Monday, December 28, 2009



"Yes father?"

"Come with me outside, I have something to tell you."

"Ok," his son replied in a sunny and buoyant tone.

The two of them slowly padded into the bright light of the day, with the son following to the right side and a few steps behind his dad. They went in silence with only the sound of their bare feet on the hardened ground of the earth interrupting it. The father stopped as they reached the edge of the patch of grass outside their home.

"Now Varan, you've lived with me here for all your life and we've done much together," the elder pauses as he looked the younger Varan over, "We've learned much as well. Not just you learning from your dad, but you've taught me many things too."

Varan's modesty had to interrupt at that point, "But father it is you who is known and revered in the villages for miles around. Everyone in this kingdom knows the name Rodel Agamidae."

Rodel let out a throaty chuckle at his son's loyalty, "Perhaps, but I suspect you might be exaggerating slightly," he paused and then raised a hand and waved it towards a darkened patch of earth near the horizon. "I suppose that Jack Wakefield certainly knows of me at least," as he said this Rodel gave a sly grin to Varan.

"I'm sorry dad, you know that I didn't mean to anger him."

"Yes, yes, I know that it was all just a misunderstanding about how some of his sheep had gone missing."

Varan interrupted again, "It wasn't me, I didn't steal any of them, I just happened to be walking past his field that night when we was trying to catch the culprit."

"Son," Rodel stared him straight in the eyes, "I believe you."

Varan smiled weakly at his father before quietly replying, "Still, I'm grateful that you burnt down his farm to stop him from coming after me. I'm only sorry that I didn't think to do the same instead of running in fear."

"Oh son," replied Rodel as he shook his head, "You don't need to apologise for that. The times have changed since I was a youngling. You're part of the next generation, part of the next part in the turning of the wheels of the world. While you are still very much my son, never forget that you are still different from me; you'll never be able to live your life like I've lived mine. And you shouldn't try to, not in every exact detail.

"The sad fact is that the world has changed so much since I was born. Everyone now has steel, machines and, perhaps most frighteningly, gunpowder. If you tried to just live my life again you'd surely be dead within a year or two. Too many heroes, or at least people who seem themselves as heroes, are around these days. Everyone is much more connected, they know much more and they want to control every part of their life now. The funny thing is that they probably can; especially if they can find at least a handful of like minded individuals.

"So no son, you shouldn't try to just repeat all that I've done in my life, you should forge out your own path. Your own future and way of life." He glanced over at his son and was saddened to see Varan's down trodden face. He'd hoped that this conversation would liberate his son, but instead it seemed to have made him more morose. He tried his best guess at what might have been bothering his son, "Are you worried that you don't know what to do instead?"

Varan just looked back at him and slowly nodded his head.

"Don't worry about that," Rodel responded while trying to show his friendliest smile, "You're a smart lad, you'll find your calling."

"But," stuttered Varan, "but what about all this land, all of your territory."

"Ha, are you just worried about what's going to happen to the family home and estate?" snorted the father. His snort turned into a couple of hacky coughs and a few small puffs of smoke escaped from his nose.

"You have worked hard for it all your life and I," Varan lowered his eyes to the ground as he spoke, "I was hoping to be able to carry on your legacy."

"I'm touched, honestly Varan, I am. There's nothing a father could want more than for his son to respect and admire him so much that he wants to follow him. However you will need to adapt and be different from me. Surely the incident with Mr. Wakefield showed that?"

With a shrug of his shoulders Varan looked over his father's body in silence. He slowly watched his dad's scaly skin rise and fall with the rhythm of his breathing. "I understand dad, it's just that I'm worried about moving on and changing. I don't want to leave you and I don't want to leave your way of life."

"Sadly nature and time aren't giving you, or me, that choice," another fit of coughs interrupted Rodel's speech and he lay down on the ground to try to ease the strain on his ageing bones. "No, don't try to help me, there's nothing you can do for me."

"Father, don't say things like that!" replied Varan in a distressed tone.

They looked into each other's eyes in silence for a while. Rodel knew that there wasn't much more he could say to Varan and that he'd just need to work the rest through on his own.

