My point is, the rules are pretty basic.”
“For example?”
“If you are sat at a junction to a main road, you give way to the traffic both ways, until the road is clear and safe to pull onto.”
“Seems like common sense there Jan.”
“But how many times have your listeners seen car drivers edge out onto main roads, as if they are entitled to some kind of special exemption from the rules?”
“Well, I’ve certainly seen this, whether they are turning left or right, or cutting across traffic to come off the main road. Often people in big four-by-fours, but not exclusively.”
“Indeed. And people blithely wave them on without consideration of possible consequences. Have you seen this happen – when a cyclist or pedestrian is endangered as a car turns? Have you seen the confusion being waved-on creates when there are two or more cars vying to take advantage of a situation? It’s madness. People, I say, just drive by the rules! That’s all I ask. Life would be so much easier.”
“Life would be better.”
“Life would be safer.”
“And that’s what really counts Jan. I am afraid we have run out of time, thank you so much for coming onto the show.”
“My pleasure. Lastly can I just say ‘cyclists, use lights day and night‘ and also mention I am giving a talk later this afternoon at Holywell’s Bookshop, inviting a Q&A session immediately afterwards.”
“Indeed Jan you can, and I believe you just have. We have time for one more themed recipe and okay, let’s see what we have here and from whom…”
“It’s a banana and are those four cherries, run through with a cocktail stick?”
“Yes I think you’re right Jan. Our thanks to justcantgetenuff for tweeting that one in. This next song is regularly requested by listeners of the show, after which we’ll go to the news and weather with Randolph Spencer. But first, here’s the Palace Brothers, with Merida …

car ban or carbon?

My dearly devoted Readers, how often I am asked: “What news of Oxford, friend! Tell us, won’t you just?” Alright, alright, okay, I press pause on my own humble ramblings and offer-up an answer to this very query. Here, I present a shooting star amongst Oxford’s Glitterati, a journalist I strongly identify with, delivering the qualities of both intrigue and insight. I discovered his writing in a local publication found folded underneath the leg of a wobbly wooden table in Dank Cafe, the basement eatery at the university’s esteemed museum of antiquity. Enjoy! That’s all that’s really left to say. Read-on Reader, and enjoy!

CAR BAN OR CARBON?

As anyone familiar with the sprawling shanty town of Oxford, in southerly central England knows, we are the world leaders in traffic congestion. Los Angeles? Give-us-all-a-break! Shanghai? A mere tootle around Toyland. The dodgems of Rome and Paris? The famous Delhi welli? No, not if you combined the entire list, would you get within spittoon distance of the plight Oxfordian’s experience, each and every single day of their lives.
Recent social media attention, surprisingly, is accurate and true! The ‘road situation’, as it is referred to, means visitors have practically ceased to arrive here. According to the last count-up of statistics compiled by the Classified Central Government Information Service, reports indicate numbers lower than figures recorded in the early part of the 20th century. Ironically, this coincides with the period in history dating back to just before the mass production of civilian vehicles entered full swing.
I caught up with one former expert on the subject, on his regular walk through each of the ancient university parks. Reduced to a single mantra, he robotically quotes meticulously calligraphed black ink writing from the sandwich board he now wears: “The full circle has cometh!”
It is measurable to actually see how far we have come, when members of the public are witnessed openly agreeing with “Professor Bonkers”, as he is affectionately referred to. This, despite his close resemblance to an aged version of a caveman, from a low-budget 1960’s British film I have in mind. I witnessed many of them for myself, people commonly spotted with phone cameras held aloft, cheek-to-cheek, a ‘thumbs-up’ gesture, smiling and laughing with the hirsute, smelly and trouserless old man.
A motion tabled by the council in recent days looks to enforce a ban, proposing an as yet ill-defined and tactlessly named ‘Total Exclusion Zone’ for all motorised vehicles, with introduction set for next year. Although details remain sketchy at present, it is believed the ban will extend to include bicycles within the next three years. On Thursday evening, The Oppositional Party will seek an amendment to encompass the prohibition of all bikes with child trailers “…within the next 28 days.” Sources close to senior officials say this is likely to meet with approval, with the Lord Mayor expected to rubber stamp the decree, within the next 72 hours.
When asked what will happen to anyone in breach of the ban, the same senior official is reported to have replied: “I suggest you do not doubt us! Vee have our vays.” At which point, with a click of his heels, the representative retreated behind the oak doors of the Jacobethan town hall, locking them noisily with a large key seen dangling from a chain attached to the belt of his pinstripes.
Public opinion appears divided between apathy and fanatical hysteria, with little hope emerging for any kind of middle ground. Hospitals have issued a joint statement, urging residents to ‘keep taking the medicine.’
On the international stage, the Estonian president has cancelled her planned trip, quoted as saying “The prospect of closer trade relations with Oxford, has today been irreparably damaged.”
In reply, the head woman for the town council Heather Headwoman insisted, “We don’t really care, to be honest.”
Other cities around the world are watching the current course of unfolding events, with differing degrees of interest. A spokesgirl for the world read a statement to the gathered media pack earlier this morning, in which she mentioned the new shopping mall as good enough reason to walk into Oxford.
She might be right, I’m not sure, but what I am sure about is that we will certainly all see if she is right, soon enough!

