The Art of Procrastination

With a blog entitled “The Procrastination Pen” I suppose it is reasonable to expect that at some stage there would be something on procrastination.

To be honest the naming was something that came to light after several days of brain stretching. It was only fixed after I discovered that all my other great name ideas were already taken.

(This is fairly familiar, see my discoveries about the use of the term “Wreck of the Week”).

It was all going swimmingly until Amazon launched a product which is actually called a  “Procrastination Pen”. This consigns my little blog to low down in the Google search results.

Anyway enough of this – suffice to say that the title “Procrastination Pen” was in the search for a unique blog title rather than some manifesto of intent.

However it is not a title without aptness. Throughout my life I have struggled with procrastination. At times I would rather clean the toilet than embark on the task that I regard as the most important. During revision for the various exams I have undertaken in my life I have dusted, hoovered and tended the garden to avoid picking up a single book.

And so it was with great embrace that I greeted the book that is the subject of this post.

If like me you have symptoms of procrastination in your life I recommend that you buy this before any other book on the subject.

Procrastination 1

Bookfinder

My copy is now very precious to me.

John turns out to have been a lifelong procrastinator of the advanced order. This puts him in a uniquely sympathetic position to other sufferers. He is the most positive person I have encountered when it comes to the treatment of procrastination.

If you want a flavour for the author’s style then visit his website here.

He raises the idea of akrasia (apparently originally from Aristotle). This describes why people will do anything other than the thing they are supposed to be doing.

He proposes that procrastinators far from being inefficient wastrels actually get a great deal of work done. However they get that work done whilst avoiding some other task.

Perversely they may be seen to be very hard-working and efficient as a result.

The major outcome of which is that being a procrastinator is quite positive and nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of.

Although he is perhaps the first to propose the term “structured procrastination” to cover this behaviour the first to write about it apparently was Robert Benchley in the Chicago Tribune in 1930. The article “How to Get Things Done” is now the subject of a blog posting.

Structured Procrastination

The benefits of structured procrastination (as opposed I suppose to doing absolutely nothing) is that it is feasible to get procrastination to work in your favour. A great deal of work can be accomplished whilst avoiding the task you really do not want to engage with.

The issue is that mentally (or physically if we can bring ourselves to be that organised) we have a list of tasks which we must accomplish.

Habitually a procrastinator will have the most important task glaring him or her in the face. He or she is quite prepared to exercise his or her self in the performance of tasks lower down that list to avoid that most important task.

The wrong thing to do when you have this mindset is to address the task directly. Worse still is to attempt to minimise the distracting tasks to focus fully on the main one. If you succeed then the only way to avoid the main task is to do something which is not constructive – watch the television, cut your toenails, pick your nose and so on.

One approach is to try to find another yet more important task and to mentally (or physically if it helps) add this task to the top of the list. Now you will be spending all of your efforts to avoid that task. Your previous most important task is now second on the list and is likely to receive attention to avoid the new most important task.

Alternatively, if no likely task presents itself, promote one of the less important tasks to be the most important one.

This means you have to fool yourself that this task is more important. As John points out we fool ourselves all the time anyway in the pursuit of procrastination so we’re already experts at this.

Perfectionist Moi?

Procrastinators are fantasists, unable to complete the task perfectly but nonetheless imagining that they are able to do so.

Finding themselves unable to complete a task to this imagined standard of perfection means the task does not get done.

That is unless the task has a deadline, in which case as the deadline passes guilt kicks in. The procrastinator attains a mad scramble to complete the task. In the process he or she gives his or herself permission to do a less than perfect job.

John states that we would be better using a task triage in this situation. Decide which tasks you can forget altogether, which you can forget until later, and which to start work on.

In the process decide whether a half-arsed job is sufficient or if a perfect job really is needed.

Lists

Surely the bane of any procrastinator and the subject of way too much time-management reading I’ve performed over the years.

Procrastinators keep lists – either mentally or, for the more disciplined, physically.

The lists are pretty pointless. The only reason they are created is to get the buzz from crossing things off the list. Hence the list grows with items that did not need to be on the list simply for the feedback of all those ticks.

Where lists do come into their own is when the procrastinator is faced with a task that he or she cannot face. Something so daunting that nominating some other task as the most important will surely fail.

Here the task needs salami slicing. Each component of the task listed out so that the procrastinator can approach it piecemeal.

The safest time to make such a list is just before sleep – that way you’re less inclined to be distracted.

Music

Motivational music is well worth having.

Personally I think that you can’t go far wrong with this:

You will have your own preferences.

Distractions

These are bread and butter for the procrastinator, email and web surfing for example. Avoiding these is not realistic. Set something that will interrupt you. At least you will stop emailing/surfing the web (or alternative distraction of choice) and do some work before the sun sets.

Desktop

A lot of procrastinators work by spreading papers across the desk. Do not resist this if it is you.

Putting papers into filing cabinets is an almost certain way of never dealing with those papers again. If you are not bound by a clear desk policy feel free to leave the papers exactly where they are when you stop working. That way you can instantly pick up where you left off.

Non-Procrastinators

Procrastinators drive such people mad. Non-Procrastinators are useful to have around. They will insist that you work in a non-procrastinating way. This can be very motivational (if hard on any relationship that you have with them).

Obsessively productive people may choose to do the tasks for you. Make sure that you contribute equally if so.

Positives

A surprisingly large number of tasks don’t need doing at all. By not working on them you gain time that non-procrastinators lose.

Some tasks find better qualified people to work on them and they also disappear from your mental (or physical) to do list.

There are many ways to spend time and many opinions about the best way to spend time. Spending time daydreaming may in the long run be more productive than writing that essay.

Procrastinators may ultimately find better ways to enjoy life.

Unpleasant News

Whilst John is positive throughout about the impact of procrastinators he does reference some material which is likely to bite a bit harder.

Procrastination: Ten Things to Know. (Read this if you’re a procrastinator in a really upbeat mood or a non-procrastinator who needs validation).

For those determined to beat their procrastination into submission John recommends this book:

Procrastination 2

Bookfinder

However as John concludes, procrastination is not the problem. You will only attempt drastic action against procrastination if you are unhappy.

It would be far better to work on the unhappiness rather than the procrastination.

 

 

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On The Theme of Hell

I have enjoyed the idea of stories about hell ever since one of my writing instructors asked me to consider the neighbours from hell as if they were literally from hell.

Over time I generated several stories on this theme.

Following on from the Book Planning article recently: https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/02/11/book-planning-pt-2/. In this I consider James who has escaped Hell (but possibly not for very long).

In this one a tormentor from the flame regions tries to find himself a new employee.

The Apprentice

“Ah Lawrence, dear, dear Lawrence, I see that you have put in a request for retirement, you know how I get upset about such things”

“But Your Eminence I have served you faithfully for longer than any of your previous servants, surely I have earned it?”

