The results are in: The Dust on the Moth has been funded!

Well who’d have thunk it… We actually did it! Bees Make Honey‘s Kickstarter campaign met its target! It even became a Kickstarter Staff Pick and Featured Publishing Project on the way. And now we have the funding to make this preposterous a dream a preposterous reality. Power to the people.


Not that I’m going to pretend it was a walk in the park. A whole month of boring your friends and begging for money wasn’t exactly a bag of fun. And then there was the nail-devouring finale! Crikey. Being involved in a Kickstarter campaign is one of the most harrowing, agonising and exciting things I’ve ever done. I nearly threw up on several occasions towards the end, I swear.


But it paid off, and now – thanks to the support of our wonderful pledgers – we have the funding to produce The Dust on the Moth and its accompanying soundtrack. Over the next few months we’ll be putting the story through two more rounds of editing, preparing more photos and illustrations, and then squeezing the lot into an exquisite hardback cover. On top of that we’ll be finishing the soundtrack, printing posters and further refining our awkward silences (one of our quirkier pledger rewards). We’re going to polish and polish until the whole thing dazzles with strange brilliance. We owe our pledgers that much.

The book is scheduled for publication in November. If you like beautifully ornamented literary fiction that gives two fingers to genre, have a gander and maybe even treat yourself. That way, as the nights grow long and the frost begins to settle, you’ll be deeply absorbed in a feast for the eyes, ears and fingertips (and even the nose, if you’re showing that quirkier symptom of the digital age).

If you’re interested in finding out a little bit more about the project, here are some very kind words from Mary Corcoran on the significance of The Dust on the Moth and our supporters’ part in it.



Update on The Dust on the Moth Kickstarter campaign

Hi all,

In case you’re curious, here’s a quick update on Bees Make Honey’s Kickstarter campaign to publish The Dust on the Moth as a “multi-dimensional hardback”.

Actually, it’s not so much an update as a shameless copy-and-paste from an interview Kirsty Fox and I did for Nottingham’s Left Lion. I know – it’s lazy and I should try harder. But we all need to recycle wherever we can. Plus things are busy-busy-busy, time is short and time is money and money makes the world go round et cetera et cetera.

So here it is. Please have a look at the campaign page, share it with your chums and – if you like the look of this very unusual book – treat yourself and chip in! Only seven days to go and me oh my, doesn’t time fly.

The original interview is available here. Gratitude goes to Robin Lewis of Left Lion for doing the interview, and sincere thanks to everyone who’s helped out so far. Feel the love.

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Why choose to crowdfund a book in this way?

Kirsty: I’ve been wanting to try out crowdfunding for a while. Part of what I do with Bees Make Honey is advise people on things like funding options and it’s much easier to advise someone if you have cold hard experience to go on. I choose book publishing because it’s one of my passions and because publishing is big upfront costs with uncertain return.

I learned this the hard way with the first book I published – I still have a hundred odd copies with no loving home to go to. The appeal of this is working out demand before you supply. If we’re successful Darren’s book will be in people’s hands being read and loved, not sat in my attic gathering poetic dust.

Darren: And there’ll be a lot to love – it’s going to be quite a lavish book. The decision to produce a hardback with colour artwork was partly guided by the desire to produce something physical and beautiful for people to own and treasure. In some ways it’s a reaction to the pervasiveness of digital content – which is great in many ways, but right now there’s a growing, almost fetishistic appreciation of more tangible objects. You only have to look towards the return of vinyl to see this.

But producing physical colour hardbacks isn’t cheap. Hence crowdfunding seemed to be the way to go. We’re hoping that people will be interested in being part of and investing in the production of something special.

Why this book?

Darren: The Dust on the Moth seems to fit in so well with Bee’s Make Honey’s mission. The novel actually had a tricky time in finding a home. Several literary agents and indie publishers really liked it but felt unable to handle the fact that it doesn’t fit neatly into a specific genre. But this happened to be exactly what Bees Make Honey were looking for: fiction that defies categorisation and gives two fingers to pigeonholes. So they had a gander and took it on, and now we’ve ended up with this hugely ambitious campaign.

