Starter for Ten – 24/07/19

Starter for Ten is a daily writing exercise where the aim is simply to write for a full 10 minutes. No editing or revision is allowed after the 10 minutes is up. The aim is to try new things, experiment with voices and styles and be bold. Suckage often occurs.


I have a new tactic to stop procrastination. In my office there are two desks, a sitting desk and (because I’m easily influenced by health editorial) a standing desk. I alternate between the two desks based on how stiff and how lazy I’m feeling. I actually find it a really useful tool because there seems to be a different energy between the two positions and sometimes you want to take a slouchy, crushed-vertebrae sort of energy into a piece of writing.

Anyway: the technique. I am positioned at the sitting desk. Over at the standing desk is a large mug of tea and a packet of blue Hula Hoops. Until I’ve finished this Starter for Ten I am not allowed to cross the divide and receive my reward. I didn’t even have a sip of the tea while I was bringing it out to the office. Plus, if I delay too long then the tea will be a sub-optimal temperature. Cannily though I did open the Hula Hoops and had ONE of said hoops. This has primed my salivary glands and I’m now drooling thinking of crushing each and every one of those saline tori encased in their shimmering cerulean home.

I wonder if when we leave the EU if we can finally address the issue of standardising the flavour colours. It’s often bothered me since I was young when I always refused to eat Smokey Bacon crisps because they were West Ham’s colours. I didn’t have any particular reason for this antipathy towards the Iron Men, there was just a strong collation in my mind between the colour and the flavour. Why is blue salt and vinegar, but sometimes cheese and onion? Why would you choose blue to represent cheese and onion? If ready salted are the neutral/flavourless/vanilla option – wouldn’t it make more sense to have them wear white rather than red?

Tea’s up!

Starter for Ten – 23/07/19

Starter for Ten is a daily writing exercise where the aim is simply to write for a full 10 minutes. No editing or revision is allowed after the 10 minutes is up. The aim is to try new things, experiment with voices and styles and be bold. Suckage often occurs.


“My, my, music hits me so hard/Makes me say oh my Lord.”

No! Stupid Hammer! Stupid! How are you gonna battle with half-rhymes.

“My, my, music hits me so hard/Makes me say oh my gawwd.”

NO! That’s worse. Who are you? Scarlett O’Hara? MY GAWWWD.

Ok, just chill Hammer. Chill. Speak from the heart. Tell the truth. Does my music hit me so hard? Yes it does – that’s not hyperbole. What does my music make me want to say? Ooof? Ow?

“My, my, music hits me so hard/Makes me say “Oof! Ow!”

Ok, at least that’s honest Hammer. But you need to fix the rhyme. If being hit with my music makes me say “Ooof! Ow!” then I need a synonym for hard that rhymes with Ow. Cow/wow/show/ciao.

“My, my, music hits me so ciao!/Makes me say “Oof! Ow!”

NO! FUCK! This is too hard! Why did I ever choose this path? What am I bringing to the MC industry? How do I have the audacity to tell people that they can’t touch this, when what I’m putting forth is evidently within touching distance.

Smart Globes: The Conclusion

On Friday I was musing about what to do with the globes that I’d ordered for Blue Dot and feeling that there was some level of mischief that I hadn’t quite grasped. Fortunately, inspiration struck in the form of becoming curious about the fact that Blue Dot had moved to an entirely cashless payment system which relied on everyone wearing a band which had an NFC chip embedded in it.

I’m a huge dork when it comes to technology so I knew a bit about NFC and it’s older brother RFID. It was really interesting to see this technology being thrown in at the deep end and pushing people to adopt it. There was a lot of resistence and ultimately I think it wasn’t really explained properly, or early enough to allow people to adjust to the change.

Our Pale Blue Dot, but smarter.

That said, overall the tech worked *ok* although I saw at least four instances where payments couldn’t be made. Despite that though there wasn’t any big meltdown and people mostly adapted with grumbles. Festivals – especially festivals celebrating science and innovation – should be making bold choices like this and I wholeheartedly support the idea, but I hope lessons are learned on the application.

Anyway, it reminded me of NFC (simple explainer here for anyone who wants it) and I started to wonder about this in conjunction with the globes. One of the cool things about NFC is that it’s cheap as chips (lolz) and so I got a big long strip of NFC chips from eBay for about £8. They arrived the next day and so me and Frank discussed possibilities.

