If Wishes Were Horses...

Monday, 30 May 2011

Webcomics and whatnot

Nadia liked it. She says she'll comment when she gets a chance.

Meanwhile I've been looking for inspiration online and discovered a plethora of strange and scary webcomics that have convinced me I can do just as well if not better if I go nuts with my latest GIMP plugin for five minutes. Heck, you need to take a shedload of narcotics to appreciate some of them, they're that crazy. I've been reading a lot of cracked.com lately, can you tell?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Nadia's Superhero ideas

My friend Nadia has some funny ideas. I thought I was the wacky one! She reckons there aren't enough Asian superheroes around and that something should be done to redress the balance. 

The Teacher

Nadia believes that running about in dance tights with your underwear on the outside is undignified and looks a bit "Holy sartorial shenanigans, Batman, that outfit is camper than a Boy Scout Jamboree!" As a teacher, she reckons that what we need is a heroic role model that is not lame.

Blogger bother

I was annoyed about the recent outages, but they seem to have resolved. After two Blogger-less days, it occurred to me that the powers that be might well have resolved the situation by now, and I should clear the cache and cookies, then try logging in again, which I did. 

It's alive! It's alive, I tell you! *Maniacal laugh*

Friday, 20 May 2011

Seven gloaty Songs For Nadia

My friend Nadia is a teacher in a London school. Since she started there, she has been tormented by this bullying fiend of a woman who seems more like a German football player at an international match than a teacher. She dives like Tom Daley, is what I'm saying, and she does this to get sympathy. That, and her PHD in BS and her gold medal in Olympic-standard delusions of grandeur have wound her colleagues up no end... to her utter surprise.

Anyway, when Nadia phoned me today for our regular gossip-fest, it was to tell me she felt bad that this ridiculous figure of fun had gone the extra mile in Advanced Douchebaggery and actually did herself out of her job. Let's call this sad sack Elaine.

Elaine, also a teacher, wanted a more highly paid position in the school and had convinced herself that they simply couldn't do without her, so she hatched the maddest plan ever to get herself a promotion: she went up to the head and handed in her notice. Yep, she honestly believed that the head would offer to give her anything she wanted and beg her to stay on, the idea being that Elaine would then graciously accept the new, better position. Can you see how this ends?

Yes, dear readers, to everyone's amusement (apart from Elaine's), she handed in her notice and the head just accepted it. No begging, no pleading, no suicide threats or emotional blackmail. Elaine was aghast. To make things worse, it seems she hasn't even lined up a new job. She was counting on the headmistress begging her to stay and offering her the job she wanted as a bribe. Well, she didn't. At this point, it gets ridiculous because Elaine then staggers out all shellshocked and everything, and falls over conveniently in front of the staffroom, which she then enters in a bid to get some sympathy. Which doesn't happen. Elaine then slinks away with her tail between her legs.

Nadia tells me she feels a bit guilty for gloating, but after all Elaine has done to undermine her, I think she's entitled, and have compiled a list of songs to play on her ipod for a guilt-free gloat.

Counting down, Top of the Pops style, from number seven:

7. Leaving Me Now - Level 42

6. I'm Free - The Soup Dragons

5. Unbelievable - EMF

4. I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down - Paul Young

3. Stupid Girl - Garbage

2. This Is The Day - The The

1. Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead - Wizard of Oz (original)

Link to video.

Gloat away, love. Gloat away. Here oop north, I'm gloating, too.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


My friend Nadia is being driven nuts by what can best be described as a Frustratophone. It all started innocently enough when she was offered a new phone by the people running her mobile phone contract, and she accepted it, as you do. The trouble with Nadia is that she's fussy, especially where phones are concerned.

She hates slider phones because if you leave them open for too long, they get stuck in that position (not an experience I've had, to be honest) and button phones annoy her by calling people unexpectedly if she has one in her handbag and she jiggles it.

After exhausting the possibilities, and because she wanted the biggest screen she could get, she settled for a touch-screen like the one on the left. So it begins...

First of all, she tried to import all the information from her other phone and ended up losing all the numbers. This led to her sending me an email to get my number. Then when she called me, it got ridiculous. Every once in a while, as we were yakking away, I'd hear a beeping sound. "Nad?" 

"I'm here."

"What's the beeping?"

"The phone. I don't know why it does that."

After a while the sound of her voice faded out. "Nad?"


"Nad, are you there?"

Just at the point of switching off the phone, the volume comes back up. "Sorry, Wendy, I'd brushed it. This darn thing is much too sensitive."

