DOG LOVERS! Respond to this post from Usual Muttwits, and you might see your beloved pooch immortalised! It’s free, and fun!


Who likes Muttwits?You do, of course – but wouldn’t it be great if you could show the world your very own muttwit on

Simply trot over to our emailzozoandjools@yahoo.comand send us a sharp photo of your sharp-looking bestie, together with 1)name, 2)breed: incl. age + sex 3)personalitya few words on wot makes yor muttwit special.Every Monday we will share all the Muttshots on Usual Muttwits Most Wanted.

In fact, once a month Zozo will choose a few Muttshots and draw them.Some may even trot into upcoming stories…


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The Fear: Part Twenty-Two

This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 995 words.

Emptying the new container back into the drum was a tricky task, trying to get everything in without spilling the dangerous acid. When it was done, I used the wheeled trolley and small hoist to get the sealed drum back into storage under the floor of the smaller workshop. Before going back up to the house, I cleaned and disinfected the container where I had kept Shell and Danielle, ready for the next experiment.

There was nothing substantial in the house to eat, and I needed to drive to the supermarket for groceries. On the way, I wondered how long I could possibly wait until exploring the next opportunity for an experiment. Of course, writing up my notes and editing the video footage would take some time, and I wanted to be completly certain nobody had associated me with Danielle’s disappearance, and the freeing of the animals from the sanctuary. Back at home as I ate fresh some soup and warm French bread, I searched my mind to try to think if anyone who called at her house might have seen me. Happy that they had not, I still had to consider that she might have told someone about me working there.

I would have to wait for a while, to make sure she hadn’t.

Over the next few weeks, I was certainly tempted at times when it seemed I could easily take advantage of a situation. The man who delivered most of the parcels I ordered online was middle-aged, and small in stature. I felt he might be easy to overcome physically, if I had no chance to drug him. But his vehicle would be tracked, and his deliveries too. It would be so obvious where he had gone missing. Besides, I would have to engage him in a long conversation to discover his secret fear, and that might make him suspicious.

Then there was the woman cashier in the small petrol station where I habitually filled up my van. She made no secret of being attracted to me, and was keen to tell me as much of her life story as possible, in the short time it took to pay for my fuel. She would have been so easy, as she would undoubtedly have willingly met me elsewhere, had I suggested it. But even that humble business had CCTV, covering both the forecourt and the interior of the payment area. Should she go missing, I would become the number one suspect immediately.

Finding a new job and going back to work was definitely necessary. I had to be around a wider selection of other people to be able to pick someone suitable. Casual work seemed to be the best option, and I looked online for employment where there would be few questions asked, and nobody would care too much about my tax and insurance records. But there was nothing that felt safe for me, and the weeks passed, leaving me frustrated.

Taking a trip to the coast one day for a change of scene, I saw a notice attached to a tree in that small town. As I walked along the street, I saw other identical notices stuck on walls, or attached to cardboard hanging from some railings. Cheaply printed, the message was simple. ‘Agricultural Work Available. Cash Paid Weekly. Accomodation Provided.’ Underneath was a mobile phone number, and I entered into my phone contacts before driving home.

The man who answered my call was gruff, and had a heavy foreign accent. He told me that he was recruiting people to work tending crops in greenhouses. All he required from me was the ability to work hard, make no trouble, and be reliable. I would be paid in cash weekly, and static caravans were provided for the workers to stay in. He gave me a postcode for use in a Satnav, and told me to turn up anytime before Friday to be shown around. Checking the location online, I discovered it was almost one hundred miles from my house. The weather was changing, so I packed some warm clothes. The next morning, I telephoned Mr Dean, and told him I would be away for a while. He assured me he would look after the property in my absence.

The greenhouses were nothing at all like I had expected. There were six of them, each the size of a football field. Purpose built on some unattractive land in the middle of nowhere, they looked new, and inside they were very hot. Though I had never been abroad, they felt just as I imagined the tropics to be. The man I had spoken to showed me around. He said his name was Anton, and he looked more like a soldier than a farmer. Although his European accent was strong, he was easy to understand, and used colloquialisms that suggested he had lived here for some time. Behind the greenhouses were rows of unattractive static homes that looked shabby and unloved. He told me that each one held four people, and if I stayed there some rent would be deducted from my pay. I would also be provided with food, as they ate communally after work.

