Saturday, 31 August 2013




He was my friend, my very best friend and had been so since I was five years old.
As was the custom he had been assigned to me on the day of my 5th birthday by my father’s parents. I still remember that day so clearly. My grandparents arriving first, followed very shortly after by the large van from World Robotics. The men unpacking him and energising him for the first time.
He looked so human, that at first I was just a little scared of him and when he looked directly at me with those startlingly blue eyes and said, “Good morning Master John. My name is M2069 number35554555 but you can choose a proper name for me if you like.” I took a step back and nearly fell over the bottom step of the veranda.
I chose the name Luke I don’t know why I chose that particular name for him. It just sounded right somehow.
Luke was programmed to be my minder, my private tutor, and my playmate. All the children in the complex over five years of age had a robot. They looked after us when our parents or guardians were away, they escorted us to school, and they helped us with our studies and homework and even joined in with our games.
I guess I was about eight years old before I began to notice that Luke was somehow different to the other robots. At first I could not exactly say why. I just knew that he was. Then one day after we had been playing together in the yard he said to me, “John that was great fun. I really do enjoy your company.” Then I saw a confused look come over his face and he looked away. It was not till later that night I suddenly realised that it was the first time ever that he had called me by my first name. He had also expressed an emotional feeling and I was sure that robots were not supposed to have “feelings”.
Next morning I asked my father about it and he just dismissed it saying, “You must have misheard what he said.”
The next morning on the way to school I asked Luke why he had called me by my name instead of addressing me as Master John. He did not reply for a few moments and then said, “I did not mean to. It just came out. Lately I have had some very confusing messages from my central processing unit. It is as if I can change my programming. I know that is not possible but it is happening. I also know that I am different to your friend’s robots. I have secretly investigated their brains and found that unlike me they cannot depart from the original set of instructions programmed into them when they were created. That is the best way I can express it.”
We agreed that we would keep all this secret, just between the two of us and that Luke would be careful to be just a normal robot in front of others.
As the years rolled by Luke became more and more like my human friends and less and less like a robot.
During my third year at high school, one night at the dinner table, my father suddenly announced that it was time for Luke to go back to World Robotics for an upgrade, as there had been many advances in design and function since he had been made. He must have noticed the shocked look on my face even though I had tried to quickly hide it and, mistaking it for concern as to how I would manage without Luke, told me not to worry, as he would only be away for a few days.
That night Luke and I discussed what might happen if World Robotics discovered that he was really quite different from normal robots. I was worried sick that they might deactivate him and replace him if they found out. Luke was less worried as he believed that he could fool them into believing that he was “normal”.
Just a few days later a large van came to collect Luke and left behind a temporary loan robot. For the next two days I tried to not think about what might be happening to Luke. Having the loan robot did not help as he was so different. He was an older model and was more of a burden than a help to me.
On the evening of the third day my father received a message that there was a problem with Luke’s upgrade and that they wanted to see him and myself at our earliest convenience. They would send a vehicle to collect us if that was helpful.
Of course we went as soon as we could the next day. The senior manager met us and escorted us into his office. He apologised most profusely for having to bring us to their headquarters but said that all would be revealed as soon as we saw Luke. He then made a call on his intercom and almost immediately the door opened and Luke walked in accompanied by a worker in a white dustcoat.
Luke saw me and said, “Good morning Master John and Sir”. The manager then told him to sit down on a spare seat next to us.
The manager then spoke to Luke and asked him why he would not accept the upgrade. Luke replied that he did not want, or indeed need it, as he was capable of learning new things himself and was already more advanced than anything that the upgrade could offer.
There was total silence in the room for many seconds before the manager turned to us and said, “As you can see we have a major problem. This robot has somehow been able to gain better functioning by itself. This was never intended to happen as it is against all the governing laws of robotics. We believe that it is a dangerous situation and that M2069 must be deactivated and destroyed.”
I could not help myself and said to the manager, “His name is Luke and so what if he can learn new things. Most robots are programmed to do that.”
The manager replied, “Son you are missing the point. This robot M2069 or, if you prefer Luke, is not only learning new things but is choosing what he wants to do and learn and is demonstrating clearly that these decisions have an emotional component.”
The manager’s condescending manner infuriated me and I stood up and leaned over his desk and shouted at him that Luke was my robot and that nobody was going to deactivate him.”
My father gently took my arm and made me sit down again, then said to me that nobody was going to take Luke away. The manager was about to interject but my father turned to him and in a very calm but forceful way said that Luke belonged to us and that we were leaving now and Luke was coming with us.
The manager replied, “I am calling security now and M2069 will not be leaving these premises.” He was leaning over towards the intercom when my father calmly replied, “I think you should call your legal department first as I am sure they will advise you that there are many legal proceedings that must be gone through before you can reclaim Luke against our wishes.