“Oh dear, this concept of having earned something Lawrence, how very demanding of you.  I’m afraid that I may have to provide myself with a little entertainment at your expense.”

“Ah, that is, I apologise for not having explained myself properly Your Eminence.  What I meant to say was that I have found an excellent replacement servant.”

“Now you have given this some thought Lawrence haven’t you?  It isn’t just the first name that happened to turn up in ‘The Book of the Damned’ is it?”

“Err, well, no Your Eminence.”

“Oh Lawrence don’t lie to me, I’m very good at detecting it you know.”

“Well, I was flicking through ‘The Book’ this afternoon and discovered a possible candidate who lives just next door.”

“One hundred percent for convenience Lawrence but is he as talented as you are?  I’m not sure that I need another apprentice.”

“But think of the advantages Your Eminence, the bending of a new recruit to your will, the fresh viewpoint, the different ideas.”

“Very well Lawrence you’ve made your point, let’s have a look at him shall we.  Oh and Lawrence.”

“Yes Your Eminence.”

“Here’s a set of painful mouth ulcers to repay your feeble deception attempts.  I think I’d rather like to watch you eating some nice hot chips – and don’t stint on the vinegar.”

*          *          *
“David, DAVID, get up now and be swift about it there’s a good man.”

The voice sounded like it came from inside my head. I knew that I was still asleep but without thinking I was up, out of bed and padding down the stairs, still dressed in my pyjamas. I seemed compelled to head towards the source of that voice. Down the street; the house adjacent to mine; through the gate and the front door, which were hanging, open as if in readiness for me.

*          *          *
“Lawrence?  Could you just sort out the business with the wife now?  That would be lovely.  Ah David how nice for you to finally meet me.”

I had a feeling that there was something very wrong with that sentence.  There was also something wrong with being fast asleep but with your eyes wide open.

“Lawrence, come and look at him would you?”

“Yes Your Eminence”

“This would be David. I see from his entry in The Book of the Damned that he would be forty six. So far he is a man largely without drive or ambition, are you sure that he’s the right sort to replace you? It’ll be the hot bath for you if you’re wrong.”

“No, no, I’m sure” Lawrence sounded anxious to please.

“As long as you’re not putting your wishes above mine, such as sneakily nominating a replacement servant so that you can take it easy you know that would just make me annoyed.”

Lawrence sighed “With respect your holiness; everything makes you annoyed.”

“I’m sorry Lawrence but that’s it; off to the hot bath and don’t come back till you’ve mended your ways.”

“No, no, please; I didn’t mean it.”  Lawrence’s voice was edged with fear.

“Oh we’re going to try overacting are we?  Excellent Lawrence; I do love a spot of melodrama; do go on.”

“I was going to beg for my life Eminence.”

“Beg for it Lawrence?  Beg for it?  Have you learned nothing in the three hundred odd years you have served me?”

“Eminence?”

“That life to which you would cling so tenaciously is my invention. It is a shadow of consciousness sufficient to enable you to appreciate the suffering which I can provide, nothing more. Oh, and to provide me with a fine entertainment I might add. Now off to the baths there’s a good man.”

“But, but…” Lawrence had begun to babble.

“Oh dear Lawrence; a desperately slow learner aren’t we?  (I wonder why I’ve never encountered that before.) Should I take that life away from you then?  You could call it a last favour as a long-time companion.”

“No, thank you Eminence; I’ve grown rather attached to it.”

“Well; I’m sure that you know best.  Oh and Lawrence.”

“Yes Your Eminence.” Lawrence responded with a hopeful note to his voice.

“Wake him up before you go; there’s a good man.”

“Eminence” Lawrence’s voice fell to a hopeless whisper.

*          *          *
I had been listening to the whole conversation from the depths of a dream.  I was insulated from it and distant, but now as Lawrence touched me an incredible pain brought me instantly awake and to my knees in one moment. As I gasped Lawrence took one last reproachful look at me and then departed.

“Ah, David, delighted, delighted, now I am really at a loss I really am.  My old slave seems to think that you will be an adequate replacement for him but you seem really lack-lustre to me, it is really bemusing.”

I was still dazed by the pain and unsure what I was supposed to say next.

“Perhaps you might explain what qualities you possess that would make you interesting.  You see I would ask Lawrence but it would be rather difficult right now, he may not have time to explain; in between the screaming that is.”

I continued to stare at him mute with disbelief; it seemed like mere seconds before I had been resting in a comfortable bed.

*          *          *
“I’ll forgive you the silence this far David because you are new; but I warn you don’t stretch my patience any further. What is it about you that makes you so useful?  Hmm?”

I remembered the fear in Lawrence’s voice when he had been told to go for a ‘hot bath’. “I’m sorry, I really don’t understand; this is really a strange kind of dream” I blurted out without thinking.

“Oh this is so annoying; fortunately I had prepared a demonstration, I always find them so useful in illustrating the realities as it were.”

“A demonstration?” I could feel my voice quaver a little; what did he mean by a demonstration?

“Yes David it’s time we had our relationship on the proper footing which it will be I have no doubt after you have returned home.”

*          *          *
Before the sound of “home” had properly died, I found myself back in my bedroom, still kneeling. Looking into the staring eyes of my wife; fixed now in death, around her throat a set of bruises, causing it to be swelled and purple.

I stared in disbelief, Deirdre, my companion now for twenty years. It took me some time to understand that this was real. As I knelt there in shock, the realisation dawned – he had said that there would be a “demonstration.” He had done this – he had murdered my wife.

I looked around for a weapon and saw an ugly brass table lamp – something Deirdre’s mother had given us and I had been too polite to throw out. I grabbed it, pulling the cable from the wall socket and set off down the stairs.

*          *          *
“Back so soon David? How admirable, how quickly you are facing up to the realities.  So much faster than Lawrence did; there really is hope for you.”

“She’s dead, she’s b b b bloody dead and you killed her” I heard myself yell.

“Well of course I did at least indirectly. Of course it was your actual hands that committed the evil deed so to speak but yes I was the guiding intelligence behind it.”

I looked down and saw that my hands were red and trembling as if from some great exertion. The muscles were aching badly –how could this could be, had I killed her?

“Of course it was me that gave her that wretched life in the first place. I certainly think I have the right to take it away. If I get a bit of enjoyment watching her struggle and finally despair as the last gasp chokes from her then I think that is only my due don’t you”

“You bastard, you evil, crazy, mean-minded, bastard” I was desperate now.

“David; I don’t think that’s wise. Whilst the words are inevitably accurate it’s traditional to keep up a modicum of front about these things.  Put down the table-lamp. You can’t do anything with it you know.”

