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Tuesday, 20 November 2007


Souvenir OtherStuff goodies!

Go to and you can buy a mug, notebook or mousemat as a souvenir of your thrilling OtherStuff experiences of 2007.

Here's the design close up: i-ku by File featuring a particularly memorable haiku by Offside.

The website is based in the USA - it was the only one I could find which would 'host' the designs and allow you to buy direct from them - so if you're in the UK, you need to allow at least two weeks for the items to arrive, but they seem to ship them pretty quickly. (If you're in Tahiti, well, time means nothing anyway, huh?)



Saturday, 17 November 2007

How to Hide a Tree -- by File

He had a funny feeling about this job.

The mark had been chosen with care, as always, and the weeks spent making the choice had, as always, led into lonely months of immensely complicated preparation. He’d done this hundreds of times before and his obsession with perfectionism smacked of lessons learned from painful mishap in the past and not just the love of his art for its own sake, though that too was true; he loved his art.

His black shoes, white socks, black pants, white shirt, loose black jacket, white flecked black hair and black hat with a broad brim at once set him out and blended him in. If anybody had looked at him they might have noticed the easy way he had of walking, for an old man, how his path seemed to clear before him and how he kept his head down thinking. If anyone at all had noticed him they would have, perhaps, wondered where he was going in this leafy suburb on this late Sunday afternoon.

Nobody noticed him though and it was no accident, it gave him time to think.

His mark had been chosen with care and as always they’d thought it had been their own idea to seek out his services … but there was definitely a funny feeling about this one…

He walked up the drive and was ushered through a side gate into the back garden of a big private residence. He was led around back to the terrace where he immediately caught his foot under a small dog. He flew into a child carrying a dish of strawberry jam, which, in turn, flew onto the bosom of a lady in a yellow cotton summer dress.

He hadn’t tripped over accidentally for more than five hundred years…


It was the best party ever! Molly was in seventh heaven and as seven as a girl could be, the weeks of silvery excitement were crystallizing all around her.

Half-way up an apple tree she was watching all the others with a little smile on her fresh face, her scuffed knees were pressed against the bark.

Mum was bustling around the buffet table and Dad was here too, talking to the other Dads by the barbecue.

Molly was following some errant shiny blue wrapping paper with her eyes as it drifted in the gentle dusk airs and the wafts of charcoal smoke that whispered all around the garden and their guests, picking up and passing round the perfumes of fruit salad, post-party-game glow and a resurgent hum of excitable glee.

Molly took a deep breath and thought about the pink bicycle with tassels, the nurses’ uniform, the painting set, the tiara, the bright striped-sugar candy, the pencils and the rest, she heard some of the children laughing with abandon and thought to herself that this was going to be a birthday party she would never forget.

The song was still ringing in her ears, her friends, all thirty six of them, some of whom she knew and their parents and her own, had all sung “Happy Birthday” to her. Swaying bodies to the rhythm leading to a long last ‘…yooooouuuuu!’ and then applause, streamers, horns and cheers burst into the world around her and she had beamed.

Magic! And she hadn’t seen the magic yet. She knew she was going to get a real show later too, it was all sooo good!

She snapped back to the present with a start.

“Molly!” her Mum was shouting “What are you doing up there? I was looking all over for you, come on, careful now, it’s nearly time.”

‘Thank you Mummy’ she said when she’d got down and taken some juice with careful, sticky, grubby hands.

‘No problem sweetie’ her Mum smiled ‘now go and drink it with your friends dear, the magic man will start in a minute.’

‘Ok Mummy,’ but she stopped ‘can I watch him with you?’

‘No dear, I have to take care of all of the Mummies and Daddies, sit with whats-her-name there?’

‘I don’t know her.’

‘Oh, what about her?’ she pointed ‘Do you know her?’

‘That’s Wendy Mum, she lives next door’ said Molly with a ‘Tut’, Mum really should remember her lines.

‘Yes, Wendy, go on now darling sit with Wendy and wait for the show.’

