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Music Review – Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog (Album)

It was recently my birthday – Yay – and one of the things I tend to ask for is new (or old) music, as it’s a luxury I would probably not buy for myself.

This year I felt very lucky to get five albums by four different bands including:

  • Rainier Fog by Alice in Chains
  • Fallen Empires and Wildness by Snow Patrol
  • Dumb Days by Tired Lion
  • Pacific Daydream by Weezer

If you know me at all you probably won’t be too surprised to find out that the first one I listened to all the way through was the latest Alice in Chains release Rainier Fog. And it is exactly what I was hoping for!

As I’ve mentioned before, Alice in Chains started out in the midst of heavy, hairy metal and, if you listen to their first album and some of the unreleased stuff that came to light when Music Bank came out, you can really hear how close they came to skirting Grunge altogether and finding a place among the other Rock heavyweights of the time.

But they chose a different path and became the leaders of a new style which was much darker and, generally, more depressing than their Seattle based compatriots, comprising such cheery topics as drug addiction, depression, war, loneliness and psychological problems, they blazed their own trail through Rock and spurned a host of copycat acts.

This, their sixth studio album, sits alongside their back catalogue, including solo projects and other bands that have come and gone along the way, so snugly that it is hard not to think that you know some of the songs already.

The opening track, The One You Know, starts like a screwdriver to the temple, which is then joined by a marching squadron of zombies. The percussive drumming continues through the verse then the chorus opens up into a wonderful musical field of primroses, sounding a bit like they got confused and mixed up the order of the parts of the song.

After setting the scene they waste no time reaching into their back catalogue with the title track, Rainier Fog, which could have been a recently discovered outtake from Facelift…but with better production.

Red Giant is a slightly different beast, sounding like the bastard child of Metallica and Layne Staley. The harmonies are so dark you need a match to see the lyrics. At the moment this is probably my favourite track on the album!

Fly, however, sounds like Pearl Jam writing a new track for Jar of Flies. Acoustic guitars and a screeching electric solo really take you back to the nineties.

The next track is called Drone, so you can guess what it’s like without too much effort. Bluesy sludge through the verses with a melodic fingerpicked solo reminiscent of Lies by Guns ‘n’ Roses.

We’re back with Lars and the boys for the intro to Deaf Ears Blind Eyes, but then segueing to classic Alice in Chains territory for the chorus with a minor key harmonic piece of introspection.

Maybe hails back to the 1970s and, strangely, sounds like nothing so much as The Mamas and Papas. Jerry and William work beautifully together to produce something which is more than the sum of their voices. In this case though all the trees are not brown, they’re dead!

Dirt is the album that So Far Under would fit most comfortably on, with a chorus which has been pitch bent until it snapped. Antagonistic sounds are smashed together between the verses and choruses, but make the track into something that is difficult to turn your ears away from.

In Never Fade du Vall takes over. Sounding a little like Comes With The Fall, a bit like Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, and a lot like early Alice in Chains and, as is his way, it sounds like a love song or paean in memory of someone you used to know. It’s a bit of a shame they don’t give him more chance to lead, as he’s quite riveting when he does so.

The final track All I Am does the opposite and hands the reigns to Cantrell. It’s slow, it’s introspective. It could have come straight from Degradation Trip and is none the worse for that.

If you’re a fan then you either have it already or are saving up your hard earned pennies/cents to get it as soon as you can, if you’re not then look them up on YouTube and spend some time getting to know what you’re missing, then buy it and find out what it is to be one of the most popular Grunge bands in the world.


Chris Cornell – 20/07/1964 – 18/05/2017

Update: I wrote this before I heard the circumstances of Chris’s death and considered altering it to make it feel a little more sensitive, however I think that depression is often not faced head on and, although my eulogy below doesn’t specifically talk about Cornell’s mental illness, I am going to leave it as I wrote it and let you find your own meanings in his words!

When I was a teenager I taught myself to sing by turning my stereo up loud and joining in. This is how I got to know Soundgarden, and Chris Cornell so well.

That was the 90s, around 25 years ago. Today I don’t sing so much but I still listen to many of the bands I picked up through my teenage years – Soundgarden included. Their most recent album, a bit of a surprise when it was announced because they hadn’t released anything for 16 years, was King Animal. There was nothing particularly surprising about it, it was still very definitely Soundgarden, but with more experience and insight into the workings of the modern world.

My favourite track from the album is Black Saturday, an incredible journey through old age and euthanasia, a subject which has been on my mind since Terry Pratchett covered it so eloquently in his documentary Choosing to Die. Sadly now, though, this is something that Chris Cornell will never have to consider.

