Writing Interruptus

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Walter Matthau as Max Goldman – in reality, I might have strangled him!

So, the schools and colleges and universities of England have broken up for the summer holidays – no, not vacation, we don’t say vacation in England, unless you are going away from home on an actual vacation! (The English language huh?!)

You’d think I would have time to settle into a decent writing routine, wouldn’t you?

Previously I had been posting for this blog on a bi-weekly basis, then I cut down to one as, working and fiction writing demanded more time.

Upon the arrival of end of June, I was raring to go. I had plans to edit a series of stupid stories and self-publish them. I have a complete manuscript that I am ploughing through for the umpteenth time, plus the short story I am currently working on, and the handful of submissions for short story/anthology open competitions/submissions.

First week off, the phone rings – my mother is in hospital

My folks are old, like octogenarian old. My father now shuffles – literally- at a pace that boggles the mind, he’s losing his eyesight, and his hearing, his appetite, his balance. Yet he remains as obtuse, argumentative, opinionated and bloody annoying as ever!

My brother and I can’t imagine why our mother ever stayed with him.

So now, instead of spending happy hours immersed in words, I am driving two or three times a week, on a 2 hour round trip to collect my old dad, through roadworks, hold-ups, congestion, to visit my mother in hospital and take him home again.

She had a half-hip replacement, so is learning to walk again. She’s doing well, considering. I wonder she doesn’t just pretend she can’t do it so she can have a longer break from my dad!

You might wonder that I don’t go more often – but we have one car and hubby needs it to get to work. You imagine living in suburbs that the bus service would be great – it isn’t. Anywhere outside of London has appalling public transport systems.

And so I drive the car whilst my dad points out every bus that passes and tells me it’s route, and exclaims at empty buildings and tells me his ideas for, well practically everything- “These people don’t think!” he rants in his now high-pitched voice – because he knows best. And points his hand across my face as I try to peer over and navigate the road, because he wants me to look at where the British Legion used to be, or where an ex-neighbour from twenty years ago, whom I do not remember, moved to. And we get into arguments because I cannot let him get away with saying things like, “Why do you drive this way? Why don’t you go along the Northbound? You people just can’t think in a different way.” And I rise to the occasion,( I have become in his mind You People, and it irks) reminding him that he had an hour long moan when I washed his tea-pot after doing the dishes.

“Why does it matter?” I had said.

“Because that’s the way we always do it.” He said.

“But it’s all done, see? The dishes are washed and put away, I’ve done the tea-pot, and wiped up, so why does it matter what order it gets done in?”

He pointed at the counter, “There’s water there.”

I stood and faced him and made him tell me why it made a difference. He, of course had no logical answer.

And so back in the car this Friday, I couldn’t resist bringing up the tea-pot argument when he criticised my route.

“Why do you wash the tea-pot before the dishes?”

“Habit.” He said.

“Well, there you go.”

He still harrumphed, so a sent a parting shot – “Pot, kettle, black. Sound familiar dad?”

This morning,as I was reading ‘Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim‘, my husband said I should use my writing as a catharsis and write, like David Sedaris, about my family. I’m afraid I don’t have the wit of Sedaris, or the unusual and interesting family, or events to satisfy anyone, just a stubborn set of parents and brother who all seem stuck, like flies in aspic, in a 1950s England, who enjoy complaining as much as the next Brit.

And I fear I might be the same!

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Writing is Like… Bowel Movements

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Toilet Graffiti
Warning
You may not want to read this if  –  you have a sensitive nature, you haven’t eaten yet, or, you have just eaten.

 

Writing is much like taking a dump.

What!?

I shall repeat that – Writing is much like taking a dump. It’s true.

So join me today when we’re going to use (cue Ta Da music) The Bristol Stool Chart to decide what kind of writer you are and what you can do about it.

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Bristol Stool Chart (For Writers!)

 

Well here we are ladies and gentlemen in the world of poo. The Bristol Stool Chart is a real thing, honestly. They use it for patients to point at what their shit looks like and the doctor diagnoses the problem and gives dietary advice, so without further ado, let’s find out what kind of writer you are –

#1 – These writers lack a normal free-flow quality, because research, experience and/or knowledge are missing and there is nothing to retain ideas. Ideas are painful to pass, because the lumps are hard and scratchy. There is a high likelihood of emotional bleeding from laceration of the mind. Even brain farts are missing. You probably like the idea of being a writer more than the actual reality.