Kirsty: I like Darren’s writing because he’s not afraid to take risks and have fun. There’s a rawness which traditionally published books tend to lack because they’re edited differently and are too self-conscious of their market. It’s like when you get a really good piece of music that’s overproduced. The Dust on the Moth takes an idea and runs away with it in ways that are both incredibly silly yet also still profound. It makes you laugh while also potentially giving you an existential crisis. I think that might be my favourite kind of art when it’s done well. Also, as a person to work with, Darren is very self-motivated. When I first met him, he was putting out illustrated short stories as Panspermia Press with illustrations from his friend Chris Baldwin. He was already collaborating and experimenting in order to get his work out there.

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The Kickstarter is over halfway done: how are things going with it?

Darren: We had an amazing start in which we got over a grand in just two days. But things have slowed down and we still have a way to go before meeting our £5000 target; failure to meet the target means we get none of the money pledged at all.  This doesn’t seem to bode well, but actually represents a pretty common course for Kickstarter campaigns. A lot of campaigns get a depressing dip in the middle and then shoot up at the end to meet their target. So we’re hoping to start seeing that soon, especially with people’s impending paydays and the growing jeopardy factor. It’s playing out a little like an indie underdog story – I think that’s one of the things people like about crowdfunding projects like this.

Kirsty: It’s just like The Mighty Ducks. Except we can’t express our frustration with hockey sticks.

Darren: Beyond the financial side of things, the response from people has been fantastic. It’s humbling and wonderful to discover how supportive your friends and family are, and alongside this you get the backing and enthusiasm of total strangers, which is particularly rewarding.

What’s involved in the day to day running of a Kickstarter? Is it just a case of launching one and then keeping your fingers crossed?

Kirsty: Absolutely not. Anyone who uses that technique is likely to fail hard. You can’t expect the world to magically find your campaign amidst hundreds of others. There are people who browse Kickstarter looking for interesting things, but they’re not likely to see your campaign unless you’ve got off to a good start. You have to be on social media every day, trying to shout about it without repeating yourself too much and pissing people off! It’s hard work and tough on the ego too. It’s a huge benefit to do it as part of a team of four because you can keep each other’s spirits up, but I still feel the most responsible.

Darren: I mostly do what I’m told. This means distributing flyers, regularly promoting the campaign on Twitter (look out for #KICKSTARTMOTH) and guilt-tripping my friends and family into having a look, spreading the word and maybe even chipping in. At the more strategic level I get together with the Bees Make Honey team to discuss tactics and leave biscuit crumbs on Kirsty’s sofa. Recent tactics include a free prize draw for all pledgers and two new reward options: Bees Make Honey lucky dip bags crammed with goodies and personalised short stories on the subject of the pledger’s choice.

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Tell me about The Dust on the Moth. It seems to be a lot more than just a book.

Kirsty: We’re very aware of the decline in print publishing and the reasons why that is happening. We were also keen to do something collaborative and experimental because we’re the kind of people who lay awake at night with too many fantastic ideas buzzing around. The Dust on the Moth lends itself to experiment, so it just felt right to elaborate on the worlds Darren had created by giving the book extra dimensions. So we have illustrations by Dan and photographs by Phil, and they’re ‘world-building’ rather than taking things literally. They pick up on abstractions and less tangible aspects. There’s also a ‘soundtrack’ written by Dan in collaboration with Graham Langley of Savoy Grand.

We are also interested in digital experimentation and we’d love to make The ‘Moth into an even more multi-media project with moving image and an interesting platform – something much more than a bog standard e-book. But there are currently not enough hours in the day, nor money in the bank for this. So for this episode we’re mainly expressing our love of the printed book.