Promise something,
Kill me right away if I start to get slow
And don’t remember
How to separate the worm from the apple
Don’t wait ’til tomorrow,
Kill me right away if I start to listen
To the voices
Telling all the mouths what they need to swallow

The thing I always found impressive about his lyrics was the way he managed to take everyday phrases and twist them round to make them mean something completely different, or nonsensical. For instance, in Superunknown he faced psychological issues head on.

If you don’t want to be seen
Well you don’t have to hide
And if you don’t want to believe
Well you don’t have to try

Which resonated with 17 year old me in a way I couldn’t quite put into words myself.

Now, as a forty-something year old man, I still listen to Soundgarden for their incredible guitar riffs, clever use of words, unusual time signatures and rip-roaring solos, but after today the songs will take on a new meaning for me and fire off memories of another talented life cut short and sorely missed.

Apologies if this isn’t the most coherent eulogy, but because the songs are so closely intertwined with my persona I find it difficult to untangle my feelings and thoughts.

I’ll leave you with a song of my own, one I’ve talked about before and the one, I think, in which I came closest to equaling Chris Cornell’s use of language.


Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
How can I show you,
That my love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We cannot take it back now,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
Now more than ever,
My love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We’re going to be together,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
I can take your world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Short Story – The Round Door

As you’ll know, if you read the post I wrote on the 12th of March, I have been a big fan of Terry Pratchett for the better part of my life, first finding him when I was 13 years old and growing and developing as a person, with his help and guidance, ever since.

To try and process the rather surprising feelings I was going through in the weeks after this date I started to write a story. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it, or even where I was going with it, when I started writing. However, when I was a couple of hundred words through, I discovered there was a competition to write a short story for an anthology to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. The theme was around memory, and this gave me the idea for how to develop and finish it off.

Of course, what I should have realised is that they wouldn’t accept fan-fiction, which I suppose is what this is, but frankly I don’t really care as the point of writing this was purely to get my thoughts straight and help me to deal with the terrible loss, which a good number of people around the world were dealing with at the time.

Anyway, I called the story The Round Door, and I’m afraid you probably won’t “get it” if you haven’t read a lot of Discworld books, but if you have, please read on and let me know what you think.

By the way, sorry for the footnotes, they don’t translate to WordPress very well!

The Round Door

‘What’s wrong with it?’

‘Blowed if I know.’ Mustrum Ridcully prodded the thing with a stick. A long stick. ‘Are you okay, what are you doing man?’

Ponder Stibbons had climbed onto the first level of the decorative sculpture “A Pile of Matches”, a delicate and dangerous feat in itself as the carving was not only made of wood but had working phosphorus heads, adding the exciting possibility of ignition to the list of life-threatening outcomes.

The previously unknown Bergholt Stuttley Johnson design had recently been unearthed by the Ankh-Morpork and Sto Plains Hygienic Railway engineers in a remote valley, which also contained some interesting temporal anomalies[*]. The wizards of Unseen University had agreed to relocate the sculpture for as many rides as they wanted on the railway, along with free ice creams when they arrived in Quirm. ‘I thought I might be able to see what it was doing,’ he called down.

‘It’s perfectly obvious that it isn’t doing anything! Get down from there, if you fall off you’ll do yourself a Geography!’

‘Talking of which, where is the funny looking fellow with the questionable taste in millinery?’ said the Head of Unforseen Circumstances, ‘He’ll know. It belongs to him, doesn’t it?’ Huck, as Dr Hix had swiftly become known, was new to the academic legions of UU and therefore ignored with the utmost contempt, as he hadn’t yet had to sit down for his inaugural one-to-one with Ridcully, or “The Vexation”, as it was termed by anyone who had been subjected to the horrifying ordeal.

The Bursar looked at Dr Hix with a peculiar expression on his face. ‘When’s his next dose due, Runes?’ whispered Ridcully. The Lecturer in Recent Runes looked slightly terrified at being interrupted from the thorough inspection he was carrying out of his own sandals, to give the impression he was deep in contemplation and shouldn’t be disturbed.

The Senior Wrangler decided to enter the fray, ‘I think it looks a bit sad, should we try feeding it something? What does it eat?’

‘Mostly people who upset it,’ Ridcully said. The Wrangler took a couple of paces backwards and stood, nonchalantly, behind the Chair of Indefinite Studies who, although not perhaps as appetising would at least make for more of a mouthful.

Stibbons was now standing on the fifth match, he turned and steadied himself, then girded his loins to look the 20 feet down to the scene below. Raising his voice he started talking, then stopped and raised it some more to compete against the seven wizards, the auditory equivalent of a quorum of howler monkeys. “I think I’ve found something.’ A couple of the addressees actually looked vaguely upwards to see what the noise was, after some further arguing and pointing in various directions the rest of them turned their heads towards him. ‘I say, I’ve discovered something that may or may not help our investigations.”

