Primate Deniability #carrotranch #99wordstories

This week’s carrot ranch prompt is

November 28, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the saying, “not my monkeys, not my circus”. What is the situation that would spawn that aphorism? Have fun with setting and characters! Go where the prompt leads!

Primate Deniability (with apologies to Inspector Clouseau)

Gere Stick, visiting Professor of Chaos theory at Little Tittweaking University and part time ringmaster sat in the big top and watched Ali Gator approach. She pointed at some playful and cute -looking primates.

‘Are you a qualified ringmaster?’

Gere nodded.

‘Are your monkeys well-behaved?’

Another nod.

Satisfied, Ali corralled the troop of mewling macaques, leading them away.

Later, with her clothes and hopes in tatters, a furious Ali found Gere. ‘You said you’re a ringmaster and your monkeys are well-behaved.’

‘I am and they are. Those aren’t my monkeys and that’s not my circus.’

Ali shot him.

Posted in #99wordstories, Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers, creative writing, flash fiction, humour, little Tittweaking, miscellany | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Week Forty-Four: 2022

For once I’m pleased the autumn rugby internationals are over. England’s performances have been pretty unappealing and that’s a shame as I do enjoy a bit of looking forward to sporting events.

It’s the same with the football. I’m with those who think Qatar shouldn’t have been awarded the hosting rights. It smacks of dodgy dealing. And while I abhor the egregious discrimination that pervades that society, in many ways it’s no worse than many other hosting countries of various major sports events. Every nation has its blind spots and skeletons. If we applied even basic standards as we view them in the West we’d end up with every tournament in Denmark or on a Faroe Isle or some such. There is always hypocrisy but it goes with the territory of hosting. You will be vilified. Get over it. If you can’t take the heat…

Anyway, world cups are in June so this one doesn’t feel right for temporal as well as moral reasons. And leave the players alone. They’re good at football. They probably have a range of views on the hot button issues of the morally certain but why should they be held to some standard that doesn’t apply elsewhere. It’s for the likes of governing bodies to make protests, not individual players, and if, like the Iranian team not singing the National Anthem in a protest, we should applaud their courage, given the likely reaction back home, rather than criticise those who just get on with playing.

I mentioned last week that I’m approaching a birthday. Yippee! Double yippees when I was told to present myself at this building in Covent Garden. ‘Wear comfortable clothes and bring a deodorant.’

Okay… still I love me a treat (was it only in my family that, at birthday time, we had to choose between a party and a treat? I went for the party, the Archaeologist the treat – says it all really) so I ignored the implicit critique of my bodily hygiene and did as I was bid.

We were in a Sandbox, which naively I thought would have some sand. Nope. It was a venue for team based VR gaming… That’s what that weird pic at the top is all about.

Yep, me gaming. Woop woop. As well as the Textiliste, I tried to look knowledgeable and failed. Still I’m ever up for a new experience. That’s when we found out that she has a Kinemortophobia.

So no zombies. We swapped games to hunting treasure in Davy Jones’ Locker. How to describe the experience? Discombobulating at the start. Unexpectedly engaging as it progresses. And sweaty too, hence the spray. Here are some stills and then a video to give you some idea.

Get me, eh. Part of the metaverse.

I think overall I prefer the garden or walking Dog.

And after we did have a delightful Italian meal at a place called Norma. I ate too much as per… back to Joe Wicks sessions this week methinks.

Meanwhile, under a tap…

Posted in 2022, miscellany, thought piece | Tagged , | 30 Comments

Foggy Bottoms #writephoto

This week’s #writephoto prompt is

Terry Godd settled on the mountain top, tamped his pipe and surveyed the world. Yes, he could be pleased. Not euphoric and certainly not smug. Pleased. Content. Pretty hap…

‘TERRANCE!’

Terry sat up straight. If he’d invented the tie, he’d have straightened it. The Old Curmudgeon had noticed. Well, of course he had. Terry had exceeded expectations. ‘Yes, boss.’ Here comes the praise…

‘WHAT IN MY NAME DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?’

