Our visual return key now yanks our head back to the left (apologies to readers from Japan) before we’ve reached the right hand side of the page, an involuntary whiplash induced by editors the world over whose directive is to write in lists, convinced that this is the only way we can channel information. Lists force us to do something, to be accountable for our productivity when our greatest creativity often erupts when we are bimbling. Craig’s List may have saved marriages and offloaded junk, but it’s the bastard offspring of most inventories, directories, catalogues and records whose primary purpose is to arse-check.

Of course, the delicious irony here is that this post is one of a countdown of entries from 75,000 to zero at which point i shall write a novel. Any excuse to avoid knuckling down to apply myself to the substance of real writing.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, slagging off list-makers like myself. Yes, we’re all lazy, bullying cowards. Are there no other forms to stimulate the minds of readers? If we make their read both epic and energetic and exhaust their brain and heart in the process, we are doing our job. So how? Oulipo is an awkward place to start. Restriction, constriction, rules that offer little freedom force us to think of thornier thoughts, ones that require gloves and goggles to read.

Georges Perec once wrote a novel without the letter ‘e’. I once wrote 4 children’s stories using only 3 letter words. His stratospheric achievement sparked my tiny experiment, but it made me write in a way that stretched the credible notion of what constitutes a children’s book. To this day, they remain tantalizingly unpublished although many a publisher has rubbed their belly at such an idea.

So where does this listlessness of lists leave us? What is the literate antonym to a list? Submit all answers to


As Iran’s Great Salt Lake licks its lips in vain for moisture and California faces its worst drought for 500 years, Britain is knee deep in its own watery excrement. The Thames is flooding sideways at a faster rate than it ebbs and flows and the water can’t see the taps for the sewage. The homes that line the river are being downgraded faster than Moody’s on Death Row.

It makes you wonder what the future holds for us all.

Well, it may not be as grim as we feel right now. As Stephen Emmott almost predicts in his book Ten Billion, we could technologize our way out of it. Not by artificial photosynthesis as he pins hopes to, but by a wider form of climate control. If we can redistribute energy around the world as gases, liquids and vapour, surely we can affect the direction of wind and cloud and therefore point the rainfall where it’s most needed. If we took the job out of the hands of politicians and gave it to Amazon, they’d find a way to crack the distribution.

Now I’m not asking for The Truman Show levels of meteorological precision whereby you can order rain to land on someone you hate, but surely we can trawl the skies in the way we trawl the seas. If you can prove this theory using magnetism or a flock of seagulls, I’ll split the patent with you.


I’m sorry.

We’re sorry.

We didn’t mean to do what we’ve done.

We’re such a bunch of fuckwits. We never should have taken what was rightly yours.

Trespassing is not about forgiving those who trespass against us. It’s about having the common decency and intelligence to not invade and claim rights to the porous borders we share.

You’re a saline fluid being.

You cannot wear the clothes we try to tuck in around you.

It’s like asking us to live underwater. The novelty wears off after once you cannot breathe anymore.

Shall we call a truce?

We need a simple constitution we can all agree to.

If we promise not to evict you, or to exercise our Dry Land Squatter’s Rights, will you just demolish the tatty coast that we’ve made a right old hash of please? (You know the places…best not name them or they’ll be beefing up their flood defences.) We also promise to keep our patronising views about oceanic anger management to ourselves.

This is a legally binding gentle-being’s handshake, witnessed by the moon who sends us both a little loopy.