Author Archives: Alen B Curtiss

About Alen B Curtiss

Born in the southern counties of England, Alen has travelled extensively throughout the UK, living for a time in most of it's various different regions. Now settled in the Lake District, he has decided to dedicate his time to one of his greatest passions - writing. An avid reader, and a big fan of horror, fantasy, sci fi, adventure, and anything else in between, Alen has decided to write in all the various styles that he loves. As he has said - "They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. I say a journey into the fabulous unknown begins with the first word on a blank page."

People are ****s

So this lunchtime my neighbour took a tumble. You’ve met him before, in a previous post – Conversations With my Neighbour #1. He’s got health issues and so is a bit dodgy on his feet, and ending up going arse over tit is nothing new for him, unfortunately.

I didn’t see him fall as I was in the kitchen sorting my dinner out – chicken and mushroom pie with puff pastry, peas, new spuds, and gravy. Very tasty. When I eventually got around to eating it, that is.

There came an almighty banging and a crashing at my front door so I made haste to open it. Sunlight streamed in as the door creaked open, and framed in the opening, silhouetted in the daylight like the Angel of Doom, was the little old lady from around the corner.

“Neighbour’s on the floor,” she informed me. “I can’t get him up because he’s too big. And my bunions.” She was right, too. He was indeed on the floor, and standing at a tad under six feet tall and weighing somewhere in the region of twenty stones or so he is definitely too big for her to lift. About her bunions I have no clue, however. I’ll have to ask her one day over tea and scones.

I stepped across the threshold and into the great, untamed outside. Ten yards away is my neighbour, laying on the ground, an arm waving in the air asking for help. His legs are on the pavement, his upper half in the road, and he bears a striking resemblance to a beached whale.

Despite everything he does have a sense of humour, and so found it funny when I told him I wasn’t sure whether to help him up or harpoon him.

All in the name of science, of course.

I did a quick, visual inspection while asking if he felt any pain anywhere. Fortunately everything seemed to be tickety-boo. Well, as tickety-boo as anything can be while you’re laying on the side of the road imitating a previously undiscovered creature of the whale variety.

“Help me up, Alen. Please,” he implored me, holding his fins hands towards me in an almost pleading manner. With a hint of reluctance I ceased sharpening my harpoons, put them away for a later date, and got to the business of getting him back on his feet again. After much pulling and pushing and heeing and hawing and moaning and groaning, Neighbour was finally upright again, albeit a bit unsteady on his pins.

I checked him again for any injuries – there were none, not that I could see or he would admit to – and helped him to his place. Once he was settled in his favourite armchair I headed home to my belated dinner.

And what’s the point of this story, you ask?

Well, the point is, people are fucking, ignorant arseholes, that’s what.

Neighbour told me he counted eight cars that had driven past him while he was beached in the gutter, before the Angel of Doom little old lady arrived on the scene. I recall two more passing while I was being told what was up and made my way to help. Four people walked past – two singles and a loved-up couple – while I was getting him back on his feet.

And not one of them, not one single, solitary fucking one of them stopped to ask if all was well or if any assistance was needed. Not one. Nobody.


Now, I’m not perfect. Far from it. But I do know what’s right and what’s wrong. And helping those in need is definitely on the right side of rightness. It’s just the decent thing to do. Is that so hard to understand or even to do?

These days, far too many people feign righteousness while hanging out in the virtual worlds of their favourite social media platforms. They’re quick to judge, always ready to berate with harsh words those who don’t live up to their imagined high standards. But put them in the real world and where are they? Looking the other way, pretending ignorance, unwilling to lift a finger for anything unless they think they’ll get something out of it.

It’s just not cricket, is it. Nope, not at all [insert sad face emoji].

So your god help you if I ever see you turn your face away and refuse to help somebody who is clearly in need. Your god had better help you because I certainly won’t. Piss me off at your peril.

That being said, I probably would help you out. Because despite my flaws I can be nice. And the human race is in dire need of as much niceness as it can get in this not so glorious modern age.

Rant over.