Darren: You could even say it’s more than a book at the narrative level. It’s two books in a way: two very different stories that become progressively tangled as you go along. Overall, I really hope the campaign is successful so that readers and art fans will have the opportunity to discover a unique book that goes way beyond the sum of its parts.

Kirsty: Many thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. If you like the sound of the project please help us out towards getting it funded. Even just sharing it and helping get the word out is much appreciated! Follow the hashtag #KickStartMoth.

Kirsty Fox is a social entrepreneur, writer and creative producer with Bees Make Honey Creative Community. Darren Simpson is the author of The Dust on the Moth. The Dust on the Moth is a collaborative project with an illustrator, Dan Layton and a photographer, Phil Formby. 

The Dust On The Moth on Kickstarter
Bees Make Honey website

The Kickstarter campaign for The Dust on the Moth is Go Go Go!

Pretty slick video, if I say so myself. I’m biased, mind. Did you spot the Lionel Richie mug that says “Hello, is it tea you’re looking for?” Pure gold.

So, following my last post, I’m very excited to announce that the Kickstarter page for my book project with Bees Make Honey is live:

Yep, you heard. It’s LIVE!

I won’t waste your time by blabbering on about the project. It’s all in the video above, and if a picture paints a thousand words, this video paints eight thousand and twenty-three (I did the maths).

And talking of a thousand, we’ve not had a bad start. We raised over a grand in just two days – that’s 20% of our target. But we still have a long way to go, and if we don’t meet the five thousand pound target by 1 May, we get none of the money pledged and can’t produce this multi-dimensional slab of beautiful strangeness called The Dust on the Moth.

That’s why I’m getting onto my knees, kissing the tips of your toes and asking that you have a look at the page, share it, get involved, spread the word and – if you like the look of the book – maybe even treat yourself to one of the many delectable rewards on offer. The success of this audacious campaign depends as much on exposure as on offering a lovely piece of audio-literary-visual oddness. The success of this campaign depends on you.

Thanks for having a gander, and feel free to get in touch.

No Buts – A Literary Oddity Finds a Home

(or: How Bees Make Honey Pimped My Novel)


Once upon a time I wrote a story. Well, two stories. Or maybe three…

Anyway, however many, they started doing interesting things. Even though they were very different, I kept spotting common themes, images and motifs. The stories started merging together, and quite naively, I left them to it. I didn’t think about implications, target audiences, markets, genres. I just thought I’d see what happened. I ended up with a novel called The Dust on the Moth.

I remember the first time a literary agent showed an interest in The Dust on the Moth. She gushed a little in her emails, and then invited me to meet her in London. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was pumped. I booked a train ticket without hesitation. On the day I ironed a shirt and put on my lucky boxers. I was ready for destiny. And then, over an overpriced cup of Earl Grey, the agent – who was lovely, by the way – told me that she really liked the book but found it a little intimidating, and wasn’t really sure what she could do with it. I nodded politely and smiled with clenched teeth.

Fair dos, I thought. That’s just one agent. Plenty more fish in the sea. But other agents who requested the manuscript did the same: ‘It’s a great book…but perhaps a little too offbeat for the market.’ ‘Very strong imagery…but it’s a tricky book to categorise.’ ‘A refreshing concept…but it seems to fall between genres.’ And so on.

So I couldn’t help wondering: what’s the point? I’d tried to write something not only entertaining but also ambitious and original. I’d given three years to it. So why bother? What should I have done instead? Should I have watered myself down? Should I have been more generic? Would I have been better off writing about a young wizard who uncovers a Catholic conspiracy while getting gimpy with a sexy vampire millionaire?

