Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Rising ball pit levels will engulf coastal cities by 2026

Iconic bastions of progressive ideology, New York and San Francisco, could soon be submerged beneath six-metres of multi-coloured spheroids if steps are not taken to address rising ball pit levels.

The stark warning was issued by scientists who have expressed alarm at the unprecedented increase in over-flowing ball pits, caused by meltdowns among those in the social justice community.

Marcus Dove of the Sagres Institute said:

“Social justice warriors, claiming to have developed PTSD after encountering somebody with a differing opinion to their own, are amassing in ball pits in record numbers. They regard these children's play areas as safe spaces where they can confidently bury their heads. However their collective mass is causing extraordinary displacement of the spheroids that is leading to significant flooding and chaos in the wider environment. If we do not turn around this trend then major urban centres will be engulfed within the next decade.

“The high levels of salt exuded by these individuals has effectively rendered many of the ball pits hostile to other forms of life. A number of children who formerly played in these areas have been hospitalised with suspected sodium overdoses.

“Digging deeper and deeper ball pits is a short term solution to this problem, which can only be sensibly addressed by asking those within the social justice community to avoid conflating criticism with harassment and melting down at the slightest provocation.

“On a personal level, I would like to request that these individuals hector and harass their idealogical opposites using their indoor voices.”

The recommendations have been greeted with outage by progressives with many, claiming to have been triggered, converging on ball pits, leading to flash floods in downtown areas across America.

Progressive campaigner, Theresa Nevis, said:

“I am at home, stark-naked in the ball pits of Barney's Box Fort children's softplay warehouse in Trenton, NJ, among the brightly-coloured, asexual, plastic spheres. It's like being massaged by Skittles, which are my favourite sweets. I will not leave.”

In a separate report, scientists have also warned that peak Play-doh has likely been reached, citing the high demand for the material from social progressives as a stress relief tool and means of avoiding confrontation with hard realities.

“In the future we may have to look to other materials to ice fake cupcakes and create wacky hairstyles on plastic, colander-headed figurines,” said James Spenlow, Professor of Plasticine Studies at the University of Missouri.

Responding to the crisis, U.S. President and self-styled God-Emperor, Donald Trump, announced on Tuesday his plans to drain the nation's ball pits into the Grand Canyon, and to deport any of the balls made outside of the United States back to their countries of origin. In a speech given to a Delaware chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, he stated:

“The empty pits will be transformed into colosseums where warriors from across the 50 states will battle to earn my favourable responses on Twitter.”

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Three U.S. state senators who were also minor background characters in the original Star Wars films

Saxby Chambliss (Republican) Georgia 2001-2015

A sponsor of bill H.R. 2335, "to exempt from solid waste designation resources that are recycled," Chambliss can be witnessed campaigning on this very issue in the trash compactor scene in the original Star Wars film.

Unlike Chewbacca, Han, and Luke, Chambliss does not emerge from the compactor and makes no further appearances in the film, leading some viewers to speculate that he was crushed between the encroaching walls before he could escape.

Chambliss added fuel to these rumours while campaigning in favour H.R. 2335. In a televised press conference he stated that he was the only serving U.S. senator to have died in a trash compactor on the first Death Star, in the original cut of Star Wars, before it was re-titled Star Wars: A New Hope.

On a separate occasion he voiced his opinion that Han did indeed shoot first and was entirely justified in doing so. 

Vance Hartke (Democrat) Indiana 1959-1977 

As an early supporter of Medicare and Medicaid, Hartke was a natural choice when it came to casting an assistant to the 2-1B Surgical Droid in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Originally, George Lucas had intended Empire to focus on Luke Skywalker's long rehabilitation, following injuries sustained during a wampa attack – treatment that he would have been unable to afford under the Emperor Palpatine's draconian health insurance bill.

When the film took a different direction, the majority of Harkte's scenes were left on the cutting room floor, where they were eaten by scavenging beetles.

Fortunately some footage has survived. In the photograph above he is pictured assisting in the autopsy of a tauntuan.

