Commuters were so confused by the government’s stance on returning to work that they began growing shells upon their backs.
    This was a natural defence.
    That way commuters didn’t have to risk their lives on buses and trains anymore.
    Instead, after finishing work for the day, commuters simply crawled into their shells and went to sleep in offices and classrooms and on building sites and behind shop counters.
    When they woke up they were already at work.
    Soon every commuter had grown a shell because it was better that than the possible deadly journey between work and home.
    Car owners did not grow shells.
    But they did grow jealous of the shelled commuters.
    — We want shells too, they all moaned.
    And that’s how the war broke out.


A banker buys a jetpack.
    No more rush hour crush for me, he thinks, taking off for work, briefcase in hand.


A cat eyes a nest.
The pinch harmonic spooks him.
Chicks grow up metal.

DARRYL KEITH                                     MINISTER OF ISOLATION


The cabinet decided that mecha suits would restore the public’s faith in them.
    That way they could stomp and fly about with a certain magnitude of respect that only giant robot suits could elicit.
    The public would then once again believe in them!
    Funded by the public purse, the government had a bunch of top military scientists watch a ton of Gundam Wing. Then the scientists built every member of the cabinet a huge, fancy mecha suit.
    The mecha suits were even individualised.
    The Prime Minister’s mecha suit smoked a huge cigar that was also a water cannon and the Home Secretary’s mecha suit had a special  pair of goggles that could assess if somebody was intrinsically skilled or not.
    Suited and booted, the cabinet all set out to work in their new mecha suits.
    Stomping and flying about like that was way better than all those boring meetings that they had once had to sit through.
     Every now and again, in gratitude to the public paying for their mecha suits, the cabinet put on a free, synchronised airshow across the country’s skies.
    But mostly they went around lifting the roofs from houses,  peeking inside and asking that everyone living there produce their passports.


On the day the city aquarium closed, all us staff were designated an exhibit to keep company throughout lockdown. We were told by the upper echelons that this decision was to stop the fish getting lonely but consensus between colleagues was if all the exhibits were elsewhere throughout lockdown, then the aquarium wouldn’t have to pay running costs for that period. The money saved on electricity bills would equate to a nice little bonus for management. Yet none of us wanted to be the person to question the reasoning behind such a decision and so we accepted the task as presented to us.

    Some staff were sent home with good looking and easy care creatures like seahorses and clownfish. Then there were those staff members who ended up with piranhas and electric eels - sea life that would no doubt generate anecdotes capable of reinvigorating even the most stilted of Zoom pub sessions.

      I received a puddlefish.

    I must say that the puddlefish was not the best looking fish. It was flat and circular and resembled a puddle of murky, brown slop. It had four stumpy fins and a pair of glassy, slow blinking eyes. Looking at that fish in it’s temporary tank, I couldn’t help feel a little hard done by.

    But an ugly creature might save itself with a trick. My aquarium gift shop colleague, Jason, was asked to befriend a strong armed squid, which though hard on the eye, could crush beer cans with its tentacles.  Sadly, showy moves were not in the puddlefish’s nature. For it’s party trick, the puddlefish simply lay at the bottom of it’s tank, slow blinking.     Creepy looking and boring. I admit I considered asking management whether a swap was possible. But I didn’t want to be seen as the only employee kicking up a fuss and so, as I lugged it’s sloshing tank onto the bus, I told myself that the puddlefish would only be staying with me as long as lockdown lasted. A couple of weeks slow blinking wasn’t going to do me any harm.

— What the hell is that? Bryan said, as I carried the tank into the living room.

  — It’s who I’ll be looking after until this pandemic blows over, I said, plonking the tank on the table.

    — Could they have not set you up with a prettier date? Bryan said.

    He was up close to the tank now, tapping at the glass but the puddlefish didn’t seem to notice.

    — No swapsies, apparently, I said.

    — Does it have a name? Bryan asked.

    — It’s a puddlefish.

    — A spritely little chap, Bryan said.

    — Full of beans, I said.

    — And what does this born entertainer like to eat?

    — Oven chips, I said.

    I took my backpack off and placed it on the table next to the tank. From the backpack, I removed a container of food. I was supposed to feed the puddlefish a couple of palmfuls of food a day. I fed the puddlefish a palmful there and then. The food consisted of little grey pellets that looked like rabbit poo. I watched as the pellets floated down and settled on the back of the puddlefish. If the puddlefish was hungry then it didn’t show so. There was no movement. Instead the puddlefish just sat at the bottom of the tank, slow blinking, the pellets settling on it’s back.

    — Shy eater, Bryan said.

    — Maybe, I said.

