Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Merry Christmas, everyone - an old story in a new format:
The weather outside might not be quite so frightful here in the Midlands, where we've been predicted a 'wet' rather than 'white' Christmas, but the fire in front of me is so delightful anyway! In a few minutes' pre-festive pause (actually, 'babysitting' recuperating daughter after operation #3!) I realise I haven't had time to write anything for a while - my wish for 2012 will be the return of the literary muse!
Instead, I came across some MIKE HARDING (no relation!) snippets on YouTube and this one seemed appropriate to the season.
I've been a fan of this comedian for years (even before I was a 'Harding', strangely enough!) but he's a great musician and writer, too, so there are another couple of clips to amuse and entertain - sadly I can't find my favourite: 'Quasimodo Meets the Virgin Mary' - the tale of a school Nativity play that had me in hysterics (and the rest of the staff at the school where I used to work!)
Anyway - hope you get time amidst the hubbub and chaos to enjoy the season - MERRY CHRISTMAS!
.....and I'll leave it to MH (no, not MY MH!) to have the last word:
Thursday, 15 December 2011
Gearing up for the 2012 'Off The Shelf' reading challenge, I've now come up with the 30 books I'd like to read next year.
In no particular order (certainly, as I finish one there will be a brief pause before I select the next!) they are, predictably, mostly crime/thrillers, but a few 'wild-cards' have crept in, too!
Frank Peretti - Monster
Linwood Barclay - No Time For Goodbye
R.J. Ellory - City of Lies
Gill McNeil - Needles & Pearls
Frederick Forsyth - The Afghan
Agatha Christie - Peril At End House
Agathe Christie - Cards On The Table
Jack Higgins - Day Of Judgement
Jack Higgins - Dark Justice
Jack Higgins - The Thousand Faces Of Night
Alan Titchmarsh - Mr McGregor's Garden
Ben Brown - Sand Stealers
Alex Brennan - The Ghost Agent
Simon Kernick - A Good Day To Die
Kyle Mills - Burn Factor
Alex Scarrow - Last Light
Peter James - Dead Mans Grip
Peter James - Not Dead Enough
Mark Billingham - Bloodline
Mark Billingham - In The Dark
Ted Dekker - Bone Man's Daughter
Lee Child - Bad Luck And Trouble
Steve Alten - The Mayan Prophecy
Scott Marian - Lost Relic
Adrian Magson - No Kiss For The Devil
Steve Hamilton - A Cold Day In Paradise
Steve Hamilton - Winter Of The Wolf Moon
Jeff Abbot - Panic
Michael Connelly - The Black Echo
Michael Connelly - The Black Ice
So there you have it - I'll try and do reviews as I go, wish me luck!
Sunday, 4 December 2011
I decided I really needed to have some incentive to reduce the TBR pile, so I've decided to join this challenge!
I decided not to be silly and go overboard and settled for aiming at Level 3 - 'Making a dint' (30 books). Of course, I shall cheat - because there will be a couple of books that I've previously started and not finished, for one reason or another; although I shall start each from the beginning again, in line with the spirit of the challenge.
I'll do a review on each as I finish it - just to keep me accountable! In the next day or so I'll compile a list, although I can't guarantee I'll read them in strict order according to said list!
Anyway - the challenge NOW is to clear the decks before 01/01/2012.....
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
F3 (Flash Fiction Friday) has, apparently, had 57 different flash fiction challenges! I haven't been able to contribute to all of them but I couldn't miss this week's cue: a tale involving ketchup, courtesy of the association of the number '57' with a well known producer of said, rosey-toned condiment!
Anyway, the challenge was for a 1,000-word (max.) tale where ketchup was involved. Clocking in at exactly 1,000 (following some judicious pruning!) here's my offering for you to savour! And if you'd like to comment, that would be most appreciated :-)
57 Ways To Leave Your Lover
It started with a silly argument, as most great conflicts often do. A simple slight, a perceived lack of value, an unkind word; but really – had this all come to pass over a bottle of ketchup?
Myra looked at the empty side of the bed. It lay cold and uninviting, the covers still in place where she had smoothed them back, the pillow still plump and pristine, devoid of the rumpled hollow where his head should have lain.
Sitting up, knees drawn forward she rested back against the headboard, cradling the cup of warmth in her hand and sipped at her early morning tea. Dawn was still far off and night lingered, unending and sleepless. Her head ached, not a crashing pain but the tension of an oppressive compression as if her skull was trapped in a vice that insidious demons were slowly but surely tightening with each turn of the screw.
She closed her eyes and thought back to a few hours earlier, when her world was so different; blemished and a little out of kilter maybe, but going according to plan.
Daniel had been singing in the shower, off key as always but he knew all the words; Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan would be proud of this ‘modern major general’! She’d encouraged him to find something to do outside the home although she’d been a little surprised when he’d joined the local operatic society.
Downstairs, Myra had cooked his breakfast, a ‘full English’; a weekend treat, even though weekends didn’t really exist for them anymore. A week ‘end’ implied the end of a week of work, a time for rest and relaxation. Since Daniel had lost his job months ago, the days had rolled one into the other. Myra’s part-time job at the dental practice had helped but there was a big discrepancy between her meagre earnings and the bills that fell through the letter box with alarming frequency.
The usual morning pleasantries as he’d sat down at the kitchen table gave no hint of the furore which was to follow. She'd finished ladling out sausages, bacon and eggs on to the plate and set it down before him.
“Where’s the ketchup?” he'd asked, a little curtly, without even a simple word of thanks for the fact that Myra had risen early and cooked him a wonderful breakfast. She'd picked up the bottle, not six inches from his plate and set it in front of him.
Daniel had picked it up with his fingertips and peered at it as if examining something crude and distasteful.
“What is this?” he'd said slowly.
“Ketchup”, she'd replied.
“No, this is tomato sauce. Where’s the ketchup?”
She'd looked at the offending article he’d replaced on the table, then pushed away as if to distance himself from something unpleasant. The chubby plastic bottle with its white flip-top stood desultory and disregarded. True, it bore a different label from his favoured variety and it wasn’t the usual slender glass receptacle with its customary white screw cap but the contents were the same, mostly. It was red and it tasted of tomatoes at any rate. It was also a lot cheaper and in their current financial state it represented a valued economic cut to the weekly food bill.
The tantrum that ensued had taken Myra quite by surprise. As Daniel had leapt to his feet, knocking his chair to the ground, she’d watched in disbelief as he swept aside his plate, accompanied by a tirade about her rubbing in the fact that he could no longer provide the standard of living they had once enjoyed and oh, how much she must enjoy seeing him reduced to seeking state benefits.
As he stormed out of the room she’d watched the congealed mess of egg yolk slowly making it’s way down the wall accompanied by greasy smears left by the bacon and sausages until it reached the mess of broken crockery lying on the floor.
She’d still been considering what had just happened when she’d heard the defiant stomping footsteps coming down the stairs and the echoing slam of the front door which announced Daniel’s departure.
That had been yesterday morning. Now, the house was curiously still and quiet; peaceful in a way that had not been the norm for quite a while. Myra had to confess, as the warmth of the tea bathed her belly in a sea of contentment, that she was really rather relieved he’d gone.
After months of speculation, she’d discovered the real reason for Daniel’s extra evenings out ‘rehearsing’ with the chorale society. Her name was Deanna and she sang soprano. Although Daniel was not the world’s best singer he was blessed with an impressive skill on the piano and spent hours as repetiteur, while the society rehearsed and refined their performance for the forthcoming production of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’.
For Myra, it had explained a lot of things, including the frequent times she’d ‘interrupted’ him answering yet another call about a last minute 'rehearsal' and the distance that had grown into a no-man’s-land between them in bed. This had apparently not been anything to do with his diminishing role as provider, as he’d intimated.
