Monthly Archives: April 2013

Just a bit of vanity really

A lovely friend took the photo which will one day grace the cover of a slim tome…..I wish


The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things @ Nottingham Contemporary.


Curated by Mark Leckey

27 Apr 2013 – 30 Jun 2013

Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey has curated an exhibition that explores the magical world of new technology, as well as tracing its connections to the beliefs of our distant past.

Historical and contemporary works of art, videos, machines, archaeological artefacts and iconic objects, like the giant inflatable cartoon figure of Felix the Cat – the first image ever transmitted on TV – inhabit an “enchanted landscape” created in Nottingham Contemporary’s galleries, where objects seem to be communicating with each other and with us.

In Leckey’s exhibition “magic is literally in the air.” It reflects on a world where technology can bring inanimate “things” to life. Where websites predict what we want, we can ask our mobile phones for directions and smart fridges suggest recipes, count calories and even switch on the oven. By digitising objects, it can also make them “disappear” from the material world, re-emerging in any place or time

And I have no idea what to make of any of this …………….BUT……….there are some individually beautiful items, some interesting connections, a truly thought provoking short film on autism and language and the forgotten joy of the Aphex Twin – man in a bikini photoshop images, oh and a giant inflatable Felix the cat.





And the anger grows like a kraken inside him – On the night-bus 4

And the anger grows like a kraken inside him and he feeels it’s tentacles wrap round his brain and the voice is getting louder and louder and he needs to drown it out, do something, anything to make it all stop.

And now he’s pounding the window with his fists.

Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop and the words are matching the rythmn of the punches on glass, but behind that is the other voice, the sneaky voice , all sibbilants and sneering

” Shouldn’t have done that, shouldn’t have done that, shouldn’t have done that”

And in his head, he roars like a man bull, a minotaur, a beast of a man

“Just shut the fuck up”

But what comes out is a broken whisper and his fists are cradling his head, punch drunk, gone one round too many with the madness inside.

There’s a chorus now, the haters and the doubters and of course, she’s there, whispering behind the others, he shouldn’t be able to hear her, not with the litany of jeering, but somehow, he always can.
Even when the other are quiet, when the cheap brandy and the cider have lulled them into something near to silence, when he can finally just get


She’s doing it now

“Shouldn’t have done it….no you…..not like the others…………….not worth nothing……shouldn’t have done ……………should have known better………..who does he think he is.

And then she lets the others in, conducts them, orchestrates them and when he looks in the glass, sees his reflection in the darkness from the outside on the 3.47 night bus, he sees her in his eyes, staring out at him and she’s got that look on her face……

Baby voice is just screaming now, of hunger and fear and cold and left aloneness and the dark and the things that happen in the dark, so he rocks backwards and forwards, trying to muffle to screams, trying to give some comfort.

He fumbles in the carrier bag on his lap and then, he can’t believe his luck, half a bottle of white lightening, he can’t remember where it came from, can hardly get the cap off quick enough.
Gulps it down , just enough, he knows, to calm everybody down, get things under control enough so he get off this bloody night bus, find a corner, re-group, calm down.

Five minutes

Already it’s getting better, baby is just groaning now, the chorus is taking a break, she’ there, of course, but it’s all manageable now.

He stands up, moves down the bus, the movement, the lurching unbalances him, he almost falls against a dozing couple

Of course, she’s in like a shot

“clumsy, you was always clumsy, couldnt take care of yourself, let alone anyone else……”

But this is a manageable murmur and he reaches the platform and drops off, slips into the night.

And on the night bus, everyone breathes out, risks a brief eye contact with their nearest neighbour.

Some nods, smiles, eye brows raised and of course the universal symbol for the nutter on the bus.


Just a walking the dog- On the night-bus 3

It’s a funny thing,developing a habit-you do something once,twice,three times and then it’s a habit, part of the landscape of your day or if I’m being accurate and hey,lets be accurate, my night.

The dog got left behind,along with the sofa no-one sat on and the ugly crockery and two pairs of F*** me shoes and a mountain of unpaid bills, stuffed into a cupboard drawer.

I’m not sure which was supposed to upset me most, the dog, small, snappy,leaving a trail of fine white hair all over the house. The shoes, I’d never seen them before, was I supposed to torture myself, wonder who exactly she had worn them for?.
On balance and yes,the pun is intentional, it’s the bills, all those unpaid balances, just laziness,muddled thinking. She knew, god knows I’d told her often enough, pay off the balance, don’t give the banks a penny.