So that was how it went. I fed the puddlefish and the puddlefish slow blinked. After each feed, somewhere along the line, the pellets disappeared, although I never saw the puddlefish ingest them. Soon enough two weeks of lock down passed by. In mind of my responsibilities, the feeding went on but only the feeding. I didn’t do any of the keeping company part as described by management. I tried being chummy but the puddlefish gave back nothing in return. If anything, I felt I was bothering the puddlefish and so I left it alone. Instead, I lay on my bed reading books and I practised my guitar and then I suggested to Bryan that we commence the Randy Newman listening marathon that he had always planned for us to do but never had done because of a lack of time. Truth to be told, I’d never listened to Randy Newman before but Bryan was a huge fan. Suggesting the marathon was a nice thing to do. With the pandemic, Bryan, like many people, was having a rough time. Firstly, he’d been furloughed from his receptionist job at the car dealership. Every other day he would call into his manager for an update on when he’d receive some money but there was always some excuse. He was worried about having to eat into his savings for rent. He only had a month’s rent of savings in his account so you can imagine his concern. Then there was Bryan’s mother. She was a nurse and she was, with respect to Mrs. Fry, no spring chicken. We’d all seen reports on the personal protection equipment shortages and how health workers were catching the virus. I thought the Randy Newman marathon, might take Bryan’s mind off of things. As soon as I made the suggestion, Bryan could barely contain his excitement. Off out he went, returning with enough beers and snacks to last us two months. In his bedroom, we sat about on the beanbags next to where he kept his record player and Randy Newman’s back catalogue and then we got about listening.

     Yet, I still remembered my responsibilities and every now and again, I excused myself to feed the puddlefish. Bryan didn’t want me missing a second of that golden music so he’d pause the record whilst I carried out my duties.

    Sometimes, he would ring his mother during these breaks.

    And as I sprinkled the pellets, the puddlefish slow blinked.

Then, one day, when we were listening to Little Criminals, Bryan said he’d feed the puddlefish. That way, Bryan said, I could stay listening as he'd already heard the album a hundred times or more before. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness and off Bryan went into the living room. Little Criminals was a pretty good album. I turned up the volume loud so Bryan could hear it whilst feeding the puddlefish. Then Bryan began calling my name.

    — Darren. Darren. Come see this. Quickly. You’re not going to believe this!

    I must admit I thought the worse. There was shock in Bryan’s voice. I expected to find the puddlefish floating at the top of it’s tank. I left the record going and went quickly into the living room.

    — Look, Bryan said, pointing in the tank.

   The puddlefish was dancing. It looked totally different now. It had turned bright orange and it’s once stubby fins had grown out into graceful arms and legs that moved in time with Randy’s music. Those glassy, slow blinking eyes were nowhere to be seen and a smiling face had appeared in the centre of the puddlefish’s underbelly.

    Bryan and I stood there watching and laughing.

    We couldn’t take our eyes off of the puddlefish’s grooving moves.

    We started dancing too.

    That dancing puddlefish made us feel great.

   Then the record in the other room finished and the flat became silent and the puddlefish morphed back into it’s usual form.

    — Woah, Bryan said.

    — When it dances. You can’t help but watch, I said.

    — Those moves wash over your worries, Bryan said.

    —  I feel like I’ve had a bad tooth removed, I said.

    — I feel great, Bryan said. Let’s put another record on. Let’s get it going, again.

    I went back into Bryan’s bedroom. I wondered whether the puddlefish might like Haruomi Hosono. I put my copy of Paraiso on the record player. But when I went back into the living room the puddlefish was still sat at the bottom of the tank, slow blinking. We tried a few other artists but it was no use and Bryan and I concluded it was only Randy Newman that the puddlefish would dance along with. It must have been something to do with Randy’s voice. It moved the puddlefish like it moved Bryan.

    — Randy Newman is the greatest living songwriter so it makes sense, Bryan said as we watched the puddlefish do the splits to Political Science.

A few days after our discovery, we moved the record player into the living room so we could listen to Randy Newman and watch the puddlefish dance along. It became a sort of a habit. We would chain listen Randy Newman album after Randy Newman album and drink our beers and eat our snacks and there was the puddlefish at the centre of it all, dancing away like there was no tomorrow. I stopped reading and practising guitar because joining in with the puddlefish resulted in a more instant gratification. It wasn’t long before I knocked my hourly run on the head too. I felt I could burn more calories dancing with the puddlefish. More importantly, it was great seeing the change in Bryan. No longer did he spend his days in bed, stuck on his laptop, reading reports on rates of infections and the like. He really did seem in a better place. As such, I didn’t see any harm in what we were doing. The puddlefish was fed everyday and we let it rest of an evening when Bryan and I slept. Plus the puddlefish was smiling throughout it’s little performances and so I presumed it was enjoying itself just as much as Bryan and I were. But then, one day, after a particularly strenuous dancing session to Randy’s I Love L.A., the puddlefish keeled over in it’s tank.

    Bryan was the one who noticed.

    He rushed over and found the puddlefish lying on it’s back, clutching it’s chest and turning grey.

    — We’ve got to do something! Bryan said.

    — Quick, fetch it out of the tank, I said.

