Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A very British New Year - Hogmanay - Nos Galan

Today is New Year's Eve. Or if you're in Scotland, Hogmanay. Or, if you're in Wales, Nos Galan.

This is where tradition dictates you get totally and absolutely sloshed out of your mind, head-butt four random strangers in a game of No-I-Love-YOU-The-Most (this is where the Klingons got the ritual, in case you were wondering), urinate in a policeman's hat (but only if you're pregnant), and then forget where you live.

It's a tradition that dates back to the Norse over a thousand years ago, when Thor, the Asgard god of thunder and hair products, descended on Scotland during the dark days between Avengers films, to demonstrate the virtues of over-drinking and public displays of this-is-just-embarrassing-you-can't-get-married-to-a-lamppost.

There are some pretty strange and interesting local traditions around the United Kingdom.

For example, in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, in north-east Scotland, they have a rather dangerous way of celebrating the festivities. After the local blokes spend the entire day, evening and night consuming many gallons of cheap beer, lager and why-has-this-whiskey-not-killed-me-yet, they pretend they are Klingons, and then set their balls on fire.

Oh, I jest you not.

They really do.

The locals construct massive balls of chicken wire (two feet in diameter), stuff them with old newspapers, sticks, rags and other flammable materials, attach the balls to a chain, or non-flammable rope (because, yes, that's the type of rope you want in a situation like this), and then, when the bells strike midnight, they set fire to their balls.

Crowds of 12,000 people have gathered to watch the locals walking up and down the High Street, swinging their massive flaming balls around in circles above their heads. The Stonehaven Fireballs tradition has been going on for over 150 years. Check out the Stonehaven Fireballs website for details: 

In Allendale, Northumberland, England, their merriment is cut short for the Tar Barl Ceremony. A tradition dating back to 1858.

The local 'Guisers' gulp down an entire barrel of whiskey, usually in one gulp, and then fill them with tar. Now, I know what you're thinking: no one can drink an entire whiskey barrel in one gulp. Most normal people take between three gulps and nine hundred thousand sips and three hundred years for one barrel. But these Guisers are a hardy bunch. They aren't known as One-Gulp-Guisers for nothing.

And besides, they need all that whiskey to cope with the pain that follows.

After the obligatory belch and seven hiccoughs (that's one belch and seven hiccoughs, no more, no less), they set the tar on fire and put the barrel on their heads.

What the heck? Are you kidding?

Nope. Not kidding.

They carry the burning barrels, on their heads, through the streets of Allendale to the town centre. At which point no-one is complaining about the freezing temperatures, just how slow those in front are walking.

They then head-butt the barrels onto a bonfire, called the Baal Fire, and shout, "Be damned to he who throws last."

Usually, this is quite apt. As the guy who throws last is on fire.

Side note: Allendale has the highest concentration of bald men anywhere in England (No one is quite sure why). And the highest count of "Death-By-Headbutting-A-Burning-Barrel-Of-Tar" anywhere in Britain. Northampton was second. Mostly by accident. The guy was trying to recreate a scene from Lord of the Rings. It didn't go well.

In Wales, New Year's Eve is called "Nos Galan".

There is a tradition called Mari Lwyd in the land of the dragon, and, strangely, it doesn't actually involve fire. Or a dragon.

Very disappointing.

Instead, false ears and eyes are attached to a horse's skull, along with bells, reins and ribbons, and then it's covered with a white sheet, before inserting a pole right up its.... well, skull. They don't bother with the rest of the horse.

The Mari Lwyd, or, the thing you wouldn't want the Mafia to put on your pillow, is carried from house to house by a crowd of merry-makers, who are traditionally tipsy and singing Tom Jones songs.

At each house, they pause their tributes to Tom Jones, to recite Welsh poetry. Which, because the merry-makers are hammered, sounds a lot like Klingon poetry. Those in the house then recite poetry back at the them. This goes back and forth a bit until someone wins the fight. Yep, that's how the Welsh fight. Not with fists and feet, but with Klingon poetry.

If only the wars of the past were fought under Welsh rules.

No guns.

