First impressions are lasting impressions.
I’m sure you’ve read or heard that before. It comes to mind now that we are “house-hunting”, a process which involves scrolling through a lot of images of house frontages online, and making appointments to view the ones which don’t look like they were owned by the first two little pigs in the three little pigs rhyme.
What’s annoying about these photos is the agents use of wide angle lenses. So what appears to be an attractive property set back from the road with a large front garden turns out in reality to be practically sitting on the street all but for a narrow strip of grass. The internals are as bad, a room turns out to be a cupboard and the bowling alley long living room is actually only a couple of feet more than your sofa.
The thing is, you head over with high hopes and the first impression – the reality – hits you between the eyes like a wet turbot. Sometimes you don’t even bother to go inside.
So, watching a bit more telly than I had done for many years, albeit “on-demand” and on a tablet, I have been reacquainted with our British adverts.
I remember when adverts could be quite clever, and entertaining. Sometimes it was said, given the state of our telly, the ads were better than the programmes. Of course, memory plays tricks and I don’t know if I’m just cherry-picking the best of them over a very long period and condensing it into a narrower time frame. I don’t suppose there ever has been a golden age of advertising any more than a golden age of telly.
I’ve noticed that the on-demand channel only shows around a dozen different ads, the same ones regardless of what show they appear in. About half are unmemorable which, I guess, is a fail in advertising circles. The rest could be divided into two groups: those that make sense and those that don’t. I have to confess here that I’m no expert in advertising; I just think about these things. And I thought it might be interesting to discuss these odd little things we watch in the UK. Clicking on the images should take you to the relevant ad via Youtube. Do come back though!
Now I will say this is a mildly amusing skit and it potentially gives us a couple of likely catchphrases, like the way he says “Poncho” in that exasperated manner. But what is actually happening here?
I’ve had a fair number of insurance claims in my time and not once have I been required to sit in an interview room, giving a statement to a skeptical insurance assessor. Wouldn’t this impression put you off choosing the company in the first place?
And then it turns out he didn’t hit anything, and he had a dashboard cam anyway – why didn’t he simply email the footage over to them, to crack a smile on their grim little faces? Unless it’s footage from a different incident. But, as the ad states, what are the chances of that? No, this ad is looking so phoney, I wouldn’t trust them a bit. Install a dash cam but go somewhere else.
High Street Banking
Got something unique or interesting to sell us? No. What’s the point, then? Anyway, it’s just a minute’s worth of horses stampeding across a beach. Would anyone really get out of bed for that? Maybe just draw the curtain aside for a peek. Oh, some stable’s escaped horses, is it? Fancy that. Get back into bed.
Yes, nothing to see and the overall impression is why? It’s not like it’s targeting anyone just old enough to be considering opening a bank account. It’s more like Black Beauty being reimagined by a group-think more used to advertising drawdown pensions and retirement homes. First impression, folks.
Latest Cell Phone
My initial thought here is that Kevin Bacon has it in his contract that there must always be an egg in view. Egg and Bacon, see? I have noticed this most times he’s on though it is quite a subtle pairing.
Bacon is advertising one of our biggest phone service providers, it just so happens they’re offering the latest phone at this time, made by one of the top manufacturers. Big spondulicks, then. Actually, this looks okay. It’s simple, entertaining, amusing and I can’t see it presented too many difficulties filming – ordinary setting, no children, no animals, no effects – and it’s clear what the deal is. It actually makes sense from beginning to end. So, not bad.
But that’s just me. Any contrary views gratefully considered, simply comment below.
“It’s a pound.”
The man in the kiosk beside the bridge had watched him drive up intently; now, infuriatingly and impertinently, he barely looked up from his morning newspaper.
“Now we won’t accept plastic, nor cheques.”
He looked up from his paper momentarily to meet the driver’s eyes squarely, then added, rather too slowly as if addressing an imbecile,
“Nor I. O. U.s.”
The driver felt his temperature rise and beads of sweat broke out across his forehead.
“But surely you recognise me. I come this way every day. To work! For the past six months. I always pay but today I find I don’t have any change. Look, I can pay you twice tomorrow.”
The man didn’t look up this time and seem to find something amusing in his paper. He seemed to chuckle,
“Sorry. No credit.”
They say, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; and around the waters of the marina, the man with the lever operating the tilt-bridge is emperor of all.
Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, Challenge #187.
As well as the photo, this week’s story was inspired by a place I worked at which was near to a toll bridge. Not a tilting one but a simple stone bridge, a single lane wide and probably about 100 metres long.
