Darkness

Friday morning.  Police radios crackle. Officers mumble in hushed tones. Someone is screaming – one never-ending, hysterical, heart-rending wail of grief, devastation and disbelief. Residents look away numbly as the body of the latest statistic is taken away. One more heroin overdose. This one didn’t get away with it. To the media, he will be ‘another’ – if his death is even deemed newsworthy at all. To someone, he was a son. A friend. A partner. His name was Michael. He was 19 years old.

Friday night. A small package and some crumpled money notes change hands. The teenager quickly pockets his purchase and slinks away, head ducked against the rain, without even a glance at the now ominously dark, silent house he passes.

What will it take?

In Hiding

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.                                                 

I’ve had an attack of the crazies and gone through my archives taking out every real name that has appeared in my blog since the beginning of time (or, erm, May). Someone said something today that just freaked me out a little, so from now on, everyone is ficticious. Some of the new  fake names have reasons, others are just abbreviations. Not one is real.

Kat the Cat is still called Kat. Because some things never change.

The noise downstairs

Creeeeeeeak.

I wake up and clutch the duvet in panic. Someone is in the house. The clock, glowing eerily in the dark, reads 3:07am. I suspect that’s what time it is. My heart thumping, I wait for the approaching footsteps of my killer.

Creeeeeeeak.

Oh, God, help, I plead silently. Silence. I tremble pathetically under the covers for a few moments, and finally summon up the courage to get out of bed. Gingerly setting my feet on the floor, I ease my body off the bed, inch by inch, in an effort not to make any creaking noises that might alert the psycho killer to my presence in the same way I have been alerted to his.

Creeeeeeeak.

He’s in the utility room. It seems like a strange place for a murderer with an axe and a revolver to go, but I can hear him there, all the same. Prowling amongst the boxes of Daz and the odd socks. Waiting.

I am practically hyperventilating. An interesting variety of thoughts are shooting through my head, all jumbled together and confused, forming a constant stream of useless information that goes something like this: I could spray him in the eyes with some deodorant – what if he kills Kat? – he’ll hear me if I phone the police – Dirk and Jay aren’t in next door tonight – I can text for help – if he kills me how long will it be before anyone finds me? -maybe he could sue me for spraying him in the eyes with deodorant –  would He Who Brings The Coffee be mad if I texted him at this time? – I definitely locked the doors, didn’t I? Did I? I did – I can’t call dad, he’s in no shape to rescue me from a murderer – I did lock them – is there anything embarrassing that they’ll find when they’re clearing out my house after my death? – maybe I could call the police in a whisper – It goes on like this, as I inexplicably grab a hairbrush and creep downstairs in the dark.

Creeeeeeeak.

With a wild howl, totally out of my mind with sheer dread and terror, I switch on the kitchen light and yell “What do you want?!” in a wobbly voice that doesn’t sound nearly as confident and intimidating as I was hoping it might. The cat blinks rapidly in the sudden light, arching her back against the door as she retreats into the utility room once more.

Creeeeeeeak.

STUPID SODDING CREATURE!!!! I yell furiously. She emerges inquiringly, fleeing with an indignant mew as I storm towards her in a mad rage. I slam the creaky door shut, mutter a few unpleasantries, and stomp back up the stairs, flinging the hairbrush in the vague direction of the cat for good measure. I return to bed. Nothing’s easy.

Apostrophe Catastrophe

I’ve just been reading a blog which seems to have quite a large readership. It’s quite good. Entertaining, insightful, humorous in places. Apparently the guy has even landed a book deal from it. Impressive. Sense the approaching ‘however’.

However.

I find it incredible that someone who pretty much writes for a living has no working knowledge of the Common Apostrophe. I know I’ve always been overly obsessive about this type of thing, and I’m really, really trying to let it go. For example, I no longer go through the Ballymena Guardian with a red pen every Wednesday, correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation (it was starting to become more of a full-time thing, and I just couldn’t keep it going along with my actual ‘job’.) A small child wrote me a sweet little note the other day and signed it “your’e friend”, and I fought every natural instinct telling me to correct and educate her, and instead said “Thank you so much, sweetheart, that’s so nice of you, I love it!”. The child was edified (as opposed to edited), and I felt like I had overcome an OCD. Everyone wins.

So you see, I am more easy-going than I once was. I repeat: HOWEVER. This blogger was not just making the odd typo here and there. I can overlook those – I’ve discovered them in my own work on occasion, and therefore realise that they are just what my teachers always referred to as ‘silly mistakes’. The occasional missing apostrophe, the careless use of ‘their’ instead of ‘there’, a split infinitive or two… I have reached a level of grammatical maturity (and attained an approved standard of general sanity) that allows me to be accepting and forgiving when it comes to these small errors. HOWEVER. This guy is in another league! The thing that has me utterly flummoxed is that he seems to be a good writer, with an admirable range of vocabulary and the rare ability to spell.

