Friday, 30 April 2010

FFF #30 Seeing's Believing


It's Friday - so it must be time for some Flash Fiction!

This week two sentences tied for first place, so Cormac Brown, our illustrious leader in this venture, has decreed we can use either or both for our stories.

I'm humbled that my sentence was one of the winners - a big thankyou to all who deemed it worthy of their vote. :-)

Personally, I was hoping Rhapsody's line would win as it had stirred up a germ of an idea. Anyway, it just sorta flowed and I managed to incorporate both sentences, so I thought I might as well just get on and post it. Here you go:


Seeing’s Believing



"I know what I saw and years of antipsychotics and group therapies couldn't convince me otherwise."

The trouble with some people is that they expect the rest of us to buy into their weird fantasies but my friend, Ally, is prone to whimsy, so I generally take what she says with a pinch of salt.

However, on this occasion she was so vehement that what she saw was actually real. Even though it sounded bizarre, I’m hovering on the precipice of believing her for once.

OK, it was a sunny day, so maybe the heat could’ve gotten to her. Either that or she’d had some seriously bad ‘tripping tablets’ - I’ve warned her about that before, but she will eat and drink as she pleases, throwing caution to the wind. She’s very trusting like that. Whereas with me, the milk only has to be a little ‘off’ and I’m shouting “Is it me, or does this coffee taste weird?”

Personally, I thought she hated mushrooms, but she says it actually tasted quite nice. Now I’m wondering exactly what fungi she’s been consuming. It might go some way to explaining a few of her more far-fetched stories.

Truth be told, I can’t quite get my head around the account she gave about this latest adventure of hers. I mean, talking cats? That’s insane!

But then, a giant caterpillar making pronouncements (what exactly was in that hubble-bubble pipe it was sucking on?) does suggest there might have actually been something dubious, if not downright illegal, going on there.

Still, Ally was quite adamant about the reason she took off down that hole in the first place. And she still insists it was all ‘real’ and not some drug-induced raving.

But, I mean, would you believe a white rabbit wearing a waistcoat and looking at a pocket watch……..

………just a minute…….what’s that ticking noise?

Say, do you hear it too?

Monday, 26 April 2010

Re-writes and re-acquaintances


Having put it off because I've been busy with short stories, catching up on the TBR pile and reading other bits and pieces electronically, TODAY I declare I'm back off to do some re-writes that have been festering on a back-burner.

So, apologies to any of you if I seem a bit remote over the next few days/weeks but it's a two-way street: you can hold me accountable and check that I'm keeping on track!

(....and I'm really a bit excited about meeting up again with my old fictional friends! How sad am I? ;-p)

Saturday, 24 April 2010

FFF #29 EVESDROPPING


After a brief hiatus, Cormac Brown has set us another quest, with his opening sentence. Hurrah!

So, rising to the challenge (amazing what a night of insomnia can do for the creative juices!) here's my entry for this week. Those of you who know me may appreciate the hidden joke!



EVESDROPPING


“I said that you don't have to believe me, and I certainly wouldn't...if I were in your shoes."

Now I’m intrigued. Go on.

“But did you actually see them, with your own eyes?”

“Oh yes, they were quite blatant.”

Interesting. What did they do?

“Well, first of all …”

Wait a minute. 623.4, 623.42…..ah, there you go, ‘Infantry Support Weapons : Mortars, missiles and machine guns’. That’s you shelved.

Now, where were we?

“Oh, I suppose he couldn’t be expected to put up with that. I don’t blame him. I would have killed her, myself!”

Darn. What have I missed now? That’s the problem, I just get to the juicy bits and then I have to go back to the trolley for more books.

Funny, the things you hear, lurking between the shelves.

“…he said he was up in Manchester, but I saw him that morning. Parked his car at the top of the multi-storey carpark.”

“No! What, the same place……”

Hmm, good, they’re still talking. I wonder what I’ve missed.

“Shame. Nice girl, Eve.”

Eve? Hah, coincidence or what. Oh, they’re whispering now. I wonder if they know I’m here. Gosh these books are packed tight, right let’s straighten you up, then.

“Not that nice. I think he was forced into it. The way she was carrying on.”

“So you think he did it?”

Eh? Have I missed something?

“After the row they had the night before, I’d swear he would have dropped her where she stood.”

Row?

“Did you tell the police?”

“Oh, no! I didn’t want to get involved. It’s too late now anyway. And the way she carried on she probably deserved it.”

The row. Manchester. I have a funny feeling of déjà vu.

“Nasty way to go, though. Six floors up. I feel sorry for the paramedics. They must see some terrible things.”