She walked on over and sat next to the quiet, fat, unhappy girl. Molly smiled and started to talk to her but the suddenly raised voices and an ‘Oh!’ distracted her. She turned to see an old man with black and white hair and a black suit standing in the centre of the group of parents trying hurriedly to dab strawberry jam off Mums’ primrose summer dress with an unmanageably long line of flapping coloured scarves.

In all the commotion he somehow found a moment to meet Molly’s open gaze, instantly she was caught in the deep amber eyes. He smiled a sunny smile and was going into a hint of a deep and graceful bow when he realized he had one hand resting on her mothers breast and that the iron fire of ire of lioness was pointed directly at him.

A manic bout of nervous apologies, dabbing and fending off ensued. A dizzy exaltation seemed to wash over Molly.

The magician was here.


It took him only a frenzied few minutes to get in front of the gathering kids, trip over his scarves this time, stand up and start greeting them with big soap bubbles streaming out of his ears. Innocently asking ‘What, what?’ at their shouts.

‘My name is Bubba’ he said in dramatic baritone, bubbles coming out of his mouth too now ‘Not bubble!’ He tried to blow them away with yet more bubbles, his mouth a clear and sparkling bubble spring. Batting them with his hands they dispersed and floated all around and amongst the kids and himself in a growing bubble cloud.

Someone had once told him that if a man was both hero and clown then only the clown would be remembered. He’d taken it literally as an insight into human nature and as a strategy for his uncommon life.

He stopped still.

Wide eyed, he raised his head and arms back, open mouthed to the sky for an instant of sheer anticipation as he let in an ‘Aaaaahhhhhh….’ Then he suddenly snapped forward and shouted ‘Choooooo!’ and a power spray of glistening bubbles burst from his mouth and nose and rushed all around in a quick stream. The little kids squealed, delighted and tried to clap as many as they could.

He shook his head like a slobbering St. Bernard and knelt down.

‘What’s your name?’ he asked Wendy.

‘Wendy’ she said, laughing and slapping his outstretched palm for five, as she did so a shower of pink-heart shaped bubbles splashed up from their hands and spread around her, she gawped in happy awe.

‘Now’ he said ‘that’s a beautiful name’ and somehow she never doubted her own beauty again.

He went over to sit on the white garden chair and mistimed his descent, landing heavily with a very loud and ringing Fart and a shrill jet stream of bubbles squeezed out from under him.

The kids roared with laughter, fathers frowned, Mums raised elegant fingers to their noses and Bubba stuttered and apologized fanning his hands behind his bottom as if to dispel the pungent gases. He turned around and with a circular Woosh he collected the purple and green odours into one big balloon. It lollopped and bobbled over to the noisiest boys where it popped above their heads and sent them into fits of nose holding, coughing and lying on their backs with their tongues out and their legs twitching in the air.

Then with an ‘A-hah!’ he pulled and threw out streams of daisies and rose petals from his breast pocket sending them flying and sailing over the girls. He couldn’t pull them out fast enough and they overflowed and floated with the bubbles. He followed it with a ‘Ho Ho!’ as he pulled open his sleeve to release hundreds of blue and green paper airplanes which shot out and circled around the boys. And a ‘Da Da!’ as he clicked his fingers and before their very eyes the flowers turned into fluttering butterflies and the paper airplanes into incandescent dragonflies buzzing among the kids.

The magician snapped them back to attention tapping a top hat with his black wand, empty on the inside and solid on the out, see?

He twirled around quickly, lost his balance and fell crashing to the ground with a crack, got up looking at his broken wand and coughed. He tapped the hat with the flopping wand, looking at the kids with a proud smile, which changed to a concerned frown as he realized nothing was happening. He tried again, tap, tap, tap (flop) and presented the hat to the kids with a flourish. Nothing, then the kids started shouting and pointing and he looked around only to see a contented white rabbit sitting on his shoulder.