It was disillusioning. I became jaded and bitter. I started shouting at kids in the street, kicking old ladies’ cankles, pushing prams down stairs. Eventually I found the strength to move on and write other things, but the bitterness of The Dust on the Moth lingered like the aftertaste of vomit in my mouth.

illustrations trio

And then came a minor miracle in the form of Kirsty Fox – miscreant megamind behind Bees Make Honey and one-woman creative industries empowerment machine. She chanced uponThe Dust on the Moth through Panspermia Press, and wanted to make it the next project for Bees Make Honey’s publishing arm. I met her at the Gladstone in Carrington. ‘But it’s too offbeat,’ I stammered. ‘Genres… Pigeonholes…’ Kirsty didn’t care. She saw all of the agents’ ‘buts’ as strengths. She wanted to publish it because it was different and because she liked it. Simple as. That’s how Kirsty works. The girl’s got balls. Figuratively speaking.

It was refreshing. It restored a lot of faith. My eyes had been opened to the integrity, passion and freedom of the DIY publishing scene. I was overjoyed. I started being nice to kids, helping old ladies cross the road, visiting injured babies in hospital. I was shitting rainbows.

So we got to work on polishing the story. Kirsty lent me her editor’s eye and I learned a lot about dialogue tags and thinking even more carefully about readers. As the story started to refine itself, Kirsty began to feel that it deserved better. She shone the Bees Make Honey signal into night sky and Dan Layton and Phil Formby came abseiling in through the windows. It was amazing to watch how, in their hands, The Dust on the Moth slowly evolved from run-of-the-mill ebook to lush multimedia objet d’art, complete with illustrations and photography. And with time, even that wasn’t enough; online and musical elements started to take shape. Exciting times.

photo trio

And then, another ‘but’. How were we going to fund such a lavish product? The answer was crowdfunding through Kickstarter. We felt optimistic that we were offering something unique that people interested in literary fiction/art/photography/curios would be interested in backing for a piece of the action. So we ploughed on. It was just like the A Team, except with less flame throwers and more cans of Red Stripe. It wasn’t long before The Dust on the Moth had taken on a life of its own. It’s no longer just a story. It’s no longer just mine. It’s a genuine collaboration – a one-of-a-kind, living, breathing, beautiful monster.

I’m chuffed that The Dust on the Moth has found a home with Kirsty and the lads – not only because it resonates so well with Bees Make Honey’s spirit, but also because I’ve had the opportunity to work with a nifty team of nerds I could almost call my friends. Almost.

Right. Enough about me and Bees Make Honey. You can find details of the Kickstarter campaign here. Have a gander. Get involved.

Over to you.

Why short stories are like buses

Well well well. It seems that within a period of about a week I’ve had three short stories published. Typical. You wait around for ages and suddenly three come at once.

So who’s been misguided enough to publish my ramblings?

The first culprits are the classy folk at the Stockholm Review of Literature, who published “The Sweet and the Sour” – originally a Panspermia Press tale – in their third issue, alongside Christopher Baldwin‘s accompanying artwork. Nice.

Second in line are Inkapture, who kindly took a liking to “Take the Next Exit for Love” – also a Panspermia Press original – and published it in their October 2014 issue. Also nice.

And third in line are Flash Fiction Magazine, who generously published “The Running Bath” – incidentally one of the first short stories I wrote “seriously”, although it isn’t a very serious story. Nice too.

I’d like to put it on record that I thank the editors of the aforementioned publications for being barmy enough to publish my guff. Cheers!

On eyelids in envelopes

Something quite peculiar has happened. After a considerably long period of getting “we like it, but” from editors, I’ve suddenly had three short stories accepted in about as many days. They’ll be published soon, apparently. Look out for details in a future post.

What on earth happened? It’s too much of a coincidence. Surely this is some sort of hoax. Surely the rug’s about to be pulled from under my smug little feet.

Or perhaps it’s hard times for editors. Is there a literary drought? Are editors peering into the dregs, scraping the bottoms of their barrels and finding my stories?

Maybe I’m being hard on myself. I feel that I should just accept this for what it is. It’s not a huge deal, in the grand scheme of things. It’s a tiny bit of recognition – a glimmer of validation. It’s a small but valuable lesson in the worth of persistence, of trying and trying so that you can keep improving and be there to catch a bit of luck when it comes along.

