Mar 17th – Douglas O’Malley

March 17th – Douglas O’Malley


Douglas O’Malley (1945-2011) was an exceptionally rare creature: a professional sportsman in three North American sports who failed spectacularly at the highest level. His death, at the age of 66, brings to an end the era of the elite level multi-sportsman. We will not see the likes of Douglas O’Malley again.

Born in Toronto to a fairly affluent middle-class parents (His father, Donal, was a civil servant who had been invalided out of the war after seeing action at Dunkirk, his mother Sheila was a schoolteacher), the O’Malleys moved to New York state when Douglas was four, after his father accepted a position with one of the newly-created State Department offices. This was unusual for a Canadian citizen, but it is believed that Donal pulled a few strings among the Irish-American community on the strength of his name alone, having no direct Irish lineage that anyone was aware of.

Douglas quickly became recognised for his sporting prowess. He held several All-State track records, and was the star receiver on his high school team. It was no surprise when he was awarded a scholarship to New York University, where he became the standout receiver for the Collegiate team. It was during this time that he was persuaded to try baseball for the first time, quickly becoming the leading hitter for the NYU team in what was recognised as a lean period for the Violets. His talent was such that he was selected for the draft in both sports, the first NYU athlete to claim this distinction.

Football was his first love, though, and Douglas was drafted in the 17th round of the 1972 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Injury delayed his start, and it wasn’t until the start of the 1973-4 season that Douglas O’Malley was to make his first start, coming on in the 2nd period to replace Mike Hoskins.

That game, against the Steelers, was to be Douglas O’Malley’s first and last experience of the NFL. On his first play he fumbled a looping throw from Chuck Woodrow, resulting in a touchdown from the turnover. He managed another four incomplete passes before being withdrawn from the game with a total of zero yards. He never played another game.

Released by the Bengals at the end of the season, Douglas O’Malley was picked up as a free agent by the Oakland A’s, who were having a poor hitting season. Unfortunately for O’Malley, however, his baseball debut was as inauspicious as his football one, and a consecutive streak of strikeouts, along with a change of ownership of the A’s at the end of the week of his debut meant that Douglas O’Malley’s contract was cancelled and he was obliged to seek alternative employment.

Disillusioned with his sporting career, Douglas O’Malley returned to Toronto, and found sporting enjoyment in amateur hockey, where his passion and drive for competitive sports was reignited. An injury crisis at the Toronto Maple Leafs, coupled with O’Malley’s blistering form in the amateur leagues led to him becoming the Leafs oldest debutant at the age of thirty-three.

Two goals in the second period of his debut, against the Edmonton Oilers, made it appear as if the Leafs had unearthed a diamond, but in the third period O’Malley deflected two Oilers’ shots into his own net before a collision with his own netminder resulted in a dislocated knee and the end of another career.

O’Malley was never to play professional sport again. He moved into advertising, and became successful, first as a with Schuster and Lorimer, and then in his own right, founding the O’Malley agency, who, ironically, were responsible for the highly successful Maple Leafs campaign of the late eighties that turned around falling ticket sales and built the platform for the modern success of the club.

Douglas O’Malley is survived by his wife and three children.


Inspired by a prompt from here

Mar 16th – Invincible endeavours

Not what I was going to write, but I’m giving a speech in Luxembourg today for a Brexit rally, and I wrote this in 10 minutes, and it kind of fits. So I’m cheating a bit. 


Brexit speech

Place de la Constitution, Luxembourg

24th March 2019

I shouldn’t be here.

Not because I should be directing some kids in a drama rehearsal right now, because I should, but because there shouldn’t be any need for me to stand here. There shouldn’t be any need for me to add my voice to the voices of the million that marched in London yesterday, or the 4 and a half million that have, in the last week, caused the UK government petitions website to crash under unprecedented demand. I shouldn’t be here because I should have no need to stand here to add my voice to the clamour of those calling on the UK government to sort itself out, and to listen to reason rather than bang spoons against the saucepan it has stuck on its head.

I am English. I am British. But I am also European.

I am proud to carry a passport with the words ‘European Union’ stamped on the cover. Because I believe in the power of a union, the strength of a union, and the strength that comes in standing together, and belonging together.

We don’t all have to agree. No-one wants us all to agree. Decisions borne out of compromise and negotiation are at the heart of the European idea, decisions taken that have ensured employment protection, clean drinking water, medical care and human rights across the European Union. And to see my country turn its back on this hurts. It hurts.