I never needed to drive across it but walked over a few times. Walking was free. The board listing the various tolls for cars, trucks and motorcycles showed small change but the number of vehicles queuing both ends implied someone was raking it in. There were four people employed to take the money. I was told it was in private hands. I don’t know how many miles it saved instead of going the long way around but at peak times the waiting was annoying. Even though I didn’t cross the bridge, the queue affected me as I tried to cross it heading home. It’s enough to make a person reject capitalism.
This week’s photo prompt provided by Michelle de Angelis. Thank you, Michelle.
The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE and please click on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.
Here in England, the Autumn can go any kinds of ways. For a few days last week, the sun shone brightly in a clear sky and you could sense its benign radiant heat while the breeze, uncharacteristically, also carried some warmth – in mid October! (Remember, “October can be nice, also.”)
The English – and probably the British by extension – are known to complain about the weather and, god knows, we have enough of it to complain about; if heat is not your thing, there are those days to complain about; if you hate the cold, your opportunity will come soon. If you miss the rain, or think it too wet, we can cater for those too. We offer a democratic style of objection to climate.
But this Englishman doesn’t complain – well, not much normally. Not only do I think of its inconsistency and variety and not forgetting its moderation, as a blessing but I don’t get why humans take against nature so. The weather was here long before we were. If you don’t like it blame your nomadic antecedents who pitched up, threw away their bivouacs and tents and took to farming. They must have recognised the benefits.
Nature, if we imagine it to be anthropomorphic, would regard humanity as an adult might regard a petulant child. You know, the kid you might see in a café or restaurant, first adamantly wanting pizza, and then not wanting it the moment it arrives. That’s the English with their weather.
The seasons are not as complicated and more inevitable. There can be a few surprises, as we’ve had this month, but the cycle of seasons ultimately prevails. Yet each season as it emerges from the previous one and goes on to merge into the next, gives us its special beauty. These wonderful experiences are things we ought to embrace psychologically, not fight.
image: untitled photo by Chris Lawton via Unsplash.com
Prairie never knew belonging. Never the companionship of the pack. Prairie was maverick, was rogue. An outcast.
The Pack was solid, twenty-eight working as a single entity, brutally efficient when the hunger came. At first light came the pangs, like a Pavlovian response to the dawn, spreading quickly through the group swifter than words communicate. All eyes would be on the Alpha. Even those of Prairie, pacing at a distance.
When the Alpha moved, it was as if a weir gate had opened releasing a stream of water, at first steady then picking up momentum until a mighty surge rushed forth over the plain. With stealth, Prairie kept pace but also kept his distance; though on a chase, the Alpha, had he noticed him, which always was the case, would not be the least bit interested. After a kill, it would be a different matter. Hunger sated turns quickly to greed and the pack leaves nothing.
They pick up the scent and the subtle, meandering flow turns into an arrow direct to its quarry. The moment they sight the herd, they instinctively fan out; only the Alpha maintains the original course, directly into the epicentre. The herd alerted, then run, chaotic intent of confusion; the bodies blur until it’s hard to tell a single target from the mass. Hard, though not impossible. Soon the chase reveals the stragglers, the weak or the inexperienced. Two of the Pack bring down a young foal first, and shortly after, an ageing hind. Somehow, these kills has released the tension, the Pack’s collective enthusiasm for a sustained chase wanes, and the herd gains the advantage. Sensing the Alpha is no longer ahead, one by one the Pack members break away and return to the kills.
Now the Alpha watches Prairie. This thin, shifty animal pacing the safe periphery around the feasting. Alpha regards him with black eyes, continuously reckoning the distance between them. If the rogue closes in, the Alpha will be ready. The Pack depend on the Alpha and the Alpha depends on the Pack; without it he is rogue.
Alpha senses the outcast has moved closer in his deceptive circling manner. Alpha moves now, his head out and inline with his shoulders, black eyes widened, teeth bared. The outcast stops pacing. He is showing his flank but the eyes match the Alpha’s. Now the Alpha is unsure – a rogue can put up a fight, and injury may put the Alpha’s standing in jeopardy. Yet now it’s too late. The Alpha instinctively quickens his pace. As if at the last moment, Prairie backs down, turns and runs. He is surprisingly swift but the Alpha is not intent on a fight, only on asserting his authority.
In the early evening light, Prairie returns to the scene of the kill. The Pack have long gone and not much remains. They have been voracious. Prairie has to sate his hunger with a few bones. Once this meagre meal is done, he will track the Pack again. What else can one animal do?
As no word limit is stipulated, I let this one run a bit but once it ran, I found it hard to rein in. I did edit out around forty words, but still I hope it isn’t too long.