He looked surprised when I accepted the job without even asking the rates of pay, and seemed delighted when I told him I could start as soon as he wanted me to. He gave me a black overall, and said I had to wear my own shoes. I could settle into the accomodation that day, and start work at seven the next morning. There was no Internet access, and any mobile phone signal was erratic in that area. I shrugged at that, as it didn’t concern me. He produced a notebook from his trouser pocket, and asked my name so he could add me to his gang list. I told him my name was Richard Turpin, fairly certain he wouldn’t know the name of a famous historical highwayman. He smiled.

“I call you Ricky, okay?”

Blogging: A Worldwide Community

I had a big moan about dodgy comments and fake blog followers the other day.

So I thought I would counter that with something really positive about our great blogging community.

Little did I imagine when I started this blog in 2012, that eight years later I would be part of a huge worldwide community of bloggers. Just taking into account the smaller community of my own followers, and those who I follow, it is still an amazing thing to feel included in.

I have followers who comment from over 30 countries around the world. Most of those countries are ones I have never visited, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, The Philippines, America, Canada, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Thailand, and Cambodia. (Among others) Yet I am able to connect with people who live there, in English, and learn something about their lives, thoughts, customs, culture; even their hopes and fears.

It has taught me a great deal, especially that wherever we live, we often are just the same. Separated by oceans or continents, most of us are trying to connect, to be decent people, and to share our life experiences, writing, photography, poetry or culinary skills with anyone who might be interested, irrespective of where they live.

The current Covid-19 pandemic in particular has highlighted our similarities, as bloggers write about their experiences of the virus, and how they fear the impact of it on everyday life, and their own future. I have found out about countries where there has been little or no social distancing, and others with far better reactions to dealing with the crisis than we have seen here in England.

With the George Floyd incident bringing racism into the spotlight once again, it is just wonderful to see that this is virtually non-existent in the world of blogging, where tolerance is our watchword.

Bloggers are rarely concerned with the colour of a person’s skin, their religion, or their wealth and influence. Blogging gives you a blank sheet of acceptance, whatever else is going on around us in this troubled world.

Whenever you might be close to losing hope, just think about Blogging. It is not an exaggeration to say that it can ease loneliness, help to combat depression, and offer true friendships from complete strangers who you will almost certainly never meet.

Quote: Oscar Wilde

The last post about Gil Scott-Heron’s quote made me think about my all-time favourite quote, from Oscar Wilde.

I read this in my early teens, and it resonated with me so much, I have remembered it my whole life. He didn’t actually say it in conversation, but he wrote it as a line in one of his plays, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

A perfect quote

I thought of this post from 2013, which has not been seen by many of you. It is one of my favourite quotes of modern times.


I was watching a documentary film this morning. The person who was the subject of the documentary was being remembered by friends. One recalled that she had once met Gil Scott-Heron, the late musician. She asked him what his definition of a pessimist was. His reply has to be one of my favourite quotes, ever.

“A pessimist is a person who is in possession of all the facts.”


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The Fear: Part Twenty-One

This is the twenty-first episode of a fiction serial, in 820 words.

Experiment Two: Part Two
Subject: Danielle Goldman.
Age: 36.
Gender: Female.

Having set an alarm to wake me, I was up early, keen to check on Danielle and review the camera footage from the overnight recording. My initial observation was that none of the creatures inside her container appeared to have harmed her in any way. During the night, they had congregated by species in distinct areas, with only the single creatures and spiders choosing to rest alone in the corners. The monitor attached to her arm showed she was not doing very well. Her pulse rate was dangerously low, and the blood pressure hardly registering. Whatever terrors she had experienced as I slept had taken their toll, and she was barely conscious.

Using a long spout attached to a bottle of water, I tried to force some into her mouth, sure she must be incredibly thirsty by now. But she clenched her jaw, and moved her head to one side, her eyes firmly closed. I thought I might need to stimulate the insects into activity, so I increased the heat setting inside the container, and threw in some vegetable matter that they might feed on. Within moments, the plant-eaters were scurrying around, keen to eat, and the predatory creatures attacked them, attracted by the movement.

