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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Morning

And having rolled out of your single bed, you’re probably on a bus. A corporate bus. You register your place on the bus using your phone. You sit next to a colleague and communicate to him or her through your phone. It’s a phone not yet available to the public because it’s a version that’s a bit thinner than the phones currently available to the public. It can also recognize your iris.

Your journey to the office…


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Photo by Alex McCarthy on Unsplash

(By a successful runner who hates running)

To begin: a definition of successful. I’ve won no athletic competitions. Because I’ve entered no athletic competitions. Because I’m middle-aged and all I want to do is lie in bed and doom-scroll. If there were a Strava for this, I’d be killing it.

But it’s impossible to ignore the increasing decrepitude of my body. It falls apart as my my waistline grows. About a year ago, during the UK’s first lockdown, I thought to take up running. It would, I reasoned, free me from the company of my family for half an hour at the very least.

I completed Couch…


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‘Look into the Colossians, the third and the fifteenth.’

(A crow, quoted in a 1694 Hertfordshire pamphlet. The bird made this gnomic statement three times before, presumably, flying off.)

I was ill. In the dark hours of Tuesday morning, I’d vomited into, across, and past the toilet. I took Tuesday off work. I couldn’t do the same for fatherhood. My wife walked D- to school. As she left, she said she was only a phone call away if I couldn’t manage with J-, nine months old, driven to crawling towards every hazard in our house and crying violently when prevented from doing so. The sick day was spent lying…


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Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

How a gang of cats saved my son from a summer of screens

Lockdown has obliterated the little control I had over my kids’ viewing habits. We once had mutually-agreed rationed hours. Now? All bets are off and the screens are forever on. I’ve forgotten what my boys look like without the white wash of tech light.

“Do you want to play chess?” I might ask.

My eldest son, D, will look at me with the same pitying smile that I’d offer my own dad when he asked the same question.

The family calls any device an iPad now, following an embarrassing conversation at a birthday party. Someone was explaining that the only…


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Photo by Evan Gebhart on Unsplash

A review, of sorts, of the Intel-killing/relationship-ending new laptop

“If I were a ballerina, you’d not complain if I bought a new tutu. If I were a rock star, there’d be no problem with me owning a nice guitar. I’m a writer, so I could do with a decent computer.”

This conversation took place in the summer of 2020, back when the UK lockdown meant we were saving loads of money by not going out. (A further bullet point in my PowerPoint of reasons why I should be allowed to get a new computer.)

I’d shown her articles about the nightmarish butterfly keyboard, reminded her of the time when…


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Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Fatherhood, Masculinity, and Tears

I didn’t cry when my son was born. He did, but I didn’t. It was a shrill sound, more a broken toy than a human. Me, I was too stunned to cry. Later, as his mother recovered in the ward, I looked down at this tiny, helpless form. I didn’t know how I’d cope, what I’d do, if this new future could possibly work. After months of waiting, his arrival came suddenly, a summer shower. Standing there, I felt a strange emptiness. ‘What now?’ I remember thinking, and the size of the question frightened me.

Our car, abandoned outside of…


Fiction

When 14-year-old Jacob wins a flight to Hollywood, every grown-up (including Nicolas Cage) gets in his way

Cloudscape and stratosphere shot out of an airplane window.
Cloudscape and stratosphere shot out of an airplane window.
Photo: Yaorusheng/Getty Images

Fourteen-year-old Jacob has won the prize of a lifetime: an all-expenses paid trip from his home in England to Hollywood, to appear as an extra in the latest Marvel movie. All that stands between him and his prize is a connecting flight in Chicago, something his father made very clear that he shouldn’t miss.

A woman who looked like she sold make-up walked the aisle before the plane landed and wrote out what I had to do. It was all very straightforward, she said. She spoke with a British accent, which steadied my trembling. A bit.

(I’d like to have…


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On March 20, 1995, members of the Aum cult released sarin in five Tokyo subway trains. They transported a liquid form of the nerve gas in plastic pouches, disguising the packages by wrapping them in newspaper. Boarding underground trains, cult members placed the poison on the carriage floor and used the sharpened tips of umbrellas to split the plastic, releasing the toxin, a colorless liquid with a smell like fresh paint.

In his 1997 account of the attack, Haruki Murakami describes the actions of cult member Ikuo Hayashi on a Chiyoda line train that morning:

As the subway approached Shin-ochanomizu…


In Florence, there’s a building called the Ospedale degli Innocenti. Operating as an orphanage from 1445 until 1875, it was designed by the big dog of medieval architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi. One of its features was a rotating door, similar to the out-of-hours deposit boxes banks once had, which allowed parents to drop off their children without being seen.

The exterior of the building features 12 images of a child in various stages of swaddling. No single image is the same. It’s a Renaissance “Diapers for Idiots.”

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I visited Florence before I had a child. I remember staring at these kids…


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It’s easy. You need a can of tomatoes, some onion and garlic, beans (I like black), a bell pepper (hated by Mexicans), and a chili pepper of your choice. You’ll need minced beef, too. For seasoning, I go for chili powder, obviously, some paprika, and cumin.

I don’t know if these spices actively enhance the taste of my homemade chile con carne, because my homemade chile con carne always tastes hot. Hotter than the sun, in fact.

‘Hotter than the sun.’

These ingredients are available at my local supermarket — a place I was once laughed out of for asking…

Tom Mitchell

Dad, Writer, Teacher

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