David Cameron lined up the dominoes in June 2016, then he pushed the first one, and walked away as they fell. And the dominoes fell. They cascaded with the weight of lies on the back of a bus behind them, with populism pushed to the front and right-wing bandwagon-jumpers pedalled unicycles made of clichés alongside them, whipping up a storm. And that hurts.

I am a teacher. I have been lucky enough to work in four European countries, taking advantage of the freedom of movement that European Union membership has given me. To see this right to move, to work, to live in any of the member states, to move between them freely and without restrictions, on the edge of being pushed off the ever-growing cliff that is Brexit is a massive hurt. I try to teach the students in my classes to be accepting, to be independent, to think for themselves and to question what they are being fed by the media, social and traditional, and to challenge injustice. Thousands of young people here in Luxembourg marched on the climate strike this month. All of these people, under 18 years of age, rose up and demanded change, demanded a say in determining the future of the planet. All of those under 18 had no say in the Brexit vote, yet these are the ones who have the most to lose.

I worry about my children. I worry about the country that I grew up in looking inwards instead of outwards. I worry about a vote that rejects inclusion and co-operation over ‘taking our country back’ and mushrooming ignorance.  There has to be a solution that avoids screwing up the future. There has to be another way. A million people on the streets of London seem to think so. We have to hope that the politicians take their heads out of the sand for long enough to listen.

Ech sinn Englesch. Ech sinn och Europaer.


Mar 15th – Springtime splendo(u)r

March 15th – Springtime splendour


Spring made Darryl angry. A lot of things made Darryl angry: he was, after all, what you would probably call an angry young man. But there was something about spring that tipped him over the edge.

Maybe it was the flowers, his therapist suggested, in one of the sessions he was forced to attend, and consequently another thing that made him angry. He was angry about being angry, and angry about the fact that he had to manage his anger. Maybe it’s the flowers, she had said, in that soft, soothing voice, that really got his back up. Maybe you respond to the flowers because they are a symbol of the renewal that you are searching for yourself, and their bright reappearance is a reminder that the world is moving on, and you haven’t. What do you think about that?

Darryl didn’t think much about that.

He didn’t think much about being here, on a sunny March morning, with the light streaming through the window and the dust dancing in the air illuminated by the sunshine. Weren’t these places supposed to be clean? He didn’t want to be here, but he had no choice: it was the court’s decision, and it was either this or a short spell inside, which even he could see (even though the idea made him angry) that that wasn’t really the best idea, and that it wasn’t going to do him any good. He just had to keep his head down, come here every week, and listen to the woman witter on about the inside of his head, and what he was thinking, and how he needed to see the good in the world.

Seriously, flowers?

Flowers didn’t make him angry, not in themselves. Although, come to think about it, they were arrogant little fuckers, with their colour, and their smell, and their doing nothing all day. But he thought (to himself, he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of being on to something) that maybe they were a symptom rather than the cause. He didn’t know what made him angry. All he knew was that he was.


Darryl didn’t answer. He knew that the time was almost up, that the box was ticked for another week, that he’d soon be free to walk away, until next time. The second hand of the clock edged round another almost silent circle.

Maybe. I don’t know.

She told him to think about it, told him that she thought they were making progress, that they would follow this up next week. Darryl mumbled a thank you that was on the edge of sounding genuine, and left, leaving the door open behind him and taking the stairs down two at a time.

It was warm outside, warmer than it was when he came in, and Darryl shrugged off the jacket he had put on as he was leaving. He flicked it over his right shoulder as he walked, kicking his way through the crocuses on the grass on his way to the gate.


Inspired by a prompt from here

Mar 14th – Foolish incantations

sprite-in-a-glass-spellMarch 14th – Foolish Incantations


Ayleth had had enough. For a long time she had suspected that Fendrel, her husband, was not entirely honest. He seemed to take an age these days bringing the goats in from the pasture, when before he would spring through the door with a smile on his face and fresh flowers in his hand. It was these flowers that had led to Ysmay, but no more children had followed, and the smile on his face had faded as the flowers died.

People talked. And the wives talked to each other, and less often, but occasionally to her, about Fendrel, and the time he spent in the fields with Isabel, daughter of Iestyn the smith.