He started and jumped, startled, flipping the rabbit into the air with his hat and wand which he immediately juggled dangerously, at first, then with cocky overconfidence. Circus music sprung up from somewhere and he tossed the uncomplaining rabbit, hat and wand higher and higher until he suddenly pulled open his jacket and caught the objects inside as they fell.

There was a hearty round of applause as he performed a showy bow but he seemed to have a problem standing up again. He was wrestling with his jacket or something inside it, turning and pulling, twisting and straining until he pulled his whole white silk lined jacket over his head. Right over until it was completely reversed and a very big and real white rabbit was sitting there in front of them where the magician had been.

The rabbit blinked, the crowd blinked.

‘Anyone got a carrot?’ it said and started to rummage around between its feet pulling out Fedoras, Bowlers, Trilbies and Panama hats and flinging them with abandon. Eventually it found a bright orange carrot with a flourish and showed it around the kids who were sitting there in open-mouthed paralysis.

It started to eat the carrot but it turned into a stick of dynamite with a fast burning fuse before their very eyes. The children shouted and shouted but the bunny seemed not to hear them as he continued nibbling away.

There was a really loud ‘POP’ and a puff of smoke and as it cleared it revealed the magician running around in tight circles, manically trying to collect hundreds of overexcited baby white rabbits all making good their escape, darting between the kids and burrowing under party dresses. They got on the buffet table and young Fraser’s head; they ran slaloms through parent’s legs and started tugging at trouser legs and the tablecloth with their teeth. The kids were running to their Mums and Dads who were hastily moving away from the teetering laden table. The garden was now a running riot of rabbits and bubbles, flowers, paper airplanes, butterflies and dragonflies, much squealing and the occasional rugby tackle.

‘Well at least its not frogs!’ said the magician in a clear voice and at that moment the darting white fur stopped and there was a lull while the penny dropped. The previously soft and fluffy elements of the anarchy were now slimy, wriggling and hopping like the ground was hot. It was at this point that the squealing really started.


Later, after two of the three disappeared children had been reappeared and the third had been spotted through a hole into next doors garden. After the last of the screeching jack-in-the-box jesters had stopped springing randomly from the lawn and after the snow-elephant had started to melt. After all that and even more, Bubba tink, tink, tin-shattered a glass and cleared his throat.

‘Ladens and Gentlemean, Girdles and Boils, the time has come’ he said ‘to talk of other things. Polly? Er…Dolly? Er…Spike? Oh dear, whose birthday is it today?’

And all the kids screamed ‘MOLLY!’ and some of them pointed too, there could be no doubt.

‘Molly!’ said Bubba ‘come, come’ and he shepherded her out to the front ‘don’t be scared.’

‘Well, a very Happy Birthday to you Molly!’ he beamed ‘have you had a nice day?’

‘Yes’ she said.

‘How old are you today?’

‘Seventy Eight’ said the little girl and there was a titter of laughter amongst the assembled.

‘Really? Seventy eight huh?’ laughed Bubba playing along ‘You’re looking pretty good for seventy eight you know.’

‘Thank you’ said Molly ‘and how old are you … today?’

‘Er…’ said Bubba a bit phased by that. ‘Anyway that’s it from me everybody, thank you very much. One last Happy Birthday for Molly now, everyone…Haaappy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you….

After they had all sung it one more time and bits of cake were being wrapped up to take home, Bubba found Molly in a quiet spot.

‘Hey Molly’ he said in a soft voice ‘I’ve got another little present for you’ and he sat down next to her.


It had been a lonely performance for Bubba. He’d married, once, long ago and he’d watched his family flower, wilt and die while he lived on and got stronger and he’d never been able to do it again, not in all that time. Friends too, came and went and didn’t come again.

He’d looked in the light and in the shadows, heard all the stories, and never found anyone like himself so he’d thrown himself into his art.

Working out that the best place to hide was somewhere that had already been searched he chose the theatre. Everyone knew it was all a trick of the light and smoke and mirrors in there and if all of his tricks went wrong and he was obviously not entirely in control, well, he would be and he would be invisible in plain sight too.