At that instant, my arm started to spasm and I rapidly dropped the brass lamp “Aaah, ah, ah, shit, damn, it electrocuted me. How could it do that?  It wasn’t even plugged in.”

“Because I commanded it to of course; when I say ‘Lord’ I mean ‘Lord of Darkness’ and all that charming Gothic nonsense.

“You mean that you’re The…Devil?” I asked gaping in disbelief.

“Well if you must use such a demeaning term, I prefer to think of myself as ‘The Prince of Evil’ or something similar but each to his own.”

“You’re insane; you know that, you can’t possibly be The Devil. I mean The Devil doesn’t exist.”

“You’ll have plenty of opportunity to verify my existence over the millennia I will force you to serve me. This really is most tiresome; I feel that I’ve given you quite enough time to knuckle down. Tell me why you are useful to me; or shall we go for a tour? I could show you some of the less well-publicised elements of my realm, hmm?

I was distracted from the menace of his last sentence. My mind filled with the image of Deirdre lying dead “I loved her; I really loved her; what will I do now?”

“Well of course you think that you loved her. That was all part of the plan to increase your wretchedness when she finally gave up the ghost. It really is most gratifying that it has worked out so well. Now if you don’t mind your qualifications?”

“M-my qualifications? I-I don’t know about qualifications; I’m just a civil servant.” I could feel my sanity wrestling away from me.

“Oh I think it unlikely to be anything about your job. I’m not interested that you have served 26 years with the Inland Revenue.  Charming though that cliché would be.”

“I c-can’t understand what you mean” my mind felt like it was drowning.

“Let me put it simply for you shall I? You have mere moments to explain to me in what new and diverting ways you can increase the misery of the world or you can join my previous employee in a rather warm bath.”

“I? Increase the misery of the world?” I knew now that it was insanity; I must be delusional.

“Well I’m sure that you do David; merely by breathing. You really are quite dull you know; but that is not quite on the scale that I imagined. I do so love the petty annoyances; they do make the time pass so delightfully swiftly.”

“Petty annoyances?” I was repeating everything he said; by now reduced to parrotry.

“I take it all back David; you really are so incredibly slow I am amazed that anything makes it through that dense artefact you call a skull. An example I think, just to make things easier. Last week I believe was your dear departed wife’s birthday?”

“Deirdre; oh my God; Deirdre” tears fell so thickly now my eyes felt like open sores.

“Yes, as you so eloquently put it, Deirdre. You booked a table at eight and promised to be home on time. Unfortunately, your boss gave you a grilling about use of the photocopier in work time. This delay caused you to miss the bus and the next bus of course didn’t turn up. You decided to walk but a sudden downpour turned that into more of a frantic run didn’t it?”

“Yes, how …?”

“So that by the time you arrived home soaking wet; stressed, tired and an hour late Deidre was slightly less than pleased to see you. Of course you did try the restaurant but due to some mishap they had failed to take your reservation.  Deirdre’s birthday turned out to be a Chinese takeaway and she didn’t talk to you for three days!  It’s all so delightful when it works so well; rather like poetry really.”

“You did all that?” I felt as defeated as the look in Lawrence’s eyes when he departed for the ‘warm bath’.

“Oh not personally of course; I did have Lawrence; He was really very good you know. But then I am hopeful that you can do better.”

“Better?” What did he imagine I could do?

“Well keep the gears oiled, the wheels rolling; continue to make life miserable for people.”

“But why?”

“Oh purely for my entertainment of course; I’m stuck in this realm for all eternity so I definitely do not wish to see anyone enjoying their time here.”

“But surely when the time comes.”

“You die? Oh purely an artefact David I can assure you.  You see you were never living in the first place.  Life is merely that essence that I have caused all the residents of my kingdom to be addicted to; to treasure; to give everything for.  But in fact it is completely worthless.”

“Worthless?”

“Oh yes, you see you can’t cease to exist, you have been imprisoned here for all eternity with me; every miserable one of you. The ‘Day of Judgement’ – over hyped as it has been, has, actually occurred. This place you call ‘home’, ‘Earth’ and in fact this entire Universe is the home of darkness and of suffering for all eternity.”

“But then where do you go…?”

“After you die? Well you see it’s a bit of a sleight of hand.  I whip you out of one rotting mound of flesh and cause you to be born memory erased somewhere else equally miserable; equally without hope.”

“I don’t see the point…”

“Of course if I can make you a little uglier; maybe give your mother postnatal depression so that she can’t stand you. Perhaps I’ll settle for something more minor like a severe nappy rash or that you develop debilitating asthma at a young age.  It’s all rather gratifying once you know how it works.”

“So this is purgatory?” (I remembered something about this from a programme on television; unfortunately, I hadn’t given it much attention.)

“Well not, as such, no; you see as I understand it the definition of purgatory is that eventually you may escape it. You, I’m afraid have no hope of escape, ever. So now” (his voice took on a truly sinister edge) “why are you of value to me David?”

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Happy Seed – Worry Seed

I’ve used this technique myself with clients. It is a good creative technique to use with people who worry excessively or are anxious. Sometimes it is good to use techniques other than talking (and listening) in the room. Visual techniques are helpful in that they display to the client where their current thinking style/behaviour is taking them. It also can help them to clearly see changes that they need to make.

Everyone in the world has two seeds. There is a happy seed and a worry seed. You can do what you like with either seed – there is no instruction book. However the way you behave towards these two seeds is not without consequences.

This exercise is to show what happens when you pay attention to one or other seed.

Draw a happy seed and a worry seed at the bottom of a large piece of paper.

Happy Seed 1

The client can pay attention to either seed. They must first nominate one as the happy seed and one as the worry seed. (Draw a label clearly at the base of the paper so that there is no doubt which one is which).

They can pay attention to either seed. Each seed needs feeding and watering so that it can grow.

If the client is prone to worry it is usually easier for them to pay attention to the worry seed. If a worry comes to mind have them draw a shoot from the worry seed. Have them attach a leaf to this shoot labelled with that worry.

Happy Seed 2

At this stage the worry seed is developing into a plant. The happy seed is still just a seed. The client has free rein to add shoots to either seed. Have them add more shoots with whatever comes to mind.

Their predominant thinking style will rise to the surface. Someone who worries draws more worries.

Happy Seed 3

Dependent upon how much the client has to bring up it might be that you will need a very large piece of paper for this. (Plain wallpaper for example is good).

As you watch what the client is doing you can see that they have a tendency to water and feed one particular plant dependent upon their thinking style.

Happy Seed 4

This can continue for as long as you have time designated to this. However a definite pattern will have emerged.

Happy Seed 5

Eventually the client will run out of things to add – or will have added as much as they can within the time you allotted for this activity. There will usually be an asymmetry between the two plants:

Happy Seed 6

At which point you can point out to them that in life there is only one pot of time. They can pay attention to anything that they like but only one thing at a time. If they pay attention to the worry seed – they care for it, water it and it will start to grow.

