On fire

Electric light is a hopeful thing. A blaze of hope. It strings us together and tells us we belong. With electric light, you are connected to something larger, that stretches between you and your neighbour. It is communal and inclusive, binding us together. It speaks to us of civilisation and order and at its base safety.

Fire light is a more elemental thing. We command it and have tamed it, but it is inconsistent and fickle. It needs to be cared for. It is a more lonely light, as it is individual. It casts its light on you alone. It keeps the dark at bay and the safety it affords is fragile, an atavistic protection that can withdraw at any moment.

While the lost traveller will feel relieved to see a flicker of light ahead, as they stumble in the dark. After all to see lights in the dark is to see humanity. But how would the type of light create a different timbre of relief to flutter through them? Seeing electric lights means the edge of the civilised world. Their illumination needs planning, technology and organisation to create. It’s sparkle says here we have infrastructure that has followed at path, which you can follow home.

Fire light on the other hand says here is the edge of the wilderness: the point of the edge of a pin we have pushed into the dark fabric of the wilderness. There is a way home still, but it is still through the terrible night.

But does that make fire light more hopeful?

If we are looking at a glimmer of hope, it is frail and unsteady. It has no permanence, flickering, fickle and still mounted by danger.

When you see a glimmer of hope, it means not safe yet, but soon.

This cod profundity was written in response to the prompt glimmer.

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The strange gunpowder smell thinking causes

Who is the guy in Kung fu movies who always appears halfway through a fight going totally berserk swinging huge knives around?

It’s probably that it’s not really his fight. He’s got a lot on already. He’s got a punch up due and he’s already behind on it.

But suddenly his boss is at his desk, saying “sorry Craig we’re having a bit of trouble with a fist battle down by the docks. Could you just step in and see if you could project manage it a bit? You know, [clicks tongue does hand chops] work your magic?”

And he’s reluctant to do it. “Isn’t there any one else who can handle it? I mean literally anyone else? I’m chocka today.”

“Well you see Craig, this guy’s good. He’s already thrown several men into several packing crates full of cabbages that we’d ordered for an epic car chase.”

“I don’t know guys, I’ve already got a scuffle booked in for after lunch and I’m meant to be chairing a fracas tonight.

What about the crazy shrieking guy who leaps up and tries to double foot kick the guy in the chest?”

“Yeah, he was thrown into some cabbage crates.”

“What about that fellow who is always swing nun chucks around? Can’t he handle it? He’s always in the break room talking about how good he is at nun chucks.”

“Ah, see well the guy we’re fighting took the nun chucks off our man and used them against him. He smashed our man straight into a big stack of crates.”

“Full of cabbages?”

“Yes, a huge pile. Maybe 6 feet tall. Come on Craig, it’s quite a lot of cabbage crates. If you take the massive knives you can do it super quick.”

So he really doesn’t want to go, but says

“oh okay as long as it’s quick.”

But secretly he’s thinking I do not have time for this. And he’s angry at his boss, because he’ll be the first one complaint that his own fights are late.

Which is why he’s always turning up late for the fight and is super pissed off.

The easiest things to steal

Before email existed, some authors would mail out their manuscripts to publishers and another copy to themselves.

They did this to make sure that no one pulled their work out of the postbox, ripped off the front cover and sent the newly altered manuscript to a publisher as their own work.

Whether this strategy was a successful way to prevent stealing can be measured by the fact that the number of postmen turned novelists fell to zero after the advent ‘send with attachment.

While pilfering whole books has become much harder, thieving sections has become much easier.

As soon as CTRL C/CTRL V popped into existence, reading went the way of travelling by horse. While some people did it, it was an anachronism reserved for only a few people who had nothing better to do with their time.

University students could now construct an essay in a matter of minutes, before returning to watching gameshows and making cups of tea. In fact, it got to the point where the only two people who had read one well-used text book were the author and his wife.

But where technology can facilitate criminal behaviour, it can regulate, too. Student essays are now regulalry cranked through plagiarism software.

With access to databases of thousands of academic essays, this software runs its own version of compare and contrast on the each essay.

The only way to beat it is by producing original work, leaning heavily on significant quotations from published work.

This way, everybody wins. Academics know that carte blanche copying is kept to a minimum. Meanwhile, students can still rely on copy/paste for their erudition, with the liberal addition of inverted commas.

Ok, the above suggests that theft is rampant and young people’s deal thirst for knowledge has been quenched by technology’s lure of laziness.

Not so, even before digital technology, people were lazy and taking huge reams from other people’s work was a feasible shortcut. It’s just previously you’d have to copy it all out by hand.

Hand copying meant that nothing was identical. Each copiest adding their own errors, like the world’s longest game of Chinese Whispers. These copy errors piled one on top of the other until what had started off as The Iliad by Homer became, thousands of copies later, Jilly Cooper’s Riders, which in turn morphed into Chicken Soup For The Soul and the first four pages of The Little Book of Calm.

This abject nonsense was written in response to the daily prompt identical.

It sounds stupid but

Is it possible for your face and brain to have different reactions?

People often say about me

“Aw, look at him. He’s blushing.”

Which is pretty rude because I’m right there in the room, chap. But is also true.

My face is a prude of the worst order. Even the most innocuous remark will cause the blood to rush to my cheeks and my face light up like an emergency lamp.

Pretty much anything embarrasses my face and instantly it flares hot and red like a match being struck.

I was once trapped in a lift with some very drunk women who were on a hen do. It was a Moulin Rouge theme, so lots of bossom was being offered for view.

That wasn’t what embarrassed me though. I am old enough and gentlemanly enough to survive close proximity to breasts without gawping at them. (Well…within reason. It’s impossible not to skim read the main facts of a situation. But too much scholarly interest is crude to the point of rudeness.)

What embarrassed me was the fact that these girls had thick Northern Irish accents, which I was learning that I found utterly incomprehensible.

What is the most important thing to do when in sudden, involuntary close quarters with a group of women dressed mainly in complicated underwear? Why, be as charming as possible, of course.

Instead, I felt my face getting redder and hotter, like a brick in an oven. My embarrassment. Not the flesh, but the increasing number of times I’d had to say

“I’m terribly sorry, please could you repeat that?”

And the decreasing number of repetitions before it came across as terribly rude. And that’s the last thing you want to be in front of half-dressed members of the opposite sex.

They, of course, assumed my discomfort was boob-related. But no, my face was a flame with shame because I was worrying about offending people because I couldn’t understand their regional accent. I hadn’t been quick enough to feign deafness, either.

Meanwhile, my brain was squatting down, as close to my ears as it could and muttering

“As soon as I can make out even one damn word, these ladies will be charmed to the point of marriage.”

Then the lift door opened and they were gone. I wiped the steam off my glasses and made a mental note never to visit Belfast.

Anyway, that’s one working example of my face’s terrible social awkwardness.

My brain however knows no shame. If I was an Ealing comedy, my face would be Ian Carmichael. And my brain would be Terry Thomas, because it’s a rotter; an utter scoundrel.

Brain won’t spare anyone’s blushes. His conversation verges on the lascivious. What he won’t tell you would kill a whole convent of nuns.

Perhaps that’s the right way round though?

Better by half to hamper the beastly brain’s connivance with a flustered face than have a saintly brain trapped behind the leer of a demented pervert?

Written in response to the prompt Blush. (Also, written on the train as a first draft so lacking the usual second-draft-before-I-gave-up polish.)