Friday, 28 December 2012

Time's running out, again........

The last days of 2012 are ebbing away and to be quite honest I'm not that sad! This year has been a mix of good and bad, with a side-order of 'indifferent', so I am looking forward to 2013 in the hopes that lessons learned this year will help me to avoid or deal with any further less pleasant issues that may arise!

Christmas has been and gone, much enjoyed, but I'm in the hiatus point betwixt festive celebrations and the coming New Year - waiting to take down the decorations and get tidied up!

I'm not going to set myself New Year resolutions - I always fail! However, I have great intentions of being more 'regular' with my blog posts, across all my blogs, and being more methodical rather the 'hit & run' attitude of late!

Whilst on that subject, I am considering adding comment moderation here for a while - I have been targeted by spambots a lot recently, so I'm hoping a spell of confounding them may deflect the activity away. I HATE having to do this to readers who are trying to leave comments but I promise it will only be for a short period to see if it makes any difference.

So, looking back on 2012, this year I didn't read as many books as I'd planned and haven't written as much as I'd hoped; I seem to have been very busy but appear to have very little to show for it (except knitting.....see my knitting exploits! )

The Family History project has been picked at occasionally - I plan to get that into a more readable format next year; currently it is like a mental jigsaw puzzle and I know where the pieces fit but no one else in the family would have a clue! I'm also hoping to bust a few genealogical 'brick walls' and see if I can get any further back than the early 1600's - there's a challenge!

With a few possible jaunts abroad in the pipeline, next year is beginning to look interesting! DD and I are planning a trip to Amsterdam and Haarlem in the Spring - and our cousins across the 'pond' are tempting us over for a re-visit to New England (and maybe even a quick jaunt up to Montreal!) :-)

I've been told, by the OH that I can plan a new kitchen in the Spring, too - a '1st' in 32 years of marriage - I've always had to put up with the kitchens we've inherited in various house moves, designed by others and not entirely to my taste! So I shall become boring as I pore over catalogues and consider appliances - but there is a limit to what will fit in the small kitchen space we have allocated; I'm hoping space-saving gadgets and cabinetry will turn it into a kitchen of Tardis proportions!

There may also be the merest hint of acquiring a new four-legged friend in the offing......but we'd need to re-lawn part of the garden before we could even consider adopting another hound! (probably an elderly pooch needing a quiet 'retirement'!)

With all the family illness issues that have beset us lately I really hope the next year will give us all time to catch our breath - no doubt there will be challenging times ahead!

So, I wish you well for 2013 and look forward to being able to speak with you all very soon, even if that is only digitally!

Please call in when you're passing and if you'd like to leave a comment (and can be bothered to negotiate the moderation!) I'd love to hear what you think - this world (and life in general, of late) may have sucker-punched me this last 12 months but.......I Refuse To Go Quietly!


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!

The shopping is done- what we don't have we can manage without! Middle England is dull and drab, cold and damp, and we shall be most probably having a wet Christmas as opposed to a 'white' one.

It's time to sing carols, eat mince pies, drink mulled wine and retreat into the bosom of our families.

This year, as I hung the decorations, I was inspired to think of making more things rather than buying them,

but time ran out - there is always next year!

Watching the Wartime farm Christmas edition the other day,

someone commented that it means more to you when you have to 'make' Christmas, rather than just go out and buy everything

I was reminded of austere family Christmases of my childhood. Looking back, we had none of the fancy trimming of today - yet we didn't consider ourselves hard done-by. I remember the fun and sense of anticipation when we'd sit making paper chains to string up around the room.

My Dad had created a sort of artificial Christmas tree, mainly comprised of a broom handle to which he'd attached the bristly arms of some old-fashioned loo-brushes (new and previously un-used, I hasten to add!!). This was not so long after WW2 and the idea of make-do-and mend was still very much the order of the day. The whole thing was painted green (I think he must have just dipped the  loobrush-ends into the paint) and then added red sealing-wax 'berries' at the ends of the 'branches'.

A basic set of tree lights were made by my uncle, with small 'bakelite' eggcups utilised as shades around the little electric bulbs - they were decorated with Walt Disney transfers (heaven knows where they came from!)

This simple tree was brought out year after year, (sometimes needing remedial work before it was safe to use!) but oh, how we loved it!

Christmas dinner was always a chicken - very expensive in those days and very much a treat! I always remember that  the Sunday dinner before Christmas day was always egg and chips - we couldn't afford TWO roast dinners in a week! That was also another sign that Christmas was coming. :-)

We made our own fun, with a very old Bingo set being brought out for our amusement; card games and board games were to the fore, until the evening when we'd settle down around our little black and white TV set - only 2 channels in those days so you had little choice in what to watch - but you watched it all the same!

These days, we invariably have too many choices on which channel to watch, plus DVDs!

However, we often play boardgames to break things up and this year will be no exception - I am planning a board-game Olympics - there will be prizes! We have quite a plethora of options but a few 'favourites' will definitely be taking centre stage! (Careers, Cleudo, Mindtrap)

Amidst all this, we will be taking time to remember the reason for the season and we're looking forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus, as we join with others to sing carols and re-read the Christmas story in church.

Thanks to a 'nudge' from lizy-expat-writer (she has posted an online Christmas 'card' to all her readers!) I've decided to follow her lead and use the *image at the top of this post by way of wishing you all a peaceful time this Christmas and my very best wishes for all that comes your way in 2013!

(*image - picture of a tea-light Nativity scene on my daughter's mantle-piece)

Friday, 21 December 2012

'Choose Your Own Apocalypse' Blogfest - With a bang or a whimper...?

Well, as the Mayan calendar counts down and we reach the date (21/12/2012) that some think will herald apocalyptic events it can only be a matter of time before the world explodes in some sort of catastrophe.....

....or then again - not!

However, a few of us have got together to have a

 - sort of a 'winding-down-to-the-end' party - check out the others via that link!


So, are we about to be attacked by an inter-galactic death-ray from some hitherto unnoticed alien race, or will the hole in the ozone layer finally admit enough solar energy to fricassee us to a nice crisp? Perhaps the polar caps will melt overnight and submerge the all that banging and hammering coming from over next door's fence in fact the result of ark-building? (nah, that's been done before!)

Personally, I don't think this date has any particular significance as regards unleashing global disasters. 

Despite the best efforts of the Doomsday Preppers, when the 'end' eventually comes there probably won't be anything they can do - which begs the question, why on earth are they so obsessed in the here-and-now with  using every minute to stockpile food and weapons? Seriously, they spend every waking moment keeping their own panic at bay by canning, bottling and building ever-bigger storage systems in case of impending doomsday scenarios and learning how to 'defend' themselves from the poor unfortunates who were not as enlightened as themselves to prepare for Armageddon - they have no 'life' now, but they have no guarantee of a life in the future, either!