What we decided to do was try and Rick Roll random people in the audience. So we got our NFC chip and the ever-excellent app NFC Tools. Then we stuck one of the chips to the ball. We then wrote an instruction for the chip using NFC Tools. This makes it sound like coding is involved, it’s not. Take a look at the app and you’ll see how blinking easy it is. The instruction was – whenever someone reads this chip on their phone, open up YouTube and show them this classic:

We then wrote some instructions on the globes and took them along to the festival. Frank and his friends thwacked them into the crowd and then, contrary to the plan, ran and fetched them. I don’t think they wanted to let them go. So instead they just ran around telling people to hold their phone to the globe and laughing at them when it worked. It was amazing to see them engaging with the technology like they did. Children have such a low barrier to acceptance of new tech that they mostly bypass the “What? Huh?” stage and move onto the fun bit which is asking, “How can we use this to do weird and possibly dangerous stuff?”

It wasn’t perfect, the things I hadn’t anticipated were that so many people have older model phones, which don’t have NFC readers in their spec. What’s the deal people? Upgrade already! The other minor thwarting was that festivals have 20k people in a field all communicating with one mobile mast which is somewhere nearby melting down. Consequently, someone would activate the chip and it would open YouTube and then hang, as it waited for connection. At that point the reveal of the gag was slightly lost. However, as a proof of concept/bit of fun it definitely worked.

Plus it means that I’ve still got a strip of NFC chips to mess around with! I’ve got a few ideas already which range from the odd to the almost certainly illegal and in my experience that’s usually where ideas start to get interesting…

Sending Globes Around The World

In place of a Starter for Ten today I’m going to type up a stupid idea I had for Bluedot Festival and see if I can think it through. Feel free to add any thoughts.

So Bluedot is a festival that celebrates music, science and is all-round pretty darn cool. Best of all it’s more or less in our back garden, which means that we can cycle to it and *BRACE YOURSELF FOR THE BEST THING EVER*: not camp. Not ever. Never camp. I hate camping*.

So as a fun tribute to that I thought I’d get some beach balls to smack out into the crowds because that always passes a few minutes and given that it’s a festival that celebrates the “pale blue dot” that we live on (thanks Carl!) what better sort of beach ball to use than a globe one. So I’ve got one of these buggers coming today.

Tiny Atlas!

I then started thinking maybe it would be fun to write a message on the globe and encourage people to take it home and maybe keep them going rather than just becoming plastic waste. Fortunately, the world has been neatly organised that there’s plenty of boring blue spaces where I could write a message. I was thinking something like this:

Hi! Please keep this globe bouncing around the world. Take a selfie with it wherever it lands and hashtag it to #bouncingallovertheworld on Instagram.

I thought it might be a fun way for the children to learn a bit more about the world/social media. Of course it might end with the globe being binned (I made sure they were recyclable obviously, I’m not a monster), or someone sending nude photos to that hashtag but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What do you think? I feel like there’s a better idea just around the corner with a bit of a tweak…

*Super Danny Ward says it better than I can.

Starter for Ten – 17/07/19

Starter for Ten is a daily writing exercise where the aim is simply to write for a full 10 minutes. No editing or revision is allowed after the 10 minutes is up. The aim is to try new things, experiment with voices and styles and be bold. Suckage often occurs.


ANCHOR: “Just Shake, rattle and roll” makes it seem so easy, but is that all there is to the latest dance craze that’s sweeping the nation? We sent our Topeka correspondent Jonas Mirne to find out.

JONAS: Thanks Holroyd and welcome to the Carson Diner where we’ve all come out of the kitchen to rattle some pots and pans on the dance floor today as we learn about the dance craze that’s keeping the teens swinging until the early hours.

PRODUCER: Ok, we’re at VT – Mary, get Jonas some cover he’s looking slick.

JONAS: Don’t plaster it on Mary, it’s sweltering – can we get these fans switched on please?

PRODUCER: Sure thing. Hey! Can we get these fans on here? 15 seconds Jonas then we’re into the demo. Let’s get the teens in here.

JONAS: Thanks Mary.

PRODUCER: 5 seconds, positions.

JONAS: And if you’re thinking that you don’t know where to start with the high kicking, all energy dance moves that you see on the floor then we’ve got some of Carson Diner’s famous floor fillers to share their moves. What’s your name sugar?

TONYA: I’m Tonya, I’m 15 and I’m from Topeka!

JONAS: Ok, that’s great! And you hun?

KATHY: I’m Kathy, I’m 16 and I’m from Dallas Lake, although originally we were-

JONAS: That’s great – and I gather we’re going to get a bit of a demonstration now on how to do some of the spins and lifts that all the kids want to learn how to do – and so let’s bring on your partners. Ok kids, let’s shake, rattle and roll!