Isabel! With her black hair and dark eyes and her bodice laced tight and low at the front. All the men wanted Isabel, she could see it in their faces every time the dark-haired girl walked past, shamelessly. And now it seemed that she’d got her claws into Fendrel.

He’d denied it, of course. He denied everything. She’d tried confronting Isabel, but the girl just smiled, and looked at her in a way that made her want to look at herself.

Steps had to be taken.

Ayleth could read. This was rare, she knew. She was the only person she knew who could read, including her husband, and she kept the fact well hidden. It wouldn’t do to be accused of witchcraft, especially when she kept a book of spells hidden under the thatch, in a place where he would never find it.

She waited until he had gone to the fields, (or to Isabel, as she was now convinced) and took down the book. She found the page she was looking for, the one to conjure a spirit to tell all, and spread out a clean cloth on the table. She took the bottle of consecrated oil her father had brought back from Canterbury, and placed 5 drops in the glass: four corners and one in the middle, and then drew them together into the shape of a cross, as per the instructions. She then, checking that no-one was around outside, whispered the words aloud:

Per istam unctionem

sit hoc speclum consecratum + Et benedictum +

et sanctificatum + quod habeat perfectam potestatem

ad demonstrandum nobis Angelos quos volumus

in nom + &c.


She breathed in, deeply. All was silent. She continued.


Sufflationem descendat in hoc speculum

virtus spir scti, concitetur speculum scientia

repræsentandis ut spiritus exorciz impleat et ut

dubia ora et occulta reddantur perfecta et certa

ut se imperasse gaudeat per ipsum Dominum qui vivis

et imperas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.


She threw a handful of breadcrumbs into the fire, and waited for them to burn. She scooped them out, washed the class and rubbed it with the burn crumbs, and waited for the spirit to come and tell her all.

She waited a long time.

Perhaps she’d missed something. Fendrel came back. smelling of meadows and goats, and (she was sure) Isabel.

She had had enough.

Tomorrow, Ayleth would strip naked, cover herself with honey, and roll in grain. She would scrape it off, mill flour from the remains, and bake bread, which she would feed to Fendrel.

That would fix him.


All of this is based on genuine 14th-16th century spells, and the text comes from the image at the top of the page, a page from a handwritten English book of spells, now in the collection of the Newberry Library in Chicago



Inspired by a prompt from here


Mar 13th – Stranded in Burma

March 13th – Stranded in Burma


I was going to write something amusing.

A British civil servant, perhaps, in the pre-war years, hopelessly out of his depth and struggling with the heat, the culture, the natives and an arcane filing system.

Or someone trapped in a restaurant, improbably named ‘Burma’, after it has closed, trying to work their way out.

But I’m not.

Because Burma, or Myanmar, as it is now called, sometimes, is not amusing. It’s not funny. Burma is not a good place.

So I’m going to write about the Rohingya. Because for the ones who can’t escape, the Rohingya are literally stranded in Burma. And they are being slowly and systematically wiped out by a brutal and callous regime. And Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, darling of the west, is complicit in her silence.

For those of you who don’t know, first of all – you should, and secondly, if the shitstorm of Brexit has blinded you to the fact that there is, in fact, something beyond British shores, or if the shitstorm of Trump has you looking for Mexicans scaling your garden walls, then this is something you should know about. And care about.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in a mainly Buddhist country.

Buddhists. Nice, peaceful, chanting Buddhists. All ‘Om’ and zen. Maybe I’m generalising. But you know the stereotype. And stereotypes work because we like to put people into boxes: it makes them easier to work with, easier to understand. It’s a simple way of seeing a complex world. but we like simple, because simple lets us get on with things without worrying too much about what might actually be going on. So we allow ourselves to be scared by a force-feeding media that tells us that Muslims are terrorists, while leaving us oblivious to the atrocities being dealt to the Muslim Rohingya on a daily basis by a Buddhist country with an abysmal human rights record.

There is nothing amusing about Burma.

The Rohingya mainly live in Rakhine State, where they have lived for generations, descendants of Arb traders who settled hundreds of years ago. And there they have stayed, generally peacefully, until the Burmese government decided they wanted them out.

The Rohingya have been denied citizenship, with the venerable (and feted) Aung Sun Suu Kyi even going as far as to deny their existence. They are not Burmese, she says, so they are not entitled to be in Burma.

