Archive for the ‘Tales’ Category

Final Day Email

An email from an admirer who knew it was my last day on Dog Island today…..quite amusing

Dear HB Corporate IT monitors, 
As you may already be aware, one of your most excellent employees has been abusing the privileges of your wanky organisation for some time now. Yes, those business lunches were mere excercises in furthering his (scandalous) social life; and all those times you proudly watched from the viewing gallery as he type-type-typed away earnestly – gossiping. In truth, he has been harbouring desires to take the disproportionate salary that you think he earns, and run off to central america, to finally realise his dreams of sitting on a beach and getting a tan. I think he might even be one of those hippies.  
While it was great while it lasted, there is no doubt that it is time for him to feck off now. He has a party to organise and everything. You’re probably better off without him. Don’t say you weren’t told. 
However, its too late for regrets now. He has been; he has dossed; he is leaving in 3 hours.  
With kind regards,


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“So where do you go out when you go partying? I mean, are you more like East End, or West End?”

“To be completely honest, I don’t really go out much these days.”

“Oh really”, she squealed, “what’s that about?”

His gaze switched from the invisible point of fascination that lay in the middle distance somewhat to the right of the girl he was talking to, to the kitchen door, through which a young man in a white smock with a tightly cropped black beard had just passed, holding two metal dishes in either hand. Having set one on each end of the second table, the waiter set down a small collection of what was described as venison kebab.

“Well, I just seem to have become”, he paused, leaned forward just slightly toward the steaming plate of meat, and drew toward his nostrils the sweet clove infused vapour it was giving off, “rather a suburbanite”.  He smiled wryly as this was not altogether true.

“Oh, dear,” came the response which he assumed reflected the fact that she now had to dream up a new topic of conversation  as much as it did commiserations that he was clearly so old at such a young age.

Moments passed. They both strained to hear what the other guests on the table, to their side and opposite were saying, and yet everyone seemed to have reached the same silent conclusion, and chatter has petered out. Luckily the bearded waiter returned bearing a metallic bowl set in a wooden base containing bright red curried prawns, and a white bowl containing a burnt gold lentil preparation. He glanced up toward the face that  had announced the dish, and for a moment he looked into his deep brown reflective eyes. A polite smile and the waiter was gone.

“Smells wonderful”, she said as she wafted her hands energetically over the food, “I love small dishes, you know where you can try a bit of everything.”

“Indeed,” came the laconic response.

The blessed relief of flavour flooded his brain with pleasure as the first mouthful of the deep rusty venison hit the back of his tongue and the slightly gamey meat crept through a waterfall of fruity spices delicately combined to be at once sweet,  fragrant and capable of being overpowered. Next came the prawns that had scrunched themselves into tight spirals as they were fried in ghee with bright red spices. The strength of the green chilli that so contrasted with the pungent red sauce they swam in, was just enough to send a ripple down the tip of his tongue and toward his tonsils, and yet was immediately tamed by the sugary almond and the delicate coconut that came with it.

He was aware of not having spoken for several minutes. At the precise moment of this recognition, the Chinese lady opposite had uttered the words “of course I always forget just how far away Clapham is from the centre of town” which drew groans of approval from the section of the table which she held in her court, and so he decided to reach across and relieve the man sat opposite of the obligation to eat all of the taster dish of tandoori cod that had appeared whilst he had been ruminating upon the lentil dhal and her banal commentary.

He ate and ate and became full followed by bloated. But he needed the variation that came with each mouthful, the entertainment that was lavished on his taste buds with every spoon of sauce, the textures and colours and smells and chilli that kept everything alive and relevant. The old map of India that was printed on the menu became the image of exploration and desire as the food its lines of latitude represented was presented to him. He had never been there, and yet for one moment he was lifted to a world that was thousands of miles away from Anna, millions of miles away from Su Lin and Essence PR Agency, and an unknowable distance from that inauspicious Soho basement.