    Bryan delved into the water and out he bought the puddlefish, cradling it in his arms. My plan was CPR. I could still remember the procedure from my staff training at the aquarium. But as soon as we laid the puddlefish down on the coffee table, it’s body began to firm up and stiffen and then when I poked it’s underbelly, the puddlefish crumbled into a fine grey dust. I decided then that taking the puddlefish out of it’s tank might not have been the greatest decision. Probably, the air in our flat dried out the puddlefish’s body but because I could see Bryan looking upset, I didn’t mention this to him. Neither did I mention that maybe, just maybe, we’d over-danced the puddlefish. All that dancing must’ve been such a strain on a heart so tiny.

    — The puddlefish deserves a hero’s send off, Bryan said. He stood looking at the little grey pile of puddlefish dust sat on the coffee table and it was a sad, sad sight.

    — Ok, Bryan, I said. If that’s what you think.

    — It is what I think, Bryan said. That puddlefish bought us so much joy during these tough and confusing times that I think it’s the least we can do.

    With some balsa wood and a tube of craft glue, we fashioned a little burial boat that would hold what was left of the puddlefish. I placed a few servings of the puddlefish’s food pellets on there too, just in case the spirit of the puddlefish got hungry on the journey to it’s final resting place. Then, with a dousing of lighter fluid and a match, we lit the boat up and set it on  course along the stream that runs through the woods not far from our flat. We thanked the puddlefish for the joy it had bought us and then Bryan played Randy’s You’ve Got a Friend In Me from his phone and I’m sure I saw my friend shed a tear or two.

    And as I watched that burning boat float downstream,  I began thinking up all the excuses I might tell the aquarium managers upon returning to work without a puddlefish.


Behold the cactus.
Small, spiky man sat in the


I exercised my way through lock down and my regime was so successful that no-one recognised who I was when I returned to work. Though I produced my ID card at the doors when asked, the security guards wouldn’t let me enter the building. Even my line manager was worried about the ripped guy lurking in the office carpark. Soon the police were called and I was taken away in their car. When they asked for my driver’s license, they too didn’t believe I was the person I was claiming to be.
    — We’re arresting you on suspicion of identity fraud, the police officer said and just like that I was taken to a cell for the night.
    When my father arrived, he didn’t recognise me either.
    — I don’t know who this man is and I’ve never seen him in my life, he told the police officers.
    — Dad? I said.
    — Nope, my father said, shaking his bearded head.
    Then as my father turned to leave, I had an idea.
    — Wait. My phone, I said. Take my photo using the average filter.
    — What does the average filter do? One of the police officers asked.
    — It’s like the filter thats turns you old but this one makes you more average looking, I explained.
    — Sounds pointless to me but being as you’ve been such a model guest , the police officer said.
    So the police officer took my photo and showed the result to my father. The photo with the average filter showed me to be the way I was pre-lockdown without all the working out.
    — Now that’s my son, my father shouted and then he ran into my cell and slapped my back.
    — Just because the lock down has been lifted, doesn’t mean you can disregard the social distancing rules, the police officer said.
    — Apologies, my father said.
    — Sorry, I said.
    We moved two metres apart.
    — That’s okay, the police officer said.
    — Can I go now? I said.
    — I don’t see why not, the police officer said.
    — Great, I said.
    — Bye then, the police officer said,
    — Bye, I said.
    — Bye, my father said.
    — Don’t forget to collect your supplement shaker from the desk on your way out, the police officer said.
    — I won’t, I said.


A snack.
A wander.
A nap.



In test of their burgeoning relationship, a pair of moles move into the same burrow during lock down.
    For a change, the whole thing goes incredibly well.
    Mole number one makes a great worm soup.
    Mole number two makes a great grub stew.
    And there are no horrible surprises like, for example, mole number one blaming the virus wholly on one country or mole number two sympathising with the business decisions of Tim Martin, Richard Branson and Mike Ashley.  
    In fact, mole number one turns out to be the exact  mole, mole number two thought they might be.
    And mole number two turns out to the exact mole, mole number one thought they might be.
    It’s undoubtedly love.
    And though this might be considered a boring outcome by some, both moles are chuffed.
    So they order a take away to celebrate.


Used to time alone,
all introverts are thriving,
some journalists claim.

DARRYL KEITH                                              MINISTER OF ISOLATION


thanks to the lack of distractions
ten people each compose
the most wonderful piece of music
known to person kind
only to find they’ve forgotten it
the morning after
lock down is lifted
due to drinking
too much celebratory beer


The foragers were having a nightmare of it.
    Now a ton of people were out enjoying nature, stomping around woods instead of shopping centres and cinemas, all the wild fungi and roots that the foragers usually foraged for had been trampled into a useless mush.
   Also, whenever harvesting cliff moss, inquisitive police officers kept appearing alongside the foragers by way of abseil.
    Put plainly, foraging had been ruined for the foragers.
    That was until they began hiding shop bought chestnut mushrooms around their house for each other to find.
      Indoors you could forage away whilst wearing your dressing gown or boxer shorts and there was always a plentiful supply of Kit Kats to discover in the kitchen cupboard.
       And so the foragers decided that foraging indoors was an improvement in all areas and they never visited a woods ever again.