As a Christian, I believe the 'end' will be heralded by the return of Christ, together with the events described in the book of Revelation in the Bible. Exactly how that will play out is anyone's guess - the writer (the apostle, John) witnessed this in a vision; some of it is difficult to comprehend, but then exactly how would a 1st century writer describe the concept of something far into the future? Imagine someone from that time being confronted with even our modern-day technology like the internet, for instance - given the global accessibility of the 'web' it could be theoretically possible that Rev. 1:8, which says "...everyone will see Him..." could be describing the event witnessed worldwide, instantly, via the internet or TV.

Regardless - if we are to be hit by a giant meteor, or zapped by sunflares, or irradiated by global weapons of mass destruction, or the Biblical second-coming, we puny humans will be powerless to stop it!

I have a feeling that if the Mayan Calendar stopping at this date indicates anything, it is more likely to be that we have reached the end of a cycle of consumerism and that we will be re-evaluating what is important to us. Already, there has been the collapse of financial systems which has lead some to reconsider the wisdom of financial security; more people are wanting the comfort of spiritual experiences, rather than the amassing of 'things'.

I fully expect to wake on 22nd December, 2012, none the worse for wear. I don't believe the world will blow up the day before and if Jesus chooses to appear, well - none of us will be concerned with the internet or apocalypse blog-fests anyway!

In the mean time - by way of entertaining you all, I'm reminded of a flash-fiction challenge I took part in a while ago. Kick back and have a read of  'THE LAST DAY'  .....and if the world doesn't end on the 21st, feel free to leave a comment! ;-)

Thursday, 29 November 2012


Apologies to Graham Greene, but this is not a play on his classic novel  of the same name (far from it!) but the 3-word title for this week's 'THURSDAY@3' story seemed appropriate.

In a brief interlude of insomnia last night, the writing muse interrupted and I came up with the idea for this tale. With a little judicious wordsmithing I've managed to bring it in 'bang on the nail' at the 300-word limit I set myself for these little challenges.

I hope it amuses - please leave a comment if you feel moved to! ;-)


The Third Man

Well, it’s been quite a ride, so far. As I peer over the edge of the swaying basket at the Lilliputian vista below I wonder, briefly, how we've arrived at this extraordinary impasse.

I can’t work out the logistics of what brought us together in the first place. Albert, the scientist amongst us, has tried to explain a theory that involves complicated calculus and espouses the notion of time travel, which I can sort of comprehend, although I rather think that’s a tad fictional.

Hughes is the driving force of the mechanics; with his aviator’s experience of wind direction and velocity we are rather relying on his inspiration and inventiveness to keep us aloft safely.

Me? I'm the third man; the writer. As I drink in the details of our surroundings and try to work out how we came to be three men in a balloon I have the beginnings of a fantastic story in mind, if we can only get back to 'terra firma'!

My writers’ intuition is plotting the outcomes should we survive; Hughes is experiencing the first signs of agoraphobia and Albert is becoming ever more bemused by theoretical analysis. All I can think of is what to title this new novel!

And that brings me to a sticky point. Hughes has just informed us that we are losing altitude but if we ditch here, across the Alps, we will not survive the conditions; assuming, of course, we should manage to walk away from the inevitable crash-landing. The solution involves a question of ballast, or rather the lack of it, having utilised all we could find in the basket.

So I suppose it all comes down to that old question of who would you throw out of a balloon – Howard Hughes, Albert Einstein, or me, HG Wells?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Hooray for Hollywood! (and other stories!)

A week or so ago, there was much excitement as Dear Daughter and I went to the Victoria & Albert museum in London, to see a special exhibition of film costumes. Of course, being great fans of the 'Wizard of Oz' (she , I have to say, is bordering on the 'obsessional'! ;-p) we were thrilled to see Dorothy's (Judy Garland's) dress and Marilyn Monroe's famous white couture!

But the prime reason for our trip was to have the rare privilege of seeing the RUBY SLIPPERS themselves!

They were on special loan from the Smithsonian and were only here in London for part of the exhibition's run. Incidentally, it was a grand reunion for 'Dorothy's' dress and the shoes - they'd not been in the same building together since the film was originally made!

The whole exhibition was amazing - the costumes were on mannequins, but instead of a head, there was a small screen with a film of the character/actor's face, which was almost imperceptibly moving; just the odd blink, or the start of a smile, or even the eyes focusing on different people! Amazing! (and a little disturbing, in the case of Morticia Addams / Angelica Huston!)

But it was comforting to see Superman / Christopher Reeve, winging his way above us! 

We also got to see Vivien Leigh's 'green curtain' dress, as Scarlet O'Hara, in 'Gone with the Wind'. Sadly, this seems to have not survived so well - the vivid green we recall from the film is now rather faded...!

We weren't allowed to use cameras, so these pictures are from the V&A website - see more here


Last Sunday afternoon, DD and I took a walk along the canal tow-path near our respective homes. I was hoping to get some pictures of the Autumn colours in the trees, but a lot of the leaves are falling now and with the canal being elevated, the trees along the banks succumb to the winds soonest!

Still, we did manage to see some narrow boats, making their way along the Oxford canal. There is something comforting about the gentle chug-chug-chugging of the engines as they sedately make their way along. (Inland Waterways regulate speed at around 4mph, to avoid the 'wash' damaging the banks).


And finally - the Dog-sweaters are done and will be posted off tomorrow!

(see here )


So - in the best Hollywood tradition - for now, th-th-th-that's all folks!!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Autumn Leaves....(but Winter beckons!)

The first icy chills of winter are beginning to be evident, even here in the Midlands. The geography tends to keep away the extremes of weather, but since the clocks went back and the nights have drawn in it seems  to have been even more cold. I turned the thermostat up a notch on the central heating yesterday, but even as I did I realised that we will have colder temperatures to deal with in the coming weeks - we've only had one sharp frost so far!

The shops (especially the supermarkets) paid lip-service to Hallowe'en and Guy Fawkes' Night - now they're into full-on Christmas mode - yet it only seems such a short while ago we were all walking around in t-shirts and flip-flops

I see the festive season rushing towards us, but I want to savour Autumn. The leaves have turned into wonderful shades of golden yellow, through orange, to russet tones but the winds are ripping them away before we can fully enjoy their splendour. It's as if Mother Nature is hurrying things along towards Christmas. Still, I love the patchwork blanket of leaves she spreads across the grass!

I'm also agog to see my fatsia japonica come into bloom, despite me totally ignoring its well being!

But, for a while, it's nice to cosy up and drink hot tea and eat buttered crumpets; for soft, mood lighting and the flicker of the fire.....and realising I am so blessed!   And, of course, it's an excellent excuse to get on with the knitting! At the moment I'm trying to get some 'dog-sweaters' done for the Dog's Trust appeal (see my alter ego: The Knitting Assassin! ) - people who find themselves on the streets often have canine companions, so Dogs Trust are working with charities to help those who are forced to spend time out in the open.