A number of whispers, of the piercing variety, made their way up through the thinner air. Phrases like “what’s he shouting about?”, “why’s he telling us?” or “is it nearly time for Third Breakfast yet?” were amongst them. Ponder reached into his robes and pulled out his newly purchased Chriek’s Instantaneous Iconograph, he shook it about a bit, to wake the imp, then pressed the button to capture the scene below. A small square of paper rolled out of an opening at the front, accompanied by some choice words from within about Ponder’s framing of the scene.

Deciding to use the direct, if somewhat more mentally strenuous, method of getting to the ground he spread his hands and became the causal nexus in a consequential pivot between himself and a roughly Ponder Stibbons-sized rock residing in the gardens[†], as a result of which, the rock catapulted up into the air to compensate for the mass of a bespectacled wizard dropping slowly and gently to the ground.

The Archchancellor snatched the iconograph from Stibbons’s hand and squinted at the image. Ponder reached out and turned the picture over so it was the right way up, then pointed at the tracks on the grass. ‘Footprints?’ Ridcully asked.

‘Ostensibly!’ Ponder never liked being too specific when dealing with the Archchancellor’s single-minded lateral thinking approach.

The wizards aggregated, like a well fed continental drift, behind them to see what was going on. The Senior Wrangler’s eyes scanned back and forth between the picture and the patch of grass which it illustrated. ‘There’s nothing there, your imp must be broken.’

The Lecturer in Recent Runes made a tutting sound, ‘Look closer man, they’re octarine. Whoever or whatever made those was emitting thaums like it’s going out of fashion.’

Ridcully licked his finger and looked at it carefully to gauge the strength of the magic field, but Stibbons, being more practical, reached into his robe and pulled out his thaumometer, recently upgraded to indicate the direction, as well as the strength of the magic. He held the device in front of him, much as you might hold an unidentified ticking parcel, and pointed, saying ‘This way.’

The procession of thaumaturgists moved away from the motionless travel accessory which had initially attracted their attention. They shuffled along behind the Head of Inadvisably Applied Magic, trying to make it look like they wanted to be first in line, but carefully pacing themselves to head up the rear, in case there was any actual excitement. The unconventional conga line threaded between bushes, around statues and then drew up short at one of the University’s outside walls, where another hastily developed iconograph showed the phantom plantar profiles appearing to proceed directly through a persuasively solid wall.

‘Well that solves that mystery then!’ The Chair of Indefinite Studies turned to leave, but was persuasively rotated and made to admit that, perhaps, the apparent lack of any further progress by the invisible footprints didn’t mean the investigation was over.

Ridcully, who was more observant than the other wizards could bring themselves to admit, pointed out that there was a faint shimmering circle on the wall. He walked up to it and looked more closely, the top of the ring was at head height and the rock behind the, for want of a better word, hole, seemed slightly out of focus. Mustrum licked his finger again and reached out towards the surface. His digit started to glow with a greenish-yellow purple light. As he got closer to the wall the intensity of the light increased until his index finger shone like a psychedelic lighthouse.

The other senior wizards covered various orifices, expecting a gaudy explosion of some sort, but as Ridcully’s finger breached the surface there was an ominous lack of action. He pushed further forward and his hand disappeared from view. ‘Well it’s definitely a portal of some sort. Can you find out where it goes, Stibbons?’

‘Um, yes sir.’ He walked up to the portal, reached his arms through and brought them back, still clutching the iconograph, which was perfunctorily rolling out a new picture.

After waiting for the appropriate amount of time for the paint to dry, while being subjected to the Senior Wrangler’s list of dangerous things that could be on the other side, Ponder held the picture up. Necks were craned, eyes were screwed up, the Lecturer in Recent Runes, never too proud to blatantly state the obvious, stated ‘It’s a field!’

The picture showed a pleasant green hillside, with trees and bushes spotted across it like a mild rash. A dark stained wooden fence split the image in two, in the foreground there was a hazy mess of last season’s nature, spindly twigs pointed every which way, some reaching as high as the top of the fence. ‘Looks a bit like Skund!’ said the Chair of Indefinite Studies.

There was a sudden, violent flash of octarine from the box hanging around Ponder’s neck. A couple of the wizards, already on edge, almost lost control of their lower level faculties.

Stibbons nearly fell through the gateway, but instead careered sideways and cracked his head on the brickwork. After regaining his composure, he opened the little hatch on the back of the iconograph and peered inside. There were colourful scorch marks on every wall of the little room, partly through the expiration of the imp inhabitant, partly from the pots of paint caught up in the explosion. ‘What happened?’ asked the Archchancellor.