But more importantly, it’s evidence that posting small parts of your body to editors can do wonders.

I even sent my eyelids. I don’t sleep so well these days, but it’s worth it.

Easy Reading for Difficult Devils

What do you want first? The good news or the bad news?

The bad news? World War III is imminent. So grab some canned spaghetti, a bottle of Lucozade and a shovel. Now go to the garden and dig a hole. How far? As far as you can go. But before you start, make sure you peg a rope to the edge of the hole. That way you can climb back up when you’ve dug so far that the world is a speck of light above your head. Once you’ve climbed back up, call out for your loved ones. Tell them you want to show them something incredible. Take them to the edge of your hole and tell them to look down. Then shove them. Shove them with all of your love. They’ll fall and their legs will break. This will hurt, but it will prevent them from climbing back up – it will save their lives. Shout down that they should cover their heads, then throw in your tinned spaghetti and Lucozade. Sever the rope and jump down after your food supplies. When shock has numbed the agony of your broken legs, tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and how blessed you feel to have had them in your life. Then hold them in your arms and wait. And pray that it won’t rain.

So that’s the bad news.

The good news? One of my short stories has been published in Easy Reading for Difficult Devils, a dark fiction anthology edited by Zachary T. Owen. It’s called “The Adoring Dentist”, and is about a dentist who does horrendous things in the name of love. Don’t we all.

The even better news: it’s free. You can download it gratis from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords (or from all three, if you’re a collector). It’s probably best to do so before you get started on your hole. Be quick – there isn’t much time.

See you on the other side.


Jesus sandals and William S. Burroughs

You know, on hindsight my last post was a bit goody goody two shoes. In fact, you could say it was patronising. Or even downright arrogant. I mean, who the hell do I think I am, strutting in on my Jesus sandals and waving around my righteous goody-goody stick? It’s enough to turn your stomach.

In a half-arsed attempt to make some sort of amends, here’s something a little more subversive, courtesy of William S. Burroughs. It’s one of my favourite pieces of his writing (and I have many), and it never fails to make me grin.

So here’s Lee – who’s pretty much Burroughs: a expatriate barely off heroin, struggling with loneliness and homosexuality, among other things. He’s developed a bit of a liking for a young heterosexual by the name of Allerton.

Lee walked directly into the bar and ordered a drink. He drank it and ordered a second one before looking around the room to see if Allerton was there. Allerton was alone at a table, tipped back in a chair with one leg crossed over the other, holding a bottle of beer on his knee. He nodded to Lee. Lee tried to achieve a greeting at once friendly and casual, designed to show interest without pushing their short acquaintance. The result was ghastly.

As Lee stood aside to bow in his dignified old-world greeting, there emerged instead a leer of naked lust, wrenched in the pain and hate of his deprived body and, in simultaneous double exposure, a sweet child’s smile of liking and trust, shockingly out of time and out of place, mutilated and hopeless.

Allerton was appalled. “Perhaps he has some sort of tic,” he thought. He decided to remove himself from contact with Lee before the man did something even more distasteful. The effect was like a broken connection. Allerton was not cold or hostile; Lee simply wasn’t there so far as he was concerned. Lee looked at him helplessly for a moment, then turned back to the bar, defeated and shaken.

Brilliant. I love it. It’s so grotesque, funny and sad, all at once. He really hits the sweet spot. And – like the rest of Queer – it doesn’t have that acidic, warped, satirical, insectoid sci-fi element more associated with his later stuff; it’s very frank and painful, undisguised.

Just thought I’d share that with you. A little less waving around of the goody-goody stick.

The Crow Road (to hell?)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Bit harsh, innit? Chill out, Bernie.

But I sort of see where he’s coming from.

I intended to post this at the start of the New Year. So much for that. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans  – a quote from another saint, of sorts.