So why, oh why has he never taken the time to grasp the basics of Apostrophe Conduct?!!!!!!!!!!

Oh my goodness. It was that bad, I’m telling you – I’ve almost drowned myself in a sea of unnecessary exclamation marks. I eventually came to the conclusion that he didn’t know what an apostrophe was, as I didn’t see one over the course of about a dozen posts. At first, attempting to diagnose his condition, I figured that he didn’t know about the Apostrophe To Denote Ownership, which is – in my frustrated experience – a rather common ailment, generally worsened by the confusion arising from the whole its/it’s dilemma. I find that people suffering from this condition tend to panic and take a shot in the dark, resulting in several apostrophes landing in places where they were never required, others failing to land in appropriate places, and a select few hitting the right spot, in some sort of happy accident. My P7 teacher referred to this condition as the Salt and Pepper Apostrophe Shaker – you just sprinkle them desperately and cluelessly over your text and hopefully some will land in the right places. But Blogger Guy… no. Not a single apostrophe. Not even in places where – come on – it’s surely blantantly obvious to anyone that an apostrophe might sit very nicely in between two particular letters. It’s like he’s become angry with The Apostrophe. Maybe he acknowledged that he didn’t know how to use it properly, and decided not to use it at all, working off the “do it right, or don’t do it at all” motto. I am now going to write a few sentences to demonstrate this amazing and unique literary decision.

 Its all very well saying its his blog and were given a choice about whether we read it or not. But theres a line, and hes definitely crossed it. Im confused – Ive never seen such good writing completely sans apostrophes, and Id hate to think that his books going to reflect his blogs style and mirror its apostrophe famine.

I’ve got one more HOWEVER, and this is the killer. You will note that every word ending with ‘s’ in that paragraph should have had an apostrophe, with the exception of ‘his’, ‘sans’, ‘apostrophes’ and – crucially – the final ‘its’. It’s ironic to the point of being sadistic, then, that when I did start to see some apostrophes appearing, it was because Blogger Guy would actually (I was forced to conclude after much confusion and painful analysis) have written the paragraph like this:

Its all very well saying its his blog and were given a choice about whether we read it or not. But theres a line, and hes definitely crossed it. Im confused – Ive never seen such good writing completely san’s apostrophe’s, and Id hate to think that his books going to reflect his blogs style and mirror it’s apostrophe famine.

I mean, WHAT ON EARTH?! I started to get really paranoid and think that he was doing it specifically to upset me, until I realised that was ridiculous. It has me completely baffled. He’s refusing to put a single apostrophe in its required position, and is very diligently putting them in all the places where they aren’t at all necessary and should in fact be illegal!!!!!!!!!!!! It makes me want to actually tear my hair out in utter frustration, I’m serious!!!!!!!! Look at all the exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I probably won’t sleep tonight, you know.

P.S. Writing a post like this really makes you paranoid about your spelling, grammar and punctuation. I’ve been over the entire thing about twenty times and still don’t have the courage to click ‘publish’, for fear of smug and delighted comments like “Interesting thoughts – but you realise you left out an apostrophe?”

True

1. Coffee – genuinely, honestly, truly and sincerely – helps.

2. Friends are people who can make you laugh when it’s all going wrong, and celebrate with you when it’s going well. Good friends do both  those things, but also step in and do something to take the pressure off when they see your head’s about to explode.

3. Eating crisps by the multipack makes you gain an awful lot of weight.

4. If you drop a handful of change comprising of several pennies, lots of 2p/5p pieces, and one pound coin, the only one that will roll down the nearby drain will be the pound coin.

5. Laughing is good for you.

6. Hedgehogs climb walls.

7. If you leave a carton of milk sitting out all day, then take a drink from it, you will throw up quite violently.

8. You can go through a whole day without seeing anyone you know, but the moment you accidentally drive the wrong way down a one-way street, you will see many, many familiar faces watching your humiliation in sympathetic amusement.

9. When you’re really dreading going somewhere, the roads will be clear and all the traffic lights will be green. When you’re late, traffic jams will actually materialise before your eyes, lights will stay red for ten minutes at a time, and you’ll inevitably have to stop for a train at the level crossing.

10. When you’ve been lying awake for half an hour willing yourself to get out of bed, and you finally make the decision to do it, the cat will come and curl up right beside you, all warm and snuggly, and start to purr in a very soothing and sleep-inducing way.