Great. So there's a good chance that, one day while she's walking along with it jiggling about in her handbag, it could end up dialling the speaking clock in Hong Kong and she'd be unaware of this until she got the bill. I mean, this thing freaks if she as much as breathes on it. So much for the wonders of technology.

Well that raises the spectre of the new phone I'm due to get from my contract supplier. Last time they called me to offer me a free new phone, I told them I wanted one the size of a half brick with decent-sized buttons because I'm not a flippin' Hobbit. I want to be able to see and touch one button at a time without the aid of a magnifying glass, is what I'm saying.

They sent me a slide-phone. The buttons are tiny. I avoid sending texts because the effort to type them is a flippin' ordeal. The buttons are tiny and don't always work when you press them. Or they do something unexpected. It took ages to work out how to get rid of that awful predictive text. I absolutely loathe that feature. 

So now, thanks to Nadia, I know to avoid the touch-screen ones unless they've got an option for switching off the screen touchability unless I want to use it. Otherwise I may find I've accidentally hacked into NASA while out shopping with the thing in my bag.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Online time-wasters

Should there be a twelve-step group for internet addicts? I'm becoming concerned that I may be addicted. I mean, I'm beginning to look like this:

The best excuse I can come up with for faffing about on Facebook, tweeting twaddle on Twitter and creasing up on Cracked.com is that, well, it's fun. And, as a certain Lolcat would say, it is relevant to my interests - if you like to read sweary articles about five reasons a zombie apocalypse will never happen. Which I do. Relevant to my interests? I'm a horror fan. Yeah.

It's beginning to take its toll. I've been up late at night just to read how some scary creatures *gasp!* resemble us, and 7 terrifying things the internet has unleashed on the world, etc. Cracked, is, of course, the worst offender. But it's so damn entertaining!

It's actually pushing the lolcats out. There's no escape. Once you get caught in the gravity well of ROFL, it's pretty much over. Like a fly stuck in a spider's web, you can struggle all you like, but you can't break free. And that's when the funny comes to get you. You've really got into 5 classic movies you didn't know were remakes and just had to read 5 reasons the good witch was a bad one. Then there's... but it's nearly 2am!

I could argue that I'm doing research for a possible future article about five naive art producers and why their drawings alone are hilarious, or five lol sites and why they are funny. But I'm busy doing this, and smoothing graphics for anything, particularly for this blog, can take hours. The more detailed the image, the longer it takes. And where do the images go? T'internet. 


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Group names

I've been messing about with the dictionary widget on igoogle and came across some rather funny words. What exactly is a clowder of cats? I know it's a group, but where do these words come from? And what would you call a group of nerds?

Hmm... Now I'm thinking. This is a dangerous thing. Okay, how about "a niggle of nerds"? "A program of geeks"?  "A forum of gamers"?

Can anybody think of a better term?

Favicon fun

I like to play with graphics and will try anything at least once. When I noticed those tiny pictures that show up in the top left corner of tabs and web address bars, I began to wonder a) what they are and b) how I could make my own if I wanted to. 

The answer is here, if you're interested. They're called favicons. When making your favicon, choose the hosting option, then go back to your blog and choose design/edit HTML and add the code they give you just before the closing </head> tag. Then voilĂ , you have a favicon of your very own.

Do you see what I mean about needing to get out more? That said, I do think it looks cool. I'm all pleased with myself now!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The dangers of rain

My friend Pamela came over today and we went to the shops, as you do. 

"What's the weather doing?" she asked. "Is it raining?"

Rain. Fear it.
An innocuous enough conversation, right? Yes, but it got a bit silly when we got outside, it was raining and the umbrella stayed up long after the soakable part was over. I mean, personally, I don't mind a bit of rain. Drizzle away, I can live with it, but must we cower in terror at the mere thought of one drop falling on our helpless, quivering forms? To quote local comic Peter Kay, "It's spitting! It's spitting! Run for your lives!"

I don't get it. Obviously when I'm actually at risk of getting wet, i.e. dripping all over the floor when I get home, that's the time I'd reach for an umbrella, but the way Pamela sees it, you'd think she was the Wicked Witch of the West and would melt if she was touched by but a drop!

While it was still pouring, I huddled with her beneath her umbrella. We walked along as if we were in a three-legged race. The umbrella is quite small so I had to stick close beside her to keep dry. We were practically tripping each other up. When it slowed to a drizzle, I got out from underneath to get my space back, but she still clung to it like grim death. It wasn't until we were safely in the shopping centre that she finally took it down. It's not as if she has a fancy hairdo that might be ruined or anything. There really is no explanation for it. I just think it's hilarious.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

My psycho washing machine

Am I the only one here who's afraid of her washing machine? I know it sounds weird but mine scares the crap out of me sometimes. Allow me to explain.

