There's a fun writing game going on this week over at Write Anything, so for ever in favour of killing two birds with one stone, my 3WW piece today is about those resolutions I refuse to take.

  • I will refuse to tow the party line by being ambushed into staying up until midnight on 31 December, just because everyone else is doing it. If I'm having a good time and want to prolong that, so be it. If not, off to bed and up early in the morning.
  • I will stop arguing with my friends who insists on buying me a drink when we go out. Indeed, I will refuse to differ with anyone who offers to buy me a drink.
  • I will refuse to answer anyone who asks me, "Where do you find time to read all those books?" when they see me returning from the library. They have no business meddling in my affairs. A sweet smile will have to suffice.
  • I will most definitely not refuse the car keys to my children once they pass their driving test. I shall be far too happy to have someone to drive me around whenever I need to go somewhere.
  • I will not stand in front of a car which tries to park on the pavement. Principles are fine but cars are bigger.
  • I will not succumb to the pressure to buy one of those hideous, sixty seconds a minute, sixty minutes an hour, 24 hours a day (ad infinitum) "just wanted to check up on how you're doing" control machines - otherwise known as cell phones, or portable telephones, depending on which part of the English speaking world you're in.
  • I will not score the winning try for Wales in the 6 nations decider this year. At my age, the time has come to bow out gracefully. However, I cannot account for whatever may or may not happen in my dreams.
  • I shall not succumb to my neighbour's pressure to not sing quite so loudly whenever I pass by his house. Indeed, if he mentions this again, I might raise the decibels ever so slightly.
  • I shall not get vaccinated against a certain brand of animal flue doing the rounds at the moment, just because the French president is too mean to grant me a few days off to recover should I fall ill.
  • I shall not resist peer pressure to publish the links to this piece on the 3WW and Write Anything sites.

Sunday Scribblings this weeks wants me to have a dare. And since I've been thinking a little about so-called good grammar rules, then I'm daring to slaughter a few holy cows.

It took some five minutes before the obvious dawned on her. She had all he needed in the words of his title. Until taking this class Penny had loved writing. That's why she had been one of the first, to register when the college syllabus appeared. Now some three weeks and several humiliations later her motivation was rapidly ebbing. Something had to be done, and now was the time to do it. "Grammar rules are made to be broken." It took her almost five minutes to write this as she glanced up after each letter to make sure, Mr. Goodwrite was not watching her. Mr. Goodwrite represented the old school; the school that knew beforehand how everything had to be done and never flinched from doing it. Looking at that opening sentence staring at her from the page gave her courage to continue...

"Grammar rules are made to be broken. Thus the question every self-respecting writer should be required to ask himself is whether to courageously dare or to cowardly not dare. Indeed, there are a number of examples of shoddy usage away from which every self-respecting writer has to keep. Should and she fail to do so, the wrath of her teacher down upon her will come. Were she to but realise the ridiculous nature of such rules, there might be hope for her yet."

She looked up. Mr. Goodwrite had started to move towards her. She trembled as she saw the lightening flash from his eyes and the words thundered out from his mouth:

Miss Penny, never forget...

  1. Thou shallt not begin a sentence with a conjunction;
  2. Thou shallt not end a sentence with a preposition;
  3. Thou shallt not split thine infinitives.


This week's challenge is to include the phrase "the nervous grave digger smiled at the guard" somewhere in your story.

They had thought the governor's death would provide them with a welcome diversion. In the end it turned out to be almost the unravelling of everything. Word had reached them well over a week ago that everything was in place. The next burial to take place in the graveyard and they would be out of there. Of course, no one ever expected that burial to be the governor himself.

"What the bloody hell does he want to go and get himself buried within a stone's throw of his office? If ever you catch me out passing away like that, then you make sure they bury me far away from anywhere, I might know." Rocks had been the brawn behind the plan. Three weeks it had taken him and every spare moment, but he'd done it all single-handedly. And he wasn't going to let anything get in his way now. "We change nothing, we can't. That tunnel can't stay undiscovered much longer."

Grayter was more circumspect. He'd only been inside just undert two years, so could afford to be patient. Besides, life on the outside would be just as restrictive as in prison. He'd never be able to leave the island. Still, life on the Bahamas would be a damn side more agreeable than it was in this place. "I say, we stay put. It would be madness to try now. The place will be riddled with police."