"Don't worry son," said Rodel as he lifted himself up onto his creaking legs, "I've still got a few months fight left in me. Look I can still do all the things which make me who I am." To demonstrate he pointed his head at a near by shrub and let a stream of dragon's breath from his mouth singe the bush into charcoal. He grinned at the smile on his son's face before continuing, "I've still got all my skills and magics, as strong as ever. Just don't ask me to fly anywhere too far away, my wings aren't as aerodynamic as they used to be. And anyway I much prefer walking these days anyway, gives me more time to think.

"You've got just as many skills, most of them far more developed than mine. My fierce breath is no match for the subtly of your polymorphic abilities. That was one of your mother's greatest skills, I'm glad that you inherited it, it'll be of far more use in these modern times than huge displays of physical power. With it you'll be able to take human form and walk among them with no fear.

"I was never able to do anything as gentle as that, fear and destruction were my only options. You probably didn't know this about your old man, but the reason you've never seen me in my human form is that," he went to a conspiratorial whisper now, "I'm not very good at it. My skin was always slightly green and scaly and I'd have little stumps on my back where my wings should be. Bit of a give-away around humans."

"Really dad?"

"Really. Still I never let it hold me back, but I was always a bit jealous of you and your mother. The two of you were always able to just walk into town and not have people run away in fear. Underneath all the fire and violence I've got a bit of a soft spot for humans."

The two of them sat in silence as the grass around the burnt bush crackled and smouldered quiet, both staring at the village on the horizon and thinking about what they'd discussed.

It was Varan who was the first to speak, "I know you're right, I just think... I just don't want to admit that you and your way of life is going to be gone one of these days."

"As long as you're still around and can still remember me then there's nothing more that I could ever want. You don't have to be a copy of me to do that." Rodel paused as he thought about if there was anything else he could say. "Anyway," he continued, "I'm still here and the afternoon is still young: do you fancy going for a flight to find some lonely cow somewhere that we can hunt for dinner?"

Varan visibly perked up at the suggestion, "Oh yes, that'd be great. Lead the way father."

With a couple of powerful beats of his wings, Rodel stretched his ageing muscles to ready them for take off. He walked forwards a few steps and then pushed off the ground with his thick claws as he launched himself into the air. After Rodel had got up enough speed with his wings so that his flight was stable he glanced over his shoulder to see his son gracefully launching into the air. "He'll be ok," he thought to himself, "he'll do just fine on his own."

Monday, December 21, 2009

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Biscuits and alcohol

This is a discussion about biscuits and alcohol.

"Why do we have a packet of biscuits?" my house-mate asked me.
I paused for a moment and went for the most direct answer, "I needed to buy some wine at lunch." The confused expression on his face caused me to elaborate, "It was so that I didn't get IDed like last time."
"Did it work?" he asked, still eyeing me with suspicion.
"Yes," I replied, "I just put the bottle of wine and those chocolate digestives on the belt, paid the person at the till and left."

If I had just gone into the supermarket and got a bottle of wine at lunchtime, I expect I would have been asked to prove my age, like the time previously when I'd got a bottle of port in my lunch break and been asked to show that I was over eighteen. I assume it might be something that cashiers are trained to look for; a lone purchase of alcohol implies that it's your only concern at that time. It is almost certainly an unusual pattern but one which has likely been identified as behaviour of under-age and problem drinkers.

Biscuits are another matter though, they are usually had during the day and generally with tea, which just oozes normality for 1pm in the afternoon. By including biscuits in my purchase I didn't look like a booze fiend just looking for the next drink, I looked like someone planning their evening while also getting some biscuits to have during tea. No-one who drinks tea could possibly be anything but respectable, therefore I was trustworthy and didn't need to have my access to alcohol restricted, so no need to ask for identification.

I placed the basket containing the loaf of bread, the pot of hummus and the bottle of Rioja on the side by the till. I suddenly remembered that I'd not got any biscuits this time, but hoped that the buying of other food would be sufficient. For good measure I smiled at the cashier as he picked up the loaf of bread and scanned it. The pot of hummus quickly followed as I picked up the loaf and placed it in one of the carrier bags on the other side of the till.
"Have you got any proof of age?" he asked as I picked up the hummus. I looked up to see him holding the bottle of wine tentatively over the scanner.
"Erm. Yes I do, hang on," I stumbled through my words as I dug out my wallet and fished around in it for my photo-card from my driving license. After pulling out a loyalty card for a different supermarket and a telephone banking details card I finally found my driving license. "Here you go," I said as I handed it over.
He examined the card carefully and then handed it back to me with a quiet thank you. The scanner beeped as the bottle was scanned and he handed it to my waiting hands.