The Washing Machine of Doom

Here's a picture of the culprit. Doesn't it look innocent and harmless? It is until I put some clothes in. Then the fun (for the machine) begins.

Food for thought

It lives on a diet of Persil Automatic, chenille jumpers and black socks. Why chenille jumpers? It's destroyed several of my favourites already. You can almost hear it going "Om nom nom" while it's chewing up yet another item. I have to wash them by hand. And why black socks? I've learned to use those indispensable laundry bags. Really, I can't live without them.


It's fine when it's just humming to itself as my clothes revolve inside it, but when it spins I'm convinced that the world is coming to an end.
I try to avoid spinning it any more than I can get away with. I don't mind waiting for another day for my clothes to dry. But the other half doesn't get this. He finds it unsightly to have clothes hanging on the drying racks in the hall and likes to get them out of there as quickly as he can, even if it means paying for a dryer. To save on drying costs, he sets the machine to  super-spin, and that's when all Hell breaks loose. A racket like a malfunctioning jackhammer erupts from the kitchen (where the beast has its lair), drowning out all other sounds and giving me one mother of a headache. The banging, like a thousand Hellbeasts bashing armour-plated enemies with warhammers, threatens to shake my home to its foundations and topple the tower in which I live.

There's a very real risk that the neighbours will complain -- and who could blame them? Apart from the racket there's a reasonable possibility that the vibrations could do damage to something... or the damn thing could explode. I wouldn't be surprised if it did. I am surprised that I haven't had a visit from Plod, an outraged neighbour or someone from the council to complain about the unholy cacophony.

So there you go: I'm probably the only person you know who is afraid of her washing machine.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Darkplace: Mogrophobia

I just had to do it. I'll probably be sued, but if that happens, the judge might well just throw the case out for being too ridiculous. To cover myself as best I can, I'd better start out by announcing that I don't own Darkplace and am making no money from imagining what would happen if Garth Marenghi persuaded MI8, the powers that be, Dean Learner, Todd Rivers, and at least three demons to approve the production of

Darkplace: Mogrophobia*

Photo from garthmarenghi.com gallery
with alterations by me.
In 1976, shortly after I'd invented the internet with my novel, Mindgrid, I met with my publisher and best friend Dean Learner to discuss the ground-breaking new horror idea that had come to me shortly after drinking a cup of Ovaltine prior to retiring for the night. Which I need because my mind is such a fetid quagmire of terrifying visions that I need a milky drink to settle myself before I go to bed. And yes, there are nights when I sleep with the light on just in case some demon from another dimension puts in an appearance, like the one in my novel Creeptor: Hidden From The Light, the story of a demon that's afraid of bedside lamps and terrorizes West Ham until footballer and psychic warrior Max Pele defeats it with... well, that would be telling, then you wouldn't buy the book, and I'd be doing myself out of royalties.

Anyway, Dean and I agreed that this idea was so  brain-bendingly insane that Channel 4 would crap their pants at the mere thought of committing such a dark vision of Hell-spawned horror to television. Nonetheless, Dean insisted that something be done to  bring my story to the screen, so I borrowed my sister's video camera, made this myself and posted it on YouTube.

In the middle of the night shift, something stirs in the dark basement of Darkplace hospital, where Barry Renwick, who looks exactly like his brother Larry (because they are identical twins -- well, they were. Long story.) is furtively going through some records by torchlight.

"There's got to be some record here of what happened to my twin brother Larry," says Barry to himself. He is startled by the loud bang of a shotgun from behind him. A pile of records disintegrates near his head, but he is unharmed. He turns around to see hospital administrator Thornton Reed, who is pointing the shotgun at him in a threatening manner.

Reed: "What are you doing here in the secret records room? These records are top secret, which means that you can't just walk in here willy-nilly in the middle of the night and go rifling through them."

Barry picks up the torch he has dropped and steps towards Reed, who then aims directly at him. "Don't shoot!"

"Why not? You're Larry Renwick, aren't you? You're supposed to be dead, but not even shooting and flamethrowers can end your existence."

"No, I'm his twin brother Barry. I was told he had exploded. Then you and your colleagues shot him at the funeral and Dagless doused him in napalm, but I never got a satisfactory explanation for it."

"How do I know you're not a conduit to the deepest pits of Hell?"

"I can wear a cross without being burnt by it."

"Prove it," says Dagless, popping out from behind Reed, brandishing a crucifix. "This one has been triple-blessed by the Pope for extra added holiness."

