Saturday, 28 February 2009
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
All the best,
With the fire spreading, the Mime finally reaches the Emergency Services...and realises he may be in more trouble than he thought...
Doris opened her eyes. Her sneezing fit was over, but unfortunately so was her date...
"Oh great! He's only gone out and gotten himself drunk!"
Sunday, 22 February 2009
In a little village three miles north of yesterday, there lived a farmer who was plagued by a menacing black dog. Each night the black dog would come without reason and attack the farmer’s property. It killed everything that was caught in its way and sought out anything that wasn’t just so it could kill it. Some nights it only killed one animal. Other nights it killed so many that the winter dirt was turned soft and red. Of the animals on the farm it would leave nothing but blood, and even some of that had clearly been drunk.
The farmer, too scared to face the beast, hid in his bed every night and held pillows over his ears so that he would not have to suffer the noises. He closed his eyes so tight that his face hurt, but he would do anything to avoid seeing the black dog again, for he had seen it once before. It had terrified him. The black dog was a creature of hellish size. Its teeth were the size of steak knives. Its eyes were as black as anvils. Its paws hit the ground like hammers and every breath it took had the sound and aroma of hot ashes being thrown to the soil.
Soon hearing of the animal’s deaths, the other villagers came to the farmer’s house one at a time to offer their help.
“I can stand guard for you sir,” said the policeman. “And if you give me one of your shotguns I can use that too, should the thing appear.”
“No, no. No thank you constable,” said the farmer, half hiding behind his door. “I can manage fine by myself.”
And he had ushered the policeman away with a wave of his hand.
That night the black dog returned from nowhere and killed. The farmer lay in his bed with his pillows over his ears and heard nothing. And in the morning another villager came to offer their help.
“I can help sir,” said the butcher, “My boy and I will stand guard with our butchery knives and should that beast come near we’ll slice it open and have it for sausages!”
“No. No I don’t want you to,” said the farmer, his eyes poking around the door, “I can manage fine by myself.”
And he shut the door on the butcher without another word.
That night the black dog returned from nowhere and killed. The farmer lay in his bed with his pillows over his ears and heard nothing. Once again, early the next day, another villager walked up to the farm to promise assistance.
“I’m strongly built sir,” said the blacksmith, “and I’ve several tools that I reckon would make the creature think twice about coming back should he be struck by them.”
“No! No, go away!” shouted the farmer from behind his door. “I can manage fine by myself!”
And the barely ajar door was slammed shut.
That night the black dog returned from nowhere and killed. The farmer lay in his bed with his pillows over his ears and heard nothing. At eleven o’ clock another villager knocked at the door, ready to help the farmer.
This time the door did not open.
“Who is it?” shouted the farmer through the letterbox.
“It’s me, Farmer Morris from the other side of the village. I hear you’ve been having some trouble with a black dog?”
“Yes, but I don’t need any help! I can manage by myself!”
“Well sir,” said Farmer Morris, “it’s just that I once had a little trouble with the same beast. Wasn’t until a mate of mine helped me that I finally chased it away. Maybe I could offer you some help? Always better to have someone who understand these things helping you.”
“NO!” shouted the farmer. “You think I’m an idiot? I can manage by myself! Now go away!”
“Very well, but let me know if you change your mind. I have knowledge of these things sir.”
And Farmer Morris left.
That night Famer Morris sat in the village pub with the constable and the butcher and the blacksmith. A warm fire crackled behind them as they drank.
“He wouldn’t accept my help either,” Farmer Morris said, “Poor devil, facing it alone...” And he took a long draught of ale.
“Poor fool more like,” said the butcher, and the constable and blacksmith agreed with him.
“Chasing us away like that! It’s lunacy. High-minded lunacy!” said the blacksmith before dousing his grumbling in his pint.
“And he’ll only keep on losing his animals if he doesn’t put a stop to it. He’ll lose everything!” said the constable. “And then you can bet he’ll be begging for our help!”
“Maybe if we all go up to the farm together he’ll change his mind,” Farmer Morris said.
Over another round of drinks they agreed that they would all try one more time to help the farmer. After all, they said, he could not hide behind his door forever.
The next morning the constable, the butcher, the blacksmith and Farmer Morris walked up to farm. It was quiet.
They found the farmer’s door was wide open. There were deep scratches in the wood.
“Hello?” the constable shouted as he led the group inside. “Are you there?”
The inside of the house was dark and silent. And it was a mess. The furniture had been broken or scattered, doors hung off their hinges. The few pictures and ornaments the farmer had were all smashed. Chaos had been frozen in time for the men to view.
“Good God...” they heard the constable cry and rushed upstairs to the bedroom.
They found the policeman staring at the bed. His face was as white as milk.
