First Kiss

They stood, gazing nervously into each other’s eyes. Oliver had placed his left hand on Sarah’s waist, his right hand, slightly sweaty, was palm to palm with hers, their fingers intertwined. She was trembling, but Oliver didn’t notice. He was breathing slightly heavily and his heart was trying to force its way out of his chest through his ribcage as she bit her lip invitingly.

Months had led up to that moment. Neither of them had been keen on the prospect of dating, but after countless furtive glances and repeated fleeting eye contact, their mutual friends finally forced them to act on their attraction. This led to a lot of awkward messaging, a lot of ambiguity and misunderstanding as they both repeatedly bottled attempts to ask the other out, but eventually they agreed to meet up, alone, with neither daring to call it a date.

The date that wasn’t openly acknowledged as a date wasn’t a complete disaster. Oliver wasn’t able to drive and had forgotten to book a taxi, so they had to get the bus. Sarah nervously rang the bell on the bus early, resulting in them having to cross a very muddy field – she was too embarrassed to admit her mistake and stay on the bus for two more stops. They eventually arrived at the zoo, where Oliver hoped to impress his date with some esoteric facts about the animals there; some might refer to Oliver as an animal lover, but he prefers animal enthusiast, not due to some fear that people might accuse him of bestiality, though he wouldn’t put it past them, but because he could honestly say that he has only ever loved one animal – his pet cat, Jones. His mental fact-file of animal trivia had gotten stuck on just one section – sex. ‘Did you know,’ he blurted out, ‘that female spotted hyaenas have an elongated clitoris called a pseudo-penis?’ They weren’t even looking at hyaenas at the time, as they are not to be found in the reptile enclosure.

The first part of the sort-of date led to the second, the meal, where Oliver mostly worried about pairing the wrong wine with the meal, though neither of them were drinking wine. They ate in relative silence, mostly reverting back to the quick, stolen glances they were more used to. She was damn near perfect, or so he reckoned. He could overlook the occasional grammatical errors in her messages, the way she dressed as though she was about to spend the evening on the couch, her lack of understanding of quantum mechanics and her distaste for Fifth Element. She was flawless. Oliver insisted on paying the bill but was overzealous with the tip. When they left the restaurant, Sarah ended up having to pay for the taxi.

Oliver and Sarah got out of the taxi together just outside her house. Oliver was feeling bold and yet terrifyingly nervous at the same time. The wine he hadn’t drunk had somehow gone to his head on top of the beer he had with his meal. She was intoxicating enough without alcohol. Oliver found his hand toying gently with hers, his other moving to her waist, and he leant in to kiss her.

At first, he wasn’t sure what he was doing, but it was amazing. Her lips were so soft, her tongue teased his, her hands pulled him in tighter. He felt the warmth of her body next to his, feeding into him, making him feel stronger. His body tingled, he felt electricity in his fingertips, in his toes, his hair was surely standing on end, he’d never felt excitement like it. The pounding in his chest was drowned out by the most ethereal choral music, entire hosts of angels in exultation for him, singing his praises to the heavens.

His mind went blank, had emptied in one orgasmic pulse, then filled again, slowly, liltingly. He felt the rhythm of her entire being as he saw everything. The entire universe, every particle, every antiparticle, every galaxy, every black hole, every flow of time and imaginary time, from beginning to end and end to beginning. She was melting into him, every inch of her body was consumed by his, every thought in her mind absorbed into his essence. They were one, now and forever, united by a kiss.

The first kiss. Sarah would never forget it. She’d always had a soft spot for Oliver, he looked at her as though he wanted her for who she was and not just another pretty girl. It took him a while to ask her out, but he didn’t dare call it a date and neither did she. It was an immensely awkward day, but there they were, outside Sarah’s house, pushing each other’s boundaries. Then he kissed her. It was tentative at first, but nice. She began to feel relaxed and pulled him in closer, she did not want the kiss to end too soon. He was warm, he’d been sweating a fair bit all day too, but it wasn’t too noticeable. He seemed to be getting hotter, it felt like he was melting. She felt herself unable to pull away, being pulled in tighter, his gravity was increasing; the parts of her body closest to him felt as though they were being torn away from her back, like some warped tug of war with her body. The pressure was intensifying, she felt her flesh searing as vibrations shattered her bones. Her febrile mind was rent into pieces as he forced his way into every memory, every private fantasy, every dream. Everything went white.