999999 PIECES

Teddy spent the entirety of lock down trying to complete one of those super tricky 1000000 piece jigsaw puzzles, the subject of which was a field of baked beans.
    He attacked the puzzle with a military precision, storing all the pieces without a straight edge in tupperware, until he had the border of the puzzle sorted and sitting outside on his patio because it was such a monster.
    Once that was all in place, Teddy set about completing as much of the jigsaw puzzle as he could per day and he even bought a headlamp so he could work out on the patio after hours.
    He stopped answering phone calls, replying to letters and ingested two meals of baked beans a day so he could better understand his subject. So serious did Teddy take his jigsaw puzzling that even his eyes began bulging from their sockets.
    Sadly, on the day that should have seen him completing the jigsaw puzzle, Teddy was without a final piece. He turned his house upside down but could not find a final piece anywhere. That was what you got for buying a jigsaw puzzle from the charity shop, Teddy told himself. It was a risk he should have never taken.
    Teddy got so irate that he swallowed each jigsaw piece down until he had eaten all 999999 pieces and then he made himself forget that the jigsaw puzzle had been a part of his life at all.
    The next day, the lock down was lifted and Teddy went back to his job as a television weatherman and he did not mention the jigsaw puzzle to anyone.


Off the coast of Mousehole, Cornwall, a fish was caught and halved and the fishermen were only mildly amused to find what was inside.  They had all discovered much stranger, more brilliant things inside of the stomach of a fish before. A baked bean patterned jigsaw piece was nothing to write home about.



for a ghost drawn on a paper in a pub

Before lockdown, the ghost, who was afforded whole days undisturbed thanks to an empty house,  muddled bookcases, dampened sugar pots and gnawed the ends of shoe laces at leisure.
    But now, with the family it haunted at home 24/7, there wasn’t a minute spare to catch one’s ghostly breath before being spotted.
    Worst of all, was how the family began offering the ghost cups of tea  whenever it shot out from behind the yucca plant in aim of an easy scare.
    Even the labradoodle’s wind began bringing about bigger jumps.
    — I think you know it’s time to call it a day when you’re not having an impact anymore, the ghost explained to it’s partner as it wrote it’s resignation letter at the kitchen table.
    After a month or so of expected listlessness, the ghost quietly settled into the pleasant pottering of retirement and now spends it’s days fiddling with vintage motorcycles, bottling prize winning home brew bitter and eating crisp sandwiches.


Now he’d sent the letter, the Prime Minister needed another way of reassuring the country that he had a plan to see through the crisis.
    The letter had been a pretty good idea, he told himself, because it wasn’t every day that your run of the mill person received a letter from the Prime Minister and such excitement was very easily mistaken for the belief that all was in good hand.
    But you couldn’t just send letter after letter, because that got boring fast, and the Prime Minister told his aide that he’d like to phone call every household in the country and personally reassure them everything was going well.
    How fabulous, the Prime Minister explained to his Aide, imagine receiving a phone call from the Prime Minister!
      But, as fabulous as it did sound, the Aide thought that phone calling every household in the country might be a bit of a tall order. He instead recommended the Prime Minister record a message that could be played through phones so it seemed as though the call was a personal one. But the Prime Minister didn’t like that idea. It was too much like pulling the wool over run of the mill eyes and that was something that a government should never do to it’s people, he felt. He insisted they needed something with a little more pizazz and an impersonal, recorded message would not do.
    The Aide went away and took a walk through Trafalgar Square to try and come up with another plan. The square was dead peaceful apart from the pigeons cooing and scratching and shuffling along in their abundance and with them being so plentiful like that the Aide had a brilliant idea.
    What if the households of the country could all receive a message from the Prime Minister by way of a messenger pigeon? Not only would that reenergise the letter form but also encapsulate the mood of the better gone golden days and all that war effort stuff the Prime Minister was so keen on stirring up in the nation even though he hadn’t really lived through any of it himself.
    So the Aide went on his way to see the Prime Minister, who, bowled over by the idea, immediately sent out the forces to capture as many pigeons as there were households in the country. When the forces had got all the birds together, the Prime Minister and the Aide ordered that all the aeroplanes in the country be scrapped and that the pigeons be kept in the now empty hangars where they were fed masses of seed in reward of their soon to be carried out service.
The money from scrapping the aeroplanes was used to buy a ton of papyrus on which the Prime Minister would hand write his message. However, after writing about five of these messages (the gist of which was not so much reassurance of a plan now but more a description of what was happening in the county and how he, the Prime Minister, believed all would be better soon) the Prime Minister became tired and bored and so the Aide typed up a version on his PC. He then had a copy printed for each pigeon and he and the Prime Minister  burnt all the papyrus on a bonfire in the back garden of number ten whilst drinking a couple of pints of Hob Goblin and congratulating each other on their pigeon based plan.
    Then came the day.
    The Prime Minister briefed all the pigeons on big screens by way of Zoom and as they sat cooing in their locked hangars, he insisted that his message of hope and good faith to the country was in their claws. He didn’t bother giving them each a designated household to visit because he felt that the pigeons, like his cabinet, would be able to sort out such intricacies between themselves. Then all the hangar doors were unlocked and opened and off the pigeons flew with the messages.
    The Prime Minister and Aide watched the results of the pigeon launch from the roof of number ten. They stood eating their doner kebab wraps and looked on as millions and millions of pigeons filled the air all at once and also all at once covered the streets and fields and mountains of the country with hot white luck. Roads were covered with hot white luck and cars and vans and trucks skidded free from these roads and into the living rooms of houses and from cliffs into the sea. Also, all the health workers and shop workers and care workers who were keeping the land ticking over could no longer get to work because the commuter system came to a stand still thanks to all the hot white luck. Country walkers got so covered in hot white luck that they ended catching a type of hot white luck sickness. Farmers’ crops, who should have been pleased of all the hot white luck, were so saturated that the rain water couldn’t even get to their roots and so they all died. Even the ocean was bombarded and soon new islands of hot white luck formed in the waters poisoning the dolphins and jelly fish that lived nearby.
    And when the pigeons arrived back at their hangers with their messages undelivered and expectant of more seed, the Prime Minister and Aide sent each and every pigeon a letter to say what a brilliant job they had done in blessing the country with limitless good fortunes as was always their plan in the first place.