Finished this one this morning - four down, I want to do at least another two before I have to send them off next week. It won't change the world, but it may make a difference to someone's canine buddy!

In the midst of all this, I really must get back into reading other people's blogs - apologies, guys, if I haven't visited so often. Also, the literary angle has been lacking recently! Actual writing done this month = 0; plot ideas=simmering away; what to do......what to do?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

It's Autumn - time to turn over a new leaf.....

The blogging-bug hasn't been so active here - I've been busy creating stuff for one of my other blogs (The Knitting Assassin! - see tab at top of page) and I've decided that now the weather is turning colder that I might get back into blogging properly.

Not sure what I'll be putting here - some of it fiction, I hope - but I'm trying to challenge myself to post something on each of my blogs once a week.

So, this is just by way of apologising for my absence - and I hope you'll drop by again soon and see what I'm up to!

In the meantime, I'd like to share a gorgeous blog I came across today: Home In New England which brought back memories of visiting family there a couple of years ago - would love to be back there right now!

Enjoy the piccies!

Thursday, 13 September 2012


I promised there might be a new story up here this week, in the old 'Thursday@3' slot! (see the right hand sidebar for more stories!)

Well, I was sitting knitting this morning (best 'plotting' time!) and I was reminded of a comment I made on Cathy Olliffe-Webster's blog the other day, about the unlikely event of her and another writer, Laura Eno , having a camping trip, which I'd suggested would make a good plot for a short story. Then I recalled that this week's F3 writing prompt centred on what might happen in an isolated cabin when someone hears a telephone conversation they weren't meant to (as in the Barbara Stanwyck film "Sorry, wrong number" )

So, I thought, kill two birds with one stone (which also gives me a title for the story!) and link Thursday@3 and my entry for F3. So, Cathy and Laura - thank you for the inspiration and the kick-start to get the writing muse under control! :-)

Coming in at the maximum word count for Thursday@3 (333 words) here y'go!


Laura’s eyes wandered across her spartan surroundings. Getting ‘away from it all’ in this wilderness was not her idea of fun but at least Cathy’s experience of the great outdoors would ward off her fears of the more savage aspects of nature and so she had finally agreed to this girlie camping trip.

Three hours earlier she had arrived at the cabin bedraggled, cold and miserable. Cathy was nowhere to be seen and any sense of adventure had long-since evaporated. Noises of unseen animals scuttling about reverberated on the wooden cabin walls, resembling a demonic scratching and snuffling that conjured frightening visions in her mind.

More worrying was the unexpected phone call that had interrupted these fantasies of terror, replacing them with an altogether more sinister reality. The voice was gruff and unrecognisable. At first she’d thought it was Cathy playing games, but the two-way conversation she was privy to had quickly revealed something else.

“I saw the second car parked at the foot of the incline; now they’re both here. We have all weekend.”

“Hmm!” another voice had answered, sounding like its owner was licking his lips; there was almost something of excited anticipation tucked into that one drawn out response.

“So keep your head down. The fun starts soon!”

Laura had tapped the receiver rest repeatedly, trying to clear the line before it clicked silent.

That had been half an hour ago and since then her mind had put two and two together and come up with a reasonable four: it was time to leave. Fast. But as she jumped up to make her exit she dropped her keys. Scrabbling wildly under the chair to retrieve them she felt something soft and clammy.

As she pushed the chair back she saw a hand whose fingernails bore an unmistakeable shade of vibrant nail polish and realised Cathy had been here all along. It was a discovery she had little time to worry about, in the split second before the lights went out....


Author's note:  Although the characters names are based on reality, the events are entirely fictitious!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Progress (or not) report!

So, I completely copped out of posting here during August and now September has arrived......

Contrary to this blog's title, I would quite like to shuffle quietly off and escape some of life's pressing issues - still, a new day dawns (literally - I've been up since before dawn, the victim of a restless mind trapped in an exhausted body!)

The 'writing' has taken something of a back-seat - partly due to life's commitments (the support of family/chronic and terminal illnesses) and also the whole 'why on earth do I bother' demons that sit on my shoulders and sap the literary juices almost as soon as they start to flow!

Well, the grand plans (and the half a dozen half-written novels!) have taken a battering. The rejection letters/emails could paper a small room and (maybe I'm just jealous?) I'm heartily sick and tired of people jumping up and down promoting their latest ebook, that I've realised the 'writing' is the easy bit!

And, with all the books in the world, is there room enough for yet another, anyway? Which reminds me, I came across this by Arlee Bird - and I realised I'm not alone!

If I can round up my errant muse, perhaps I'll get back into flash fiction, like at FFF or I might even kick-start the old 'Thursday@3' series (see the right-hand sidebar) - if I can just fan the spark of imagination into flame!

I need energy and inspiration - if you have either (or both!) going spare, shove it my way - but maybe I'll just give myself a nudge and a challenge, and let's see what happens here next Thursday, around 3pm (UK time)!

Monday, 30 July 2012


Well, the Olympics have been a long time coming but they've finally arrived, amid a wave of controversy, paranoid advertising sponsors and some disruption to everyday life in the capital!

I have to say, I am not at all interested in the Games per se - athletics stands well down my list of things to enjoy (even well below watching paint dry!) but the opening ceremony was a cultural extravaganza!

I missed the first (and probably the best) half so I had to wait until yesterday evening to watch it online. It was impressive, if a tad confusing at times, and without a commentary it would have appeared a bit shambolic. However, 'hats off' to all the tech-wizards who brought it all to life!

To tie in with the Games, there is also the London cultural Olympiad with events from all the regions. Here in my part of the West Midlands a huge street puppet of Godiva began her journey from nearby Coventry yesterday and today she arrived here in Rugby.

Unlike the original Godiva this mechanical street-puppet is fully clothed! But she's an impressive lady whether she's riding on her multi-cycle powered steed, or walking bemused around us 'little folk'!

She rests here tonight, then continues her progress southwards to London, with various other stops on the way; an iconic figure and a testimony to the skill of the engineers who fashioned her. And here's how she awoke.....

...and part 2...

Monday, 16 July 2012

What mask are YOU wearing?

Excuse me while I have a wee rant!

Most days I can pretty much shrug my shoulders at the adverse aspects of life and just get on with things.

Then there are days like today.

I woke up with a sense of dread - the start of another week of never-ending laundry (how on earth do three fully-grown individuals create so much dirty washing?); clutter about the place that I never seem to be able to eradicate (I'm sure my OH was a squirrel in a former life!); meals to be planned that won't spoil for having to be re-heated (i.e. - meals hubby can reheat in microwave at work and that fit his diabetic dietary requirements); wondering when the 'life-issues' that surround my family will finally get sorted.......