Ponder looked sadly at his perished picture box, then said, ‘I have an idea, does anyone have anything magical?’ After some heated discussions, Huck held out a hand in which he bore a small vial of liquid which glowed rather pleasingly. ‘That’s a Temporal Agitator[‡] isn’t it?’ The Head of Unforseen Circumstances nodded curtly to Stibbons looking, with almost uncanny foresight, a bit upset that he might not get the chance to enjoy a second Third Breakfast today.

Ponder pulled some tongs from a concealed pocket, then gripped the small flask and thrust it through the gateway. Upon retrieving it he started counting under his breath and had reached the number 57, when the glowing liquid seemed to suffer a sudden attack of reality, lost its octarine glow and went transparent, black hairline cracks appeared in the container. He carefully snapped the top off the phial and sniffed it. ‘Water!’

The Head of Unforseen Circumstances looked morosely at the floor and muttered a quiet oath which, due to the unusually strong magical field surrounding the portal, manifested itself as a small hippopotamus wearing a bowler hat and carrying a rolled up newspaper under its arm. After a couple of moments of confusion, the hippo unfolded the paper and wandered off towards the Wizards’ Pleasaunce, reading about a cabbage looper outbreak on the Sto Plains.

The Chair of Indefinite Studies unexpectedly gave a sharp and slightly effeminate shriek from the rear of the gathering, the other wizards moved away in self-defence, before turning to see what was happening. Looking extremely morose, the Luggage was standing behind him and staring, or to be more accurate pointing its keyhole forlornly at the swirling patterns on the wall. The Chair edged slowly forward until he was out of snapping distance, then turned to regard the trunk. ‘Well at least the thing is mobile again. What’s it after?’ Ridcully asked.

Ponder Stibbons pointed towards the magical doorway, ‘My suspicion would be, there’s something on the other side that it wants.’ When the Archchancellor raised his eyebrows, preparing to ask why it didn’t just go through, Ponder continued, ‘I think what we are looking at here is a gateway to another place, but a place where magic doesn’t, or in fact can’t exist. If anything magical travels through that portal it probably expires after about a minute, Sapient Pearwood included.

The eight mages looked down at the pitiful travel accessory, which was radiating a deep feeling of loss from every knothole. Ridcully made a decision, ‘Well we have to do something about it, the thing is like part of the furniture round here.’ He glared at the Senior Wrangler who was about to point out that it was, literally, a part of the furniture. ‘It’s almost a staff member. I’ll be back in a minute.’ And he strode away.’

Small talk being low on the list of 100 hundred things wizards are good at, there was an interminable silence, interceded by the occasional giggle from the Bursar. As the hush became more intense Dr Hix made the fatal mistake of asking if anyone had seen last night’s foot-the-ball game between Borogravia and Genua. It didn’t take long for the conversation to escalate into pandemonium, with the Senior Wrangler pointing out that the Lecturer in Recent Runes wouldn’t know a foul if he was served it for Early Breakfast.

The discussion was abruptly curtailed when a stout arrow took off the Bursar’s hat and pinned it neatly to a nearby Golden Disagreeable, which was so surprised it dropped an apple and completely lost its philosophical train of thought about a new branch of religion[§].

The Archchancellor grimaced at the effort of reloading his crossbow, ‘If we can’t take magic through then we’ll have to do with artillery! Who’s coming with me?’ There were a series of less than positive noises from the congregation, who would all much rather be in their studies wearing carpet slippers, with a nice warm milky drink and a good grimoire, than gallivanting to uncharted who-knew-where to make a suitcase feel a bit more like itself! ‘Who’s going first?’

As Ridcully was pushing the Bursar headlong towards the iridescent circle, a few things happened within a very short space of time. The luggage suddenly started jumping up and down, which rather upset the Chair of Indefinite Studies who hadn’t quite got over the previous excitement of being jolted by such a dangerous item of personal travelling equipment, this made him give another short strident yell. The Chair’s shouting surprised the Archchancellor who accidentally loosed another quarrel which sailed, uninterrupted this time, towards the portal. Last, but by no means least, the spinning effervescing lights on the wall blazed momentarily before they were breached by a thick rectangular piece of wood, which the arrow partially perforated before quivering to a halt.

The wizards looked on dumbfounded at the wooden panel, which had paused briefly in its approach after being hit by the swift and lethal wooden projectile. The board also emanated a strangled noise which sounded a bit like “gwaaark”.

