A few blogs from the past…

For anyone wandering this way, here are a few of my favourite blogs that I don’t want to be forgotten.

The Lost Islands of Xogulano

otherfish

There’s the story of a woman on a mission to catalogue the bizarre plants and animals of the Island of Xogulano. But she finds a world more dangerous than she expected. In the Lost Islands of Xogulano.

Inspirational Posters for the Inept

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s the Motivational Posters for the Inept where you won’t find ‘If you can’t handle me at my best’ or ‘dance like no one’s watching.’ But you might find something that makes you smile.

A Couple of Novels

 

You can find extracts and info about the two books I’ve published. Riddled with Senses, a tale of love drugs and a dance with the Devil. Peddling Doomsday, about a cult that gets out of control. You can also find a few things I figured out about self-publishing, here.

There are many, many short stories and tiny stories. Such as Celebrity Sociopath or Living Ghosts.

Brain Injury

Phobias

And finally, you can find me talking about the brain injury and PTSD that happened to me thirteen years ago. These weren’t easy to write about, but I figured out so many things about how to care for myself that I believed could be useful to other people going through the same. Some also commented it at the time that the ideas were helpful for anyone, brain damage or not.

Take care of yourselves, blogsters! I look forward to visiting again soon.

🙂

All the Stories…

people-2583943_640
From Pixabay

“All the stories, all the songs, all the focus on the first flush of love,” he mused, raising his voice so Delilah could hear as he gazed out of the window. The world was rushing past, faster and faster like a ride at the funfair.

“All the hearts, all the promises, all the drama. So much attention for that daft time when nobody is thinking straight. When lovers are still pretending and posturing, still trying to impress.” He liked to play with poetry of the words and let his thoughts amble by as he waited for the kettle to boil. These were slow things that moved at a rate he could understand.

“All the cards, all the I-love-yous, all the fancy clothes,” he carried on as he took the tea through to where Delilah was sitting. “Like they don’t know it’s only a fleeting fuss, just hysteria gone in the blink of an eye. It makes them silly, doesn’t it? They don’t see their beloved, they’re too busy looking at themselves, and then it falls apart and they wonder how they could have got it so wrong. Truth only comes with time. Love that sticks around, doesn’t run at the first sign of trouble. Like what we’ve got, eh?” He patted her hand and she looked up and smiled. She hadn’t heard a word he’d said, but she didn’t need to, she’d heard it all many times before.

Flash Fiction: Last Chance City

house-3466731_640

Sol had moved to Last Chance City a year ago, and he’d never met anybody there who chose to leave. There were complaints of course, mortality rates were high, life was terrifying, but that was the point. Neighbours would bicker over the fence, all the while keeping a firm hold of the fence posts, eyes wild at any unaccounted for creaking or rumbling sounds. Jeff from next door wouldn’t venture into the garden until he’d attached a guy rope to the house, then he’d edge his way around the remains of his garden. Nobody moved to Last Chance City for an easy life. Sol had moved here when his doctor prescribed it as a final option to loosen the grip that despair had on his soul.

Two years ago, Sol had pretty much given up on everything. A bad break up, a dead-end job becoming more pointless by the day as robots took it over, a drink problem; Sol had felt himself spiralling down the drain when his doctor suggested he move to one of the experimental provinces.

“You’re unchallenged,” said the doctor, and Sol believed him to be utterly wrong.

“No,” he replied. “Everything is too much of a challenge, getting out of bed is a challenge. Cleaning my teeth is like climbing Everest,” replied Sol, dully. The doctor wasn’t paying attention, he was too caught up in his own words and the recommendation he was writing.

“I’ve seen it before. You’ve not got enough difficulty to your life, no purpose. I’m not saying these cities are a perfect solution, maybe not solution at all, but the alternative is you drink yourself to death, so what have you got to lose?”

Sol had been thirty-two when he moved to Last Chance City, but his age had been instantly wiped clean, he became only ‘alive’, nothing else mattered, and soon he might not be that either. There were no alcohol or drugs in the city, but on his first night he had gone round to Jeff’s for a barbecue and a sink hole had opened up in the garden pulling their Yorkshire terrier into the inky depths. Sol had run for his life as a swing, patio and shed had followed the dog. Some might have wanted a drink after that, but sitting in his own flat later on, Sol had felt no desire to get wasted at all. Finally, just being alive was adventure enough.

