When I was 16 and studying at college, I was delighted to be employed as an unpaid volunteer in a charity shop – my parents were somehow not quite so impressed despite their “get a job” instruction having technically been fulfilled. Continue reading “Mood”


In Mother Tongue Bill Bryson tells us that if we harbour an urge to look through the windows of the homes we pass, there is a word for the condition: crytoscopophilia. Despite these assurances, Microsoft Word still underlines it in red. Continue reading “Velleity”


Surrounded by something that might have been advertised as marshmallow oil, as I lay in the bath I noticed there was a ladybird insect on the leg razor I had left on the windowsill. I watched as it tried to disembark, its little legs waving dramatically, but not quite being able to reach from the obscurely contoured object to the flat surface of freedom. I moved the razor very slightly by way of assistance, but felt this went slightly underappreciated by the ladybird which had stopped moving entirely in response. I thought of Stephen Fry conveying the story of the spider in the toilet- when once it was rescued it promptly died- and consequently decided to have no further involvement with the ladybird’s compelling struggle for survival. I did however wonder if telling my step mother “there was a ladybird” was a reasonable excuse for not cleaning everything away after the bath.

Upon returning to my bedroom and switching on the light I was reasonably distressed to find a huge, malformed creature in the corner of my room, which is not terribly usual. I did however then realise that this was merely a shadow, and turning around I found the source was my lampshade… whereupon the ladybird had settled. “Oh, hello,” I said, “it’s you again”.

“Hello,” said the ladybird in reply, in a deep and terrifying voice, “I have a message for you”.