Thursday 29 December 2011

Never Rush

Honestly, please don't. I did and I fell over one of these:
So nice of them to warn me, I thought.

Saturday 26 November 2011

The Man From The Ministry

Night falls quickly this time of year. I was sitting looking out of the open window drinking a cup of tea. In the garden beyond something moved. I couldn't make out what it was in the gloom. A cat screeched and scrambled over the fence. But still something moved.

I heard wood splinter and could just about see one of my sheds leaning at an odd angle. There was more shattering of wood, a creak and the shed disappeared from view.

I shut the window and bolted the back door. As I sat back down, a dark shape cut across the window. A metal dustbin lid fell to the floor.

Since October things had been going missing at dusk. Everything from garden chairs, a particularly promising Stilton to a neighbour's Pomeranian. Equally strange was the complete absence of Roth. Could the events be connected? Was, even now, Roth sitting with his feet up eating cheese with a small dog bouncing around his feet?

There was a knock on the door of the cupboard under the stairs. Given the strange goings on in the garden, I found myself in need of a change of underwear. I picked up a heavy metal torch and walked over to the door. I had no idea what to expect. I mean, who lives in the cupboard under the stairs?

Slowly I opened the door and a man walked out, stretching up to his full height.

"What were you doing in there? Waiting for the Hogwarts Express?"

"I was in your basement."

"I don't have a basement."

"You do now - I dug one. I needed a base of operations to overlook the strange goings on in your garden."

I hadn't noticed until now that he was dressed in full Victorian hunting gear and carrying a blunderbuss. The look in his eyes gave the impression he hadn't slept for some days.

He held out his hand and said, "I'm Jenkins from the Ministry of Dangerous Vegetables."

"There's a Ministry for that?"

"Indeed sir, your tax money is hard at work."

"I have reason to believe that you have an infestation of Crepuscular Rhubarb in your garden."

"Crepuscular Rhubarb?"

"Very nasty sir. Hunts in packs at dusk and dawn, very dangerous. Although this lot doesn't do much at dawn, as it is a late variety."

We sat down and I made the man from the Ministry a cup of tea, for which, like most Englishmen he was disproportionately grateful. I spoke of the strange goings on in the garden. My shed, garden chair and cheese. My neighbour's dog-napping.

"We've not heard of a case like this well, erm, ever. It's very serious."

"Are there many cases of dangerous vegetables The Ministry investigates?"

"You're the first."

"How long has this ministry been going?"

"Since the Great War."

"This is the first case since it was set up? Why?"

"Mostly I suspect we weren't looking in the right places."

"No, I meant why have a ministry set up for a problem we don't have?"

"Not read much about British Politics have you?"

"I guess not. Do you think you'll be long?"

"Could be another few months before I've cleared the your garden of this menace. In the meantime, you can feel safe the government is on your side and feels your pain. Also lock all your doors and windows after dusk." With this he disappeared back into the cupboard under the stairs and locked the door after him.

Shortly afterwards there was a tap on the backdoor. I walked over threw it open and Roth stepped in. He was wearing a suit and had his pockets stuffed with huge leafed vegetables. He had one extra large leaf on this head. From a distance he looked like a market garden.


"Oh, yes please. Goodness this is hard work. Gave the Pom back yesterday - his continuous yapping was driving me potty. Oh and sorry about your shed."

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Shed Event Horizon

She had the kind of smouldering good looks that could burn right through a man's soul.

"iDifficult, my old mate!"

"I'm sorry, I must have had my glasses on up the wrong way," I paused to regain my composure. "What's up Roth?"

"My shed is missing."

"Which one?"

"I only have one."

"Well, that's true. At the moment. Are we talking about the one with your tools in, that so happens to lurk in the middle of Culloden moor, because we put it there in 1746?"

"The same."

"How do you know it's missing? Did you feel a disturbance in The Fence*?"

* The Fence is the mystical force that runs through all things including sheds. My friend Roth is particularly sensitive to The Fence. There are rumours that long ago, he went by another name and fought with a laser brush, the sacred weapon of the Creosote Knights.

"These are not the tools you are looking for."

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Force of habit. I just know its not there. We need to go and look. I know it's a long way back in time but I won't rest until I know it's safe."

"Are you absolutely sure?"

"I find your lack of faith disturbing."

"You and that shed were pretty close once."

Somehow, once a blog entry, we seem to end up going back in time, crossing into a parallel universe or missing some important punctuation. I accept this now.

We rotated the dimensions. What we lost in centuries and years, we gained in yards, feet and inches above the ground. The air whistled around us and we pulled our rip cords. In a flutter of silk we descended to the ground. I would still like to know where Roth got his union jack parachute.

At ground level, it was clear that Roth's feelings were correct. The shed was missing with only a square grassless depression to show where it once had been.

I made up a plausible explanation, "It must have passed across the Shed Event Horizon," I intoned with authority. "It happens to items pushed through time."

"Won't it happen to us? We've been through time on, like, oodles of occasions."

"No, it only applies to sheds. That's why it's called the Shed Event Horizon, not the Roth Event Horizon."