In the year since then, Sol had narrowly averted death by surviving a train crash, a house fire and a rabid dog that was loose on his street. And those were just the crises that he had personally been caught up in. He had also seen terrorist gangs on the roof of the local shopping centre, found the bus stop by his house burnt out and seen a volcano appear at the end of his street. These weren’t freak occurrences, they were routine. He had lost friends, but their deaths were celebrated, death was proof of a life well lived.

Sol kept up with all the local tweets, had joined a WhatsApp group that warned him of various horror scenarios coming his way. He knew that his days were numbered, life expectancy in Last Chance City was never longer than ten years, but after a lifetime of never quite feeling alive, ten years of cherishing each moment as being potentially his last seemed like a reasonable trade.

 

Short Story: 1000 Words

Denton could tie sixteen different types of knot and write five different alphabets. He knew the names of every country in the world and how to get from any tube station to any other, even though he had never been to London. He found this knowledge reassuring and periodically checked that he still knew it all. However, none of this helped him understand people. No matter that he could name each part of the brain; people were still a mess of unknowable, indefinable things. He suspected that other people had been given some kind of manual that explained everything – why sofas were important, when to speak, what facial expressions to wear – and because he didn’t have it, he was stumped, permanently. When he was with other people he always wore bewildered expression, hoping this would explain his situation. He wasn’t sure this worked though, because people were often angry with him.

Then, six months ago, Denton decided he’d had enough. He decided to take control. He was very fond of control, it was one of the reasons he was studying for a programming degree. After deciding fourteen separate times to take control, he had finally figured out how.

First, he worked to recreate the secret manual that he was sure everybody but him had access to. This required extensive research. With subtle questions to tutors and fellow students, with googling and searches to the dark web, the information had mounted up. He collated, cross referenced and edited each document, file and super-file. Now for phase two: only using one thousand words.

During his research into normal people and the curious stuff they do, he had read that most people only use a thousand words when speaking. They might know many more words, but normal conversation didn’t require them. As an experiment, Denton had spent a day with a Dictaphone keeping track of exactly how many words he used, and found it to be well over three thousand. He suspected that this excessive use of vocabulary might be why people thought he was strange, it was, at least a clue as to his oddness. So he had devised a list of an essential thousand words, and today would be the day when he restricted himself to using only those words. He had meticulously planned his wardrobe and behaviour to keep conversations on cue.

He heard a scuffling from outside his door and then,

“Denton!” he recognised the voice of his friend Steve. Denton knew that Steve would be standing with his feet flat on the floor and a shoulder’s width apart, that way he would be less likely to fall over when someone pushed him. Steve had been pushed a lot in his life.

“Denton, I’ve found a frog!”

The problem with a thousand-word limit, as far as Denton could see, was that you couldn’t know which situations would occur in any given day. He believed that for one day he could avoid describing the implosion of nebulae, or the function of a radio transmitter. He could avoid all references to the mouth parts of insects and the names of stones in archways. It would make conversation a little mundane, but he liked the challenge of repeating the same ideas over and over, like normal people.

When he had written out his thousand words, he had allowed for each basic everyday situation that he could think of – cancelled lectures, cold winds and earache, that the janitor was really a zombie; all very simple topics requiring just basic verbs and nouns. But he hadn’t thought to include the word frog. Still, Steve was a sensitive soul and Denton didn’t want to let him down. He shuffled from his bed and opened the door.

“Nice watch,” he said when he opened the door, then panicked. Steve stood holding the frog with two hands, two fingers spread slightly to let its head poke through.

“Frog,” he explained proudly, but Denton wasn’t listening, he was still panicking. He had spent several days outlining the plans for his thousand words. For example, he had decided that different verb endings didn’t fundamentally change the word – so he could count ‘speak’ and ‘speaks’ as one word. He had shaved a number of words out of his vocabulary, by choosing only one adjective, where normally several would be used – such as ‘red’ instead of ‘vermillion’, ‘pink’, ‘burgundy’. After all, many people couldn’t seem to tell the difference between those colours anyway. However, he had totally forgotten about Homonyms, words like ‘watch’, for example. He had actually included that word so that he could say “Can you watch my bag?” or “Did you watch telly last night?” but in his desperation to avoid conversations about a frog, he had used it in a different context. Was that ok? Or had he failed already? Not for the first time, he wished that social studies were published in the paper with proper methodology.

“I’m going to keep it,” said Steve, holding up the frog.

“Cool,” replied Denton.

“As a pet,” said Steve.

“Cool,” said Denton.

Maybe he could pass the whole day saying ‘cool’, other people managed it.

