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Hop, skip and jump to the polls

If the British could vote for their next king, it’s likely William would win in a landslide over his tired papa Charles, but the modern game of thrones has certain rules, one of them being you have to wait your turn.

Not going anywhere just yet

We do of course get to vote for Prime Minister, except we don’t quite. We mark our quaint but reliable paper ballots for a member of parliament representing our constituency.

The head of the party that collects the most votes becomes PM and gets to live at 10 Downing Street along with Larry the cat, the current unelected Chief Mouser charged with “greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defences, and testing antique furniture for napping quality.”

Only one of these cats is still in office

Unlike the the dragons, I’m not making this up. It’s a position which has been filled since the time of Henry VIII, when I’m guessing the cats fared better than some of his wives.

There are two main parties and various smaller ones whose only real shot at influence is finding themselves in a position to throw in with either the Tories or Labour when neither gets enough votes to hold a working majority. Thus Theresa May’s government only holds power because in the last election the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland offered?—?some would suggest were bribed?—?to prop her up.

For light relief there’s the Monster Raving Loony Party, who I believe have a US branch called the Republicans. I mean Democrats. (Flip a coin.) That party got started in the early 80s by Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow, though he wasn’t actually a peer of the realm and needless to say wasn’t born with that name.


An early goal of the Loonys was to abolish the income tax introduced as a temporary measure during the Napoleonic Wars, which sounds respectable enough, if a tad unrealistic for a country obligated to promote the general welfare.

Recent “Manicfesto” policy proposals include augmenting leap years with hop, skip and jump years, allowing anyone over 5 years old who can hold a crayon to vote, and legalising broccoli in Wales. Whatever your view of cruciferous vegetables and the preschool franchise, their promise that “should we be elected will will not initiate any of our policies” is refreshing in its candour.

The Greens have their own party

You won’t be surprised to learn they never got close to an electoral upset, their chief success being ruffling a few feathers amongst the sense of humour impaired. Lord Sutch himself lost over 40 elections, so he deserved a medal for perseverance if nothing else.

Just like in the States, a lot of people here feel that voting is pointless, standing with Emma Goldman in the belief that if it ever really changed anything, governments would make it illegal.

Emma standing with Emma

The more passionately partisan will further burden you with backing the right candidate, preferably the one that’s likely to win, otherwise why bother.

It’s not unusual for a “red” Labour supporter who lives in a “blue” constituency, where a majority are Tory and victory is all but assured, to either just stay home, or if they’re already at home contemplating a bleak field of candidates, spoil their postal ballot, perhaps by giving it to their 5 year old with a box of crayons and threatening broccoli for desert if they don’t choose wisely. Naysayers think this is how we ended up with Brexit.

If you want an example of voting having a gigantic impact, look no further than the 2016 referendum. Never have so many caused so much upset with so few talking heads predicting it. A lot of worried people have been wanting a do-over ever since: a vote on the vote, if you will.

Where’s Screaming Lord Sutch when you need him

While technically non-binding, both major parties are committed to honouring the result, or so they claim. To do otherwise might invite their own extinction.

’Tis once again the season for editorialists to plead with you to do your civic duty. By all means vote: I would suggest Janet Garrett, because my mom likes her, and Rachel Crooks, as her name provides added motivation to stay on the straight and narrow, given what a boon it could be to headline writers. I don’t know enough about any of the other candidates to give an informed opinion.

Now to something really important: Who would win a popularity contest, Meghan or Kate?

Sorry but you don’t get to vote twice


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Please Stay

For me, the work of writing has always, in some way, been a fight against oblivion. It’s my way of resisting death and (however delusional) of trying to ensure that a trace of me remains after I’m gone.
William Bradley

It’s inevitable. At some point after arriving safely home on my annual pilgrimage to see my family, I’ll take the short walk to the cemetery lying at the foot of the appropriately dead end street (a good place to run infinite loops as a child, but powerful incentive to go out into the world) and pay a visit to Leslie.

My earliest memory of her was when we were in a play together at school. Actually it was a short dramatization of a poem a small working group of us seventh graders were asked to compose. Impatient with poetry-by-committee, I’d made it my homework to just write the damn thing myself, presenting it as a fait accompli the next day in English class.

I don’t recall exactly what it was about, but it involved a murder and I was cast as the guy packing heat. There’s a dramatically off-kilter snapshot of me holding the gun (perversely innocent in the age of metal detectors beeping at real ones) in the depths of the family archives.

Looking delicate and lovely in her yearbook picture, I’m amazed I didn’t fall for my classmate, but we were just friends, till even friendship passed away for some obscure reason.

She died around the time I was getting married. We’d last run into each other on a chilly winter afternoon on the quad at the nearest large way station to credentialed adulthood. I remember her telling me about a trip to England, where I’d eventually land.

Leslie has since become my guide to the underworld, as it were: those dark mental caverns where I sit in full Rodin’s Thinker mode contemplating my own time on earth. Her long afterlife haunts me and reminds me not to take breathing for granted. The school where we first met has since vanished, leaving a smooth green sward for drive by memories.

I don’t know if we’ve all got a book in us, but we’ve definitely all got an obit. During the last couple of years I’ve taken to reading these short stories, a habit you’re not supposed to acquire until closer to your three score and ten. One day I was surprised to see William Bradley, face framed by copies of The Best American Essays on the bookshelf behind him.