The timber was eventually lowered to reveal a pair of wild eyes, still staring at the pointy tip of the missile, which was a hairs breadth from the concave chest, attached to the permanently disinclined shoulders it dangled below. ‘Urrnk!’ was the next thing that the owner of the eyes managed to vocalise, before collecting their thoughts for another go. ‘I’m glad I took precautions, at least I know where I am!’

The hardboard was dropped to reveal a man in an unusual outfit. The materials covering the unimposing apparition were dark, with tubular legs that were actually leg shaped, as opposed to the more usual and freedom enhancing robes worn by the wizards. The top was a single piece of thin black fabric with a picture of a wizard holding a long staff[**] and a lamp. Some unrecognisable runes were shown underneath two words emblazoned across the front, ‘What’s a Led Zeppelin?’ asked the Lecturer in Recent Runes, his question was disregarded, as per the agreed best practice amongst other senior faculty members.

The luggage extended its legs and bounded over, nearly knocking the outlandishly dressed newcomer over, then opened its lid to reveal a neatly ironed pile of clothing. The man rummaged around in the case and eventually came up for air clutching what must once have been a hat. He shook it out to try and give it the shape it had never quite possessed, then reverently lowered it onto his head to make sure everyone knew he was a “Wizzard”.

Ponder Stibbons, who was always good with names, was the first to speak. ‘It’s Rincewind, isn’t it?’

The Chair of Indefinite Studies nodded his head as some long disused neurons started firing, ‘the Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography. We were just talking about you man, where have you been? Your luggage was pining for you, although it might have been pearing!’

Having recovered from almost being pierced, Rincewind seemed to remember what he was doing and composed his features into an agonised half-smile. ‘It’s very important that you don’t go through the gateway,’ he pointed at the portal, which seemed to have changed it’s ever swirling patterns since his arrival.

‘Why?’ Asked the Head of Unforeseen Circumstances, who should have known better, ‘Is it dangerous, will it unleash unimaginable horrors from the Dungeon Dimensions, is it an alternative reality of the trouser legs of time where you can’t get a decent pint?’

Ridcully waved Huck into silence. Although he was as emotionally sensitive as a rhinoceros with horn ache he was still aware that Rincewind needed some time. ‘Let’s go to my office, someone get the man a drink.’


As with Senior Academics the multiverse over, Ridcully’s office was a cornucopia of disparate and seemingly provocative trophies from a lifetime of reading, hunting, fishing and, possibly, genetic engineering. Rincewind had been offered a seat facing the Archchancellor, the other wizards crowded in behind him and tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore the fact that there wasn’t enough space for their expansive forms to fit comfortably in the room.

A pint of Turbot’s Really Odd ale was standing in the only space on the large desk which wasn’t already covered with paperwork, books, bones, octograms or crudely drawn pictures of other staff members in amusing or insulting positions. Rincewind waited patiently as the hubbub diminished and watched the sediment slowly sink through the murky fluid.

Silence finally prevailed. ‘Do any of you remember Roundworld?’ Wizards, while experts at the mental gymnastics required to hold spells, runes, symbols and the multitudinous mealtimes that such arduous cerebral exercise warrants, are still notoriously bad at actually remembering the fine details of their own lives. Most shook their heads while a couple muttered some words about monkeys and a man named Darwin.

‘It turns out that when we created the Roundworld universe we somehow inextricably tied ourselves to it, but the link isn’t one-way. I’ve been doing some quite extensive studies and it turns out they don’t just get their developments from us, it works the other way around too. They had a version of the clacks long before we did and there are carriages that work by burning oil to release energy.’

The Chair of Indefinite Studies thought about this for a moment before asking, ‘Doesn’t that upset the horses?’

‘They don’t use horses, the energy from the combustion makes them move. In fact there’s no magic at all, the whole place runs on something called science. They seem to make discoveries by experiment and accident.’

‘I discovered that you make a terrible mess by trying to catch a swamp dragon using a slingshot.’ The Archchancellor said, remembering how long it took to remove the smell.

Rincewind continued, unabashed, ‘The door to Roundworld, I call it the “Round Door”, actually came into existence a year ago, I discovered it because I fell through when I was coming back from the, erm…Temple of Small Gods, one night…’

The Senior Wrangler mouthed, ‘He means The Drum.’

‘…the first thing I discovered was that the time dilation effects we observed when we went through before weren’t quite as pronounced. Time was passing faster there, but not at the level of civilisations.’

Ponder Stibbons had been thinking about the gateway for some time and a question had been scrabbling at his senses, ‘Why haven’t we seen the portal before, I’ve walked past that part of the wall hundreds of times?’