As always, that shallot. Oh, wait… one more thing. Helping a twenty stone man back to his feet while you’re recovering from a torn muscle in your lower back is definitely not the cleverest thing to do. Looks like it’s an afternoon of munching painkillers for me. Ah well.

That’s shallot for real.



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Posted by on Jun 25, 2019 in Rant


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The coppery tang of fresh blood assaulted his nostrils.


Close by a crow called out, its tuneless cawing echoing gently in the stillness of the pre-dawn air. Another replied, a brief chorus to shatter the silence.


Something small, with sharp, grasping claws scurried over his legs before tentatively tugging with jagged teeth at the leather of his tattered boots.


He could feel the worn hilt of a sword under his right hand. Was it his weapon? He had no way of telling. The battle had raged hard, memories of it no more than fractured images of death and gore. Perhaps he had lost his sword and found another. Perhaps not.


Roses. He could smell roses over the stench of spilled innards. She had loved roses. His lady. Maria. The heady perfume of rose strengthened, overpowering the vile odour of war, of defeat. A draught cooled the sweat on his brow. Words, whispered within the barest of breezes, crept into his ear. “I love you.”


Was she here? Maria? Surely not. He had last seen her over a year ago, a thousand leagues south, in the Summer Lands. The breeze abated, the words faded. The scent of roses vanishing under the onslaught of the surrounding malodour. His lady was safe; he could at least take comfort in that knowledge. Safe far beyond the reach of the evil which had permeated these Northern Wastes.


Just what was that dripping? It was coming from the left of where he lay. He supposed he could turn his head to look but even the very act of opening his eyes seemed beyond his capabilities. The small creature attacking his boot grew tired with the unyielding leather and moved instead to the splayed fingers of his left hand. It nibbled the soft flesh of his little finger, the taste of fresh meat, and lack of retaliation, spurring it on. Tiny claws scrabbling for purchase on the stony earth, it dug into its first meal of the day.


His exhausted mind registered the pain only as an abstract concept, an interesting idea to be mulled over and contemplated at a later date. Some distant part of his consciousness knew the discomfort would pass as the cold that leached out of the bare earth on which he lay froze him entirely. Feeling had already been lost in his shoulders and buttocks, the blessed relief of total numbness not far away.


Somewhere in the distance a dog barked, once, twice, a forlorn sound in the dawn of a new day. The crows took flight in response, calling to one another as they wheeled and soared over the battleground. He noticed and heard them not at all. His mind, driven to its limits, had shut down, sending him spiralling into unconsciousness. All pain, all feeling receded as body and mind alike prepared themselves for death.


His small, furry companion paused its dining to glance up at the birds circling above, then peered around at the corpses strewn about. The bodies of men and horses lay jumbled together in one last, fatal embrace. So much food, so little time. On its whiskers a tiny drop of blood, ruby red, hung like a gaudy jewel. The rodent turned its attention back to its current meal and continued to feast, gnawing and pulling at the meat. Stripped of most of the flesh, the white of the finger’s bone gleamed in the morning light.


I have no idea, so don’t ask. But I’m writing it anyway. Whatever it might be.

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Writing


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The end of the #StLuciaChallenge

st lucia sunset

Well, that’s it, it’s all over.

After 85 days – 85 days spent working hard, 85 days of sweating like King Sweat of Sweatsville, 85 days which included welcomed rest days and not so welcome days off being ill, and, most important of all, 85 days of improving my health and fitness – it’s over.

The end. O fim. La fin. La fine. Das ende. El fin.

After completing 718.30 kilometres out of my year end goal of 3,359 kilometres it all came to a crashing, grinding, metallic shrieking, oath shouting end early this morning.

You see, my cross-trainer contraption thing is no more. It gave up the ghost. It is kaput. It will do no more training, cross or otherwise. A bolt – one of those securing the tread-plate whatsit for my left foot, so an important one – sheared off while I was in full flight, thus sending me spilling to the floor with a surprised squawk, and twisting some metal things. Some metal strut things. Also known as important and completely needed metal strut things.

