Posts Tagged ‘Puzzles’


I was visiting my Nan yesterday to check on her taps. Apparently they were dripping.

She’s great my Nan. 128 smokes 40 a day, drinks her share and swears like a Scaffolder with piles.

Through the fug of cigarette smoke I found her sitting in her chair (the special one that tips up and vibrates -“me only pleasure now that Norman has gorn” as she puts it) watching a spot of daytime telly. I think it was “Bodies For Cash In The Attic” or something.

Shirley’s 5 bean chilli worked its magic and before I could display my DIY acumen, I needed the facilities. I took The Sun up with me and had a go at the Crossword. The coffee break one. 6 hours later I still had only got three answers (Egg, Tea and Roy Keane if you want to know).

Nan wasn’t too happy when I couldn’t fix her taps.

“Useless twat,” she called me, coughed a chesty smoker’s cough and brought up a gobful of phlegm which landed on me Reeboks.

Bit harsh I thought.



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Travelling First Class was Geoffrey’s Friday treat. Wide seats, leg room, trolley service and away from the noisy clatter of his daily Second Class commute.

He settled into his chair and dropped the armrest. It did not squeak. Luxury.

The woman sitting opposite him was well dressed; had curt, efficient hair and wore reading glasses. She busied herself tapping the keys of her laptop. He looked at her.

She was definitely an Iliad.

Geoffrey fished in his suitcase for his copy, found it and laid it on the table. The woman glanced up from her screen and looked at the cover of the book.

Job done he thought to himself.

He  carried Homer’s epic along with Joyce’s Ulysses, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Worster on every train journey.

He chose one of the books as reading material after assessing the intellectual capacity of his fellow travellers. Slightly egotistical of course, but the kind of quiet, clever game Geoffrey enjoyed playing against the world. Even if the world was unaware of its involvement.

In common with the past three years, he opened the poem at the same page. The woman looked up again. He was pleased.

The Guard approached, “Tickets please.” Geoffrey handed his ticket over. It was duly clipped.

“Short Platform at Stonehouse, alight from the front two carriages.”


He set The Iliad down and leafed through the pages of the Daily Telegraph until he found the cryptic crossword. Today’s was set by “Alacrity”.

A worthy opponent he mused.

The crossword was completed quickly; the clues, puns and red herrings holding no fear or confusion. Several of the words however, bore no relation to their correct spelling.

“Bohemian” was furnished with two H’s; P popped up unexpectedly in “Valedictory”; thus forcing “Occasion” to house a D.

Geoffrey’s intellectual elasticity had overcome Alacrity yet again. Being incorrect was irrelevant. It was the speedy completion that mattered. That and the silent but unmistakable appreciation of those around him, at his speed of thought, wit and intelligence.

There was a quiet, studied satisfaction to be had in these daily deceptions. They gave Geoffrey an element of control against the daily mediocrity he saw everywhere.

He folded the paper neatly and placed it on the table. Next to the Iliad. Lovely tables in First Class. Roomy.

He had appeared on Mastermind once. It was to be his defining moment. Televisual proof to the world of his extraordinary talent. But he had finished last in his heat, scoring only nine points, the lowest score recorded that series. A smug Librarian from Ayr had won and progressed to the quarter finals.

It still rankled with him that the Librarian’s specialist subject was “British Birds Of Prey”. Why, there were only four of them to his knowledge.

He had challenged a question surrounding Cuckoos, arguing that Cuckoos were not Birds of Prey and therefore the question favoured his opponent (“That Jock Bastard,” as Geoffrey thought of him). The recording was stopped and he was ticked off by the presenter Magnus Magnusson. The edit seamlessly covered over the fracas.

His topic, “The History of The British Toll Road 1608 to 1965” had so many more facts to learn. Many of which he had not. Unfortunately.

Despite lengthy correspondence with the BBC over the iniquity of the “Cuckoo Question”, Geoffrey was not granted a place the following series. He had boycotted The Antiques Roadshow ever since.

“That bastard Magnusson,” he muttered to himself.

It was about this time that the rages had begun. At first they were quiet, unassuming squalls of anger, that flickered momentarily then abated, like a struck match in a gale.

But now the rages gnawed at him ceaselessly, crippling his emotive resonance. He felt it was right to be angry. His duty. Someone had to be angry with all the idiocy at large these days. At everything.

Yet he hemmed the anger in. Never displayed it.

The trolley arrived. Geoffrey pondered over tea or coffee and a choice of stem ginger or shortbread biscuits. He chose coffee and stem ginger. It was Friday after all. Push the boat out a bit.

“Finished with the paper?” the woman opposite asked.


“The paper, finished with it?”

“Yes, yes, by all means,” he handed her the Telegraph.

“Thanks. I had trouble with the Crossword this morning. Alacrity is such a devilish setter of clues. As you finished it in no time, I was wondering if I could check your answers to see where I went wrong.”


He raised the armrest, stood, gathered up the Iliad, placed it in his briefcase and walked to the end of the Carriage. The toilet was unoccupied. He locked the door behind him and sat down.

Only twenty minutes to Stonehouse and a short walk home. With luck he wouldn’t see her again.

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