I felt validated in my theory of biscuits preventing me from requiring to prove my age. Here I was, clearly buying lunch as well as alcohol, yet still I was required to show that over eighteen years had passed since my birth. Here I had gone and purchased items which were similar in value to biscuits, both nutritionally and financially, and yet I was still asked for identification.

Bread, a component of the typical lunchtime sandwich, clearly isn't enough to show that the alcohol will be consumed sensibly and in a refined manor. Without the trustworthy associations of biscuits with tea, the assumption must have been that the wine would be drunk with the bread, probably just outside the store. The till-operators training manual clearly must highlight that some people will try to buy cheap items such as bread to try to distract from the alcohol being purchased.

I was determined not to get asked for proof of age this time so I had got a packet of custard creams to add to my two bottles of beer and bottle of South African white wine that I had in my basket. I walked towards the tills and scanned up and down the length of the shop to find the shortest queue. As luck would have it the till just in front of me had only one person who was just finishing packing while their payment was processed, so I walked straight towards that and unloaded my four items onto its belt.
"Good afternoon," said the cashier to me as she picked up and scanned my biscuits.
"Afternoon," I replied as I pulled out a carrier bag to put the biscuits into.
The bottle of wine and bottles of beer slid past the scanner one by one and I carefully placed them into my bag.
"That'll be £11.39," said the till operator in a friendly voice.
I reached into my pocket and handed over a crumpled twenty pound note and she turned to put it into the cash box. As she counted out my change I picked up my bag of biscuits and booze, proud in the knowledge that I'd avoided getting asked for proof of age.

Through a series of tests I was now confident that my theories on biscuits avoiding the need to show proof of age were valid. I now had a system I could use in the future and avoid all those slightly embarrassing times I have had to find some way of proving that I am really as old as I should be to buy alcohol. No longer will I be implicitly accused of trying to purchase items which I'm legally forbidden from buying.

The biscuits must inspire a feeling of trustworthiness in the till worker that other food doesn't. This might at first seem slightly counter intuitive, as some might think that biscuits have a juvenile association, but the homely image of sitting on a sofa drinking tea with a biscuit to munch on must override the young associations. These findings are shared so that others might have hassle free alcohol purchasing experiences in shops, regardless of the time of day that they are buying the beer, wine or spirits.

This was a discussion which was not entirely about biscuits and alcohol.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Pebbles on a Dark Beach

Janos turned over in his bed and slowly became aware of the world around him. He knew it was still dark and call he could hear was the slow rustle of the wind in the trees outside his open window.

'Urrggg,' he thought, 'it must still be early. Two, maybe three AM.'

He stayed laying on his side and desperately tried to not try too hard to get back to sleep. He knew that if his brain got back up to speed that he wouldn't be able to get back to sleep. It was too late though, he knew he was too awake now.

Rolling over onto his back he kept his eyes closed in one last attempt to drift back into sleep. It was no good and he let out a long sigh while his spirits sank.

Clunk. His ears pricked up at the loud banging sound from downstairs. His hard thumped in his chest.

'Probably the washing machine,' he explained to himself, 'it's probably still on it's cycle from when I put it on before bed.'

'But,' continued Janos's thoughts, 'it should have finished by now.'

He held is breath waiting for it to happen again. A low throbbing grew in his ears and he felt his chest tightening, still holding his breath. He carried on until he couldn't hold his breath any more and then let it out in a great rush of air.

Thud. There the sound was again, although he couldn't be sure that it was the same sound now. He cursed himself for being so noisy as he breathed out. He opened his eyes quickly and glanced around the room. He couldn't see anything unusual, the same pictures hung on the walls and the same wardrobe sat in the corner next to the same chest of drawers.

Janos moved his hand from under the duvet and felt over on his bedside table for the light switch. His fingers rested on the soft plastic and he paused for a few moments to gather his thoughts before he flicked the switch. He steadied himself for the sudden brightness and pressed the switch softly and slowly.

Click. The room was flooded with halogen brightness and he instinctively shut his eyes. He quickly opened them again, fearing for the dark, and let his eyes adjust painfully to the brilliant light.

'See, there's nothing wrong in my room,' he pleaded to himself, 'absolutely nothing to worry about.'

'Still it might be wise to check downstairs?' was his answer to himself.