Sarah awoke in a prison. She could see out into the world but could do nothing. It was dark, it was lonely, there was no way out. She had been broken beyond fixing, she didn’t even want to be fixed. She wanted nothing. No life, no thoughts, no desires. Nothing.

Oliver stood alone outside Sarah’s house, looking up at the stars. He felt Sarah’s warmth deep inside him, smiled to himself, and went home. He had everything he wanted. It had been a good kiss.

 

The end of the world

George had traipsed through snow, his feet lazily crunching into the freshly laid blanket on the hill, the sound of the world turned down low so that all he could hear was his own shuffling. He picked a spot at the top, overlooking the town in which he grew up, and sat down. He felt the cold, wet snow soak through his trousers, but he didn’t care. It’s nearly the end of the year, he thought, but what have I done? A discussion began to bounce around his head. Well, you didn’t get that job you wanted, you failed your driving test, you’re still single and you’ve lost a few friends.

No, think of something good, something positive, he implored himself.

How about that pretty girl you finally talked to at the start of the year? You know, the one whose name you daren’t even think of in case she just so happens to be psychic, even though you don’t believe in psychics.

See, that’s a start. She makes me think. I like people who make me think. George was almost being optimistic.

But you’ve only spoken to her twice. To be fair, that’s pretty pathetic. Hardly progress.

Have I really done nothing? Have I really wasted this year? Am I too lazy? Too incompetent? Too scared? Where have I gone wrong?  Questions would not stop flooding into George’s head, it felt as though his mind was filling up, ready to burst.

You’ve not gone wrong, you’ve just not gone right. It’s not the end of the world.

The flooding of George’s mind suddenly stopped. The thoughts evaporated, leaving those final words to echo around the void. The end of the world. The end of the world. The end of the world…

George jumped to his feet and ran. He loped through the snow down the hill, running faster than he had in a long time. The end of the world. He bounded across a usually busy road without looking and headed for the woods which flanked the river. By now he would normally be doubled over with stitch, but none of his muscles seemed to realise that they were being used. He ran effortlessly, muttering five words to himself – “The end of the world.” George glided through the trees, skipped steps when he met stairs and found himself eventually running by the side of the river. The rushing waters spurred him on, nature’s chorus singing to him, “The end of the world.” Then he stopped. Before him was the bridge. It was the sort of bridge which you could tell was the pride and joy of the architect, the product of thousands of careful hours of potentially treacherous building for its Victorian construction team, a bridge which could tell a million stories of travels, companionship, love, death and more.

George slowly walked out onto the bridge, taking in the view of the snow-covered countryside. A small country church sat covered in snow near the horizon, like a perfect postcard picture. George climbed onto the side of the bridge, and, without a second thought, jumped into the water.

He felt only the thrill of the jump. He did not notice the iciness of the water, he just let it wash over him and began to swim. George had never been the strongest of swimmers, he didn’t even get to the deep end during swimming lessons at school, but he swam as though he was built for it, cutting through the water at record-breaking speed. He navigated the murky waters of the river, casting a large wake behind him, threading his way through canal systems and past weirs with only a single thought: the end of the world.

Shadows grew long in front of him as the Sun set to his rear, but even his shadow was struggling to match his pace. He felt the river widening as he smelled salt on the air – the sea was ahead. The end of the world. The first wave crashing against his face exhilarated him, he felt the tide flow with him and against him, trying to drag him out and force him back, but George was too forceful, too strong. The waves grew bigger and bigger, rain crashed down upon him as he headed into the heart of a storm. Lightning tore the sky in two, illuminating the way to the end of the world for a multitude of incandescent moments. The sky crashed itself back together, thunder resounding across the crests of the waves, reverberating through George’s mind, urging him on. THE END OF THE WORLD, announced the thunder.

The last swell of the storm carried George further ahead. He did not need to rest, but the sky was relaxing. He floated on his back, the gentle, rhythmic rippling of the water’s surface was meditative, his body slowly swaying. It should be daytime right now at home, he pondered, but out here it is night. He did not know the constellations, he could not even find north in this sky, but he knew where he was going. The end of the world.

The gentle flow rocked George to sleep. When he awoke, he could not tell if it was night or day; those words seemed to lack meaning. Everything out here was different. Well, almost everything. A plastic bag floated into George’s hair, a Woolworth’s bag, which George promptly pocketed. Can’t have that mess out here, he assured himself, then joked, man’s mess is everywhere, and that could be the end of the world.