I had this idea, when I took early retirement 18 months ago, that I'd have time to do all the essential day-to-day household things early in the day and spend the rest of my time doing the things I'd always wanted to do. Well, for a few months I seemed to manage that - leaving the afternoons/evenings to explore writing/flash-fiction/'the novel'. However, discovering that writing is the 'easy' part I grew disenchanted with the uphill task of getting people to read my stuff  (be it through agents/publishers or just here on my blog) and to all intents and purposes I've stopped writing.

So, that was my joy and pleasure - what now?
 Ho, hum....time to put on my 'I'm fine, thank you!' mask and roll up my sleeves.

In the mean time I will make no bones about once again sharing with you one of my favourite clips from the 1970's BBC TV's sit-com 'The Good Life'!

For those of you who don't know it, Tom and Barbara Good decide to escape the rat-race and become self-sufficient in their affluent part of London, as their snobby but friendly neighbours watch on.
This clip says a great deal about how I feel this morning, as I equate myself with poor Barbara's 'lot' (and oh, that I had her figure!) - Tom has bought an old range from a rag-and bone merchant - but he isn't the one doing the hard work!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

'...yuh never know whatcha gonna get!' is too short to dwell on things that don't 'work'!

I've become quite disenchanted with writing recently. The desire isn't there in the same way. Deadlines have come and gone and although I've had 'ideas' (too many, actually!) setting aside time to create something that others might like to read is becoming increasingly difficult. Coupled with this is the sense that it is just way too hard to get anything published these days - and I won't go down the route of self-publishing! It may work for some people, but I just don't have the energy to jump up and down shouting 'READ MY STUFF' every five minutes on Facebook and/or Twitter. (sorry - I've had to 'mute' a few people!)

And, seriously - if I've spent a lot of time and effort crafting something I can't see the point of selling it at 99p a throw! (or even for free!) True, some say you have to do that to get your work read and 'grow' a following; but once it's out 'there' and available it can never be considered by regular publishing houses at a later stage, should you finally hit the jackpot and sign a contract! (that's my understanding, anyway) Plus, there is so much poorly/un-edited stuff out there in self-publishing-land (once called 'vanity publishing') that your work may be swamped in the dross, anyway!

Even getting people to read AND comment on blogs is often difficult enough! So, I'm calling a halt for a while. That doesn't mean I shan't be blogging here anymore; rather it means that I'll be spending a bit more time over at my alter-ego, The Knitting Assassin! blog. There is something fulfilling about creating things that are pretty as well as useful - and to my eclectic mind, it's nice to ring the changes now and then.

I'll still be adding the odd posts here at IRTGQ - they'll be eclectic and odd things that strike me, like a Forrest Gump-style box of choc'lits - 'yuh never know whatcha gonna get!'   ....hence the piccie for this post!   ;-)

But feel free, do drop by to any of my blogs (links under the header, up at the top of this page). I ask only one thing - PLEASE leave a 'calling card' (comment) so I know who's visited! I like to get back to folks if they've been gracious enough to air their views!

Catch you around, chaps! (and chapesses!)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Dear Old Dad!

Wedding Day, 27th April, 1942

Father's Day always brings a mixture of mirth and melancholy - but thankfully the happy memories of yesteryear compensate for the sense of loss.

My Dad died 24 years ago but occasionally I'll see a face on TV (Fraser from 'Dad's Army', for instance) or a turn of phrase or mention of a place will remind me of the wonderful father I had.

The more I think back and discover about him, the more a smile comes to my lips! He was one of those people who could turn his hand to most things around the home - mainly because the family budget would preclude getting in a 'professional' to do a job. (although he drew the line at more than the basics, where electricity and plumbing were concerned!)

As the youngest child (by several years) I was often left behind when my older siblings were allowed to go out and about with their friends, so I spent a lot of time following my Dad around and being his 'little helper'! Thus, even in my childhood,  I learned to hang wallpaper, paint, do simple renovation jobs, etc. It still comes in useful, now, with the current recession and frugality!

Dad was the person from whom I mostly learned about sacrifice, duty and care; although I didn't realise this until much later in life. When I was just four years old my mother, who had apparently not really been well since my birth, was diagnosed with a wasting illness which at the time had the doctors bewildered. My father was told to take her home as there was nothing that could be done and their prognosis was that she had, at best, a year to live.

I never heard that tale, until the night before she died, fourteen years later. In the intervening years she had oscillated in and out of remission, from what was finally diagnosed to be Multiple Sclerosis. So, Dad had shouldered most of the household tasks as well as being main breadwinner for three children under twelve years of age. That didn't leave a lot of time for hobbies or pastimes - or any ambitions he might have had.

I never knew what it was like to grow up with an able-bodied Mum - in my recollection she always walked slowly and with at least one stick; she couldn't knit or play the piano as she had done in her youth, or play tennis and swim. But she never lost her sense of humour and was prone to playing the odd practical joke on my Dad, so I suppose one of the sounds that brings back memories of my Dad is laughter.

And although they weren't the sort to show a lot of affection in public, like hugs and kisses, an abiding image I have is of Dad helping my Mum to retain some semblance of femininity by dealing with leg-hair removal, or putting a colour rinse on her hair when he washed it for her.

It was only as my Dad's own life drew to a close, many years later, that I realised there were secrets he had hidden from us. A 'death bed' confession (while hospitalised and sinking fast) revealed he was not the man we had presumed!

It turned out he had been living under an assumed name for 40+ years and his imminent demise was pricking his conscience as he was worried if we three children were all legally married, given we'd also shared his 'false' identity by virtue of our erroneous birth certificates!

Apparently, as a youth in the 1930's, he and some friends had travelled into Glasgow to go to the cinema. Having used their return bus fare on fish and chips for their supper, one of the lads had found an 'unattended' truck which they'd all piled into and were just making their way home when they were stopped by a policemen. Having lined the lads up, said policeman proceeded to take down all their names. Dad, fearing his own father's wrath for bringing the family into disrepute, glanced up at the sign above the shop he was standing in front of and took the proprietor's surname as his new identity - he went from John Carson to Alan MacGregor in an instant. Unfortunately, it didn't end there!

At that time , in Scotland, the local police station also housed magistrate's powers so the lads were marched off to face the 'beak'! Their options were simple: admit the crime and gain a criminal record, or sign up for military service. Dad chose the latter and thus he was 'officially' registered with his newly acquired identity.

It wasn't until nearly 40-odd years later, after he retired, that he made plans to formally change his name legally by deed poll. We might never have known the tale, if he'd died suddenly, but he recovered from his illness and went on to live a further 18 months.

