Braintwister #2

When Lesley and Tim started playing mixed doubles tennis matches together in the county summer league three years ago, they were both nervous and edgy. They won a total of five rubbers away from home, one in each of the spring and summer months during that year. They often reminisce about those days.

“I remember our first ever win,” said Lesley. “It was against Western Gryppe on a blustery Saturday afternoon on a clay court.”

“Yes, I remember,” said Tim. “We were up against that guy with the booming lefty serve and we won in straight sets. We had to wait till after Wimbledon before we won another match in straight sets.”

“Oh yes, that was on the newly painted courts at Severn Valley and the first set went to a tie-break,” Lesley pointed out. “Do you remember that woman in the billowing pale yellow tracksuit who played for Upper Break Point? Her line calls were atrocious. I’m glad we beat them after dropping the first set to love. And I enjoyed playing on their acrylic courts.”

“Oh yes, it was a blisteringly hot midsummer’s day and we got off to a dreadful start,” said Tim, rubbing his chin ruefully. “If I’m not mistaken, we got off to a very poor start against Nomansland too just before the season was over. Thinking about it, I seem to remember there was another match we won despite incurring a bagel set. Who was that against?”

“I’m not sure,” Lesley replied. “It was on indoor courts and it was definitely before summer kicked in.”

From their conversation, can you work out who Lesley and Tim beat during their first summer league season and in which month and by what score?

Braintwister #2
Braintwister #2

Posted in games Tagged

Braintwister #1

The teachers and teaching assistants at Upper Gummtrey Primary School are discussing their lunchtime arrangements for the day’s outing in the New Forest. Each of them is responsible for supervising a particular lunchtime group. To avoid overcrowding in the camp kitchen, each group will be allocated a different time slot.

“Eight kids have signed up for the pizza lunch, which starts earlier than my lunchtime group,” says Conchita, eyeing the notes on the white board with suspicion and disapproval. “I hope they don’t leave a mess.”

“I’m happy with my group starting lunch at 12.30,” Tony muses. “But I’m surprised to see more kids have booked for the sandwich lunch.”

“I’ve got to do beans on toast for my group half an hour after the group with seven children,” Larisa points out as she strides purposefully towards the door. “Please make sure they’re out of the kitchen area before I start.”

Conchita takes a photo of the white board with her mobile phone. “The tapas lunch has the fewest kids signed up,” she says. “I suppose that’s because it’s much more expensive than the other lunches. Also, I notice the salad lunch, which starts before 1pm, has a male supervisor.”

“What’s your point?” asks Ivan in a squeaky voice, hands on hips. “Although, actually I’m quite glad I’ve not been assigned to the salad group. Anyway, Conchita, I’ve got one more than you in my group. And, by the way, Tony’s group and my group have only got 15-minute windows before the next group starts. Those kids are going to have to gobble their food down.” He follows Conchita, Tony and Larisa outside, leaving just Brad behind staring at the white board.

Brad, who hasn’t noticed the others have left, shrugs his shoulders and tuts like a disapproving aunt. “Yeah, I’d like to know why I’ve got six kids in my group – that’s one more than the 1.30 group. Can’t we be democratic and take a vote on this? All those in favour of me having the 1.30 group raise your hands!” He turns around. “Hey! Where have you all gone?”

From their conversation, can you work out what food each supervisor will be providing and how many children will be in their respective groups?

Braintwister #1
Braintwister #1

Posted in games Tagged ,

Operation INFEKTION (and the advent of fake news)

Disseminated by social media and platforms such as Google (as well as more traditional media outlets), disinformation (or black propaganda or ‘fake news’) has become a significant feature in the complex landscape of modern international politics in recent years. With the modernisation of media and mass communication, covert online techniques have been used to influence all kinds of democratic processes, including elections. But disinformation campaigns have been around for some time, well before the era of bots and trolls and algorithmically curated news feeds.

The rationale of disinformation is simple – it’s false information that is spread deliberately to deceive and sow discord among particular communities or sections of communities.

Jakob Segal

Back in the 1980s, before the paradigm shift of computer-related technology, Operation INFEKTION was a notorious disinformation campaign run by the KGB. Aimed at fostering anti-American feeling around the globe, the Russian secret service agency placed articles in newspapers suggesting that HIV had been created as a bioweapon in the US Army’s biological weapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland. The articles focused on the research of Jakob Segal, implicating the US government’s role in the AIDS crisis.

In some ways, you could say the story foreshadows the current debate surrounding the origin of COVID-19.

Click here for the full story.

Posted in Dark Mutterings, Opinion, Science Tagged , , , , ,

Captain Tom


Captain Tom

He raised thirty million for the NHS,
Walking round his garden in his Sunday best.
With a spring in his step and a song in the charts,
He lit up the lockdown
And won our hearts.

He found it amusing as he rose to fame,
Saw the funny side of being a household name,
Joked that there’d be changes at his funeral wake –
A few more sandwiches
And extra cake!

In interviews he told us things would turn out right;
The future would be rosy and the outlook bright.
‘We will get through it!’ he assured us all.
Even lots of youngsters
Thought he was cool.