A first worry leaf develops. With further attention to the worry seed another leaf pops up. If they keep caring for the worry seed in time a tree of worries will fill the page.

Their life will be full of worries and there will be no space left for happy.

They can’t care for the worry seed and at the same time pay attention to the happy seed. With no attention to the happy seed they concentrate all their energy on worry.

The worry tree becomes so huge that it is overwhelming. By comparison the stunted happy tree is undeveloped. In fact the happy tree is completely overshadowed by the worry tree and is not going to grow properly.

Get them then to consider how life would be different if they spent at least some time on the happy seed.

Better still if they watered and cared for the happy seed at the expense of the worry seed. How much different would life be then.

The intention is for them to seek out the parts of their lives that are happy and to minimise the time they spend worrying.

Thanks to my counsellor Rachel http://www.elyhypnotherapy.com/ for suggesting this technique.

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Do It

What You Waiting For.

I was reflecting today that older people keep trying to tell younger people things are a certain way and younger people don’t listen.

This seems to have been an issue for many generations.

I remember that there was a saying when I was a child “he has to learn the hard way”.

In which the hard way was to insist on learning by experience when someone had already told you what the outcome would be.

When you have twenty years or so left to exist it comes to mind that learning the hard way is too time-consuming and painful.

It is clear that spending a lot of life relearning lessons that others already know, which they have learned already and are trying to show you is a waste.

It took until my fifth decade before I began to get a picture of what other people were trying to tell me. In many respects when it is too late.

One of these is nicely documented in the song Time by Pink Floyd “No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun”.

I found that I waited and then kept on waiting for someone to tell me when was the proper time to begin.

For example since I can remember I have wanted to write a book, there seems no reason that makes sense.

Perhaps once it was an escape from a 9-5 job or something that seemed better than dealing with members of the public or whatever was right for the time.

But as boring jobs ended, and life improved the ambition remained.

It is now plain that I gave myself excuses: no punctuation or grammar background; gradual loss of imagination; daunted by the task and so on.

But mainly I was waiting, waiting for a time to start.

If there was ever a way of passing a message to someone four decades younger. Then it would be: do not wait, do what you want to do – now.

There may not be a tomorrow for you to try to do it in…

Hero Story

From one of my courses I was asked for a story about a hero. I chose Stanley who was a hero to me. I hope that you love him as I did.

“Sodding James Bond I mean where would he be if that guy Q hadn’t invented the exploding pen or the rotating watch I ask you that?” Stanley muttered distractedly attacking the edge of a piece of metal with a brutal looking file.

“It’s the engineers that save the day not some jumped up toss-pot in a bad-fitting suit”.

“Oh yes I’m certain he has all the beautiful girls, sex life of a bonobo chimpanzee that one. But without a rocket launcher in that car of his he would have been toast long since.”

Stanley was nursing a particularly fearsome hangover. He had retreated to a favoured part of one of the many sheds in what had once been termed a garden.

The previous evening had been another unsuccessful one.  His normal prejudices returned in force as he mentally revisited the experience.

“It isn’t as if I have any need of company” “I’m never in need of anyone when I have a broken Morris Minor and a new clutch kit”. “I just sometimes feel that it would be nice to have a drink”. “Is it my fault that all the places which sell respectable beer also seemed to be the popular ones?” “It isn’t that I actually want to meet anyone”.

“The problem is that I am invisible” – “All engineers have to be invisible”.

In Stanley’s mind the world had no respect for engineers or engineering things. The evidence for this perspective was scanty. Currently this evidence consisted of the preference for meddling secret agents over dependable engineers who provided their toys. Nonetheless Stanley was firmly of the view that this was the problem.

At times, despite the need to rewire the reversing light on the Series III Land Rover, something would push Stanley to go to the Skink and Partridge, the Rat and Falcon or the Snail and Marten to stand, and drink, and watch.

“When you’re an engineer you should just keep your gob shut,” Stanley said to himself, “Especially if you’re drinking Old Thumper”. In Stanley’s mind he was never more translucent than after a nice half of Old Thumper or Mainwaring’s special.

He had to proffer large sums of money across the bar even for the landlord to notice that he wanted to order something. It was even worse if he tried to talk to someone whilst the beer evolved itself onto the bar in front of him.

“For some reason when I mentioned the internal diameter of the O-Ring seal on an MGA Brake Master Cylinder it’s as if I never existed”. “I’ve seen People look straight through me, talk with people who were stood behind me or try to walk through me as they dash for the door. (I’m never certain what the damn hurry is either)”

“If I could just stay silent”

The idea of staying quiet had come to Stanley following many such visits. It was a reasonably effective idea at least initially. However then the second half of Old Thumper would take effect

“I was quite happy to stay silent” he said to himself despairingly.

Stanley would prop himself against his favourite oil-stained corner of the bar. He would maintain a careful silence – at least at first. However The Rat and Falcon did sell such excellent bitter. Many a nearby person would consume rather a lot of it.

By the time that Stanley had consumed the second half of Old Thumper someone would lean on the bar next to him and would begin to talk to the wall. At least Stanley was pretty certain it was the wall so convinced was he that he was invisible.

Stanley had learned that in these moments of “addressing the wall” the imbibers of the Rat and Falcon would have nothing to say which was of interest either to him or the Verdigris infested horse brasses behind him.

The conversations always went along similar lines. It could be the problems with the mortgage payments, the girl who was so fine that no later woman had been her like. Sometimes it was the late-diagnosed illness from which the imbiber would not recover.

The conversation was always about the people themselves. It was as if Stanley wasn’t there.

At this point Stanley had learned it was wise to nod and not to say anything.

The talking seemed to make his invisibility much worse. However he seemed unable to control his impulse to talk.

Last night for instance a very nice lady had drifted over.

Queenie was a little heavily made up. This was unfortunate given the mascara staining – a result of the liquid pouring from her eyes.

“No one respects me” she had said. Stanley hoped that the horse brasses were making notes in case she asked questions afterwards. “I mean I’m a nice person”. Stanley wasn’t clear what relevance this could be to the green flock wallpaper but like him it was keeping its own counsel on the issue.

Encouraged by the wallpaper’s silence she continued. “Cliff seemed such a nice one; he didn’t hit me very often, only on his days off”. “But then” (and she raised her voice at this point) “he made off with all my money. I came home Sunday – no rent, no food…”

Stanley wasn’t clear under which definition not hitting someone often was a positive feature. But he was prepared to take Queenie’s view on the subject.

