Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sing a song of marbles

This is one of the really daft poems that my brain randomly chucks into my head from time to time. Thank you, Brain. This is just the sort of thing I need during a conference call.

Sing a song of marbles,
Marbles are so fine
I'd sing of marbles daily
But I haven't got the time
Instead I sing of toadstools
And toast, and tea and cake
Which have one thing in common
Good songs and meals they make
Except of course the toadstools
But that's not quite their fault
This song is very silly
So perhaps I'll call a halt

Sunday, 10 August 2014

William Whimsy and the case of the Damoclesian Sword

Here's the start of a detective story. Just a first draft at the moment, but I think it might have potential...

William Whimsy was short, thin and liked solving problems. His house was filled with all manner of clever inventions. He used an electric train set to bring him his slippers, and he fed his dog using a bizarre contraption that looked like a bicycle wheel attached to a rubber duck.

William Whimsy's dog was a very clever Jack Russell called Nipper who was white with brown spots. Nipper could walk, run, heel, fetch and perform every trick in the book. He could also do some other clever tricks which William hadn't noticed yet. William didn't notice very much at all because he was always busy. When he wasn't reading about problems that need fixing, he was in his workshop inventing things to fix problems.

One day, William's friend Arnold Riverbottom came to visit. He banged on the door so loudly that William – who was in his workshop at the time – jumped and dropped a very heavy hammer on his toe. Biting his tongue to avoid saying too many bad words, William hopped to the door. Arnold hurried inside as soon as the door was opened without even waiting for an invitation. On a normal day you would expect to find Arnold immaculately dressed, often in a white silk shirt with a bright red tie. Today, however, poor Arnold was in a dreadful state: his hair was messy and he'd put his jacket on backwards.

"William, you must help me," cried Arnold Riverbottom.

"Whatever is the matter?" said William. He was a little bit cross because he wasn't used to having people burst into his house as soon as he opened the door. And his toe hurt.

"Can I sit down? It's been a very tiring week."

"Of course, why not?" said William, begrudgingly helping Arnold out of his back-to-front jacket. They sat down in the living room. Seeing that Arnold was far too preoccupied to notice, William removed his left shoe to examine his injured toe. "Why don't you tell me what the matter is, Arnold?"

"Oh, I don't know where to start! It's all been a mess, ever since Tuesday. I don't know what to do. I went in, just as I always do, and where it should have been, it wasn't. So I went out and went back in again. It still wasn't there. I walked in and out fifteen times until I finally realised that it definitely wasn't where it should be. And then I called the police."

"The police?" said William, removing his sock and wincing as he prodded at his toe.

"Yes, I couldn't think what else to do."

"What did they say?"

"They said they didn't know where it had gone. They didn't even know where it had been in the first place. I say William, what's wrong with your foot?"

"Never mind that, I'm still trying to understand what's got you in such a bother. Has something gone missing?"

"Yes! It was where it always was but I went to check on it and there it wasn't."


"What do you mean, what?"

"What is missing?"

"Oh. Oh, I see. The sword."

"A sword?"

"Not just any old sword: The Sword. The sword that's been in my family for five hundred years, passed down from generation to generation. That sword is the sword that dangled over the head of Damocles. It's the sword wielded by King Harry as he charged into battle in 1077. It's the sword they found buried to the hilt in a lump of granite over two thousand years ago. And now it's gone."

"I see."


"Well what?"

"Can you help?"


"Yes, help! I need help! The police aren't helping me at all. They say they'll keep an eye out for it but what good is that going to do? Whoever's stolen my sword won't be taking it out for walks or carrying it around with them at the supermarket. I need someone to hunt for clues. I didn't just have that sword lying around with a big sign on it saying 'Steal Me'. I had guards, and locks, and gates. Big gates! I don't just need someone to say they'll look for my sword, William, I need someone to find it for me. And that's why I've come to you."