George sensed something up ahead. No, he thought, that was wrong. George sensed nothing up ahead. The waves in front of him just disappeared, they did not crash into a barrier, they did not rush forth as if going over a cliff; they simply disappeared and reappeared, and disappeared and reappeared. George righted himself, not expecting to find his feet on the loose ocean bed, but he stood tall, taller than ever. He felt huge, Brobdingnagian even. He was standing proudly at the end of the world. No, he thought, that was also wrong. He was standing proudly at the edge of the world.

He didn’t know what he had expected to find at the edge. Everything just sorted of ended. Stopped. There was no barrier, though there were stars which seemed at once to be right in front of him, like some very expensive hyper-realistic wallpaper, and at a great distance, like stars should be, many of them twinkling in our sky long after they had died in their own region of space. Without hesitation, George closed his eyes and stuck his head through the wall of sky. When he opened his eyes he saw nothing. It wasn’t even black. Just nothing. Emptiness, but not. Everything at once if you took it all away, but not a lacuna, not fillable.

What had he expected? Turtles all the way down? A passage into another world where he was perhaps more successful? Some sort of afterlife, an affirmation of a single religion for which he could swim about evangelising? Was this vacuum the answer? No God? No beyond? Just… this?

Everything raged inside him. Every thought, every fear, every embarrassment, every frustration, every excitement, every pleasure, every feeling of anger, envy, self-pity, self-loathing, all churned inside him. He bellowed into the void, “WHAT IS THIS?”

There was no echo. No response.

“WHAT AM I FOR?”

Nothing.

“WHAT CAN I DO?”

Nothing.

“HOW CAN THIS END?”

The questions in his head ceased. A vortex of noise rose from a whisper to a cacophony, every voice of every person who George had ever affected was speaking all at once. Everyone whose life he had changed by virtue of simply being in it was speaking to him through the maelstrom of mutterings, cries, shouts and even measured tones. He could not grasp any sentences but the words filled his head. There were words of anger, of pain, of fear. There were words of hope, of caring, of compassion. There were words of love, of desire, of passion. There were words of teaching, of instruction, of guidance. But jumbled together he could make no sense of them, the noise was becoming unbearable. His head hurt. He thought about jumping. I’ll do it, he thought aloud, don’t think I won’t.

The words grew louder. He could feel himself about to explode or collapse. He leant slightly forward, ready to let himself go. The words all revolved rapidly around his head and merged into one sentence. Every voice spoke as one and every voice meant it. George’s family and friends and acquaintances were all speaking to him. People he had yet to meet, people he might never meet, people who had died before he even came into being, were all speaking to him. The universe was speaking to him. And they all said one thing:

“George… I love you.”

Stunned, George stopped thinking. He felt his heart swell. A lone tear trickled down his cheek.

And he fell.

George became alert with a jolt. His arse was numb, his legs stiff, and the cold breeze on his exposed face penetrated down to his bones. She was looking at him quizzically. The pretty girl he’d met at the start of the year was sitting next to him, taking some amusement at him falling asleep where he sat. There was a whole world in those eyes, a world he wished to explore. His face was on fire, George was surprised that the heat was not melting the snow for miles around, he felt her eyes piercing through to his soul, every insecurity and lack of achievement was boiling inside him, bubbling up to the surface for the world in her eyes to see. He heard a faint rustling. A cracking sound brought him back to reality. There, he saw a hand extended to him, holding a piece of chocolate. Fruit and Nut – his favourite.

The smile on her face and the taste of the chocolate combined to bring George to his senses. He noticed a small, white ball of fluff frolicking in the soft snow, noticeable because of the flopping, pink tongue bouncing around. The girl had a dog, or something resembling a smaller version of a dog (George didn’t really consider anything that small to really be a dog). They chatted for a short amount of time, enough to keep George thinking for the rest of the day, but she really wanted to sledge down the hill so George agreed to take it in turns. As he watched her slowly picking up speed in her cheap, plastic sledge, the living snowball she called a dog chasing after her, tongue lolling, George smiled genuinely for the first time in what felt a very long time. Perhaps tomorrow, he thought, I’ll swim to the end of the world, but not today. Today is good.