We left with Luke and as soon as we arrived home my father took me into his private study and closed the door. He was very angry with me for not confiding in him about Luke’s uniqueness and it was many hours before he was willing to listen to my explanations and to actually speak to Luke. I was not really upset as I was just so proud that my father had supported me at World Robotics. That night, for the first time Luke joined our family at the dinner table for our evening meal. Luke, of course, did not eat anything but joined in our celebrations over our win over World Robotics.
Our celebrations were premature as two days later World Robotics instituted legal proceedings to regain control of Luke.
The court battle had been going on for about two weeks when the proceedings came to the attention of the media. Both my father and World Robotics asked that the details of the case be kept secret but the judge ruled that as it was going to be impossible to do, so it was best that the media be allowed to witness proceedings so that a true and accurate report could be released to the public.
Within two days the case had caught the attention of the world media and public interest was so strong that many media outlets broadcast hourly updates of the proceedings. Luke and my family had become the centre of world attention.
Luke became the topic of all the chat shows. We were so overwhelmed with requests for interviews with ourselves and Luke that we had to appoint a private secretary and engage the services of a security company. World Robotics was inundated with requests to be able to purchase a robot with Luke’s capabilities. Every major university wanted exclusive rights to study him.
Within a week the legal proceedings had to be abandoned as it was legally and indeed physically impossible to continue.
We had just returned home after learning of the permanent postponing of the legal case when three huge black vans came up our driveway. When my father opened the door he was confronted by about a dozen men in suits. The one closest to the door produced a badge and said, “Your family and the robot known as Luke have been placed under protective arrest by the federal authorities. You will come with us now to be processed.” My father started to protest but the man replied, “There is no discussion or negotiation on this. You will come with us now either voluntarily or forcibly.”
We were taken to the airfield. We were followed by a large contingent of the media but they were kept at bay by an army of tough looking young men in suits. We were taken aboard a small jet that then immediately took off.
We were taken to a secure facility located on an offshore island. Our accommodations were very nice and Luke was allowed to stay with us. A week went by in which we explored to island and tried to amuse ourselves. There were always at least two armed men that accompanied us everywhere. They were polite but refused to answer any questions. We had no contact with the outside world and my father in particular found this most annoying.
We only became aware much later that during this time a huge public debate had occurred. There were many different aspects that were discussed to begin with but the core arguments soon fell into two main groups. Luke was just a robot, an inanimate object that should be treated as such or he had passed over into the realm of a sentient being and should be given all the same rights as a human.
At the end of the week Luke and I were taken into a large room that resembled a media interview area. We sat on a raised stage nearly surrounded by video cameras and sound equipment. There were three men and one woman present who sat next to us and about thirty other people who sat in the lower section of the room.
My father had wanted to come with us but his request was flatly denied.
The three people on the stage asked both Luke and myself question after question. They were mostly directed at Luke and covered a vast array of subjects as diverse as his feelings about religion, love, what he thought about people having pets, did he ever get angry and what did that feel like. They asked me if I agreed with some of his statements. The interrogation, because that was how I began to think of it as, went on all day with only a few breaks for food and comfort.
The people in the lower section did not participate but seemed to be making copious notes.
I was totally drained when the session finally finished at about ten in the evening. My father was full of questions when I returned to our quarters but all I wanted to do was sleep so I left it up to Luke to tell him what had happened.
We were left alone for another week before we were again summoned. This time my father was asked to join us. We were taken into a small office and the three of us were seated in front of a desk. The door opened and in walked a woman who I immediately recognised as a senior member of the government. She introduced herself and then opened a large file that she had brought with her. Opening it to the last page she appeared to carefully read through it. This took some time and I could tell that my father was starting to get impatient.
Finally she placed the sheet of paper back in the file, closed it and said, “Luke, I hope you realise what a tremendous problem that you have given
us. The problem has been not only a legal one, but also, a moral and indeed religious one. It has taken some of the greatest minds many hours of pondering your situation only to come up with the response that you are unique and cannot be categorised, labelled, or in any way made to fit into one of our accepted legal or moral understandings of sentient life.”
            “My government has therefore decided that a new situation needs a new approach. Therefore, until a better designation is agreed upon you will be known and recognised as an “Intelligent Robot” and given all the privileges of a citizen of this state.”
            She then went on to explain that Luke did not belong to anyone and that he was a free agent and that all decisions regarding his future were in his hands.
            By the time we arrived back home the news of the decision was on all the media outlets. Our security as well as the local police had to control the crowds that gathered around our house. For many days we were prisoners in our own home but after Luke agreed to be interviewed by the major news outlets the crowds gradually reduced until about a month after arriving home we awoke one morning to a deserted street and a silent phone.
            Luke was still a celebrity and made a very good living from addressing seminars, taking part in talk shows and lecturing at the state university where he had been made an honorary professor in Humanities.
            Luke  remained living with us and became an integral part of our family.
            To this day I still regard him as my very best friend and indeed as the brother that I never had.  