Rincewind made the face that everyone makes when they take their first sip from a pint of ale, halfway between a smile and trapping your finger under a horse. He tried to put the stein back on the desk but was defeated by the tidal wave of interesting items, which had slowly flooded over the wanton gap left by the mugs removal, he gave up. ‘It doesn’t always seem to exist, it also moves around! After I fell in, I seemed to have some kind of connection to the thing and it followed me. I’d be shopping and it’d be there near the vegetable stall, or I’d be getting ready for bed and it’d be behind the curtains. So eventually I decided I’d better go through and have a proper look around.’

The other wizards scratched their heads, as he continued. ‘Anyway, the first time I went I was trying to keep a low profile, which is difficult when you’re wearing a foot-long pointy hat, but was almost immediately flattened by a car, that’s one of their horseless carriages. The driver stopped and took me home, offered me a drink and asked why I was wearing a dress. After I explained that it was a robe, I told him where I was from and what I was doing there and he started asking me questions and writing things down in a notebook. I think the act of nearly running me down completed the link and he became the focus for the Round Door on the other side.’

The Senior Wrangler asked, ‘What did you tell him about?’

‘Oh, you know, the almost end of the world and when I had to read the 7a[††] Great Spells from the Octavo.’ Everyone turned to look at the Luggage, which had become the final resting place for the only copy of the Creator’s misplaced cosmos manufacturing manual. The Luggage had the decency to look embarrassed. ‘He said he was going to write a book about it. As I understand, it sold quite a lot of copies!’

‘The next time the Round Door appeared was not long after that poor sourceror boy had encouraged us to destroy the fabric of reality. Funnily enough I told my Roundworld friend about that and he wrote another book. That did pretty well too!’

‘The portal has been taking me back every so often, usually when there was something interesting to talk about. Then it reappeared a few months ago, things had been quiet round here and I was surprised when I saw it, but when I went through I knew something was wrong.’ Rincewind took another mouthful of ale and looked dejectedly at the paperwork avalanche, which was making slow but steady progress towards the Hubwards edge of the desk, where it was hoping to make a break for freedom and the slopes of Cori Celesti.

Ponder Stibbons cleared his throat before asking, ‘What was the problem?’

In the grand tradition of Ankh Morpork street theatre, the assembly listened with bated breath. ‘Usually when I went through he’d be there waiting for me. He seemed to know when I was going to turn up each time. But this time I was alone, at least for a minute or two. Then I heard someone falling over in the mud nearby, it turned out to be a nice young man called Rob, he invited me for a cup of tea and told me a story.’

This man, Rob, had been employed by my Roundworld associate to help him, since he had found out he had PCA,’ the wizards’ countenances projected enlightenment like a black hole radiates light, ‘which stands for Posterior Cortical Atrophy.’ This expansion didn’t help.

The Lecturer in Recent Runes turned to the Chair of Indefinite Studies and whispered at an ear shattering volume, ‘Sounds a bit like that unfortunate incident you had in your bathroom last month!’

Rincewind managed to ignore the interruption, ‘it’s a condition that makes the outer layer at the back of your brain degenerate and affects your cognitive skills. It means you have difficulty recognising shapes, objects or writing.’ Everyone turned to regard the Bursar, who was staring vacantly at the Archchancellor’s obligatory stuffed alligator, which was staring back at him with a look of vague panic on its permanently set features. ‘It doesn’t send you Bursar though, it just slowly eats away at your ability to recognise things.’

The room had gone very quiet. No one made a sound apart from the Wizzard at the eye of their attention hurricane. ‘You start off by losing your keys and eventually you can’t find your house. Rob explained the whole thing to me and told me that there was no cure, it would only get worse. Since then the Round Door has taken me back twice more, he’s living in Wiltshire now, which is a bit like Überwald, but with more pigs!’

‘I could see him deteriorating. I don’t think he told other people but he figured that because I was from forn parts I was a good pair of ears,’ everyone stared at the sides of Rincewind’s head to see if this were true, ‘He told me about the disease, the effects, the frustration, the lack of control, the depression and the anger. But because he had his assistant, Rob, he was getting along a lot better than most do.’

‘After I returned that time, I wasn’t sure if I’d be going back again. So I was quite surprised to find the portal embedded in the wall near Scholar’s Entry, when I was on my way to breakfast this morning.’  The digestive system belonging to the Chair of Indefinite Studies made a pitiful gurgling sound at the mention of its previous meal, which seemed rather distant now it came to ruminate on the subject. He quietly undertook the not insignificant task of rubbing his stomach.

‘What happened then, man?’ The Archchancellor would have moved to the edge of his chair if he hadn’t been there already, in deference to the odds and ends of everyday and never-should-have-been oddments stacked up and occasionally clinging unpleasantly to the seat back.