Brent Nova’s savings were looking pretty good after six months of lock down.
    He’d flogged a private jet, hadn’t had to buy his first class rail pass and had cancelled his platinum gym membership. Plus all the high end clubs and massage parlours and escort centres he had once frequented were now temporarily closed so his social life was no longer an income black hole.
    As such, Brent Nova was literally knee deep in surplus wonga.
    With his accounts bursting at the seams, he decided the time was right to begin his masterpiece collection. He rang around some galleries inquiring about Picassos, Rembrandts and, his favourite, Jack Vetrrianos.
    When he was told by the gallerists that there were no Picassos, Rembrandts or Jack Vetrrianos left, he threw a tantrum because he thought it greedy that all those masterpieces had been gobbled up by other collectors. Like a new cat testing the waters, he pulled all the wall paper away from every single wall of his penthouse suite and then stomped off into his diamond grotto to luxuriate.
    After calming down a bit, he lit up a cigar the size of a dinosaur turd, drank 4 Barcardi Breezers and ate a platter of crab, chicken and beef paste sandwiches, before jumping on eBay and purchasing a rare TY Beanie Baby named after Princess Diana for $500000.


Blaming writer’s block
on next door’s electro swing
garden marathon.


1.  Each boxer will have their own designated ring.
2. Each ring will be at least 2 metres apart.
3. Each boxer must wear a face mask.
4. Each boxer will be supplied with an unlimited number of gloves.
5. Each boxer will attempt to ‘punch’ the other boxer by way of throwing gloves at their opponent.
6. Unless otherwise specified, each boxer may only use under arm throws.
7. The match will end when one of the boxers has been knocked down by a travelling glove.
8. In mind of weight divisions, heavy weight boxers will be provided cannons from which to fire their gloves.


That week over Zoom, the Yōkai Appreciation Society each presented the haiku they had written about their favourite Yōkai.
    Terry, the founder of the Yōkai Appreciation Society had written about Kappa.
    Into his laptop mic, he read his haiku:

    The turtle monkey
    Replenishing it’s head bowl.
    Cold lively water.

    The other members applauded.
    — I like the sensuous quality of the last line, Terry, Stacy said.
    — Thanks, Stacy. Would you like to go next Jas? Terry said.
    Jas, the comedian of the group, had written about Ashinagatenaga. This was a twin Yōkai. One twin had very long arms and the other twin very long legs.

    Shopping for suits with
    A tailor’s nightmare.

    — Hohoho, Terry said. Cracking stuff, Jas.
    Stacy, who had recently watched Pom Poko, had written about Bake-danuki.

    Please ghost racoon dog!
    Teach me how to turn into
    Cotton, logs, teapots.

    — Excellent effort, Stacy, Terry said in a fatherly manner. And now let us warmly encourage our newest member Harold to read his haiku everyone.
    Harold was pretty nervous. He’d never written a haiku before. Also, he’d written about Nuppeppō, a wrinkly meat ball Yōkai whose bodily odour rivalled decomposing flesh. They also enjoyed solo strolls around temples and graveyards. Physical manifestations aside, something about the solitary, sauntering nature of the Nuppeppō really appealed to Harold.

    Scents of rotting flesh,
    Emanate from your face folds.
    I will be your friend.