At the time, when I was told, I just burst out laughing! Less so my brother, who now realised he'd named his firstborn son after a fictitious character! After the hilarity of the situation had died down I felt a sense of sadness as I realised how my Dad had carried that secret all those years, unable to share it for fear it would disrupt the family. (and to this day, I'm not even sure my mother knew the whole truth; their marriage certificate bears Dad's and his own father's fraudulent names!)

But I don't dwell on the negative so much - it was just one of those funny tales that make up my Dad - too many to tell here, I'm afraid!

Happy Father's Day,  Dad!
(and I'm still laffin'!)

(and maybe one day I'll have to see if there's any evidence of  'MacGregor's Ironmongers' in Glasgow - fancy walking into their shop with the tale I'd have to tell! ;-p)

Sunday, 10 June 2012


I wish the little voices in my head would shut up for a while....!

No, I'm not completely off my rocker - the little voices I'm referring to are the ideas for stories; the odd turn of phrase that suggests something more; the 'what if...' situations where history might have taken a very different turn......

I once said that the up-side of an eclectic mind is that you are rarely bored; the down-side is that you often have more ideas than you can successfully grapple with!

Well, I'm finding it seriously difficult to settle at anything lately, so it's probably just as well that the only writing I've done recently have been short pieces of flash fiction. 

Meanwhile, I think I shall have to carry a pad and pencil with me to jot down all the ideas as they shunt through my brain - who knows, they might actually come to something!

Do other people have this problem....?

Sunday, 3 June 2012


Well, it may have rained on her parade (or rather, water-pageant!) but bless her, HM Queen Elizabeth kept smiling!

In fact, for an octogenarian standing in the unseasonably cold weather for hours, even if she would rather have been back at the palace sipping a cup of tea (or even a gin & tonic!) that smile embodied the spirit of Britain - keep calm and carry on!

.....and on they certainly came; boats and ships in every shape and size, steam powered, coal powered. diesel powered - and even human-powered - processing along the Thames to honour our 'Diamond Queen'!

The Diamond Jubilee is something of a spectacular celebration, commemorating sixty years on the throne. We shall not see it's like again in our lifetimes, possibly our children's too.

We didn't join the crowds in London but, as a family, we watched the TV coverage from the comfort of our lounge and indulged in a quintessentially British feast of scones with jam and clotted cream - washed down with 'Jubilee' tea, in my case consumed in my Union Flag mug! ;-)

It was wonderful to see Tower Bridge raised to it's full extent in tribute to the monarch aboard her special barge - and the crowds cheered her on through the rain! (the dissenters were there, too - thankfully their 'anti-royalty'  protest made little, if any, impact.)

Our Monarchy may not be perfect (and I believe it would do well with a little judicious pruning of the 'hangers-on'!) but Queen Elizabeth II stands firm and resolute - duty to her role and her people over-riding her own wishes. In this day and age, that is a rare quality, indeed!

Cheers, Ma'am! Long may you reign!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Awards....with a catch!

Just the other day Chuck, a regular visitor to this blog, bestowed upon me a 'Kreativ Blogger' award.

Stunned as I was, I have to say I am thrilled to be thought worthy, so thank you Chuck! :-) (Please duck over to his blog Apocalypse Now and see what he's up to!)

The usual thing with these awards is to answer some questions and share random facts about yourself. That much I can do:-

What is your favorite song? - Of the moment - 'Till I hear you Sing' from the stage musical, 'Love Never Dies' (if you are unfamiliar with this, go here and be enlightened/bewitched!)

What is your favorite dessert? Eton Mess 

What ticks you off? Arrogant/bad drivers

When you're upset what do you do? Depends what/who has caused it. Mostly, I'll give myself some TLC!

Which is/was your favorite pet? I've loved them all, but our last dog, Bruce, was rather special. If you can imagine a real-life Pluto (Mickey Mouse's cartoon dog) then you're about spot-on!

Which do you prefer to wear, black or white? Black conceals a multitude of sins...... (but not ideal in the current UK heatwave!)

What is your biggest fear? Anything that might be seriously detrimental to well-being of my nearest and dearest.

What is your attitude mostly? Make-do and 'just get on with it'!

What is perfection? A beautiful sunset, a craftsman at work, ........and Eton Mess! ;-p

What is your guilty pleasure? Red Wine (but I have no guilt about it!)

And now - Ten Random Things About Me:

1. I once worked on a Vincent Price Horror Film set
2. I've had breakfast with the Bishop of Peru
3. I did a Stunt-driving course a couple of years ago (Don't believe me? Look here !)
4. I love poking around old churchyards (the genealogist in me)
5. I like most crafts (except scrapbooking and card-making!)
6. I can play the piano (by ear, never had lessons)
7. I used to play guitar (until my son 'appropriated' mine!)
8. I have an eclectic taste in music - anything from rock, to jazz to classical (except Bartok - can't stand it!)
9. I 'promenaded' at the Last Night Of the Proms! (that will probably mean very little to anyone outsie the UK!)

10. I used to work for the Financial Times - I was there the day after the Falkland's War ended and picked up a call from the international telephone operator who said the immortal line, "Would you like your call to Goose Green now?" (this was after all public link with the islands had been severed)

The other aspect of this award system (which is rather like a chain letter!) is to pass the award honour onto other bloggers. Well, three or four people I'd have chosen have already received this award in the last couple of weeks...... !?

Anyway, taking the word 'Kreativ' (or Creative, if you prefer!) I've decided to share it with people who 'make' things, being it crafting artisans or, indeed, wordsmiths - who create fiction from their imaginations!

Herby, I bestow the honour of 'Kreative Blogger' upon:

Cloudberry - Crafting and news from Norway

Hookin', Knittin' and Livin' Wool-crafting.....and life in general, from another perspective!

Life on the Muskoka River - Cathy's take on 'life' - an eclectic, uplifting blogger; never a dull moment!

Serenity and high spirits - Yes, nepotism! But this young lady has tapped into the simpler issues of 'living' life!

JF Juzwik's Blog -  wordsmith extroadinaire! Don't let Joyce's home-schooling exterior deceive you...!

Poems From The Middle - another wordsmith - this time a writer from my locale!

Nothing to See Here - a (fairly) 'newbie' blogger, but her creative video-blog entries for the recent April A-Z Challenge were a delight!

Right, my work here is done! Please take time to check these folks out!

Monday, 21 May 2012

F3 Cycle 80 - 'MUSICAL CHAIRS'

It's been some while since I joined in the F3 challenge but after my last blog-post here, about musical theatre, the three words for this weeks' challenge: FRENETIC, HOBBIT and CUMMERBUND just conjured up this orchestral piece! 

As always, feel free to comment, good or bad - it's nice to know who's called in. (and what they have to say! ;-p)


Agitated was not the word.This was the seventh interruption in as many minutes, but in the safety of the third row violins I could at least bob down behind the music stand and share a scowl with Eloise beside me.