Over the next hour, Stanley exchanged petrol and grease smudges with the bar stool. Queenie at intervals wailed and sobbed. Stanley developed an understanding of the problem. Apparently no one respected Queenie. (“Everyone” appeared to be male, and from Queenie’s description males who Stanley would not be keen to meet).

So many men had offended, assaulted or departed Queenie. She was now convinced that her value rated that of a penny stamp.

Stanley’s mind had begun to wander and he was thinking again of that missing 3/16″ multi-point socket. It was at this point that he forgot that he was invisible: “Do you know that today I found a long shank pop rivet set.  They are just the most useful things. I can now solve the problem of the sill covers on the MK1 Capri, that’s been bugging me for ages”.

Queenie had looked at the horse brasses with a strange expression. It was as if a set of curtains had drawn across her eyes. She had departed in the direction of the ladies. Stanley looked at his beer and realised a refill was needed. After a few more halves of Old Thumper and waiting for an hour he had realised that Queenie was not about to return.

Stanley had wobbled home the 5 miles with that familiar emptiness intact. He had no idea what one was supposed to do with that feeling once the Rat and Falcon was closed. He finally passed out on the rear seat of the Morris Ital. (The one propped up on axle stands in the lean-too car-port).

This morning the problem kept returning to him. He considered it whilst attempting to extract an offensive Head Stud from an Austin Mini. It seemed to him that the problem was an engineering one.

If he examined it from an engineering perspective he would be bound to come up with something – time for a cup of tea and the back of an envelope.

“So problem – vague feeling of emptiness as yet unidentified” mumbled Stanley – the stub of a grimy pencil protruding from behind one ear.

“Solutions so far attempted:

1) Old Thumper – advantages: tendency to remove feeling of emptiness. Disadvantages – feel sodding ill for days afterwards, hmm,

2)  Listening to people in the Rat and Falcon – advantages: the empty feeling abates for a short while. Disadvantages it returns multiplied manifold times a short while afterwards,

3) Staying home and changing the piston rings on the Austin 3 litre – advantages: enjoy myself. Disadvantages: empty feeling keeps nagging at me the whole time”

Stanley reasoned that he had not identified the correct solution. He thumped the top of the valve television set and sat down waiting the 15 minutes for the picture to appear.

He read once that the digital revolution would mean the end of the old television. But a bit of soldering a few circuit diagrams and he had a digital enabled valve TV from the 1960s.

“Now if I can solve the problem of the digitally-enabled TV set I should be able to resolve the emptiness problem”.

“OK emptiness what is that now? Something missing usually but it’s unlikely to be food” Stanley looked down at the snug fitting overalls a little ruefully.

“Old Thumper seems to assuage symptoms but not for long – so it isn’t drink then”

“Meeting people – initially looked promising. But in fact makes things worse; right about the time they start talking.” Stanley chewed the pencil end bitterly.

“What do we have left?” Hmm, now we have “drugs, sex, medical treatment, prosthetics…”

Stanley’s eyes lit up, now here was a solution he could metaphorically get his teeth into – “prosthetics, yes. I solved the motorised legs problem for that young lad just last week”.

Stanley had used his engineering skill to manufacture legs for a paraplegic. It had looked as if he had functional legs. These enabled him to move at speed whilst remaining upright. It had been a satisfying challenge.

“I wonder if I should just try the sex thing first, that could be promising…” Stanley’s thoughts returned to the previous evening…“heaven forbid…” he said to himself.

“Now if the problem seems connected with being invisible and I get more invisible when I talk – how can I overcome that problem…?”

That evening Stanley was evicted from the Snail and Marten. The use of a brightly painted flying helmet (with the attached flashing lights) and a chest-mounted sign (which repeated his every word in a strobing yellow colour) had seemed to him an excellent idea.

“Sodding Landlord” he said.

Sadly the evening had not been a success. If anything people seemed to find him ever-more invisible. Looking everywhere but actually where he stood.

“Attempt 4)” he said to the envelope – with his tongue sticking out “high visibility suit – complete failure”.

“OK, so attempts to make myself more obvious, talking, high visibility suit – no success”. “Making myself quiet and hidden – attracts people – some success but temporary effects only”. “Hmm” “OK so in fact I need to find a mechanism to be completely hidden and very very quiet”

That evening Stanley slipped into the Snail and Marten early. Making certain the landlord’s back was turned he unscrewed the back of the juke box and squeezed inside pulling the panel in behind him.

After a long and dusty evening during which he had scorched his nose (the Juke Box selections sending sparks through the end of it). He was forced to admit this was not the solution.

“So attempts at hiding – well the hiding was very successful” “however still invisible to people and the feeling remains” “so that is attempt 5”

At this point Stanley made an extra strong pot of tea. The obvious things had been eliminated. Yet he remained invisible and he retained an unidentified empty feeling which he could not seem to address.

“Hmm, so it looks like the specification of the problem is wrong” said Stanley to himself. “The invisibility goes with being an engineer, I like being an engineer so I have to stay invisible. I don’t actually need people at all in fact – I am quite happy with machines”

For some reason the empty feeling chose that moment to make itself very forcibly known. “Oh God I feel so miserable” Stanley said to himself “Why in heavens name can’t I just give up and die right this minute?”

Stanley unconsciously hugged himself – feeling wretched. “Ok so I am an engineer therefore I am invisible. I don’t need people but I feel horrible”. “Hmm, so it would appear that I need to address the feeling horrible part”.

Stanley took his spectacles from the upper overall pocket and pulled them on.  One lens was now near opaque but he was very proud of the repair job he had done on the frame. He’d reversed the Rover over them whilst road testing that wheel bearing replacement.

He turned to the old bookshelf. (This was now his favourite piece of furniture after he had reinforced it with 3mm Angle iron cut from an old bed). He leafed through some medical reference books.

“Hmm, so for each of these drugs it seems that the side effects are equally as bad if not worse than the things that they are treating”. Stanley shook his head in some confusion “I think I will stick with the engineering solution”.

“Now what was that list, oh yes hmm, drugs, sex, medical treatment, prosthetics…

Now the drugs seem a bad idea, the prosthetics didn’t work, so we have the sex”. Stanley realised he had no idea how to persuade someone to engage in such activity. After all – he was invisible.

“It appears I have to hope that sex is not the answer as it doesn’t appear to be a basic engineering problem

…or is it”?

A very congealed looking cup of tea and one very large envelope later – “yes it appears that isn’t too difficult actually”. Stanley set to with wire cutters and soldering iron.

Several days later: Looking at his creation Stanley couldn’t help but have a twinge of satisfaction “say what you like Stanley you are a very good engineer” Stanley enthused to himself. 6ft tall, long long legs, a chest that in any human would have meant substantial surgery and a heart melting voice. She moved with flawless poise like a cat with attitude.

After a really great cup of tea Stanley reasoned that it was time to put his android to the test. However he was forced to admit that, sexy as the android was, he didn’t really want sex with her.

