‘Not Being First Fish’

drawing of fish and waspA wasp drops onto the pond, flails about a bit in an unequal struggle with the surface tension and, GLOMP! A fish snaps it up and disappears.  Then – Splash! Thrash! PWARGH! Wasp floats to the surface, not so lively but still kicking.  Another fish eyes it up.  GLOMP! Then PWARGH!  And back comes the wasp, this time with distinctly critical vital signs.  Fish Number Three approaches, gets a bead on its profile and GLOMP! Fish disappears. I wait.  No regurgitation; this wasp is being recycled. To recycle a wasp, it’s smart to be Third Fish.


From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018

‘Poetry is Weird and Quite Possibly Illegal’

drawing, storage shelves with papersI have found that poetry describes itself in terms of both feet and meters, thereby flouting European Directives on measurement, which may still be a hanging offence in parts of Scotland[1]. Worse, I discovered that poets communicate using an exclusive and arcane language that looks like a hybrid of algebra and a medieval incantation. There are iambic pentameters, metonymys, tankas, and tragic flaws. There are also words I’m pretty sure have been made up and get changed, like code, so that only insiders know what they mean. I’m onto them though. These are some of the ones I think I’ve figured out:

Trochee: an operation you have when you’ve got your breathing spaces wrong in your performance poetry [cf trocheeostomy]

Enjambment: a distortion of enjambonment which is a crush at the ham counter of Sainsbury’s, or any branch of the Doggerel Bank.

Synecdoche: a form of currency used by the old East London Jewish community [cf ‘That’s a faarkin ridiculous amount of dosh!‘ in reference to the salaries of Premier League footballers.]

Quatrain: Gene Hunt’s[2] off-roader.

Squint poetry: poetry written in size 8 font.

Anapest: a type of wallpaper that obliterates tragic flaws.

Caesura: poetry needing radical surgery that ends up delivering a litter of haikus.

A Found Poem: something Network Rail Lost Property won’t let you have back even if you can prove it’s yours and no one else wants it anyway.

[1] The 2014 Scottish independence campaign wanted out of the UK but into Europe even though being in the UK meant they were also in Europe. The Conservatives, of course, were trying to get us all out of Europe and Alex Salmond was trying to get the Conservatives the hell out of Scotland. In the end, he still had both but he’s slung his hook and dumped the lot on another fish, Nicola Sturgeon.

[2] Life on Mars. The TV programme, not Bowie or anything Curiosity might have dug up and put in its pocket with its handkerchief.

From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018


‘Fish and Chips’

drawing of person with large fish on leadThere are days when, having polished off your last borrowed book and even cast a worryingly enthusiastic glance over Alan Titchmarsh’s column in Radio Times, there’s no other way of avoiding the stack of unopened Scientific Americans than checking out the Parish magazine[1].  In the last issue there was an invitation to write in with a send-up of a local business.  At least I think that’s what it said.  Anyway, inspired by the floods that had paralysed the village some while back, I get cracking on a description of ‘my’ micro-chipping service for fish…


Fish n Chips

Fish n Chips offers a microchipping service that not only identifies missing fish but also locates them using the unique GPS software found in car navigation systems. This is easily installed on your PDA and, once loaded, you can enter the names of up to one hundred fish, each with its own animated icon.  If your fish go missing, just click on the name and follow the beeps – it couldn’t be easier!

Our business was formed just after the floods of the late 1990s when large parts of the village were cut off by standing water and the river was within inches of breaking its banks. People with ponds were alarmed to find that their fish had gone missing as gardens became swimming pools and pond life moved out with the current. Hours were spent wading the streets looking for much loved koi, shubunkins and plain old goldfish, often without success[2].

A forthcoming upgrade to the system, fishnchips.2.v3, will include an automatic return function that, once clicked, will gently control your fish and guide it back to your home (not to be used in drought conditions or during competitive angling contests).