“No. No. NO! Again. Again. This is supposed to be one of the most romantic pieces of music and you are treating it like a Saturday night fumble on the back row of the movies!”

Maestro was not amused. Maestro was decidedly determined we should repeat and repeat the same half dozen bars of Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto.

“The hair!” whispered Eloise, deftly marking her outburst as an attempt to clear her throat. The accompanying movement of her eyes directed me towards the torrid figure manically tapping his baton on the score laid out before him. A sheen of sweat was breaking out on his top lip and his artistic mane of hair was scattered about his head as he feverishly raked his fingers through the mid-brown tresses. Hopping about on the podium he reminded me of a rather frenetic hobbit. Perhaps it was the hairy toes that coloured my judgement.

Among his many peculiar foibles, Maestro would always conduct rehearsals barefoot. It was one of those eccentric absurdities that added to the mystique of his character. Even during performances, he was frequently spotted wriggling his feet out of his Italian leather loafers between movements. After the first few times one grew used to it, but it always caught out new members of the orchestra. We thought of it as a sort of unwritten initiation test; to see how well they could restrain themselves from laughing out loud as Maestro counted time with his wiggling digits, resplendent in his dress tux and scarlet cummerbund.

“And again, if you please…..!”

I eased the violin into place on my shoulder and lifted the bow ready.  The smirk pulling at the corner of my mouth was becoming harder to conceal and I blessed my good fortune at being several rows back from the front.

Then I caught that odd twinkle in his eye as he cast his gaze over the assembled company. Music in our souls fused together in perfection as each instrument added layer upon layer of nuance to the main theme. Whatever his peculiarities, or his diminutive stature, with his free hand outstretched as if to draw out of us the rapture of the music we were captivated; willing supplicants to his Svengali-like hold over us.

Well, supplicant in the pursuit of musical perfection, at any rate. Many stars had burned brightly under his tutelage and guidance but I had not been sad to relinquish my place in his affections, nor with my demotion from the 1st violins. I was content with my place on the third row; it brought a useful but regular source of income, without the stress of having to constantly fight for my place in the limelight, unlike the current favourite acquiescing to his every whim and insecure in her place next to the leader.

Thinking back over the years I counted myself fortunate. Our brief dalliance at the start of his meteoric career served to remind me that I could not have lived with the highly-strung ego such a perfectionist necessitated. Or with the sight of those hairy toes each morning, I thought,  supressing a stray giggle in my throat as I leaned my chin into the rest and settled the bow onto the strings.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Music and theatre and shiny lights...!

Some of you will know that I love 'live' theatre, especially West End musicals. Mind you, they cost an arm and a leg,  (hence we usually go in the 'cheap seats'!) and then there's the journey down to London and the late-night trawl home (we opt for matinees where possible) - so it really is an 'event'!

However, living in the Midlands we have access to so many local theatres and with some productions doing regional tours we can usually pick up a show that's more convenient to get to, if not slightly cheaper!

Last night we went to Birmingham Symphony Hall, (pic. above) which is fast becoming our go-to venue, especially for orchestral music - I think we'll give the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall a miss this season!

The show was part of a tour by singer, Ramin Karimloo - he of Phantom and Les Mis fame; also a previous 'Chris' in my favourite musical, 'Miss Saigon' which, if there is any common decency, Cameron MacIntosh will speedily reconsider his negative judgement regarding re-staging! Oh, let's have a little look at what we're missing, shall we.......

Anyway - we had a grand time last night, so here's a link to give you an example of what you missed! (excuse the adverts on these clips - I can't get rid of them!)

Next up on the stocks, is a trip to London in a couple of weeks (daughter and I let loose while hubby has a work meeting there!) and we are considering which show we'll try to get stand-by tickets for....! Although, so many shows are closing at the moment and many do not have a very long run anyway. We shall have to see....

Before that, we girlies (me, daughter and four of our friends) are getting together to watch 'Love Never Dies' - the sequel to 'Phantom of the Opera' (Ramin and Sierra Boggess created the roles of the Phantom and Christine for this) which daughter, hubby and myself saw several times before it left the West End. An Australian stage production was filmed so it's the nearest we can get to seeing the real thing:

Purists may hate me, but I actually prefer LND to POTO........and if you can stand another clip - here's the original London cast - kick it, Ramin!!!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Post-challenge time-out

The challenge may be over but I'm still picking my way through the April A-Z bloggers and their reflection posts - I may be at it for some time!

This, of course, saps the creative instinct. Plus, Mother Nature is behaving in a seasonal manner, which means the outside vegetation needs some attention (see pic - my current view from the conservatory) - so there will likely be a hiatus before I write anything fictional for a while!

Meanwhile, here are a few bloggers you might like to take a look at:

Arlee Bird's 'Wrote by Wrote' - just one of the blogs by this chap; he has a very interesting background - from being in a travelling family juggling act to......organising the A-Z challenge!

lizy-expat-writer - a fellow 'scribbler' who lives in Tenerife

Life on the muskoka river - Cathy Olliffe-Webster's blog on family life and absolutely anything and everything in (what, to me) seems a paradise setting in Canada - this woman has me in hysterics! No facade with Cathy - definitely WYSIWYG!! 

...and finally, (for this session of recommendations, anyway!) Calling Shotgun - Laurita Miller is another 'scribbler' but her posts are varied and informative ( and addictive!)

Please give these guys a look (and a comment if you want them to know you called by while they weren't looking!)

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Reflections - after A-Z 2012

Well, all done and dusted for another year........but not quite!

To all who called in here to catch up on my daily serialised story, I would like to say a hearty THANK YOU! As promised, I have posted 'Approaching Zero' in full here (and I'd still value your comments!)

Last year I arrived at the sign-up for A-Z 2011 with barely a few days before the challenge commenced - hence my posts were an eclectic selection of various ideas and formats.

For 2012, however, I decided to be more organised and have a 'proper' theme and all that! Having chosen to write a story that was broken up into 100-word sections required a planned approach rather than the ad-hoc arrangement of last year.

To some extent, having all my 2012 posts pre-scheduled took a little of the breathless excitement out of things, although it did mean I had more time to visit more blogs, despite family commitments and holidays being added to the mix. Needless to say, I merely scratched the edge of the surface in that regard - SO MANY PARTICIPANTS!

The upside to the challenge - many new blogs visited and followed! (and much entertainment derived, too!) Also, now following other bloggers on Twitter! :-)

The downside - commenting was sometimes hampered by 'captcha' and (my personal bug-bear) the 'comments displayed after approval' variety. Having tried to write an engaging/witty comment in appreciation of a post, it's a tad annoying to have it whipped out of sight for later blog-host approval! Personally, I always like to see that my comment has displayed properly (yes, I know that's what the 'edit' feature is for....) but on at least one occasion I thought I had left a comment only to find later that it had never registered at all.  :-(

Trying to visit everyone will take months - I hope to manage that! The 'surprise me' button was great fun as I had no idea where I'd end up - it was like a magical mystery tour.