Rincewind gave a heavy sigh, then took a preparatory breath. ‘The Roundworld side of the gateway was, unusually, inside a building. But it was a building I knew. I think the Round Door and L-Space had collided, so I appeared inside his library, which is a wonderful thing to behold, even if you’ve been the deputy ape at Unseen University. The house was strangely quiet though. I eventually found out why. My Roundworld friend was in bed, surrounded by his family, with his cat perched near his feet.’

‘He had contracted an illness and that, along with the PCA, had pushed his body to the limit. His wife, Lyn, invited me in and asked me to stay with them,’ a tear welled up and rolled without drama through Rincewind’s meagre covering of facial hair. ‘He died while I was there, in his bed, with the people who loved him. And now he’s gone. There’s no coming back, or challenging Death to a game of chess, no ghosts, nothing but the end of life on Roundworld. Which is actually better, when you come to think about it!’

A number of crinkly handkerchiefs had been discovered in pockets and were dabbing at long disused tear ducts. Ridcully, who could be bought a drink, a starter and main course, then taken to a seedy club on the outskirts of town for an evening of drinking strangely coloured and amusingly named alcoholic beverages by an emotion, before he recognised it, was looking into the middle distance with misty eyes, ‘So, what now?’ he asked, primarily so the room wasn’t suffused with silence.

‘I have a suspicion,’ Rincewind got up unexpectedly and headed out the door. After a confused moment the rest of them followed him, proceeding back to end up, once more, in front of the Round Door. ‘I’d stand back if I were you,’ he said as the Wizards crowded round. The swirling colours disappeared, leaving a circular hole into another reality, the same landscape, in fact, that Stibbons had taken a picture of an eternity ago.

‘I think that my Roundworld friend’s remarkable, magical and white-hot mind was what opened up the portal in the first place, without him I don’t think it can exist.’ He gestured for the luggage and found the small glass globe which, quite disregarding the normal laws of quantum mechanics, contained the planet and it’s complementary universe on the other side of the portal.

There was another change within the Round Door. It looked like rain but the drops were falling upwards and magic was starting to fizz around the places where it struck the portals edge. Suddenly, and quite without offering any explanation, it turned in on itself and imploded out of existence, in exactly the same way that an iceberg doesn’t.

At the same moment Rincewind threw the globe into the air and watched closely as it became a shining octarine meteorite falling upwards into the troposphere, accelerating through the stratosphere and mesosphere, until it was a distant but unmistakable dagger carving its way through the Ionosphere. Then it, too, disappeared in a flash of reality.

Not being one to let an opportunity for expounding something that everyone already knew pass by, the Lecturer in Recent Runes said, ‘It’s gone!’

‘Yes,’ Rincewind sat on the Luggage, which vibrated almost imperceptibly in the arboreal equivalent of a purr, ‘I think that this is the end of our connection to Roundworld, which is a shame. I liked the way things worked there. They used science and reason to deal with their problems, as opposed to enchantment and swords. The books my good friend wrote about us were very popular, but now he’s gone there won’t be any more stories. Like that funny thing that happened with the Head of Unforseen Circumstances when he had to visit the Quirm College for Young Ladies. Or that interdisciplinary trip to Lancre to meet that funny King and his wife.’

Rincewind’s monologue had become introspective enough to persuade the other wizards that it was time to find something to eat. They wandered away in ones and twos, following their stomachs towards the Dining Hall. After a minute the Wizzard stood up and turned to regard the Luggage, it looked as anxious as a travelling accessory can, its fretwork radiated fretfulness.

After breaking the habit of a self-preserving lifetime, Rincewind patted it on the lid, ‘Come on then,’ the Luggage seemed to hold its breath. ‘We need to pack. There’s someone I need to catch up with, we’re taking a trip to Bes Pelargic.’ And with that the pair left the courtyard, the University and Ankh Morpork behind them for the last time.


[*] Not least of which was a highwayman who forced money onto the construction workers. They were not unhappy about this state of affairs until the coins transformed back into their original mineral state – quartz, embedded in a half ton of granite – some new trousers, along with several jars of soothing ointment, were quickly deployed from New Ankh Station.

[†] Rather surprising a gnome having a heated debate with a raven about a recently borrowed, unreturned lawnmower.

[‡] A temporal agitator is a potion which allows the consumer to move half an hour back or forth within their own timeline, useful for if you missed Early Tea or get peckish before Second Dinner.

[§] The forest shattering new idea was that, rather than the orthodox and widely held belief in reincarnation as a thousand rolls of lavatory paper, the good would be rewarded with a new life as a hat stand, the most righteous having an integrated umbrella rack.

[**] With a knob on the end!

