Mar 4th

The taxman cometh

By AlanP
Weens' blog about passpot applications reminded me of this, which is rumoured to be a genuine letter from the tax inspectors to a disgruntled tax payer. Certainly I haven't written any of it myself and it's offered merely for an entertainment.

Those with self assessment tax returns may empathise.


Dear Mr Addison,

I am writing to you to express our thanks for your more than prompt reply to our latest communication, and also to answer some of the points you raise. I will address them, as ever, in order.

Firstly, I must take issue with your description of our last letter as a "begging letter". It might perhaps more properly be referred to as a "tax demand". This is how we, at the Inland Revenue have always, for reasons of accuracy, traditionally referred to such documents. Secondly, your frustration at our adding to the "endless stream of crapulent whining and panhandling vomited daily through the letterbox on to the doormat" has been noted. However, whilst I have naturally not seen the other letters to which you refer I would cautiously suggest that their being from "pauper councils, Lombardy pirate banking houses and pissant gas-mongerers" might indicate that your decision to "file them next to the toilet in case of emergencies" is at best a little ill- advised. In common with my own organisation, it is unlikely that the senders of these letters do see you as a "lackwit bumpkin or, come to that, a "sodding charity". More likely they see you as a citizen of Great Britain, with a responsibility to contribute to the upkeep of the nation as a whole.

Which, brings me to my next point. Whilst there may be some spirit of truth in your assertion that the taxes you pay "go to shore up the canker-blighted, toppling folly that is the Public Services", a moment's rudimentary calculation ought to disabuse you of the notion that the government in any way expects you to "stump up for the whole damned party" yourself. The estimates you provide for the Chancellor's disbursement of the funds levied by taxation, whilst colourful, are, in fairness, a little off the mark. Less than you seem to imagine is spent on "junkets for Bunterish lickspittles" and "dancing whores" whilst far more than you have accounted for is allocated to, for example, "that box-ticking facade of a university system."

A couple of technical points arising from direct queries:
1. The reason we don't simply write "Muggins" on the envelope has to do with the vagaries of the postal system;
2. You can rest assured that "sucking the very marrows of those with nothing else to give" has never been considered as a practice because even if the Personal Allowance didn't render it irrelevant, the sheer medical logistics involved would make it financially unviable.

I trust this has helped. In the meantime, whilst I would not in any way wish to influence your decision one way or the other, I ought to point out that even if you did choose to "give the whole foul jamboree up and go and live in India" you would still owe us the money.

Please forward it by Friday.

Yours Sincerely,
H J Lee Customer Relations
Mar 4th

Letter to the Passport Department

By Weens
Further to the letter from the Times, this is a letter to the passport office.

This was actually taken from a UK
> > passport application
> > and a member of staff
> > copied it,
> > as it made her laugh all day.
> >
> > Subject: Passport Application
> >
> >
> > Dear Minister,
> > I'm in the process of renewing my passport but I am a total loss to
> understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to jump through.
> >
> > How is it that Bert Smith of T.V. Rentals Basingstoke has my address and
> telephone number and knows that I bought a satellite dish from them back in
> 1994, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was born and on
> what date?
> >
> > How come that nice West African immigrant chappy who comes round every
> Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell me every film or video I
> have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet you
> still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were with
> contractors working for the government?
> >
> > How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I
> am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not, and yet if I win the
> government run lottery they have no idea I have won or where I am and will
> keep the bloody money to themselves if I fail to claim in good time.
> > Do you people do this by hand?
> >
> > You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one
> with all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 30-odd years. It's on
> my health insurance card, my driver's licence, on the last four passports
> I've had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out
> before being allowed off the planes and boats over the last 30 years, and
> all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the
> electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our
> lords and masters are up for re-election.
> >
> > Would somebody please take note, once and for all, I was born in
> Maidenhead on the 4th of March 1957, my mother's name is Mary, her maiden
> name was Reynolds, my father's name is Robert, and I'd be absolutely
> astounded if that ever changed between now and the day I die!
> >
> > I apologise Minister. I'm obviously not myself this morning. But between
> you and me, I have simply had enough! You mail the application to my house,
> then you ask me for my address. What is going on? Do you have a gang of
> Neanderthals working there? Look at my damn picture... Do I look like Bin
> Laden? I don't want to activate the Fifth Reich for God's sake! I just want
> to go and park my weary backside on a sunny, sandy beach for a couple of
> week's well-earned rest away from all this crap.
> >
> > Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to back to Salisbury and get
> another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one. AND to
> the tune of 60 quid! What a racket THAT is!! Would it be so complicated to
> have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new
> passport the same day? But nooooo, that'd be too damn easy and maybe make
> sense. You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with
> our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it's really me on
> the goddamn picture - you know... the one where we're not allowed to smile
> in in case we look as if we are enjoying the process!
> > Hey, you know why we can't smile? 'Cause we're totally jacked off!
> >
> > I served in the armed forces for more than 25 years including over ten
> years at the Ministry of Defence in London. I have had security clearances
> which allowed me to sit in the Cabinet Office, five seats away from the
> Prime Minister while he was being briefed on the first Gulf War and I have
> been doing volunteer work for the British Red Cross ever since I left the
> Services. However, I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am --
> you know, someone like my doctor...
> > who, before he got his medical degree 6 months ago WAS LIVING IN
> >
> > Yours sincerely,
> > An Irate British Citizen.
Mar 4th