"Well that's very flattering Arnold, but I don't understand why you're here. I'm no good at finding things that have been lost. In fact most of the time I have trouble finding things that I know are definitely there. I count myself lucky if I can find a matching pair of socks in the morning."

"Don't tell me you can't find things. Finding things is simply a matter of solving a group of problems. The thief got into my house without setting off the burglar alarm. How did he do that? That's a problem for you to solve. The thief also managed to walk off in broad daylight carrying a sword that's twice as big as a normal man. Why did no one notice him? That's another problem for you to solve."

"I don’t think--"

"William, I need your help. Please. It's got to be you. There's no one else. At the very least, please come and take a look."

"Ok, you win. I'll take a look."

William replaced his sock and his shoe, whistled for Nipper and hurried out the front door after Arnold, grabbing his hat from the peg on the wall as he did so.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Midnight at Hotel Oscar (part 2)

This is part two of a crime story I'm working on. Part one is here.

Twenty minutes later, Detectives Jack Jackson and Mary Swann were in Jackson’s car on their way to the Hotel Oscar. Two officers were in the back seat, holding on to the door handles and trying not to look alarmed at Jackson’s driving skills.

Hotel Oscar was one of the larger hotels in the city. It was owned by the Martin family – one of the richest and most screwed-up families in the world. The Martins were currently featuring on one of those fly on the wall documentaries that Jackson knew his wife watched whenever he wasn’t around to complain about it. It was the most popular show in town so Jackson hated it on principle.

Mary was plainly delighted to be out of the office. She was literally bouncing with excitement in the passenger seat – although admittedly some of the bouncing was due to the knackered suspension on Jackson’s car. Despite Jackson’s determined silence, she was keen to start a conversation.

“That’s a nasty set of scratches on your bumper,” she said cheerfully as they shot past a speed camera and turned a corner far too quickly.

“Bumped a – I mean – a cyclist hit me,” grunted Jackson, trying to ignore her.

“Oh that’s terrible. You should have arrested him. Is that egg on your tie?”

Jackson didn’t reply. The two officers in the back seat tried to hide their grins.

They pulled up in front of the Hotel Oscar and parked in a tow zone.

“Police,” Jackson barked officiously as he passed through reception. He flashed his badge at the receptionist who shrugged and carried on typing on her phone. Mary had her badge out as well. She was showing it to everyone they passed, like a new toy. She was also smiling far too much. Didn’t she realise police detectives were meant to look grim when they arrived at a crime scene?

On the seventh floor they were met by the worried-looking manager of the hotel.

“I’ve only worked here a week,” was the first thing he said as Jackson and Swann emerged from the elevator.

“Oh, me too,” said Mary happily.

The managed looked at her.

“At the precinct, I mean,” she said.

Jackson sighed. “Show us the body,” he said, cutting Mary off before she tried to tell her life story.

“Body?” said the manager. “There’s no body.”

Jackson stared at him. “No body? You reported a shooting, right?”

“Yes, but the room was unoccupied. There’s no one hurt. Look.”

The manager used a plastic key card to open the door of room 703. Jackson stepped past him and into the room. As the manager said, there was no body. Shots had definitely been fired though. You could smell the gun smoke in the air – just light wafts of it seeping through the overtones of cheap hotel soap. And there was another smell – something Jackson couldn’t place. Something he’d smelled before.

“See here,” said the manager, pointing at the wall. There was a hole in the plaster. A bullet, sure enough. It had passed right through the wall. Had probably ended up somewhere in the building opposite. Jackson wondered if it had hit anyone.

“And here,” said the manager. He was pointing up at the ceiling now. There were three more bullet holes above the bed. It looked like someone had deliberately fired straight up in the air.

“What’s up there?” Jackson asked.

“Room 803,” said the manager.

“Anyone in it?” Mary asked.

“Yes, but they were out,” said the manager. “They’re not back yet but we checked the room. Would you like to see?”