So, a month down the line, its me, the sofa and now I know why no-one ever sat on it, the ugly crockery and the dog and let’s face it, lumpy sofas, overly patterned plates – ironic, she called them, well you can live with them, but the dog is a problem.
It wanders around the house, always just under my feet, i remember to feed it, change its water bowl, walk it round the block twice a day, but clearly, it wants, needs something else and one night, I just snap, grab its lead and start walking.

The first night, we manage half an hour, but I stick at it and within a couple of weeks, we’re striding out, an hour, 90 minutes, even longer sometimes.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not some sort of bonding thing, but, the animal is tired now, less bothersome and when I finally manage to persuade the dry cleaners to give up my summer weight suit without the ticket, i discover that I have lost some weight.
I also re-instate the designated space on the kitchen cork board for shoe repair, dry cleaning and other important stubs of paper. The system worked before she came and there is a tangible relief in returning the notice board to function rather than as a space for random postcards, take away menus, bits of paper, even odd earrings stuck into the tiles.
I take a step back and admire my handiwork and then I rattle the lead and we leave the house and maybe because tonight is the first time that I’ve tried to re-introduce order, form, put her ” artistic” clutter behind me, but I find myself still walking 3 hours later and then the dog stops, sits down and refuses to move any further.

It’s late, gone midnight and although I could carry the dog easily enough, I’m wearing my favorite Sweater Shop jumper, the one she said was beyond irony, the one with the little jaunty golfer on the front and I don’t fancy getting it covered in dog hair.

For a second or two, I consider getting a cab, but that would involve an entry under the special expenses heading on the spreadsheet and that causes havoc with the spacing and I’m not even sure if cabs take dogs, even small ones.

And then, in the distance, I see a bus, all light up, packed and as it gets closer, I put my hand out and it stops and we get on.

I’m half expecting some sort of kerfuffle about the dog, but the driver doesn’t even seem to notice and when I look around I can see why.

The bus is full of young people, all looking the way she would have liked to look, if she hadn’t been 37 and worked in Information Technology and had a weakness for cheese and onion crisps and fun sized mars bars.

I sit up straight and don’t make eye contact, but these children are loud and suddenly the dog barks and the girls two seats down notice him and before I can say anything, they have scooped him up, wrapped a pink feather boa around him and taken his photo.

It’s a great relief, I cam tell you, when the bus gets near enough to home to justify a quick exit. As I leave, the girls call out
“Bye Bye doggie, Bye Bye dog man”.

I don’t look back and when I get home I choose my tie and shirt for the morning and hang then up in the bathroom all ready for the day ahead.

It’s the kitchen cupboards that do it next time, tins and packets by size and type and all the labels facing outwards. She used to say that there was no point
“who would ever look in our cupboards ?”

But when I pass the pastas, sauces and casserole materials area later, I pat the cupboard door with a sense of a job well done and then I shake the lead and we head of into the night.

I can’t say I’m looking for the night-bus, it’s not a plan or anything, but, but, when 2 hours later, the dog does the sit down thing again and I check my watch.
Another bone of contention
“Why do you wear a watch ?” she would ask, a pseudo-question, asked seconds before she would deliver her answer, the answer,
“No-body wears a watch anymore, what don’t you just check the time on your phone, like everybody else”
I wanted to point out that the time she wasted, rooting in her large variety of possession eating bags to find said phone was actually far more time consuming and onerous that simply tilting my wrist, but at that point, when perhaps we both believed that the relationship was worth saving, I was keeping my mouth firmly zipped a lot of the time, so I said nothing.

i tilt the watch face towards me again, just for the pleasure of this simple task, gone midnight and in my head I justify something, the dog is tired, i am tired, it will be good to sit down, get home safely.

The bus comes, we get on and immediately there’s a shout
“its the little doggie and the dog man”
– the same girls, four, five seats down the bus and they’re waving and maybe because it’s late or because I’m remembering another of her pseudo questions
“why do you never take any risks, do anything you haven’t planned for weeks and weeks?”
but, i walk down the bus and slide into the seat in front of them and they’re leaning forward, hands outstretched to grab the dog and they’re smiling and the blond is doing that women rooting in bag thing and pulling out a phone and then she’s leaning towards me and showing me a photo of the dog, my dog, wearing a ridiculous pink feather thing and she’s smiling, grinning really and the dog looks like it’s smiling and I can’t help myself, I’m smiling too and I realize that the movement feels strange across my face and just for a second I wonder when I last smiled.