Now, as she surveyed the half empty wardrobe devoid of the bag full of clothes Daniel had taken, Myra was only a little disconsolate to realise that the ‘special’ breakfast over which she’d taken great pains had ended up in the garbage bin. She would have liked to have seen Daniel doubled up in agony on the toilet as the massive dose of laxatives she’d stirred into his coffee would have eventually taken effect. It had been only number one on her list of acts of retribution for his betrayal.
How odd that a simple matter of budget cutting, instead, would rid her of Daniel’s treachery. There must be 57 ways to leave your lover, she hummed to herself, smirking that Paul Simon would now be forever linked in her imagination to a bottle of sauce.
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
We have so many books (SO MANY BOOKS!) in our house that it makes going to the library a liability. Yet, I will still frequent said book repository because, as the saying goes: 'use it, or lose it' and I still have former colleagues and acquaintances there clinging onto their jobs by the skin of their teeth, thanks to budget cuts!
However, there are still a good many un-read books awaiting my attention at home - the picture above gives a selection on my bedside table (this was culled recently and all the 'read' ones returned to their homes on the bookshelves.....
room but this makes good use of the 'dead space' on the turn of the stairs)
But, back to the title of this post - currently I'm reading Simon Kernick's 'The Last 10 Seconds' and reacquainting myself with some of the recurring character's in Mr Kernick's books, in this case DI Tina Boyd. I'm only a few chapters in but I'm already relaxing back into Kernick's style of writing and enjoying that 'come hither' twist with which he frequently ends his scenes - it's a struggle to close the book and put out the light!
Stacked up at the back are the next in the pile - top, Pam Jennoff's 'The Officer's Lover'; John Nichol's 'Exclusion Zone' and Peter James' 'Not Dead Enough'.
I've read some of Pam Jennoff's other books and loved the time frame (WW2 and following) but this one 'The Officers's Lover' (also known as 'Almost Home') is set more in the Cold War era - we'll see how that goes.
Former RAF pilot John Nichol's 'Exclusion Zone' has bite and grit and his real-life insight as a former POW carries a lot of punch. I've read this before but I'm looking forward to it again.
Peter James' 'Not Dead Enough' will be a delight - renewing my acquaintance with DS Roy Grace. I've read others in this series (all have the word 'Dead' in the title!) but not in sequence. (I don't always have the discipline to read chronologically and if I see a newer title I'll buy it and stuff the sequential reading. Keeps you on your toes when plot lines straddle books, but then there's that 'Oh, NOW I understand' moment when regressive reading pulls everything into focus!)
So, there you have it.....oh, yes, that one poking out from underneath 'The Last 10 Seconds'? Well, that's me paying lip-service to 'chick-lit' - Gil McNeil's 'Needles & Pearls', the sequel to 'Diva's Don't knit'. I picked both books up in a secondhand bookshop in Hay-On-Wye and have to confess I thought it would be mindless reading, the equivalent of a cosy cup of hot chocolate before bed - but, I found myself wanting to know what happened to Jo McKenzie and her eclectic happenings when she takes on a wool shop and moves her now fatherless sons to the seaside....
Friday, 11 November 2011
Every Friday, Lily Childs launches a weekly writing challenge using three words she selects at random; participants are invited to create prose or poetry up to a wordcount of 100.
This time last year the word-prompts were: Admonish, Percussion, and Belong. They inspired a piece of free verse that focuses more on WW1, but I hope you'll forgive me reprising it here, on this special day, as a tribute to ALL the fallen.
Admonished by those who thought themselves their betters.
Seeking a last breath of freedom from their squalid trench they rose,
Sacrificing themselves to shrill whistles and cries
And then the staccato percussion that charted their rapid demise as over the top they went,
Pouring like ants from a nest,
Seeing a new horizon, briefly, before lead and shrapnel marked their bodies,
In daubs of crimson.
Now, here, in fields to which only the valiant can belong,
Remain those daubs of poppy-red
Fluttering in the breeze.
Remembrances to the long-ago dead.
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Recalling the old adage of basic education being the three 'R's (Reading, (W)riting & (A)rithmetic) I have to say that I can't live without the first two - and for the third - God bless the inventor of the calculator!
Lately, life has been topsy-turvy and any notion of regular reading and writing has gone out of my head. Also the length seems to have been coming in bite-size chunks, taken as and when a lull in the hostilities of everyday life allows!
NaNoWriMo arrived at breakneck speed and passed me by - alas, maybe next year I will get my act together!
Even the weekly 'Thursday@3' slot has lain vacant for a few weeks, despite my best intentions. That is not to say I haven't been writing - just that it's all in my head rather on paper or a screen at the moment.
One thing I've come across recently is Every Day Fiction which delivers flash fiction to your email address - bite-sized chunks to go with a cup of coffee or to peruse over your lunch break. I've enjoyed the work of new/unfamiliar authors and there's a delight in not knowing exactly what you'll find in the daily mail-out!
So, perhaps this will sustain me until (maybe even 'if'?) the muse strikes again!
Monday, 31 October 2011
Those of you who have dropped by my blog before may know that I'm a keen fan of 'live' performance, especially West End musicals!
On Saturday evening, OH, daughter and I spent 'A Night With The Phantom' at Birmingham Symphony Hall listening to the wonderful Ramin Karimloo in an almost one-man show of musical theatre.
(It was Miss H's first big night out for many weeks after her recent 'incapacitation' so she was well chuffed!)
We've seen this amazing artiste in several London shows, including Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera and it's sequel, Love Never Dies, in which he created the role of the Phantom.
After this very short tour (just four performances!) Ramin's back at work, rehearsing for Les Mis when he will return to the cast in the lead role of Jean Valjean, in November. (so guess who's already raiding the piggy bank for tickets......!)
Other goodies on the theatrical horizon include this:
Thursday, 20 October 2011
I was searching for inspiration this morning as the 3.00pm deadline loomed and this week's 'Thursday@3' was still unwritten, not even formed in my mind.
Thank you to Glen, who suggested (tongue in cheek?) something along the lines of - 'there is this big family, loads of kids who can all sing. Then this Nanny comes along who can also sing...'
Also, David Barber, who suggested a current news item!
And Cormac Brown, who proffered the notion of how a strange or exotic item turned up in a room
These ideas are fermenting away in a corner and may appear in future weeks so thanks, you guys!
In the meanwhile a hitherto unimagined thought took root and with a little tender nurture blossomed into this week's story......for your perusal! Comments gratefully received, if you feel so inclined!
HELL IN PARADISE
They say such trauma must still echo around the place. Perhaps it does. Perhaps, though we don’t go looking for it, it still sits quietly waiting in the wings, curtained from everyday life to exist only within dreams. Indeed there are nights when I awake and wonder if the three gunshots I heard were real or just echoes of the past.
It’s been some years now; my childhood is a thing of the past and the memories of friends now departed are wrapped and stored in the far recesses of my mind, to cherish in private. We mourned, we rejoiced and we gave thanks for those blessed lives that touched our own but life moved on, for we believe this reality is not all there is.
Our lifestyles are so different. They laugh at us, for our simple ways. We are quaint; a curiosity to be observed, but do they understand we see them, too? I don’t envy the incessant chaos that seems to follow them yet I wonder if those winsome glances they cast towards us reflect a longing for peace and simplicity. But when our worlds collided on that day there was no peace.
Their world crashed into ours and they expected us to crumble, to be dissolved into their expectation of despair and anger and for a time there was pain and confusion, until we gathered up our shattered dreams and brokenness.
We remembered, we mourned; but we believe this life is not all there is and so we turned our hands outward and comforted them in their sorrow and that has brought a peace their world cannot give.
The above story was inspired by the mention of the 2006 Amish schoolroom tragedy in a Youtube video I watched recently. After the loss of their children in a brutal shooting incident, the Amish community drew ranks around the family of the killer, Charles Roberts, showing as much love and concern for them in their grief and loss as their own Amish brethren.