It's all about me, me, me

By KateD

Right. Deep breath. Here goes...

This is partly to test the cloud’s blogosphere and an experiment for me to see how and if I’ve got it right.  So do correct me if you see this in the wrong place and please feel free to direct me on the right path.

My writing this is partly to exercise my writing muscle (which I keep being told to exercise), and partly to elicit information and advice from fellow clouders .

I do agree with the advice – I do need to exercise. I spent years as a technical author, writing software and hardware guides, on-line help systems then on-line tutorials and courses. All good stuff in its own place but as dull as ditchwater and I was ready to pop my eyes out with pencils by the end of a project.

Then I had a baby. The baby is now five years old and happily ensconced in school.  He has been my full-time work (and love) for the last five years and now I want to/need to get back into flexing my brain in the pursuit of something that a) I love and b) can get paid for and c) allows me to be there for my son as much as possible.

I’ve spent at least the last year exploring the possibilities of writing for a living. Sorry, I will re-write that as it’s untrue. I’ve spent nearly 18 months now procrastinating about how I can get back into writing for a living but not as a technical writer.

I wondered if I could write for the entertainment of others. I have been told by teachers/friends/employers that I have a good turn of phrase and why don’t I try it. My closest friends suggest I write something auto-biographical. They know most of the ins and outs of my childhood and life so far which would put the grittiest of soaps in the shade. Cue lonesome violin. But I couldn’t do that. Too ‘woe is me’ for me. Even if I did inject some humour along the way.  No, I think if I could get into writing short, useful stories or articles then that would satisfy me (to begin with). I have a constant storyline running in my head and usually some kind of strong opinion to go with it. I have the skills to structure a piece of informative writing so why not give it a go.

I attended a talk by Maureen Rice (ex-editor of Psychologies) on how to be a freelance writer,  got all fired up and then was hit by the insecurity bug. The ‘everyone -else-is- so- much- better- than- me’ bug. It’s a killer. But one of the things she did advise was to write something every day and have a blog going. Something you can point prospective employers to. However I’m not sure you can point people to the blog on this site, or can you? Should I have my own separate website?

Writing for free was also mentioned. Although not to do it for too long, but just until you had a decent portfolio of work built up. What do others think about this? And how big does your portfolio of ‘free’ work have to be before you can begin asking for money?

Any pointers or advice most gratefully received.  

Thank you for listening.

Mar 3rd

Sentimental Shite - Thank you

By Jak / Duncan

This time last year when I first joined The Word Cloud, I had just changed jobs for the third time in about as many months. I detested my previous job and actually had nightmares about some of the people I worked with.

All in all, I started writing to escape this life I was living. To truly escape, and escape I did. I spent the next few months as a recluse, I didn’t even speak in my new job. I would come home and ignore my wife and kids, and just concentrate on the one thing that kept me alive – writing.