Troubled

I don’t like to keep harping on about it, right, but the frog thing is really bothering me.

I check my blog stats page most days, and see things like how many people have visited the blog, what they’ve read, how they found me, and so on and so forth. One of the sections is entitled “search engine terms”, and tells me the exact words and/or phrases people have typed into search engines to find my page. Now, the second most popular one is ‘Harry Potter’ (hence my cunning use of his name once more, in this post – hehe…), which is completely understandable, given the hype of this past weekend. However, the most used words/phrases that have led to people finding this blog are all frog related:

frog blow straw

blowing up frogs

exploding frogs

frog inflate drinking straw

and several other variations of the same horrific idea. WHY??!! Why on earth are a multitude of people googling this topic on a daily basis?! As a result, the Frog Blog has been my most read and most commented post to date, and I feel sick to my stomach at the thought of the frog-torturing maniacs who populate this world we live in. Sick, I tell you! Where did it all go wrong?

In the words word of The Biscuit: Troubled.

The Great Escape

I struggled from the car to my garden gate, with some shopping bags and various books in my arms, head lowered against the rain. As I tried to locate the front door key on my keyring, a figure brandishing a large stick rose menacingly from behind my garden wall. I jumped, startled, and almost dropped my bags before realising that the figure was, in fact, Dirk. He left his hedgehog in my garden for safekeeping last night, because it’s ‘escape-proof’. Clearly, the hedgehog was determined to disprove this theory.

“Where the heck is Joel?!” bellowed Dirk, looking slightly manic. It was raining, and he was prowling around the garden in shorts and a sleeveless top, with a big stick, rustling leaves and shouting for a hedgehog. I stood and laughed. He gazed at me, looking wounded. “I’m sorry, Dirk, but you look like a madman,” I explained kindly.

Joel is gone.

I suspect E2 is googling “Can hedgehogs climb walls?” as we speak.

In the dead of night

12.30am. I’m curled up on the sofa, where I’ve been for somewhere between 7 hours and a year, engrossed in the new Harry Potter book.

You still up?

The text is from Dirk. Dragged back to reality, I hear voices outside, and when I go to the door I am greeted by Dirk and Fisherboy, a sharp stick, and a pair of rubber gloves. “Have you got a spade?” inquires Fisherboy, casually. “And a flashlight?” They gaze at me in the manner of people who see nothing unusual about going to someone’s door in the middle of the night, carrying a stick and a pair of rubber gloves, and requesting a spade and a flashlight.

The world of wizardry, goblins, Horcruxes and Hallows vanishes like a house elf Disapparating. I stare at them in horror. “Who have you killed?” Dirk looks blankly at me. Fisherboy rolls his eyes, in a “we’ve got far more important things to do” kind of way. “We’ve got a hedgehog!” he informs me. “We’re trying to find it some worms to eat.” They continue to gaze expectantly at me as my brain struggles to adapt to this new form of reality.

“Have you got a spade and a flashlight?” finishes Fisherboy. I look helplesssly at Dirk, but find no faint glimmer of sense or sanity in his eyes. “No,” I reply, weakly. “Neither?” asks Dirk. “Neither,” I agree. I am invited in next door to inspect the new housemate. Bemused, and still clutching my mug of coffee, I follow. Clearly, they have taken leave of their senses. As I enter the house, I see that they are not the only ones. Jay is lying on the floor, nose-to-nose with a surprised-looking womble. E2 is flapping a tea-towel around in self-defence. “I don’t like this thing any more,” she says in a hurt voice. “It attacked me.”

“His name is Joel,” says Fisherboy, proudly.

“Ohmigosh here’s a freakin’ centipede under the chair, dude!” exclaims Dirk, dropping to his knees. The unfortunate “centipede” (approx. 1cm) is lifted and placed in front of Joel, who completely ignores it. “Eat the centipede, man!” says Dirk, encouragingly.

“He’ll like this song,” says Jay, fiddling with the CD player. He selects a cheerful, summery track and looks expectantly at the hedgehog.

“Oh!” yelps E2 excitedly from behind the laptop (“Hedgehog Facts” – Google). “He eats mushrooms! We have mushrooms!” She runs from the room and returns with a large mushroom, breaking it into pieces and placing them in front of the womble. It shows complete indifference.

We watch the hedgehog.

The hedgehog sits on the rug.

“He smells bad,” observes Jay.

“They also eat small birds,” interjects E2, helpfully. “And frogs.”

“Let’s give it a frog and see what it does!” suggests Fisherboy, interestedly. I protest strongly, my feelings about frogs having recently become rather sensitive and protective. The matter is dropped.