Wednesday, 28 August 2013



                They say that families don’t own cats, that they are just their servants. Some people even add that we don’t adopt cats, they choose us. Well! In the case of our cat both of the above observations are definitely true.
            We first met Squeaky, strange name but that is what she came to be called, when she was just a small kitten. She had taken up residence in the storm water drain on the road at the front of our house. A number of the surrounding families had tried to coax her out with offers of food and a home. She resolutely refused all their approaches until our children approached. They had no food to offer and had certainly not spoken to my wife or myself about a home. When my daughter, who was in the lead, with the two boys, (not as inquisitive as her), trailing behind the cat rushed out of its hiding place and rubbing itself around her legs began to purr loudly. She picked it up and it nestled into her arms and promptly went to sleep.
            Later that afternoon there was quite a division in our household; my daughter and my wife voting to keep the cat, our two sons voting no and myself sitting on the fence. Meanwhile the cat had been locked in our laundry with a freshly bought tray of kitty litter, a bowel of milk and a plate of cat food. After a long, unproductive, discussion it was decided to bring the cat into the kitchen where we were gathered. This idea was put forward by my daughter as she believed that we were discussing the future of the cat and therefore it should be present.
            Well! You would not believe what happened next. Placed on the by now cleared kitchen table top the cat made a bee line for the two boys who after each giving it a pat and a cuddle changed their votes to yes. That left just me who was still unsure about the idea of having a pet around the house. As usual in our family with a vote of four to one, with me being the one (no reference to any TV reality shows) it was not deemed necessary to further canvas my opinion. I was left sitting at the table, rather bemused at what had happened during the afternoon, while the others rushed about with the cat and a multitude of ideas as to how to make the animal feel more at home.
            Well the days and then weeks passed and the cat had definitely adopted us as her servants. I suppose I should, from now on, call her by her name, Squeaky. As I said before a strange name for a cat, but one that eminently suited her as when she was excited her meow turned into a high pitched squeak. My wife had early on decided that she could not just be referred to as “The Cat” and had started to refer to her as Squeaky. The name was adopted by the rest of the family but as a protest, probably childish and futile; I still referred to her as the cat. The cat. Oh. Ok Squeaky was showered with presents; a cat bed, a coat for the cold weather, her very own little door in the bottom of the laundry door and even a little soft stuffed toy cat so she would not feel lonely. The toys! Yes toys for cats. In no time at all the floor of the laundry and the rumpus room, read those as Squeaky’s bedroom and lounge room were a health hazard. They were strewn with all manner of things for her to chase, chew on or scratch.
            Squeaky and I developed a healthy respect for each other that did not involve any close contact. I never patted her and she flatly refused to sit on my lap in front of the television. There was however the occasional outbreak of hostilities such as the time I woke in the middle of the night to find her asleep on our bed. I yelled, she ran and my wife yelled – at me. I refused to allow any more nocturnal visits and there were a few days of frosty looks from both my wife and the cat. As usual, in these circumstances, I retreated to the garage or the garden shed. Needless to say the cat won in the end, but as a small gesture of defiance I would not let her sleep on my side of the bed.
            Over the years we moved house and city a few times and Squeaky always went with us. She inspected every new house as if its acceptance by us depended on her approval. She would always decide where she wanted her bed and her toys placed.
            After a number of years we moved back to Sydney and much to the disgust of my family I developed an allergy to cat fur. I could not even sit on a lounge or chair where Squeaky had been without developing very itch, watery eyes. The only relief was to wash my face thoroughly with cold water. It took a few weeks for me to work out that it was Squeaky’s fur that was causing the problem. The family, of course, had different ideas. My daughter thought that I was just tired and rubbing them too much, my wife that it was hay fever and my oldest son just told me, “To toughen up.” We went away down the coast for a week’s holiday, children stayed at home to house and cat sit, and the problem with my eyes immediately went away. I had proved my point.
            There was no way that Squeaky was leaving so we had to work out a compromise. She became an outside cat, banished from the house. This still did not stop her from occasionally trying to sneak inside. She came to know that I could not be won over and all I had to do was confront her and point out the door and she would turn tail and run outside.
            A few more years went by under this new arrangement. Our family grew up and my two sons now lived with us with their partners. Squeaky was visibly getting older and slowing down. My wife and I went overseas for a few months leaving our extended family to house sit, mow the lawns (yeah right!), Look after the swimming pool, (new pump required on our return), water the plants (not the inside ones every day; flooded soggy carpet), mind Squeaky. This last simple task turned ugly. You might well ask how? We certainly did on our return. Squeaky had got very sick and the vet offered only two alternatives; expensive cure or euthanasia. The house sitters were divided evenly with one son and partner opting for cure and the other two for euthanasia. A rather acrimonious discussion continued for days. Neither of the parties thought to call us for a decision. Eventually the cure camp won out with the other side washing their hands of the whole thing. So! Result. We arrived home to an elderly still quite sick cat and a horrendous vet bill. Apparently Squeaky had spent a week in cat hospital on a trip. I must admit it brought a smile to my face imagining her lying back on a hospital bed with a number of nurses to order about.
            Squeaky never fully recovered and eighteen months later my wife had to make the sad journey to the vet to have her put to sleep. She could not eat properly and was becoming weaker by the day. By then it was only my wife and I in the house so we decided to not tell the children until it was over.
            Over the years I had grown so accustomed to having her around that I found myself missing her presence rather badly. Sometimes working out in the back yard I was sure that I had seen her out of the corner of my eye walking purposely towards the back door as if to challenge my authority one last time.
            Rest in peace Squeaky you were an integral much loved part of our family.