FX – Music starts

JONAS: So as you can see this style of dancing is all about keeping it high tempo – we’re not talking about fox trotting around the floor! And you can see Kathy there is being swung by her partner and she actually flies through his legs and slides out the other side – that’s called a double-hand slide. And Tonya here spins and her partner picks her up and literally lifts her by her waist up into the air and OH MOTHER OF MERCY!

PRODUCER: Back to the studio! Back to the studio! Cut to the stu-

ANCHOR: You’re watching KNBC, The Talk of Indiana, we’re going to a commercial break.

Starter for Ten – 16/07/19

Starter for Ten is a daily writing exercise where the aim is simply to write for a full 10 minutes. No editing or revision is allowed after the 10 minutes is up. The aim is to try new things, experiment with voices and styles and be bold. Suckage often occurs.


The hot water bottle wasn’t quite full so it undulated queasily. The ridges across the maroon surface could be strummed with the thumb to create a uniform chord of no real purpose. Colin shook the thought loose from his head and held the precious warmth to his stomach. He hunched his knees closer to the other side of the bottle. May as well get maximum value from it, he thought.

He looked at the clock and wondered if taking more ibuprofen 30 minutes earlier would count as an overdose. Surely not he reasoned – these things had to have a heavy margin of error built in. He thumbed out two of the shiny tablets from the foil strip and swallowed them dry, reaching for the water on the other side of the bedside table was too daunting. With one eye he appraised the pint glass and noted it had been comprehensively cheesed with greasy fingers. A minute sediment floated in the water and he felt his stomach move treacherously, producing a gurgling sound effect that would have been considered OTT for a gross out teen comedy.

He reached his arms around his knees and physically pulled them in closer to the hot water bottle. How were hot water bottles not available on the NHS? He decided that before his next period he was going to construct an entire suit out of them, he wondered if the suit could be plumbed in to avoid the constant trips to the kettle. A roll of pain made him grimace and obliterated the idea.

No Greater Authority Than My Wife

No greater authority than my wife told me the other day that people don’t want to read my Starter for Ten practice pieces. The cheek of it! The accurate, understandable cheek of it! I know she doesn’t read them herself because a) she’s too busy doing all the work that I don’t do because I’m an important writer and b) she never gets the references to my own writing that I pepper our conversations with.

ME: Huh, do you think Trump did pinch/punch/first of the month on Kim Jong Un, that’d be pretty funny, right?!
HER: Look, either help me change this tyre or sit in the car.

ME: Hee hee! Do you think Brett Anderson from Suede could be a hitman?
HER: What? I’m a bit busy here Shan! No darling, don’t shout – just put pressure on it and the bleeding should stop.

I thought to remind her of this spousal betrayal the other day when she was eating a packet of Peanut M&Ms. This is because those very comestibles were the literal (not literal) fruits (not fruits) of my labours on this blog. My good friend and loyal reader Yolander Yeo sent me a box of 24 packets as a “I suspect you might be starving through lack of income” present based on one of those very practice pieces that no one wants to read!

Do the M&M men know that they themselves are M&Ms, thus wanting to eat a bowl of M&Ms is cannibalism? Or are they the evolved form of the M&M? In which case it would still be like me eating a chimp, which is wrong and I wouldn’t do it.

True story about Yo. She’s not Ugandan or Chinese, she’s actually Glaswegian, the best designer there is and she’s been making my work look much better than it is for a long, long time. We worked together for 15 years before we ever actually met. Look at this picture, which was taken on the very night of our first meeting, and ask yourself if you’ve ever seen a worse case of hoverhand. I’m honestly the oddest person I’ve ever met. Thanks Yo. Sorry everyone.

I wasn’t touching Yo’s shoulder but I was firmly grasping Tom’s buttocks.

Em is, of course, right – the Starter For Ten posts are annoying, especially this morning’s which sucked donkey teeth, but then as I pointed out at the beginning, this here blog is almost certainly more for my benefit than yours. I did promise Em that I would try and write more about what I was doing which I’ve been a bit lax on lately so I’ll try and remedy that. To neatly close this narrative loop – Yo will actually be designing the front cover of Shut In, providing that I/you/others deem it worthy of publishing.