Joel ambles towards Dirk, who lifts him in rubber-gloved hands and turns him around again. He has a small piece of mushroom on the end of one of his spikes.

Jay selects a different CD in the hope that it will be more acceptable to the hedgehog.

We watch the hedgehog.

The hedgehog sits on the rug.

“How to clean your hedgehog,” says E2, after a long pause. “One: sprinkle water over his back. Two: Using a toothbrush…”

I leave. Harry Potter is much more realistic than next door.

Harry Potter (no spoilers!)

I have just been to Eason, in the middle of the night, to purchase my pre-ordered copies of the new Harry Potter book.

In my defence, 3 copies were for some American friends who are currently somewhere over the Atlantic, on their way to Northern Ireland (and therefore completely enraged that the book was released at precisely this time). One was for E2, who was hopping up and down with excitement (and the reason I went tonight instead of at a sensible hour of the day tomorrow – her joy made me happy!). But the final copy, I confess, is for me.

Why are adults so obsessed with the Harry Potter phenomenon? To be honest, I think I’ll always have a soft spot for children’s literature. I love to re-read the books I loved as a child. They’re mainly Enid Blyton ones – I used to go through a book a day, sometimes more, as I entered into an innocent world of midnight feasts, mysteries, picnics, circuses, boarding schools, macaroons and secret rooms. I was addicted. I don’t think book-love ever leaves you; and while I may have advanced in my choice of reading material, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of Kirrin Island or Mallory Towers!

Harry Potter, though – that’s a bit different. It’s nothing like Blyton’s innocent, cutsie stories; in fact, book by book, the plots have become darker and more intense. Three things remain the same, however. Firstly, it’s set in a boarding school. Kids without their parents, free to get up to mischief. Every child’s dream! Secondly, good always triumphs over bad – the moral lessons, strong friendships and desire for truth are at the heart of the stories. And thirdly – it’s pure, unashamed escapism!

So we love it.

I’m sitting here looking at the book. I’m debating whether to go to bed (sensible option) or start reading, just for a couple of chapters (stupid option – it’d be 6am before I knew it). Oh, heck. I think we all know what I’m going to do.

In search of the truth

It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? The one that has stumped even the brightest scientific minds in the world, flummoxed generations (well, at least a couple), and proved itself to be the one unanswerable question in the universe.

Where do the missing socks go?

The problem up until now (are you sensing that I’ve had a breakthrough? Ohhhh, it’s exciting stuff…) has been the fact that we’re caught unawares and taken by surprise. You’re doing a few things at once, perhaps, and not really paying attention as you unload the drier. Then – alas! – too late, you are left with that one, obligatory Odd Sock.

Various suggestions have been put forth concerning the whereabouts of this vast number – undoubtedly zillions – of socks that have, by some freak of nature, escaped from driers worldwide. One advert I recall seeing in my childhood (can’t remember what it was actually for, to be honest, so it wasn’t that effective, despite having stuck in my head all these years) suggested that the socks somehow teleported themselves to some kind of Odd Sock Planet, and we saw an artist’s impression of all the Odd Socks partying away, free from all earthly concerns.

This wasn’t really concrete enough for me, I’m afraid. I need a bit more than “somehow”. I’m completely open to the idea of such a planet existing, but my mind craves more solid answers.

Now, I’m not claiming to have suddenly found these answers! However, I think I have made an advance towards the truth of the matter. Here’s what happened: I was unloading the drier this afternoon, and, on pulling out a large bath towel, noticed a lone grey sock attached to it.  “I’d better detach that before I fold the towel,” I thought to myself, “or it’ll fall on the floor and/or get lost”. [NB – I didn’t actually think those exact words, obviously. It was an instinctive reaction as my mind made the realisation and decision in rapid succession]. Anyway, this is the Amazing Breakthrough. I blinked momentarily as I reached down for the sock. And lo! When I reopened my eyes, it was gone! Gone, I tell you.

You may, I suspect, be wondering how exactly this merits its title of Amazing Breakthrough. Think about it! The socks do not disappear while they are in the drier, as previously believed. They make their escape as we are unloading the drier, perhaps energised by the spinning, or intoxicated by the sheet of Bounce. All we have to do is begin to be vigilant as we perform this task. We have not been concentrating. All around the world, socks are escaping – and it doesn’t need to happen!

I realise that all over the worldwide web, people are writing blogs about technological advances, Important Political Matters, theology and the like. And I’m writing about sock vigilance. But maybe if more people wrote about this type of thing, the mysteries would be solved much more quickly? I don’t know. I follow my muse. When it’s socks, it’s socks.