 

A Poem for Puddin’

Yesterday I lost one of the loveliest ladies of my life. She was a bit off-character on Christmas day during the evening, but we thought little of it. On Boxing day she kept to herself more than usual, but she was largely herself for most of the day. I went out that night and came home at 1:30 in the morning, when I noticed that she really was not herself. She was barely moving, except every so often to switch from the couch to the floor and vice versa, she would lift her head up and occasionally wag her tail. I offered her a bit of pork and she didn’t touch it (she is usually a glutton). So I laid down on the floor with her when she was down there, sat with her when she was on the settee, until around 5am when I was getting too tired, so I carried her up to my bed and let her sleep with me for a change. I’d already realised that she might be dying, so much of those four hours were spent telling her how much I loved her. During the night she moved position twice, then in the morning my mum let her out. Apparently she struggled with the stairs. She spent most of the day lying down, occasionally drinking, and her legs seemed to stop working properly. We eventually got her to the vets in the evening. As I went to pick her up to take her to the car I found that she’d pee’d where she was lying, and during the car journey she poo’d without seeming to notice. At the vets we were told that it could have been a clot, so we chose to have her put down. I wrote this poem for her that night:

A future lost, a past worth treasuring,
But you weren’t you as I said my long goodbye.
I would have carried you until my arms gave out, had you been you.
I threw my heart and you chased it, curled up with it, gave warmth to it.
You may not be in my sight, but your warmth is in my heart,
It warms my tears.

Below is a charcoal picture I drew of her around 8 years ago.

Picture Challenge Story

The challenge: to write 500 words about this picture. I went for an exact word count.

 

A chill spread across the land as the wind blew in from the sea. The trees shivered in response, awaiting the opening of the skies. A clap of thunder heralded the threat, but the promise of rain was enough to make the trees tremble with excitement. The clouds were dark and heavy, ready to burst, ready to shower the land. A glimmer of light flickered through the clouds. Not lightning, but the Sun itself, forcing its way through, threatening to overthrow the darkness, to dry up the rain before it had begun.

The trees grew restless. They had need of sunlight, they had need of rain, yet where did their loyalties lie? ‘Who cares about the rain?’ cried one youthful tree, merely a sapling not three years since, ‘there are all sorts of rivers and lakes around here’. The elder trees were not at all impressed, after what seemed like an age one of them replied, ‘you know nothing of the replenishment of the soil, young one, you know nothing of drought, though perhaps one would do you well.’ The outspoken younger tree rocked in the wind, deep in thought. ‘I heard thunder, what if there’s lightning?’ A susurration swept through the forest, for the electric threat was all too familiar to some of the older trees, and the younger had heard terrible tales of flames and fear. ‘You’ll be begging for rain if fire catches,’ declared a particularly stout tree who had seen his fair share of flames.

The argument raged back and forth in the bustling wind, until one of the oldest trees in the woodland pointed out that it was not in their control, but that whatever happened there would be good and bad. They fell silent, but for the wind buffeting them to and fro, and watched as the battle between light and cloud commenced. The contrast of the dull clouds and the pure light cast strange serpentine shapes in the sky. They appeared almost to be writhing, attempting to strangle the Sun and subdue it. Screams echoed across the land from the serpent’s many mouths as the heads were forced apart. The Sun was winning, forcing its way through the vaporous vipers, illuminating the forest below.

In the distance the skies grew darker and heavier as the clouds were forced back by the Sun. Before long their hissing could be heard as they proclaimed defeat and released their rain elsewhere. The light of the Sun was soaked up by the trees, young and old, as they began to discuss the hostility in the heavens.  The young trees could not hold back their excitement, nor could they stop themselves from gloating. The older tree shook slightly, ‘let them have their moment,’ he thought, ‘for soon they will be dreaming of rain, wishing for the return of the serpents. The sounds of thunder may yet be the music they choose to dance to, if they ever should feel the fire of dragons or the damage of drought.’

Possible writing project

I recently had an idea for writing which I might actually follow through with. Normally I have big ideas and never get round to starting them, but with this I want it to be different. I intend to write some zombie apocalypse fiction, well aware that it is popular at the moment and that it seems like a bandwagon I’m jumping on. In a sense it is, as my love for zombies waxes and wanes every so often, depending on how much I immerse myself in the fiction. I took part in 2.8 Hours Later last year and would thoroughly recommend it, especially if you love zombie fiction. My current interest is not due to World War Z, though I have seen it and did enjoy it, though I wouldn’t exactly think of it as a zombie film. It is because I finally got round to watching The Walking Dead and have even managed to get my hands on the comics, which I am thoroughly enjoying.