Bradley had come to my attention around the time I started exploring Facebook, incidentally a medium I’d love to hate were I more invested.*

Hey, a writer in Tiffin! had probably been my first thought. Someone I’d like to get to know.

I was impressed that he made it through so much oncological horror without falling into the bottomless pit of self pity I’m pretty sure would be my final destination. We’d both ruminated over Warren Zevon’s last album, but for him it was a soundtrack to nearly unbearable experiences.

I admired his passion for the essay. He really got meta on its ass.

Alas I was never able to eek more than a polite like out of him when replying to his posts on FB, which nipped any possible RL friendship in the bud. Then again, as I later learned, he was going through rather a lot at the time; there was no opportunity for a concerted charm offensive.

I’ve been lucky in life. The Grim Reaper hasn’t collected anybody close to me. Loved ones are all still present and accounted for. I don’t know many people who’ve made it to their middle ages so unscathed.

Were I superstitious, this would be a good time to find a large piece of wood to knock on. The 300-year-old oak that held court in front of our house would be a suitable candidate if an almighty wind hadn’t just brought it down. I’m left pondering its ancient corpse, already sectioned by a tree surgeon but left to bleach in the sun.

happier times

Frankly I’m in wonderment at having made it this far myself. On a few occasions I’ve taken Jack Kerouac too literally and found myself laid out on the road, emerging from limbo.

It’s bad enough losing yourself. The thought of losing others is more painful still.

Fortunately (or not, from my DNA’s point of view), I don’t have children, so never faced the possible horror of that loss.

There is a little heart I fear stops beating, that of the impossibly dear rabbit who shares the house with us. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say I’d rather go before him, which hopefully would make him a very long-lived long ears indeed. It’s amazing what pets can do to you.

Childhood dogs and cats and such are typically the unwitting instructors on how to process grief before you’re old enough to read Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It’s a lesson I haven’t learned.

Recently I went looking for Bradley’s website and was unsettled it was gone. I don’t know that he would’ve cared, but oddly I did, perhaps highlighting my own thanatophobia by putting myself in the shoes of a dead man slowly being erased.

Thus did I recruit myself as curator, reconstituting and expanding the collection of links that had been in his library. Although this will allow anyone who happens upon the page a chance to help him continue to cheat death, it was in fact a selfish act.

He’s both alive and not, like Schrödinger’s cat, but of course, mostly not.

Now I won’t get to chat with him about newspapers, one of my favourite topics. Or horror movies, one of his.

Or bone up on puns

Or tell him You’re a Wonder was wonderful, joy rides in second person less so. (Maybe not right away, but down the line, after a few glasses of wine, though I don’t drink, it’s just a prop.)

Or that I also fear inadvertently revealing my internal monologue underneath my polite, bland, midwestern facade, which would likely see me punctured with pitchfork holes.

Or that the label “creative nonfiction” makes my eyes roll (more vino please. Tl;dr version, speaking as a creative writing major: let the reader decide.) He’d probably then roll his eyes at me for further and quite seriously informing him that bunnies are so much better than cats it isn’t funny…

Or collaborate in crowdsourcing a mercenary to put a very liberal whupping on Aaron Sorkin.

Or bump into him at Kroger the next time I’m in town and ask if he remembered to put the eggs on top.

Or thank him for making me consider how essay means to try.

Death be not proud, wrote Johnny Gunther’s father to generations of school kids and John Donne to eternity. Appetizer for last supper conversation though that may be, I’ll leave the final words to someone who knew how to wrap things up:

*I’m not even invested enough to use my real name. Well, my current one.

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We are most concerned

Sources say he has an eye on our balloons.

I’m with him.

Release the ravens.

Are you sure you won’t make an exception?

Definitely not pro-life.

Before or after?

This was made abundantly clear.

The word you’re looking for is atrocious.

Come up with a caption using ‘Blair witch’ and win my undying gratitude.

Looks like he made quite a sacrifice for Brexit, too.

Yank go home.

Flag borrowed from the embassy in Australia?

There’s still room.


The ghost of election past.

Some came with cape, some without.

It was warm.
PASTIEFEST, to answer your question. I think.

Parliament Square? In these shoes?

Wanted: grammar nazi. Position is equal opportunity [from here].

I was discussing my mouth organ with Elton John the other day and he said sing us a song, you’re the piano brain. It was sad and sweet and I knew it complete…  but you know, I miss the earth, rocket man. All this science I don’t understand.

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Charles & Camilla’s card apparently got lost in the post, but we have received our traditional Christmas Message from Capita:

click if the music doesn’t automatically load in your head

I couldn’t find a picture of J Hales, so BBC Director-General T Hall will have to do as representative of The Dark Side.

Since I can’t legally watch the queen this afternoon, as law abiding subjects have been doing for generations,

if I need a fix of Liz I’ll either catch her on The Crown, or splice something together in my head.
Lilibet, Leia, and Winnie in happy times
Alas the corgi bounded straight into a sarlacc, Winnie’s “silly game” with the chains was already turning deadly serious, and the young queen was advised to flee by her trusted advisor and Twi’lek Tommy, just out of shot, to avoid a diplomatic incident on Tatooine. Needless to say all quite noncanonical and not a little confusing, but it was a long time ago.…

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