Florrie (as he had named her) wasn’t actually filling him with any overpowering sexual urges. “Still Stanley old man, never find out if this is the answer unless you give it a go”. Five minutes later a very red-faced Stanley lay asleep in Florrie’s arms snoring enough to shake the remaining doors on the old sideboard.

Some time later:

“Attempt 6, machine for delivering sex on demand machine very effective – empty feeling remains, abject failure”

Stanley sat down and ran his calloused fingers through thin greasy hair. “I thought you were a bright one Stanley old man – can’t see how you’ve let this beat you”.

For 3 days Stanley sat completely motionless looking at the wall:

He knew that the crankshaft oil seal on the Wolseley 16/60 was weeping and he didn’t care.

He saw that mould was growing on the teapot again and he didn’t care.

He sat as silent and as still as the wallpaper which he was certain could be seen right though him.

Eventually the demands of thirst and bladder drove him to pull himself from the overalls-sized depression in the sofa.

His lungs were absolutely full – so shallow had his breathing been. He coughed forcefully for several minutes his lungs crackling like fine paper.

“It looks like the medical treatment then old man” Stanley said with some trepidation “that’s all there is to it. Better get yourself a few library books”

Stanley had once been a member of the library. He had a vague memory that the process had not gone well. It was difficult to apply for a library card when the librarian couldn’t see you.

Initially things had looked promising. Until he’d mentioned that the timing cover stud on a Vauxhall Chevette had a left hand thread. (And what a fascinating job it was to cut one by hand). His invisibility had asserted itself completely. It was all he could do to wrest the card from her pale resisting hand.

“On the plus side” Stanley reasoned “if I’m invisible then it won’t be much of a problem taking books from the library”. He chuckled sadly “after all no one will be able to see me”.

As Stanley entered the library the librarian fixed him with a look of such disdain that he was convinced that she could see him. Stanley shuffled across towards her. But she turned to her computer as if he didn’t exist – he realised that he had been mistaken.

“Reference section Stanley – that’s what we are looking for” he mumbled and turned towards the stairs.

After many weeks of visiting the library Stanley realised that he was going to need a computer. Many of the books now referred to computers attached to an Internet. That was going to be a resource that he could not do without. This would be his biggest project ever.

After hours with circuit boards and soldiering irons, Stanley built himself a computer. In fact Stanley had built a phenomenal computer. It would have embarrassed Intel had they realised that it had been built. Stanley had no appreciation that encryption even existed such was the computing power of this device.

Over time he accessed the records of military and medical establishments invisibly and unremarked. He assembled research and records without awareness that he was doing anything wrong. Finally he had what he was looking for.

“Florrie MKII then Stanley I think”

Stanley started again with soldering iron. Florrie watched the creation of a sister, wire by wire, limb by limb.

Florrie MK 2 could have been a pianist, with her long slender fingers. But her eyes held the intelligence of something quite terrifying. “I say again Stanley; if you could only have been happy with what you are you might have made a difference in this world.”

“Still there was no settling this emptiness; it is time to face the solution then.”

Stanley knew that he could not face another night in the Rat and Falcon. So he contented himself with a mope through the local off license. Eventually finding something foul and plastic coated. It might have been considered drinkable by human beings but God alone knows where. However it was effective in silencing the chasm within for just a short while.

Stanley slept, a slow drool from his lip now mixing with the stains on his cheeks – carbon left over from the decoking of the MG.

As he slept the Florrie MK II programme commenced. She gently administered the anaesthetic and watched as his breathing slowed to a regular whisper.

Monitoring him closely Florrie opened the skull of the anesthetised Stanley. Carefully she cauterised connections within the brain.

Wherever research had propounded that social centres were to be found a small section was cauterised away removing the function, excising the need. Establishing (so Stanley had reasoned) a haven of contentment for a fully-formed, self-contained engineer.

After the final stitch she raised Stanley into a semi prone position. She carefully watched his life signs as Stanley, smiling-blissfully, slept.

In the morning Stanley awoke and smiled to himself. Waving his oil-stained arm in front of him – he wondered what it was.

He cooed slowly to himself.

He looked at the thing watching over him and wondered what it was.

His eyes parted with a hazy wonder as he looked around him.

He stared in an unfocused way at the Jensen Healey mouldering away just outside the window and he wondered what it was.

He raised his leg and looked at it for several seconds and wondered if it was part of him or part of this big thing he seemed to be lying on.

Outside the welding set lay untouched, the lathe was silent, and the trolley jack lay as he had left it – in the hallway beside his next-best overalls.

Stanley looked around at this magic place and wondered how he had come to be here.

He smiled a wide-innocent smile and he drifted off to sleep quietly …

Fifty Special Things – Thanh Binh Restaurant Cambridge

When: 03-11-2016 and 10/01/2016

Where: Thanh Binh Vietnamese Restaurant, 17 Magdalene Street, Cambridge CB3 0AF, United Kingdom
Tel: 01223 362 456
Email: info@thanhbinh.co.uk/thanhbinhcambridge@gmail.com http://www.thanhbinh.co.uk/

Price: Free first time (50th birthday present), £20 second time

Review: Excellent Staff. A tiny place in which to treat yourself.

Tip: If you want to drink take your own wine – small corking charge applies.

Next in the task to have 50 great things happen in my 50th year.
See the previous account in this series:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2017/02/12/fifty-special-things-brampton-wood/.

A suggestion from a counsellor and a great suggestion. Why does the celebration end with the birthday – why can’t it carry on all year?

One reason is making enough time available to do the things in life that you always wished to do.

The next is that, having achieved this hoary old age, remembering all the dreams that you once had becomes a lot less easy.

However I have taken this up like a new religion and so I am trying to make fifty great things happen before I am fifty one.

I think of this restaurant as being on Bridge Street. On the first visit it was a treat from my sister and had that air of specialness that comes from being the focus of attention. My sister drove me to Cambridge and I walked with her to the restaurant with the normal Phil air of complete obliviousness to geography.

On the second visit I was with people from work and I told them to meet me on Bridge Street at the bridge. Only to find the restaurant is on Magdalene Street and the meeting place was a bit beyond the restaurant. (The restaurant is up near the traffic lights and St Giles Church more than down near the Cam).

Of course people have become used by now to my species of woolly-headedness and so after some leg pulling we set off back up the hill.

The restaurant has online booking and in contrast to some places I have tried in the past it is effective. I had confirmation within a few hours of registering interest in a table for four. It is also a relief that having entrusted the booking to mouse and keyboard when I attended they were expecting me.

I had attended with my sister and brother in law for an after-50th birthday meal at the beginning of November. (I was in Borneo for my actual Fiftieth birthday. Accounts of which will be in this blog in the not too distant future). We had a great time in November.