‘I … sorry, what?’

‘I ASKED WHAT…’

‘Yes, yes, boss. But I did what you asked.’

‘OH? ENLIGHTEN ME.’

Terry felt the need to stand which on the tiny peak proved to be tricky. He made a mental note to investigate plateaus for his next commission. He pressed his knees either side of the stony point which, he felt sure, made it look like he was posing for a tacky teenage boy picture. ‘You asked… no, commanded me to build a world. Mountains,’ he tapped the peak, ‘seas, forests, the usual backdrop.’

The Supreme Personage swept his gaze through 360 degrees which made Terry feel a touch nauseous. ‘BIT FOGGY.’

‘Yes, I thought that. The plumbing team had a bit of a problem with the thermostat. They tell me there’s a fix.’

‘A FIX? THIS IS A PERMANENT SOLUTION?’

Terry wobbled his hand. ‘That’s the plan. As long as the inhabitants don’t go buggering about with the temperature, it’ll be fine.’

‘HMM. THAT’S MY NEXT CALL.’

‘Yes?’ Terry felt it would be good to move the discussion away from him, even though he was sure he’d done everything asked.

‘SIDNEY GODD, YOUR COUSIN WAS MEANT TO LOOK AFTER THE FIRST COUPLE, BUT IT SEEMS HE LET A FEW… ERM… FACTS SLIP AND I’M GOING TO HAVE TO SORT OUT SOME CORRECTIVE MEASURES. THAT’S THEM.’

Terry peered into the gloom where some indistinct shapes mooched about. ‘Cows?’

‘WHAT? NO, THERE.’ The Supreme Digit pointed behind the ruminants at two pinkish shapes trying to collage themselves with leaves. ‘I SUPPOSE THEY’RE A BIT HIDDEN BY THE REINDEER?’

Terry was taken aback by the informality, but he hadn’t become lead world builder without being able to pick up the subtle God-Hints. ‘Well, I suppose it is more a light mizzle than fog… er, sweetie.’

‘SWEETIE?’

‘Maybe a drizzle. But not rain. Er, Hun.’

‘HUN? I REALLY THINK, GIVEN WHAT YOU’VE DONE, THAT YOU SHOULDN’T GET AHEAD OF YOURSELF WITH THE CHUMMINESS.’

Terry swallowed, suddenly aware of his faux-pas. He decided to wait for whatever mistake it was he’d made. He was sure it couldn’t be the thermostat. After all, weren’t the lifeforms, intelligent and sentient? He glanced at where the two pinkish shapes were now pointing at the other’s dangly bits – a bit more time and he’d have sorted them out too – and sniggered. Perhaps he shouldn’t rely on them. He’d have a word with Biotech peeps to maybe add that sixth sense after all. In retrospect, he should have known when they called it common they hadn’t been referring to its ubiquity.

‘ARE YOU LISTENING, GODD?’

Terry blanched. This would never do. ‘All ears.’

‘YES, WELL, DON’T HAVE TIME TO DISCUSS THE AESTHETICS OF YOUR CREATIONS. BUT WHY DID YOU MAKE THEM STICK OUT LIKE THAT?’

‘You did say I needed to be cognisant of the costs so we made do with left overs.’

‘THE EARS?’

‘Shells which hadn’t set properly.’

‘HIS DANGLY BITS?’

‘Spare turkey neck.’

‘HERS?’

‘We realised he needed bigger buttocks so we turned the rejects inside out. We had a bit of a struggle with the hole where the clasp had been but in the end we moved the milk dispensers from the armpits and hide the hole with some hair.’ Terry hoped his parsimony would meliorate whatever it was he’d done wrong but the thunderous expression suggested otherwise.

‘HMM. LOOK TERRY. I KNOW I CAN BE A BIT…’

‘…Of a bastard?’