credit:
Journalist, Jan Futchinelle
#roadsituation

IMG_4630

OCD Stories: Perpendicular Pat (part one)

No one knew where Pat had come from or how he’d landed the driver’s job. A transfer from an outlying British Oversea Territory became the favoured theory, amongst work colleagues. As a tall and broad-shouldered man, no one cared to challenge or question Pat.
During the household waste collection rounds, neighbours noticed how he approached the job with his precision handling of a seven and a half tonne lorry. He avoided blocking roads, allowing the morning rush hour traffic to flow freely. This man, wearing his plaid patterned flat cap, possessed a unique sense of anticipation and spatial awareness. An observant, early morning dog-walker watching Pat’s progress on a stretch of his route, would easily discern these qualities. He regularly adjusted the large, off side wing mirror and rotated the steering wheel vigorously, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise. The grim look of concentration on his face revealed a man finely tuned to a task and a master of clutch control.
He kept everyone happy, timing the movement of the refuse truck at a pace which served the operatives perfectly. Walking distances for the men reduced, while reports circulated of coordination akin to a military operation. Looked on from above, the streets pulsated to a rhythm of efficiency.
The tips flowed in throughout the year, not only around Christmas time. During early May, mothers held children up in their arms to thread flowers into button holes and behind the ears of the bin men. They became used to receiving greetings, even short and pleasant conversations. As noted, everybody seemed happy.
Everyone, except Pat.
“Something is missing.” He’d told the crew, one Friday. “There’s something more we can do.” The men scratched their heads and chins, with no idea what this might be. A few humorous comments surfaced, which Pat ignored. “Go enjoy your weekend boys, rest assured I’ll work on this over the next couple of days.” They changed out of their workwear and left the depot in silence, wondering what Monday held in store.

The new week began without the expected revelation. No one suggested Pat looked dour, as the team worked diligently through their rounds. Contemplative fitted better and more accurately described his state of mind. Each time after they’d completed a section, he would climb out of the cab and stand in the centre of the road. Stood next to his white charger, large hands rolled into fists and perched on hips, this Roman General scrutinised each detail of what lay before him.
The same routine followed for the next three days. Mild disgruntlement formed amongst the ranks, as the length of the shifts extended to encompass the analysis. Overheard grumblings in the dressing room at the council depot on the Thursday morning, prompted Pat to address his men.
“I understand the frustration you boys have been feeling this week.” He said. His expression had softened from the intense concentration, apparent the day before. “Time is of the essence, I’m hearing you say. Well, it’s not and never has been on my watch. The essence we are dealing with here, is service.”
“Boss, we’re doing a great job,” piped up Jakub, a Polish man of muscular frame. “I heard from Sylvie at the reception desk, we are likely to win the Local Council Award for Excellence this year.”
“Now boys!” Pat raised his voice several decibels to be heard above the chatter breaking out between the men, at Jakub’s news. “Mark my words, it’s never been about gongs, it’s never been about how fast we work. The public pay for a service, the role falls to us and we are paid well enough by all accounts, to deliver that service.” Pat paused, waited for silence before continuing. “You remember what I said last Friday, you’ve seen me assessing our rounds. Well, tomorrow I am introducing a new element to the our responsibilities, it is simple and yet transformative.”
“Why can’t we start it today, Boss?” Asked Lando, an Italian originating from the whitewashed hill towns in the heel forming Italy’s boot.
“Tutto a tempo debito?” Replied Pat, quoting an Italian proverb. The men sitting around Lando avidly watched him to see how he would reply.
“Okay Boss, you know best, all in good time I guess, as you say.”
“That’s right son, all in good time. Next week boys,” Pat said, looking around at each one of the faces transfixed on him, “we are going to raise the bar for household waste collection. We’ll be putting our names down in the history books, nothing will be the same afterwards. Now let’s go out there today and tomorrow, looking after ourselves and each other, and get the job done.” A spontaneous shout of approval reverberated around the changing room as the men stood up and walked out, in line behind their leader.

(end of part one (part two to follow))