I feel sick. I remember now. Sitting on the ledge.

“Mind you, if he did do it he’s a bloody good actor. He’s been in a right state. Looks terrible.”

He did look terrible that day. I’ve never seen a man cry so much.

“She used to work here, didn’t she?”

“Yes. Makes me shiver to think of it!”

I can still feel the cold rush of wind. Funny how the drop seemed to take forever.

My own fault. I shouldn’t have turned round to shout at him.

And then it was too late.

Damn!

“Oh! Did you see those books come flying off the shelf!”

“Yes, someone must have knocked them….no, there’s no-one there. How strange?”

“Ugh! Makes me shudder. Just when we were talking about that girl that committed suicide.”

“Oh, well. I can’t stand here gossiping all day. See you next week, then?”

“Yes. Cherio!”

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Writing from experience...


There's a school of thought that says you should write about what you know. That's fine in some cases, but if you want to write thrillers - well, not many of us live a James Bond lifestyle!

But, seeing as how I'm about to add to my cache of 'experiences' (see header at the top of my page) maybe there'll be the odd car-chase or two in my forthcoming writing!

Well, if I'm risking life and limb to help the Air Ambulance Service, maybe I can also benefit by extending the technical side of my work.

Now, what else would pep-up the storylines?

Ah, I fancy having a go at shooting......guns, not cameras;-p

Monday, 19 April 2010

Volcanos DO have silver linings


Well, the volcano that disrupted the OH's travel plans last Thursday has come up trumps!

With no flights in and out of the UK, he was forced to make his journey by road and ferry. This also meant that his trip was a day shorter, so today he's been at home with me.

Despite the fact that, amongst other things, his trip away had involved going to (and at one point, WORKING at) a beer festival, he still found time to attend another one today.

But this time I got to go, too! ;-)

And just think - if that li'l old volcano hadn't blown its top he would still have been away.


(and I would still be stone, cold sober - maybe!)

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Book-culling for beginners


How do you get rid of he books you actually can force yourself to part with?

There is a limit to how many bookshelves the 'normal' household can accommodate. At the moment, I work in a library - and when I come home I feel as though I'm still there!

Most charity shops I've been to are a bit sniffy and will only accept a few (even tho' they're all in good nick).

The charity 'bags' that come through the door inevitably decline the offer of books.

I've even dropped some into the library stock sales (I'd donate them to the library, but the policy here is generally to decline, or receive with the proviso that the items will be sold!)

Most of my friends are of a similar persuasion (and if I gave them mine, I'd have to accept theirs!)

I can't bring myself to recycle them with my other paper waste.

I've toyed with the idea of leaving them on buses, in cafes, etc. but that's almost like the same emotion as abandoning a puppy by the side of the road.


So, what do YOU do?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Man at the Bar



It was hard to tell in that light, from that angle.

Was the man at the end of the bar relaxing over his drink, slumped forward, slowly succumbing to the liquor in the glass nestled in his hand?

Or was he actually clinging to the bar, struggling to stay upright, defying the gravitational pull of perhaps one or three too many?

What lay behind the enigmatic half-grin on his face – a quiet moment of reflection, a subtle contentment, savouring the imbibed alcohol?

Or the realisation that his brain no longer had command over his legs and he was going down for the third time?


Perhaps he was none of these. Perhaps, in fact, he was researching a novel…..

...will we ever know, for sure?

Friday, 16 April 2010

Click or flick?


I've never really been keen on electronic books. I've always thought I'd prefer the feel of paper in my hands and the delicious sense of "what's-coming-next!" as I flick over each page.

But I've been recovering from a nasty cold and today I laid aside my 'proper' book and instead I've been catching up with an emailled 2nd draft of a book someone sent me to have a look at.

I have to say, it has been a welcome change to not have to bear the weight of holding up a book, but rather to just be comfortably settled on the sofa with the laptop balanced on my knee, snuggled under a blanket. I only need to tap the mouse to move down the page - so in fact, reading electonically requires less activity.

(And now I see that reading a 'real' book means I'm surely burning more calories - look, it's theory! Sadly, that doesn't justify indulging in biccies.)

So, while I still don't think I'd buy a Kindle, or some other electronic reader, at least I can see a plus point for them.

Oh well, back to the book. But, which one? Shall I flick, or click.....

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Sue versus the Volcano


OK - this was going to be a real day of rest for me! I expected to have the house to myself all day: so, as this is technically my 'Saturday' (time off in lieu of working the whole weekend - tomorrow becomes 'Sunday') I'd cleared a space in my 'housework diary' and was planning a very lazy time, reading Matt Hilton's "Slash and Burn" and generally indulging myself despite the fledgling cold that I'm incubating.