Solution – Stop trying so hard, don’t push it. If you’re meant to be a writer it will happen. Otherwise, stop lying to yourself.

#2 – A combination of Type 1 writers impacted into a single mass and lumped together by some vague notions. Mental constipation is the most destructive by far because its size is near or exceeds the maximum opening of the creativity aperture. To attain this form, the idea one is a writer must be in the mind for at least several weeks instead of the normal 72 hours. A history of minor dabbling with writing is the most likely causes. Minor brain flatulence is probable. This writer is likely to be irritable because of continuous pressure of large ideas with little skill or experience to open the dam.

See #1 for solution.

#3 – This form has all of the characteristics of Type 2 stools/writers, but the transit time is faster, between one and two weeks. You write in little bursts, relieving the pressure or build up of ideas. It is likely you will be irritable; with yourself mostly. Brain farts are a minor issue, because creative defecations are regular. Straining is required.

Solution – You know you have something. You can feel it brewing. Get some more variety in your reading diet and you’ll begin to flow!

#4 – This form of writer is normal for someone defecating/writing once daily. Pages may range from 1 to 100, the larger number suggests a longer transit time (thinking) or a large amount of dietary fibre in the diet (reading).

You almost got it. Keep going!

#5 – This is considered the ideal form. It is typical for a person who writes daily, after major meals, (no, not really after major meals, that’s definitely stools). You are a regular reader, you are interested in variety in your life diet, you write daily, because, let’s face it, what else are you going to do? You are a natural creative, but that doesn’t mean you can become lax in your exercise regime!

#6 – Borderline normal. It may be difficult to control the urge, especially when you don‘t have immediate access to a keyboard. These kind of scribblers may be a little neurotic about themselves or their writing. It can also indicate a hypersensitive personality prone to stress.

Solution- you can actually do this, you just worry too much what other people will think of your work. Write for yourself first and foremost.

#7 – Whoa! This, of course, is verbal diarrhoea. Two causes here – It‘s typical for people who are new and inexperienced or convalescing from faecal/idea impaction; ideas have built up and up and have no place to go but out onto the paper. The large creativity centre is stuffed with impacted ideas throughout its entire length. The other; more unfortunate, is the belief that , ‘Hey, I’m good at writing, my mum says so, so it must be true.’ and then proceed to pump out story after story after story of trite nonsense. Some good stuff has been absorbed, the rest accumulates in the rectum of the mind. Unfortunately, it‘s all too common.

Solution – find a trustworthy Beta Reader. Listen to constructive criticism. And slow down before you drown us all in word poo!

 

I hope you found today’s advice useful. Remember – not a doctor!

*Toilet Graffiti from https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/420664421416782750/?lp=true

 

Because Every Country Is A Winner – At Something!

 

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And The Winner Is…

The Olympics is a time when individuals who are at the very peak of their performances, get to compete against each other for more than a medal and a trophy. There is the glory and the prestige, the honour of performing on behalf of their nation. We stand in awe at the skeleton bob crew that hurtles at speeds up to 78mph! Skiers who leap 800ft. And gymnasts who twist themselves through contortions a cat would envy.

Takes all sorts doesn’t it? Some of us may be able to recall names who have surpassed others in their field…but what about countries successes? Who – or rather, where – is best at what?

Time to make a list!

 

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Finnish -ing School 

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Handsome Wodaabe Male

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Colombian Falls
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Lego Liebe

 

 

N.B: All details correct at time of posting, pole positions may change. No details to be taken seriously. Strongest/Best/Kindest are all relative and may have taken little effort on the part of the ‘winning’ nation. The author takes no responsibility for the amount of Lego consumed or lists topped.

Information is Beautiful – International Number Ones

 

New Years Resolutions of Super ‘Heroes’

Happy New Year to all my readers. Yeah I’m late, so sue me! Let’s hope it’s a goodie!