It was with this fond memory that I had recommended it to a couple of friends from work. I was confident in the place: in that it was enjoyable; I wouldn’t have to fight my way through hordes of eager eaters, and the staff were courteous and attentive.

Importantly I would be able to find stuff for me to eat. Given I have IBS (and have a diet slightly less restricted than a vegan) this can make for some entertainment.

Details of the IBS and how it developed will no doubt hit this blog at some point as well.

Of course anything in Cambridge is going to involve some parking negotiations.
When I had come in with my sister she had driven in and very kindly paid for the parking. On that occasion we used the Park Street car park:

https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/park-street-car-park

Not what you’d call cheap, not what you’d call fragrant but had the advantage of being close. I could not recommend much in the way of parking in Cambridge. Cambridge majors on the historic or even quaint but not much on the car city. Bicycle yes, car no.

On the second occasion (taking into account that I am a cheapskate) – after arrival I drove round for some on-street parking. This left a bit of a walk down Castle Hill.

On street parking is a bit of an endangered species in Cambridge. Resident’s parking bays are apparently procreating.

Very soon parking without fee will involve the kind of expedition that would bring a gleam to the eye of Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

It is pointless recommending anywhere because as soon as this blog item is out the parking will have disappeared.

Given the distance from the venue and my encroaching portliness I was late, again.

My two friends were waiting with that patient air of someone who’d dearly like to say “where the hell have you been”. They limited themselves to mentioning that they’d decided to wait at the appointed place.

The bridge is picturesque in that tiny “I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out” kind of way. But given the outside temperatures lingering on it was likely to have been diverting for all the wrong reasons.

Despite having attended in November, by the time I attended again in January I had forgotten where it was. A fact that caused some amusement to my companions.
Although not that exceptional for me I have to say.

If you’re as far as the bridge on Bridge Street you need to retrace your steps some way towards the traffic lights. A disconcertingly long way when you can’t remember where the place.

In fact if you are opposite Magdalene College you’re just about there.
Oh and if like me you forgot to look out for it on the way down the hill and walk past it then this is a cue for more ribbing behaviour.

It is tiny.

dsc02789

I felt like I was sitting in the comfort of someone’s front room the whole time I was there.

The staff are friendly and welcoming. In that fashion which does not involve them fussing round you whilst you’re trying to have a conversation.

On each occasion it has been quiet like the low murmur of somewhere refined.

Maybe the more restricted areas of some gentleman’s club but without the wing backed chairs (and the prostitutes).

The first time we took wine to celebrate (they don’t serve wine but allow you to take your own). This is a top tip if you want to drink – they are quite happy for you to bring some.

There’s a small charge for this but cheaper than getting wine in a restaurant I thought.

The drinks available are appealing even if the lack of alcoholic ingredient may deter many.

Although Vietnamese and therefore chopsticks provided as standard fortunately cutlery is available. This is useful considering that I am a Luddite and have the finger dexterity of two large lumps of concrete.

Although chopsticks make a very effective projectile. (As I discovered; I caught one with my sleeve and sent it down to the lower ground floor level – with a resounding clatter which caught everyone’s attention).

The toilet is on the lower ground floor beside the kitchen down a winding staircase. This means having too much to drink is not too great an idea in any case (you might arrive on your backside).

dsc02790

They have both chrysanthemum tea and jasmine tea so I was a bit torn opting for jasmine through habit.

For those who can drink tea which has camellia sinensis in it they have green tea but I saw no evidence of the fermented variety.

The food is to die for and semi IBS friendly. Although I tend to find no matter how careful I am after I go out – being close to some facilities (and away from people) for 24 hours afterwards is a good thing.

The fish I had a couple of times (once on each visit) because I liked it so much. (In a former life I must have been a marine creature given my love of all things seafood).

dsc02792

Mostly you go out for the company. This is a place where you can have a conversation and not have to compete with the hubbub. Neither will you find it necessary to shrink yourself down to a skinny person – to avoid elbows, back or bum intersecting with someone else’s’ eating space.

The first occasion with family was a very uplifting experience – helped by being made a fuss of.

I can’t speak on behalf of my friends but personal view was that the second visit was also a success.

I imagine that at intervals it must become busy and I can’t speak for the experience then. Both occasions where I have attended there hasn’t been need to elbow back the crowds or to join some tiresome queue whilst you “wait to be seated”.

They have some interesting desserts too. Although after my experiences in Malaysia I would not recommend anything containing durian.

They have durian ice cream but after the face shrivelling experience of trying some on an open market in Kuala Lumpur I can’t say I was tempted this time.

The first visit I opted for the standard ice cream which given November wasn’t too shabby temperature-wise just about made sense.

January it turned out was a bit stiffer in its resolve to bring draughty. Everyone agreed dessert was not what we were looking to do.

If you’re coming in and do not fancy car park negotiation one of my companions pointed out that Shire Hall is now pay and display at £1 per hour (at weekends). Compared to some multi storeys this is a disgraceful bargain. But if you’re a cheapskate could be considered ruinous. Consider it a contribution to the good works of the local authority…

I recommend this restaurant for a visit. I’m hoping that my recommendation will not ruin the special atmosphere through increased demand.
Perhaps the thing is to get in quick before the rush starts.

Using Online Tools to Improve Your Writing

photo credit: Seth_Wilson Study via photopin (license)

I came across this article:

http://nybookeditors.com/2016/02/instantly-improve-your-writing-with-these-11-editing-tools/

Any tool which boosts my scrabbly prose is worth having.

Not the least in that some of these tools are free.

I’m going to test out each of the free ones (because I am a cheapskate). You can review how you feel about the results. i.e. if the tool made enough difference to make it worthwhile to use it in your own writing.

I thought I would use a piece I wrote on a writing course some years ago. (This as I recall attracted some acerbic feedback).

This is what it looks like before use of online editors:

He stopped the car at the style gate. The handbrake was still a bit dodgy; he gave it a hefty pull and said a silent prayer that it wouldn’t run away down hill.The “Great Park” spread out before them – old stained post and rail fencing, long grass, the occasional tree dotted randomly. Zones of poor drainage where the marsh marigold was already showing saffron flower heads. He felt his heart quicken just slightly – he hadn’t done this sort of thing for years.

Mandy was here for the “rare mushroom” or that’s how he thought of it. Mandy had tried patiently to remind him that it was a fungus.

“Russula Pseudo-affinis” his ticket to pleasure land. This boring little brown-capped fungus had only been seen in one other place in the UK. Derek had found it surprisingly easy to convince her that he had seen some sprouting in the corner of the Great Park.

It’s amazing what a night spent with G.J Keizer’s “Encyclopaedia of Fungi” can result in.