They walked to the canteen, across the paving, all the while Steve chatted to his frog and Denton tried to stay quiet.

They had reached the canteen doors where two girls from his year stood sharing a cigarette.

“Hi Denton,” said Su, who had dark eyes and a bright smile.

“Alright.”

“Why are you wearing your dressing gown?” she asked.

“Eccentricity,” replied Denton, glad the conversation was going to plan.

“Oooh, a frog,” said Katie who had red hair and a matching birthmark across her neck.

“Yes, I found it in the field. I’m going to keep it in the sink,” said Steve.

“Do you like frogs, Denton?”  asked Su.

“Sure.”

“What type of frog is it?” asked Su, with great effort of will, Denton kept his knowledge inside, and said,

“Don’t know.”

“You’re very monosyllabic today,” Su narrowed her dark eyes and folded her arms.

“I said ‘eccentricity’,” said Denton puzzled, wondering if people would think him stranger now that he was saying less.

“Eccentricity,” said Katie, rolling the word around her mouth like a boiled sweet.

“That’s a very good word, I don’t use it enough.” Su added brightly,

“You know, I read in the paper today that the average person speaks only three thousand different words in a day.”

“What?” exclaimed Denton.

“Yeh, apparently we all just keep repeating the same three thousand over and over. Except for Shakespeare.”

“Shakespeare was an odious buffoon!” said Denton happily, as Su laughed. Denton decided today was going to be delightful.

Short Story: Insidious Demands

– Hey there pretty lady, are you sitting all alone? A beautiful lady like you shouldn’t be alone.

– Oh, erm, hello, I’m just waiting for my friends, they’ll be here soon. Any minute now.

– Why don’t I keep you company then, hmm? You look like you could do with some company, just until they get here.

– Well, um, I’m not sure… it’s a bit of a school reunion, you see? Not an official one, just the old gang getting together again. I’m really quite nervous, it’s been so long.

– That’s why you need me to talk to, make a new friend while you’re waiting for the old ones.

– Well maybe, I mean. Maybe they’ll think it’s rude if I’m talking to someone else…

– Hey now, you shouldn’t be worrying about that, when we’ve got this chance to get to know each other, hmm?

– Well, I suppose. And it’s the kind of thing that we used to do back then, just start chatting to some random stranger. Kirsty especially, I could tell you some crazy stories. Whenever we took the train we’d end up talking to some boys or making friends with an old tramp.

– Well that’s great, I think you and me already have a real connection, don’t you? How about I buy you a drink?

–  Oh I don’t want to start drinking yet. Once the others get here, then I imagine it will be a free-for-all. More alcohol than you can shake a stick at, you know? Not that we were alcoholics, but we did like a drink.

– You don’t need to be so uptight about it, just have a drink with me.

– Oh Kirsty would love you. She did like a pushy fella who’d buy her a drink, she liked to play with them, she wanted the risk. Oh, I can’t wait to see the old gang, I haven’t seen them in years, not that it should matter, I mean when you’re friends with someone, that’s it for life, isn’t it? They say your teenage friends are your greatest friends, right? Didn’t they say that in a film once? But we were all very different back then though, and there were reasons we stopped being friends…

– Right, well that’s interesting…

– Kirsty especially got out of hand, not violent exactly, but, well there were incidents. Not that it was her fault, if I’d had that man as my father I’d have done a lot more than throw bottles at a car. Of course it would be all different if we were kids now, we’d spend our whole lives on the phone chatting to paedophiles. And you know kids today, the only time they actually look at one another is when they need to take a selfie, or a we-lie, or is it an us-y? I don’t know why they need to keep making up new words, like there aren’t enough words to deal with already. I mean there’s a whole dictionary full of the things.

– How about I get us that drink..?

– Anyway, I was telling you about Kirsty, you’ll like her, all the boys did at school. It’s odd because she was never that fastidious about personal hygiene, but then they say attraction is all about pheromones, so maybe she just didn’t wash hers off as much. You’d think the feet smell would mask the pheromones though wouldn’t you?

– Mmm.

– Fastidious, now there’s an interesting word that kids today never use. They’re too busy with their OMGs and YOLOs. But anyway, Kirsty, apparently she’s a big shot consultant now, earning a fortune in the city. Well it’s not really surprising, she was always clever. Clever and bored, that was her problem, school just wasn’t enough to occupy her, she could pass exams without even studying, lucky cow.