Do you chaps make New Years resolutions? I’m not sure if this is just a western thing or countries around the world partake of this annual making-a-promise-to-improve-oneself-or-do-something-different. I gave up making them years ago and this year I have made 4 – swear less, smoke less, lose weight and publish book. *If only you could see my face right now*

Thought I’d start the year with something daft, a bit of candyfloss for the brain as I like to call it (and some of my writing-but that’s another matter). So I present for your delectation a selection of New Years resolutions from some of our favourite comic characters – yeah I actually interviewed them! What!? I didn’t say I was going to stop lying in 2018!!!

 

“Gonna smile more.” Hellboy

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Hellboy, ” I AM smiling!”

“Start a swim club and invite Batman; maybe he’ll like me more.” Aquaman

“Spend more time with my family.” Loki

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Loki, “What do you mean, you don’t trust me, brother?”

“Visit my mother more.” Wonder Woman

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Diana, “Mama, I just killed a man…or two or three.”

“Get in touch with my gentler side, and hug people.” Batman

“Take up appliqué sewing.” Thing

“Try and get over my social anxiety and stop hiding.” Invisible Woman

“Try out a better alter-ego disguise.” Superman

“Ditch the tights, too chilly.” Green Arrow

“Quit smoking, drinking and swearing so much.” John Constantine

“Get a shave.” Wolverine

“Get a nice girlfriend and…get laid!” Captain America

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Captain America, “Keep going, no-one suspects you’re running away from girls. Bullets bad, sex scary, bullets bad, sex scary, bullets bad…”

“I am going to start taking out all the movie producers who do not give me film of my own this year. And you know I don’t mean dinner!” Black Widow

“ Make an Iron Woman; so I can get in touch with my feminine side. No, actually, what could be better than making love with me, myself and I.” Tony Stark

“I’m gonna get a kitten and call it Francis, and feed it, and love it, and care for it and pet it. And stop being so sarcastic and pay attention when the bad guy shows up. And make friends with all the strangers I have yet to meet…New Years Resolutions? Get outta here!” Deadpool

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Deadpool, “Hey readers, Alexandra thought she’d just appropriate all our images for your enjoyment. Happy New Year, oh, and play nice.”

Well there you have it folks, resolutions from fourteen of our super heroes, for real!

Happy 2018 Everyone!

Inglish, It’s An Odd One

I know I mis-spelt the word in the heading! Irritating? Confusing? Not as much as the following will be…

I guess you have to be born in Britain to fully understand the peculiarities of our language. Most of the time you don’t have to explain what you mean – like belonging to a gang that has it’s own idiosyncratic lingo, the English have words, phrases and grammar that does not always make sense to a foreigner. Add to that, the odd dialectic words that are peculiar to geographic areas; that you don’t find anywhere else in the UK, and you have a potential minefield.

  • Stuff we say – but don’t mean:

“How are you?” Mostly, the English don’t want to know how you are, this is simply another way to say ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’. You’ll come across this in a place of work where people are hurrying past each other – “How’re you?” or “You alright?” (depending on location), is answered with “Fine. You?” then move on.

“That’s quite good.” Usually translates as, “That’s rubbish!” We’re just being polite. Don’t take it personally. An English person would actually recognise this as being quite a barbed comment, if said with the right tone!

With respect.” Probably said at work or in middle of a heated debate. This usually means, “You’re an idiot! I’m being patient with you. And I don’t agree with anything you’ve said!”

When invited out for a social event, or to visit your home, you might suggest getting together sometime. An English person will most likely say, “That’d be nice.” What he or she is thinking is, “Oh no, please don’t invite me out. I can’t think of anything I would less like to do.”

“It’s fine.” Watch this one. You have most likely offended. It actually translates as, “Are you a f***ing idiot!”

If an English person says “Thank you” in a determined way, or “Your welcome” it is most likely in response to another person being rude – i.e. not holding a door open, or not making eye contact when giving change. They are pointing out your rudeness.

“I beg your pardon?” If it sounds like a question, we’re not asking for your pardon, we’re miffed at something you said or did. It means, “Explain yourself, you disgusting creature!”