Last year I wrote a zombie short story, which you can read here. I’d figured out some of the logistics of a zombie threat, hinted at mostly, though one of my main ideas turned out not to be as original as I’d hoped. I went for the fungal-infection version of zombies, which appears to be becoming popular. The rage virus types would scare the crap out of me, but I wouldn’t call them zombies. I prefer the slow, lumbering types. My more recent short story is meant to be more touching and is set towards the end of the major conflicts, or at least well into them.

I’m thinking of writing a series of short stories which will be collected as a larger whole. They are provisionally called Where Were You? but I am considering changing that. Some will be very short, others will be quite long, and will each be about a character at the time of a zombie outbreak. Each story will explore what it was like for them to survive in the place they happen to have been at the time. I’ve been thinking of how much luck would be involved in such a scenario. There are times in my life where I know that I would have stood little to no chance, whereas in some locations or with certain people there are more possibilities for survival. At a music festival, for example, I’d have been completely overwhelmed, whereas those rare occasions spent on an army base would have improved things somewhat. My main decisions now involve style and localities.

Taizé – not a story

I used to regularly visit the Taizé community and once took the opportunity to write about it for a local church newsletter (I forget which one). It is not a story, but it felt worth sharing. I wrote it in 2oo9. Accompanying it is a picture I took whilst there several years ago, it is one of my personal favourites, taken at the grave of Brother Roger, the founder of the community, who was brutally murdered during a church service. It is one of those pictures which, for me at least, tells a story of its own.

Taizé

Going on a ‘pilgrimage of trust’ to an ecumenical community of dedicated brothers can sound very daunting to a young Christian and trying to explain how amazing it is to visit is often fraught with difficulty. It truly is a place you need to visit to understand as it is often quite paradoxical. When people ask questions they tend to somehow instinctively hit on the negatives, which for someone who has been are bizarrely not negative at all. “What is the food like?” “Very basic” “Can you drink?” “One weak beer per day” “Are there showers?” “Yes, but very unpredictable” “Where do you sleep?” “In a tent, often on rough ground” (I got a beautifully placed stone this year, right in the middle of my back and pointing upwards).  One friend quipped that it sounded like a concentration camp, which is surprisingly similar to Brother Paolo’s remarks that it is like an upper class refugee camp. These seem like insurmountable obstacles to fun and enjoyment, yet every year thousands upon thousands of young people of all walks of life make this pilgrimage and find it worthwhile, often wanting to come again. I’ve now been six times and fully recommend it, so what is there to it?

Part of what I have already described is part of the fun, as odd as that sounds, they are only ostensibly negative. Taizé takes us back to basics in many ways, whilst there we appreciate the beauty in life from the perspective of a simpler mode de vie. We spend so much time tied to our material lives: constantly texting; obsessively checking Facebook; watching too much television; yet in Taizé we find we have everything we need without these incessant distractions. It is refreshing not needing beer for a good time, something many often need to realise – myself included. Living for a week without a proper bed or shower helps us appreciate it more when we return to it; Taizé can help us discover that these things truly are luxuries we do not need. This is often an unnoticeable part of the Taizé experience which lasts for longer than the week there. Could you imagine eating every meal with just a spoon and considering it normal?

The biggest parts of the Taizé experience are, in my mind, relationship and discovery. In Taizé you can really discover yourself, whether through silent reflection or through communing with others. Taizé’s most beautiful paradox is that on the one hand it is a place where you can go and be at complete peace if you wish; if you want it you can find it, in church, down by the source or by going into silence (if you dare). On the other hand it is a place where you can socialise with thousands of young people from all over the planet, singing, dancing, chatting, laughing and much more. Taizé is one of the few places in the world where young people from warring countries have been known to get along and laugh together. The opportunities for making friends in Taizé are endless and from every continent too, though Antarctica may have to be missed out; I thought I saw a penguin once but it was just a visiting nun. The coach journey, discussion groups and visiting Oyak are all great places to make new friends and learn about diverse cultures.