‘DEMANDING. BUT WHAT DID I SAY I WANTED?’

Terry knew this. ‘A complete world with all the trimmings.’

‘YES. AND?’

Terry blinked. What else was there? ‘The dimensions? They’re always the same.’

‘NOT THE DIMENSIONS. IN HOW LONG WERE YOU TO BUILD IT?’

‘Seven days.’

‘AND YOU TOOK SIX.’

‘Too quick?’

‘DID YOU THINK I CHOSE SEVEN AT RANDOM?’

He had, not that he could say so.

‘IT’S A SPECIFIC SPAN TO ALLOW THE INHABITANTS TO MARRY THEIR RHYTHMS TO THOSE OF THE PLANET. NIGHT AND DAY, THE FEMALE FERTILITY CYCLE, THE MOON’S ORBIT… WHERE IS THE MOON, TERRY?’

Terry slapped his head. That was it, he’d forgotten the moon. ‘Look, no sweat boss. The thing’s not completely set so we can nick a chunk and make a moon. Take that extra day. It’s just a pitted ball.’

‘LIKE A DANGLY BIT?’

‘Yes. Ha! I’d not thought of that. We’d then fill in the hole with water. There.’

‘YOU’D BE MAKING THAT TWISTY BIT RATHER ISOLATED FROM THE REST.’

Terry waved the concern away. ‘There’s nothing there that’s important. It’s a bit of a dumping ground actually.’

‘OK. WHAT ARE YOU CALLING IT?’

Terry checked his notebook. ‘That one is… America. No one’s going to want to go there…’

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Let’s See: That Garden… November 2022

It’s been a riot

Of colour. Lots of rain but no really cold nights. And we keep on mowing the lawn.

And Dog…

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How Not To

I like cooking. I like to think I’m not bad at it. But the machinery around cooking is, perhaps, a different bucket of eels…

Posted in cooking, food, miscellany | Tagged , , | 33 Comments

Waiting For The Second Boot To Drop #99wordstories #carrotranch

This week’s #99wordstories prompt is

November 21, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “Oh, my.” It can be used in storytelling or dialog. What is the cause for such a response? Have fun with this one! Go where the prompt leads!

The Second Boot’s name arose from an incident at a lecture by Little Tittweaking’s grammarian, S Mug B’stard. He had finished his diatribe on the correct use of ‘but’ as a vibrant disjunctive and the comma as a passive-aggressive separator and just begun his finale, ‘Dangling Participles and The Rise of Communism’, when an audience member challenged his inapt application of a gerundive poultice. Stunned, he clutched his chest, muttering ‘Oh My…’

His audience froze. What was he going to say? Lord? Sainted Aunt? Ears and Whiskers? No-one moved. Some petrified into novelty seating. Those who left, remained mute.

Posted in #99wordstories, Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers, creative writing, flash fiction, humour, little Tittweaking, miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Divine Limerick

Esther’s latest prompt is Study

After years of study, wise men opined
There was no proof that God was benign.
‘It would have been easy,’ those boffins said,
‘To put the arguments completely to bed,
By showing how to turn water to wine.’

Posted in limericks, poems, poetry | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Appraising My Past

I mentioned a film recently where the lead character was incapable of expressing emotions in case of embarassment. I suggested this changed as i entered the workforce, but then I thought about appraisals and…

I wasn’t bad at my job as a commercial lawyer. I wasn’t a bad manager of the department nor of the global group we formed after our firm merged with a series of European law firms in the 1990s and 2000s. But I was a dreadful interviewer (one of my colleagues put his finger on the problem: ‘You see Geoff, the idea is we get them to do most of talking’). I was an even worse appraiser of the associate lawyers and support staff, which sadly I had to do more often than was healthy, especially as I became more senior. Here are some examples; not all were my fault. It’s just that these tended to happen on my watch:

1. In at least three I dozed off; I know, that is inexcusable but in two case I’d been up for 24 plus hours without sleep prior to undertaking them (and that was also inexcusable, though in a different way) and in the third let’s say the person being appraised didn’t light many fires.