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I am considering writing a short story about something that happened in the Summer of 2008, in South East London, in a musuem that has a fabulous collection of seahorses. As such, i have decided to do undertake a little diligence concerning those of genus Hippocampus.

I’m not entirely sure how biologists decided how to name the species they discovered, or mapped, but Hippocampus seems an intiguing construct. Hippo appears to be Latin for Horse, or at least is related to Horse for Hippodromus was a horse used in hippodrome racing, Hippocentaurus is a centaur i.e. half man half horse.  

Hippolytus featured in Greek myth as the son of Theseus. His name means “liberator of horses”, so perhaps in fact Hippo is of greek origin and was borrowed by the Romans. Antiquity is not my forte, and indeed I am no polymath (I used refernce books for all of the above)  so don’t feel either alienated nor that I am trying to maliciously trick those who innocently stumble accross and are foolish enough to read some of this blog, into thinking that I am the next Clive James. I am not Clive James. I am not Australian.

Back to Hippolytus, if you will indulge me for one minute more. He now lies in a watery grave thanks to a very peculiar and ugly trait demonstrated by the young man – that of not being disposed toward a sexual relationship with one’s stepmother. That’s right, Phaedra, Thesus’ second wife, was looking to trade in her husband for a younger model, and not being one to venture far from the marital home, she thought it would be a good idea to try to seduce our young hero Hippolytus.  However, he was a good and faithful son, not overly prone to Oedipal (by marriage) relationships – he is surely to be applauded. WRONG. Phaedra in fact sauntered up to Theseus, lifted her veil, breathed warm sweet air on his neck and told him that his son had committed the ultimate sin against her – rape! Theseus was blinded with rage and used one of the three wishes Poseidon (one of Thesus’ fathers!) gave him to put a curse on Hippolytus. This curse manifested itself when Hippolytus was out one day riding his horses, who were startled by a sea monster and in their fright dragged Hippolytus to his watery grave in the Aegean Sea.

Now I am wondering if those biologists knew more than I first gave them credit for. Here we have myth of a man whose name means “horse liberator” being taken into the sea by his own horses. Perhaps when they saw the lovely seahorse, they linked it with this myth. I am certain that the truth of this matter could be found if I tried hard enough: maybe im right; maybe the truth is they named the species Hippocampus simply becasue they look like horses and the Latin/Greek for horse is hippo.  Anyway, what my myth theory does not explain is the appearance of the word –campus which seems to mean nothing much more than an open playing field type space.

I have been on a diversion of epic proportions. Back to my searhorse facts which might be of some use for a short story. I am specifically looking for ways to link them with the humans around them (in the story:

  • Seahorses live in calm, protected environments. The story is actually set in Dulwich, South East London, so that works quite nicely
  • They swim poorly as they have no Caudal fins and small Dorsal fins, hence why they prefer the shades of the seagrass as compared to the rapids of the open ocean. Potentially the protagonist could have some sort of limp, if that is not too tacky.
  • The males carry the fertilised eggs to term. I’m not sure how useful this one is for my purposes, i’m not looking to re-create dolly the sheep in prose.
  • When a male finds his female, they engage in courting over a period of several days. As part of what is known as the pre-dawn dance they might lock tails and promenade over the seagrass.
  • When the females eggs are ready to be released the true courtship dance begins. Here the male pumps liquid through the egg sack he has at the front of his body. This allows light to shine through the skin, and greatly arouses the female with its emptiness. The two creatures lock snouts and start to drift upwards out of the grass spiralling toward the light above. It is at this point the magic of creation happens and the eggs are transferred to the male and fertilised before both animals sink back to their stations in the seaweed. This is potentially loaded with symbolism and metaphor.
  • During gestation, the female visits the male for 6 minutes per day. Scientists are unsure why.

So these are the things I will be thinking about when writing the story (if I ever do it). I have a time, a place, a setting, and a plot. At this point I am unsure of the meanings present in my tale and how best to link them. I shall think further on that point.

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