Did I enjoy the challenge this year? Yes.

Will I do it again next year? Yes, indeed!

Will I be promoting it to all my blogging buddies? You betcha! (and actually, I did manage to persuade a new-to-blogging friend to join in at the last minute and  her daily video-posts were a delight!)

Thank you to Lee and all the hosts for a sterling job - it cannot have been easy managing the great influx of blogging participants, but my goodness - what a tribute to you in seeing so many people taking part in this challenge together!

And now, what shall I think of for 2013.......?   ;-p

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A-Z 2012 'APPROACHING ZERO' - the full story!

Well,  the April A-Z challenge for 2012 has finished and with it the end of this story! 
'Approaching Zero' was a WW2 thriller, broken into 100-word daily bites, beginning and ending with consecutive letters of the alphabet.

By popular demand (well, a few commenters enquired, anyway!) I'm now presenting the whole story as a standalone piece with the daily break-off points defined by bold type.

As for where this story goes from here....well, let's just say I've been doing some background research to check some of the historical 'facts' with a view to setting this little episode as part of a much larger 'whole'!

Anyway, without further ado, here you go - enjoy! (and as always, I'd love you to leave any comments, whatever you make of it! Thanks!)


A simple flick of her wristwatch told her he was late. Time confirmed itself as she patiently waited under the clock. The station was busy with commuters, day travellers and life in all its variety passing her by. Still she waited, plotting all manner of retribution for his tardiness, growing more vivid and sinister with each passing minute. Slowly, anger morphed into anxiety, imagining accidents belying his delay.

Just as she turned away resigned to the time she’d already wasted, he walked hurriedly towards her and instantly she knew something was not quite right. His eyes stared at her but she could see from his gait that he walked with a limp. Even through the crowds that swirled between them, passing in a blur, her eyes locked on his. Silent questions demanded answers as he closed the distance between them, dodging awkwardly around luggage dragged along behind weary and confused travellers. Her lips opened, forming words that would see her curiosity satisfied but his stern look silenced her.

“Not here!” he hissed, his eyes flicking across the myriad faces as he grasped her arm, propelling her through the crowd in front of them. Fear rose in her throat, choking the very breath out of her as they slipped through the crowded plaza. From behind, urging her along, she felt the weight of him dragging on her arm. She glanced back, noting the sweat across his face and the determined set of his jaw. Looking down she noticed a dark shadow that started at the hem of his jacket, it traced a little way down the front crease of his trousers. He caught her glance, silencing her unspoken questioning with the narrowing of his eyes and a slight shake of his head.

Speed became her adversary as she danced her way past advertising hoardings and street vendors, looking for a safe exit. Presently the crush eased and she reached back blindly, grasping his hand and taking the lead as they made their way towards the gate. Once in the daylight they stumbled along the crowded pavements until he dodged left into a side street, pulling her after him. In the dim sanctuary he rested back against the wall, breathing hard from his exertion.

“A simple apology will do, “she commented jokingly, fear and adrenaline augmenting the panic that was already evident in her thumping heart.

“I’m sorry, Evie, but I guess that won’t cut it as an apology, right?” He smiled through his stertorous breathing, giving in to a cough that made him wince in agony.

She glanced down and saw the reddening shadow had grown, accompanied by droplets of vermilion on his shoes. As she peeled back his jacket the gasp that conveyed her fear was evident.

“Jack! What the hell have you done? How….”

He pushed her hand away, trying to straighten his stance against the wall but his legs refused to accommodate his wishes and he sagged down to his haunches.

“We’ve been fooled.”

“What d’you mean, ‘fooled’? Jack , what went wrong? What happened?” She squatted down and peered into his face, then realised her questions were useless as his chin rocked forwards onto his chest. Scrabbling in her bag she found a handkerchief and tried to staunch the bleeding that spread across the whiteness of his shirt.

The bullet had done untold damage, more than could be remedied in the dark alleyway. He needed a doctor but she was in no position to get him to a hospital. Even if she could get him there, how would she explain a gunshot? Weighing up the options she realised she didn’t have any. The plan had changed and now she knew there would have to be a different outcome. Whatever had happened they were staring at a deadly conclusion.

“Jack, we have to move. We can’t stay here. Can you hear me, Jack?” Her anxious words were answered with laboured breathing as he rolled forward and tried to stand. She struggled to get him to his feet half dragging, half carrying, him along the alleyway trying to keep her thoughts ordered. Staying in the shadows until the evening seemed their only hope; beyond that, Evie could scarcely think. At the end of the alley they came to a halt and Jack lifted his gaze momentarily, muttering to her to turn right; a small dark passageway suggested shelter.

Easing him to the floor, Evie rested back on her haunches. She was tired, physically and mentally and glad of the brief respite, but curious how Jack seemed to know exactly where they were. How much of the plan had been concealed from her? Jack’s words whispered across the still air, with their accompanying rhythm of gasping breaths.

“You didn’t expect this, I imagine?”

Back in London, when she’d volunteered her services, she had only been privy to certain elements of the plan, ‘ prevent you from giving away information, in case you’re captured...'. Her instructor’s words echoed in her head; she had been too caught up in the excitement to give much thought to that possible outcome. The ‘romance’ of SOE had lulled her into a state of over-reaching commitment to the war effort, at whatever cost.

There was an all-knowing air about this man, this stranger, she’d known only a few days. Evie eyed him suspiciously.

“Who are you, Jack?”

He smiled, wearily raising an unsteady finger and tapped the side of his nose.

“Shh…walls have ears, even here in Panama City!” His voice trailed off into a muffled cough and in the gloom she could hear the bubbling, guttural sound of his life ebbing away. She shuffled forward, examining her earlier futile efforts to stem the flow of blood.

“This is no good, Jack! No good!” She peeled off her jacket and proceeded to undo her blouse.

“Getting fresh with me, Evie?” he whispered, watching her pull her arms from the sleeves. She turned away, suddenly self-conscious, kneeling with her back to him.

“A gentleman would turn his gaze,” she said, lightly, as she struggled out of her blouse. The absurd propriety of the situation made her smile.

He didn’t answer but the rasping breaths from behind snatched the smile from her lips. She pulled her jacket back on and bundled up the discarded garment and turned back to face him. His eyes were dull and lifeless in response.

“Jack? Look at me?” Grasping his jaw she turned his face sharply towards her. “Don’t you dare die on me!” She slapped his face, stirring him into life. He coughed; it was still not a pleasant sound but far better, she thought, than an ominous silence. She peeled back his blood-soaked shirt and fished out the sodden handkerchief. Her instinct was to toss it away but she remembered her training and the necessity to leave no clues. She laid it aside and eased the balled up blouse into its place. Jack wheezed his thanks and relaxed, his gaze settling on her open jacket.