2. We had to abandon one interview when the toilets next to the meeting room flooded, and the stench was too much. For the first ten minutes, each of us assumed the appraisee must have been so nervous that he had had an accident… but even then, being British, none of us had the wherewithal to say anything.

3. We introduced an appraisal form that the lawyer took away to complete with our comments and then pass on to HR. We did this after several years when getting the partners to complete the forms rendered the whole thing meaningless because some are incapable of simple admin. We soon abandoned the new version after one appraisal form went forward with the summary paragraph saying that the associate was ‘one of the best, if not the best, four year qualified associate lawyer ever to work in [our] department’. Naturally, being lawyers, none of us who’d carried out the interview bothered to check the form before we signed it off.

4. One young man was already seated when I and my fellow appraiser entered the room. As we sat, we both realised he had the most tumescent and possibly fissile spot on his chin that we had seen. It was unstable in the way radioactive waste is unstable. And, of course, it was totally mesmeric. Neither of us could concentrate on the questions and his answers, and each time he put a hand to his face, I fear we may have quailed somewhat. I will now dream about that spot chasing me…

5. On another occasion one young woman, who I would have said before the meeting was of a reserved and nervous disposition, reacted so swiftly and violently to a large bluebottle landing on her papers that the fly’s remnants were spread over a significant area. She ignored the debris throughout the interview, carrying as if nothing had happened. Once again, we were mesmerised by extraneous matter, but once again, no one commented.

6. I took one lawyer to task over an especially shoddy piece of work that had caused significant embarrassment. The lawyer listened carefully, asked a couple of questions after I’d finished and then pointed out that it wasn’t him. Indeed it wasn’t; I’d muddled up the forms.

7. One of the more difficult appraisals was of those lawyers who were approaching the time when they might be put forward for partnership. This particular year, there were two who hoped to hear what we considered of their chances of going forward. The year before we’d made it clear to these two, there were significant hurdles to be overcome. Not least was the size and potential growth of the market they worked in. We were to disappoint them both. The first, Simon listened to my explanation and handed me an envelope. It contained his notice. Had we put him forward, he would have stayed; as we weren’t he’d lined up another job and didn’t intended wasting time. I was rather stunned and impressed. The next, Colin had a similar message. Possibly seduced by Simon’s clear-eyed response, I delivered the disappointing message briskly, possibly brusquely. Colin’s face went through several shades of green before he hastened round the desk to find a waste bin. He then sat down, cradling the bin for what seemed like an age. Neither of us spoke for fear of triggering something we’d both regret before he put it on my desk and left.

My colleagues never suggested I stop appraising, though. The thing was, I’m not sure they were much better.

Posted in law, miscellany, thought, work | Tagged , , | 38 Comments

Good PR #writephoto

This week’s prompt is

Good PR

‘Will you look at her? Such a complete strumpet.’ Chloe Rattus stared with unblinking gimlet eyes at the approaching form.

‘Strumpet? Seriously? What are you reading?’ Simplicity Souris moistened her hand and wiped her whiskers clean. ‘Though she does rather overdo it, doesn’t she?’

The form coalesced into a squirrel, slipping gracefully towards the rat and mouse. ‘Ladies.’ Belinda Squirrelly simpered. ‘You are looking… traditional.’ She swept her tail around her sleek torso and allowed them a lingering sight of her side. ‘What do you think? It’s a cerise infused pewter.’

Chloe snorted. ‘Oh come on, Belly.’

Belinda bared her teeth briefly; she hated that name.

‘Last week you were strutting around as a red squirrel, all dainty and cute. Now you’ve blown out and gone grey, like..,’

Belinda sounded peevish. ‘It’s pewter, infus…’

‘Whatever.’ Chloe’s hard eyes might not win a beauty contest but they commanded instant respect. ‘So what happened? You outgrew the corset? The belt snapped? You certainly lost control of the middle-aged spread, didn’t you?’