Aside from their beliefs, we have much to learn from them - after all, 'when the oil runs out and the revolution comes' we may need to go back to a simpler lifestyle! So, perhaps there's an incentive for me to keep knitting........!
Thursday, 13 October 2011
This story started off a long time ago. In fact, I was surprised to see the remnants lying at the back of the 'virtual' filing cabinet. Anyway, I picked it up, dusted it off and tweaked it a little and now it fits the criteria for 'Thursday@3' - coming in at 333 words!
Here you go!
A SIMPLE PLEASURE
She knew time was running out, fast, but opening that door was akin to peeking in Pandora's Box and she couldn’t take the risk. Instead, Brenda glanced up at the clock on the dresser. Patience, dear, she thought to herself and brushed a wisp of hair back off her face.
He’d be home soon. All the long day she’d planned for this. Everything was in place, but she just needed a little more time. Life had been full of so little joy these last few years and simple pleasures had to be taken as and when they presented themselves.
So as she sat and waited, resisting the urge to open the door even just for a peep, she turned towards the letter on the shelf by the dresser. Fingering the envelope she withdrew the flimsy paper inside and settled herself on a stool to read it again for the umpteenth time that day. Her lips twitched as her eyes darted across the page. Even now, she felt her heart thudding in her chest as the smile she could not repress stretched out on her lips.
She folded the page, tucking it carefully back inside in the envelope before she placed it back on the shelf beside the quietly ticking clock.
Arthur would be home soon and then she’d be able to tell him, show him the letter, let him know the wonderful news that Laurence was safe and well.
In the days and weeks after V.E. day they had waited for news and finally it had come. Although she would not let herself fully believe it until their son walked back through the front door this, at least, was a time for celebration.
Another two minutes, she thought. Two minutes. Not so long to wait. Besides, a whole month’s rations were just too much to waste by opening the oven door too soon. Patience, dear, she thought sitting down by the sink. They’d toast their son’s repatriation with tea and cake.
(apologies if Blogger won't allow you to leave a comment - but you can always 'Tweet' one to me!)
Monday, 10 October 2011
The team over at F3 have a guest challenger for this week's prompt - David Barber!
He set us the task of constructing a story prompted by this picture and invited us tell a tale about these two old codgers in a car.
This is what it sparked off in me - please, do, leave a comment. (Check out the other contributor's stories, too - via the F3 page link!)
Ernest pushed the gear stick into neutral and pulled on the handbrake. For quite a few minutes neither he nor Sheila said a word, they just stared out through the windscreen at the lake. The softly falling rain ran in small rivulets, unimpeded by the now-stationary wiper blades and slowly the vista became blurred.
Sheila looked down at her hands, grasping the handbag on her lap. Her knuckles were white as she wrung the tan leather between her fingers. Ernest knew what was going through her mind, what was being played out in her unspoken fantasy. He knew well enough to stay quiet on this very special day.
Part of him hoped this would be the last time they would do this, but deep down he knew that in twelve months they would be back here, parked up beside this beautiful spot, imagining things that were far from picturesque.
Sheila’s frenzied attack on her bag was punctuated with short gasps, imagining the man she saw in her mind’s eye, until finally the tears came, in sympathy with the raindrops on the windscreen.
Ernest reached across and laid his large hand with its chubby digits on top of Sheila’s clenched fists, waiting for the tension to release.
For the last thirty-odd years they had performed this sad ritual, marking the summers that had passed since that fine July evening when their world had been turned upside down and all that they’d thought stable was washed away on a maelstrom of terror and unknowing.
Melanie’s body had been found by the edge of the lake and had set in train a sequence of police interrogation and subsequent trials until finally they were left alone with no answers or resolution. There were several possible candidates for the guilty party and though cases were brought none could be proven.
So, they had buried their daughter and gone through the motions of trying to get back to what passed for a normal life.
Somewhere, the details of Melanie’s possible abduction and murder by persons unknown languished in the back of a police filing cabinet unsolved, all but forgotten; one of those ‘cold case’ documents that implied that the police had not given up.
Still, after all this time there was no progress. All that remained was an aching loss which they felt was their duty to maintain, however painful or futile; as if to not remember would be like extinguishing their beloved daughter from all existence.
Sheila stirred and Ernest moved his hand back to the wheel. He turned the key in the ignition, the gentle purr of the engine masking the noise of Sheila blowing her nose, dabbing at her reddened face with yet another Kleenex.
The wiper blades swished back and forth, clearing the blurred image as the car turned away, homage paid; another anniversary laid to rest.
Thursday, 6 October 2011
Hurriedly put together this week - away from home and with limited WiFi access!
Hope you like it enough to comment! (comment even if you don't like it, anyway!)
STELLA BY STARLIGHT
She was always a classy broad. I remember the trail of broken hearts she left behind her. Then when she took up with the boss it wasn’t only broken hearts; it was broken fingers, broken legs, even a few fatal ‘accidents'.
You quickly learned you could ‘look’ but not ‘touch’. If the boss was around you made sure you weren’t seen doing that, even. Jealousy sure is a bad thing, but coupled with a possessive nature it sealed Stella’s fate.
It was the Spring of ’31; Stella was getting noticed around the back alley joints as a real looker. Add to that her voice and it’s no wonder it didn’t take long before she came to the boss’s attention. And he liked what he saw.
He dressed her in furs, draped her in jewels and they were seen at all the best places in town. That’s when she realised she was snared – Eddie Sladen always got what he paid for.
Poor kid. I remember sneaking out back to get some fresh air – the joint was heaving that night, prohibition or not, cologne and whiskey distilled into a heady atmosphere. That’s when I noticed her propped against a wall, a delicate trail of smoke curling from the cigarette holder in her hand, shoulders shaking as she sobbed.
What’s a guy to do? She just about broke my heart, too, that night. I threw her the keys and pointed to the car. Even in the starlight she was beautiful, despite the smeared makeup and puffy eyes. She smiled and blew me a kiss before she wobbled unsteadily into the night. That was the last I saw of her.
They fished her body out of the river the next morning. The boss didn’t even wait until the end of the week before he had a gold-digging bitch hanging off his arm but I didn’t say anything; thanks to Stella I had a broken heart already and I planned on keeping everything else intact.
Thursday, 29 September 2011
It's been a few weeks since the last 'Thursday @ 3' - and I have to say it's good to be back!
To celebrate, here's a little tale coasting in at 333 words, the upper end of the limit for these Thursday afternoon (UK time!) treats - but, heck, that's just numbers, unless it's your passion, like one of today's characters.......
FIBONACCI RULES! OK?
The man with the shaved head and expensive-looking shades glanced across the table at the cowed, shambling figure opposite. Clearly the two were not entirely comfortable in each other’s presence but pressing needs brought them together, so what could not be enjoyed somehow had to be endured.
Simon shuffled in his seat, uncomfortable with the sophisticated café-culture that formed the backdrop to their unlikely rendezvous but thankful for the foaming latte he cradled in his hands. Despite the Spring chill, several street-side tables were occupied, so they did not look totally out of place, sunglasses notwithstanding. He smiled briefly knowing he possessed something that set him apart from Delacroix and he began tapping away at the notebook propped open on the table.
His particular proficiency centred on the exact science of mathematics. Since early childhood he had been in thrall to all things numerical. He could appreciate a sophisticated beauty in numbers that few others could understand. Indeed, his love affair with calculus and its absolute exactness had impaired his ability to cope with the variables of everyday life, which he considered chaos. He had retreated inwards, shunning the outer world where possible, but still prostituting his numerical finesse when the need arose.
Delacroix pulled his coat collar tighter around his neck, frustration growing behind the dark glass that veiled his eyes. His unspoken irritation prompted the tapping of a few final staccato keystrokes and Simon turned the notebook towards his ‘employer’.
