Scotland: I want a divorce.

England: You want what?

Scotland: You, me. We’re done. It’s over. I want a divorce.

England: Don’t be silly darling, we’re great together. Us. We’re made for each other.

Scotland: You’re not listening. You don’t see it do you. Let me spell it out: D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

England: On what grounds?

Scotland: Where shall I start? Adultery.

England: Hang on. A special relationship isn’t adultery.

Scotland: Refusing to pay for housekeeping – classified under ‘unreasonable behaviour’ I think you’ll find.

England: But what about the kids?

Scotland: We’re childless, that’s half the issue.

England: Gretna, Coldstream, Lamberton and Hadrian?

Scotland: You call those kids. Ok, I get the towns, you get the wall.

England: Land-grabber.

Scotland: Amputee.

England: I’ll freeze your purse.

Scotland: I’ll burn your oil.

England: Oh sweetheart, can’t we give it one last go?

Scotland: Yes. GO!


Thanks for slide-tackling God a couple of centuries ago and proving we like to eat each other’s ear wax. It also explains why I walked around with my right arm slung over my head during adolescence. Ah, so I’m not the only one? And I thought it was due to a disruptive growth spurt.

Sadly, we need you again. Or your ghost. The sceptre of faith is bedevilling half of earth as you read this from Mt Limbo. For all their promises of heaven, not one extremist spokesperson can guarantee a second life in nirvana. Instead, they slaughter each other for hanging out the washing on the wrong day.

It’s not right, is it?

What I’m saying Charlie is this: we need another theory. A big one. One so huge that it turns the scientists giddy. Base it on maths, meteorology or the moon – it doesn’t really matter what it’s grounded in as long as it comes with your pawprint. If you’re busy and you’d like me to ‘ghost-write’ it, just give us a sign. An extinct species brought back to life, or a useless one wiped out (no, not us, we’re doing fine all by ourselves).

I’ve got one lined up. Wanna hear it?

Ok, here we go.

We are closer to trees than we are to our fellow animals. Yes, we are the product of seed and we’re deciduous, reeling with the seasons. Plus our skin gnarls up into bark. But this isn’t just a ‘we die and decompose’ statement of the bleeding obvious. There is a deeper resonance and it lies in our skulls. In the way we think. In the way we create ideas. When we have original thoughts, our brain produces buds. As we act upon these buds turning them into behaviours, the buds blossom and a neocortex honey is released in the form of a state we call ‘happiness’. This flowering reiterates why happiness is a creeping intuitive sensation that reaches a peak, then suddenly dies, leaving a chasm of confusion as to how to recreate it. But man do we try. Pills, shrinks, money, kids, sun, friends, ambition, and a billion other catalysts prove to be placebo. And if you don’t believe me ask Dannyboy.

So, there you have it. Man: descended from, and ascendant to, trees. We’re vegetable, and proud of it. Now, if you could just elaborate on that, with a few illustrations, we should be able to get mankind to sign it off…as long as we can convince him it was his idea in the first place.


3 young men sit opposite. They are barely men, but soon they will be. They wear their hair neat and their ties straight. Their uniforms hide away in suit carriers, creases ironed in with love by mothers holding back tears.

They talk. Boy do they talk. Facebook, footy and 5am piss-ups interwoven with the complexity and imperceptibility of death, caught in the line of fire in the act of war, yet oblivious to it all until later, years later.

They could have gone to college, or taken an apprenticeship, or worked the system and bled the state dry, but they chose to represent it instead. To serve their country a century after their great, great Gramps maybe did, ready to give away their lives as disconcertedly as a Domino’s deep crust tossed into the gutter on a Saturday night stagger home.

Is military calling genetic? Or is it a reaction against society? Or family?

I must be their combined age, old enough to be a father to their fathers. Where exactly are they heading? Wherever it is, it is with laughter and comradery. When they return, we hope it is with a sense of belonging, and not to the quicksand of ex-servicemen unable to attune to civilian life.  Is there any other career where the status of veteran can be earned so quickly?

We pass through a tunnel and my ears pop in sync with the eldest and tallest of the three. What will time on the frontline do to his senses? How will they react to the humdrum sounds, smells and sights of everyday provincial West Country life after witnessing the bloodbath of full-scale conflict?

They don’t look like they’ve signed up to be heroes and deep, deep down they may be praying for inaction. It takes a fearlessness and selflessness to step up, sign up and face up to the brutality that is war.

It makes you wonder…why isn’t there an opportunity for the young to devote their lives to the pacifist equivalent of the forces? A Special Envoy Youth Squad for under25’s enlisted to spread peace and accord through British music and cross-cultural humour. These agnostic missionaries of humanity and comedy could undo all the colonial harm of their ancestors, repairing our reputation from bible-bashing bullies to harmony heroes.

In a world where extremists pray on the young, we do need some equally crazy ideas to keep them the sane side of the fence.