Despite the veritable hive of activity happening on and around her body, Danielle did not stir. I was beginning to wonder if anyone can become used to their greatest fear if exposed for long enough, when the alarm sounded on the monitor. I walked over and muted the high-pitched sound, noting that the pulse and blood presure were no longer registering, and the numbers had gone, replaced by a flashing red warning.

After waiting a few moments with my notebook poised, I concluded that Danielle had just died, and wrote down the time.

Reviewing the video footage took a long time. For most of the night she could be seen wriggling around as best as she could, trying to dissuade the insects from settling on her face and head. But by five-fifteen, she was undoubtedly exhausted, and seemed to be deeply asleep. By contrast, her companions in the container were active for most of the time, before settling into their chosen spots by six fity-eight, not long before I arrived in the workshop.

It was midday before I had finished, and I decided to go back to the house for lunch before the task of clearing away the experiment began. I was distracted as I ate, very excited by the prospect that my second experiment was successful, in that it might well have proved that someone could indeed die of fright, given the right set of circumstances.

When I had dressed in the protective clothing, I went to the container and removed the cuff and monitor lead from Danielle’s arm. Then I sealed the access ports tight, before attaching the nozzle of a compressor to the underside. With that in place, I connected the hose to an extraction pump, and turned it on. Though very noisy, it would suck all the air out of the container in a very short time, killing all the creatures inside without me having to resort to using insecticide or other means to dispose of them.

When nothing inside was moving in the newly-created vacuum, I unlocked the lid and opened the container. It took some time for me to go and retrieve the drum of acid containing what was left of Shell, but I could see no point in using up any more of my supply. Using the hoist and chains, I poured that into the larger box I had built the previous day, and allowed it to settle as I swept out the insects using a dustpan and brush. After filling a large plastic box with the dead creatures, I added the boxes containing the scorpions, and dropped the whole thing into the acid. That bubbled away nicely as I began to attach some hoist straps to Danielle’s body.

The creaking sound given off by the straps as the body was lifted out of the container gave me cause for concern. It seemed that her weight was close to the maximum that the hoist would bear. Once her body was lowered into the new tank, I went and made some notes and calculations. I would need a stronger hoist, I was sure of that.

There was not much more I could do that day, as I now had to allow a full twenty-four hours or more for Danielle to dissolve before I could pour her back into the drum and return it to its concealed place. So I changed out of the protective clothing, and went back into the house, satisfied with my work.

Something nice for dinner would be in order. I decided to drive into town and buy some Chinese food to bring home.

I might even try chili prawns.

The Fear: Part Twenty

This is the twentieth part of a fiction serial, in 712 words.

Experiment Two: Part One.
Subject: Danielle Goldman.
Age: 36.
Gender: Female.

Her eyes were so wide open and bulging, I thought the eyeballs might burst. The blood pressure and pulse rate monitor attached to her showed both were above normal, especially her pulse. When the hissing cockroach finally crawled off her mouth, she began screaming. No words, and no pleas for help, just constant screaming, at a volume I hadn’t thought possible from a human voice. Then she spotted the black scorpions scuttling around in their clear containers abover her face, and for a moment, I thought she might stop breathing.

The creatures inside with her didn’t appear to react to the noise at all, which interested me greatly. But when a giant millipede began to crawl across her breasts, Danielle lost control of her bladder into the container below. Although she could clearly see me by turning her eyes to her right, she made no appeal to me, and did not use my name. It was as if she had always known this might happen, though of course I knew that wasn’t possible.

Some of the bugs that could fly began to do just that. Crickets and Locusts started to try to escape the attention of some of the more voracious predators in Danielle’s container, and most settled around the top section, in her hair. This caused the Mantises and Spiders seeking prey to start to crawl up her legs in the direction of her head, and with that, her screams began in earnest. I had to step back a few paces, to protect my hearing. Even confined in the container, the sound was incredible.

Rumbling in my stomach suggested it was time I had something to eat. Leaving the cameras running, I went back up to the house and made a toasted cheese sandwich. As I ate, I pondered her reaction. Definite fear, bordering on terror. This might be the most successful of my three experiments so far, considering Ted had stopped his short accidentally.