No bombs.

Just a few well written poems spoken with passion in the romantic language of the Klingons, whilst holding the bow-and-ribbon-decorated head of a dead horse.

To end the New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay, or Nos Galan celebrations is a tradition started by the Scottish and carried around the world. The folding of arms and holding of hands and the singing For Auld Lang Syne, a traditional poem by Robert Burns, a Scottish Poet, played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

So, wherever you are, whoever you be, have a Happy New Year, and Oche Aye Your Hogmanay.

N.B. It may surprise you to know, not all the facts in this article are actual facts, but, are in fact, not facts. Can you guess which facts were not fact-facts?

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Twas the night before Christmas

I wrote this for a special friend and Sharky-Toothed agent. Thought I'd share it here with you guys. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the reef,
a shark was heard crying, distraught with grief.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
but a thief had been, and now they were bare.

He had taken the toys, and even the cakes,
not just the real ones, but even the fakes.
Left there to distract him, for she knew he would come,
For those chocolate cakes, and a bottle of rum.

She would catch him, if it took her all night,
and then take out her frustrations, bite after bite.
But the thief was smart, he knew there’d be traps,
he’d come prepared, and avoided the zaps.

Oh, come on, what kind of shark rigs their fake cakes up to the mains electricity?
Someone should report that.

The Shark kept on crying, the thief had escaped,
with those cakes, she had lovingly baked.
The minion had gone, and she didn’t care,
away on her holiday, she’d escaped from the lair.

But unknown to the Shark, the minion was near,
(Outside in the bushes drinking alcoholic egg-nog to keep warm)
Let’s just say she was full of Christmas cheer.
The minion knew, the Shark’s plan would not work,
so stayed outside to catch the burke.

"Yes, you’re a burke," the minion yelled. "A horrible, stupid, burke."
Then fell to her knees and wretched up five hours of booze.
"You don’t steal from the Shark," the minion shouted, between wretches.
"She’s my fweind. I loves her. You a nasty man.
I loves you. I loves everyone. Oooh, a slug.
Can someone hold my hair to keep it out the vomit?
I’m never drinking again.
Bruaaaaaagh. Oh, I feel bad. Really bad.
I need to...."

The minion passed out, she couldn’t handle her drink,
and to make matters worse, her breath, it doth stink.
The Shark, she did smile, so proud of her friend,
although covered in sick, a bonus, she’d recommend.

She glared at the thief, he deserved some pain,
she backed up a few paces, and then took aim.
A short run-up, and then a large swing,
her foot to his nuts, she did bring.

He instantly crumpled, his hands clasped his balls,
"Oh, God," he cried, "You’ve killed my crown jewels."
The Shark grabbed her minion, and inside she did went,
satisfied the thief, was no longer a gent.

No more crying was heard, in the house that night,
for Santa had been, and things were just right.
There were toys and sweets, even some cakes,
all of them real, none of them fakes.

Merry Christmas to the Shark, I hope you have fun,
with all those cakes and plenty of rum.
Spare a thought for the minion, she works really hard,
she deserves a gift, or, come on, at least a card.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014


If you didn't already know, doodling is an acceptable writering (that's a real word. Yes, it is.) process. It can actually help your creative imaginings take off. Give you ideas. Help you concentrate. All of that rubbish. Blah Blah.

So, I thought I'd share some of my procrastination, I mean doodling, that I did on twitter today (just for a bit of fun as I knew I should put up a blog post, but had no idea what to write).

In a world void of hope and good storytelling, two teenagers are pitted against each other in a death fight - to the death: JACK VERSES JILL

They survived the death fight - to the death, and didn't get death'd. Can they do it again? JACK VERSES JILL: ON A DIFFERENT HILL

For fans of the HUNGER GAMES and MAZE RUNNER, my 2 new YA books (coming soon) JACK VERSES JILL and JACK VERSES JILL: ON A DIFFERENT HILL

From the bestselling author of JACK VERSES JILL and JACK VERSES JILL: ON A DIFFERENT HILL, comes the finale JACK VERSES JILL: ON A MOUNTAIN.