"Not one of the Borgias, I hope," says Renwick. "They were responsible for a lot of murders and wars."

"You know your Popes," says Dagless, impressed.

"I should hope so, I'm a priest," says Barry. He takes the crucifix in his hand.

"You're not burned," says Dagless.

"I'm not Larry," says Barry. "Why are you so convinced that I was him?"

"It's a long story," says Reed. "Come to my office and I'll tell you all about it."

In Reed's office, the three men are seated and Rick Dagless explains what happened. "Your brother was intent on opening the gates of Hell, Barry. I pleaded with him not to, but he did it anyway, right in the canteen. I was just getting back from the kitchen with a coke float when I saw that he'd gone utterly insane and there was evil all over the floor and on one of the walls. A few weeks later, I was just going to check on him when he suddenly exploded. All that remained of my buddy was his head. Everything else was spattered all over the room. At that point he begged me to take his life. So I got a shovel and bashed his head in. Later on, at the funeral, he came back to life and we shot him. Even with all that lead in him, he kept on coming. That's when I went for the flamethrower and finished him off."

"You shot my mother," accuses Barry.

"She tried to stop me, to save her son," says Dagless, "so I capped her in the shoulder. I told her I was sorry. Why weren't you at the funeral?"

"I was in Papua New Guinea as a missionary. I'm one of six who have never been eaten by cannibals."

"That's impressive," says Reed. "Why aren't you wearing your vestments?"

"I'm off-duty."

The following day, Sanchez and Liz are called to the top secret records room. On the floor are the remains of a worker.

"What did you call us down here for?" asks Sanchez. "This man is dead. Look, there's only an ear and one of his arms."

Liz bends down to take a closer look and touches the arm. Then she looks up and screams.

"What is it, Liz?"

"I've had a vision," she explains. "There was something here. Something evil. It ate this poor man."

"This can only mean one thing: trouble," says Sanchez.

"Did someone call me?" asks Dagless.

They turn around and see Dagless, who surveys the scene, then draws their attention to some marks on the floor.

"Look," says Dagless, "there are marks on the floor. They look like the pawprints of a giant animal."

"The Hellbeast was here," says Liz, then faints into Sanchez's arms.

Later on, Barry Renwick returns with Reed to look at the room. Liz looks at him askance, but says nothing. "I'll bless the room," he offers, "to make it safe for the cleaners to return."

"I'll fill up a bottle of water for you to bless," says Reed. "Is a Coke bottle all right?"

"It'll do," says Barry. "I'll need some candles, some chalk, and a bit of privacy. I can't do it when everyone is watching."

Confused, the others get him the things he has asked for and leave him to get on with it.

"I'm suspicious of his motives," says Liz. "I'm convinced he's up to no good."

"Yeah," says Sanchez. "What kind of priest doesn't want an audience?"

"He says he's a missionary," says Reed. "They're attention-seekers."

Dean Learner: That scene meant a lot to Garth. He spent weeks with what's-his-name...

Off-screen: "Lawrence Michelowski."

Dean: Some Polish bloke, working on the nuances of his performance. Garth is a perfectionsist, if nothing else. Well, he's an actor, writer and a lot of other things, but you know what I mean. He had a nervous breakdown afterwards. Not Garth, the Polish bloke.

"Let's confront him," says Dagless. "Bring your shotgun, boss, this could get ugly, and I don't mean me first thing in the morning."

"That would be funny if this wasn't so serious," replies Reed. "Which it is because evil is involved."

Suddenly there's a loud scream. The four of them return to the secret records room to find the remains of another dead body lying on the floor.

"Renwick," says Sanchez, hunkering down beside what's left of the body. "He was a bit shy about performing in front of us, after all."

"Then why is there a Pentagram drawn on the floor, along with other occult symbols?" asks Dagless.

"I can feel evil closing in around us," says Liz.

Suddenly, a doctor races in. "Come quick," he says, "there's something in the canteen."

They run to the canteen and find more bodies there.

"These people have died in horrific circumstances," says Reed. "Won Ton will have my hide for this. The press will be all over it."

"And there's nothing the press like better than an occult scandal in a hospital," says Sanchez. 

"Unless there's a kiddy-fiddler in the mix," says Reed.

"The children's ward!" wails Liz.

They all run to the children's ward where some vile Hellbeast has evidently gone amok. Liz puts a hand to her temple and says, "There's something in that cupboard."

"Cover me, Sanchez," says Dagless, and bravely approaches the cupboard with his gun drawn. He opens it, and there he finds a cowering child. 

"I told them there was a monster under the bed," says the child, who is crying.