  • Words that mean more than one thing – reading and speaking are two/too different things:

Vowels sound different depending on the job of the word, stress placed on beginning or end of a word makes it a different noun.

The farm was used to produce produce.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

I did not object to the new object.

The psychologist had to subject the subject to a test.

  • Britain still has a class system; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are lucky, or unlucky depending on your point of view, you might mix with all four! Yes, despite what some would like to believe, Britain is a multi-layered society and we all know our place!

    Upper class are the posh peeps; ‘old money’, though many these days have little cash as their stately homes have sucked it all up. They don’t usually have a job.

Middle class (and within this are the upper and lower middle), these are the aspirational, moneyed, living in comfort. Managers in private companies, government employees and teachers fit n here.

Working class (within this are also two levels; according to pay, benefits, lifestyle) are what it sounds like, workers in lower paid jobs; industry (little of that left), shop-workers, teaching assistants, nurses and carers.

Trying to say the correct version of a word in a given social situation can even trip up the English!

Toilet, Lavatory, Loo – or Bog?

Bicycle, Bike, Cycle?

Lunch or Dinner?

Pudding, Sweet, Dessert – or Afters?

Sick, Ill, Poorly, Unwell – or Under The Weather?

Pardon, Sorry, What?

Napkin or Serviette?

Front Room, Lounge, Living Room?

Settee, Sofa, Couch?

Pants, Undies, Knickers?

  • Names that will fry your noodle:

Place-names as well as family names in Britain can be complicated. If you mispronounce a place-name the locals might have a laugh at your expense, but it reveals that you are ‘not one of us’. If you mispronounce a family name (especially those complicated upper-class ones), then you a revealing that ‘You really are NOT one of us’ (ugh!)

Name                              Not like this                                 Say this

Aldeburgh                   Alda-berg                                       Olbra

Beaulieu                      Bow-lee-oo                                     Bewlee

Beauchamp                 Bow-champ                                   Beecham

Cholmondeley            Chol-mon-delly                             Chumley

Dalziel                          Dalzee-el                                        Deeyell

Farquhar                      Far-que-har                                  Farkwa

Gloucester                    Glaow -cester                              Glosta

Mainwaring                 Main-wearing                             Mannering

Norwich                        Nor-witch                                    Norritch

By the way, American English is another thing altogether, just don’t talk about it with a Brit!!!! 

And another thing to fry your noodle about English, I have  attempted to stick to English and it’s dialects. Scots, Welsh and Irish have their own idiosyncrasies, but they do speak English. You may have noticed me flipping between the words English and British; I refer to myself as British as I am a mix of Irish, English and Scottish, I am not just English – except on a form when there is not option for Anglo-Irish. There has been a decades long debate about English or British, and because one of the opinions-that I agree with- is that the REAL British are the Welsh, who were pushed west by the Anglo invaders, then I cannot, by my own argument, be British!!!

English – it is what you make it! Good Luck!

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“Nice hat.” (Not!)

Angel Food Day! !

*Facetious Alert!*

This morning I made a discovery; today it is a special day for many people. It is a ‘National Day’ in one country…

Why do we have national days? I suppose it is so that we do not forget to celebrate something ‘special’. I get things like Saints Days, or Bastille Day, or Breast Cancer Awareness Day, or Child Poverty Day, or This Is Going To Have A Positive Impact On Many Lives Day, but…

NATIONAL ANGEL FOOD CAKE DAY ?!!!! Really?

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Angel Food Cake

I shit you not! In America, today, 10th October, it is National Angel Food Cake Day.                                 

I imagine that, unless you are a chef or cook, if you are not American, then you don’t know what Angel food cake, or Angel cake is. My extensive research (!) has led me to discover that it is a type of sponge cake originally from North America that first became popular in the United States in the late 19th century. It is name because of its airy lightness that was said to be the “food of the angels”; aaahh…

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Angel Food??

But why do they have this as a ‘National Day’? I cannot find anyone who knows (though I haven’t asked a lot of people as I’m bone idle).

What’s it all about? Does a cake need it’s very own day? What about Battenberg Cake Day, or Foamy Banana Sweet Day?