“Better do that up,” he hissed. “Don’t want you taken for a loose woman!” That would be the least of her worries, he mused. The mission was clouded in secrecy, but it involved the Royal family, which made ‘Operation Regal’ more than a play on words and that the stakes were of national importance. He knew well enough that protocols would have to be breached to get this pretty little thing to some place of safety.

As for himself, he was a dead man; had been since he’d discovered Simpson’s true identity and found himself on the wrong end of a bad deal. Perhaps the rumour was right after all; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were not merely puppets of the Nazi’s, they were fully siding with Hitler in the hope of regaining a kingdom they’d turned their backs on.

He looked up at Evie, struggling to see her face in the gathering dimness as he tried to reach into his inside jacket pocket. The exertion made him cry out in agony and he slumped back against the wall.

“Pocket,” he winced through clenched teeth, making vain patting movements to direct her. She slipped her elegant fingers inside the folds of his jacket and pulled out a leather wallet.

“Inside,” he continued. “It’s the crown jewels.” Slowly she flipped it open. Amongst the folded banknotes there were travel documents in Spanish, a British Subject passport and a couple of photos. She saw herself in one, posing like a tourist standing by the gates to an enclosed villa, in a nearby town.

“Is this the place, then?” she asked. It wasn’t a great photo of her but then, she wasn’t the real subject.

“Background,” Jack rasped back, his breath growing more shallow than before, and pointed to the left of the photo. A quick glance would have seen her as the object of the portrait but there were two people standing behind her.

“They look so – ordinary,” she commented. “Do you think they know we were watching?” Their inconspicuous clothing failed to conceal the familiarity of his stance and the trademark coquettish tilt of her head. Jack’s silence made Evie look up, his face was still and his eyes half open. In panic she shook him.

“Jack? Can you hear me, Jack?”

He blinked slowly and tried to swallow. “Evie, you must get the photos back to London. Proof….” His voice trailed off into an ominous gurgling sound as if he was drowning. “It’s the answer to the question!” With a soft, long sigh his jaw relaxed and blood coursed from the corner of his mouth, a crimson snake following the contours of his chin.

“Jack!” Evie screamed, horror masking her need to remain concealed. She grasped the lapels of his jacket in her clenched fists and shook his inanimate body as if to elicit a response.

Eventually she sank back despairingly onto her haunches. She’d met him three days earlier and trusted him with her life, yet she knew nothing more than her briefing from London. Now he was dead; she was alone and on the run.

Evie’s mind swirled with momentary indecision. Their mission so far had been to locate these people but now things had taken a sinister twist. Jack’s death had taken her by surprise but more unnerving was the fact that her final training now began to make more sense.

She picked up his wallet and flicked through the contents, withdrawing the travel documents. Her cover was that she was Jack’s wife, travelling to meet him in Panama and journeying onwards to Caracas. Now that was all changed. She needed to stay and see things though. It was a plan, of sorts, but she’d be pretty much making it up as she went along.

Taking stock of practicalities she searched Jack’s pockets, removing anything that might identify him. The concealed pistol she found in his jacket was quickly relocated to her bag. She stood up, brushing the dirt from her suit and buttoned the jacket. Without a blouse, she was glad of the warm Panamanian evening. The open-necked design would not look so out of place; it gave a sensual, bohemian edge to her character which might come in useful if she came up against bureaucratic officials. A lone woman, travelling in a foreign country was inviting trouble but she had little choice.

Looking down at the man’s body Evie wondered again exactly who he was; stripped of his false identity papers he was even more anonymous. Jack, or whatever his name was, had died knowing elements of their secret operation that were denied her; likewise he’d been precluded from certain facts she held. Briefly, she pondered over the family who would never see him again; the lover whose arms would remain empty, oblivious of his final, squalid resting place. Was that her fate, too? To die alone and unknown? She gave a last glance backwards then turned away, retracing her steps carefully through the gathering gloom until she reached the main thoroughfare.

Taking a deep breath, Evie stepped out into the evening crowds; like any cosmopolitan city, this place never slept. Unlike war-torn Europe, however, there was a piquant sense of freedom here. The notion of simply disappearing into the shadows was enticing; to be presumed missing in action, a footnote in secret government papers that would never see the light of day. But the job wasn’t done yet and it was a train ride to the villa. She turned in at the station and searched the timetables. There was barely time to purchase a ticket from the booth but soon she was making her way anxiously through the inbound crowds, down the steps to the platform.

The heavy weight in her bag was her back-up plan; the pistol she’d taken from Jack’s body rattled against the snub-nosed firearm she’d been issued in London. Being a crack shot, if she had to use one she’d already decided his Ballestar-Molina was a sturdier option. Like a few other details, Jack had been ignorant of her skill with weapons; there was a reason for subterfuge and not all on a ‘need to know’ basis.

She stepped neatly onto the train, weaving her way along the narrow corridor until she found an unoccupied compartment and seated herself as a shrill whistle announced the departure. Once underway, she fumbled in her bag and withdrew Jack’s passport and her own.  Realising she was at the point of no return, she tossed them out the window.

Then, reaching into her stocking-top, she retrieved a similar document.  The forged exit papers were good but, she wondered, did she really look like a ‘Xaviera Santos'?  She tossed that, too, from the window. The game had now changed and with it, her escape route. 

Jack had been a casualty of war, a pawn sent to track down an errant Duke and Duchess. Having slipped the leash from their bodyguards in the Bahamas he’d discovered them here in Panama. But London wasn’t merely ‘babysitting’ the Windsor’s, as Jack had thought; they were feeding them false information, hoping it would get back to Berlin.

Evie looked at her watch again and saw it was past midnight. So much had changed when Jack had met Simpson yesterday. It was a flimsy alias David Windsor had employed to lure Jack in. Maybe HRH was more astute than he’d appeared; the once-reckless monarch who’d relinquished a kingdom, now prepared to protect himself by deadly means. If the Duke had realised he was being played for a fool he had to be stopped before he could communicate that to his friends in Berlin.

Evie tightened her fingers around Jack’s gun, concealed in her bag, prepared to do her duty and mused that she would indeed have to fulfil her final instructions as time ran out, her options approaching zero. Disaster loomed if the Duke of Windsor warned Hitler and his cohorts they’d been misled by London.

The suburban train pulled into the station near the Windsor’s villa. Mary Reynolds closed her eyes, thinking about home and a life she would never know again. Sorry Jack, she sighed; even ‘Evie’ was a lie. As she stepped down from the train she knew her one-way mission was at an end. She was the fail-safe, the backstop; expendable.

A story that could never fully be revealed was at its deadly denouement and none would ever know she was a Royal assassin.