In Taizé the days have structure and everything flows well. There are three church services per day (optional but recommended) and they allow for deep reflection. The chants are beautiful and simple, and I would be surprised if someone came away without a favourite (unless like me they have several favourites which they can’t choose between). There are no sermons to endure, just short Bible verses and psalms. Silence is at the heart of the service and is the perfect time to reflect or to simply open yourself up. Whilst there you can also opt to do a job, ranging from washing the pots to washing toilets; keeping people quiet in church to keeping people quiet late at night; there is something for everyone. Work is usually seen as something to grumble at, I know I’m guilty of a lot of grumbling, but in Taizé it just does not seem like a bad thing at all, quite the opposite in fact. Mundane jobs become fun and feeling part of something bigger needs to be felt by everyone from time to time. Taizé works so well because everyone contributes and gets into the community spirit.

Through forging new relationships and through self discovery Taizé can be an incredible experience. It also allows for us to discover more of God too. Church gives us the time to reflect and open ourselves to Him if we wish, but nobody is pushing. The Taizé community allows you to go along at your own pace, never pushing or dragging, but offering a guiding hand where it is wanted. Discussion groups can vary from dealing with tough questions about faith, to simply having fun and playing games with people of differing backgrounds. It is a place where you can feel safe even if the Bible intimidates you as you will not have it thrown at you or forced down your throat; if you do want to plumb its depths then Taizé can be the perfect place to do so.

I always come back from Taizé feeling refreshed both emotionally and spiritually, and want to share it with everyone I meet. This year I found myself in the odd position where so many amazing things had occurred whilst there that I struggled to say anything about it to my friends and family! It was beyond words and I get something new from it every year; burdens are lifted and my mind is often more clear and focussed. Taizé is a deeply personal experience which unusually can be shared with others; they will find it to be an amazing place too, even if their reasons are different. This has been a description of my own views on Taizé, something I like to try to put into words and often struggle to do. I can only recommend visiting, if you haven’t already, as I guarantee you will benefit. Hopefully my words can at the very least get people wondering.

Frére Roger

Some old paintings

I am tempted to start sharing more than just stories on this blog, as scrolling through posts which are just text can be tedious. With some posts I have included music, which breaks up the monotony somewhat, and have already shared some images. Here are a few paintings I did around five or six years ago. I’m no painter by any means.

fear

My favourite.

My favourite. I call it Horse Egg.

mine!

summataboutwomen

Oooold story – What Dreams Are Made Of

I think this may have been the first time I wrote a story just for the fun of it. I don’t like reading it back and have tweaked it a little since I wrote it around five years ago.

 

What Dreams Are Made Of

 

The wind blew through the fields, creating wild patterns in the cereal, tossing them about with not a care in the world. The cereal had little knowledge of what moved them, simply that they did and that they should resist. They stuck firmly in the ground but started to give into temptation. They danced and they danced, embracing the powerful wind as though it had the same desires, blissfully ignorant to impending dangers as the dance took them over almost completely. They remained stationary at the roots, yet their dances became more vivid and complex. They would never be the same again and they knew it, but caring was not on the agenda any more.

In the next field was a simple cousin, most commonly known as grass. These were as unwitting as their relatives, but in a way which contrasted greatly. They had the desire to spread, to force themselves into the world, also not caring for consequences. They spread across the land as far as they could, but space here had been exhausted, there was only one direction to go now and that was up. They forced themselves up and up, ignoring the demise of their brethren. For in this field came a different danger, the wind was no real issue here, except for the highest climbers who often fell foul to the desire to dance free. This new danger thwarted their plans mercilessly. It devoured the high risers, yet the young did not care, they had their aspirations and certain failure would not stop them. They rose high and were picked off one by one, sent to one of seven dank pits to be transformed into something new.

In the first field the dance stopped abruptly. A mechanical menace came and reduced them to nothing more than their lowly cousins. Their remains were taken away, crushed and mixed relentlessly with others, then blasted in a furnace of unforgiving fire.

These were dark times for both, the cereal was crushed and burnt, whilst the grass took a more drawn out path. In the dank pit the grass was rapidly transformed by bacteria, until spewed out in a vat and left to rot over time.

The cereal and grass in their now unrecognisable forms ended up in a new location very close together. Both were being kept in cool, dark holding areas, preparing for a big event, hoping not to miss the small window of opportunity.

They were to be united; the chance was slim, yet they had faith. This faith held strong and they battled through extreme doubt until the moment finally came. The cereal came first, burning with what could seem like anger to the untrained eye, but then came the grass, and they burnt passionately together, becoming one.