Since their last meeting he had discovered much that disquieted him concerning the mysterious Delacroix. A previously resisted urge of patriotism had surfaced, along with a pleasurable realisation that the mathematical codes he’d created to deceive Delacroix and thwart his treacherous plans would also conceal his own identity.
With the transaction completed he stepped smartly away from the table, pocketing the proffered envelope of cash and headed for the subway. Hearing the approaching sirens he smiled briefly and scratched one up to the nerds, then disappeared into the maze of tunnels.
(As always, comments and feedback are invaluable - and greatly appreciated, thank you!)
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
.....just hand-cranking the machinery to get the old blog rolling again! ;-p
Thankfully, life's 'events' seem to be returning to normal so I'm able to devote some quality time to writing. Tomorrow's 'Thursday@3' feature is already 'in the can', so please remember to drop by, anytime after 3pm (UKtime).
Also - BIG 'thank you's to all who've been communicating with me regarding my daughter's recent trauma - the first op. seems to have been a success and 'the patient' is well on the mend and regaining more and more independence!
I look forward to catching up with all of you 'regulars' as the weeks progress - meanwhile, just off to oil the wheels and get things moving here again!
Sunday, 11 September 2011
One of my stories is appearing over at David Barber's The Flash Fiction Offensive - I am honoured to be chosen to have my work published there, alongside such an august body of writers! :-o
Please drop by and take a look (I'd appreciate feedback) - and while you're there why not do yourselves a favour and browse the archives!
In other news - the 'patient' is making progress! Thanks to all who have contacted me over this; after a visit to the consultant on Wednesday we will hopefully know how successful the operation has been. I'm looking forward to getting back to the blog/writing - but in these circumstances family comes first!
Please drop by and take a look (I'd appreciate feedback) - and while you're there why not do yourselves a favour and browse the archives!
In other news - the 'patient' is making progress! Thanks to all who have contacted me over this; after a visit to the consultant on Wednesday we will hopefully know how successful the operation has been. I'm looking forward to getting back to the blog/writing - but in these circumstances family comes first!
Saturday, 3 September 2011
Sorry, folks - the return was brief but I'm having to suspend things once again!
This time it's not due to technical difficulties, but a family member has health issues and so I'll be spending a fair amount of time dealing with that and won't have time to do much blog reading and writing for the next few weeks.
So this is just by way of letting you know that I haven't disappeared off the planet and neither am I totally ignoring you!
Hope to be back soon - until then, have fun, chaps!
(oh golly - now I feel really old - I remember having to work a switchboard exactly like the one in the pic!)
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
This week's F3 fiction challenege was to write on the theme of war.
Here's my offering, comments gratefully received!
FORTUNES OF WAR
Home seemed a long way off for Jack Bailey; like a far, forgotten country that existed only in dreams.
But this was a nightmare.
In the midst of chaos it was incongruously quiet. The relentless barrage continued from beyond the scrap of land which either side claimed but neither owned, but as Bailey slowly turned around it seemed far off and muted.
As he’d crawled back up the hill to re-join his group the unusual lack of voices, some barking orders whilst others chipped away with encouraging banter to conceal their own fear, gave him cause for concern. Lifting his head warily he peered down into the mud-filled trench that had served as their base of operations. Instead, through the swirling mist of smoke and steam he saw what he believed to be a vision of hell.
He half fell, half staggered down the slope and sank into the dark brown silt, streaked with vermilion, finally coming to rest in a squatting position still clutching his Lee Enfield to his chest as if it was a barricade between him and the carnage ahead.
The dull roar that was building in his ears was like a train rushing towards him and he realised that the impact of the last shell had deafened him. Now that imaginary train was rushing out of a tunnel and the previous quietness was shattered with an unstoppable torrent of screams underscored with shouting and the clatter of retaliatory fire, with a deep bass tremble of groaning.
Bloody carnage lay strewn around him like detritus washed up on a beach after a storm. Corrugated iron, twisted and warped, lay like metal shrouds partly concealing bodies and armaments; tin cups, the remnants of a shaving kit, gas masks with their hoses spilling out of their cases like entrails.
He paused, consumed in fascinated horror at the sight of three fingers which poked up out of the mud, detached from the rest of its limb. A ring, still intact, identified it as one of his friends; they had signed up the same day, each egging the other on to cover up their own private fears. It would all be over by Christmas, they’d said, as if it was a football match and life would return to normal all too soon.
Over by Christmas, thought Jack; but which Christmas? Weeks had stretched into months and Christmas parcels had struggled through to them for the last two years.
“You there! Don’t just bloody well stand there gawping! Get that rifle up; shoot the bloody Hun!”
The salutary reminder that the warhorse galloped on relentlessly came in the form of an officer’s bark. Jack turned to face him, a mere stripling trying to earn honours on a battlefield by urging other’s on in front of him.
Jack stood his ground. Bastards, the lot of them, with their cut-glass accents and smart new Sam Browns strapped over immaculate uniforms.
The officer hesitated, a look of consternation on his face as if he’d seen a ghost.
“Bailey? Is it you? I-I- thought I saw you dead, down there.” He gesticulated towards the pile of corpses scattered around, some submerged in the mud.
As Jack peered through the haze, his nostrils newly assaulted above the sting of cordite by the stench of opened bowels, he saw a man’s head, or what was left of it. The features were completely blown away into a bloody pulp of bone and gristle, yet his helmet had rolled away leaving a shock of auburn hair that pierced the gloom, lit up by the lightning flashes of the incoming bombardment.
Jack instinctively pushed off his own helmet and ran his fingers through his hair, a similar shade to his fallen comrade.
“Where have you been, man?” The officer’s new accusations interrupted Jack’s thoughts of what might have been his own fate. His silence aggravated the situation until he turned back to the officer, his attention drawn as the man upholstered his pistol and pointed it at Jack.
“Deserter, eh?” A superior sneer began to trace its way across the young man’s face. “No time for Court Martials!” he added as he cocked the trigger to administer swift justice.
“No, Sir,” answered Jack. “On reconnaissance. Sergeant Belvedere sent me down the road to Verches with a message for the Australian troops there.” In any other situation he would have commented on the unlikely chance that it had afforded him; the unexpected pleasure of meeting up with two of his brothers. They’d emigrated to Australia to make their fortunes, only to be sent back to fight for King and country.
“A convenient excuse,” replied the officer, “but there’s no time…” The officer slumped forwards, his pistol still tightly clutched in his hand as he slithered on the mud and fell, dead before he reached the floor.
A tiny wisp of smoke trailed from the end of Jack’s rifle, rising up and mingling to be lost in the issue from countless other discharged ordnance.
A rustling from the other side of the small ridge announced the arrival of four other soldiers, in uniforms of a different army. They crossed over to where Jack stood, one involuntarily voiding the contents of his stomach as he took in the sight of hell strewn all around.
The leading Corporal looked at the prone body of the officer, the pistol still held in his death grasp pointing at Jack. He took in the immediate scene then slowly eased the barrel of Jack’s rifle downward. An unspoken understanding passed between the men. What had happened would remain their secret. Brother’s in arms, brothers in fact; they knew it was a 'kill or be killed' situation.
“S’trweth, mate,” marvelled one of the others as he looked out across the darkened sky. “ It’s like bloody hell on earth!”
No it isn’t, thought Jack. It’s not like it at all.
“Got any ciggies?” he asked. Even an Aussie smoke would be better than nothing, he thought, as he shouldered his rifle, noting the shake in his hands as one of the soldiers searched his pockets and handed one over.
The five men made their way down into the depths of the precincts of hell that had formerly been the quarters of Jack’s brigade. He nodded thanks at the young lad from Woolagong and took a drag on the cigarette as they made their way through the bodies and broken armaments, giving what little aid and comfort they could to the few survivors.
Jack mused on the quirk of fortune that had seen him despatched from what surely could have been his death, straight into the surreal scene of meeting his brothers. He’d heard stories of miracles; one day he’d have a fine tale to tell his children and his grandchildren.