The farmer was gone. His bedding was soaked in blood. The pitter-patter of it running onto the floor was the only sound in the entire house. It was minutes before one of the four men cleared their throat and took a step forward.
“The black dog?” asked the butcher.
“Certainly. I’ve seen similar before,” Farmer Morris said. “He should have let us...well...no point in saying what should have been...”
In the corner of the room rested his shotgun. The blacksmith picked it up. It was cold and loaded. No shells had been fired.
“Why didn’t he defend himself?” he muttered as he examined the weapon. “He would have had plenty of time to grab his gun while that thing was gallivanting around downstairs.”
“I don’t know,” said the constable, “He must have heard it coming surely. He’d have had to have had the pillows over his ears not to.”
Friday, 20 February 2009
Monday, 9 February 2009
A short story for Valentine's Day...
There was once a man who loved a woman very much. This is all you need to know about him. His name and his age and the place he lived and whether or not he liked boiled beetroot and vodka or reading the newspaper are all irrelevant. All you need to know is that he loved a woman with all his heart.
Except the woman did not love him. She knew him, and she knew that he did not like boiled beeetroot or vodka, and that he did like reading the newspaper, but she did not know he loved her. And even if she had, she would not love him in return. All the knowledge in the world could not make her love him.
But sadly the man only learned this on the only day he abandoned his newspaper and asked her to be his wife.
"No," she said. "I will not marry you. I love another. I love his eyes and the way he shaves and I love every step he takes towards me. You are not him. You never could be."
The man could not bear this. He cried tears without end. There was a pain in his head and his chest. His love of food and words left him like steam from a hot bowl. There was heat in his heart, but it was not the kind that comes with a summer's day or which fills you at the first sight of a beautiful woman. It was a dry, indiscriminate heat. And it was his twin. It woke with him, choked back boiled beetroot with him. It did not read the newspaper just as he no longer did. And when he eventually returned to his bed it sat on his heart and made every beat agony.
"Oh why must I live with this pain! My heart aches so! I wish I had the strength to rip it from my body and toss it into the frozen river!" the man cried night after night. No one except the stray dogs heard him, but they were too busy wolfing down the uneaten beetroot.
Then one day a clock-maker heard the man's cries and ventured to his door.
"I can help you sir," the clock-maker said. "You wish to remove the pain that dwells in your heart?"
"Yes, yes!" said the man, "it is too much for me to bear. I would gladly be rid of it even if it should mean dragging my heart with it!"
"This can be done sir," the clock-maker said. "I can take your heart and replace it with clockwork. Then you will be free from the pain of which you speak. For whilst flesh may hold memory and pain, how can wood and tightly-wound metal?"
"Why, they can feel no more pain than a lamp post!" the man said. "Please kind stranger, take my pain! Give me no more tears to shed!"
"Gladly," the clock-maker said, "but first let me tell you this: if a lamp post can no more feel pain than a clockwork heart, then nor can it feel love."
"Of course! What of it? Please, take away my pain sir before I am forced to rid myself of it by my own hands!"
"Very well," said the clock-maker.
And he was true to his word. The clock-maker took away the man's heart and replaced it with cold clockwork. For the first time in a long while the man felt free of the heat that was forged from the loss of the woman he had loved. He no longer felt any heat in his chest. It was cold. Cold as the river he had wished to toss his heart into.
"Ha! I pity all those people who must suffer as I did. Walking around with so much pain, why do it? It is much easier to be rid of it."
The man read his newspaper again. He ate steak every day, sometimes with boiled beetroot, which he no longer seemed to mind. He even developed a taste for vodka. He felt no pain or heat or loss. He felt nothing. The memory of the woman he had loved was still there, but it no longer made him cry. She was as distant to him as the stray dogs. He watched them forage and die in the streets and then went back to eating his steak and reading his newspaper and drinking his vodka. Occasionally he would see a pair of young lovers walk hand in hand and he would throw open his window and shout down at them, sometimes with a moutful of steak. "Ha! Beware you two! You will only break each other's hearts. One of you will become bored or find another love or die and then it will all end in tears! Best to be rid of your heart my friends. No pain to suffer. No more tears to shed!"This was how he lived. Every day. For two hundred years. His body wore thin, his organs dried up and his blood turned to dust but still his clockwork heart ticked with unending regularity. Nothing made it tick faster or slower and nothing made it skip a tock.
At last, after two hundred years and one day, when the last howl had ceased and the streets were quiet, the man looked at the date on the newspaper and for the first time realised how old he was. He looked around his cold room at the graveyard of newspapers. Rising from his chair he clicked across the floorboards. His bone hands began to pluck papers from their piles and through marble eyes he looked at the headlines. War, famine, plague; the cruel acts of Men and Gods, the wheel of birth and death. He had read it all before but only as black and white.