Lucas said of Harkte: “Vance could dissect a tauntaun in his sleep. I am in no doubt that, had he not been a long-serving U.S. Senator, he could pursued a very successful career as a veterinarian on the ice planet of Hoth.

Orrin Hatch (Republican) Utah, 1977-present

In 2000, Hatch failed to secure the Republication presidential nomination, with the popular vote going to George W. Bush.

He fared little better, politically, in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, where he can be seen clad in the traditional Utah blue and beige national dress, at the head of a coup to depose the Rebel Alliance Leader, Mon Mothma, while she is distracted by plans for an assault on the second Death Star.

Before he can dispatch Mothma with his ice-pick, Orrin is wrestled to the ground by her formidable amphibious mon-calamari bodyguards and dragged away. In the digitally remastered versions of the film, this scene occurs off-camera.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A review of the Lego guns manufactured by my nephew during a recent visit

A couple of weeks ago I was visited by my nephew, Stellan. At the age of three he is already a competent and inventive gunsmith. Over the course of his stay he produced an impressive arsenal of Lego firearms that challenged my many deeply-held notions of what a gun can be.

While some of Stellan's creations have been lost to the ages, broken up on the unforgiving jagged tides of the big box where we keep all the Lego, a few examples of his work do still survive.

Below I examine this extraordinary cache of weaponry, made by a young man who knows in his heart that the most efficient method of inflicting injury with Lego is to leave individual bricks scattered where they will be trodden on by bare feet, but whose aesthetic sense intuitively reaches towards something more beautiful and refined.

 (1) The diminutive aspect of this simple weapon, with its three non-moving parts, begs the question: Is this a firearm at all? Stellan, its creator, claimed that he “couldn't remember,” before shooting me with it from the cover of the kitchen doorway.

The bulk of this piece and the absence of a handgrip leads me to speculate that it may be a shotgun of some sort, with an external magazine incorporated into the 6-studded white brick that rests atop the barrel. 

It is possible that that slender blue tile could be repositioned so that it protrudes from the rear of the long red brick to create a shoulder stock. One wonders whether this delicate plastic slate, attached to the body of the weapon by only one or two pairs of studs would withstand the recoil associated with a shotgun, without detaching and potentially injuring the shooter. 

(2) “You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

A bold fusion of the brash and the elegant, this high-calibre handgun would have blended seamlessly into the shop-soiled Big Apple of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry films. 

A flimsy handgrip may lead to difficulties holding the weapon steady during firing. 

The 1970s car headlamps and radiator grill bulking out the butt of the gun, while of little practical purpose, provide a retro flourish – a nod of the head to the violent cop films of the 1970s and early 1980s that inspired this fearsome piece.

Here we see a common motif in all of Stellan's designs; the concealed trigger which is incorporated into the grip. 

(3) This stocky sub-machine-gun, reminiscent of the KRISS Vector SMG, incorporates an extended magazine within its bulky and protruding handgrip. However, what this misshapen weapon gains in ammo capacity it loses in ease of use.

I initially mistook this portable, rapid-fire, bringer of death for a penguin, earning me the ire of its creator. 

(4) Another sub-machine-gun. A mysterious gap between the handgrip, where the magazine is presumably housed, and the barrel, raises the pertinent issue of how ammunition enters the firing chamber. One tantalizing possibility is that this tunnel accommodates a belt feed, allowing a user to fire on full-automatic, while drawing from a pair of bandoleers, criss-crossing his or her bare, sweaty chest, like a pair of brass anacondas.

The unusual stair-casing design of the barrel forces the bullet to climb a short flight of internal steps prior to exiting through the muzzle. This results in fitter ammunition, capable of travelling at greater speeds over longer distances.

(5) Whether you have just been caught cheating at poker in a late 18th century El Paso saloon bar, or are simply hoping to assassinate the 16th President of the United States of America during a visit to the theatre, this handsome derringer, sponsored by the Shell Oil company, will more than likely meet your requirements. 

(6) Holy fucking crap! Is that a railgun?

Why yes, now that you mention it Edith, it is a railgun. Capable of magnetically accelerating a Lego brick along its smooth-bore, 1.5cm barrel faster than you can utter the words: “Oh fuck.”