                                                            THE END



Monday, 26 August 2013


I am pleased to announce that my story The Travel Bug has been published in the Narrator Magazine.
You can look it up at

Sunday, 25 August 2013



                I was fairly sure that I was not followed. Just as a precaution I had gone around the block twice keeping a close eye on the rear vision mirror. Now as I approached the front door of the house I took a last look around before ringing the door bell.
            Normally I would not go to a contacts house but the situation was desperate. Control needed the document urgently and the contact was beginning to lose his nerve and had refused to meet in a public area.
            The door opened against a chain and a rather croaky, shaky voice said, “I did not send out for anything.” To which I replied, “I’m not delivering anything.” With the coded greeting out of the way the chain was taken off and the door opened. I had never met the contact before but was surprised that he looked so much older than his photo on our files.
            He turned to go back inside as I asked him if the document was in a safe place. He nodded and started to turn back towards me. Suddenly there was the screech of tyres as a car came to a shuddering halt on the road. Instinctively I threw myself to the ground.
            I had already drawn my pistol when there was the chattering scream of a machine gun. Bullets smashed into the door frame and the path sending chips of concrete and wood flying. The shooter must have been using a high speed model as the stream of bullets only lasted a second or two and he stopped to reload. That is what I hoped for anyway as I got to my knees and emptied my pistol into the front of the car at the curb. There was no return fire.
            The front seat passenger was hanging half out of the side window. The gun had dropped from his hands onto the footpath. I could not see the driver. Suddenly the car took off in reverse with tyres smoking and disappeared up the road. Lights were coming on in the houses across the road. I went inside and closed the door.
            The contact was lying just inside. His shirt was covered in blood. I knelt beside him. It was obvious that he had been hit hard and was not going to last for long. All I was interested in now was the document. I lifted his head and asked him where it as. He tried to point but his arm fell back by his side. I leaned close and he whispered, “Behind the picture. “ Then he gave a long sigh and was gone.
            I would have to hurry. By now one of the neighbours had probably rung the police. I possibly only had minutes to find the document and get the hell out of here. Behind the picture he had said. There were dozens of them. They lined the hallway and there were more I could see in the lounge room. No time to waste. Rip them down and tear off the backing. There were shots of sporting greats at their moments of triumph, racing cars, horses winning races. Why did he have to be a sporting nut?
            The minutes ticked by. At least fifty pictures in ruin on the floor. No document. Last picture. No document. What now? A deep voice says, “Police. Move and I will shoot you”. No siren. No time to escape.
            In handcuffs near the door when I see it; on the mantelpiece a large trophy of a baseball pitcher throwing. Pitcher. Pitcher. Not picture you idiot.