– Well that’s great, but maybe…

– Anyway, we all found each other on Facebook, it’s amazing isn’t it? Modern technology? Fifteen years, all five of us scattered across the globe. All going about our business never expecting to see each other again. Then a few clicks of the mouse and there you are, the whole gang together. Kirsty, Jennifer, Archisha, little Sarah and big Sarah. Of course big Sarah is not so big now. She actually looks fantastic. Not that she didn’t when she was a teenager, but, well, you know what it’s like for larger girls, it’s tough. Except it’s probably fine now, now that obesity is so common. Big Sarah would probably be considered quite svelte. Quite svelte Sarah we’d have to call her. Although I expect we’d be arrested under the Political-Correctness-Gone-Mad Act for it. You know at my son’s school they actually have a points system for bullying? Like with driving, you get too many points for picking on other kids and you have to take an anti-bullying test. Well, I said to the teacher, that’s just another form of bullying isn’t it? You’re bullying my son now, how about you take a test? How about I set that damn test? And yes, I did swear, but you can’t let these teachers push you around, can you?

– Ok, um, I really need to go now…

– Oh sorry, sorry, I got totally side-tracked, I was telling you about the gang, wasn’t I? Well there was Jennifer, sweet, mousy Jennifer. All the boys who didn’t go for smelly Kirsty, went for Jen. I never really understood why, I mean, she was pretty in a bland, unthreatening way, but there was no spark to her. Maybe that’s what they liked, someone who’d make them feel sparky by comparison. Boys don’t like to try too hard do they?

– Lady, let go of my arm…

– But I haven’t told you about Archisha and she’ll be here any minute. And hers is such a lovely story. When she joined the gang she was much like Jennifer, mousy. She followed us around with those big eyes, trying to make jokes, but she wasn’t funny, just awful. Then one of the boys took a shine to her and then she started to take a shine to herself, you know? I mean, we helped her out with make-up, lent her clothes and so on, but it was a total transformation, she blossomed. Became a bit full of herself to be honest, and she didn’t stop cracking those awful jokes, but the boys would just laugh and laugh, trying to impress her. I suppose they thought she was exotic, or is that impolitically correct now too?

– I need to go, please let me go…

– Yes, that’s right, you run along now. Run right along.

 

Originally posted March 19th 2016

Justice in the Age of Bubble Living

“You have never known vulnerability,” boomed the judge, enjoying the echo of her voice. “You have lived a life eased by your looks, and taken it for granted that you could have whatever you want. You have never worked, simply charmed your way to an easy life. And then when faced with an item you couldn’t have, a car you didn’t need but wanted, and that the owner wouldn’t just give you, you stole it!” The guilty man with the dimpled smile looked at her quizzically and then his eyes twinkled as he tilted his head. The judge’s heart hardened, she hated it when people tried to manipulate her.

“So your punishment is to know vulnerability. To lose your ticket to the easy life. To learn what it is to struggle and be rejected. You shall spend the next five years…ugly!”

She enjoyed the horror on his face, the struggle as he was dragged away, protesting and sobbing. The programmers could work out the details: a few warts, a wonky nose, hair in all the wrong places. Judging was so much more fun in these days of virtual reality.

Letter from the Damned

Dear Sam,

I don’t have much time so I’ll keep this brief. Last night I slept for thirteen hours, that’s the longest yet. If I keep going like this, soon I won’t have to wake up at all. My phone has wracked up seven messages while I slept – I know most of them will be from my boss since I missed my shift this morning. It’s difficult to care.

You wanted to know what’s going on with me, you’re not the only one, but you’re the only one that might actually understand, I hope you can. The truth is, I started having these bizarre dreams about a year ago. Every night I would dream that these shadowy demon figures were gathered around my bed, just watching me. Nothing about them was clearly defined, even their eyes were dark hollows, and then when they moved I could see darker streaks shifting like muscles beneath the smoky nothingness. Sometimes they would talk, but I couldn’t understand them. Sometimes they would prod me, even lift up bits of my body, and I was powerless to stop them. I didn’t know if they were bad or good, or what they wanted from me.,  I’ve never talked about it, because you’d have all thought I was crazy, sometimes I’ve thought I’m crazy too. And I kept thinking about them all day, just wanting an explanation, a plan, anything. And then I heard about lucid dreaming. In fact I read a blog about it, about how you could just take control of your dreams, kind of be conscious while in that dreamworld. I thought if I did that I could get them to speak in English, I could get up and prod them.