So that’s it. Done and dusted. My #StLuciaChallenge was a great idea to get me motivated, and has worked very well. It’s motivated me enough to continue getting myself back in shape, I just won’t be doing it on a cross-trainer. The reason is quite simple – I do not have enough spare coin of the realm to replace that worthless piece of fucking junk my faithful cross contraption.

What else is there to say? Aside from expressing my disappointment and frustration, nothing. The great #StLuciaChallenge ends not in triumph, or indeed in abject failure but rather with a whimper. And a swear word or three.

So be it. It’s been fun. Onward!

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on Apr 3, 2019 in St. Lucia Challenge


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8 Weeks of #StLuciaChallenge


It’s been eight weeks since I started my personal St Lucia Challenge.

Eight weeks! [shocked-face emoji]

On one hand eight weeks doesn’t seem that long. On the other, however, it feels like a lifetime – a hard-breathing, running-in-sweat, body-aching lifetime. Even so, I like it, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

For those few (everybody on the planet) who don’t know what I’m doing, here’s a quick recap.

There was a time, and not all that long ago either, when I was fit. Like really fit, six-pack and everything. Not too bad for a guy in his early forties. Trouble is, I’m now in my late forties – very late forties, I’ll turn fifty in the latter part of this year – and I got lazy. When you’re sitting on your arse all day writing stuff for people, or sitting on your arse all day playing video games so you can sit on your arse all day writing reviews about those games, it’s very easy to get lazy.

And sitting on your arse all day makes you fat. Well, that and too much of the wrong kind of foods. And alcohol. And chocolate. Whodathunkit?

So during the Christmas festivities of last year, while I plied myself with more of the wrong kinds of foods, more alcohol, more chocolate, all while sitting on my ever expanding arse as I did so, I decided it was time to do something about it. Being left out of breath after just tying my boot laces was definitely not a good sign.

Now, I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions – if you’re going to do something, just do it, no need to wait until a specific date. Nevertheless, ignoring myself completely, I decided that the New Year was the perfect time to start getting myself back in shape. The fact that it would also give me another week or so to fill myself with as much of the wrong kinds of foods, alcohol and chocolate as possible never entered my head. Honest.

In a dark, seldom visited corner sat a cross-trainer contraption, hardly used, bought with good intentions several years ago. Perfect, I thought, that’ll do nicely. New Year dawned, grey and sleety, and I didn’t get on the contraption. I was seriously lacking in motivation, just “getting fit” wasn’t enough, even if it was for my own good.

A conversation about the dismal weather – typically British, I know – and the expressed desire to be in warmer climes provided the inspiration. Several months prior I had been researching the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, its history, culture and people, and I had completely fallen in love with the place. There was my motivation! I would get on my cross-contraption and make my way to the tropical paradise of St. Lucia.

Not literally, of course. That would be silly. But as motivation it served me well, and I set my sights on cross-training my way there, with the intention of arriving, in spirit at least, by the end of the year. Next New Year’s day I would be relaxing on Reduit Beach, sipping a rum punch and watching the boats sail in and out of Rodney Bay Marina. The reality would more likely be me wrapped in a blanket, sipping a can of cheap cider while I shivered my way through another repeat of an Only Fools and Horses Christmas special. Still, I can dream.

Some numbers for you – the total distance between the UK and St. Lucia is 6,718 kilometres. By the time I had found my motivation and started on my way it was the 8th of January. That meant that I would have had to have done somewhere in the region of 18.5 kilometres a day, every day for the rest of the year, to achieve my goal. The absurdity of those numbers didn’t bother me, I wasn’t actually going anywhere, after all.

Some people, however, seemed to be under the impression that I was serious, and went to great pains to point out my unreal expectation of achieving said distance in said time. Fair enough, thought I, ’tis an easy fix. And it was, I just doubled the time I had allotted myself. So my target for year’s end became the halfway mark – 3,359 kilometres.

Ignoring the jeers of derision, I hopped back onto my cross-contraption and continued on my merry way.

And here we are, eight weeks later. For the record, I feel great. The first day of my challenge I huffed and puffed my way to 4.1 kilometres, and thought I was going to die. Now I aim to complete somewhere between 11 and 13 kilometres in the 45 minutes I set aside every day (excluding Sundays, they’re my rest days) for my St. Lucia time. This morning I passed the 500 kilometres mark, and I’m feeling very pleased with myself.