    Terry nearly spat his San Miguel out.
    — Harold, what the hell? He shouted
    — Of all the Yōkai available you chose that one? Is there something wrong with you, Harold? Jas said.
    — I think he’s made it up just to troll us and make us sick, Stacy said.
    Harold tried explaining himself but Terry began berating him.
    — As group admin, I’m going to have to eject you from this chat, Harold. I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone when I say you are not welcome back to Yokai Appreciation Society next week. Get a grip, mate!
    And then Harold was chucked out the chat.
    Sat in his flat, Harold was gobsmacked. These people were claiming to appreciate all Yōkai and yet it was now quite apparent that they had their favourites.  Humans are pretty judgmental on the quiet, Harold thought, and not quite as open as they picture themselves to be.
    Incredulous, he shook his chops and then, with a tiny fart, jumped  out his open window into the night.


The next day, The Metro featured a story concerning seven people all of whom swore they’d caught sight of a nine tailed fox flying through the sky. And everyone who read the story began saying that lock down needed to be lifted ASAP because the lack of social contact was dementing people.


Daniel had spent most of lockdown in bed.
    It wasn’t that he was depressed.
    He just liked dozing.
   Daniel was one of those people who had taken to being furloughed like a duck to water. All that time in bed, dozing, without having to feel guilty about it, sounded like heaven to him, and the day he was sent home from the office, he was straight under his duvet.
    The hours turned into days and the days turned into weeks and all whilst Daniel remained perfectly horizontal apart from when he needed the loo or fancied a cup noodle.
   Such a way of life seemed a dream for a month or two until the morning Daniel woke and found he could no longer move. Attempting to reach for his phone from the bedside table, his arm wouldn’t work and nothing happened as he tried kicking his legs either. Though his eyes and mouth seemed to be functioning just fine, the rest of him didn’t want to do as was directed. His whole body was locked in one position and it felt as if his duvet was weighing down on top of him with an incredible, otherworldly heft. But then Daniel reminded himself that he hadn’t slept under a duvet for at least a week or so now as it was mid-summer and the nights were heating up. Daniel mustered all his strength and once more attempted to right himself but it was no use. He was stuck solid and, in a panic, he began twirling his eyes and mashing his lips, them being the remaining parts of his body he had control over.
    For the sake of this story, Daniel’s bedroom had a mirrored ceiling. Such decor was not Daniel’s choice but his landlord’s, Darryl Keith’s, who had installed the mirror ceiling whilst living in the flat himself and though he had agreed to remove it upon Daniel signing the twelve month tenancy agreement, there had been no attempt at doing so since. It was the only thing - alongside the ladybird infestation and the scorched carpets and irremovable methane smell - that Daniel disliked about the flat but now catching sight of his reflection, the mirrored ceiling would be the means by which he would make sense of his situation.
    Looking up into the mirror, Daniel found that here his body should have been, there was only mattress and it was the same with his arms and legs too. In fact, all there was left of Daniel, were his eyes and mouth in the centre of the bed. And now, as he looked up into his reflection, Daniel understood. He had become the thing he loved most. He had turned into his own bed.


— You’ll end up looking like a cup noodle.
    Daniel never did believe his mother whenever she said such things.
    People didn’t just go around turning into the things they loved.
    But here he was now having spent a whole month as a bed.
    In some ways he wasn’t doing too badly.
    Daniel had learnt that a bed did not need anything to eat, and neither did a bed drink water or go to the toilet. A bed just kept on as a bed without any need to ingest or expel matter.
    Sure, he’d felt a little lonely in the beginning but he after a while he found his own company fine company. Even before becoming a bed he was ready for a fairly solitary lock down experience having fallen out with his friends and family after they’d bollocked him for stockpiling tons of cup noodles. 
    Anyway, was being a bed so bad?
    For now Daniel dozed all day.
    By nature beds were dozy.
    He had even learnt some new skills.
    He had taught himself to whistle and he had also developed night vision by straining his eyes in the darkness whilst admiring his new bed based form in the reflection of the mirrored ceiling.
   He was whistling in the darkness when he heard a key in the front door of his flat.
    — Hello? Daniel? You around?
    That was Darryl Keith’s voice.
    — I’m in the bedroom, Darryl. Although, I must warn you that I am not my usual self.
    The bedroom door opened up and there he was — mirrored ceiling aficionado, Darryl Keith.
    — Look Darryl, I’ll cut to the chase, I loved my bed so much that I’ve turned into it, mate.
    Darryl Keith was a little taken a back. Not because of the sight before him but more so in terms of originality. For all his ills, Darryl Keith was a very well-read man and a person turning into a bed seemed a somewhat substandard attempt at ripping off Daniil Kharms or Leonora Carrington.  
    — Well, Daniel, this really changes things?
    — How so Darryl?
    — Daniel, I had come to say I’d be moving in for a while.
    — You were going to evict me?
    — Not quite. We’d have been roomies, Daniel. You could have had the couch.  See, I’ve been appointed to the role of Minister of Isolation by the government. With the commute from the flat being closer to Parliament then it is from my county home, you can’t really blame me can you?
    But before Daniel could protest, Darryl Keith was messing about in the cupboard under the kitchen sink. Then he was standing over Daniel with a roll of gaffer tape.
    — I’ll need a rejuvenating and unbroken nights sleep now I’m serving my country, Daniel, Darryl Keith said and then he began taping over Daniel’s eyes and mouth.