Like I say, I was never really sure that they were bad, they didn’t do anything nasty, but we’re taught to be suspicious of mysterious shadowy demon figures, they’re in so many horror stories, aren’t they? So when I started the lucid dreaming – writing notes to myself to stay awake, training myself to be kind of conscious while asleep – I was also getting ready to fight them. But they didn’t need to be fought. It turned out they had only come to visit and were working out how to communicate with me. Once I was able to get up and talk to them, it was pretty simple.

“You didn’t respond,” one said, speaking clearly, it turns out they hadn’t known I was English.

“It was as if you weren’t properly there at all,” said another.

“Well, I guess I wasn’t, that’s what dreaming is for us, usually,” I said.

“Ah,” they all said in thoughtful unison, they’re really very mellow. Sometimes we just sit in silence, it’s peaceful, I’ve never really known that kind of peace before.

Thirteen hours doesn’t last long in their world. We have time for a game of chess, a chat about what I’ve been up to and then I wake up. It’s been going on for a few weeks, and it’s made me realise: waking life is such a drag. No offence, but all the rush and the needless drama, I’m sick of it. I want to be where my demon friends are (that’s what they say they are, but demons aren’t bad in the dream world) but it’s ok, because I’m getting there. Each night I’m staying longer, each day becomes more of a token visit. Soon I won’t have to wake up at all.

So that’s what’s been going on. Look after yourself Sam, you’re one of the good guys. If you don’t see me around anymore, then you’ll know where I am.

Joe

The Continuing Wisdom of Bert

smiley-dog

Bert could barely suppress a smile as he groaned his way into his armchair. A good groan was like a fine wine, something to be savoured; plus it served as a segue into a new conversation. While his wife tried to watch Doctor Who, he explained the thought that had occurred to him on the toilet,

“I’ll tell you what’s odd; dogs never used to smile when I was young, but you see them now and they’ve all got big grins! All over the Internet.  Tom posted a picture of one on Facebook, a big doggy grin it had. That’s genetic engineering that is. That’s modification. Centuries of inbreeding. Isn’t it? Isn’t it, Becky?”

“Uh huh.”

“But what I’ve been thinking is, when are they going to work on cats? I mean dogs were always happy creatures and we had the wagging tail and licking, so there’s no real mystery about how they’re feeling, but what about cats? No one ever knows how a cat is feeling. They could do with smiles. When they going to modify cats to smile? Becky? Becky?”

Becky didn’t answer, and Bert sat back, contented. They could carry this on later, over dinner.

 

Picture pinched from here

Living Ghosts

The dreams were taking over. I still lived my life as I should, went to college, did assignments, even went out drinking and laughing with my friends; but it was a pretence, ever since Kamil, my best friend from school, had been hit by a car. I’d been with him. When he’d crumpled to the floor like a sack of broken bones. I’d held him, but he never opened his eyes. He didn’t know I’d held him. He’d vanished in a moment, but I’d carried on. And then the dreams had started.

Mostly they weren’t dreams of him, they were dreams of vampires and werewolves biting and tearing their way through the streets. Or dreams of earthquakes and tsunamis destroying the city, plucking me from the alleyway and throwing me against buildings so that I could feel the snap and crush. Dreams of death and violence, so that each day I would drift in a daze through classes and conversations, half-seeing horrors. The days had a muted emptiness that the dreams never had, so that waking life faded. How could I really care about grades and crushes, when I knew that night I would be smashed through the window of a high rise or see my rib cage ripped apart and my heart pulled out?

The last few days the dreams have been different, no blood, no terror. Instead I find myself walking through a street, a clean suburban street with clouds of cherry blossom and clipped lawns. I find myself walking with my sister, Asha. Each time we’re walking across the road and I feel myself tense, but there are no cars, there’s no danger. We walk up to one of the pretty houses with a blue door and a hanging basket filled with dead flowers and my sister nudges me so that I reluctantly open the door, feeling a surge of sadness, but no idea why. Then I wake up and carry that unnamed feeling of sorrow with me all day. I sit in the History lectures with my friends. I pretend again.

Last night I dreamt that I opened the door and we went inside. The house was nice, a little dusty, but you could tell someone had loved it; little touches like the semi-antique table in the hall, on it a shell with keys in. On the wall hung a few photos in ornate frames. The kind with curly carvings in gold. One of the photos was of me, another of a Jack Russell terrier leaping to catch a Frisbee. The third photo was of a young woman with dark eyes and a shy smile. Her eyes were set slightly too close together and her nose a little too big for her to be conventionally attractive, but that just meant her beauty took me by surprise, snuck up on me. The photo showed her from the waist up, looking straight at the camera, straight into my eyes.