His heart thundered at this thought and he quickly thought up an excuse: 'Well, if only to get a drink of water, not because I might find something down there.'

He quickly lept out of bed, quitely landing on the soft carpet with both feet. He adjusted his t-shirt and then opened his bedroom door. The light flooded out of his room and illuminated the landing and down the stairs to the ground floor. Quietly and slowly he padded forward, keeping his weight on his back foot.

'Just to be cautious,' he told himself, 'I wouldn't want to trip and fall while still half asleep.'

As he reached the bottom of the stairs he turned right and looked into the darkness of his kitchen. Reaching quickly around the door frame he quickly flicked the kitchen light switch.

Nothing. The kitchen had the left over roast sitting on the stove from dinner that night. The same pile of used plates that hadn't been cleaned from the same dinner party still sat there, slowly filling the kitchen with the smell of their thick gravy. Everything was how he'd left it.

He went over to the sink, grabbed an upturned glass from the draining board and turned on the cold tap. Flicking his finger under the tap until it was a crisp coldness he then filled the glass. Drinking the water down in large gulps, Janos drained the glass in one go. Placing the glass upside-down on the draining board again he reached over the just checked that the back door was locked.

'Shit!' his mind stammered as the handle moved down and the door opened under his touch.

His hand didn't move as he held the door slightly ajar for a few seconds. The cold outside air rolled over the floor and licked at his toes. Awakening him from his frozen position he pushed the door fully open and stepped out onto the cold concrete squares of his patio.

He raised his head up and looked at the sky. It was a dark and moonless night and the stars were twinkling across the sky. Breathing in deeply he let the cold air fill his lungs, relaxing and calming down as he basked in the moonlight.

'Nothing out here but billion year old stars and some crisp night air,' Janos thought to himself as the wave of relief flowed through all over his body.

As he turned around to enter the house and some movement in the sky to the south caught his eye. He glanced towards it just soon enough to see a long red shooting star streak a smooth arc across the sky. He paused for a few moments and gave the sky a brief nod of approval before resuming his movement back into the house.

Shutting the back door firmly, Janos turned the key in the lock. Happy that it was now secure he placed the cold shaped metal on the kitchen counter and walked out of the door. As Janos passed through the door his hand slapped the light switch, killing the kitchen light. Bounding upstairs he moved quickly down the corridor and into his bedroom.

It wasn't painful. He didn't feel anything, just a slight cold shiver up his spine and a dull thud from right behind his head. As his legs buckled from under him he looked over to the corner to the right of the door, where the wardrobe should be, and where the wardrobe still was.

Through fast blurring vision and with head resting on the end of his bed all he could see was the blackness of the hooded figure and the pinpoints of light in it's black eyes. As dark warmness reached all around him the last he could see was the light of his bedroom light reflected sharply in those obsidian spheres.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Swirls of Development

The frustration.

The power.

The failures,

the attempts;

the solution.

The rush.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Pickle

"And so finally they tracked me down to a hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham. My fault really, shouldn't have used my full name," said Dave as he looked up from his finger nails and shot me a grin.

"There's always next time, " I offered back as the only condolence I could think of.

"So what about you? Why are you in here?" enquired Dave. As he asked this he flexed his hands wide open and then into fists. I was fairly sure that this wasn't a threatening act, he must have just been a bit nervous, probably.

I glanced up and down the length of Dave's body as he sat on the edge of his bed and thought about how his six foot plus frame which was solidly built was something that I wouldn't like to get on the bad side of. I also really wanted to avoid his slighlty annoyed side, his mildly irritated side and even his indifferent side. I decided to recount my tale, after-all I had nothing to lose and I could even gain a friend in Dave.

"It all happened early on a Sunday morning, must have been about 8am." I spied Dave's hesitant look and realised I should explain why I was up so early, so I quickly continued, "I'd not gone to bed yet since Saturday night and I was just fixing myself up a snack. Suddenly I heard the splintering of wood and..."

Dave interupted me, "What was your snack?"

"What? Erm," I stuttered as I tried to remember, confused and slightly intimidated by Dave's interruption. I wondering if Dave was perhaps a snack expert, maybe he'd worked in a kebab shop once. After a short pause at the thought of Dave with a doner kebab carving knife I managed to continue, "it was a cheese and Branston sandwich." For some reason I then felt it necessary to add, "Nice soft and thick white bread."