I'd agreed to drive my husband to the station at 'silly and dark o'clock' this morning, so he could catch a flight from Birmingham airport, and despite a hiccup that meant I had to drive home and back to collect the glasses he'd left on the dining table, by the time I finally got back at about 6.30am I was ready for a cuppa!

So, let's switch on the TV and see what's happening in the world, shall we.....well, what's happening in the the world (or my part of it!) is that ALL flights from Birmingham (and various other British airports) have been cancelled because of a volcano!

Nearly choking on my tea, I checked the calendar. No, April 1st is well and truly gone. Did the reporter mean Birmingham, Alabama, by any chance....although a volcano there didn't seem likely.

No, some volcano in Iceland is blowing it's top and British (and European) airspace is threatened by falling lava dust. Jet engines don't take too kindly to that level of pollution and the British Aviation Authority don't take too kindly to said jets possibly falling out of the sky! I tend to agree.

So, I had to go out and collect the returning husband from the station - all the while winsomely watching the hours of my 'free' day being swallowed up. :-(

Plan B (no, not the rap artist) now comes into effect, with husband and his cohorts heading up to Liverpool by people-carrier to catch the evening ferry. They're only going to the Isle of Man, for goodness sake!

Witty father-in-law has just commented that he hopes the journey will continue without the threat of a tsunami.....

Well, not much stops me in my tracks but I think even Matt Hilton can't compete with a volcano - so it looks like 'Slash and Burn' will have to wait just a little longer!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Coffee Break


Fancy a coffee to go with this view?

Travelling up to Carlisle for Matt Hilton's book launch ('Slash & Burn') recently, we stopped on the M6 at a wonderful independent service station (Tebay). The views are breathtaking - and I snapped this through the window. Not bad for a phone-cam, eh?

Trouble is, with views like that, who wants to get back on the road?

(well, we had a pressing engagement...... ;-) )

Not 'miserable' - but awesome!


Went to see Les Miserables last night - gobsmackingly spectacular!

It's about the fifth time I've seen it, but this was a new production and there were some subtle (and not so subtle!) differences. New dialogue and a different stage settings with back projection, all made watching the show like a 'new' experience!

Pity the OH had left it so late to books seats - the three of us were dotted about the auditorium :-( Still, you're there to watch, not chat, I suppose.
(and thanks to virtually the only two empty seats in the place being next to me, we shared the second half together anyway ;-) )

Next up on the theatre-going list is a tap show - interesting.....

Sunday, 11 April 2010

FFF #28 A New World Tomorrow





So, another week, another FFF!

Thanks Cormac, for giving us the focus to write, and thank you Paul B for an interesting starter sentence.

Here's my offering, a little different from my usual stuff....


A New World Tomorrow


"The trouble with me is that I never realise how deep in the shit I am until I'm choking on the stuff."

It wasn’t a joke this time. I said it quietly, almost to myself. I didn’t want her to worry. But, as it was currently lapping under my chin, perhaps now was the right time to finally start panicking.

We’d been down here for hours. I was almost used to the stench. Even breathing through my mouth it still caught in my throat and made me retch.

I tried to ignore what floated past me, thankful it was so dark. My sense of touch hadn’t gone though. Ugh!

“How much longer?” From her perch above me, Maddy’s voice echoed along the brick roofing. With the level rising we’d scrabbled around in the filth until I’d spotted a small ledge sticking out from the curvature of the sewer wall. Only room for one, though, and seeing Madelena descending into near hysteria I’d helped her up there.

“I don’t know. Not long,” I lied. We were already an hour past the deadline. The river of excrement had steadied, but I was struggling to keep my footing. Sooner or later the cold would get to me. The foetid liquid around me was giving off nitrous gasses, a faint sheen of fog rising into the cold, dank air.

It was time to face the reality of our sad existence. We had foolishly relied on others to help us to escape. We had followed their instructions, even though something in the back of my mind had repeatedly echoed, “..what if..”. We had given our futures into the hands of people who had not delivered.

And now I knew what that future held.

Escaping to freedom was our biggest wish. Since our parents had died, it had just been me and Maddy. Our Mother had made me promise, as she lay dying in that austere and crowded hospital ward, that we would reach the West; that we would not stay here, living in the time warp created on this side of the Iron Curtain

And I’d promised that her children, and the generations that might follow, would never live like prisoners, without hope. It would be a whole new world, a new tomorrow, starting with both of us.