And then we’re all staring at each-other and I don’t really know what to say, but the dog fills the gap and then I notice where we are and I can’t help myself
“well, this is me then”
and even as I say it, I think – you’re 39 years old and you talk like your dad, but the words get me and the dog out of the seat and towards the doors and as we go the girls shout out
“see you again dog man” and I can’t help it, I smile again.

I decide to re-order the books and CDs, not just alphabetically, but into sub divisions of genre, it’s a big job, takes several evenings, but eventually, it’s finished and I sit on the sofa that no-one ever sat on and survey the ordered shelves and feel a deep sense of calm. I’m even considering really pushing the boat out, a small whiskey on a work night, even get as far as the kitchen, when the dogs lead catches my eye and without too much analysis, we’re out the door and up the road into the night.

So, three times, consider it a habit now, part of the weeks routines, patterns.

Thursday, Friday nights, long walk, 12.08 night bus. They’re always there, the blond and the other one, her hair has been pink, purple, blue over the last 9 weeks. Students, just starting their night when all sensible people, people like me, are tucked up in bed.

We’ve got a thing going, they pet the dog, take pictures, they say he’s got a Facebook page.
They’ve started petting me too, patting my arm, draping mad bit of clothes over me.
They say they want to take me clubbing.
They say I should wear me Sweater Shop jumper.
They say it’s retro – cool.
They say it would be a laugh.

And we smile, a lot.

I’m not mad, I’m not loosing my mind.

I know I’m a nearly 40 year old data analysis clerk who likes order, neatness, structure.

But one night, I’m going to get on that night-bus without the dog and I’m going to do something without planning, without preparation.

That’ll show her.

One night.


A guest piece from our regular contributor – SW – enjoy

It started in the early days of the Great War, young men would

give their sweethearts, wives or their small children a tiny, tiny

kitten; they were perpetual kittens. In tearful farewells up and

down England, men would take the tiny kittens from out of a small

bag or from under a coat and pass over the tiny kitten to shaking

hands and tear-stained faces. They became known back then as

Auf Wiedersehen pets.


Len Smith lay with his face down in the mud, clouds of lethal

Mustard Gas crept over his body, bullets slapped into mud around

him. And as his life slowly ended he saw coming towards him the

Auf Wiedersehen pet he had given his daughter. The tiny kitten

crept into his almost lifeless hand and it held the smell of his

daughter in its fur that he greedily sucked in. Men from all over

the Western Front reported they had seen these kittens crawling

along towards their fallen comrades. German snipers blinked in

amazement pressing their eyes into their sights in disbelief.

Hundreds and hundreds of kittens, but not a single one was found

later on. Back home the Auf Wiedersehen pets slowly began to die.

No one ever knew why.


So, Rubies and Duels is 12 months old.
I haven’t quite kept to the the original commitment of adding content every day, but I suspect that new fiction and other film or writing based material has been uploaded 5 out 7 days throughout the year.
7,000 people have read what’s here, thanks to all of you for taking the time to have a wander about, especially those who may arrived here in error. I hope it was worth the detour.
The blog has kept me focused and productive and given me feedback and a little space for some very low level showing off.

In the last 12 months, I have completed an experimental novel, had a few false starts at a “proper” novel, almost finished a collection of short stories [ the dogs project – not dead, just snoozing], I am halfway through a new collection of fairy stories and have just begun a new portmanteau – on the night-bus.
And alongside these slightly more coherent, larger projects have been the flash fiction, the low level erotica and the bits that defy any real labeling.

I’m not quite sure what the next 12 months will bring – I have a horrid feeling that I need to actually make some big grown up decisions about writing- watch this space.


InshaAllah – if Allah wills it

A writing group task – 200 words incorporating a foreign language phrase.

Sometimes, when she is especially bored or angry or simply more than usually disastisfied with her lot, she lists all the current projects, ambitions, aspirations that they hope are within Allahs’ [ praise be his name] plan for them.

Todays list and it is of course a moveable feast includes

The wherewithall for the extension, she is not convinced that Allah [ praised be his name] will see the importance of a space big enough for a full sized snooker table.

9 A to C grade GCSEs, her daughter has perfected the shrug, the outstretched palm, the resigned smile to go with the phrase.
Mumtaz suspects that Allah [ praised be his name] may have more important tasks, but is sure that he will be impressed with the beautifully colour coded revision timetable.

6lbs weight loss before the next weight watchers meeting, Mumtaz really wants her pre-children figure back, but doesn’t want to seem pushy, so follows the guidance from her weight loss counsellor, goals broken down into weekly achievable chunks, somehow it seems politer.

Manchester City to win the cup

A lucky lottery ticket

Increased hours at the depot for her eldest