Home still seemed a long way off, somewhere on the other side of this battle, or the next. For now, a warm summer evening in June 1916, at least he was in the company of heroes as they scrambled in this muddy battlefield near a place called Fromelles.
Some of this story is based on fact. Companies of Australian forces were indeed involved in the battle of Fromelles in the the summer of 1916.
Jack Bailey represents my own Grandfather, Joe Beattie, who actually met up with his brothers serving in the Australian army while given special leave of absence to leave his post and travel to a nearby billet where the Australian forces were stationed.
On his return, he discovered that a German shell had exploded in his trench killing several of his fellow soldiers. One of the survivors turned as white as a sheet as he saw my Grandfather return - he'd been posted as killed, when a faceless body had been identified as him, solely from the shade and colouring of his auburn hair.
What were the chances? If he'd stayed at his post, I might not even exist today!
Monday, 29 August 2011
Just got back from a lovely time on the south coast - visiting family, taking in a spectacular ice show (imagine a grand piano on an ice rink and the guy skating around it does leaps and backflips and then manages to slide over and play a virtuoso piece as part of his 'routine'!) and the big treat of the day was an open-air Seth Lakeman concert on the sea-front!
Well, I can't find a clip of the ice spectacular, but here's Mr Lakeman performing a 'signature' piece - 'Kitty Jay'. How he manages to play a fiddle and sing at the same time amazes me!
Friday, 26 August 2011
After a brief semi-hiatus, when my previous laptop decided to shuffle off it's binary-code coil and fall to bytes, I'm at last back in the land of blogging!
So I thought a shiny new laptop deserves a shiny fresh blog-page. Out with the old and in with the new - a change in wallpaper; move the 'pictures' around; add a few features (take a few away!); and hopefully sort out the clutter!
A lot of the content will stay the same - this is my 'original' blog; the other offshoots have specific functions but this is where I intend to keep the bulk of my interest in fiction (writing and reading) and the various comments on life in general.
The usual regular 'Thursday @ 3' slot will remain but there may be other weekly/monthly items - those projects are largely still on a back-burner, so keep your eyes peeled.
I really want this space to be a little more organised - but I can do 'haphazard' as and when the occasion demands and if the writing bug really bites I may be gone for days....... ;-p
As the previous laptop 'died' halfway through the 'August Break' daily feature I've abandoned that for this year - but I hope to be ready for it in 2012.
In the meantime, to start off the new-improved blog here's a story! I was going to keep this for something else, but it has sat patiently in the wings (well, the 'virtual' filing cabinet, anyway) for a wee while - let's dust it off and give it an airing! (As always, I'd value your comments!)
SIX DEGREES OF REPENTENCE
He always thought back to the first one.
After 43 years none of the details had slipped his mind. The memories were neither tarnished with age nor distorted by time. He remembered as accurately as if it had happened yesterday. Every day. His waking thoughts might jostle for position but sooner or later the spectre would emerge from the wings reminding him; that look of horror etched upon her face as she slipped beneath the wheels.
He hadn’t known her, never even heard her voice, except in that last, fatal gasp. She had just become surplus to requirements, an untidy loose end that needed tying off. Over the years, he’d become very good at tidying up; at silencing unwanted voices.
Pelham Burne looked at the clock, watching as the minute hand edged closer to the hour. Aside from the music and the assembled throng he was alone with his thoughts.
No, never alone.
Always, he was accompanied by the deceit he had hidden from so many, so carefully concealed behind the lies that covered other lies.
He looked down at his hands. The dark, pigmented liver-spots and wrinkles that bore testimony to his age were like a veil that partially obscured what he saw, what he remembered. The same hands that had taken life, extinguished the flame and then covered up the deed.
So far, he had managed to suppress any inkling of his former occupation, but now it seemed time was catching up with him. Truth had a strange way of leaking out into the open, no matter how hard one tried to supress it.
Closing his eyes, he recalled the faces indelibly printed on his brain. He heard again their pleading voices, the screams, the looks of betrayal as one by one his victims stepped from the dark shadows of his mind to accuse him afresh.
When he opened his eyes the music had stopped and a hushed silence had fallen around him. He stood wearily and climbed the steps to the podium aware of the eyes upon him. Perhaps, he thought, it was only his conscience getting the better of him. He was a different man now. Things had changed since then and he’d taken on a new life, a new identity. He had repented, long ago – but, had he?
He considered the five degrees of repentance that had been instilled into him – admission, remorse, apology, restitution, and turning away.
Yes, he had admitted his past, even if only to someone who could never repeat those admissions. Remorse had followed, a great weight of sorrow that had engulfed him, denying any chance of peace. The apologies had been made, along with some endeavour of restitution, but always anonymously. Turning away had, surprisingly, been the easiest of the degrees to accomplish – perhaps the sickening stench of death that seemed to follow him was incentive to close that particular door on his life.
Now, as Burne returned his thoughts to the present, a sixth degree presented itself: forgiveness. By others, by himself. It would have been so easy to carry on living the lie but peace still eluded him because he could not seek the forgiveness that would allow him to be fully free of the past.
He rubbed his eyes and hesitated, a slight ripple of unease began within the seats before him. He thought back to the deaths he had brought about; the judicious rifle shots, the hand in the small of the back that had pushed victims to their deaths, the automobile accidents that had never been fully explained and the blood money that had been his reward.
It was almost a lifetime away and he began to argue back against himself justifying his present position. He called to mind all the good he had since been able to achieve; the homeless shelters he’d set up, the programmes to get kids off the streets and out of petty crime, the potential suicides he’d averted. It was an atonement of sorts, wasn’t it?
But was it enough?
His heart thudded in his chest as hard as if he’d been violently punched, almost knocking the breath out of him. He opened his mouth to gasp, to draw in air but his lungs refused to fill. The pressure in his chest continued; a pain that surged upwards into his shoulder racing along his left arm and he knew it was time. As his legs began to buckle beneath him he heard the consternation of the crowd, though mercifully his fading vision robbed him of their anxious faces.
Had he done enough, he fleetingly thought? Perhaps it was now too late. Perhaps, after all, being a hitman for the mob was just too much to be forgiven.
As darkness beckoned, one final question still meandered in the ebbing electrical impulses of his brain.
Would his congregation forgive him, Monsignor Pelham Burne, as readily as the God he had professed to serve?
Thursday, 25 August 2011
.....I'm hoping 'normal' service will be resumed fairly soon - I think I've spotted the laptop/package I want, but thinking it over before I rush out and part with hard-earned cash!
As for returning to 'normal' - well that, too, may be something of a misnomer. I'm considering tacking into a different 'breeze' with a slight change of direction and emphasis.....it will be interesting to see how that pans out, if only in terms of 'followers'!
So, as soon as things are back up and running, you'll be the first to know!
In the meantime, here's a small 'filler' for the interlude:
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
There may be an interruption to my blogging - my laptop is being very 'difficult' (it may actually be in its death throes) so I may have to resort to the old (virtually hand-cranked!) PC for further communication! If I can't get laptop sorted I will have to raid the piggy bank -
- but, I'LL BE BACK!!!!
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
This weeks F3 challenge is inspired by the 'unrest' we are experiencing in the world today - be that social or economic.
This story was sparked off by the recent unrest and rioting in the UK.
How much longer? That’s all I can think of; surely this has to end some time?
The looting started soon after it became apparent that there wouldn’t be enough food to go around. Pretty soon people were raiding shops for any other ‘tradable’ items to barter for bread and milk. Gangs broke into warehouses and ‘appropriated’ food, fuel, anything that could have a price in the days to come. It didn’t take long for society to falter. Food supplies finally ran out as the transport system ground to a halt, crops rotted in the fields and in the land of canned goods, the man with a tin opener was king.