Jackson nodded. He set the two officers the task of photographing the scene and then he and Mary followed the manager into the elevator and up to the next floor. Room 803 was a mess. The bullets had exploded up through the floor and shredded the bed. Pillow fluff and feathers coated the room. A small suitcase lay on the dressing table.

“Whose room is this?” Jackson asked.

The manager looked worried. “I can’t tell you,” he said.

Jackson raised an eyebrow at him.

“I’m sorry,” the manager said. “I can’t.”

“You can’t tell us whose room this is?” said Mary. “Why not?”

“Because the person in this room is a special guest,” the manager said. “They’re in the register under a false name, so there’s no chance the press will find out they’re here.”

Jackson walked over and stood in front of the manager. Jackson wasn’t very tall but he was tall enough to loom when he needed to. He loomed.

“Tell me,” he said quietly.

The manager looked up at Jackson then hung his head. “Oscar Martin,” he said.

“Oscar Martin? The Oscar Martin? The Oscar Martin who owns this hotel?”

The manager waved frantically and tapped his finger to his lips. “Keep your voice down!” he said. “No one can know.”

“You’re telling me the man who owns this hotel is actually staying here? How come?”

The manager groaned and shook his head. “I’m not meant to say.”

Jackson just stood and stared at him. He willed Mary to be quiet as well. It was an old technique. Stay silent long enough and someone will feel the urge to break the silence. It was very quiet in this hotel. He could hear the officers taking photos in the room below.

“He’s left the TV show,” said the manager, giving in to the silence at last. “He’s left his wife. If the press find him here they’ll swamp the place. He’s in hiding. Please, you can’t tell anyone.”

“TV show?” said Mary. “What TV show?”

“Fly on the wall thing,” said Jackson. “His house is full of cameras. They’ve been broadcasting live every day for the past month.”

The manager shook his head. “Not live. The TV people – they say its live but it’s not. There’s a day’s delay. For editing – that sort of thing – you know? Mr Martin left home yesterday and moved in here. He hasn’t been back. Tonight they’re going to show him leaving, and then the press will go crazy. They’ll be hunting for him everywhere. So he’s hiding here. Please, you mustn’t tell anyone. He has to stay hidden.”

“Why’s he hiding?”

The manager looked stricken.

“Come on,” said Mary, “tell us.”

The manager stared at them. “No,” he said. He looked resolute. “No, that’s nothing to do with any of this. It will be on TV tonight. It’s a surprise. I’m not spoiling it.”

(To be continued...)

Friday, 14 March 2014

Midnight at Hotel Oscar (part 1)

Here's the start of a crime story.

Detective Jack Jackson was not having a good day. The problem with being a policeman is everyone expects you to be perfect. Detective Jackson was far from perfect. Only that morning he had argued with his wife, dropped egg down the front of his shirt, and knocked a cyclist off his bike on the way in to work. Not the best of mornings, by anyone’s standards, but far worse for a policeman who was doing his best to get promoted.

“Jackson!” His boss was shouting for him. Jackson’s boss – Inspector Blaine – was not a friendly man. He seemed unable to talk at any level below a shout and, for some reason Jackson could never understand, appeared to hold Jackson in perpetual contempt.

“Jackson, where the hell are you?”

Jackson tried to stand up. He tripped over his own feet, fell back into his chair and knocked over his cup of coffee. Some of the boiling hot coffee splashed into his lap and he yelled with pain. He grabbed a sheaf of paper from his desk and rubbed at the stain.

“Jackson!” Inspector Blaine had walked into his office. Jackson stopped rubbing his crotch with the papers and sat up straight. Blaine glared at him.

“Where’s the Berkeley report?”

Jackson stared at him. He thought hard. Then he looked guiltily at the coffee-stained sheaf of paper in his hand.

“How the hell did you ever make detective?” Blaine snapped. He grabbed the sheaf of papers from Jackson’s hand. Glanced at it. Threw it back at Jackson. “I suppose I should be amazed you finished, but how about you try again and get me a report that isn’t covered in coffee?”

Jackson opened his mouth to apologise.