In the words of Ordell Robbie, from Quentin Tarantino's uncharacteristically tepid adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel 'Rum Punch' (Jackie Brown):

When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.” 

After Stellan returned home to Preston, I dismantled his Lego guns and fashioned the remains into this monument to peace.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Day five inside a lion costume

It is my fifth day inside a lion suit. Last Tuesday, Donald Trump ordered two of his bodyguards to hold me down while his Columbian maid sewed me into the costume. Later that afternoon I was presented as a gift to Trump's nine year old son, Barron, who rides me around the house and occasionally hunts me with nerf guns.

At breakfast I ask Donald how long I must stay inside the costume.

How long do lions live?”

I don't know.

When lions invent the internet you can look it up.”

The conversation takes a disturbing turn towards the recent activities of Trump's two older sons, Donald Jnr and Eric, who are both avid big game hunters.

I am lying down on my haunches at the foot of the table, beneath the loosely-pleated hem of the gold-embroidered cloth. Barron bends down in his chair and proffers a cupped hand filled with milk-sodden Cheerios.

Don't worry,” he whispers loudly in my ear. “You are a magic lion who will never die.”

As I slink away between the marbled Doric columns and pad out of the breakfast room, I hear Barron ask his father:

Daddy, can lions breathe underwater?”

In the east gallery I encounter Warren, a former member of the secret service who has been sewn into a bear costume. He tells me that he has been sold to the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin. He is due to be shipped out to Moscow tomorrow.

Phone the Democratic National Convention,” he says. “Tell them to get word to Bernie Saunders. In the past he has always stood up for lions and bears.”

He scratches the number into the zebra-skin wallpaper. It takes me three attempts to dial it correctly with my cumbersome paws.

A woman who introduces herself as Debbie Wasserman Schultz answers the phone. When I ask for Bernie Saunders she tells me that nobody by that name works there and hangs up.

Later I read in the paper about an intercepted email from the League of African Herbivores to the DNC, offering to endorse Hillary Clinton to the tune of $2million, if she runs for President on an anti-lion platform and appoints an antelope as head of the United States Postal Service.

That evening on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah asks Bernie Saunders for his opinion on Hillary's willingness to throw lions under the bus for the sake of a couple of million in change.

That is why we must we must elect Hillary Clinton, so that can she can address the corruption in the Democratic Party,” replies Bernie.

In the adjoining room I hear Trump and a potential campaign donor discussing the possibility of dyeing my fur red.  

Monday, 18 July 2016

Alex Fiedler writes to The Beach Boys on the subject of tomatoes

I know that you'll feel better when you send us in your letter and tell us the name of your favourite vegetable.”

- The Beach Boys (Vegetables)


Dear Brian, Carl, Denis, Mike, Al, Bruce, and Mr Van Dyke Parks,

As suggested in the lyrics to your song 'Vegetables' I have written this letter informing you of the name of my favourite vegetable, in the hope that doing so will make me feel better about life.

You know, if I am being completely honest I have to say that it's the tomato. Now there are some people who claim that the tomato isn't a vegetable but a fruit and these are generally the same people who pronounce it “tomayto”.

In my heart I feel that this is a communist plot against our hard-working American tomato farmers, both at home and on plantations overseas in Vietnam. If the tomato is a fruit then why don't we eat it with ice cream?

You know what? I'm feeling a little better already.

Give my regards to Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Caroline and all the other swinging California girls.

Alex Fiedler.

September 27th, 1967

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Rayleigh or R'lyeh?

In an attempt to dispel some of the confusion between the town of Rayleigh in Essex, and the sunken corpse city of R'lyeh I have created the following infogram:

Rayleigh, Essex, UK

General Description: Successive 20th and 21st century housing estates and developments, shopping amenities, stadium, leisure centre, golf club, swimming pool, indoor karting track, an historic cottage built by the Dutch, and a windmill.