Since the 1970s, the Rohingya have been slowly moving out of Burma into neighbouring Bangladesh and beyond, complaining of abuses from the local Burmese police and security forces. This has steadily escalated, and in 2017 the Burmese military undertook a state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing, purportedly a move to drive out militants, but in reality a wave of aggression designed to remove the Rohingya from the land they have, as far as they can remember, always lived on. Villages have been burned to the ground, the fleeing Rohingya cut down in a massacre by Buddhist militias for whom justice is a blank script that they write with their own bullets.

This has led to what the UN have called the world’s fasted growing refugee crisis, as those that can have fled into massive camps across the Bangladeshi border. Those unable to escape are still subject to terror attacks and atrocities as the Burmese government look the other way and pretend that there isn’t a problem. The Rohingya remain, stranded in Burma, and there is nothing amusing about that at all.


Inspired by a prompt from here.

Mar 11th – Fact or fiction

March 11th – Fact or fiction


My name is Sarah Jones.

I am a compulsive liar.

Or am I?

Right now you’re thinking, ‘Is her name really Sarah Jones?’ and you’d be right to think that. Question everything I say. Doubt yourself. Doubt the words that tumble from my mouth like glass stones and crack at your feet.

I am twenty-seven years old. Or am I seventeen? Or forty-seven? You can see all of these if you look at me, and then judge for yourself. But if you’re just reading these words now, on the page or on the screen, then what do you believe? How do you know?

I am left-handed.

I am right-handed.

Again, that poses a problem. Which am I? Which do you want to believe?

You might tell yourself that you don’t care, that it doesn’t matter, that the games I’m playing with your head don’t matter, but the problem is, you’ve read this far, and so you’re somehow invested in this. You’re going to read to the end. You need to know.

And now you think of my first line. ‘I am a compulsive liar.’ My first line, or my first lie. Or both. It’s like one of those puzzles you remember, where one person always lies and one person always tells the truth, and you need to ask the right question to find out the right answer.

Except here there’s just me.

I’ve given you no balance, no counterweight, no-one to set my words against. Would a compulsive liar tell you that they were a compulsive liar? Would you believe them if they did?

Do you believe me?

You want to believe me, you want to frame this narrative in something, give it some sort of meaning, impose your view of an ordered world onto this to make sense of it, but what if there is no order. What if I’m telling the truth? What if I’m lying?

What if?

My name is Susan James.

I always tell the truth.


Inspired by a prompt from here

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Mar 10th – Bristly, yet sensible

March 10th – Bristly, yet sensible


Heads were turned at the closing weekend of Seville fashion week with the opening of Manolo Panolo’s Autumn/Winter 2020 collection.

Panolo, for Langoustine, sent out his models in an array of outfits inspired, according to Panolo himself, by the infinite variety and subtle effervescence of woodland life.

Browns and muted tonals were the dominant colours, augmented by splashes of iridescence inspired by the trout of Panolo’s childhood, shimmers of colours reminiscent of the scrape of scales resting gently on a light granite work surface in his Milanese grandmother’s cottage in the dying days of autumn.

Outerwear was led by daring asymmetrical uni-collared coats, in synthetic acrylic, featuring badger and ocelot motifs and faux-lynx buttons. Those of us lucky enough to have front row seats were able to marvel at the detailing, buttons reminding one of water voles in an early frost, and dormice at play.

Langoustine are known for their risk-taking approach to daywear, and this was year’s collection is no exception: one-armed jumpers were matched with one-legged hosiery, accessorised with Langoustine’s signature triangular day bag and diamond-soled heels. Several models were draped with this season’s must have shawl, gossamer thin and evocative of dying leaves and wood mulch on December 16th, just after the rain. Samples of these were included in Langoustine’s promotional packs, on of which your reviewer was lucky enough to receive (I am wearing mine as I type).

The highlight of the show, however, and the moment that proved Panolo has lost none of his wow-factor, was the head-turning appearance of Belgian supermodel Silke Verkeeft, taking to the runway to the sound of EDM wunderkinds MaX4’s thumping hit Enlightenment (Part Deux) naked, save for Langoustine diamond heels and Panolo’s take on the Ushanka, dubbed by those fortunate to get an early preview, The Hedgehog Hat. Verkeeft oozed the confidence that can only be brought about by having your head wrapped in something the designer himself, in customary understatement, described as bristly, yet sensible, while your much-vaunted body in its glorious nakedness, serves to highlight the wonder of such a hat.