I didn’t weigh myself before I started, inches are more important (that’s what she said, sniggers). As such I’ve gone down a hole on my belt, and am on the cusp of going down another one. My jeans – two sizes larger than my ideal fit-self size – were too tight. Now they’re too loose, and I’ll have to get myself a smaller size in the next week or so. I can breathe again, proper deep, lung filling breaths, and run up a flight of stairs without a second thought. People are commenting on my weight loss.

All in just eight weeks.

My diet hasn’t altered much, I just pay more attention to portion sizes. I have cut out all snacks though, and I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since New Year’s Eve. That latter is somewhat of a miracle but I don’t miss it. Not yet, anyway.

And there you have it, my St. Lucia Challenge. I’m enjoying it, and even though it is hard work, that hard work is paying off admirably. Watching the distance-travelled numbers add up on the spreadsheet I created is an excellent motivation, coupled with the feel good factor of slowly getting back in shape and watching the fat melt away.

If you wish, you can track my progress via my spreadsheet, available here. I also post daily distance travelled tweets on my Twitter account – @ABCurtisss – using the hashtag #StLuciaChallenge.

Oh, and I’ve finished listening to Stephen King’s The Stand audio book, and am now listening to The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle book 1, by Patrick Rothfuss while I rattle and clatter my way to St. Lucia on my cross-contraption.

So, onward! Here’s to the next 500 kilometres, and the next, and the next…

As always, that shallot.




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Posted by on Mar 4, 2019 in St. Lucia Challenge


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#StLuciaChallenge Update


Well here we are, at the end of the first month. Actually, to be more accurate, it’s the end of the first calendar month; in terms of the challenge itself it’s only the 24th day. It seemed like a good place for an update, though, so here it is.

First off, some links. The original tongue in cheek challenge can be found here. The revamped, totally serious challenge can be found here. A spreadsheet with numbers and stuff on it can be found here.

Talking of numbers, here’s some more. The total distance between the UK and St. Lucia is 6,718km. My target is to reach the halfway mark, 3,359km, by the end of this year. As of today I’ve covered 190.90km, which means I have 3,168.10km left to go. That means I need to travel 9.49km every single day between now and the end of the year to achieve my goal.

By the way, these are distances covered on my cross trainer contraption, not actual kilometres travelled towards St. Lucia. That would be silly. And yes, being from the UK I do prefer to use miles as units of distance but the techno-gadget-thingy on the contraption only deals in kilometres. So I have no choice in the matter. The techno-gadget-thingy also needs a new battery. Remind me to put one in later, would you? There’s a dear.

The past 24 days haven’t been too bad, all things considered. The first day of the challenge I struggled my way to 4.10km. This morning I did 12.4km. A respectable improvement, I feel. I did overdo it at one point, doing thirteen straight days. On the thirteenth day the contraption kicked my arse and I failed to reach the daily target I had set myself. The following day I wanted to do nothing but sleep.

So lesson learned. And let’s face it, at forty-nine years of age, while still a long way from my dotage, I’m no longer the spring chicken I once was. It would do me well to try and remember that, at least once in a while.

As a result I’m going to take every Sunday off from the contraption, just put my feet up and relax. I’m going to aim for a minimum of 12km a day when I do use the machine, a total of at least 72km in a six day week. That is more than enough to achieve my goal, though those figures do depend on me actually cross training my way to at least 72km a week. Real life generally has other ideas – ill health, injuries, alien invasion, Armageddon, those kind of things – so we shall see.

I’m still listening to The Stand audio book by Stephen King as I try to pound the contraption into submission. Judging by the rattles and bangs it makes as I use it, it might not be long before it falls apart. Or that could be me, it’s hard to tell. For those interested, in the book the Judge has just left on his excursion into the west, Nick is about to talk to Tom Cullen about doing the same – M-O-O-N, that spells Tom – and Harold has just spent his first fantasy ridden night with Nadine.