As it happens, this post is about good intentions. Hence it seemed appropriate for a New Year’s post. I was reading Iain Banks’ The Crow Road over the festive period, and a passage from it struck me as really capturing a good way to try to look at things.

Here’s some context, for those of you who haven’t read the novel. The protagonist, Prentice McHoan, is thinking of his father, Kenneth McHoan (who’s fate is in some ways a joy to read – I’ll say no more):

Telling us straight or through his stories, my father taught us that there was, generally, a fire at the core of things, and that change was the only constant, and that we – like everybody else – were both the most important people in the universe, and utterly without significance, depending, and that individuals mattered before their institutions, and that people were people, much the same everywhere, and when they appeared to do things that were stupid or evil, often you hadn’t been told the full story, but that sometimes people did behave badly, usually because some idea had taken hold of them and given them an excuse to regard other people as expendable (or bad), and that was part of who we were too, as a species, and it wasn’t always possible to know that you were right and they were wrong, but the important thing was to keep trying to find out, and always to face the truth. Because truth mattered.

I’m not particularly an Iain Banks fan. I do like what I’ve read, and he’s undoubtedly a great writer, but somehow I never I enjoy his novels as much as I feel I should. I can’t put my finger on why. He’s one of those, I guess.

But those two sentences (yep, two) struck a chord. It seemed like good timing; they suggested a nice way of looking at the world to keep in mind for 2014. And I thought I’d share them with you, in case you’d like to keep them in mind too, for what’s left of 2014 and perhaps beyond.

And yes: I’ve just filled a blog post mostly with other people’s writing. Laziness? I think that these days they call it “curation”.

Spare a thought this Christmas…

‘Ho ho ho,’ says Santa, although his heart isn’t really in it. The sparkle in his eye is dull, and ruddiness has all but left his cheeks. ‘Ho ho ho,’ he says, trying again, but his big body shakes more with hysteria than with mirth, in the same way that a man shakes when he’s about to cry.

But why? What’s happened? What has reduced this walking epitome of merriment to such doldrums? Why does he gulp his brandy with the gentle desperation of a widower, and not with the kick of festive cheer?

I’ll tell you why: IT technicians. A whole workshop full of them.

Christmas has been through a lot of changes over the years. Gone are the times of toys crafted from wood, fabric and fluff. Rocking horses, fire engines, chequer sets, building blocks, patchwork dolls, ducks on pulleys – these are relics of a bygone age, good now for nothing but the stove. Such antiques have been made redundant by the gimmickry and gadgetry of an insatiable generation; a generation in which even infants have their own smartphones. Now it’s all iPhones and iPads, laptops and tablets, Xboxes and Wiis, Blue-rays and 3D TVs.

And what does this mean?

It means that some years ago tough decisions had to be made and a bunch of elves lost their jobs. If there’s no demand you have to change supply, after all. That’s simple business sense.

And the elves understood that. ‘It’s okay, Santa,’ they’d said, patting him on the knee. ‘We understand, and we’ll be fine. Don’t you worry about us. It’s no-one’s fault.’

Such good boys, thinks Santa, sighing to himself. Such good, sweet, lively boys. He downs his third brandy and heads across the snowy courtyard to the workshop.

Entering the workshop is always depressing these days. He used to love it. He’d loved the smell of fresh sawdust and warm gingerbread, the way the elves would stop their sawing and sanding to greet him with a song.

Those days are long gone. Now he walks into a workshop that resembles the back of PC World. Bespectacled, chubby nerds sit at workstations cluttered with the paraphernalia of electronic assembly. Not a speck of worktop can be seen for motherboards, microchips and transistors. Technicians natter nasally about CPUs, MMORPGs and pixelated pin-ups. The scent of sawdust and ginger has been ousted by the stench of Subway footlongs and ozone. Gone are the jaunty cheers and songs of curly-toed elves, replaced by the awkward, whiny guff of the socially inept.

Now don’t get Santa wrong. He knows they’re not a bad bunch. They’re nice people, after all. Harmless, and very sweet in their own way. But it’s just not the same. It’s not what it was.