Manolo Panolo himself took to the runway himself at the end of the show, applauded to the end by models and a standing audience alike, while Silke Verkeeft, still in the woodland ushanka, but now swathed in Panolo’s gossamer shawl, presented the designer with the customary bouquet of neon sunflowers, one of the symbols of the Langoustine brand.

A triumphant close to a spectacular week.

Marie Bloom, for Stylish Magazine, Seville.



Inspired by a prompt from here.

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Mar 9th – Pandemonium of a new kind

March 9th – Pandemonium of a new kind


mid 17th century: modern Latin (denoting the place of all demons, in Milton’s Paradise Lost ), from pan-‘all’ + Greek daimōn ‘demon’.

With the Miltonian version a little outmoded now, the demons were on the lookout for somewhere new. They’d tried a few places, on short term rentals, with the option to buy, but nothing was quite right.

The road bar in Nebraska had potential, at first, even if on the initial inspection it was a little small: there were quite a few of them, after all. The owner had assured them, however, that the outbuildings (a couple of barns and a sort-of shed) would be more than adequate for their purposes, and apart from actually knocking them down, they were free to do whatever they liked with them.

And so they’d moved in, all of them together, hiring a couple of trucks and a professional removals company to deal with the big stuff. Mastema and the Nephilim had put up some curtains in the bar, and re-clothed the pool tables with the dreams of the unworthy, which, they had to admit, was a particularly smooth move, and made putting swerve and screw on the ball a lot easier. A couple of the fallen angels manned the bar, working in shifts, and the rest of them strung up the fairy lights.

Pandemonium, they called it, and they opened on a Thursday afternoon, ahead of the weekend. They’d secured a supply deal with a local brewery, and even tapped into the emerging craft beer market, with a couple of rotating guest ales and some quirky IPAs. It was all looking good. Or as good as a demon-run establishment can look.

And it all would have gone swimmingly, if it wasn’t for the people. Ironic, really, that in a bar full of demons, it was the people that were the problem.

The bikers were fine. The first to arrive, they took in the new surroundings, slapped some coins down on the pool table and commandeered the impressively stocked jukebox which proved, once and for all, that the Devil does indeed have all the best tunes. Yes, the bikers were fine. They sparked up conversations with the resident demons, who were eager to share their knowledge, and the bikers regaled them with stories of life on the road: two gangs of outcasts who found something in each other worth holding on to.

It seemed like, finally, the demons had found somewhere that was actually going to work.

Then the others started coming in.

People passing by, with nothing to say for themselves, expecting food. They were just about tolerable. And then the locals came.

Drawn by the new bar in the neighbourhood, they came in their denim and their pick-ups, ready for trouble. And beer. Because trouble and beer are fine companions.

The demons didn’t want trouble. They could handle themselves, of course, but they weren’t actually looking for it. All they wanted was to get on with running the bar, and to see if they could really make a go of it. But when it all kicked off that first Saturday night, they just couldn’t help themselves.  The bikers, who had offered to help, could only sit back, awestruck, as the Nephilim ripped off heads and threw them out into the car park. The locals weren’t trouble for long.

But the authorities were. It seems that you can’t rip off heads from the shoulders of troublesome customers and be expected to keep your licence.

And so, less than a week after taking possession of the property, the demons were on the move again, looking for another Pandemonium, of a new kind.


Inspired by a prompt from here

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Mar 8th – The boy without a name

March 8th – The boy without a name

The boy without a name
likes to sit on the top deck
of buses, and watch the world
unravel itself outside the window.

Strips of cities tear
into strips of countryside
into strips of cities of again
and the boy without a name

lets it all go by.
The boy without a name
has an unremarkable face;
you don’t see him, clearly,

on the top of the bus,
with the world unravelling,
but he sees you, watches you,
notes your movements.

The boy without a name
carries no bag. He keeps his
story safe in the safe of his head,
combinations of events,

half seen, are accessed
when he needs them. He never
needs them. The boy without
a name casts no shadow:

He never walks in the sun.
His footsteps are silent,
a slippered ghost as he echoes
your pace: a grey shape

as you turn around. The boy
without a name is the brother,
the son, the nephew, the cousin
all of us never had.

At the last bus stop,
at the end of the stripped world,
there is an empty seat
and a lingering sense

of the boy without a name.

Inspired by a prompt from here