The motorways became graveyards where vehicles littered the carriageways as a frightened population tried to flee the anarchy in the streets. Some died in their cars through thirst or hunger, scared to escape the congestion on foot; others died trying to protect what little they’d managed to take with them. Ransacked wagons with their doors ripped open lay like huge dead animals, the remnants of their cargoes spilling out into the breeze, carrion to be picked over by both the opportunist and the desperate.
It’s been six months now. The night curfew echoes with cries and shots and with no power to transmit or receive, the Great British Public no longer sit watching the TV to live vicariously through 'Big Brother' or 'Britain’s Got Talent' or any of the interminable ‘soaps’ and dramas. Until the power ran out the TV networks were swamped with news reports and when the internet was still alive the constant chatter on social networks meant fact became far more curious than fiction.
With the breakdown in society and police backed into submission the army had been called in to deal with the situation. They managed to create enclaves where it was possible to survive but the vast majority of us are on our own in this. Ingenuity and lessons from a time before microchips may be all we can rely on as we all learn to ‘make do and mend’.
A few months have knocked our civilisation back into the dark ages, where it’s every man for himself, jealously guarding the pitiful scrap of territory they believe to be their own. The ‘have’s’ and ‘have not’s’ fought it out and we became a nation of ‘I will take’s’.
Cynically, I think how much we probably deserve this ‘payback’ from a society as smashed and broken as those shop windows; we wanted a better life for the next generation, they wanted rights without responsibilities and now they are biting off the hand that feeds them.
What good, now, the politicians’ posturing and promoting initiatives and treating the ‘symptoms’ of a sick society rather than dealing with the root cause of the canker that has sapped all sense of pride and self-worth? Too late, the horse has bolted and a 'free for all' has become a 'free for none'.
‘O brave new world,’ Shakespeare’s Miranda breathed, ‘that has such people in it’. Even with my sparse education I recall she marvelled at a world unknown to her. Now our world will need to be more than brave if we are to survive this current tempest.
Another volley of shots. More shouting. A disquieting litany as I pull the blanket tighter. I can’t remember what it’s like to settle down to sleep without fear. Surely it must end soon?
But then I remember – it’s 2012. Perhaps those doom-prophecies were right after all, foretelling the demise of civilisation and rise of anarchy as the harbingers of Armageddon.
The saying goes: tempus fugit, time flies. Is time really running out and are we merely fugitives from the tempest?
Is this just the beginning of the end?
Monday, 15 August 2011
Now this is what I call multi-tasking! ;-)
The blog I was catching up on is called in so many words... - well worth a look if you have five minutes!
As for the knitting - you'll have to check out my other blog The Knitting Assassin to check out progress!
Saturday, 13 August 2011
Thursday, 11 August 2011
OK - the last couple of weeks I've been pre-occupied with 'life' in general and DIY in particular, so you've had 'recycled' stories in this 'Thursday@3' slot.
Today, however, I'm striving to get back on track and thanks to writer Adrian Magson, who 'Tweeted' me the opening words by way of inspiration, here's this week's offering! (New readers may benefit from reading through 'A DIRTY JOB' for the initial appearance on these pages of the main character)
Like the earlier story, I've overshot the usual 300-word limit, but again it comes in at exactly 333, so it still fits the criteria - sort of!
So, with Mr Magson's words in italics, here you go! (and comments will be gratefully received if you find yourself disposed so to do!)
UPPING THE ANTE
“This bloke came in and said I was to pick up the van from the warehouse. I swear I didn’t know about no guns.”
Strachan watched the live feed on his phone. The grainy image did not conceal the sweat and tears mingling into random cerise lines coursing down McGarrick’s face. Some of his wounds were a result of the high-speed chase, or rather the culmination of it, through the backstreets of Camden. The rest were what might best be described as ‘inducements’ to talk.
A voice called for him to go back to the beginning. McGarrick’s initial tardiness was rewarded with further ‘encouragement’, described in the guttural sounds emanating from behind his pursed lips.
Strachan’s fist involuntarily clenched in response. McGarrick coughed up more blood and slightly lifted his head, his one good eye staring towards the camera while the other lay sheathed behind the swollen folds of skin that once used to form an eyelid.
“I’ll ‘ave the lot of you,” he stuttered in mock defiance. “Bloody police brutality, that’s what this is!”
Strachan lifted the phone to speak.
“Another hour, then finish it,” he said quietly. He paused, taking one last look at McGarrick, in character to the end, then shut off his phone. Pulling the SIM card out, he ground it under his boot before turning back to rest on the railings of Vauxhall Bridge. He looked like any tourist taking in the view of Thames House, the ‘public’ face of MI5, as he toyed with the phone, then casually let it slip from his fingers and plunge into the murky depths.
The newspaper hoardings were full of yesterday’s assassination in Downing Street and before long they’d be announcing the demise of one of the ringleaders, but the lads in the cells had no idea what they were dealing with; just following orders. Like McGarrick.
Counter intelligence had a way of screwing up people’s lives and not for the first time Strachan wondered just whose side he was actually on.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Ok - bit of a cheat here! 10 pictures, but all contained within 1 'new' one ;-)
These are just some of the family pictures I've unearthed discovering our family tree going back several generations - the oldest we believe to be the one at the very bottom, of my 2xGreat-Grandparents, taken somewhere around 1870.
Older branches of the family 'tree' dip back considerably further, to the earliest (documented) person, one John Hounam, born 1651! He was my 7xGreat-Grandfather.
A lot of my folks were cattle rustlers and sheep-thieves - also known as the Border Reivers! One of them even had a 'run-in' with Bonnie Prince Charlie!
On another branch, my Great-Grandfather was one of a hand-picked crew sent, in 1863, to escort Princess Alexandra to England for her marriage to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward V11, son of Queen Victoria.
There are also stone-masons, miners and the ubiquitous 'Ag Labs' - agricultural labourers, even a tea dealer in one lineage.
Best of all, one of them was a writer! :-)
(maybe there's hope for me yet!)
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
I missed 'Day #8' - because quite frankly I was horrified by the images on UK television of feral youths on the rampage in our cities.
Today, hubby and I celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary and had a trip out to the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Poignantly, I offer today's picture of a WW2 'Spitfire' from the Battle of Britain. In Winston Churchill's words: 'Never was so much owed by so many, to so few'.
Clearly, with the on-going unrest we're watching in horrified fascination on our TV screens, today is a bitter legacy for those brave airmen (some of them younger than the thugs rampaging London's boroughs!).
Other words fail me.
Sunday, 7 August 2011
Hacking back an invasive Buddleia I discovered this stem of Crocosmia, hidden in the mini 'jungle' by the shed and obscured by ornamental grasses. Now, I recall, there was quite a clump of it once upon a time - nice to see it's still hanging in there (just about!), so I shall have to do a little judicious pruning of the grasses and other shrubs and let this little gem shine!
Saturday, 6 August 2011
Friday, 5 August 2011
My blog-friend Jenny, over at The Modest Peacock, has passed on an award to me which I am very happy to accept - thanks, Jenny!
The rules of the award are:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Pick 5 awesome blogs to pass it on to and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!
Now to select 5 awesome blogs......ah, that's the hard part, choosing just five!
Well, after some consideration (and going back to cross certain contenders off my list as I've discovered they've also been given the award by someone else!) here are my five (in no particular order of merit - they're all fabulous!):
1. Arlee Bird's 'Tossing it out' - thanks to Arlee hosting the April A-Z 2011, Jenny's path and mine first crossed.
2. Rachel at Go Placidly - nepotism, I know, but her blog is full of all sorts of down to earth stuff!
3. Paul Gzregorzek at PAUL GRZEGORZEK'S THRILLER AND CRIME FICTION WORLD - a literary giant in the making! (that should be good enough for a free, signed copy of the novel when it comes out!)
4. Hege at Cloudberry - a recent acquaintance, but I'm loving her mix of crafts and books.
5. Yvette at in so many words... - a lady whose blog is a feast for the eyes!
Please do go and look in at each of their blogs - you will not be disappointed!