I noted earlier that the inspiration word for today’s Inktober is “Whale” and I had noticed this doodle of mine waiting in the archive.
It’s a cheat, I know, not to use fresh drawings but I don’t feel I have the time to get involved. Besides, this kind of thing is usually done by way of distraction from tedium, done almost unconciously or absent-mindedly. This is where the seem of ideas lies: in the cupboard, under the stairs, somewhere at the back of the brain.
As I’m not currently working, sitting in an office for eight hours, starimg at a screen, the opportunities aren’t presenting themselves.
“Be a winner, not a whiner; be a doer, not a talker.”
That’s what they’d say, those hackneyed, old platitudes patronising folk always throw at you. Well, maybe this time they would be right. He’d learn, she’d see to that; and it didn’t matter how long it would take; she could wait, she was used to doing that; patience personified.
Seven years they had been as one. He always said he loved her. And she was devoted to creating their little paradise of happiness, shielded, as best they could, against the hard realities outside life often chucks at you. Through testing times, but she was no pessimist, far from it. She harboured dreams and a determination to make them real. They would, in time, look back on a their life together with pride and joy – and love! Yes, always the love.
How could he do it to her?
At first it was simply gossiping she heard. Then followed incongruities in behaviour. At the beginning, she convinced herself these were innocent coincidences, what her friends spoke of was circumstantial. Her belief in the two of them overcame all doubt. It was when he didn’t show for a date. That was cruel, unforgivable. He explained on the phone that he’d forgotten, the pressures of work. But he had been with her, while she had sat alone, in their favourite restaurant, for an age, being given sympathetic yet knowing looks: Yes, here I am, folks! Feast your eyes. The Jilted Lover! Christ, he’d pay for that!
She shuddered at the idea of the divorce courts, the ritual humiliation, and, in truth, it wasn’t her fair share of the years of monetary investment she was interested in. Besides, a gun was cheaper than a lawyer, and more reliable. While he slept, she took their joint credit card and picked up the keys to their shared car. The mall was just a couple of miles away; she could be back before he stirred.
image: by Marina Vitale via Unsplash.com
A straight piece of flash fiction from me this time, I hope it’s not too long. Interesting to me is how the keywords led me into a realm, or genre, of story which normally wouldn’t be my thing. Would this be the hallmark of a good challenge?
“What’s under the boardwalk?”
He didn’t care to check it himself, not long having had breakfast. He’d seen enough victims, bodies defiled, incongruous in innocent settings; a picnic spot, a park, the beach. An image could last a lifetime, returning in a succession of night terrors, forcefully waking in clammy sweat. He couldn’t let the kid do it, fresh out of cadet school. He might have the stomach, then he might not. He wasn’t an inconsiderate man. His sergeant would go.
What was that tune? The Drifters. Holding hands with my baby. He couldn’t remember the last time he held hands with anyone. He’d lost that memory. So many memories overthrown by horrors. Why him; why this job? Where had it begun? He looked across at the young detective causing him to smile awkwardly. What could he know?
His Sergeant came up, singing that tune, a mellifluous baritone good enough to be annoying. He snapped,
“Well?”, instantly regretting the tone.
“Nothing”, the Sergeant replied, his hands coming away from his sides in emphasis.
How could he be feeling disappointment at this? He turned again to the younger man,
“Get the car, please, will you?”
The inevitable would have to wait.
image credit: August MorgueFIle 2018 1415390688o66bl
For what it’s worth, here is a rundown of series I’ve seen from All4’s On-demand “Walter Presents”, a channel dedicated to International Telly Dramas.
There must be around 70 or more programmes to choose from and I simply picked these at random by thinking of a number beforehand.
I’m of the opinion that any review can be a spoiler but I hope I’ve kept it to a minimum. Cast, director and further gen contained in the IMDb links below each.
Clona (The Lens) (Czech Republic 2014)
Roman is a film and media student who wants to go to college to study filmmaking. Unfortunately, he gets rejected a number of times. He hates making do with photographing or filming weddings and his father, a traffic cop, thinks he’s wasting his life. Eventually, Roman accepts the offer to work alongside his father, photographing scenes of road traffic accidents.
One of these assignments ends tragically and Roman’s future takes an unintended path. He is offered a position as forensic photographer as part of a small, special crime squad. He has the support of his boss but the team are not so convinced; they quickly nickname him “Fellini” and regard him as a liability. As a cop, he knows he isn’t a match for the others, but as a detective, he seems to hold his own.
This is a series of separate case episodes though continuous character storylines run along side: relationships between colleagues, family issues and Roman’s development, and acceptance, as a cop. While the premise seems implausible, it’s an entertaining series. I liked it.