Back in the workshop, I could see that Danielle was almost able to move her container by the actions of her body inside it. I immediately noted that, deciding that I would have to make some kind of frame to secure the container on its stand. Her pulse rate was approaching 200, and I guessed she would be unable to maintain that, together with a blood pressure of 190 over 100 for too long, before some damage was done.

Perhaps fear could kill after all?

Opening one of the ports carefully, so as not to let anything escape, I offered some water in a plastic bottle. She shook her head violently, no doubt fearing more drugs in the fluid. A piercing scream shook me away from my note-taking, and I stood up to see that a Praying Mantis was on her left cheek, eating a live cricket. It was so close to her left eye, it was all she could see. Then when a red-kneed Tarantula settled on her right collar bone, she passed out.

I knew she wasn’t dead, as the monitor continued to show her pulse and blood pressure. But the arrival of the arachnid had obviously been too much. Her troubled brain had shut down, and she was deeply asleep. Excited by the first day of the experiment, I retired into the computer room to review the film footage.

Danielle was proving to be an excellent subject for my studies.

Leaving her overnight was the next step. I left all the lights on, as I didn’t want her not to be able to see her tormentors. Before I retired to bed, I offered some water, and food in the form of a cake and nut bar. But she shook her head, no doubt unable to think of food at such a time in her life. She had still not said my name, or requested that I remove the creatures, ceasing her torment. I concluded that she knew her fate, and welcomed it as a release from her terror.

Sleep was hard to come by for me that time. I was busy taking extra notes, and drawing some conclusions based on the video evidence I had spent so long watching.

This time, I was absolutely sure that fear could kill.

Walking Away From The Weather

I left in bright sunshine with Ollie for our walk earlier. It had been grey and dismal when I got up this morning, so I thought to take an umbrella, just in case.

Sure enough, I hadn’t got 500 yards before the heavens opened in a torrential downpour. In the distance, I could see blue skies and no clouds at all, so I headed in search of that spot, which I guessed was around two miles south of Beetley. I had some idea I could walk away from the weather here. But like the proverbial distant mountain, it was a lot further away than it looked, and after an hour of walking, the rain had worn us down.

Even with an umbrella up, my clothes were soaked through, and the water was running off my saturated shorts down into the tops of the wellington boots I was wearing because of the mud. Ollie’s brown fur was so wet, it looked black, and he didn’t seem very excited about being out at all. I turned back in the direction of Beetley Meadows as the rain started to get even heavier, and I didn’t look over my shoulder at that blue cloudless sky that was mocking me.

By the time we got close to home, Ollie was already heading for the exit to the Meadows, head down, and not interested in walking in the rain any longer. Even using all three of his dog towels, I couldn’t get him completely dry, and my shorts are in the airing cupbard, drying slowly with the heat from the hot water tank. I came into the office to check the date on my calendar.
Yes, it is the 10th of July.

England, in the height of summer.

A Nicer Kind Of Dream: Spaniels

When my wife woke me up as she left for work this morning, I was in the middle of an intense and vivid dream.

In the past, I have written about my dreams on here. They are mostly pleasant, but sometimes have mysterious elements, or flashbacks to my past life in some way.

One dream I wrote about took me to a city in America, walking around a lake. It was a city I had never seen, in a country I have never visited, but the details I recalled were all uncannily accurate, according to many who responded in the comments.

In 2019, I had a dream about Chinese noodles, of all things.

Then earlier this year, I wrote about a more disturbing dream, involving being on the edge of a cliff.

The dream I woke from this morning was still quite strange, but overwhelmingly happy. I was walking in a European city, definitely not England, as I could tell from the architecture, cobbled streets, and tram lines in the streets. It had been raining, and was probably early evening. There were no other people around, and I seemed to know where I was going.

And I was carrying two tiny black and white Spaniel pups. They were up close to my neck, and I could feel the warmth of their bodies, and the softness of their floppy ears. They couldn’t have been more than twelve weeks old, and seemed to be accustomed to me carrying them around.