Once the hermit had mastered the art of making consommé, he decided to leave his cave.
    He’d taken thirty years out of society to perfect his recipe.
    And after all the hard work, he was now a master consommé chef.
    At best, he was probably average at all the other recipes but the sacrifice had been worth it because his consommé was now the best in the world.
    Yes there were all those bins brimming with egg yolks festering in the back of his cave but that was part and parcel of the consommé game.
    He looked into the pot on his little gas stove.
    He stirred the good looking consommé with his ladle.
    His consommé was numero uno.
    And so off he went into the city looking for work in a top restaurant.
    Imagine the hermit’s surprise when the first three restaurants he came across were all serving consommé.
    There was Jamie’s Consommé.
    There was Consommé Du Monde.
    There was Gourmet Consommé Kitchen.
    This was strange. This did not look good. A sweat collected in the hermit’s philtrum.
    He stood up straight and pushed his chest way out.
    He reminded himself that he was the master consommé chef.
    And then the hermit ran through the city.
    His feet pounded the cobbles.
    His chin trembled.
    But it was no good.  Consommè was on tap. Every other restaurant was a consommé serving establishment. There were whole complexes of the damn places.
    Out of breath, the hermit stopped by a consommé cart.
    Before exiling himself to the cave, the hermit recalled that this had been the sort of cart that had sold only hot dogs and the occasional can of fizzy pop, but now consommé was being sold in small polystyrene cups.
    — Consommé sir?
    Asking was the vendor who was robust man with a bushy brow. He wore an apron that made it appear as if he had a fig leaf covering his privates.
    — Everyone serves consommé now? The hermit asked.
    — You never learnt a new skill in lock down? The vendor chuckled.
    Lock down? What was this lock down? And how had so many people found the time to master consommé? There were so many questions to ask and the hermit wondered whether spending some thirty years on his own in a cave without the internet had been such a good idea.
    — Try before you buy, the vendor said, offering a polystyrene cup to the hermit.
    Begrudgingly, the hermit took a sip and then he took another sip and then after that each and every sip was more richer and more complex than the last. It was as though his gullet was gilded. This was nectar! This was ambrosia!
    Then the cup was empty.
    — Who was your teacher? The hermit asked.
    — It was just an online course, the vendor said.
    — I’ve been away for so so long, the hermit said.
    — Away where? The vendor asked.
    — A cave! The hermit screamed.
    And the vendor knew not what to say.
    Instead, he looked at the hermit’s philtrum.
    And various precious stones began forming in his mind.