Hellfjord (Norway 2012)
Having watched the Norwegian movie, Jackpot, a few months back, I’m inclined to think Norwegian comedy has no boundaries. Oh, I found both Jackpot and Hellfjord funny but not without feeling slightly guilty about it.
The premise here is that Salmander, a rather inept mounted police officer, is sacked after publicly and brutally killing his horse in an act of mercy – that isn’t a contradiction, you’ll need to watch the first episode otherwise it’ll be too great a spoiler. As his superior is obliged to give him three months notice, he posts him to an island in the far north, Hellfjord, where he will act as community sheriff. There he is reluctantly assisted by the vulgar and hobbit-like local man, Kobba, and his beautiful and multi-talented “mail-order bride”, Riina.
It should have been a quiet gig if it wasn’t for a slightly scatty, local investigative journalist, Johanne, who’s convinced the island hosts a nefarious secret centred around the fish export factory run by Swedish businessman, Bosse Nova. If it’s true, Salmander is convinced he’ll get a reprieve if he cracks the case.
It’s a bizarre and often absurd comedy, near the knuckle in places. I liked it.
Dupla Identidade (Merciless) (Brazil 2014)
I don’t know anything about Brazilian telly but my first impression from this series is that their audiences are shown a greater amount of brutal, graphic abuse than I think would be granted to British audiences. But hey, here we are in the UK watching it.
This is a police manhunt drama. The guy they’re looking for is a psychopathic sexual predator and killer. Apart from the violence shown to the victims, it’s standard police manhunt trope – for UK audiences, think Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren – though the perpetrator here is revealed from the start. There is sound reason for this and it does create extra tension in the drama.
Running parallel to the investigation is a political corruption story, involving a career politician hell bent on elevating his position at any cost. This creates problems for the senior officer handling the case as his own promotion is decided politically. If that isn’t enough, the independently minded and strong willed psychologist appointed as criminal profiler turns out to be his former lover. All the parts are then intertwined.
Violence aside, it’s a tense, captivating plot. They must have cast the actor (Bruno Gagliasso) playing the killer on his ability to alter a look of angelic innocence into cruel-hearted sinister on the turn of a sixpence. Gripping. I liked it.
In the Beginning, within the wilderness, the Lion was forlorn. Flexing his ample wings to no avail, shamefully he averted his gaze from the sky – he had to admit, he was too heavy to fly.
“I shouldn’t have had a whole zebra last night”, he mused, “especially not on top of the gnu.”
“I must lose weight”, he continued, and so he joined a friendly gym, but the temptation there was too great for a carnivore needing to slim.
Mysteriously, membership steadily declined until no one turned up for a class, and so the management intervened: they came down hard, revoking his card, though they kindly reimbursed him in full. And so he had to leave.
The Maker looked down at this point, and consulted the Master Plan. Surely some mistake. A stupid one to make, it’s actually quite absurd if you consider the differences between mammal and bird.
“Let’s take these off you, mate”, said the Maker. “See how being wingless feels”. The Lion felt miraculously fitter and, by Linnaeus, order was restored.
Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, Challenge #186.
Carolus Linnaeus is the man responsible for the method of taxonomy, the scientific classification of all organisms – as far as they are known. Gnu is an old name for the beast more commonly known now as Wildebeest.
It’s a kind of evolution fable. Last night, I had been writing a children’s story in 100 words – much more difficult than a grown-ups’ one as, I felt, you need to at least guide more, if not explain everything, so 100 words soon gets used up. I think this is how I came to write a fable – my mind’s stuck in childhood mode.
This week’s photo prompt provided by WildVerbs. Thank you, WildVerbs.
The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE and please click on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.
Hey, kid, youse supposed to bring lettuce. That’s the trouble with you youngsters: selfish!
Hey, who are you calling ‘kid’? I’m seventy-seven—
Seventy-seven! When I was seventy-seven, hell, if I can remember that far back, but I bet my shell was shinier than those duds youse wearing, kid. Hell, where’d you get them, anyway.
What’s wrong with these clothes?!
Well, they’re not hard for a start, kid. How you gonna protect yourself from the enemy? I bet you can’t even get your head back in that hole!
Oh, wanna bet?!
Right! …erm…people are looking.
(99 words – a dialogue only challenge)
Here we see the tables turned. Normally, it is we bipedal, mammalian, cerebral soft-cores doing the abusing: painting go faster stripes along their shells, stuffing them in shoe boxes over winter, riding on their backs when they’re well over a hundred and fifty five. We ought to respect them more. They are an evolutionary masterworks. Darwin said so.