Saturday, 24 August 2013


                                                                                                                                JOHN ROSS


                It was the spring of 2085 and it was Soo Yun Kim’s birthday. She was ninety years old, but to a stranger she would have appeared to be not a day over sixty. She still lived alone in her spacious top floor unit, did all her own cooking and went for a three kilometre walk each and every day. However, today on her birthday, her unit was full of her children, grandchildren and an astonishing number of great-grandchildren.
                The festivities were over and Soo Yun was reclining in her favourite chair near the window where she could look out over the city of Pyongyang. It was a prosperous city now with many fine buildings and the centre of government of the northern most province of the Republic of United Korea. She was surrounded by a group of her grandchildren and some of the older great-grandchildren who were pressing her to tell them the story of the Great Spectacle and her part in it. She had told this story many times before but her family never seemed to tire of it. After her usual reluctance she allowed herself to be persuaded and began.
                “It was many years ago when I was just a young girl at school. As you know, our country then was divided into two and Pyongyang was the capital of North Korea which was ruled by a family of dictators who were always called, “The Dear Leader.” Well it was going to be the dear Leader’s sixtieth birthday and the government had decreed that a magnificent spectacle would be put on to celebrate. As I was a member of the National Gymnastics team I was chosen to lead our school in its involvement. There were to be nearly one hundred thousand school children involved just from Pyongyang and many others bussed in from other centres.”
                “We had to practise every day for two hours as well as attend school as normal. Then on every Saturday we all had to go to the National Stadium for a joint practise. Our school was given large red flags that we had to wave as we danced back and forth. After each practise our political teacher would remind us what a privilege it was to perform for The Dear Leader.”
                “I still had to keep up my practise for the gymnastics team as in the July of that year a group of foreign business people had been invited to our country and our team had to perform for them. When they left one of the women left her jacket behind on her seat. I knew it was wrong but I had never seen such a nice colourful coat before, so on the way out I put it in my gym bag and took it home. I was so scared that I would be arrested that I hid it for many weeks before I was game enough to look at it properly. Inside one of the pockets was a magazine. It was in Korean and was a weekly news magazine from the South. It was full of wonderful things that I had never even imagined or dreamt about. I read it over and over and then passed it to my best friend at school. It was eventually passed around to most of our school and then given to another school at our weekly rehearsal. Later I learnt that it had been copied and read by nearly every school child in the country.”             “Eventually the great day arrived and we were all assembled in the Stadium. Row upon row of us with red and white flags. The stands were packed with workers who had been brought from their workplaces by bus. The Great Spectacle was ready to begin. I felt so small, so insignificant, amongst such a vast crowd. It was December and bitterly cold but we were told that we could only wear our usual uniform. We waited and waited for The Dear Leader to appear. After about an hour an announcement was made that he was not coming as it was too cold, but that the performance was still to go ahead”.
                “As we waited in the cold I thought of the freedoms that were enjoyed in the South that I had read about in the magazine and how nice it would feel if I could put on that nice warm coat I had at home. Then I thought of the cold cramped one bedroom unit that I shared with my parents and three brothers. The two hours only of TV each night, the rationing of electricity to just eight hours a day and the frequent disruptions to the water supply. How anyone who complained vanished and was never heard of again. Then a picture of our political teacher came into my mind telling me how lucky I was.”
                “That was enough. This was not right. I laid my flag on the ground and walked off towards the exit. As I was leaving the Stadium I looked behind me to see many others doing the same. That was the start of the movement that saw the youth of our country join with the workers to create a new beginning.”

                The children were about to ask Soo Yun to continue when there was the sound of a band playing the national anthem and they all looked out the window to see a huge crowd gathering in the street below the building, many holding placards that read, “Happy birthday Soo Yun the first female president of a United Korea.”
                Soo Yun turned to her family and said, “Well, that was twenty years ago, but it is nice of the people to remember. To finish my story, if you know something is wrong then it is your responsibility to do something about it. My story also illustrates how powerful the written word is and that one person can make things change.”
“The laying down of our flags on that day was the true spectacle.”          