"Or it could be demonic shed abduction," I added.

"Are you making this stuff up?"

"Scouts honour?"

"You were never in the scouts, were you?"

"I was. 23rd Slobbering-Under-The-Bed Scout Group. For one day."

"Is that the Scout Group that needed a helicopter rescue from a mountain in Norfolk?"

"As I said, for one day."

In the distance there was a glow of a camp fire, and sitting around it was a figure dressed in tartan. We walked towards the solitary figure and the welcoming warmth of the camp fire.

"Hello, do you know what happened to the hut over yonder?"

"Good firewood. Makes fine coffee."

"EOLIST?!", we both exclaimed.

It was our friend from the caffeine exchange program.

"What are you doing on Culloden Moor in 1746?"

"In 1985 they're going to build a coffee shop here. I wanted to get in before it got busy."

Friday 5 August 2011

Additional Storage

"I need to store some tools," said Roth.

"Where?", I asked.


"Scotland," I repeated, trying not to sound surprised. "Where in Scotland?"

"Culloden Moor, somewhere near the middle," he replied.

As was common with our conversations the next question was critical, and not to be confused with a normal conversation where it would mean something quite mundane.

"May I ask when?"

When in a regular conversation would be request as to how soon, in ours it often meant which century.

"15th April 1746 probably in the afternoon."

"What were you planning to put said tools in? Some kind of box?"

"I was thinking maybe a shed."

"Where from?"

"The DIY shop just down the road."

"May I ask when?"

"Yesterday, 2am."

"Good choice, that'll avoid the annoying people who expect to be paid."

"That's what I thought."

"Why Culloden Moor in 1746?"

"It's nicely out of the way. I hate clutter."

"Have you considered a parallel universe as well as displacing the tools in time and space?"

"There are parallel universes?"


"Which one is the furthest away?"

"That's the problem, the further away we get the less like this one it becomes. It could get dangerous. If we go too far away we'd be two pizzas talking and thinking about ordering a takeaway Indigo Roth and iDifficult this evening."

Roth checked his limbs, and suggested, "Maybe we stay in this universe."

We acquired the shed without incident, adding some burn marks to the floor and spreading some sulphur about to give the impression it was a demonic shed possession.

A four hour tea ceremony later (you can't rush a good cuppa) and we were ready to go.

Time travel requires an exchange of dimensions. There are three dimensions of space and another of time. Given the right technology, a skilful flick of the wrist and travel into the future or past is possible.

Soon the wind was rushing past us. We were in 1746. "Pull the rip-cord!" I shouted. "No, do the shed's first!"

Three parachutes opened and we drifted to the ground, Roth, I and the shed. We'd exchanged quite some vertical height for some years into the past. Note to self: Need a mineshaft or a cliff for travel into the future...

We hit the ground, cleared away our 'chutes. Roth opened the door of the shed and threw the tools inside.

"Where on Earth were you keeping that scythe?"

"Top right pocket."

"Err. OK."

Before Roth had the chance to close the door a Scottish clansman blowing bagpipes loudly and expertly came walking over the hill and straight into the shed. Thinking quickly he slammed the door and threw the tiny little toggle lock. The piper continued to blow inside the shed, whilst hundreds of his comrades followed him over the hill.

"Have you brought the invisibility deodorant?" asked Roth.

"Yes, indeed," as I handed over the aerosol can. It was one of my least successful inventions. It didn't really deodorise or act as an antiperspirant, but by being invisible no one could see who smelled so bad.

"What date did we arrive on?"

"16th April 1746. Ohhh. I see. You said 15th didn't you? Bugger."

We hid behind the shed, invisible for some hours whilst the battle raged on around us. The piper trapped in the shed blew his pipes more and more frantically, until eventually, late in the afternoon, he ran out of breath.

Darkness fell. The battle was over. Everything was quiet. We opened the door to the shed. The piper staggered out, exclaiming, "Och, scmells of socks in there." And with that wandered back over the hill he arrived from.

Roth looked at the socks lying all over the floor of the shed, carefully wrote a note and threw it into the shed.

A few moments later we were back.

"Does it feel tidier now the tools have a proper home?"

"Indeed it does. Very much so. Shall we order pizza?"

Somewhere else, very far away, a tall well-dressed pizza picked up the phone and ordered a take away human on a two for one offer.

Friday 8 July 2011

Tales from the Sock Drawer

Infinity is a hard concept to understand. The neverendingness of it all. To be able to go on and on and on without end.

It is especially hard thing to grasp if it is your sock drawer that is infinite.

My sock drawer is in a cheap, originally flat-packed, chest-of-drawers. Not the sort of place you'd expect something metaphysical, I think you'd agree. Infinite sock drawers should only occur in antique furniture of unknown origin, especially those from the far east or Egypt. Not something that arrived in a cardboard box from Argos and was put together with a screwdriver, some glue and a lot of bad language. It was totally normal. There were even bits left over.