I walked past a large fountain at the centre of the junction of four major roads. It had a statue in the centre from which four jets of water were gently flowing, as if the pump inside had broken. Then I spotted the lights of an old-fashioned Art-Deco style cinema ahead, and the name ‘KINO’ in large red neon. As I got closer, I could see it was showing the film ‘The Third Man’, a big favourite of mine. The poster had the name ‘Der Dritte Mann’, and I knew what that was, though I don’t speak German. I went inside, still carrying the Spaniels, and a lady looked at me from behind the cash desk.

Shaking her head, she pointed at the dogs and said, “Kein eintritt mit hunden”. I nodded, understanding what she said, and walked back out into the street.

That’s when I woke up, remembering every detail of the dream, even the feel of the cobbles under my shoes. So I know I was somewhere in a German-speaking country, and where the architecture is distinctly European. I could read and understand German, and I felt as if the Spaniels were still resting on my neck. I have no explanation for this vivid dream.

But when my eyes opened, I felt happy.

The Fear: Part Nineteen

This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 765 words.

Before I bothered to deal with Danielle, I had to make sure the animals were okay. I opened the back gate at the end of the large garden, leading onto the field beyond. Then I filled all the food and water containers, before opening all the cages and sheds containing every animal. For those kept inside, like the cats and hedgehogs, I left the back door wide open, and emptied the surplus food onto the lawn. At least they could all make their escape, if they chose to do so.

Danielle was short, but she was heavy. It took some effort to carry her out to my van, and roll her onto the duvet stored in the back. Once she was on her side, and covered by the quilt, I went back to retrieve her handbag and mobile phone. I wanted the outside world to believe that it had all become too much for her, and she had just freed all the animals, then left. I didn’t even bother to lock the front door with her keys, just closed it behind me.

Guessing that she would be asleep for up to twelve hours, I had plenty of time to get some rest before arranging things. I undressed her and put her into the same container that had stored Shell, before going up to the house to get some sleep. I set an alarm for six in the morning, which I was sure would leave me sufficient time. Danielle had been a tight fit in my container. Despite her short stature, the amount of fat on her sides and legs had necessitated stuffing some of her flab tight against the reinforced perspex. I was hot and tired by the time I got up to the house, so had a shower before bed.

The next morning, I was up before first light to check on Danielle. She was still sleeping soundly, so I attached my recent purchase of a blood pressure monitor that also gave an indication of her pulse rate. Then I went to collect my insect and arachnid menagerie from the heated storage. I opened the main lid of Danielle’s container, and carefully placed some of the larger creatures inside using tongs. Then with the lid half closed, I added the numerous crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts before quickly securing the lid in case some escaped. Increasing the heat and humidity inside the container, I watched as the various different creepy-crawlies walked around her unconscious body, finding places for themselves in the crowded space.

Some of them began to fight, others were obviously eating each other. The full horror and carnage of the insect world was being played out before my eyes, and I switched on the cameras, sure that Danielle would soon be awake. My notes were compiled in a fenzied manner, completing a full page in moments. Even though I knew I could review the video footage later, I was keen to write things down as I saw them happening. As she still appeared to be deeply asleep, I placed the scorpions into some perspex boxes, and put them on top of the container, just above her face.

With her seemingly unable to be roused, I went to deal with the dilemma of an acid container. It was plain to see that the one I had used for Shell would not be big enough, so I took up my welding torch, and began to fashion one suitably large enough from three metal plates in the corner. It had to be completely watertight of course, as I would not have wanted the acid to leak later on. The one I was constructing would then need to rest for at least one hour before use, to harden.

I was sure that I would have that time to observe Danielle, and more besides.

Once my construction was satisfactory, I used a wheeled dolly to get it into position under the tank full of acid. Sure it was reliably seated, I went back to watch Danielle wake up. She was still snoring, and I had an idea that I might have to physically wake her. But my access portholes were closed tight, to stop all the invertebrates from escaping. I sat back and made some notes, so this problem would not happen in future experiments. Then a rattling sound from the container attracted my attention.

Danielle had woken up and was pushing against the sides, as best as he could, She was making no sound though, so I looked over at the view inside.

The giant hissing cockroach was completely covering her mouth.