For those of you that knew me back then, knew I was a fragile thing – even the name I had given myself was to hide behind – Just a Kid. And in essence of the writing game I was just a kid. I didn’t even use capitals or full stops.

·         So how could someone that spent so long writing not actually be able to write?

Simple answer – I didn’t know how.

·         How can someone not know how to write? Everyone is taught how to write at school.

Writing I found out is not just about words on a page. It’s about the flow, pace, style and ability to make those words sing. To use the tools of the trade to make your prose pounce from the page and grip the reader, to show a story and not tell it.

·         How can you improve your writing?

When I first joined this site, people were always helpful to show and tell you how things needed to be done to improve work. And in essence it all comes down to three things.

1.      Keep writing, learn from your mistakes.

2.      Show the story, entice your reader – don’t tell it.

3.      Know your weaknesses and work on making them your strengths.


This is what I’ve learnt from The Word Cloud.

I’m now comfortable in life – my children, wife, job and writing. I will always make mistakes, I’m still learning after all.

But mostly I want to thank every Wordclouder that has ever read, critiqued, commented or supported me in anyway.

There are a few people who have influenced me more than others, some that unknowingly have given me the biggest gift of all. There is no point naming them as I’m sure they know who they are, but I think where my spirit first flared was thanks to Ancient Woodland – for setting me a challenge last August J



P.s. Jak was short for Just a Kid


Mar 3rd

The Great Delusion: The basic outline

By d m. chatwin
Here is an idea I have for my novella which I have begun writing.

People living different lives in different ways, unaware of each other's existence. Living in their own worlds of endless possibilities, people living their lives as pirates, some living as Victorian dairy farmers, others as astronauts exploring the far reaches of space but for Robert Carter, who wakes up on a bus and not in his luxury limousine, soon discovers that the world around him is different to what it was 10 minutes ago, he wasn't dreaming then and he isn't dreaming now, he must go on a journey of important self discovery and find out why he is walking the streets of a small English town in 2010. What has happened to his perfect world? Can he trust his own mind? The Great Delusion will question the power of the human mind and will uncover a truth that will shock and disturb.

That's the basic outline of the novella, I'm still bridging many gaps in the plot (since I only came up with the idea today) but hopefully this will be an epic piece of work that will enthrall many who read it and which I will be proud to send to a publish.

Please tell me what you think and once I wrote the first chapter I will post it here for you all to read.
Mar 3rd

The Racial Divide

By American Poet



Deeper than the continental itself, and as rocky


The separation of color, never of heart or courage


A lost of self, blaming our ancestors


No one robs you except you!



History offers a lesson to be learned, never repeated


A paper offers freedom to all except!


Never blame the past for a problem of the future


Slaves of the past formed a country of the now!



Regression is to advocate oppression of the past


Always remember and never dismiss


Without, we are nothing, too focus on hate, we are the same


A country that sacrificed many of all colors!



History always projects suffering


Acknowledged after the atrocity


Today’s tragic, is disguised so eloquently


A suffering hiding, a disease inherited



The past of ignorance and hate


Will never authorize the same today


Remembering those who suffered


Exploiting the dream as an excuse



Offerings to a cause, versus taking advantage of


Easy to quote than to be quoted!


No one listens to empty promises


Anything great requires a sacrifice



A selfish dollar is what’s preached and persuaded


A history of pain extorted for a future of pleasure


They are destroyed by those who wish for


Our guilt is your salvation



We ignore with hast. The poverty trying to escape


An environment easily talked about, as forgotten


Too ridicule the rich only to become and forget


Helping the unfortunate that is color blind to all!



Poverty knows not of color, only those victims of it


No prejudice or preference, all are welcome


Fight to help and not to escape


Offer your heart, instead of a method of gloating!!!





Mar 1st

The 8th of June

By zomb00
It was the 8th of June: three days after the bombs rained down on Moscow. Eddie Dorchester had lain awake in his bed for the past ten minutes - watching his wife sleep silently. Her soft red lips parted slightly, her chest rising and falling in a steady relaxing beat, her dark brown hair catching the sunlight coming in from the room’s only window. ‘Best not to wake her, let her dream of a simpler time.’ Eddie thought to himself, he wished he could climb back into bed and join her…but today was the 8th of June, Dianne’s birthday. Apocalypse or no apocalypse, he would make darn sure his wife’s special day would not be outshone by this tragedy. So at last, somewhat reluctantly, he made his way out of the room and closed the door softly behind him, then headed down the sunlit staircase and into the kitchen. 