Thursday, 4 August 2011
A change from 'vegetation' - in other words, I didn't fancy wandering around in the wet! (It has been raining all day - not really heavy, just enough to make you feel soggy. We could do with a good thunderstorm to clear the humidity away!)
Anyway, this shot more or less sums up hubby and me - beer and books! He works for CAMRA, and I used to work in a library!
(This is just part of our collection.....!)
As I suspected, time has once again gotten the better of me - coupled with some intensive DIY! Besides, after a week of being cooped up in a room in stifling weather accompanied by paint fumes, it's perhaps a good idea that I don't let my inventive imagination run riot!
Anyway, I had another pick through the 'virtual filling cabinet' and selected another three 'shorts'! Last week I forgot to mention that these 100-word (or less!) stories were inspired by Lily Child's weekly prediction series where she randomly selects three words as prompts and invites contributors to weave a tale to beguile and entertain. Apologies, Lily, for the oversight ;-)
This week, I'll show the three words for each story in bold - just so you can see what I was up against!
So, without further ado, three more for your perusal - you may have seen them before......or is it a case of déjà-vu? Enjoy!
Nestled right up next to a heavy tome entitled ‘Purist Hypothesis and Postulations’ I found what I was looking for: ‘Evington’s Encyclopaedia of Parable, Metaphor and Fable’.
It had a nice feeling of weight to it as a struggled it down from the shelf.
Manoeuvring it onto the edge of the balustrade I waited for Professor Burgess to make his daily progress across the main concourse several floors below. A judicious nudge and with any luck he’d expire from the sudden shock of the mighty volume crashing down from above, if not from a direct hit.
Mark me down, indeed!
Stumbling through coach-class was a nightmare. With evidence and body parts strewn around, as if a whirling dervish had been first on the scene rather than my team of air accident inspectors, it was clear that this would be no picnic.
The main fuselage of the Aer Lingus jet was largely intact even if its occupants weren’t, but there was part of a wing section floating on the incoming tide.
I looked down at the severed head at my feet and notice her staring back up at me, not with fear but surprise, and her Irish eyes were smiling.
...and finally - I couldn't resist this one, given that I'm currently a 'beer-widow', as my hubby is working in London's Earls Court for CAMRA's Great British Beer Festival! (yes, you could say he gets paid to go to beer festivals!)
Well, dead anyway. The massive cavity in the back of his skull and the half-brick lying nearby gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘stoned’.
The pungent air was laced with malt and yeast as husks of stray hops blew idly in the breeze like miniature tumbleweed.
As I walked around the yard that formed this micro-brewery pondering the reason for this crime, my rubber-soled shoes slapped on the sticky residue of spilled beer.
Could be a story in this – ‘The Body in the Brewery’.
Sounds like a 'Miss Marple'.
No, wait – that was the library.
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Why should the flowers have all the fun - this fern is one of my favourites plants! I love to watch each Spring as the fronds slowly uncurl and form this amazing plant. And I never planted it in the first place - it just 'arrived'! I'd been given a rhubarb plant which had died down over the winter; in fact it just died! In it's place, 'Fernie' arrived and took up residence (actually, there are four of them - a whole fern-family!) and has grown bigger and more profuse each year.
I miss the thought of the home-grown rhubarb, but I do love my ferns!
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Monday, 1 August 2011
So, first time I've done this - I understand I have to produce a picture per day. Well, I had some interesting pictures from my DIY activities redecorating earlier,but I don't think you all want to watch paint drying, do you?
Instead - I chose one of the lilies in my garden (see above).
I've never grown them from bulb before but I bought six and gave them a go. Funny thing is, four of them grew tall and graceful, and two were puny little runts, size-wise - however, they have all produced beautiful and differently coloured flowers. The tall ones kept toppling over in their pots, so the other day I stood them in amongst other plantings and they look great, don't you think!
See who else is participting here
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Sorry folks, time's just got away from me (preparing to do some DIY ) and I haven't had time to create anything 'new' for this week. :-(
However, as I was trawling through the 'virtual' filing cabinet I came across a few previously aired mini-stories - each 100 words or less. So, to satisfy the 300-word limit of 'Thursday@3' here's three to keep you going!
Apologies if you've seen them before - but I think they bear another look! (hope to be back on track next week - assuming the decorating's finished!)
First off, a little walk on the wild side - all in the line of duty!
If I don’t go soon I’ll lose my nerve. I could murder a stiff drink but I’m on duty. Damn, these shoes hurt, but I have to admit the five-inch heels sculpt my calves into something almost shapely.
Colin nods towards me and releases the catch, easing open the van door. He blows me a kiss earning him a scowl as I step out into the darkened alleyway.
As I cross the road and walk away I know I’m being watched. I hope they’re ready to act. It’s no fun being the Vice Squad decoy, especially when you’re in drag.
Next up - it ain't over until well after the last echoes of the 'fat lady singing' are just whispers:
The Devil rubbed his hands in glee, as he watched the city fat-cats who lusted after profit.
Mankind, like Cinderella with amnesia, stumbled through the wreckage of history, unaware that life didn’t need to be this way; that there was an alternative. But Beelzebub bred his evil into their lives, a mongrel strain that twisted and warped their values.
Back in the Garden it had been so easy to deceive, he thought. Yet a disturbing unease that was not of his making tightened around the Prince of Darkness.
It started as the first bowl of wrath hit the earth!
Finally, proof that not all animals are 'dumb'?
The goat smiled. If people left their stuff lying around and it got trashed that was their look-out. He licked his lips and swallowed, then bent down to munch another page.
Mmmmm….. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. He loved quality books; so much more to get his teeth into, and looking further into the bag there were other Tolkien goodies for ‘afters’.
He idly wondered how many rain forests had been pulped to satisfy the reading masses then froze in horror as a thin volume slipped out of the bag – “101 Goat Stew Recipes”.
Suddenly he wasn’t hungry anymore.
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
This week the F3 crew are honoured to have Paul D. Brazill, eminent writer, interviewer (and prolific tweeter of tweets on Twitter!) as guest 'whip-cracker' for our weekly writing challenge.
To spur us on to literary creation he provided an opening sentence as a prompt, with the added option of the above picture for further inspiration! (with artistic licence, I'm determining the gender of the prone individual as male, late 30's and well built!)
So, with his opening words in italics and the rest my own invention - read on (and hopefully enjoy!) and please leave whatever comment you think appropriate! :-)
I slowly peeled back my eyelids and immediately wished I was still out for the count. The last thing I wanted to see was three earnestly worried faces staring back at me.
“Lay still! Don’t move!” said a voice from somewhere above me. It was presumably connected to the hands that held my head in a vice-like grip. Now that my eyes were beginning to refocus I could see the guy’s lips moving but they weren’t synched to the words he was yelling. Man, if that didn’t engender panic I don’t know what would. Then again, maybe it was just the affects of concussion.
I tried to turn my head to the side but Vice-man held firm.
“I need to….”
“I said don’t move!”
“Look, I’m a Med. student and I’m telling you not to move!”
Oh great! Some ER wannabee with a little knowledge and a lot of attitude. Well this could go one of two ways, I’d either vomit and aspirate the contents of my stomach, or else I’d make a really nasty mess of that expensive-looking leather jacket he was wearing but either way this thing had to play out!
“Oh, man! Shit! What a mess….” Med.Student released his grip momentarily in disgust and I managed a half turn of my head to spit out the remains of regurgitated food and stomach acid into a foetid pool way too near my own nose.
The squeal and shuffle that this, in turn, created from Earnest Face #2 attracted my attention momentarily. In her puffer jacket I took her for a student too, but judging from her reaction I didn’t think she was involved in anything remotely to do with health care.
“Man, that’s gross!”