"That's why I say we get out today, b e f o r e the police start poking their noses round. Kid's already had orders to dig the grave. He can be finished by five. We get out tonight."

"Are you ready?"

"What a bloody silly question. Ready, I been ready for five fucking years haven't I? And now I ain't waiting a day longer."

"Okay, we'll go." Grayter's voice still sounded nervous. There were still too many things that could go wrong, but he could tell that Rocks would spill if he didn't get out soon. Besides, the last thing he wanted was a showdown with Rocks. "Okay, we go out at eight this evening. Tell the others the coast will be clear from ten. Then get back here and keep and keep an eye out for your waving his jacket; that means everything's ready.

Meanwhile, in the cemetery the solitary grave digger was, for once, glad to be alone. Just a couple more minutes and I'll be through, he thought to himself. Then, give the signal, enjoy a nice beer and off home. The voice from above startled him. But not as much as the fact that the guy looking down was in a prison guard's uniform. Nervous as he was, he looked up and smiled at the guard.

"Not a pleasant business you've got there."

"Ah, I can think of worse. Be the ruin of my back of course, but it keeps me in fags and beer well enough. The digger climbed up and offered his hand to the guard. "Andy Dee. Pleased to meet you."

"Oh, hum Rick Winters, I aah, I work over in the prison."

"Can tell that by your uniform."

"I aah, I just came over because I'm off on holidays this evening. Going to the West Indies with my daughter. But I... I did want to see the old boy one more time before I go, see what I mean. Even if he isn't actually, umm here right now, you know."

"What was he like to work with? Oh, he was a very good boss. Always a kind word for us guards. And he wasn't beyond coming round with us to The Old Bull for a glass when the shift changed like. Yeh, he was a pretty good gaffer."

Andy saw a ray of hope. Well, I tell you what Rick. Why don't you just sit down here and take one of them bottles and drink it to the memory of your boss. I'm sure he'd love you to do that for him. And when I finish down there, I'll come up and join you and we can have one together."

In a flash Andy was back down the hole. He knew he'd have to work quickly now. The last thing he wanted was for this guard to start looking down into the grave before he'd finished. In five minutes, he had the staves and tarpaulin in place, covered them with just enough dirt so nobody would notice and was scrambling back up to join Rick, who in the meantime had taken Andy advice to heart and was already on his third bottle. Andy opened one himself and over the next thirty minutes became unusually generous as he allowed Rick to finish off the remainder of the six pack. As the two of them struggled to their feet Andy called out: "Look over there Rick, that's coming from your workplace, them people waving. That must be your colleagues waving to you, wishing you a pleasant holiday." And taking off his jacked Andy waved back and had the gratification to see Rick follow suit. They'd only known each other for thirty minutes but were already getting on like a house on fire. But somehow Andy doubted this new friendship would stand the test of time. He could already see the headline in the local ragmag the next day:

Mass breakout through governor's grave.
Prison guard's unwitting involvement.

Tables Turned

Geoffrey tore his tie off the moment he came in; the usual sign that he was stressed. Sally poured him his glass of sherry, anyway. Maybe...

"Sorry love, but no time for that now." He gave her a peck on the forehead. "You know we got placed in the top three in this year's league table. Well, the boss is laying on a big do to celebrate. Several people from the town hall will be there, and we're hoping even the inspector will turn up. Big publicity stunt for the whole school."

"Does that mean..." Sally didn't finish her sentence. Prospects had been always been bleak, and now this. She swallowed his sherry in one gulp and let out a hiccup. Geoffrey turned and began to scrutinise her. His piercing eyes went from the glass in her hand up to her face. She averted his gaze. Why should he see her disappointment? But the tell-tale tear made its way slowly down his cheek.

He moved towards her and watch it snake its way down past the metal frames of her glasses. His finger caressed her cheek. "I know I'm missing your club do, dear. But you can still go. I've asked George to drop by and pick me up. So you'll have the car. You know how sorry I am not to accompany you, but you know I don't get on well with that sort of company. I can never think of anything to say to them."

"You find enough to say to the people you'll be seeing this evening." There was an edge to her voice which warned Geoffrey to be on his guard.