Belinda rocked back onto her hind legs, fluffing out her chest.

Simplicity scurried forward. ‘Oh, is that a new chest? I love the colour. What is it? Sepia?’

‘Appalachian turmeric. Bespoke. If you want to move on from that ensemble, I’ll give you his number. You’d look…. interesting in something blue, Simpy.’

The dripping condescension might have slipped off Simplicity’s oily pelt but Chloe didn’t miss it. ‘Darling, isn’t it a bit… masculine? Butch? It may work with your nut-donors, but one day you’re a red squirrel, all playful resilience and the next you’re a lumpy grey who everyone hates as a bully and…’

Belinda stood up, several centimetres above Chloe. ‘That’s rich, coming from you. Bloody hell, darling. You’re a rat. Is there anymore despised creature than a rat? You need to control your jealousy.’

‘I’ll grant you that your PR is better than ours. That tail was a masterstroke. But bottom line, you’re a rodent. Like the rest of us.’

Belinda nodded. ‘I suppose. And your white coat is spectacular.’

It was Chloe’s turn to nod. She turned her gaze to Simplicity who squirmed one way and then the other. ‘One thing we have in common, girlfriend?’

‘What’s that, honey?’

‘At least no one will accuse us of being mousy.’

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Living, Maybe #filmreview

There are certain actors who seem to play themselves. Sean Connery was a top exponent of being Sean Connery even if he was the same as a suave British agent in Bond and a rough hewn US-Irish beat cop in the Untouchables. One other, mostly is the British actor, Bill Nighy. He’s grand, a real talent but so often he’s pretty much the same sort of dithery British gent even if he’s not.

Living is the perfect vehicle for his kind of anally retentive stiff-upper-lippery. This post war drama emphasises how drear and desperate were so many lives in Britain, constrained by red tape and class. There’s one early scene on a suburban railway station where the waiting passengers were 90% male and all dressed the same, especially their bowler hats. All hidebound by convention.

Ah the bowler, the status symbol of the aspiring middle class under-manager. When I joined my law firm in 1981, there was a group of senior lawyers who were hoping to make it to partnership. They joined in the early 1970s when the city as I came to know it and the previous version that had terrorised my father in the 1950s and early 60s overlapped. One of the group made it onto the notepaper and, when it was my turn, years later with my cohort, he took his time to point out how things had changed.

One day, he recounted, he and those other keen as freshly laundered socks lawyers received a note asking them to attend the senior partner’s office ‘at their convenience’. They all knew that meant immediately. When they arrived in his anteroom they were surprised to see their fellows there and wondered what was the purpose of this audience. They were ushered inside. Sir Charles (he got his gong for services to the Bank of England) had them stand at the end of his desk. ‘Gentlemen, it is always a delight to see youngsters such as you out and about, full of life and joie de vivre. But you do need to remember that, at all times you are representing the firm and you need to behave accordingly.’ The four young lawyers wondered what they’d done. Knocked someone over? Been rude to a tradesman? Dropped some litter? ‘In future, please ensure, if you take your umbrellas and while they are not in use, they remain tightly furled. Thank you.’

Bill Nighy would have understood. His character was tightly furled until rocked by some tragic news. Slow, not without a panic or two he reappraises his life and takes some steps. But you don’t quickly change from someone so swaddled by their emotional constipation to a free spirit. Not easily. That’s what made this so enjoyable, even if it was like watching an onion try and undress. There were some areas of the writing where I think opportunities were missed but overall it was so believable and the small but powerful victory with which the film schmaltzes its way to a conclusion rings true.

One I’d recommend if you want a reminder of how bloody awful Britain was in so many ways before the liberalising 1960s. The good old days? Bollocks to that.

Posted in Film, miscellany, review | Tagged , , | 20 Comments