Fifteen minutes later it was ready. Bacon piled high on a plate was placed on the serving-tray, alongside the burnt toast and orange juice. Eddie took a quick look at his watch: 10:15am - still plenty of time. Picking up the tray, he headed back upstairs to his sleeping wife. He wondered whether he should wake her or let her sleep. ‘Let her sleep’ his heart had told him…‘But bollocks to that’ his head had replied. Eddie hurled a pillow in her direction, hitting her flat in the face - sleeping-angel image completely destroyed, serenity removed, moment lost - Dianne awoke with a shock, snarling and throwing the pillow back in his direction. He laughed and shook her gently, nodding toward the serving-tray at the end of the bed. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and a smile of realisation took over her face that he had made her breakfast. Bacon on toast, cooked to within an inch of becoming charcoal, her favourite.

She hugged him tight and kissed his forehead, he smiled and gestured for her to eat-up. ‘What? You thought I’d have forgotten your special day?’ She grabbed his hand and smiled, staring into his loving eyes. ‘Happy birthday, baby’. As he sat and watched her eat, a tear formed in his concealed left eye. She had not spoken a single word since Red, their daughter, had died two summers ago. She blamed herself, which of course was absurd as it was the drunk driver in the black Mitsubishi’s fault, not hers. The bastard.

Eddie and Dianne left their home for the last time at mid-day, June 8th. They never bothered to lock the door, they had seen the newspapers scattered along the floor headlined: ‘The end is nigh! Russia launches nuclear weapons on course for the USA!’ So why bother? The pair had each other, nothing else mattered. They crossed the empty suburban streets and entered the park, where it was quieter now, a lot quieter. The hustle and bustle of the large crowd of people trying to escape into Mexico could not be heard from deep within the deserted park, and the lovers walked idly for a while, until Dianne sat near an old oak tree on top of the hill overlooking the lake. ‘Ok then birthday-girl, I guess we‘re setting down here then? It’s not as appealing as that country pub where we spent most of last winter, but it’ll do, I suppose.’ Eddie winked at her, she smiled back.

They sat silently under the shade of the oak tree, enjoying each other’s company and every now and then throwing a few slices of bread into the lake for the five-or-so ducks to enjoy. The sky grew darker and the air cooled, the sun was now setting, and only an orange cone of light reflected off of some distant cloud remained on the lake. The ducks had left the water now, nowhere to be seen. Eddie glanced at his watch - 8:57pm, ‘Three more minutes’.

Dianne stood, and pointed upwards. The night sky was littered with smoke-streams and burning objects which created the illusion of a natural meteor shower. But they weren’t meteors, and this wasn’t nature - they were missiles; sent by men to destroy this idyllic scene. Eddie shook his head and stood, holding the woman who had been the love of his life since he had first set eyes on her when he was 17. He continued shaking his head and cringed; ‘Fools. Those stupid, stupid fools. They think that this is the answer? A handful of people in a handful of nations deciding the fate of billions of lives? That is not what we're on this Earth to do.’ He held her tight, and through tear-filled eyes he managed to thank her for making his life worth living, and for standing by him for the 30 years they had been together.

Dianne shook her head, and brushed away the tears in her lover’s eyes. ‘None of that now, baby. You’re supposed to be brave! Why do I always have to be the strong knight and you the wet-eyed maiden?’ She smiled at him. Eddie was so shocked at hearing her speak, he had almost forgotten what it was like to feel the warmth which blanketed him from her voice. For a moment, Eddie thought he had imagined it. Until she spoke again; ‘We'll be with her soon.’ Eddie kissed her lips, and through that kiss he re-lived all the previous kisses he had shared with her, from teenagers to parents, he remembered them all. She kissed his lips in return, but hell had arrived.

The End.

Feb 27th

Teetering on Twittering

By Steve
I was listening to Radio 4 this morning while they were discussing Twittering.