“Shut it,” Blaine said. “And do the report later. I need you at the Hotel Oscar. Now.”

“What’s happened?”

“Shooting. Seventh floor. Handle it. Take Mary with you. She needs breaking in.”

As Inspector Blaine left, Jackson buried his head in his hands. Mary Swann was the newest detective in the precinct. As far as Jackson knew she had never done a day’s detecting in her life. The only reason she had made detective was thanks to her Police Commissioner father. It was well known that Mary had wanted to be a police officer for years. She had told everyone as much. Even more well known was the fact that Commissioner Swann had done everything in his power to keep his daughter as far away from crime as possible. Mary had been a police officer on the streets for only a week before she was suddenly promoted to detective, no doubt on her father’s insistence. Now here Jackson was, being given the task of keeping Mary safe while trying to investigate a crime scene. Could this day get any worse?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Do It Yourself

Some friends turned into DIY experts. Silly poems in their honour quickly followed.

DIY Poem One

Mary, Mary, Queen of Glamour
Grabbed a nail and grabbed a hammer
She aimed the hammer at the shelf
But poor Miss Mary hit herself
Mary's hubby kept so calm,
He ran to grab some soothing balm
He fixed her thumb, then fixed the shelf
All are now in perfect health.

DIY Poem Two

Matt and Mary made some shelves
They fixed them to the wall themselves
Laws of physics don't apply
To this King and Queen of DIY
The shelves stood strong. The shelves stood tall.
There was no chance they'd ever fall
All who saw them gave three cheers
For Matt and Mary: Engineers!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Harry Potter and the Revolting Rhyme

Hermione demands you enjoy this daft poem.

I started work on a revolting rhyme based on the Harry Potter books. Here's how it begins:

There's a lad I think you know
You see him everywhere you go
In every town, in every store
There's Harry Potter books galore

The first three books were normal size
But the fourth caused some surprise
I couldn't lift that mighty tome
I bought a truck to get it home

The rest of them were sized the same
And though they all deserve acclaim
Some say the books can try their strength
Due to their enormous length

But worry not! For now, you see,
I've written out a summary!
Don't buy the book, put back your purse
The story's here in comic verse

Now Voldemort was feeling grumpy
A prophecy had made him jumpy
It said he'd die. That made him worried
So up he got and out he hurried

He cried, "That boy's a dirty rotter"
"I'm off to kill that Harry Potter!"
His pals applauded this decision
Then turned back to the television

So Voldemort set off alone
To curse a boy before he'd grown
Poor Harry's Dad (his name was James)
Was burnt to death in greenish flames

Then Lily (she was Harry's mum)
Gave her life to save her son
And her love was so immense
That it formed a strong defence

For when the Dark Lord said farewell
And, at Harry, cast his spell
The curse bounced back off Harry's head
Affecting Voldemort instead

The Kedava curse, it should be mentioned
Is not what I'd call well-intentioned
It's meant to kill and hurts like hell
Voldemort was quite unwell

He didn't die though. No, not him
The Dark Lord's past is very grim
Over death he'd gained control
By making mincemeat of his soul

He chopped it up and hid each bit
(A sneaky plan, you must admit)
So he survived, but only just
His human body was now dust

Then Hagrid took the orphaned tyke
Across town on a motorbike
Some bikes fly and others can't
This one flew to Harry's aunt

But Petunia (Lily's sis)
Was not the type to hug and kiss
A new born wizard in a nappy
She and Vernon were not happy

A decade later, Harry P.
Didn't like his family
Dudley and his mum and dad
Made life hard for the wizard lad

The Dursleys travelled to the zoo
Harry was pleased they took him too
He met a snake from Brazil
And set it free to maim and kill

Then came the letters - first just one
Then two and three and then a ton
Terror was the order of the day
The Dursleys tried to run away

But Hagrid found them in their hut
And grew a tail on Dudley's butt.
Harry laughed and without stopping
Caught a boat and went off shopping.

... to be continued...