And that, as they say, is that. I’ll post semi-regular (also known as ‘when I can be bothered’) updates on here. Daily updates can be found on my Twitter – @ABCurtisss – and daily totals will be on the spreadsheet.

Onward, ever onward!

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on Jan 31, 2019 in St. Lucia Challenge


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Reasons I don’t like Anthem

anthem banner

Apologies, it’s just yet another clickbait title, as there are no reasons I don’t like Anthem.

I like it. I like it a lot.

What’s that? You don’t like the fact you were dragged here under false pretences? You only came here seeking reassurances that your opinion it must be a trash game just because it’s EA is a valid one?

Well, tough.

“What about the problems people were having all weekend when trying to play the game?” I hear you cry.

What about them? They were frustrating, yes, but that’s all. If the so-called V.I.P. Demo had actually been branded as a Closed Beta (which, in essence, is exactly what it was) then all the hue and cry about those problems would have been considerably less. Better to expose those problems now and get them sorted before the full launch, don’t you think?

Oh yes, that’s right, you don’t think, do you.

So okay, just to appease you, here’s a reason I don’t like Anthem… I can’t play the full release version until the 22nd of February.

Good enough? Oh, you’ve gone. Well never mind then.

So why did I like playing the small slice of Anthem that was available in the closed beta… V.I.P. Demo, I mean. Well I’m not entirely sure, as it’s a combination of a lot of different factors. The freedom of movement in the game is a big factor. You can walk on the ground, and run, dodge and jump – always helpful, I’ve found. But then you can also fly, and hover, and dive under the water, all of it seamlessly, once you’ve mastered the controls, that is. But hey, why shouldn’t flying full pelt into a cliff or building be celebrated?

The look of the game is another factor. The landscape looks stunning in its rendering, sure, but it’s the style that I really liked. Huge, towering mountains, deep – very deep – crevasses and gorges. Flowing, meandering rivers, thundering waterfalls. Dark, labyrinthine caves, and crumbling ruins. It fed my imagination perfectly.

anthem javelinsThe gameplay was good too. Movement was quick and responsive. The shooting felt solid and accurate. All four of the available Javelins (the mechanised suits the player’s character wears when out in the wilderness) had a distinct style of play (your basic tank, spellcaster, DPS dex, and robust all-rounder class types) with their own, unique abilities. As such the majority of play styles should be accommodated for. One friend commented that it would be nice to have the ability to swap shoulders when aiming a weapon, and I agree. Hopefully this might get implemented at some point.

You can also customise the look and colours of your Javelin. The options were limited in the demo, but more will be available in the full release. This is perhaps the single most important aspect of the game. As we all know, the better you look the better you play, am I right? Right! And if you are going to get steamrollered by that boss at the end of that dungeon, it’s vitally important you look your best while it happens.

“What other game is Anthem like?” I’ve heard people ask, and I’ve heard a few mention Destiny as the answer. In a way it is like Destiny, but in the same way Fortnite is like PUBG. Anthem is also like Warframe, but in the way Gran Turismo is like Project Cars. The best thing to do is take the game for what it is. If you like fast-paced shooters, if you like sci-fi fantasy, then you’ll probably like Anthem. As it’s also a Bioware game there should be a good story to go along with the gameplay, if you like that kind of thing.

What you shouldn’t do is dismiss the game, or any game, just because you dislike the developer. Or publisher. Or both. Or because your babysitter’s boyfriend’s brother’s friend’s best mate says it’s bad.

This isn’t a review piece, by the way. I’ll maybe do one of those after the full release. This is just a few thoughts after a few hours playing a demo kind of piece. But so far so good. I liked what I saw and played, and I’m looking forward to the full game.

Next weekend, from Friday 1st February, Anthem will be having another beta… demo, sorry. This one will be open to all, so feel free to give it a go, if you would like to ‘try before you buy’.

Anthem, by Bioware and published by EA, will be fully released on all platforms on the 22nd February. There is a way to play it earlier, but as I can’t do that I’m not going to explain how. It’ll be available through all good retailers. And some shitty ones too, no doubt.

As always, that shallot.