"Oh what a cruel life I have led!" he moaned and scratched at his ribs. "I have lived so long and yet felt nothing! No pain or loss or love or joy! I have only sat and read and not even the words have moved me!"
Had he been able to remember the feeling of heat in his chest he would have expected it to appear now. But it did not, just as it hadn't for two hundred years. There was only clockwork.
He looked outside his window and saw an old couple tottering along, leaning on one another for support as they traversed the icy street.
"Hey! You two!" he shouted, his voice hoarse, "You are married?"
"For forty-eight years," the old man returned.
"But how? Have you not known loss and pain? Has love not scarred your heart?"
"But of course."
"Then how is it you are married? How have you found love?"
"It is simple," the old man said, "neither of us abandoned our hearts!"
And the old couple laughed mockingly at the clockwork man.
The man staggered back from the window and rattled into his chair. He looked around the room, empty but for the newspapers and a few spent vodka bottles. Only the dependable click of metal kept him company. He tried to cry but only dust fell from his eyes and into the palms of his hands. He stared at it. His clockwork heart continued to move.
"No more tears to shed..." he murmured.
No more tears to shed. No one to shed them for. And with nothing else to do, the man who had once - and only once - loved a woman, wiped the pointless dust from his eyes, and did the only thing he could do. He leaned back in his chair with his glass of vodka and continued to read his newspaper. And that is all you need to know about him, because for the rest of his singular existence that is all he ever did. And he did it like clockwork.
Saturday, 7 February 2009
It was over drinks in the pub that my mate Matt Caygill (town planner, real ale lover, all round top notch bloke) made the suggestion that I try my hand at the odd current affairs or politically satirical cartoon; something that was both funny and which reflected something newsworthy.
Now before I go on I should explain that the reason I don't do satirical cartoons is because of their shelf-life. The cartoons I draw are meant to be something you could pick up a week or a year from now and find funny. Satirical cartoons, whilst potentially hilarious in the crucible of the moment, last about as long as a good bottle of wine in the Smedley household (and really, do I have to explain how startlingly short that is?). Thats the only reason I stay away from them. I did one, once, in 2007, which combined the smoking ban with the summer flooding and which I was immensely proud of, but which now solicits only a nostalgic chuckle from those who are most on the ball when it comes to news. There is also another reason, which is that there are so many ridiculously talented satirists/cartoonists out there (Peter Brooks of 'The Times' being my favourite) that I really don't feel worthy of entering such an esteemed field. After all, is there anything else I can contribute to it?
However, never let it be said I don't like to try new things. Cagsy's love of the satirical cartoon has inspired me to give it a go again. So with that in mind I'm going to have the occasional stab at satirical cartoons - drawing something whenever a good or interesting news story comes along and which I can think of something clever to say about. They probably won't be along very often, and when they are I'll specially tag them to make them known from the usual cartoons. Let me know what you think of them - if the response is poor, or I find I can't really do a news story justice, I'll stop them. I'm my own most savage critic.
So consider it a trial period. Pencils have been sharpened, as have wits, and I'll be keeping an even more watchful eye on the news. Look out current affairs, here I come!
Posted by Rob Smedley at 01:26
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
As part of the 'Anti-Valentine's Month' at 'Too Close For Comfort', here's a public information film about that most heartache-inducing of days...
Monday, 2 February 2009
When it snows at Smedley Towers it certainly does snow. Four inches today and its still snowing. Weatherman said there'd be up to four more overnight. Thats a lot of snow.
Anyway, being snowed in today gave me a lot of time to think (yes, yes, as well as sleep and drink), and it was while ingesting my usual cluster of news websites that I saw some pictures of snowmen that people across the country had built. And some of them were magnificently creative. There's one of a dishevelled snowman lying on his side surrounded by beer bottles. Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. That's the kind of thing that makes me love people.
The snowmen made me think about how creative people get when there's snow around. Everyone from kids to grandparents loves to create a snowman or a snow angel, or write their name in the snow (by what means I will let you imagine), or sometimes even build a snow fort. I think it's because after a heavy snow the entire world looks so different - like a blank canvas. A blank canvas ready for you to make your mak on it. For you to derive some creativity and fun and satisfaction from it. Everything you know and are used to; fields, trees, buildings, roads, are all doused in white and look ready to be started all over again. There's something magical about it (yeah I know its cliched but that doesn't stop it from being true), and even though your friendly snowman or your makeshift igloo may last only a day or three before being soaked up by the earth, you know that for however long, Mother Nature gave you something to be inspired by.
And even if you don't fancy going out in the snow then you can still be inspired by it from your window. Draw a picture, compose a poem, write a letter to a friend. In fact, here's a free blank canvas from me to get you started....
Posted by Rob Smedley at 22:16