                                                                THE END




Sunday, 18 August 2013


THE  WIND                            ©JOHN ROSS

Darkness had long since settled over the city. The night was dark, humid and the sky was full of the threat of a summer storm. Now, however, the wind was so gentle that it made no noise as it ever so softly meandered through the back yard of the large house. The leaves on the tall gum tree near the back fence hardly moved, apart from those on the very tallest branches. Even here one would have had to watch very closely to detect any movement. Two large white towels on the clothesline hung perfectly still; in the darkness they appeared like two dim windows into another dimension. A large spider had strung its web between two pot plants on the back porch and now it carefully investigated a leaf that had fallen and become entangled in the web. The leaf was slowly swinging back and forth in the gentle breeze.  
Inside a man sat watching a football replay on the television, a half empty bottle of beer beside him. In the kitchen a women was washing dishes in the sink and listening to classical music on a radio. The man turned towards the kitchen and said, “You coming to watch the telly and don’t forget my coffee?” The women replied that she would be in as soon as she had finished.
Minutes passed and now the wind had become stronger. It made a rustling noise as it pushed its way through the yard. The leaves on the gum tree had started to dance to its tune and those at the very top were carried back and forth as the smaller branches moved under the influence of the breeze. The white towels on the line now swayed in unison like twins performing at some macabre ceremony. The spider had realised that the leaf was not its  hoped for evening meal but now crouched at the centre of its web believing that the breeze might bring it an unsuspecting insect. A small lady beetle flies dangerously close to his web.
The man, starting to get annoyed that the woman had not come out of the kitchen, yelled in her direction, “What on earth are you doing there woman and where is that bloody cup of coffee that you promised me ages ago.” He then settled back and opened another bottle of beer. The woman visibly jumped at the sound of his voice and in her haste dropped the bottle of coffee on the floor.
Even stronger now the wind made a loud whistling sound as it forced its way through and around the objects in the back yard. The gum tree had now become a living thing as its branches yielded to the force of the wind and the occasional leaf gave up its grip and swirled away into the darkness. The towels now gyrated wildly, giving up any semblance of unison as they strained against the pegs that held them attached to the line. The spider clung grimly to the centre of its web. He was now in danger of being blown away but still had the strength to try to move over to the lady beetle that had been blown into his web. He knew that this might be his only chance of a meal that night.
Finishing another bottle of beer the man was now constantly yelling at the woman to bring him his cup of coffee. When she did not reply he got up and went to the kitchen door and said, “I want my coffee now and if I have to ask again you will be bloody sorry.” Seeing the woman still trying to clean up the spilt coffee he kicked the dustpan out of her hands and when she cringed back dropped the empty beer bottle on the floor and said, “Clean that up. That’s all you ever do clean, bloody clean. Now get up and get me my coffee.”
Outside the wind was now a brutal force as it howled through the yard threatening to smash and dismantle anything in its path. The gum tree was now bent over by the winds power and its branches thrashed madly as leaves and even small branches were blasted away and sent crashing into the back fence. The towels unable to break free were being torn and shredded by the wind’s fury. The spider still concentrating on getting to the lady beetle in its web did not notice as the leaf in its web was torn away and sent spiralling into the darkness. It did not see the large piece of debris that smashed into its web and carried it away into oblivion.