"Come on, dear. We've been through this a hundred times already. I can't help being what I am, and I can't help needing some stimulating conversation when I go out. And your friends are just not up to scratch. Anyway, I have to run. Don't want to keep George waiting.

* * * * *

"Did you have a good evening, dear?"

Instead of a reply he gave her a vague, incomprehensible stare.

"Dear? Geoffrey!"

"What? Oh... You know, the most queer thing imaginable happened to me this evening. Have you heard anything about this crazy ministerial initiative to... 'improve our awareness of third world poverty'. At least, that's how the boss put it. Nothing but bureaucracy gone mad, if you ask me. There we were milling around the tables with all these wonderful things to eat, when the inspector came in and announced no one was allowed to eat using fingers. Then, she produced these bloody metre long forks which were attached to each of our wrists, and said could only eat using these."


"What do you mean, so? How the hell do you expect us to feed ourselves with only metre long forks to put the food in our mouths."

"I'd have thought, it wouldn't have been the slightest problem for such an august gathering of intellectuals. I hope, it at least gave you something to talk about all evening."

"Now, there's no need to take that tone with me. Just be glad that at your party you didn't have metre long forks to eat with, or you wouldn't feel quite so cocky."

"Who said, we didn't have them. Ministerial initiatives concern us just as much as they do you and your merry band of geniuses."

"You mean you found a way to solve the problem."

"I'm not sure I'd put it like that. But we did find a way to eat using our metre long forks. We just did what came natural to us."

Geoffrey looked at her dumbfounded. His silence was an invitation for her to elucidate.

"Well, if you must know, all we did was to feed each other."

This week's Sunday Scribblings topic is Brave. I set out to have a little linguistic fun with this topic but then got carried away by my fantasy. Hope you enjoy it, anyway.

Brave decided it was about time to do a little shopping. It had been some time since Brave had been seen in public and a little company would be welcome right now. After all, what was the point of being brave, if there was no one there to appreciate you. Of course, the first thing that was needed was to find someone Brave could personify. Watching the passers-by Brave soon decided to chose to become a man. This would be a much greater challenge as the proportion of female braves was evidently far larger. Having made this decision he walked up to a shop he'd never seen before. It was an intriguing place which sold specialist menswear for different activities. The first floors were filled with items required for various breathtaking and dangerous activities such as scuba diving, bungee-jumping, and even mediaeval jousting. But Brave quickly realised none of these would do, they were all far too adventuresome and so obviously brave. If he was to be a true light in the darkness, he would have to pick something far less obvious. The fourth flour, reserved for professional clothing, provided him with what he wanted. As he stopped in front of the white baker's coat, images of flying rolling pins, all heading for different parts of his anatomy flashed through his mind. His decision was taken. If ever there was an activity designed to show one's bravery, then here it was.

Next he went down to the store's basement which contained an assortment of verbs designed to accompany any activity. He soon found the more obvious ones: kneading, mixing, beating; hesitated over praying before deciding it might come in handy in case of emergencies, before also picking up a few less obvious ones like crying (in case he had to peal any onions), tippling (well-known for its courage boosting properties) and consorting (a cure-all for many a scrape). On his way to the cash desk he even found a packet off 'unusual and assorted adverbs' designed to spice up any regular activity.

Exiting the shop Brave made his way across the road and down the narrow alley leading to the estate agent's. After all, if he was to take to baking, then he was going to have to find a place to do this. He want to look over what was available. The most obvious was simply to pick a kitchen. But Brave was never one for the obvious. As he made his way from agent to agent, each one lauding very volubily (had Brave actually realised that this word was actually his very first creation he would have been very excited, but alas...) the particular object they had on offer, he soon came across a summer camp-site. Surely, this would be an excellent place both to practise his newly-acquired talents, as well as to let his bravery brighten the lives of so many people without his having to boast. In minutes, he had acquired the site and set off for the art gallery where he hoped to pick up several identities for his endeavour. On his way, however, his eyes fell on a small, copper plate advertising the services of the local psychologist. Maybe, he thought to himself, I could pick up a few personal identities here, and then go on to the art gallery for the others.