"Don't be afraid, son," says Dagless. "We'll get it for you."

"'Cause we've got guns," adds Sanchez. "And bullets."

"And lots of them," finishes Reed. "Come on."

"Where to?" asks Dagless.

"The secret records room," says Reed. "I've got a hunch."

Garth Marenghi: Even though the others had no idea where I was going with the plot, they trusted me completely. They knew that, whatever foul pestilence my tortured mind dredged up from its depths, I would protect them. They would be safe. 

Except for Madeleine Wool, but that's another story. I still don't know what happened to her. It wasn't during this episode, though.

The team return to the secret records room where they behold the terrifying sight of a huge Hellbeast feasting on the remains of a cleaner. A broken mop lies on the floor nearby.

"Look!" shouts Sanchez. "It's a Hellbeast that looks like a giant zombie cat!"

"Attack!" shouts Barry.

The team open fire with an assortment of weapons but the Hellbeast keeps coming. Dagless, out of bullets, pulls out a sword and hacks at the beast. Finally, he reaches into his shirt and pulls out the crucifix, which he throws right into the Hellbeast's gaping maw. It explodes.

"I should have killed you while I had the chance," snarls Reed.

"Why didn't you?" asks Barry, who is pinned against the back wall with Reed's shotgun against his throat.

"Because this is a hospital and the authorities frown upon that kind of thing," replies Reed. "Won Ton takes a particularly dim view of anything that might reflect badly on the hospital, particularly gun battles."

"Why did you do it?" asks Sanchez. "Those poor kids."

"That's why he did it," says Liz. "To discredit the hospital. To avenge his twin brother. Isn't it, Barry?"

"He was my buddy," says Dagless, in tears. "You've desecrated his memory."

"You shot him and set him on fire at his own funeral," retorts Barry.

"Yeah, but he was demon-possessed at the time," argues Reed.

"You shot my mother," shouts Barry.

"She was trying to stop me shooting your brother," says Dagless. "I had no choice."

"There's always a choice," says Barry.

"Yes, there is," says Dagless. "Like the choice you made to lie to us about being a priest so you could reopen the gates of Hell, and the choice you made to bring that Hellbeast here to eat doctors, patients and cleaning operatives."

"I thought they were called sanitation technicians," says Barry.

"Whatever," says Dagless.

"What was that thing?" asks Sanchez, picking through the remains of the Hellbeast. "It looked like a mutant zombie cat."

"It was," says Barry. "I ran over one on the way here and brought it back to life with a series of occult rituals, then let it loose to wreak havoc."

"Which it did," says Reed. "I'll never be able to keep this out of the press." There's a desperate gleam in his eye, and just when it looks as though he's going to shoot Barry, the police arrive.

"Stop!" shouts a policeman. "Put that gun down right now. Slowly."

Reluctantly, Reed complies.

"Hah!" says Barry. "Now I've got you. The reputation of Darkplace is ruined forever."

"Officer," says Liz in her sweetest voice, "this is an incident with occult overtones and the possibility of government involvement. Can you order a media blackout and have this classified as top secret?" She bats her eyelashes. "Please?"

"Oh, all right, then," says the policeman, "but just this once."

"No!" shouts Barry. 

The policemen drag him away.

Later on, Dagless stands on the roof of the hospital, a place he often goes to get away from the stresses of life as a doctor.

'I don't know what it was that drove Barry Renwick to madness, but it was clear to me then that whatever I did to keep a lid on the evil that infested the hospital, it would never be enough. There would always be a demon here or a zombie there, popping up to remind me of what a dick I'd been to go messing with the forces of evil that fateful night,' he muses in voiceover. 'I should have insisted on watching Match of the Day instead. It would have been safer. Much safer. But there was no point in crying over spilt milk, or in my case, a coke float.'

The End







* I mean, it's not like I'm selling Darkplace: Mogrophobia tshirts and mugs or anything.

May Day and Mogrophobia

I had a look back over Mogrophobia and concluded that, to get Daniel Craig on board, we'll need to find something juicy to blackmail him with or find a lookalike to threaten in some way. No sane person would take this on. Wait a minute...  

Yes, readers, if you can sit through two minutes (that feels like two months) of ads, then watch at least one minute of this without shaking your head till it falls off from sheer disbelief that anything so loopy could have been allowed to enter the airwaves, complete with bad acting, naff plots, naff dialogue and ridiculously cheap special effects.

Needless to say, I was a huge fan of the show and watched it religiously, to the consternation of my other half.

Still, I doubt that Mogrophobia has a chance of being made, except, perhaps, as an episode of Darkplace, and that just doesn't bear thinking about.