Santa shakes himself and leans over the rail above the workshop, scanning the pit for his designated Liaison Officer. ‘Dexter!’ he shouts. ‘Dexter!’

‘Santa!’ shouts Dexter from within the mess, lisping lightly. He waves so that the old man can spot him. ‘I’m over here.’

‘Oh yes,’ says Santa. ‘So you are. Dexter, I was just wondering if you’ve had any news on those sleigh bells.’

‘Sleigh bells?’

‘Yes, sleigh bells. If you remember, the bells that were sent were silver, even though we ordered gold ones. The sleigh needs gold bells, Dexter. It’s always had gold bells.’

‘Right, Santa.’

‘So have we sent them back and requested replacements?’

‘Let me check,’ says Dexter, punching some keys at his computer. ‘Hmm. I’m afraid they haven’t been sent back yet. Although I can see that the call was logged.’

Santa puffs some air through his cheeks. ‘That request was made two weeks ago, Dexter,’ he sighs. ‘And it’s been made twice since.’

‘Aha,’ says Dexter.

‘Aha,’ repeats Santa. There’s a moment of silence. Dexter adjusts his spectacles.

‘Listen,’ continues Santa. ‘Can you deal with this for me? I just need some gold bells. It’s simple, really.’

‘Mmmm…’ frowns Dexter, stroking the fluff around his lips. ‘No can do, Mister Claus. It has to go directly through Purchasing. Send them an email. Needs to be a paper trail, you see. If I do it myself it’ll be outside of the system and there’ll be no paper trail.’

Santa grimaces. Electronic mails and paper trails. Nothing makes sense anymore.

‘Dexter,’ he says. ‘I just want some gold bells for the sleigh. I don’t want to send another email to Purchasing.’

‘Pardon?’ says Dexter, cupping his ear. The technicians are becoming noisy. They’re gathering around a monitor to watch a viral YouTube clip.

‘I don’t want to send another email,’ repeats Santa.

‘It’s the only way,’ shrugs Dexter. ‘Needs to be a paper trail. Ask them to escalate it this time. That should help.’

Santa removes his gold wire spectacles and pinches his eyelids. ‘Listen, Dexter. I can’t send an email. My computer keeps freezing when I open Outlook. Can’t you do this for me?’

Dexter shakes his head. ‘Sorry, Mister Claus. Best thing is to give IT Helpdesk a call. They’ll come sort out your email for you.’

‘I’ve tried that, Dexter,’ grumbles Santa. ‘But it’s always the answer phone. I’ve left three messages already and still no-one’s called back. Dexter, you’re good with computers. Why don’t you come and have a quick look at it?’

‘No can do, Mister Claus. Has to go through Helpdesk. That way it’s logged. It’s protocol.’

‘Pardon?’ shouts Santa. The din is rising.

‘Protocol!’ shouts Dexter.

‘Alcohol?’ shouts Santa.

‘Pardon?’ shouts Dexter.

‘Forget it,’ says Santa, more to himself than to Dexter. He turns away and steps back out into the courtyard. He takes a deep breath and watches the snow fall for a while. Holding out his hand, he catches a snowflake in his palm and watches it melt.

When he enters the kitchen he stamps the snow from his boots. Mrs Claus is hunched over the dining table.

‘I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to this,’ laments Santa.

‘Mm,’ grunts Mrs Claus. She doesn’t look up.

‘Do you ever miss the old days, dear?’ asks Santa. ‘Were they simpler, or is it just me?’

‘Mm,’ repeats Mrs Claus, deeply absorbed. She’s updating her Facebook status on her Blackberry.

‘Can you even hear me?’ asks Santa, his voice cracking softly.

‘Mm,’ repeats Mrs Claus.

Santa gets his brandy bottle from the cupboard and takes it to the bedroom.

So spare a thought this Christmas. Spare a thought for Santa. An old man being steadily left behind.