“Viktor?” Maddy’s voice was whispered and quiet. “Will I be able to go to university when we get out?”

Madelena had nurtured hopes of becoming a writer one day. But the Soviet regime had been less willing to support the free-thinking teachers of literature and philosophy, preferring to force the production of munitions and pushing the boundaries of science.

“Of course,” I whispered back, glad she could not see the tears in my eyes. “And I’ll be able to get a good job as a mechanic.” That was one legacy I would carry into our future. I’d avoided conscription by working hard in the factory. Learning to use my hands had become the best way I could think of to escape the monotony of the cheerless life that had descended on our country after the war.

I closed my eyes, listening to Maddy humming a song to herself. It was 1962 and I knew, now, that we would never reach the West, where young people like us looked forward to futures filled with bright hopes and unlimited opportunities.

We had walked for miles into the sewers, following the instructions we had been given. It had cost us most of the money we had. Everything else had been left behind. All we carried of the past were a few simple possessions and family memories.

We had done as we were told. We had waited. Someone would meet us and lead us to a place where we could cross over into freedom.

But, they haven’t come. They are never coming.

Half an hour has passed. It’s quieter now.

I held Maddy down, her head trying to rear up against the force of my hand searching for breath, until she stopped struggling and lay still. Then I let her go, let her drift away from me.

I could not bear to see her face when they came to take us back. Or think of what would become of her when I was deported to some far flung munitions factory, probably never to see her again.

But she is free, now. And soon I will join her.

I hear the sirens and wonder whether to struggle here, forcing my head into the mire, ending my escape, or simply to welcome the bullet as I run from those who pursue me.

Soon it will be over, one way or another.

Forgive me, Mother.

We tried.

Spring has sprung!


Maybe I'm just getting hysterical because we've had a couple of days of warm sunny weather, but I think Winter may finally be over! (looks furtively over shoulder)

It's 9 o'clock in the morning, cuppa in hand, catching up with the blogosphere, sitting in the conservatory and the morning sun is starting to heat it up just nicely.

And to top it off, I'm sure I just heard a cuckoo!

Mother Nature has gone mad and everything's growing - especially the grass. I gave the lawn a haircut on Friday, so that's the lawnmower out of mothballs, then.

Mind you - I don't think a little bit of sun warrented our neighbours, affectionately known to us as 'Mr & Mrs Ibiza' (you get the drift...?), having a BBQ and running about their garden off their heads on cheap larger.

Oh dear, as they say 'Summer is icummin in...'

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside....


At the moment, this bizarre view greets visitors to The Merchant's Inn!

In our little enclave in Warwickshire, we are about as far as you can get from the sea in ANY direction - so the staff have had fun decorating the pub for the forthcoming beer festival. (a previous fest, based on animals, saw the pub 'dressed' in zebra stripes!)

I hope we can look forward to some 'summer' weather to accompany the fun and games (and beer!) the Merchants' crew have in store....

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

I think I should retire....


I wouldn't call myself totally a luddite (OK look, I've managed to enter the 'blogoshere' and just about continue to keep my head above water ;-) ) but it seems that my workplace is turning into a paper-free zone!

Which is a bit strange when you consider it's a library.

So, today I've had to encounter electronic payslips and leave-booking forms plus a new till system. Plus our intranet requires me to now have an official signature (which was a new definition of hell to set up) even though I rarely have access to said service and never send internal emails anyway.

And in a couple of months it's 'bye-bye' to the staff counter as the library goes self-service. (yay - not!)

I know things have to change from time to time, but a lot of this has meant extra work for no reasonable benefit.

Except to the box-tickers in their ivory towers!!!! (Col B - if you read this, I think the exclamation marks are totally justified on this occasion!)

OK - rant over - normal service will be resumed ASAP ;-)

Monday, 5 April 2010

You'll never get that under yer chin...


Rachel has progressed from playing the violin to double bass.

How she intends to get that into her little Ford Fiesta is an interesting conundrum!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Friday Flash Fiction #27 - STREAMLINING


Thanks to Cormac Brown's bizarre (what was he on when he came up with these?) choice of words for this weeks FFF, I've been scratching my head for a way to link CACHE CASHEW ESCHEW and THROUGH in some semblance of a storyline!

Herewith the outworkings of my brain - and now I think I need red wine or a lie down in a darkened room (or both! :-o )


STREAMLINING


“Do you fancy Chinese? Chicken and cashew nuts. How does that sound?”

Sure, I thought. Why not. I never turn down an invitation to dinner.

“Sounds great!” I replied. “We’ll be over about six-thirty, and thanks for the invite!”