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Chocolatey Angel Food Cake

 

I wondered if hundreds of father’s and mothers across America woke this morning and thought, “I just gotta make me some Angel Food Cake, cos you know it’s worth a special celebration.”

 

Personally, this is the type of Angel I want in the morning….

 

 

Short Story

Good morning readers! On this mild Friday morning, I am offering a short story.

I began writing in the genre commonly called Steampunk, some 4 years ago. Steampunk is one of those awkward to describe genres, occasionally referred to as, Speculative Fiction. The ‘founders’ of this style; Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter and James Blaylock write dissimilar stories, but the commonality in this kind of literature is the cross-over of timelines, that technology is often; but not strictly, driven by steam and a fantastical/fantasy/punk quality.

I wrote this piece for my daughter; and read it later at Wirral Writers group. She was studying for A Levels at the time and the pressure of handing in assignments on time was the prime influence. It is a light-hearted take on the theme of time travel;

 

The Milford Papers

The thing rose almost silently from the dark water. Tiny, oily bubbles accompanying the rising pale dome of a head streaked with filth. With what might be called a sense of intelligence, the thing headed for the steps built into the stone-faced quay, and began to climb.
“The Monster!” Came the shout from a steamship passenger; a pointed finger directing the gaze of the dark men along the ropey quay.
A cry of alarm from the dockside drew further spectators.
The dark men; burly men, sinewy men, hard labourers with grease and coal etched into their faces, advance upon the hapless thing. And with raised fists, bale hooks, picaroons and wood off-cuts, beat the now landed creature. It staggered and flailed, urged back under a flurry of blows and snarled curses, these men who were broad backed, with strong muscles, and of sharp eye, paid no heed to the bizarre waving of limbs and strange snaps of light the thing gave off. Its alien wings twitched spasmodically. It was quickly and efficiently sent back to where it came from; tumbling backwards into the dark water, fizzing and sparking all the while, enveloped in the darkness the thing was presumed dead, or as good as. The docker’s returned to their duties.
And below the surface of the river, the thing thrashed, its legs pumped frantically as its hands scrabbled about its own being. And then. It simply vanished.

*

“Christ Almighty!”
“Calm down Milford.”
“Calm down?! Calm down?” The young Milford screeched. “I almost got killed this time. I’m not bloody doing it again. Nothing is worth that kind of hammering. Have you seen me?!” He pointed at newly ripening marks on his upper body.
“Hm?” The older man was inspecting the limp skin of ‘The Monster’.
“Professor. I said have you seen these bruises? I’m black and blue thanks to those thugs.”
“Who was it this time? Hm? What did they look like? Is the phonology like ours? Yes? What about syntax? Do they –“
“Professor!” Milford yelled over the gush of questions. “I couldn’t hear them. I had my helmet on. My bloody head.” He rubbed the back of his neck and skull that had been rattled under the reign of blows.
“Well, the suit seems to have taken a fair old pounding.” The Professor said. Milford’s mouth dropped open. “But nothing we cannot repair, hm?” He fondled the slippery fabric, pale as the underbelly of a sea bass, now detached from its complicated helmet. “I think a few simple repairs and adjustments will have it working good as new, better even.” He studied the multi-beam antenna on the helmet and the hinged time-space array panels, drooping from the shoulders of the suit.
“Professor. I don’t know if you’re aware, but we, sorry, I, keep missing the place. Or the time. I don’t know which, I’ve never got beyond five steps before some hooligan attacks me! Oh, and thanks for asking how I am.”
Professor Arbutus waggled his finger. “No, no, no, hm, no my boy. Not the wrong time.” He gently laid the suit next to the weed and mud smeared helmet. “I am absolutely, one hundred percent certain that the time is correct. Just a matter of co-ordinates. All we need to do – “
“I’m not doing it.”
“Pardon?”
“I said. I. Am. Not. Doing. It.” Milford said, then added civilly, “Sir.”
“Well now. Hm, yes, no. I see. Well in that case.”
Milford squinted at his professor, lips tight, don’t you dare old man, he thought.
“I cannot pass your coursework.” Damn!