I was only half into this discussion as my eyes were still closed, but they had some writer/author there saying how they used Twitter to publicise their blog.  Since my main writing blog (blogspot) has gotten exactly zero hits in the past month, I was thinking that might be a good idea.  Part of that, of course, has to do with me not posting anything new.  I've got the first two draft chapters of my current book there.  (I never post finals there for future copyright reasons.)  Anyway, I only got a couple of hits after I posted them a couple of months ago, and no comments.

Struggling to finish the book, I'm trying to ration my forum time, as well as my short story time, so that is why I haven't been posting there much.

Any opinions?

Other issues to consider:

Should I tweet under my real name (to match Authonomy and Facebook) or should I tweet under my main pseudonym (Atlanta Carter) which is the name on my blogspot, (my sorely neglected) LiveJournal, and at WritersCafe?
Feb 27th

My List of Annoying Words

By kd
Revising this manuscript has been a full time affair for the last few weeks.   Here are the stats:

Original word count:  129,000
Current word count:  107,000
Original page count: 360
Current page count:  397

How did the word count go down and the page count go up?  I eliminated the first three chapters and about three thousand words of uselessness througout the manuscript.  I also eliminated many of the dialogue tags and repositioned dialogue so that conversations would flow smoothly, which takes up space, hense the 397 page count.

I am now down to my 'List of Annoying Words' that I am plugging into my search box one by one to try and eliminate or change and, although, this is a personal thing, I thought writers who love to overwrite (like myself) might find it useful.

'Past'- why?  because I seem to interchange 'passed' and 'past' on whim.

'Answered'-  to replace or eliminated he/she 'answered' where possible

‘seemed’-  because sometimes things don’t ‘seem’ that way, they are that way

‘Sudden’-  because any phrase that starts with ‘Suddenly’ isn’t so sudden

‘But’-  I use this to start phrases all the time so I’m trying to change it where possible and evit run on’s in certain cases

‘Just then’- same reason as  ‘suddenly’-plus, phrases are stronger when we’re thrown into the action

Anything ending in ‘Y’-  this is mostly for my unnecessary adjectives

‘Sort’-    It’s not a ‘sort’ of rock.  It is a rock.

‘Somewhat’-  again.  Like being ‘somewhat’ pregnant.  You either are, or you aren’t.

‘And’- to limit my adjectives.  ‘It was large and magnificent’-  I need to pick one.  And to evit run on’s once again.

‘Found’-  she found herself feeling.  He found himself thinking.  They found themselves standing.  Why is everyone always ‘finding themselves’?  ugh!

‘Said’-   ‘Yes’ she said.  ‘Why?’ he said.  ‘Because.’ He said.  Or ‘Yes.’  ‘Why?’  ‘Because?’

‘Felt’-  ‘She felt a rumbling in her stomach’ becomes ‘Her stomach rumbled.’


‘Began’-  ‘The ground began to shift.  They were beginning to get frightened.’  Becomes ‘The ground shifted under their feet.  They cried out, frightened.

‘Herself’-  again.  ‘asked herself’  ‘told herself’ ‘thought to herself’  ‘HATED herself!’

‘Themselves’-  same thing

‘Could be seen’ – ‘The boys could be seen standing by the water.’ Becomes ‘The boys stood by the water.’ 

These are all words that I picked up on over and over again througout my manuscript and they drove me nuts.  So I hope compiling this list might help others who make the same mistakes as me.  All the time.

Feb 26th

Extract from my book

By Patrick
OK, So I don't really know why I've decided to put this on here. I'm not even sure if it belongs here, so if not, I'm sorry! Anyway, please give some feedback!

Aunt Mary brought the tea over to the table and put a cup in front of everyone. Darren had had several bad experiences with tea at this house. Once he drank it to discover the cup was leaking, hot tea got spilled all over him. The cup he had just been given looked curiously like the same one, but glued.

Go on, drink up everyone while it's still hot!”

Darren lifted the cup to his lips and sniffed the steam rising from the cup. He nearly got sick. The milk was sour.

David, go on, have your tea!” She said. She took a sip of her own. She didn't seem to notice. His mother had certainly noticed, and she hadn't touched it.

“So Mary, how have you been keeping? Are you still meeting up with that man?” Darren's mother asked to distract her from the tea situation.