I paused, expecting some reply from Dave. He just grunted and nodded, perhaps remembering past cheddar sandwiches. After a suitable length of time had passed for the remembrance of bread products past I carried on, "So there I was, two hands around my sandwich, just about to take my first bite when my front door was broken down. I just stared straight at it as almost never ending armed police poured in," I didn't feel I should add that I was frozen in fear, but Dave might have sensed it anyway from my voice. If he did, it didn't show on his entirely placid face; perhaps he was still thinking of sandwiches.

Getting into the flow of the story, I started to rattle off the next details, "So these police burst in and surrounded me while I still sat at the kitchen table, sandwich still in hand. I think I even had my mouth held open, ready to bite down on the sandwich. Suddenly one of the masked police men barked a question.

"'What?' I managed to stutter back at him.

"'Are you Matt Rose?' he demanded, gun still pointing at me. Which seemed a bit unnecessary, as I don't think you can do anything lethal with a sandwich.

"I tried to steady my nerves and replied, "N-n-n-no, Matt is next door." The extra movement from trying to speak caused some chunks of rutabaga to fall out and to plop loudly onto the table from between the bread and cheese.

"'Shit!' exclaimed the masked woman to the left of my masked inquisitor, then she turned to me, 'Are you sure?'

"'Yes, hell yes I'm sure' I bravely shouted back, finally coming to realise that I was not the ones they wanted. The police man then barked some orders into his radio and about half of them burst out my back door and jumped the fence while the other ones, some of whom I could hear stomping around upstairs, went running out my front door and over the wall into the front garden of the terraced house next to me."

Dave interupted me again there, "So," he pondered, clearly deep in thought, "if they'd got the wrong house, didn't they just leave you alone and get this Matt guy? How come you're in here?"

"That's what I thought," I said, "And I was just about to take my first bite of my sandwich when I realised that I'd heard the police boots on the floor in the room directly above the kitchen."

There was a pause while I waited for Dave to think about this. "So what was in the room above your kitchen?" he finally asked.

"My grow!"

"Oh, so you're in here for a drugs thing. That's a tough break. All because they raided the wrong house." Dave chewed on his gums a little before thoughtfully adding, "I guess most people are in here due to bad luck or bad timing."

"Yeah, just because some PC plod can't tell the difference between a brass 14 and a 16."

"Still," Dave added with a slight twinkle in his eye, "I suppose you could find some way of getting some plants into prison? We could go into business you and me, supplying the others? Captive market and all that. What do you think? You in?"

As I considered his offer I realised that Dave had never actually said what he'd done to get himself wanted and ultimately caught by the police.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Wizard Did It

They always blamed me. They never understood what I tried to do. Those ignorant villagers who could never have even one dram of the ken required to understand my work. Yet they still pretended that they did, just lies of claimed knowledge and feigned understanding. One day they'd understand, one day they'd accept me; hell, one day they might even welcome me.

However not today, today was a day for running. Running from them, running from another village, running until I wasn't infamous. Catching the faint glow of the earliest dawn light in the window I suddenly remembered myself. I put down the copper pan that I must have idly picked up while engaged in my inner rant and checked that I'd packed all that I could into my backpack.

I looked around the room that was the ground floor of the cottage that I'd called home for the past 9 months. Benches lined the dimly candlelit walls. Each bench was covered in exotically shaped glass containers which I'd purchased from as far afield as London and Edinburgh. Brass tools and wooden boards with half finished preparations of reagents surrounded the glassware, covering every available surface. A little of me died inside when it hit me that, once again, I wouldn't be able to take any of it with me.

It wasn't the cost of it which made me sad, my fat purse could easily pay to replace all of this fifty times over, it was what I feared would happen to it once I left. Part of my mind conjured up images of faceless hoards with pitchforks and torches smashing the contents of the cottage and then dancing around the burning cottage as the sun set on their shouts and jeers.

I think I knew better what would happen though, after-all the villages weren't brainless barbarians, they knew when things were worth a pretty penny, who didn't in these times? I imagine that they'd sell to travellers all that they knew not what it was. They'd probably take what they could recognise for their own homes, using it for cookery and household storage. Which reminded me of my need to eat, I went over to the corner to where the single bench which was my kitchen rested.

