In the Headlight

The image flashed by so quickly, that it had gone before her brain could register it properly.  Just a flash in the headlights; a moth, perhaps, or something flung across her path by the wind.  She was already so tired her mental processes were a bit slower than they should be when driving, but it would be another half an hour, maybe forty minutes, before she would reach her home.

For months, she’d been searching for a job closer to where she lived.  It wasn’t just the long drive there and back that made it so hard to take; it was also the long hours in the bar, standing the whole time, dealing with idiots making the same jokes every night.  The young ones, convinced she wouldn’t be able to resist their predictable and usually offensive comments, the older, married-looking ones spouting crap about their problems.  And then there were the ones for whom she was invisible; a nobody who didn’t deserve a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’; the ones who wouldn’t even put the money in her hand, but would slap it onto the bar and turn away, already disengaged from her existence.

Her bed welcomed her with a cool, soothing embrace and, in spite of a vague rumble from her empty belly, she was asleep in minutes.  When the light dragged her into wakefulness, she had no recollection of her dream, apart from a nagging suspicion that it had been about a moth or something.

Hours later, as she eased into the bend, the flash in the headlights caught her eye and a sense of déjà vu hit her.  Without much conscious input, her brain ran through a list of possibilities: a moth, a leaf, a ray of light, a reflection.  A reflection?  She didn’t even know how she’d arrived at that idea.  A reflection of what?  All the way home, she couldn’t shake the idea that she should know what it was that she’d seen lit up for an instant in the beam of her headlight.

Every night for the next four days, she saw the same flash at the same place.  On night three, she drove really slowly as she approached the bend: walking pace, almost, yet she still only saw the maddening flash as the compelling image appeared and vanished.  She found herself lying awake, staring into the darkness, trying to visualise what she’d seen in the hope of resolving the mystery.

On the fourth night, she rounded the bend and saw the flash again, but this time she only drove a short way further until she reached a passing place.  She pulled in and turned off the engine.  It seemed as though this torment would drive her mad if she didn’t find an explanation for the vision.  “Round the bend!” she heard herself say to the empty road.

The exact spot where the image was visible was really easy to find now that she’d seen it so many times, but as she stood at the side of the road, there was nothing that could explain it.  Turning slowly, she looked from the floor to the treetops, searching for anything that might project an image, allow a chink of light through from some hidden source or house a nest of flying creatures that might be taking turns to cross her path.  Nothing!  She stepped back a little.  Nothing!  A little more.  Nothing!  Bending, she tried to fix her eyeline to where she imagined it would be if she were in the car and as her hair swished forward she thought she might have caught a glimpse of something shining in the air.  She heard the car before she saw it swoop around the dark bend.  Just in time to glance towards it as it hit her.  One eye catching the light of the driver’s headlights.  Like a moth.

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Jeremy Corbyn (For Michael Hogan, with apologies to The Beatles)

(To the tune of Eleanor Rigby)

Ah look at all the Labour people
Ah look at all the Labour people

Jeremy Corbyn, picks up the votes
In the race where Liz Kendall has been
Lives in a dream.
Reading the papers, then he finds out
That he’s been slagged off by Tony Blair
What does he care?

All the Labour people
Where have they all come from?
All the Labour people
Where do they all belong?

Here’s Andy Burnham, toeing the line
And pretending he didn’t wimp out,
He has no doubt!
Look at him working, selling himself
As the one that can make a breakthrough.
But is it true?

All the Labour people
Where do have all come from?
All the Labour people
Where do they all belong?

Ah look at all the Labour people
Ah look at all the Labour people

And Yvette Cooper?  Haven’t a clue what she stands for
Because she won’t say,
Out loud anyway!
Look at Liz Kendall, swearing she’s red
When it seems to the world as if she’s.
Tory instead!

All the Labour people
Where have they all come from?
All the Labour people
Where did it all go wrong?

Breakthrough in Hipster Study

Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire have published the results of a long-term study into the effects of wearing unnecessary glasses and the habitual overuse of irony.  The study was funded by the NHS because of a widespread syndrome, termed Chronic Hipster Affective Disorder (CHAD).

Beards and hats

The problem has been observed in both sexes up to the age of 72, but most commonly affects males between the ages of 17 and 30.  Symptoms include heavy beard growth (mostly males), a propensity for using archaic language forms and a strong inclination to wear hats.  The report details how researchers recognised a strong correlation between reading late 19th-century German poetry and listening to Finnish harpsichord music and the early onset of CHAD.  Initially, volunteers were persuaded to take part in the study as it was the first of its kind; however, as the study moved into its second year, only those volunteers prepared to take part in an ironic way remained and after two years, scientists were forced to carry out their observations in the sufferers’ natural environment.

The hipster environment

According to the chief researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Barker, the main problem with this new approach was the difficulty of tracking sufferers, as one of the predominant effects of CHAD is to blind the individual to their own condition.  However, the team used an ingenious approach; they set up a number of locations likely to attract suitable candidates, such as an old cinema in which they only showed films made in Sweden between 1928 and 1953, an organic vegan café and a pop-up shop selling broken pre-war typewriters, photography equipment and bicycle parts.

Tainted evidence

Although the study was able to confirm a strong connection between CHAD and an obscure taste in entertainment and wardrobe, Dr. Barker stressed that the team had been unable to ascertain whether CHAD caused these issues or whether the issues led to CHAD.   One of the UCLan team volunteered to sample some German poetry, embark on a macrobiotic diet and wear hand-distressed skinny jeans for a 6-month period, but by the time it was confirmed that he was a CHAD sufferer, he was claiming that he’d liked these things before he’d begun the trial and, in fact, before anybody else liked them.  This claim skewed the evidence, making it unsuitable for inclusion in the report.

A cure for CHAD?

While not in the remit of the study, UCLan believes it could pave the way for finding a way to control, or even cure, the syndrome, which claims millions of work hours each year, due to ennui and corduroy shortages.  In an unexpected twist, one of the subjects appeared to make a sudden recovery when he accidentally observed footage of himself explaining why he only ever buys music on vinyl.  According to Dr. Barker, the subject was heard to exclaim “What a tosser!”, before buying larger trousers and a smaller coat.  The report is available as a download from the university website and has also been published in The British Journal of Psychology.  In the hope that it may reach those in need of help, UCLan have also allowed the findings to be included in ‘Cucumber’, an arts magazine sold only in upcycling centres throughout the UK.