Of course the feline version is already available[3] but there are reports of synchronisation problems due to cats frequently accessing other people’s houses and re-calibrating the system by peeing on the PC.  Recommended lo-tech fixes include seeding the area with KitBits and chopped herring as a distraction but the release of Mutt.4 later this year seems likely to afford a more permanent and less aromatic solution.

[1] Oh how pre-media explosion this was!

[2] This all became a reality in the Somerset floods of 2013 when all manner of exotic fish were found swimming through fields and up lanes. Not so the tracking device. Shoulda listened, shouldn’t they!

[3] This also is a near reality and, given the fish incident, I think I might start patenting my ruminations.

See also Cat Nav [Every Day Fiction September 2012] for an as yet fictional account of advanced microchip technology. Obviously, the human version developed by cats has been fully operational for many years.

From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.

‘Trapped by a CAJE’

drawing, Yoda on checkoutAfter an unenthusiastic flurry of activity, job descriptions are submitted to a central panel for the purpose of matching them to particular pay bands.  Equal pay for equal value – a fine and admirable principle.  Well yes, just so long as your job description is not being analysed by a psychotic software package keen to wreak revenge for unspecified wrongs perpetrated on its mother – in my case a Commodore 64 upon which I once wrote a programme that scrolled bugger bugger bugger on a loop like a set of vindictive credits.

CAJE is a semantic analysis package which responds to key words and phrases, so that failure to include these in your job description leads to the now infamous report that ‘computer says no[1] and you end up with a grade equivalent to a Tesco’s checkout jockey. This is fine if that’s your expectation and it’s consistent with your actual job, but it’s not so good if you are supposed to be in charge and you find yourself on a lower grade than the students you’re supervising.

Well, as any sci fi aficionado will know, resistance is not futile, the Jedi do return and with a bit of judicious reconfiguring, revised documents deliver the goods. I’m not saying we manipulated them at all; we just made sure the key highly skilled words highly specialist could long periods of extreme discomfort not more degrees then you can shake a stick at be we’re bloody brilliant missed.



[1] From the BBC’s seminal Little Britain, should the provenance escape you.


From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018

‘When the Borg Took Our Payslips’

cartoon drawing nurse with Borg implantsI have occasionally been accused, by the terminally unwise it has to be said, of showing a preference for the sci fi fantasy world of Star Trek over twenty-first century reality.  You know reality: that’s where the cat throws up over your foot just as you sit down to eat and the gift you ordered on line for fast delivery is sitting in a DHL depot, fifty miles further away than the shop you didn’t have time to go to in the first place, because you weren’t in when they called[1].  Neither are they when you phone them, but we can all be assured that our call is important to them if we would only hold another forty minutes or so.

Anyway, it seems I’ve been vindicated.  Some time during October/November, the Borg (having sent an advance party into the IT department and concluded that no-one noticed) mounted a major offensive on our civilisation by assimilating the NHS workforce in its entirety.  Not, you understand, by equipping us with neat little bio-electronic gadgets, although the hive mentality is strangely familiar, but by mucking about with that driving ethic of care services, our salaries, which suddenly went AWOL.

The effect of this is a bunch of refused payments for online goods and the stoppage of my bit of plastic. It is still there; its physical presence takes up space where it is supposed to take up space and, if required, I can still scrape ice off the windscreen with it. What it won’t do is mediate any transactions – no credit, no purchases and no cash so, ultimately, no food.

I become a non-person; my entire identity being bound up in the useless artefact in my wallet, now accompanied by a new useless artefact sent as replacement by my bank. I live, in fact, on fifty-three pence for a fortnight until they tell me that the new card uses the old PIN and my existence is formally reinstated by a nice man from a call centre in Mumbai. In the meantime, I have not eaten a single cat although I doubt the courtesy would have been reciprocated had we run out of Kit-bits.



[1] Around 2005 when buying online had become a proper thing but delivery had not. One item of mine was left in the wheelie bin, which must be the ultimate in recycling innovations.


From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018