Thank you for your concern, Ma’am, I thought. Here I was, recovering from whatever just happened and her reaction is to scream at me.
That, too, is an interesting point – what had just happened? I remembered walking across the road towards my car and hearing a sound like a faraway thunderclap, then these three amigos appeared.
When I managed to swivel my eyes a little left I saw the third in this trio of interested individuals taking just a little too much interest, if you ask me. And a little too much video footage on her cell-phone as well; I’d probably be a hit on YouTube within the hour.
“No…” I held my hand up across my face. Curiously this felt like one of those actors who scream ‘No photos! No comment!’ to the adoring paparazzi and then ask their entourage to check they got their best side.
Apart from the indignity of the situation there were several very good reasons I didn’t want my picture taken and none of them to do with the clarity of the close-ups.
I rolled free from the Med. Student, who was clearly more interested in limiting the damage to his clothing than in limiting possible damage to my spinal column, and wearily dragged myself to my feet. Raising a hand to the back of my head I felt the warm stickiness in my hair and the raw, open graze in my scalp.
Curiously, the pain I felt seemed to come more from the front of my face and looking down at my stained shirt I saw crimson trails that I tracked back up towards my nose. I staggered slightly as if drunk and reached out to the car to steady myself. That’s when I noticed the bloody stain on the wing mirror and the slight dent in the wing. I put two and two together and came up with a reasonable ‘four’ as an answer. A second glance in the mirror confirmed my broken nose and what was rapidly becoming a russet-shaded hue around my right eye.
Aware that I was still of interest to those around me, I had to do some quick thinking. The two girls I could easily cope with – Doc Kildare might take a little extra, he looked like he did weights; I guessed that beefcake image kinda helped with the bedside manner. Looking carefully around it seemed my three Good Samaritans were the only ones passing by at the time. Lucky break, I guessed; I could get this wrapped up quickly and be on my way.
I pocketed the cell-phone and rolled the bodies over into the undergrowth. I was right, the girls were no problem, a few deft swipes and they were looking at the sky with their heads in unnatural angles. Doc at least put up a bit of a fight but like a lot of gym-jockeys the muscle was just for show.
Now, the sting on the back of my head makes we wince as every bump in the road throws me back into the headrest but one thing still bothers me as I reverse back out onto the highway.
Who the hell just tried to shoot me?
Thursday, 21 July 2011
A sombre tale, today, inspired by reading this. At least in this part of the globe we still have freedom of speech and also the freedom to practice faith - but for how long?
PAYING THE PRICE
I can see the grey and white clouds through the cracked and grimy glass beyond the bars at the window. It’s morning again, but I have no idea what day it is. The passage of time has become an enigma to me, disrupted by their relentless interrogation; endless hours standing, being kept awake – the pleasure of that sensation of falling into oblivion violently ripped from me with water or pain.
Sometimes I think that I have indeed slipped into blessed oblivion and that this is merely a nightmare I shall awaken from and hear familiar sounds, smell the aromas of distant cooking, feel the warmth of my wife sleeping next to me.
The cold, rough dampness of the wall at my back assures me this is no nightmare and the salt of my tears bites into the cuts and sores that they have inflicted. An obtuse thought strikes me that the saline qualities of those tears may serve as a simple remedy to infection; even in the midst of despair there is something positive.
The scudding clouds have moved and there is a wisp of blue beyond; a simple pleasure bringing hope amidst the grey depression of Sung Fui jail and all its horrors.
Reluctantly, I close my eyes and begin my morning devotions. It is hard to give thanks in my current situation but I cling to life, such as it is, praying for the strength to endure and hoping for a better tomorrow. And I am not alone, for the physical pain and deprivation cannot take from me what is hidden in my heart and my mind and I long for home.
There is little joy in paying the price for daring to express my faith, but I would do it again – how could I do otherwise?
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
This week's F3 prompt was in the form of this picture - what would it inspire?
Well here's one scenario, please feel free to comment! (Oh, and if you hop over to F3 you'll be able to catch the stories other members of this writing community have produced - give them a look-see, eh?)
Every day’s the same. After breakfast I get dressed, although it takes a while to select my apparel for the day. Then I ride the trains.
All life is here. I’m a keen observer of life, you see. That’s why I like to ride the trains because there’s no landscape to distract me; I can just feast my eyes on all those faces around me.
The whole world comes here; I hear so many different accents that I can almost imagine I’m in any city on the planet.
So, I keep watching and listening. I miss nothing; I can even lip-read, taught myself. Also perfected the art of the glazed look for when someone stares back. They usually turn away pretty quickly, especially if I start mumbling to myself.
Sometimes it’s hard seeing other people like me. Well, not really like me, they just look that way. I’d love to help them, get them a square meal, spare clothes, you know the sort of thing.
Still, I know my ‘regulars’ – old guy, gets on three stops from me, always carrying a battered old leather suitcase. I’ve fanaticised about what he carries in there but he’ll never tell me because we’ve never spoken.
Then there’s the Mom with the kids – never seen a wedding band; probably does three jobs just to keep them clothed and fed. Nice kids though, polite and all.
But you, now, you’re a newcomer. Just moved into the city? Busy, isn’t it? People running here there and everywhere, scurrying about like ants. I see it all. I file it all away. It’s my job, see. Oh, this is your stop? Well, see you later, maybe. I’ll be here, riding the trains.
Of course, when it’s quitting time I ride to the end of the line and Jefferson picks me up. Jefferson? Oh, he’s my chauffeur. Means I can get home unseen and no-one knows my true identity. I’ll shower and change into something comfortable – I love the feel of pure linen and cashmere against my skin.
Then I’ll grab a scotch and head for the den and spend a couple of hours writing up my day. The novel’s going well, but I do enjoy my research – meeting new ‘characters’ as I ride the trains. Like I say, all life is there!
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Living in the middle of the country (not far off dead-centre, actually!) means getting to the coastal extremities is a long, long journey! So trekking down to Cornwall is not something we'd do on a whim - nearly 300 miles and not all of it on motorways - think slow, windy lanes in places!
Anyway, we had the opportunity to visit the westernmost county of England (although some see it as a kingdom of its own) and decided to fulfil a long-held wish to visit the Eden Project while we were there.
Battling heavy rain showers was interesting but once inside the 'biomes' it was, indeed, like being in a different world.
The two main structures (biomes) contain the 'Rainforest' and 'Mediterranean' climates and you have to admire the sheer construction of the habitats to begin with! The Rainforest biome is large enough to contain the Tower of London - aparently, the biomes are recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest 'conservatories'!
In the Rainforest biome the temperature and humidity hit you smack in the face - with cold-room respite shelters for those overcome by the conditions! With the birds, small lizards and waterfalls it's the nearest I shall ever come to a jungle - thank goodness they hadn't also imported too many indigenous insects and creepy-crawlies! (But I spotted a stray Robin picking through the undergrowth!)
Besides being beautiful to look at, there's a great concept of education behind it all:
Walking into the Mediterranean biome was like a breath of fresh air - much more temperate! And some of the planting was more more familiar, too!
Although, there was a re-created desert habitat with specimens (and fun items!) from the west coast of America - hmmm, 'Mediterranean'?
Aside from these two massive biomes there's a huge refectory and bakery:
Also, building on the education theme, 'The Core' houses inter-active exhibits on ecology
Ecology, in fact, is the name of the game - the whole site is contained within a former clay mining pit and as such is 'invisible' in the surrounding Cornish landscape. Natural rainwater harvested from the biomes' surface and surrounding areas drains into vast collection reservoirs under the site, servicing the irrigation system and the toilets! Everything, where possible, is recycled - non-recyclable items are used to make original art-work to adorn the outer garden spaces!
It was an interesting concept - but I couldn't help having a futuristic sci-fi moment as I passed by this viewpoint, imagining a post apocalyptic remnant of mankind being forced to live in these 'glass bubbles':
Anyway, just a few pics to give you a flavour!