*

Milford worked closely with his tutor for the next few days. The Finals were looming and he still hadn’t completed his paper. He had made adjustments to the multi-beam antenna, adding Albertian Relativity Sensors, whilst the professor fashioned his personally designed Continuum Lures for the time-space array panels.
“Should work a treat, hm?” The Professor smiled his apparently vacant smile.
Milford scowled at his tutor. “I bloody hope so. It’s me who has to wear it.”
“Language Milford.” The kindly voice warned.
“Sorry sir, but, well you know it hasn’t been as successful as we hoped before.”
“Don’t you understand the enormity of what we’re attempting Milford? My word. You young people today take everything for granted- “
“No sir. We don’t. Look, I’m sorry but Tasker has already completed her dissertation, handed it in to the Board this morning. And Barnes’ thesis is practically complete.”
The professor patted his students shoulder awkwardly. “It’ll be fine boy. Trust me. One more time.”

*
The figure that came to stand before the lectern was greeted with a wild burst of applause that threatened to deafen Milford. He was astounded. People stamped their feet upon the marble floor, the applause and cheers rose to the ceiling and seemed to curl around the tunnel vault and wrap itself around the audience. Milford’s hand trembled as he jotted in the small, leather bound notebook. He had expected him to be shorter. And then he spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Here we are…” The speaker paused, his eyes twinkled. “…again, in the most perfect room in the world, in this most rich and beautiful port.”
The audience erupted into laughter and cheers, causing Milford to furtively press a finger into one ear. And so the evening continued, the speaker read extracts from his past works, enacting the parts and portraying the voices of his characters so flawlessly, Milford imagined there were hidden players lending their voices. The man combined whimsy and pathos, joy and exuberance, the audience was spellbound. Great oratory and acting combined; Milford squirmed with delight thinking of the examiners reading his thesis. His professor would have loved to visit this evening. Milford had been studying Literature for a mere seven years, his tutor had devoted almost seventy of his years to it, Milford felt he owed it to the old man as much as himself. And so, Milford scribbled like he’d never done before. He enjoyed the evening immensely.
When the crowds eventually dispersed beyond St. George’s Hall, Milford made up his mind to speak to the great man. He found him in a rear room, glass of some deep, syrupy liquid in one hand, bottle at his elbow. He looked Milford up and down with his acute eye, shook his hand firmly, laughed bawdily at his own jokes, and Milford was twisted with anxiety inside – should he tell the great man he would die the following year? Complete that novel sir.
The writers hand came down companionably upon Milford’s shoulder. He proffered the other to shake. Time to go realised Milford.
“Sir?” He managed to mumble. “I…” His voice trailed away, flaccid, impotent, suddenly afraid.
“Son.” The writer smiled. “If I may be allowed to misquote myself, ‘It has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times, an age of wisdom, an age of foolishness, everything is before you.”
He took a brown, felt hat from a stand. Buttoned his heavy overcoat and turning at the doorway, smiled at Milford, winked and, swaying slightly, left the building.

*

The lights fizzed and hummed. Professor Arbutus looked up from his current project.
“Milford my boy!”.
He tottered forwards to release Milford from the Deep Time Suit. Removing the helmet, he was halted in his waffling by the glistening on his student’s cheeks. Milford sagged onto the nearest seat.
“He’s going to die Professor.”
The professor sat down opposite Milford. He noticed the suit was comparatively pristine this time. Milford yanked a small, leather bound notebook from inside the outfit. The professor took it gently, almost reverently. He thumbed through his student’s notes making exclamations of delight.
“Did you get the dialogue?” He pressed.
Milford began laboriously unfastening his one-piece, revealing the historical costume beneath. He unknotted the tie and from within its lining, pulled out the tiny recording device. Arbutus grabbed it and thrust it into the Vox Processor.
As the rich, deep voice filled the room, the Professor clenched his fists and almost jigged on the spot.
“He’s going to die Professor.” Repeated Milford morosely.
“Milford my boy.” Lectured the aged man before him. “Mr. Charles Dickens has been dead for five hundred years. Now pull yourself together, you have a thesis to write!”

END

*Dedicated to Erin
* In 1869 Charles Dickens gave his last speech at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. He died in 1870.

*Featured Image – Film still from La Jetee, 1962