[††] The number between seven and nine is dangerously magical and can have rather unpleasant effects in a strong magical field, such as the one found on the Discworld. Any wizard who utters it is likely to find themselves abruptly surrounded by nauseatingly shaped creatures who would like nothing more than to become intimately acquainted with their inner workings.

If you like this you might be vaguely interested in my book, Jump, which is available on Amazon. Then again you might not, it takes all sorts!!!

Music Review – Monogem – Silhouette

My third Semplesize review was a bit different for me. I’m a bit of a rocker, but browsing through that week’s tracks I happened upon something a little outside my normal listening comfort zone. However I liked it.

As usual this is the unedited version, the original can be found here.

On their Facebook page, Monogem define their genre as “Electro-Pop/Soul”, some might call it “dance”. I would be so bold as to disagree with either of these classifications. Certainly Silhouette has electronic instruments, pop stylings and soulful vocals…and you could unquestionably dance to it. But it feels like a track which should accompany movements of a more horizontal nature.
The song starts as it means to go on, with Songs of Faith and Devotion era Depeche Mode synthesisers, accompanying an electronic drum kit dragged from Everything Everything’s abandoned basement. The music could almost be classed as Rock, if it weren’t for the fact there isn’t an actual stand behind it and press/hit/strum/blow instrument in site.

Although hailing from the USA, Jen Hirsh’s vocals sound more Southern England than Southern California, sharing tone and intonation with the likes of Kelli Ali (formerly Kelli Dayton from the one-hit-wonder trip-hop sensation that was the Sneaker Pimps), Hirsh manages to pull off seductive not-quite-pop vocals in a spectacular fashion.

Scott Smith’s heavy (synthesised) percussion continues at a steady and unstoppable 148 beats per minute throughout the song, with very little change to the basic dum dum, du dum dum of the bass drum or traversal into the higher registers, but this just goes to enhance the ambience of Hirsh’s voice and takes you on a journey towards nights of passion, possibly followed by some more extreme or unconventional intimate physical pursuits.

While Monogem’s other tracks, like The Glow or Follow You can seem a bit derivative, or just fade (rather nicely, it has to be said) into the general stream of consciousness that is popular culture, this is a track which begs for airtime on any radio station that has its wits about it or values their listeners.
The song is beautifully executed and will stand up to repeated plays and I can imagine people dancing to it in a club. The only issue being that it will swiftly empty the club as they all pair off and rush home to their bedrooms, to carry out the inevitable consequences of listening to Silhouette.

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 380 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


A couple of months ago my writers group meeting was about getting published.
A couple of the attendees had self-published on Amazon and said that it was relatively easy and was actually making them a few dollars.
I went home and checked out some of their work and, excuse me if I’m biased but, I think mine is of an equally high standard!
This got me thinking and so the past week or so I’ve been setting myself up on Kindle Direct Publishing. As they suggested it wasn’t super difficult, the only tricky bit being the American tax declaration you have to do because the big A (Amazon) is in the big A (America).
Once I got all the paperwork out of the way I started putting the details together to actually publish my book.
They make it shockingly easy, offering advice at every step and even offering a cover designer, which I used and seems to give pretty good results.
I’m still writing a synopsis and “author bio”, which is harder than you might think. Then the final step is to do one last read of the book to make sure it makes sense. After that I just need to upload it and hit the publish button.
But for now I’ll leave you with my current cover design (which may well change before publication) and get back to my editing.


Exhibition – Dark Visions

So, about a year ago one of my colleagues at Nottingham Trent University, who is a very keen photographer, approached myself and another guy who we worked with because he knew we liked writing. He suggested a collaboration, using his pictures to base a story around.
Steve (the other writer) and I took a little while to look at the pictures, then agreed to have a go.
To put it mildly, the pictures were dark. Lots of black and white seascapes and images of twisted old trees. I took about a millisecond to formulate the story I was going to write after looking at them. I also came up with the title – The Dark Mark. All of the photographs in Rob’s series for this start with the word “Dark”, so it seemed appropriate.
It’s now a year later, much water has passed under the bridge and time has continued to move on in the linear fashion you would expect it to, and in so doing has bought with it the swiftly approaching date of the exhibition of the work we all did. To be precise the show runs from the 27th of September to the 26th of October at Patchings Art Centre, in Nottinghamshire, England.
Now while I’m not one for self-promotion, I am quite proud of the fact that I created this story from nothing more than some pictures taken by a colleague and friend. So I’m going to put one of the posters here and let you decide if you’d like to share it with anyone you think might be interested.
I thank you.
I also thank Rob and Steve for such an interesting challenge and all the discussions we had about it once we decided to proceed.
Depending on the outcome of the installation and the interest in any further projects or work, I may even publish the story on here after the show is done!