Home To: The Rayleigh Boys football team. Rayleigh Brass Band

Recent historical events of note: “Reality TV stars to open Rayleigh trampoline park next month” (Southend Echo - 28th January, 2016)

Town Motto: “IN RELIQUIAM LABORAMUS” (We work for the future)

R'lyeh, Southern Pacific Ocean

General Description: “Weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth's supreme terror.”

Home To: The cosmic entity, Cthulhu – High Priest of the Great Old Ones, The Great Dreamer, The Sleeper of R'lyeh

Recent historical events of note: That one time Cthulhu woke up and chased after a boatload of sailors

Town Motto: “Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn” (In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming)

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

This time last year I was sleeping rough in London. This is what I learned

1) An extraordinary number of informal lunchtime business meetings take place on the traffic island, outside the Royal Exchange, at Bank Junction.

2) Toilets that don't require payment to use are few and far between.

3) Sources of drinking water are equally hard to come by. You need to start collecting empty water bottles from the trash so that you can store a supply.

4) Even in the summer it gets cold at night. If you get cold then it's very difficult to get warm again. Pick up the free newspapers outside railway stations and use them to stuff your clothes.

5) A sheet of cardboard makes an incredible difference as an insulator and as a cushion between you and whatever hard and uncomfortable surface you happen to be sleeping on. You can pull a collapsed box out of the recycling bundles that the shops put out on the kerb, or you grab one from the cages outside the supermarkets.

6) If you place your ear to the ground in certain parts of London you will hear the sound of the tube trains passing by underneath. Sometimes you will also hear the platform announcements.

7) Your teeth and the inside of your mouth will be the first thing to go

8) After two days without food you will completely lose your appetite.

9) As you lose weight your trousers will slip down and begin to chaff. Make sure that you secure them properly around your waist or you will lose all the skin on your inner thighs and they will stick together when you walk.

10) Parts of London that are populated and generally safe during the day become less so after the crowds depart – e.g. the South Bank, along by The National Theatre.

11) Your biggest human threat is other homeless people. You will be a source of entertainment for drunken arseholes. Everybody else will ignore you.

12) You will win most confrontations by standing your ground and not being afraid to hit back if necessary.

13) The old city of London is generally safe at night but it's harder to find places to sleep that are out of the line of sight.

14) London is a big place. If you don't want to be found, you will not be found.

15) You will never see the places where you slept rough in quite the same way again.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Elegy to Nigel Farage

Elegy to Nigel Farage

We saw you
and we hoped
you were a mirage

a trick of the light

the worst of human nature
given momentary substance
by the sunshine
that warped itself around
curls of beer sweat
rising from the tattooed shoulders
of a fat, shaven-headed man
with no discernible neck,
hunched over his
Wednesday morning pint
in the concrete beer garden
of a pub with a flat roof,
home to a roving Rottweiler
named 'Tosser' by its owners.

Batted back and forth
between the narrow horizon line
of the bar
and the border fortification
of a listing cement wall
about to snap off
from its foundations

Where the old sagas
have been bartered
away piecemeal,
diminished to watered-down
skirmishes between
rival football firms

and the Polish deli opposite
is feared as
the vanguard of some
encroaching army. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Mr McGee remembers Prince

I first met Prince a few years before he obtained his royal title. Back then he was just an ordinary kid called Rogers Nelson.

I was running a five and dime store in Minneapolis. I had filed the paperwork to re-open as a quarter-dollar store. For my application to be approved I needed to demonstrate to officials in the city's chamber of commerce that we could move items priced at 25 cents.

We were making next to nothing on the five cent items so I required strong, motivated sales people to really push those ten cent impulse buys.

I employed Prince on a part-time basis because I had a gut feeling about the boy. I instantly regretted the decision. It seemed like he was always busy doing something next to nothing. I told him several times daily that I didn't like his kind. What I meant was that, as a business owner, I didn't appreciate employees who adopted a leisurely approach to their job, and lacked a decent work ethic.

There were clearly marked entrances and exits in and out of the Five and Dime. This was to cut down on disruption during peak hours when we had lots of customers coming and going. The out door could be pushed open from the inside. There was no way of opening it from the street. Prince would always rile me by anchoring it ajar with a bit of cardboard under the bottom corner.

