Tic tacs and goblins


I’ve been travelling a lot recently. 122 journeys in the last ten days. And I don’t mean down to the local shops – I’ve been to Cyprus, Kenya, Poland, the USA, India, Greece… Outer space as well. And my travelling companions have been just as varied: witches, magicians, cows, junkies, convicts, bridesmaids, boxers… All in all, there hasn’t been a single dull moment.

Those are the trips I’ve taken with the 121 entries into this year’s Book A Break short story competition. The prompt (which didn’t have to appear verbatim) was ‘They had a long journey ahead of them’, better than last year’s prompt, which invited tales about fathers being nasty to cats. Rather restrictive, that. Just as I’d hoped, this one opened up the universe. Journeys through life, science fiction (though no time travel, rather to my surprise – must be a little passé), treks through the desert, up mountains, into caves, and every mode of transport you can imagine.

Ingrid’s reading them now, and we won’t correspond till her decision. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to choose a winner – I’m reading them more with an eye to the anthology. And I’m already excited – plenty of good material there.

But you’ve spotted the discrepancy – 121 entries and 122 journeys. Well, the last one was for real – we’re 1000 miles down the road in Cadiz. An uneventful journey unless you count the tic tac tiff. We’d barely gone 200 yards when Mrs. B. said, ‘Where are they?’ ‘Where are what?’ ‘My tic tacs. I left them by the dashboard.’ ‘They’re in the door space.’ ‘No, they’re not.’ ‘Well, that’s where I put them.’ ‘Well, they’re not there now. Why didn’t you leave them by the dashboard?’ ‘They get in the way. The door’s better.’ ‘So why aren’t they there? Where are they?’ ‘I don’t know. You must have moved them.’ ‘No, I didn’t.’ And so on. Deary me, I thought. We have a long journey ahead of us...

Otherwise, all went fine. I don’t count getting lost when we got off the motorway. We don’t have a sat nav because there isn’t any fun if you don’t get lost. So just before Tarragona, looking for the village of Albinyana, we spent a pleasant half hour looping among innumerable bypasses, slip roads, dual carriageways and roundabouts, several of which began to look familiar after a while. We finally made it to the village, where we stayed in a charming little hotel full of hobgoblins and trolls. ‘We wanted something different,’ said Lydia, the young woman who runs it with her husband. ‘And I must admit, I have a thing about goblins.’

‘Lovely,’ I said. ‘I’ve been on all sorts of journeys lately, but none so far with a goblin.’

The next morning, as we set out for Almeria, I noticed Mrs. B. was happily sucking a tic tac. ‘They turned up, then,’ I said. ‘Where were they?’

‘In my computer bag. I don’t remember putting them there.’

‘Ah. Must have been a goblin,’ I said.