“You ok bruv,” said Asha, her hand on my arm, her voice gentle.

“Who is she?” I asked, pointing at the photo.

“You know. She’s your wife. She’s gone now, I’m sorry,” there was a pause, I knew Asha was trying to work out the right words to use, to coax me. “The cancer took her, she’s gone, but it’s going to be ok.”

It wasn’t a violent dream, but it’s stayed with me, given me a sense of unease and it was a relief to meet up in the canteen and act normal. We swapped notes on the French Civil War and bitched about Professor Wilson and his constant throat clearing and pen tapping. We took too long choosing expresso toppings and then had to run to class. Normal.

As soon as we got to class that illusion shattered. There were three new students. We were warned last week that new students would be joining us for ‘budget reasons’, in other words, their college had run out of funds. Two of the students were regular guys, trying to look confident and failing. And the third was her, my wife from the dream. My dead wife.

I didn’t learn much history. I kept glancing across the rows of seats to where she sat. Each time I thought It can’t be her, I’ve made a mistake. Each time it was her, same dark eyes and hawk-like nose. Even worse, she kept catching me looking at her and then ducking her head away. No doubt she thought I was a stalker, and what could I say that would convince her otherwise? I saw you in my dreams?

The relief I felt when the class ended wasn’t satisfying, I just wanted to escape, bolt out the door. I mumbled something about securing a seat in the canteen and gathered up my books. I was working my way down the tiers to the exit, but she was standing in my way, the girl from my dream. I was already apologising when I realised that she was too.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to freak you out, I know I was staring. I just wanted to explain,” she said. Her eyes were on the floor, then up at me, chocolate brown and scared. In my desperate state, for a moment I thought it must have been me speaking, because those were the words I would have said. She went on,

“I know I must seem weird, but can I…talk to you? About something?”

I nodded dumbly. She floundered for a minute, trying to find the right words, I smiled to ease her and she gave a sheepish grin back and shrugged.

“Look, this is crazy. It’s just I had this dream last night and you…you were in it.”

“What?” I said, a bit harsher than I intended. I thought I might have scared her, but actually she got a little more sure of herself, she stood straighter and started to speak more quickly.

“It was a silly dream, nothing really happened. It couldn’t, because I couldn’t move, I was just sort of standing there. I remember wishing I could move, but it’s like I was frozen. I was looking out of this window, but it wasn’t really like a window, it had a golden ledge, carved. And you were there. You were looking right back at me. It was just a dream, but I know it was you. You were pointing at me. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it was you.”

March of the Luddite

Most people shuffle reluctantly into old age, but not Bert. Bert had spent his youth feeling put upon, pushed to do stuff, to get involved. He looked forward to his twilight years as if they were surrounded by a warm golden glow: he would get old, he would buy slippers, he would complain, he would watch the kind of crap gameshow telly that his peers scoffed at but he secretly loved. And now it had happened. He was only fifty-four, but he had leapt on the chance to be a curmudgeon with gleeful determination.

He was sat in his favourite chair, the one that had dark patches that perfectly fitted his head and elbows. The one that groaned in tune with his own groans when he sat down. He was watching old episodes of Deal or no Deal that he seen many times before, so that he could mumble along. When the adverts came on he did puzzles on his iPad while he grumbled to his wife, who was doing yoga at the other end of the room.

“Technology thinks I care about it way more than I do,” he said. He waited for a grunt from his wife to show he was listening and then he went on. “All I want from my technology is for it to do my bidding; I press the button it does the thing, the end. I don’t want it to know me, I don’t want it to suggest things to me or to disagree with me. ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’ says some text box and then it does something I didn’t want it to do at all. ‘How about you personalise the experience?’ it wheedles at me. But I don’t need a cutesy photo on my phone to express my personality. ‘D’you want to announce to the world you just bought a toaster shaped like an armadillo?’ No, I bloody don’t.”

He never got very far with his puzzles, to be honest he didn’t really like doing them, they made him feel stupid. So instead he used them as an opportunity to complain.

“And I don’t like this wavy fingered thing either. Touch screen technology, is that what they call it? My fingers don’t do that. On a good day I can tie my shoelaces. I don’t want to accidentally open a dozen programs every time I try to type.” His point made, the adverts over, Bert wriggled deeper into his cardigan and sighed a happy, contented sigh. Life was always good now.