There was this one time when a girl dressed in a raspberry beret, and not much more, came brazenly sashaying into the store through the out door. I don't think it was an accident either. I think that she wanted to make an entrance.

I looked over to where Prince was stacking boxes of Pussy Control cat litter into a pyramid. The boy was clearly smitten. After he clocked off I saw her climbing onto the back of his bike.

Later that afternoon, Old Man Johnson caught the pair of them making out in his
milking barn. Prince claimed that they had taken shelter in there from heavy rain but there ain't been no big storms in Minnesota for decades. The state can't afford the kind of fancy weather that you get in places like New York.

Old Man Johnson gave the pair of them a thorough dressing down and tried to set them straight on a few things:

Milking barn ain't for intercourse. Bedroom with the lights off, on the first Saturday of any month with 30 days, is the correct time and place for those kind of shenanigans.”

One day at work I took Prince to one side. I said to him:

Son, take a look around this store and tell me how many raspberry-toned items you can see.”

The boy looked around, and up and down all the aisles.

Mr McGee, there sure is a lot of raspberry-coloured packaging.”

When you see all these raspberry coloured items for sale in a five and ten cent store, what conclusion do you draw from that?”

That raspberry is a cheap colour.”

Now tell me how much purple you see.”

Again Prince looked around the place.

Apart from the grape soda machine I don't see any.”

I showed him some recent sales figures from second hand stores in the U.S. and pointed out to him how they get less less purple clothing donated than any other colour.

Purple is the colour of money. You stick with purple and you wont' go far wrong in this life,” I advised him.

The following week the grape soda machine exploded, showering the pair of us in sticky purple rain. I think Prince took it as a sign of the times.

The next day he handed me his letter of resignation, which turned out to be an early draft of the lyrics to Soft and Wet.

I saw him a few years later eating one of them fancy purple bananas that rich folk seem to enjoy.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Gastrography: Michelin star chef, Gavin Neweth, recalls his signature dish

My signature dish - the one that I literally use in place of a handwritten signature to identify myself on legal documentation, when writing bank cheques, or in the line at passport control - can be traced back to my early childhood in Lincoln.

It is a hand-baked artisan cauliflower, centred on a bed of wilted bluebell stems (curated by the English Woodland Trust), speckled with a bluebell purée, tented with a triumvirate of heritage ant-sugar tweals, and cloaked in a nostalgic radish haze.

The dish is a reinterpretation of a simple meal that I was regularly served as a young boy, elevated to the exacting standards of fine dining. To the uninitiated this means that the portion size has been significantly reduced, everything is deftly piled on top of each other, and there are weird dabs of sauce dotted all over the place. Also, you will be expected to drink expensive wine with it.

I grew up in a poor family. One evening, when I was four years old, my father announced that he was going to the pub. He never returned home, although I would sometimes catch glimpses of him, boisterous and red-cheeked, through the grimy candlelit windows of The Merry Bargeman.

My mother was faced with the uphill challenge of feeding seven children on a limited budget, in a cottage whose ground floor sloped steeply from the kitchen stove to the small dining nook. It is a testimony to her thrift, her culinary skills and her experience as a hill walker that we never went hungry.

The dish that she cooked most often is called 'Cauliflower served on a platter'. It is a traditional Lincolnshire recipe with as many variants as there are residents of the county. Everyone seems to have their own particular take on it, even newborns and people who have moved to this area from other parts of the world.

My mother would visit a local greengrocers where she would purchase the cheapest cuts of cauliflower, which, at the time, were the haunches. On her way home she would pass through an area of woodland where she would pick bluebells. She would blanch the stems in the boiling torrent of water that gushed from the outflow of a nearby enamel factory.

Occasionally she would attempt to manufacture a sauce from the bluebell flower heads. When this went wrong, as it invariably did, she would fly into a terrible rage and hurl the cast-iron pan across the room, splattering the walls in lavender-toned gloop.