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Posted by on Jan 28, 2019 in Gaming


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Conversations With My Neighbour #01

It’s very early afternoon, and I’m sitting with my feet up, having a nice after-dinner cup of tea. The rest of the day looms before me like a gaping chasm waiting to be filled with activity. Well it can damn well wait, I’m too cosy-comfy doing what I’m doing. Which is nothing. I like it.

There’s a knock at the door. I can tell by the incessant rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat which seems to go on forever that it’s my neighbour. I groan. He’s a nice enough guy but… well, yeah. With a sigh I grudgingly stand up and make my way to the front door.

The key rattles in the lock – more to signify my annoyance than anything – and I eventually pull the door open. The hinges squeal in protest – I really should get around to oiling them – and I know just how they feel.

Silhouetted in the doorway is the slightly dishevelled, slightly lopsided, slightly garlic-smelling figure of my neighbour. In his hand is his mobile phone, and he thrusts it towards me before even saying anything. Conversations with my neighbour usually start with a “problem” with his phone. Or his iPad. Or his DAB radio. Or his… well, you get the picture.

“I’ve lost half me contacts! I want to call someone but they’re not on there!” It’s snowing heavily, and large, wet flakes settle on the phone’s dirty screen, melting almost instantly as if immediately regretting their choice of landing place. I hold out my hand, and the phone is shoved unceremoniously into it. I don’t say anything. No words are needed.

Losing a lot of his contacts is a common occurrence, and an easy fix. My neighbour’s phone’s contact list has two sections – favourite contacts and all contacts. His large, thick fingers, and clumsy touch, are not suited for a touch screen and he’s constantly touching or swiping the wrong thing.

I magically make all of his contacts reappear, then hand the phone back to him. “There you go, buddy, all sorted.”

He gapes at me – the look of a man who has just witnessed the world’s most impressive conjuring trick. Then that smile, that look in his eyes, the ones that say there’s more to come. “I have an announcement,” he duly announces, confirming my suspicions.

This is how it usually goes – fix whatever problem he has with whatever gadget, and then listen to whatever it is he really wants to tell me. I often wonder if the gadgets are “broken” on purpose, just so he has the excuse to knock on my door.

250px-thetwilightzonelogoHe stands there lopsidedly, snow piling up on his scant hair, a vacant expression on his face. Somewhere in the distance a dog barks, once, twice, confirming that we’re not in the Twilight Zone. At least not yet.

“And what would this announcement be?” I gee him along, thoughts of my tea going cold giving me the courage to ask.

“I’m getting married!” He declares, a sickly grin on his face. A face which is slowly turning a pale shade of blue in the cold.

Perhaps if I leave him out here long enough he’ll freeze solid, I think, more than semi-serious. Then I could slide him away along the pavement, like a bartender sliding a drink along a bar.

“Married?” I ask, deciding to hurry things along instead of delving into amateur cryogenics. “That’s… erm… nice. And when will that be?”

A confused look flits over his face, to be replaced by the wild grin, the piercing eyes. “I don’t know the date but I asked me mam to let me know when I need to put me suit on, and then I’ll turn up at the church!” The grin wavers when I take quite a while to reply. Let’s face it, his answer needed some dissecting.

“Well okay,” I reply at last. “Sounds good. Best of luck.” What else could I say? Well don’t be so fucking stupid, sprang to mind but, you know, discretion.

“I’ll invite you, you can come too,” he chirps, obviously happy I settled on the former of my two answers. “We can have a few marriage beers too!”

I’m already easing the door closed, the hinges creaking with mirth. “Okay, thanks, that’d be nice.” Nice? No, no, no, that’s definitely not the right word.

The door’s finally closed. I lock it, then double check it’s locked securely. I’ve had quite enough of the outside world for one day, thank you very much.

I haven’t checked my diary yet, but I’m completely certain that whenever this “marriage” is, whenever the “marriage beers” will be, I’m going to be insanely busy, so sorry, I can’t possibly spare the time.

And my tea has gone cold. Great.

As always, that shallot.




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Posted by on Jan 22, 2019 in Neighbour Conversations


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