I put the phone down and looked at my watch.

Just a few short hours and I’d be rid of Craig and his insufferable attitude. His cache of allergies and affectations hampered the social side of our business partnership. He would eschew gatherings and presentations, preferring to just ‘hole-up’ in the broom cupboard he called his ‘office’ and indulge his passion for binary code and all things computer-related.

As nerds go, he was fairly low-maintenance. I was the one who always had to ‘up’ the company profile. We’d been through it time and again – you needed to spend money to make money. Dress to impress. And I’m not just talking fashion. Our brand new office suite indicated we were a company that was already beginning to go places.

And there were places I wanted to go. Needed to go.

I didn’t plan to stick around afterwards. Craig was becoming an unwelcome piece of baggage, now that he’d set up all the online side of the business. I already had a buyer waiting in the wings, bringing his own tech-team.

I turned to the pc and typed in a message. Craig would pick up the email faster than it would take me to walk down to his claustrophobic domain. I baited the trap with a request for him to help out a friend with a computer problem.

“Her name’s Patti and she’s offered to cook us a meal by way of thank you!”


My finger hesitated over the keyboard, savouring the moment. Pity I’d forgotten to tell Patti that my friend Craig had a nut allergy.


“Bye-bye Craig,” I said, and hit ’SEND’.

Friday, 2 April 2010

A sad farewell


Sadly, today we have had to say our last goodbyes to our faithful canine companion, Bruce.

We returned from Carlisle yesterday and went to collect him from the kennels this morning. The kennel staff told us he'd become much wobblier on his pins (we had told them he was really showing his age) and apparently they'd had to lift him up and carry him out to the runs in the mornings.

We decided, as a family, that now was 'the' time and we made our pitiful trip to the vet, where with great skill and compassion, we were able to see him finally put to rest.

We will miss him terribly - we had him as a rescued dog from Dogs Trust for 12 years, so there will be a big gap in our lives - but we have good memories of a fun-loving dog who entertained, delighted and loved us all.

I've never known a dog that laughed like him - but this mischeivous scamp was a cheeky little devil!


R.I.P. Brucie

Friday, Friday


I submitted this story to another site earlier this week - but I know there will be a few people who read this blog who won't have seen it. So, as it's to do with the 'reason for the season' I feel today, of all days, is the right time to post it here.


FRIDAY, FRIDAY

I’m cold.

Despite the pain I’m in it’s strange, but I can feel the cold. Like when you sweat and feel that coolness on your skin as it evaporates.

I can feel that, now. But it’s not sweat. It’s blood.

There are so many puncture wounds and rips in my flesh that at times I can’t really tell exactly where the pain is coming from.

My muscles ache. I want to lie down and rest but they won’t let me. Just when I think they’ve finished they start all over again. But I know this is just the beginning.

What a difference a week makes. A few days ago I was in a very different place. Not geographically. In fact, I was just a few hundred yards from this building. But it was a world away from the present reality.

That was when people wanted to be with me. I had some very good friends, but this – this has driven most of them away. The fear of this happening to them has made them run.

It’s dark. There are still a few hours to go before daylight. More time to rip more flesh.

It could have been so different. But this is all part of the plan. I can’t change it. I can't back out now. I don’t want to, even with all this pain and terror. It is…..necessary.

It’s tempting knowing that I could clap my hands and have done with it. If it was just me, perhaps I would. But it isn’t just me. And so much depends on carrying this through, right to the bitter end.

I can hear them coming. What’s already gone is nothing to what’s coming up, I know that. But I have to look beyond it.

The pain will pass.

Eventually.

They only see the here and now. But I know the bigger picture. They think this will finish it. How wrong can they be.


It’s Friday.


But Sunday’s coming



(Some of you may recognise those last two sentences - and I gratefully acknowledge their origin as statements made by Tony Campolo. And thanks also to Matt Hilton, for selecting an appropriate image to go with the story!)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Post-launch fatigue syndrome


....otherwise known as "I'm fed up of motorways....!"

A whirlwind trip up to Carlisle and back (up one day, back the next) was a great treat - that is, apart from the 'interesting' drive back across the Kirkstone Pass, up above the snowline in the Lake District! :-o

Anyway, Matt Hilton's new Joe Hunter book : "Slash and Burn" has been launched - and the assembled throng duly 'wetted the baby's head' !

It was good to finally meet some of the UK 'chapter' of the Arrowsake Alumni! So, guys, (David, Col, Matt and Paul) if you are reading this - I had a really good time and thankyou for letting me join your 'boys club' ! (looking forward to doing it all again with the next launch.....in August?