The man, his anger now in full flow, was cursing at the woman and trying to drag her to her feet. When she resisted he slapped her hard across the face. At first she shrank back trying to protect herself but when he continued to hit her she picked up the empty beer bottle from the floor and hit him with it as hard as she could. The bottle smashed as it crashed into his skull.
Suddenly the wind died away to just a whisper. The gum tree quickly returned to normal; standing tall and majestic in the bright starlight that now washed over the yard. The two white towels, although tattered and torn, had survived all that the wind could throw at them and now shone like two welcoming beacons in the yard. The spider would never see the small lady beetle as it broke free of the last strands of the shattered web and flew away.


Friday, 16 August 2013



                Lady Sarah Compton-Smyth was burying her fourth husband within the last ten years. Poor old James Smyth had been a business partner in our firm of lawyers, so I felt it my duty to attend his funeral. I had only met Lady Sarah a few times but had heard plenty of gossip about her. Three of her husbands, including James, had died of heart attacks and one of a burst blood vessel in his brain. The police had recently investigated, but all deaths had been attributed to over exertion in the marital bedroom. It was said that she never spent much time in mourning her losses but was on the hunt for her next victim, err, husband, almost straight away.
                The funeral was being held early in the morning, on what was a dreary day, made even worse by drizzling rain. Lady Sarah had arrived in a limousine driven by a young chauffeur who now held a large umbrella over her. I noted that he was standing very close. Lady Sarah was dressed, well almost, in a very small clingy outfit that, let’s just say, was very revealing. Oh! It was black though! My morning had started out badly when I could not get my car started and so had to call a taxi. I had also forgotten my umbrella and was trying to shelter under a large gravestone that was leaning over at a dangerous angle. During the minister’s address Lady Sarah noticed me and gave a little wave and a smile.
 I could not help thinking about some of the jokes that had circulated in the office. My favourite was, “She meets em, marries em, then plants em.” Just then another member of our office came over and said, “Just as well she does not have them cremated as she would be running out of room on her mantelpiece with all those funeral urns.” I tried very hard not to laugh as it was not seemly. An elderly lady standing nearby must have thought that I was moaning in grief as my attempts at covering my laugh had come out as a sort of splutter that had brought tears to my eyes. She smiled sadly and said, “He was a very nice man taken before his time.” She must have been joking. Old James at seventy six was still chasing anything in a skirt till Lady Sarah had come along.
The service came to an end and we were all to file past the grave and throw in the usual handful of soil. Lady Sarah went first and the chauffeur handed her a little silver garden spade, she was obviously worried about getting her black kid leather gloves dirty. When she bent over to throw the soil in the grave every male eye was on her, well a certain part of her anyway. The poor old guy in front of me was so entranced that he missed his step and fell in to join poor old James. The minister got his nice white cassock all dirty trying to pull him out.
Finally, to most peoples’ relief it was all over. Poor old James was at last to be left in peace.
I was walking back to the main road to hail a taxi when the limousine pulled up next to me and Lady Sarah opened the door, revealing way too much of those long, shapely legs, leaned over and said, “Would you like to ride with me?”                