A quick glance at his watch and Brave slipped quickly through the door. Yes, he was in luck. The psychologist was with a patient and the secretary was still on her lunch break. It didn't take him long to find the patient records on the computer and he left with three identities safely tucked inside his briefcase. The first, was that of one Walter Mitty, whose dreams and fantasies suited brave to down to his toenails. From now on, he would become Walter. The second was that of a young lady who vacillated at the drop of a hat from fervent admirer, to ardent hater. This was Walter's philanthropist streak coming out. If she could only see him at work, then all her pent up hatred would melt away like butter. And he already knew which picture he would buy to incarnate her. He had often walked past this picture of a dark, beautiful lady and it seemed as if her eyes would follow him every time he did so. Nothing more reassuring than that, when you're up to your neck in dough and trying to find the cake tin at the same time. The third identity was that of a little boy who refused to eat whatever was given him. If his parents offered him spaghetti one day, he would insist on carrots and cabbage. Were they to offer him carrots and cabbage, then he would want spaghetti. The ultimate challenge for Walter's culinary skills.

And so we see Walter, striding expectantly (don't forget that packet of assorted adverbs he picked up) towards the railway station, in his briefcase the picture of his beloved Mona and another of a man feeding five thousand people all at once. He was so taken up with dreams of bravery, that he never noticed the screaming sirens, nor the shout of the security guard pointing out to the police that the thief was over there about to escape into the railway station. But he certainly needed all the bravery he could muster as a few weeks later, the judge sentenced him to five years of prison food.

Jud stood up with the others as a wave of singing swept over him. Even as a kid he'd been impressed by the quality of church choirs. His favourite had always been the black tabernacle choir that used to parade through the streets every year at 'mardi gras'. He'd even been to see them in concert once or twice. But today he had not come for the music; that was just an added extra. Added extra: the phrase stuck in his mind. He was almost ashamed to admit it. It was certainly the last thing he'd expected.

"Whose Brave New World?" the invitation read. It was Julia who'd invited him. For a churchgoer she was quite enlightened. The two had had some very interesting discussions on the origins of the universe.

"I think you'll find this guy worth listening to."

Nonetheless, Jud was prepared for a good fight. Never yet, had he met a pastor willing to concede an inch to what they called, the encroaching atheistic scientists. And usually, their arguments were spurious and as false as the hypocrisy they were claiming to fight against. But tonight had been different. Here was a man who knew what he was talking about. Quiet, soft-spoken, yet with an authority which inspired confidence he put forward his arguments one by one . His approach had been a philosophical one. He had steered clear from the usual scientific arguments, making it clear that he was far from qualified to speak on scientific matters. In that, he was no different from a lot of his forebears, thought Jud, except he had the courage to admit it. What he did do, was to set forth a comparison between an evolutionary and christian world view, finishing with that tantalising question: "Which would you prefer?" Jud felt his muscles tense at the sound of these words, but he was pleasantly surprised when the man stepped down from the podium, with an invitation to all present to share their own views with those around them over coffee and cake.

And for once, Jud found himself beginning to question his own position. How true it was that the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest, if left unchecked, could lead to a heartless, uncaring world, a world of every man to himself; not the kind of world he wanted to be part of.

Jud felt a pressing need to talk some more with this man. He had a number of questions he wanted to put to him; things he wanted them to mull over together. But before he could get up, three of the congregation had him cornered and he was led to a table on the other side of the room.

"Can we get you a coffee, Mr..."

"Davids, Jud Davids. And no thanks, I'd prefer a cup of tea if you don't mind."

"I believe we've seen you here before, brother, is that not so?"

"Well, actually, I took part in one of your debates on evolution. But that was quite some time ago. And I'd rather not talk about that right now. I'd really like to ask your..."

"A reeeeeevolutionary. I might have guessed it. We've got just the thing you need to see the light, Mr. Davids. Hey Mitch, fetch over the student guy from the seminary; got someone here who wants to argue the toss over evolution."

"Well actually, all I want is to..."

"Now, you just stay put. Our student pastor will be over right away, and he'll give you all the answers, you'll ever need. And if you still have any questions after that, maybe he"'ll let you say something too. If you ain't seen the light by then that is."

The muscles in Jud's chest began to tighten again. It had after all been just too good to be true.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to this week's 3WW writers podcast. Our guest this evening is Clint Knowall, who has just published to great critical acclaim the first of what we hope will be many academic tomes from his illustrious pen. Clint will be talking to us about his life as a writer and also about this week's key words: grave, lithe and offend.