The decades had turned into centuries in solitude and an inner sense of his own mortality had eventually kicked in. He was growing gracefully old at last and found himself happiest giving and in the company of children these days.

Real magic is not so far removed from real life and most of Bubba’s qualities were not so strange; awareness, empathy, imagination, perseverance, good health to name a few. Astute awareness of life’s details on top of the length and depth of his experiences over more than five centuries had evolved in him an ability to see forwards in time as well as backwards and his empathy was so attuned as to describe telepathy. He’d traveled the inside and outside worlds to exhaustion, ever growing, ever mastering his art and these days his control over hypnotic states, suggestions, triggers and anchors, for instance, was so fine that most of what Molly and her friends had just experienced had never existed and yet would remain with them forever.

When he first became aware of a child who could do with a break he learnt everything about them. He looked inside them and ahead, followed the dominos as they fell and traced the butterfly fractals unfolding, until he knew for sure what would help.

He made invisible friends, a balm that calms, eternal music boxes and a giggle that sits on your shoulder and laughs at all of your jokes. Understanding glasses, everfilling flower vases, thought strings and attention yokes. At his last party he’d made a Memory Movie Player (MMP) that allowed his boy to actually remember the beautiful memory movies in the player as he watched them. Chris had been 11 that day and he’d been sorely in need of them.

For Molly, he knew her as a great girl with lots she could offer the world, but no spark. It had taken nearly nine weeks to perfect a twinkle for her eye.

‘Do you like it?’ he asked.

‘I love it’ she said ‘what is it?’

‘It’s a twinkle Molly, a little spark of life. It will put fire in your belly and hair on your chest’ said Bubba. ‘Well, no hair but a bit of energy for you and …’ he leaned closer ‘if you use this well other people will always help’ and he smiled.

‘It’s beautiful’ she said, though her eyes were clearly shining already. ‘I thought you would do something like this.’

‘Er…you thought it was my birthday too didn’t you?’

‘Well it is, isn’t it? That’s why I made a party for you.’

Bubba paused, trying to divine. ‘A party for me …you really are seventy eight aren’t you?’

‘Yes, I had to hide my light from you too that’s why you thought…’

‘That you needed one’ he finished for her and became silent.

‘I’ve been looking over your shoulder for some time now Bubba. I thought it might be nice if someone gave a party for you for a change.’

Perhaps for the first time in his long life he had nothing to say.

‘Bubba? How would you hide a tree?’ she asked him.

He smiled cannily ‘Why, in a forest of course!’

‘And that’s why you’ve been showing the Magic on stage isn’t it?’

‘Well, yes, it is!’ nodding, chuckling.

She put her little palms up in front of them in a prayer.

‘The fibres of your secret tree have become a book Bubba, of wonder and fantasy and intrigue’ she opened her hands like the leaves of a book and splashes and sparkles and showers and shoots of colour drifted out of them into the dusk ‘You’ve lit up the lives of so many children now, you know?’

His old face was loose now, hanging real, five hundred and fifty five years of secrecy is a mighty heavy coat to check in.

‘It’s ok Bubba’ she said gently ‘a book is a great way to hide a tree too but we wondered…’ she found his amber eyes again ‘if you wouldn’t want to spend a bit of time, sometimes, in our library?’

And she led his eyes back into the evening shade and all the smiling faces there, waiting for his answer …



[Illustration by Kozyndan - more of their work at]


Monday, 12 November 2007

And Another One

Last one... this was suggested by Mimi who will reveal later what it is. Before that, you have to guess/haiku/joke/digress...

The photo was taken by Roger Bird, hope he doesn't mind us using it.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Another Photo

You seemed to like the last one, so here's another.... provide a caption, poem, joke, reflect on the evils of the world or just recommend a sculptor - up to you...

Saturday, 3 November 2007

A Sort of Caption Competition

What does this picture inspire you to? a poem? a silly joke? a random philosophical thought? No prize for the best one, but of course you will know how clever you are...