As Tom reached one hundred in the public glare,
A flypast was held and he punched the air.
When lockdown ended, he was back on the screen –
Honoured with a knighthood,
He met the Queen.

He chose his own epitaph, or so we were told –
A witty remark: ‘I told you I was old!’
An emblem of hope, his legacy lives on.
We’ll keep you in our thoughts,
Captain Sir Tom.

Interested in reading some more?…

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Posted in Humour, Nonsense, Story Tagged , , , ,

Red Ribbon Winner

Wishing Shelf Awards Red Ribbon


“A wonderfully eclectic set of poetry written by a very talented poet. A RED RIBBON WINNER and highly recommended.” The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

If you were a clownfish, swimming languidly and contentedly amongst the anemones on a coral reef, you would assume that the charming ecosystem you inhabit is the entire universe. But suppose a diver with a net appears and lifts you out of the sea. You see creatures you’ve never seen before. You see boats and a coastline and the sky above. Suddenly it dawns on you that your world is just a small part of a much larger and weirder macrocosm than you could have ever imagined in your wildest dreams. And what if there is a universe in which clownfish are keen on tennis and frequently speak in rhyme? And what if this isn’t a hypothetical question?

Click here to purchase the paperback from Amazon UK
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Click here to purchase the Kindle version from Amazon UK
Click here to purchase the Kindle version from Amazon US

The Wishing Shelf Awards

Posted in Humour, Personal Tagged , , , ,



A deadly virus sweeps the world, forcing many into lockdown. The lives of ordinary people are changed forever. At times irreverent, at times absurd, at times sombre, but at all times Coronaverse is an honest (okay, harebrained) attempt to find some rhyme and rhythm in all the dizzying and disorientating manifestations of life in a pandemic.

Click here to purchase the paperback from Amazon UK
Click here to purchase the paperback from Amazon US

Click here to purchase the Kindle version from Amazon UK
Click here to purchase the Kindle version from Amazon US

Posted in Humour, Nonsense Tagged , , , , , , ,


At the end of 2020, StrikeUp Theatre was awarded an Arts Council England grant to grow the company and build new projects. We’re now proud to present this – a beautiful, heartwarming film entitled ‘Exchange’, created in collaboration with Reading Mencap and supported by Reading Culture Live.

StrikeUp Theatre
StrikeUp Theatre

Posted in Personal Tagged , , , , , ,

Granny Cradock Cooks For Christmas

This short video was produced during a StrikeUp Theatre comedy workshop for the over 70s using Zoom. The premise is as follows:

The BBC plans to devote a special night of programming to Christmas nostalgia, including a remake of ‘Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas’. Fanny herself is indisposed. The beleaguered Executive Committee decides to throw open the role of her replacement to the public by means of a series of auditions and screen tests. Unfortunately, only 5 contestants apply and the only audition to take place is therefore effectively the final. The 5 women are great fans of Fanny Cradock, but have no idea about auditions or producers or how to conduct themselves in that context. The big day of the live televised audition arrives…

StrikeUp Theatre
StrikeUp Theatre

Posted in Humour, Personal Tagged , , , ,

Dear Rishi

With the UK on course to borrow around £400bn in 2020 and with the cost of financing our burgeoning national debt threatening to make tax rises more likely, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, proposed a controversial cut in overseas aid.

Actually, the national debt has existed for centuries and is by and large sustainable. We should consider it as capital invested in the country and we should have a debate about how best to invest that capital. Investing some of it in other countries might bring benefits to the UK.

If it’s important to strive to be a better person and inspire other people to do likewise, why not apply that principle to nations too?

Dear Rishi, please put up the taxes
On those of us who can pay.
Please don’t renege on overseas aid –
Let’s keep starvation at bay.

And while you’re going about it,
Take an extra little bit,
So the NHS is provided
With adequate PPE kit.

If we consider nations as people,
I’d like us to be the best.
I’d like us to always do the right thing
Each time we’re put to the test.

Posted in Opinion Tagged , , , ,

In the Bleak Mid-lockdown

As Christmas 2020 approached, France shut its UK border amid fears of a new coronavirus variant, causing mayhem for supply chains across Europe. Nearly 4000 vehicles were held at a temporary lorry park at Manston Airport, while around 800 were stuck on the M20 into Dover. Downing Street believed the border blockade had been timed to put pressure on the UK Government in ongoing post-Brexit trade negotiations, which were floundering over fish.

In the bleak mid-lockdown
Lorry men made moan;
All supplies for Christmas
Into chaos thrown;
Queues got longer, hour by hour,
Hour by hour,
In the bleak mid-lockdown
Long ago.

A new strain of Covid
Just would not relent;
Sadly for the UK,
It started here in Kent.
All the EU members
Gave vent to their hate –
Brexit made them angry,
The trucks just had to wait.

So, what could we give him,
The French president?
The public purse was empty,
All our money spent;
If Boris were a Wise Man,
He could grant their wish,
Yet what could he give them?…
Give them fish!

(With apologies to Christina Rossetti)

Posted in Dark Mutterings, Humour Tagged , , , , , ,