Sometimes I forget the nature of the drawer. Months go by and I place socks in it, take socks out and nothing unusual happens. Then I'll get a sock out and it'll be covered in snow. Like it'd been to Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the flat-packed wardrobe. Or I'd reach in and I'd have a pair of socks where one would be normal Marks & Spencer and the other a rough Scottish tartan. The piper playing in the distance only adding to my unease.

Most nights I feel safer if I tie my dressing gown cord around the handles to keep the draw shut, or prop a chair up against it to jam it closed. I wouldn't want my bedroom to be overrun by the cast of Braveheart whilst I sleep.

I've looked in the drawer with a torch. The light just disappears into the distance. Sometimes I can hear things. Wolves howling, wind blowing and storms raging. Once something crossed the beam of my torch. I wasn't sure what it was, but it had teeth. They glinted in the light. I'm sure it wasn't the cast of a mid-day soap, smiling inanely.

Last week I opened the drawer, and sitting there was a huge pair of wickedly sharp shears. Handy for home defence if you happened to be Michael Myers. I pushed them as far back into the drawer as possible and shut it quickly. I may have lost some socks with them.

Two days later, I got dressed, plucked up courage and went for the sock drawer. Laying the full length of the drawer on top of the socks was an set of edging scissors. The sort with big red handles so you can edge whilst half-standing to feel like a cripple and want to ring bells at Notre Dame within half an hour. Again I pushed them as far back into the drawer as possible. I'm sure I heard a voice say ouch.

Tuesday, I bought a pair of socks. I couldn't bring myself to open the draw.

Wednesday I wore the same pair of socks from Tuesday.

Thursday, I held my breath, opened the draw and fumbled for some socks. I nearly sliced my hand on the business end of a full sized scythe. The sort Death would feel very happy about. I picked up my wooden back scratcher and pushed the scythe back where it came from, grabbed some socks and shut the drawer.

Friday, this morning, I opened the drawer. There was nothing odd there at all. I pulled out a pair of socks, both black. There was no piper droning away in the distance. The socks were nicely tucked together as a pair. As I pulled them apart a small piece of paper fell to the floor. I picked it up, unfolded it and read the note. It said, "Please stop pushing socks into my gardening shed. Kindest Regards, Roth."

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Don't Cross the Line

"Don't cross the line," I warned.

"What line?" replied Roth.

"That one, there!" I nodded my head in the direction of an empty area of wooden floor. It was quite dusty, as though the building had been abandoned for years.

"There isn't a line there. I'm puzzled. Should there be?"

"We're early. It's not there yet..."

We weren't, as it happens, all that early. As we watched a chalk line appeared and slowly sketched out an intricate shape on the floor.

"It's lovely to see an artist at work, don't you think?" I asked.

"I agree," agreed Roth, "Hey, it's the outline of a body! Like at a crime scene!"

"Ex-police artist."

"Why can't we see him?"

"Ex. He's dead. The police don't often employ ghosts. I think they are prejudiced."

We watched for a while.

"Do you think the body really did have two heads and three arms?" enquired Roth.

"I think he drew the way he felt."

Saturday 2 April 2011

Rambling Uphill

As I watched Roth pulled a small tube from a pocket on his snow jacket and deftly, despite the gloves, pushed a small button. Out of one end came a point and shaft, out of the other came a flag which unfurled in the harsh cold wind. He turned it up the right way and spiked it into the ground.

He stood back and saluted, "For King and Country," he bellowed against the wind.

"We have a Queen now," I bellowed back.

"Does no one tell me anything, anymore?" came the reply.

We sat down by a nearby snow covered rock, which gave some shelter from the blizzard that had enveloped us.

"You know," I said, "I'd always expected the top of a mountain to be kinda, well,... "

"Pointy?" Roth completed.

"Yes, exactly. Pointy. This is quite flat. Because of the blizzard we've had to walk around quite a bit to make sure it doesn't go up more than this. When I drew mountains as a child, they always had a point on the top and a completely obvious place to put a flag. We bumbled around for ages before we found what you called The Right Spot."

"Shall we explore?"

"Yes, OK. The snow and wind seems to have abated a little."

We set off towards the middle of the summit and were surprised to find a petite woman sitting in a slightly snow encrusted padded armchair. It was our friend Eolist.

"I wondered when you two would turn up. Did you stop off for a curry on the way?"

"Where would we find a curry house half way up a mountain?" exclaimed Roth.

"Well, there was this doorway in the rock face that opened directly into...Owwww!" Roth dropped his rucksack on my foot.

"What are you doing up here?" I asked, knowing that if the question were returned I couldn't begin to answer.

"Getting away from it all, seeking a bit of peace and quiet," she reflected for a moment, "although the blizzard was somewhat loud and annoying."

Answering the question that hadn't been asked, Roth said, "I'd invited iDifficult here over to help me with something at the bottom of my garden. Last Tuesday."

"I thought I was perfectly safe, seeing as he lives in a third floor apartment. I thought I'd go there, he'd realise he didn't have a garden and we'd go and eat pizza."

"Yes, my apartment comes with a share of a large communal garden."

"In bloody Nepal..."