New boy

I’m organising my things, in a ramshackle, desultory fashion – trying with habitual lack of skill to make sense of new space and old stuff. The blandness of over-worn, promiscuous student accommodation – thin synthetic carpet and tired emulsion paint with just a hint of grease. Through the open, low threshold ground floor window, a girl swings her legs through and sits. “Hi! I’m just trying to get this done. Is it OK?” She busies with her iPad, frowning slightly.

“Sure,” I say. I place the postcard from Angela on the desk, then find myself struggling to pick up the cheap multivitamin tab from the floor near the girl’s feet. I glance, up, mildly flustered. She must find me somewhat off balance. The blasted thing is in bits and powder – broken when I pushed it through the foil of the blister package. Fragments cling to the slight sweat of my fingers as I transfer the dregs to the egg cup on the desk.

She looks up, apparently satisfied. “Sorry – just sorting my new timetable. Pfff…”

“What are you studying?”


“Wow, interesting!”

“Yes – my friends all say so, but then ask what use it will actually be. But the whole history of how the earth has formed and changed, I love it.”

I’m no longer on my knees, but stand awkwardly, charmed yet discomfited by this casually uninvited guest. “Um, so you’re not in first year?”

“Oh no – fourth. It’s going to be busy”

“I can imagine. This is my first. First day, actually.” I feel vaguely annoyed with myself at revealing my ‘new boy’ status.


He just fell head first down the gap at the head of the bed.

“No! Don’t go down there! What are you doing?!”

I rescue him, grasping his feet and hauling him out of the dandruff-dusty crevasse. He looks back at me with an aggrieved expression, dignity bruised.

As the smell of bacon and coffee drifts in from neighbouring flats, Teddy and I hatch a plan for the day, involving honey and more sleep. And maybe a bit of bumbling around. It’s so exciting, that after planning we both need a little nap.

In my dream, we’re dribbling maple syrup onto a trampoline-sized stack of buttery pancakes. Crispy bacon showers from the sky, and gusts of blueberries pelt down like hail. My fork’s the size of an oar, and yet I still manage to row the fabulous melange into my morning mouth, syrup escaping and dribbling down my chin.

Teddy’s looking a little sceptical, and is busy in a corner with a large spoon and a bucketful of set honey.

Each to their own, I reckon. Bounty is here.

Waking now, I find my ten minute timer has still not expired, and I cast around for some waking reality to write.  Will the beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-beep of the Android phone alert us both that real breakfast, with real-sized cutlery, is here and now?

I stall and procrastinate…

Still waiting…

25 seconds to go…

Yawn… Ooohhghh…



I’m awake – or am I? My ears are buzzing, vibrating. It’s like some ghost has grabbed my head and delivers a flow of uncanny energy to my skull.

The desert is dark and statuesque through the windscreen and cold-misted panes.

Suddenly, I’m somersaulting into the air, through the gold roof. I’m spinning. The ears buzz, buzz. Then, whoosh, like retracting tape measure, I’m sucked back in, still shaking, back in my sleeping bag on the down-folded rear seats.

God, I must be tired.

I clunk open the door, swivel into my trousers, and pull on shoes. The road is silent. My pee hisses onto the sparse vegetation of the verge, arced stream briefly refracting the light of stars.

What is it – maybe 2am? Breakfast time. Granola – same as dinner. I shake out a big handful and let it filter out between forefinger and thumb into my upturned mouth. Brushing the crumbs off on my thigh, I settle into the driving seat, and turn the ignition. Engine softly wakes, and headlights illuminate the upcoming stretch of highway.

The Machine

Enya returns from the rural warehouse disappointed, and joins me in the car.

“They’ve discontinued my model, and the new one looks terrible! And the women are so offhand and rude in there!”

I’ll go in and see for myself.

A young couple from New Zealand, crossing the mown grass fronting the building, break into a run. Laughing, I join them, awkward on my wounded leg. We throw ourselves prone on the gentle brow of the hill, soldiers or scouts alert to dangers all around. Neither seems to question the sudden presence of this disarming stranger.

I can feel grassy stubble tickling my chin. Rash-inducing. Such sensitive skin, stinging in response to a tiny bead of essential oil in an ocean of bathwater. I’m like the Princess and the Pea.

Inside, the brusque attendants admire a much-contoured, Segway-like machine. Over-contoured, like some doomed car model forever to be reviewed as “Good value second-hand due to its weird looks”. Or “Cons: Looks weird”.

Sticky-backed plastic still coats the shiny machine’s skin, slightly dog-eared at awkward corners, yet ready to be peeled off like great sheets of sunburn on arrival in its new mistress’s home. For now, it stands dumbly there against the wall.