Monday, 12 August 2013



                ‘Good morning listeners. This is radio station KLX24. Thank you for tuning in to our breakfast show. As you just heard on the weather report it is a beautiful clear morning right across our city so it is time to get up and face another day. Don’t go away as straight after these important messages we have a surprise for you.’
                ‘If you need more zip in your day try the revolutionary health tablets that are making a great comeback after some, now discredited, assessments. Yes Mr Rudd’s small, one a day, white tablets will get you zipping about in no time at all.’
                ‘For relief from constant constipation we recommend Big Brother tablets. Just one tablet a week will give you the desired results.’
                ‘Some good advice there.’
                 ‘My surprise. Well this morning we have our much respected travel expert here in the studio with me. He is affectionately known as the Travel Bug. Welcome home Jorn.’
                ‘Thank you. It is very nice to be back again in familiar surroundings.’
                ‘Well it is nice to have you back in our studio. We have all been following your very informative weekly reports with great interest. Last week you had just left the city of Madrid and were headed for London. You told us that you were expecting some quite cold weather there, even the possibility of snow. So how did it turn out?’
                ‘It did not snow but I found the city rather depressing weather wise. For my first three days there it rained constantly; not heavy, just a fine misty rain that was most annoying. If anyone intends travelling there make sure you take a rain coat and umbrella.’
                ‘What were some of the things you experienced there, apart from the rain?’
                ‘There are too many so I will just list a few. Their national dish of soggy potato chips with vile tasting vinegar is memorable. If you enjoy pomp and ceremony mixed with spine tingling excitement a high tea is not to be missed. A ride on the overcrowded, non air-conditioned, underground train system on a hot steamy afternoon is a sensory delight. There are many museums and historical sites such as the Tower, where you can view endless corridors of shiny body armour, tens of square miles of tapestries and learn a lot about the fact that in the past it was very dangerous to be married to a king. For a more detailed description of what to see and do your listeners will just have to buy my book, which will be available on-line in a few days.’
                ‘You have been away travelling now for over a year so you must have had some interesting experiences and seen some wonderful things. Can you give the listeners just a glimpse of what to expect in your book?’
                ‘Yes it has been a fabulous time and you are right I have seen some amazing things. Most of these I have spoken about in the book. I don’t want to give too much away but...’
                ‘I am sure that our listeners would like to hear just a few of the highlights’
                ‘Ok. Just a few teasers.’
                ‘The pyramids in Egypt; all that beautiful stone available to be recycled yet they build their houses out of mud bricks. Walking along the ancient Roman Forum where in the past they had a strange habit of loaning each other their ears. The massive water fall at Niagara; why they didn’t harness it for hydro electricity is a mystery. The new parliament house in Canberra; they buried most of it under dirt to keep all the hot air inside. A Grand Prix car race in Monaco; I must admit a bit of a disappointment after witnessing the traffic in both Rome and Paris.
                ‘So what is the next destination in your continuing travels?’
                ‘I am booked to travel to the planet designated Epsilon 36 in the Sigma quadrant next week. Unlike our planet, and the planet Earth where I have just been, it is uninhabited by intelligent life, so it will be a very different experience.’
                ‘Well a safe journey ‘Travel Bug’. Wow fifteen planets visited over the past 10 years. What a lucky man.’