In my Mayfair restaurant, Croissant? Croissant!, staff recreate this effect by pipetting dots of my bluebell purée onto the walls. To experience the dish in its entirety, diners must vacate their places at the table, forgo the cutlery, that has long acted as a barrier between restaurant patrons and their choice of food, and apply their tongues directly to the décor.

The addition of tweals to the dish was my mother's idea. Scattered around my childhood home were plentiful ant nests. Each of these would yield long, spiralling filaments of ant-sugar, which had been crudely spun by the workers of the colonies over successive generations. My mother would arrange these tweals in a pagan wigwam formation over the baked cauliflower. This sweetened garnish would sometimes end up impaled in the roofs of our mouths. Ironically, many years later, my older brother, William, lost his left eye after it was skewered on a tweal, while he was backpacking in Thailand.

In my re imagining of the dish I used heritage sugar tweals. The London Evening Standard recently claimed that these are the same antique tweals that were stolen last year from the London Museum of Tweals, in Rotherhithe. In my defence I would like to point out that, if the paper had any evidence of my involvement, either in the theft, or in the trafficking of stolen goods, I would be rotting in jail by now.

The most important component of the dish is the radish haze:

As a child my mother was given some radishes by the Duchess of Kent, who had been served them as part of a salad in a pub lunch. My mother never forgot the peppery flavour of watery pulp and wanted to pass this experience on to her children.

After setting the cauliflower down on the table she would exhale the memory of the radishes, that burned deep within her soul, as a phantom seasoning, infusing the dish with the pungent recollection of the small root vegetables.

To recreate this effect in the restaurant, I employ a woman, who bears a striking resemblance to my late mother, to dress in some of her old clothes, drink gin, and eat radishes all day. Our patrons love the theatre that arises from an inebriated women blowing invisible seasoning over a steaming cauliflower. Being subjected to drunken rant about what a louse my father was, and, every so often, being walloped around the back of the head for spurious reasons are all part of the experience!

After my father left, my mother smashed our china crockery. We could not afford to replace it. Fortunately she found a job sweeping the local orchard. The kindly farmer allowed her to bring home the fallen branches, which were re-purposed as plates. It's why today everything in Croissant? Croissant! (even the soup!) is served on branches that I foraged from Kensington Gardens.

Taken together, the dishes on my menu at Croissant? Croissant! tell the story of my life. The time my bike was stolen by older boys and thrown into a canal, is represented by a miniature pasta bicycle, served with a clear leek broth made from my own tears. Diners who wish to experience the mixed emotions I felt the last time I moved house are presented with a small cake, which is taken from them when it is half-eaten and replaced by a much larger, nicer cake.

When people express a fascination for my life journey and ask me when I will be writing my autobiography I direct them to my restaurant. When I am on the premises I will happily hand-sign, in biro, the individual ingredients of any dish, for an additional charge. 

(Gavin Neweth will stand trail for tweal theft in May, 2016.)

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

What does my virtual wife do all day?

(Screen caps are from the the original PC version of Fables: The Lost Chapters)

The kingdom of Albion comprises small pockets of land separated by brief loading screens. Within these unchanging parcels of terra firma, where it is forever Autumn, one is compelled to wander predesignated pathways, many of which are bordered by rambling stone walls, which are slowly falling into disrepair. You may wish to pause to admire the scenery that lies tantalizingly beyond the beaten track, yet it will remain eternally inaccessible. Sadly, the physical laws of the realm determine that, while your gaze may linger wistfully over faraway sun-dappled hills, you will never be permitted to explore them.

In keeping with my role of professional hero, I travel everywhere in this fairytale kingdom, either on foot or by teleporter, with an unfathomably large inventory of armour and assorted weapons. Chief among my arsenal are my numerous enchanted swords, all of which are impractical in both size and design; additionally many bear overcompensating monikers: The Bereaver; Avo's Tear; The Harbinger. There is a giant serrated vegetable peeler christened the Solus Greatsword that I purchased for an exorbitant sum in a shop in swanky, gentrified Bowerstone North.