Q. Clint, what made you decide to become a writer?

A. To show my kid brother, there was at least one thing in life I could do better than him. All my life I've suffered from being compared unfavourably to him. It all began with his having been born some three years after me. Because of that he became known as the patient one, the one who would take his time and see things through to a good end. I was the impetuous one in the family. You know the kind; lots of ideas and no results. And ever since my parents were always telling me to try and become a little more like my brother.

Q. So, your brother is also a writer?

A. Of sorts. It all started one day I visited him at our lakeside retreat only to disover he was writing a novel. He'd actually been at it for some three months and all he had was a pretty sketchy plot plan, a character who vaguely resembled our dad (not an original in any sense of the word) and a few odd paragraphs which would fit somewhere into his work. I didn't day much as I didn't want to offend him but there and then, I decided I would show him how it is done.

Q. And you succeeded?

A. Of course, I succeeded. You almost sound like my parents. I'll have you know that success is the one word they'll write on my grave.

Q. So, how many works have you actually published?

A. Publishing is for authors like my brother. Me, I'm a true artist, and like all true artists I'm not recognised by the public at large. That also includes publishers. Most publishers today, do not know what genius is. They turn down the work of a true genius like me, and put some rubbish inside a lithe paperback cover and there you are.

Q. So, is that why you turned to academic writing?

A. Yes well, we all have to pay the bills somehow, even a genius like me. Academic writing was the one way I found to be able to do this without selling my sould.

Q. And what is the title of your latest work?

A. A study in the semantics of rejection letters. Not exactly a fascinating topic. In fact, I only chose it because my tutor insisted I work from original sources. And like all geniuses, I had plenty of material with which to work from.

Q. And finally, what do you think about our this week's key words?

Well, usually I'm as lithe as a snake in getting out of questions like these, but as I don't want to offend you, I'll gave you a truly grave answer.

Mark has left his homeland to go and live with his parents in Africa. After a week of solitude he meets his neighbour's boy, Sony, and the two soon become friends. After a visit to Sony's house a few days previously, the two boys are now together in Mark's house.

"Is there something wrong? You don't seem very happy."

"I'm just trying to understand what you people eat. Dad says you're a lot richer than we are, and you're certainly a lot bigger. But with plates this size..."

"Well, what size are your plates then?"

"You remember the other day when you were at our house and Mam brought out those peanuts and dates..."

"Yes. Your mother served them on that big tray thing."

"I'm not sure what you mean by tray? Those are our plates. She always serves dinner on them."

"But those things are huge. How much do you eat every day?"

"Well, one of those trays is enough for our whole family. But these small plates, they're scarcely enough to feed one person."

"But they are just for one person."

"You mean, you don't eat together?"

"Well, sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. That depends on how busy Dad is. Usually, it just Mam and me."

"And no one else comes to eat with you?"

"No, why should they? Everyone eats in his own home."

"You white people certainly have some strange ways of doing things. In Africa, no one eats on his own. A meal is the one time of day when we can relax and be with other people. That's why it's so special."

"Well, if you want to see something special, then look at these. My dad made these himself. It was one of the first things he ever made. There's not many people around who use home-made knives and forks."

"I... What..."

"What are you staring at me like that for? You do know what knives and forks are don't you? Look, this is a fork. It's really simple to use. You stick it into a piece of meat and then cut it with your knife. Then you use the fork to put it into your mouth."

"You don't mean to say, you put that thing in your mouth. That's disgusting."

"What's so disgusting about it?"

"Well, you never know who else has already had it in his mouth. We use our fingers to do the same thing. And I know nobody has ever had my fingers in his mouth."

"Well, of course we wash before and after every meal."

"And we wash our hands, too. Every time. But I still wouldn't want to put one of these things into my mouth. It weird."

A question and answer for this week's 3ww challenge. And as usual they have to include this week's 3 words: fondle, kick, sumptuous.


Who do you think is currently sitting in front of his computer kicking himself for having been so stupid as to have refused his girlfriend's invitation to a sumptuous dinner and wondering when he was going to get another chance to fondle her silky hair?


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