I’ve just started on the final section of the book and I’m now just eight seven (forgot I done wroted one today) chapters from the finish line. I still really like the story and I’ve grown to be very fond of Ben Stone (name shamelessly stolen from one of my favourite films) and if nothing else I want to know what happens to him. There is plenty of implausible and downright bad writing that needs to be excised, but as the mantra goes the first draft is all about getting it written, not get it right. Off to eat the delicious tea that my long-suffering wife has cooked for me. I hope it’s Peanut M&Ms.

Starter for Ten – 15/07/19

Starter for Ten is a daily writing exercise where the aim is simply to write for a full 10 minutes. No editing or revision is allowed after the 10 minutes is up. The aim is to try new things, experiment with voices and styles and be bold. Suckage often occurs.



The Furious Twelve (formerly The Dores) were the breakout act to make a name for themselves from the small ska scene in the Scottish city of Inverness. Centred around the club The Noise Hut, the scene was also home to bands like The Grave Roberts and Ian Wants It All. The Furious Twelve’s local reputation was secured through a series of house parties they threw which were chaotic but focused on the music.

The Twelve, as fans knew them, consisted of four members – Ian Roberts (who also briefly played in The Grave Roberts), brothers Tony and Ian Cowan and the one-woman horn section Carol Tobin. All of the band played at least three instruments, hence the origin of the name. Tobin was the driving force behind the band but thanks to the restrictive views of gender politics of the time she had to

Starter for Ten – 11/07/19

Starter for Ten is a daily writing exercise where the aim is simply to write for a full 10 minutes. No editing or revision is allowed after the 10 minutes is up. The aim is to try new things, experiment with voices and styles and be bold. Suckage often occurs.


Computer Keyboard Shortcuts I Want Right Now

Alt+Shift+t = my computer mouse urinates hot, sweet tea into my mug (NB – scientists will make this hygienic maybe?)

Screenlock+8 = A USB headstrap add-on drips moisture with electrolytes into my eyes after a user-defined period of staring at blank spaces on the wall.

Ctrl+b+Arrow That Points At Where I’m Sitting = I am emboldened to write from the heart

F11 – Military Jet Flypast

Insert+P+A+I+N = Whenever I accidentally hit Insert and it does that weird thing where you start writing over the text and you think you’re going insane it punches the person who invented the conventional “Insert” in the nuts/lady nuts.

Alt+Shift+P = my computer mouse defecates peanut M&Ms onto the desk.

(Also when I roll the mouse wheel I want it to purr.)

Ctrl+V+End – my book is automatically finished and I am happy with it but also oblivious to the fact that I didn’t write it.

F5 – The Gaviscon Fireman oozes out of my speaker, reforms and climbs into my mouth. He smiles and tips his helmet to me as he climbs my arm, leaving tiny calcium footprints on my sleeve. Oh god he’s in my mouth. I feel him moving, is this what he wants? Do I let him make this sacrifice just for my indigestion? Someone

Starter for Ten – 10/07/19

NELLIE: Give it a good wang!

TIM: Yes, go on Roger, wang it!

ROGER: Give me a second.

[ROGER loosens his shoulder muscles and then picks up the welly]

NELLIE: Aim for the hedge!

TIM: The moon!

NELLIE: Yes, the moon! Hit the moon!

ROGER: Right, hold on to your jumpers, here we go.

[ROGER picks up the welly and spins around like a hammer thrower. He spins and spins in place until dizzied he loosens the welly which smacks NELLIE incredibly hard in the face. NELLIE collapses.]

TIM: Roger! You dill!

ROGER: Oh gosh, Nellie! I’m so sorry!

[NELLIE moans feebly]

TIM: I say, she looks pretty rough. Get your handkerchief out.

ROGER: Right-oh. Here you go, mother shan’t be happy with the blood but have at it Nellie.

[TIM pinches NELLIE’s nose with the handkerchief.]

TIM: Come on old girl, you took quite a biff. Say something.

ROGER: Nellie?

TIM: Nellie?

[ROGER raises her arm, which limply falls back to her side.]

ROGER: I say.

TIM: Is she dead?

ROGER: I rather think so. You might as well take your handkerchief back.

TIM: Gosh. Poor Nellie. She didn’t deserve that. If you two hadn’t been pushing me to wang it to the moon, then maybe she’d still be alive.

ROGER: Steady on! We all wanted to practice for the welly wang, it was just an accident, Nellie would understand and what’s more she’d want you to compete on Sunday at the village party. She’d want you to win too.

TIM: Do you think?

ROGER: I do think. She can’t die in vain and if you didn’t win that Welly Wang trophy at the party then it would be a fete worse than death.

[The sun collapses in on itself].