In between quests, I found the time to wed. The courtship leading to these nuptials was brief: In the tavern at Oakvale - the village of my birth - I selected a maid at random. I plied her with beer, and the gemstones that I had harvested from the bodies of the trolls I had slain, until she succumbed to my charms. We were married soon after.

Periodically I would return home to find my beloved socialising in the tavern. I began to worry that my long absences were taking a toll on her; perhaps even driving her to seek comfort in alcohol, or in the arms of another.

She always greeted me with a smile and often with a gift of armour inferior to that which I was already wearing, but which was nonetheless appreciated. And yet I could not divest myself of the suspicion that her overtly smiley demeanour concealed a deeper sadness.

To allay my fears I decided that I would take some time off from the hurly burly of war and bloodshed that dominate my working life and spend a day getting to know my virtual spouse. This is what I discovered:

We need a bigger bed

I return to Oakvale in the dead of night to find the double doors of my bungalow flung wide open to the darkness. This causes me considerable disquiet. When I was a boy, Oakvale was raided by bandits. In this very house they executed my father, blinded my chocolate-obsessed, know-it-all sister and kidnapped my mother.

My wife, oblivious to my concerns regarding home security, snores noisily in our single bed. I find that I am unable to climb in with her and so wile away the nocturnal hours practising with my flaming sword (not a euphemism – an actual flaming sword) At some point I inadvertently break a window. 

My virtual wife is an uncomplicated woman of simple pleasures

Morning. A cock crows. My wife awakens, stretches and rises from the bed fully clothed. 

Instantly she is overcome by the same joy felt by every one of my real world partners. In this aspect Fable accurately portrays real life to an uncanny degree.

She stands before a small, east-facing window, adjacent to the bed, and remarks in quaint, rustic tones:

Being in love is so nice. Hello trees. Hello sky.”

Having dispensed with her morning ritual she sits quietly by the fire in an upright chair. 

Later she will rise, but remain standing beside the hearth, gazing upon me with reverence and affection as I pace up and down our small, but impeccably decorated, one-room domicile, like a caged tiger who longs to decapitate a gang of bandits with an enchanted longbow.

INTERLUDE: Flirting and casual vandalism

Concerned that my presence maybe be unduly influencing my wife's behaviour, I venture outside to flirt with our next door neighbour, who obviously fancies me. However, I soon become bored by her platitudes and banal small talk.

In an attempt to alleviate the tedium I engage in some spirited shadow-boxing. This climaxes with me accidentally breaking a window in the house opposite. A guard is summoned and I am fined a small sum of money to pay for repairs and to compensate for my public disorder.

As the guard lumbers back down the hill, the owner of the vandalised property cheers and applauds me. In this town I can do no wrong. I am like goddamn Justin Bieber with a broadsword. 

My virtual wife is hard-working woman with a strong sense of civic responsibility

Evening falls. My wife, who has spent the day warming herself beside the hearth,  happily trilling odd lines from songs, abruptly leaves our home.

Pub?” I inquire, as I follow behind at a respectable distance in the twilight. 

At the end of our lane she pulls a cord connected to a lamppost, turning on the light. She does likewise with the lamps on either end of the covered wooden bridge that crosses the gorge, and connects both sides of the village.

Having performed her civic duties she returns to our home and begins vigoruously scrubbing a section of the skirting board.

My wife is a good woman, hardworking and in possession of a social conscience.

My virtual wife is a love machine

Darkness falls. My wife sits quietly beside the fire. Suddenly her aura changes from dusky blue to green, indicating (as it does in the real world) a desire for intimacy.

For the third time in our long marriage I have sex with my wife, who remains blissfully unaware of my ownership of a bordello in Darkwood, from which I derive a modest income.

Following our dalliance we rise from the bed. My wife stretches and yawns repeatedly. Ever the gentlemen, I await for her to climb into our single bed, resolving to keep watch over her.

When she declines to do so, I climb in and pull the blankets over my platemail armour. As I lie there in the darkness, I resolve to spend more time with my virtual wife. I will be a better husband. I will cease visiting the bordello in Darkwood and letting Hedwig chain me to a rack in my union jack underpants.

I drift off to sleep.