from my window
i could hear the birds
birds i had not heard in such a long time
because usually the traffic drowned out the birds
as did the pneumatic drills
as did the jet engines  
and worst of all the clattering of metal balls
and the shrill electronic wizardry
that emanated from pinball kingdom                                
the twelve storey pinball plaza
across the road from my house            
that was open 24 hours
with the huge 1000 watt loud speaker
from which the manager screamed
on the hour every hour
that too drowned out the birds
but now it was all gone
and i could hear only the birds
and it was beautiful listening to those birds
and i sat and i listened
and i felt tranquil
i felt as though time had maybe stopped
or perhaps that it was just me and the birds
and i did not have to share the birds with anyone
which was great
but not so nice to admit
selfish perhaps
so lets say i felt tranquil
and i ate my crisps
and added items to my amazon wish list
and i heard a pigeon coo
and i ate more crisps
and added more items to my amazon wish list
and i heard a black bird tchup chuk
and i ate more crisps
and added more items to my amazon wish list
and i heard a sparrow cheep
and etc etc etc
but then from my window
i heard a sickening sound
a sound that sounded like parps
and yes in fairness
they were very quiet parps
but parps all the same
over and over and over
parp sounds coming into my room
parp parp parp parp parp parp
          parp parp parp parp parp parp
                    parp parp parp parp parp parp
                              parp parp parp parp parp parp
                                        parp parp parp parp parp parp
                                                  parp parp parp parp parp parp
                                                            parp parp parp parp parp parp
                                                  parp parp parp parp parp parp
                                        parp parp parp parp parp parp
                              parp parp parp parp parp parp
                    parp parp parp parp parp parp
          parp parp parp parp parp parp
parp parp parp parp parp parp
          parp parp parp parp parp parp
          parp parp parp parp parp parp
                    parp parp parp parp parp parp
                              parp parp parp parp parp parp
                                        parp parp parp parp parp parp
                              parp parp parp parp parp parp
                    parp parp parp parp parp parp
          parp parp parp parp parp parp
parp parp parp parp parp parp
          parp parp parp parp parp parp
                    parp parp parp parp parp parp
                              parp parp parp parp parp parp
                    parp parp parp parp parp parp
          parp parp parp parp parp parp
parp parp parp parp parp parp
          parp parp parp parp parp parp
parp parp parp parp parp parp
and so out my window i peeked
and there they were the bean birds
a whole flock of them parping
the first bean birds to return to our country
in 500 years as i later found out
and they had returned
now there was less traffic
and less pneumatic drills
and less etc etc etc
to scare them away
and here they were
outside my window
and i was not happy
in fact i was unhappy
it was a horrible sound
the parping of the bean birds
although barely audible
barely even perceptible
like the sound of a breeze
or the sound a pillow makes
when your head
is resting upon that pillow
but a sound all the same
and most definitely there
because i had heard it
and a disgusting sound too
an unpleasant sound
and a sound that was bothering me
a person who had things to do
and crisps to eat
and wish lists to extend
these bean birds who had returned
impinging on my human rights
and personal freedoms
these bean birds who were in my face
as i watched them from my window
just the sight of them i could not stand
although that too was barely perceptible
i must now admit their appearance
i deduced only by squinting
and straining to see their
tiny and delicate bean like bodies
flickering wings and puppy dog eyes
and lovely little smiling beaks
quite cute they would have been
if not for the aformentioned sound
which i later learnt
was a call for peace
was them trying to befriend me
which how was i supposed to know
having never met a bean bird before
all the same that parp parp parping
it made me sick
and aggravated me
was impinging on my freedoms
as i aforementioned
so i phoned a pest control company
who of course could and would not
come out to assist me
due to the ongoing virus
and governmental rules
and anyway bean birds were pretty rare
the lazy b*****d said
and they were on some protection list apparently
so i hung up
and cursed into my elbow crease
for 20 mins or so
until i could curse no more
having run out of curse words to curse
and then i tramped downstairs
and bought back up with me a vacuum cleaner
by way of which i sucked up
the bean birds from outside my window
i sucked up every single last one of them
i sucked up every single last one of them or at least
i think i sucked up every single last one of them
what with the perceptibility issues
yes every single last one of them
and then dug a hole in my back garden
perhaps 20 ft deep
and dropped the vacuum cleaner down
followed by spade after spade of earth
one after another one after another
and the top patted down
until i could hear those bean birds no more
and with peace restored
i got back to my crisps
and added a vacuum cleaner
to my amazon wish list




What I had come to miss was meeting new people.
    So once a week, I had my father disguise himself, speak in different accents and wander our mansion and then I’d bump into him whilst roaming the corridors myself.
    But not always walking, sometimes riding our segways too.
    And on our horses, once or twice.
    And my father or I would strike up a conversation and it was just like being outside in the world, meeting new people again, before the rules did apply.
    This was an easy enough job for my father as he, like me, was a famous acting man.
    And even now, I feel that the embodiment of these characters, was some of my father’s strongest work.
    And so did my father, which was a shame, because no-one was watching.
    At least, not until we started uploading our encounters to Instagram for the general public to enjoy.
    And this experience too, for them, was though they were meeting new people.
    And in this way good will was spread.


To make staying indoors feel more like being outdoors, the government sent each house a rain cloud.
    And people placed the rain clouds above their chairs and settees and then pulled the cord that hung from under the rain cloud’s fluffy chassis.
    Then a gentle rain fell and a person could get on with their day indoors feeling as though they might be outdoors.
    A person could WFH under the rain cloud.
    A person could watch the daily briefing under the rain cloud.
    A person could eat their homemade fish and chips and watch World Cup reruns under the rain cloud.
    Some people even placed their rain cloud above their beds.
    Later, new models of the raincloud were sent.
    These were the Torrential 320 and the Drizzle 540.


The dog reading my Nicholson Baker paperbacks whilst cycling on the exercise bike.
    The cat wearing my best bandanna.
    The budgie defacing my baby photos with correction fluid.
    The goldfish head butting bags of crisps and then putting them back in the snack cupboard.
    The tortoise overwriting my saved games.
    The giant snail unstitching the soles of my brogues.
    The tiger cub scratching my Su Tissue Salon De Musique vinyl.
    The sea monkey blowing all the light bulbs in the house.
    The gecko drinking the last of the coffee.
    The stick insect showing a lighter flame to the cuffs of my best shirt.
    The snake putting my guitar into an alternate tuning.
    The dust mite over inflating my football collection.
    The poltergeist torching the front lawn.


Then the sculptor ran out of marble.
    And the nearest marble shop was fifty miles away.
    And when the sculptor looked online, it became clear that all the other sculptors had already had the same idea because there was not a single block of marble to be had anywhere.
    Luckily, the sculptor had stockpiled a ton of cheese.
    He took the blocks of cheese out of his many fridges, stacked them together on a plinth and set about his work.
    But when a prying local councillor, who was out on his evening walk, peeked through the sculptor’s studio window, he recognised the bust for what it was - stockpiled cheese.
    The next day, seven police officers arrived with a loaf of bread and a jar of pickle.