After that, they had mindless babble. Darren's mother was polite. Darren was not as polite, but he smiled and nodded when he was required to. He didn't listen to most of the conversation. It wasn't of any interest to him. Most of it was about the catholic church and religious matters.

“I'll just excuse myself, I need to use the bathroom if that's OK,” Darren's mother said.

Darren got a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach, probably feeling nervous at being left alone with the nutty old lady.

Julie left the room and Darren and Aunt Mary were left in silence.

I see you haven't been too great lately, David.” Aunt Mary said with an all-knowing smirk on her face. She nodded to herself, acting as though she knew what she was talking about.

Yes, I see a face, a face that will walk into your future soon, I'm sure you know of my psychic abilities, not that I'm boasting.

Yeah, I know all about your psychic abilities, and I'm fine, I really think that the future should be a surprise.” Darren said.

Is that so? Well I don't know Darren, I think you should hear me out, it's really important.”

No thanks.”

Aunt Mary didn't reply. Darren didn't want to look at her. He hated her most of all when she started claiming to be a psychic. It was unlike her to give up so easily.

Darren looked over. Mary was sitting on the chair, looking right at him. Her face was pure white and her eyes had a look to them which suggested that, although she appeared to be staring, she wasn't seeing.

Mary?” Darren asked, now frightened.

Mary?! Are you all right?” Darren asked.

With no reply he got up and ran for the phone. She was having a heart attack, it had to be the only explanation. He looked back at Mary as he searched frantically for the phone. He stopped dead still, because she was still staring right at him, even though he had moved. Darren slowly walked to the other end of the kitchen towards her. Step by step, he felt more and more frightened. Step by slow step. He was standing a meter away from Aunt Mary now. She still stared right at him, like a wax figurine with unnaturally real eyes.

“Aunt Mary?” Darren asked waving his hand in front of her face.”

You're in danger. Save yourself. Save yourself. You're in grave danger! Sometime soon, your soul will be torn apart by a force that has entered your life,” Aunt Mary said, with the same look in her eyes, the look as though she wasn't really there. Darren looked into her glazed over eyes, and deep down he knew that this was real. Aunt Mary was having a proper psychic episode. She was giving him a message. She still sat in silence, looking terrifying.

Then she woke from her daze.

What are you doing, staring at me like I'm a zoo animal David? As an elderly person, I am inclined to doze off every so often.”

Darren exhaled a deep breath. He sat down. Had she been faking it? That was what Darren had so desperately wanted to tell himself, but how could he? The look in her face, nobody could put that on. She obviously didn't remember anything of it.

Darren's mother walked back into the room. She sat down and everything resumed as normal. Darren sat in silence, contemplating what she had told him. He was in grave danger, but from what? Darren felt frightened. This could very well have been Aunt Mary's first and last real psychic episode.

Darren and his mother were driving home. His mother had decided that they couldn't stay the night, she looked in the guest bedrooms and saw that they were very untidy, with Aunt Mary's possessions strewn everywhere in them. They weren't saying much, they were just happy to have gotten the visit over.

Mum, do you think that Aunt Mary really does have... Well... Some kind of a psychic ability?”

Ha! No, it's not likely. The best prediction she's ever given was when she said she was going senile ten years ago!”

So... You think it's not possible?” Darren asked, one more time.

Certainly not. Go on, tell me. What did she say to you this time? She loves to frighten people, you know.”

I don't know Mum, she went a bit... Weird... And then she told me I was in grave danger, and that my “soul would be ripped apart” by an evil force.”

You didn't believe that, did you? She used to do things like that to me all the time when I was a child, she used to terrify me, saying things like “You have a week to live”. Once she took out the tarot cards and I got the death card. She told me that I was almost certainly going to die. Well I'm still here now, aren't I, so she was wrong. Honestly Darren, she's always been a bit nutty, just don't pay her any attention.”

OK,” Darren replied, somewhat happier. What had he been thinking? She had always said things like that to him, what made this time any different? Just because she had put on a better performance didn't mean that it was any more likely that she was talking sense. Darren put his mind to rest, happier in the knowledge that he was in no danger whatsoever.