Merry Christmas, Bob

John woke up early on Christmas morning, one of his favourite days of the year. He got up from his bed, a mattress on the floor, and kept the duvet around himself as the heating hadn’t come on. He heard the soft patting of his elderly spaniel’s tail and smiled. “Merry Christmas,” he said to the dog, as he went through to the kitchen to put the kettle on. As he returned with his tea he brought a present for his pet, a new coat which he had been making out of some old pillow cases. The dog’s tail wagged again. As he sat down on the settee he lifted his pet up next to him and put the coat on over his soft fur. The dog rested its head on John’s lap and started gently licking his hand. “Did you get me anything?” John said to the happy little spaniel, resulting in more tail wagging. John gently got up from the settee and picked a lone present off of the floor, his present from the dog. It was a new towel for the bathroom, one which wasn’t covered in dog hairs. “Thanks buddy, I see you’ve been paying attention,” he said as he gave his friend a kiss on the head, followed by more tail wagging.

Normally on Christmas day John would go to church, as the people were always welcoming even though he knew none of them, but his dog, Bob, was getting frail, so he decided to stay at home this year. After getting dressed, making sure he had a big thick jumper as the gas was off, John treated himself to a few chocolates and admired the card on the table. It had come in the post from some random company but had his name on, so he displayed it proudly in the room which functioned as his bedroom, living room and dining room. John switched on the radio, looking forward to blasting out some Christmas tunes. He placed the new towel in the bathroom then danced into the main room, where he picked up Bob and danced with him into the kitchen.

The kettle was on again and John showed his furry companion what was in the fridge. John’s Christmas meal was there, a microwavable turkey dinner, so it was fortunate that the electricity had not gone off. Next to it was a pack of luxury dog food, some extra soft variety which Bob should manage to eat, but first it was time to do some reading. John loved reading Christmas stories to Bob. He always wagged his tail at the right moments and was happy to lick John’s hand during his favourite parts. They both had an appetite by the end of the book, so on went the microwave, filling the apartment with the smell of turkey and cheap gravy. Normally Bob would be on the floor whilst eating, but as a Christmas treat his bowl was on the settee next to his owner. John pulled a cracker, inside which was a bottle opener, then put the paper hat on Bob, who was happily eating his turkey-flavoured mush. The microwave meal tasted decent and John made fast work of it.

Bob appeared to be very pleased with himself, wagging his tail though his eyes were drooping. He spent most of the time sleeping these days, but John didn’t mind, he just picked Bob up and put him on his lap. John dozed off for a few hours, waking up when the radio went off. It was getting dark outside and the power had cut out. There was always a candle on the table ready, so John lit it and watched as Bob wagged his tail twice, casting shadows across the room. Bob licked John’s hand and closed his eyes, letting out a deep breath which sounded like satisfaction. John knew that Bob would not wake up. He looked at his companion and smiled, a single tear ran down his cheek, and he wished him a merry Christmas one last time. It was a good time for him to go; they’d both had a good day together. Merry Christmas, Bob.

I used to draw cartoons about a sperm called Frank…

Sometimes images can tell stories better than words alone, especially if it is a bit silly. During lectures I used to occasionally draw these little cartoons about an orange sperm called Frank, based on a keyring I had been given. I’ll not share them all here, but there might end up being a fair few. The quality is not amazing, though it does improve as they go along. There is rarely any continuity amongst them and many actually contradict, though there are some themes which get repeated.

The first one I ever drew.

The first one I ever drew.

 

In some of the pictures Frank is a tadpole. That's when continuity went right out of the window.

In some of the pictures Frank is a tadpole. That’s when continuity went right out of the window.

 

Frank 10 Vocabulary

 

 

I inserted Frank into a few film scenes.

I inserted Frank into a few film scenes.

 

This one is now even more appropriate.

This one is now even more appropriate.

 

I loved drawing scenes from Frank's childhood.

I loved drawing scenes from Frank’s childhood.

 

Ooh look, I stopped doodling them in lectures. Frank's imagination is fun to illustrate.

Ooh look, I stopped doodling them in lectures. Frank’s imagination is fun to illustrate.

 

How cute!

How cute!

 

 

I often made reference to Frank being a keyring.

I often made reference to Frank being a keyring.

 

35 S&M

 

 

Some of them are educational.

Some of them are educational.

 

It is always good to end with Tremors.

It is always good to end with Tremors.

I’ve done 50 overall and have plans somewhere for loads more. I doubt I will ever draw them all, but it could be a nice distraction some day.