I picked up the two loaves of bread, a couple of rolls of cheese and the ham that Crookshaw had given me and, after wrapping a cloth around them, placed them in my bag. I thought of how Crookshaw would never be able to pay me the money he owed me; I'd be long gone by the time he took his pigs to market. Despite all that was going on, I hoped he got a good price for them, for his sake as well as for my own professional pride. I only hoped that he would be allowed to keep his animals and crops, even if he could only sell them to people from afar who had not heard the story of my downfall.

I remembered all the other small kindnesses that the villagers had shown me, all their smiling faces, all their gratitude at all my help. I especially remembered the smiling face of little Isabella, daughter of Lord Penryth and, were it not for her fate, future lady of the manor. If only God had not chosen to take her, not yet in her ninth year, I would be comfortably in bed now, not trying to pack my life into a sack.

I'd tried my best to help her, as soon as I heard she was ill I rushed to the manor house and went straight to her bedchamber. But I am only a wizard of plants of the earth and the air, I am no a healer of humans. I tried to remember all that I had once heard about various sicknesses, but I couldn't fathom where her rash came from. I could do nothing to alleviate her fever or her pain; I was as helpless and useless as the sawbones and apothecaries that arrived in a steady stream from all the surrounding villages and towns.

Her disease and ailment was as alien to them as it was to me. The only difference between myself and all the others standing around her bed watching over her was that I had been responsible for the ingredients used in her last meal before the sickness struck. With the crops flourishing under my potions and magicks it was only natural that the first bountiful harvest of the succulent crops and animals would be eaten by Lord Penryth and his daughter; there would be plenty more to go around to the villagers and townspeople.

As her condition deteriorated her father had gone from singing my praises to cursing my 'demonic and un-Godly magicks'. He took me aside and told me that I should use all my un-holy powers to remove the hellish spirit which infected her from the poisoned crop and that I was to leave his lands immediately as soon as she was recovered. We both knew that he didn't need to state what would happen to me if she didn't recover.

It was lucky for me that she had passed away well past midnight. The only people present by her bedside at that late an hour were myself and her nurse. Her nurse had fallen asleep in chair by the fire and so I had been able to silently leave the manor house once I had said a short prayer for her freshly released soul.

I had come straight to my cottage and packed as much as I could as quickly as I could. Now all that there was for me to do would be to take the fastest horse I could find from Crookshaw's stables (leaving him money for it) and ride for my life. I'd leave only memories of my presence and try to take with me only the good memories of the people I'd known.

I'd really liked this place. I'd really thought that it would be the last time that I'd have to move, the last time I'd have to fly from my home early in the morning. From the first day that I'd turned up I'd thought everyone here was different. No-one really noticed me, they minded their own business and they didn't ask any awkward questions about how I had got my wealth of gold and why I had no attachments. They didn't even ask me where I was from or why I was travelling so light.

They had started to notice me after I'd started working with Crookshaw on his crops. When his fields had the tallest stalks and his cows had had the most calfs, people started inviting me to their house for dinner, they started calling me over into their games of cards. They'd even started introducing me to their nubile daughters. Even through out my gaining popularity and friendships, none of them ever asked where I was from or even, really, who I was. They had accepted my mystery and embraced my powers.

Yet they still all turned against me, just as the lord of the manor had, as soon as something had gone wrong. They needed a scapegoat and my powers, too good to be true, and my mystery, sinister and tricky, had been the perfect choice. I was sure that her illness was not my doing, it was likely a malignment brought by a wealthy traveller from a city. Yet no-one heard my protests through their shouts of blame and anger.

I picked up my sack and walked out of my cottage. For some reason I still felt it necessary to close the door behind me, it still seemed the right thing to do. As I slipped the catch gently closed and set off across the dew sodden grass I vowed to leave any bitterness towards the people here behind me. It wasn't their fault that they saw all mystery and unknown, whether good or bad, as being from the same source.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Like a Phoenix

Like a Phoenix, except without the pile of ashes, this blog will be reborn. Regular postings every Monday at 20:00 UK local time, or... something bad will happen.

Or possibly the universe will end; I've not decided yet.

I'll also introduce a trick prize to try to get people thinking and commenting: the most insightful/interesting/funny/well-thoughtout comment (as judged by me) written between a post being published and the next post being published will be offered a printed and signed copy of that post. Terms and conditions apply (my decision is final, no alternative prize will be offered, I reserve the right to not award a prize for any week).

Just think though, one day they might be worth 1000s of pounds/dollars on ebay!