A keen mycologist like Mandy Briggs couldn’t resist, he’d offered to drive, pretended he was as interested as she in the damn mushrooms.

Mandy – she was tall, bookish and appeared totally plain, no one ever saw Mandy in male company.

Derek knew something they didn’t. It was Mandy’s love of lose pullovers; they hid her body so well no one knew the joy beneath. That and that lengthy awful brown skirt, the one that was always heavily stained from studying the ink caps and wax caps on hands and knees.

Hands and knees, yes that’s how he’d seen her, examining a “White Spindle” fungus beside the car park; that over large pullover and the absence of underwear – a revelation.

He determined to introduce Mandy to the delights of male company as quickly as he could bring it about and he had no scruples about the use of subterfuge.

He steadied Mandy as she stepped over the style, gaining a glimpse of shapely calf as she did so, this was better and better.

Down the grassy slope, slipping and sliding in the dew-heavy grass his leather shoes unsuited to the terrain; the grass here a darker shade from the constant dampness. At the base of the slope a tiny copse, mainly ash and hawthorn but with the occasional oak tree.

He had planned for the “use of” a drier area beneath one stately member – it would be ideal for his carnal destiny – a blanket was too obvious for this “field trip”.

She was braced against a tree – back to him. This would be too easy.

She turned as he approached to indicate a spiny coral fungus. The contour of that bum beneath the plain cotton so wonderful; he reached forward to run his fingers lightly down the obvious parting of those two cheeks.

The impact was sudden, violent. He couldn’t believe the pain. He’d thought it a lie – it surely couldn’t be this painful? He folded like an emptying balloon cradling his soreness.

I thought that the best approach was to be logical. So I will adjust the above article using each of the tools as given in the article.

The first is “After the Deadline”:

It was hard to work out how to use this tool. Given this blog is WordPress based I thought a WordPress version would be the way to go. However I encountered this when going to that part of “After the Deadline”:

wordpress-version

This indicates that this is not the version to use.

I found that an OpenOffice version exists. I realised that I could install this so I went to this part of the site:

open-office-version

This does not seem to be the version to use either.

There is a command line version. In no sense could I find instructions on using it – I concluded it was for use in Linux (I am using Windows).

command line version.jpg

So I looked at the Firefox version:

firefox-version

Written by the kind of people who declare RTFM. (When the M involved is a thousand pages of inscrutable text).

It is a Firefox add in. It looks like you should be able to install it using the standard Firefox extensions search.

Sure enough that works:

firefox-extension

Install it and you get a prompt to restart Firefox (always a pain when you have as many windows open as I have):

firefox-extension-v1

Restart enables the extension:

firefox-extension-v2

The next challenge is how to use this extension now it is in Firefox. The best guess is that the text that you wish to edit should be inside a web page.

The easiest way I can consider of doing this is to set up a blog page with the above text in it.

This gave a context menu that looks like this:

firefox-extension-v3

This is where I get stuck, the add-in appears to do nothing.

I cannot find a way to make it do anything on the page.

I then found a site that purports to use “After the Deadline” as an engine:

http://www.polishmywriting.com/

This is much easier:

polishmywriting

Paste in the relevant text and click the “Check Writing” button, this produces:

polishmywriting-outputv1.jpg

It highlights handbrake as misspelled. I checked this out and discovered that our American chums refer to this as parking brake. The spelling in United Kingdom English is accurate.

It also underlines mycologist. This also turns out to be an accurate spelling for one who works with fungi. Spelled the same both sides of the Atlantic.

Lose pullovers is an accurate spot – it should be loose of course.

Next it highlights “was braced” in the sentence “She was braced against a tree”. This is because it is a passive voice.

I tried “Braced against a tree with her back to him” it does not remove the highlight for some reason. Deleting and retyping the sentence though seemed to have the desired effect. So it looks like a bug in the software.

It points out “indicate” in the sentence “She turned as he approached to indicate a spiny coral fungus”. Stating that it is a complex expression. I tried “point out” here.

And that’s it. The resulting output is as below:

He stopped the car at the style gate. The handbrake was still a bit dodgy; he gave it a hefty pull and said a silent prayer that it wouldn’t run away down hill.

The “Great Park” spread out before them – old stained post and rail fencing, long grass, the occasional tree dotted randomly. Zones of poor drainage where the marsh marigold was already showing saffron flower heads. He felt his heart quicken just slightly – he hadn’t done this sort of thing for years.

Mandy was here for the “rare mushroom” or that’s how he thought of it. Mandy had tried patiently to remind him that it was a fungus.

“Russula Pseudo-affinis” his ticket to pleasure land. This boring little brown-capped fungus had only been seen in one other place in the UK. Derek had found it surprisingly easy to convince her that he had seen some sprouting in the corner of the Great Park.

It’s amazing what a night spent with G.J Keizer’s “Encyclopaedia of Fungi” can result in.

A keen mycologist like Mandy Briggs couldn’t resist, he’d offered to drive, pretended he was as interested as she in the damn mushrooms.

Mandy – she was tall, bookish and appeared totally plain, no one ever saw Mandy in male company.

Derek knew something they didn’t. It was Mandy’s love of loose pullovers; they hid her body so well no one knew the joy beneath. That and that lengthy awful brown skirt, the one that was always heavily stained from studying the ink caps and wax caps on hands and knees.

Hands and knees, yes that’s how he’d seen her, examining a “White Spindle” fungus beside the car park; that over large pullover and the absence of underwear – a revelation.

He determined to introduce Mandy to the delights of male company as quickly as he could bring it about and he had no scruples about the use of subterfuge.

He steadied Mandy as she stepped over the style, gaining a glimpse of shapely calf as she did so, this was better and better.

Down the grassy slope, slipping and sliding in the dew-heavy grass his leather shoes unsuited to the terrain; the grass here a darker shade from the constant dampness. At the base of the slope a tiny copse, mainly ash and hawthorn but with the occasional oak tree.

He had planned for the “use of” a drier area beneath one stately member – it would be ideal for his carnal destiny – a blanket was too obvious for this “field trip”.

Braced against a tree with her back to him. This would be too easy.

She turned as he approached to point out a spiny coral fungus. The contour of that bum beneath the plain cotton so wonderful; he reached forward to run his fingers lightly down the obvious parting of those two cheeks.

The impact was sudden, violent. He couldn’t believe the pain. He’d thought it a lie – it surely couldn’t be this painful? He folded like an emptying balloon cradling his soreness..

I must confess I am a bit disappointed with this one. OK it is free but after the somewhat negative feedback I had over this passage. (In a class about ten years ago now). I was expecting that it would pick up more.

No doubt those people who are reading this will agree!

This is enough text on an editing tool for one visit so I will pick up this editing tool journey in part 2:

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/01/using-online-tools-to-improve-your-writing-pt-2/