Start writing!

ShowNotes Archive

10:56, 1 Aug 2023
Seaside Scribbler
Great, are we back on? I really miss blocking out the world for a whole hour and seeing what comes out.... nice to have the odd win but often the piece that comes out is a bit odd and needs reworked afterwards, however these reworked pieces have sometimes led to success too. I miss the regularity and the magazines.....There's something about just sitting and letting your mind GO free for an hour - it's not the same if I try to do it unprompted, for some reason. I've just come back and read what I wrote for A New Room, and had honestly forgotten writing it as it only exists on here. Was a pleasant surprise to a) win and b) see it wasn't that bad! Blows me away what your mind can so in a concentrated hour.
Hoping this means we're off again in the near future...

08:03, 9 May 2023
Will ‘The New Room’ still be judged? It seems to have been skipped. (The competition ran 23–27 October 2022.)

06:42, 22 Apr 2023
Henry C
How long does judging take? Seems ages since the Puzzles and Games deadline passed.

20:28, 1 Apr 2023
Curly Lamps
I'm new, l write obviously, little poems or thoughts that pop into my head ....

'Today's thoughts on this paper page
Let's dissect the human rage
We're all puppets on a stage
Trapped inside a hidden cage"

"Can we figure a way out
Whisper it by word of mouth
If no escaping all the doubt
Then die of hunger or the drought"

14:45, 29 Oct 2022
I've been really busy with my projects! I've been thinking about them, planning the best way to do them, studying better ways to do them, and writing about how I'm really, definitely, absolutley going to do them right now.

I think I see the flaw in this methodology...

20:24, 18 Oct 2022
Seeking Wolf
cut energy use..i see one person started with idea that the subject was "rather dry"..I was about to enter, when it had closed!For me, I had not felt like entering till the winners of two previous comps had been announced)nothing to do with the topic, about which I feel strongly!),,,but,,now,,inspired, was too late!Good luck all..and so helpful in my general life to get all that info from energy consultant,thank you!

17:50, 18 Oct 2022
Yes it is HenryC! In your case you can find the feedback here:

You can make it public too if you want. It's private as default currently.

All the best,

08:11, 18 Oct 2022
Seaside Scribbler
LOVE the piece by the energy consultant! Who are you? Was brilliant. Not one of mine to mark, unfortunately.

08:02, 18 Oct 2022
Henry C
Is it possible to read reviews of your own story on this site?

17:02, 17 Oct 2022
Winners just announced for Sometimes I'm Happy, and Fragments Of Time!

14:24, 12 Oct 2022
Seaside Scribbler
I hope you've not vanished again... I was enjoying being back!

02:50, 6 Oct 2022
Mr Golightly
I hope people like this one. I wrote it at 1:30 it the morning while struck down with full on Covid and there are definitely a few bits of it I’m pretty proud of. I’m off to try and not die now 😅

13:20, 23 Sep 2022
Seaside Scribbler
Crikey. Only just finished that one in time. The trouble with writing from scratch, with only the tiniest idea of where your story might go, is that characters do things you do not expect. Didn't even get time for a proof read then, so expect typos. Many typos. One of the markers last week commented I must be able to type fast - yes, stupidly so, but only with four fingers, as I never learnt properly! the hour on here has taught me to write and think on my feet and when I have tiiiimmmmeee that can stretch, how incredible it is! Anyone who writes on here tried Nanowrimo? It's really fun :) And this is a great practice for it. Love, a proper pantser.

11:21, 21 Sep 2022

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


14:29, 9 Sep 2022
Seaside Scribbler
How nice to know I can still do this. Let it go and let it flow and edit as I go..... finished up with 37 seconds to spare!!! And possibly bought myself some life at the same time ;)

20:41, 7 Jun 2022
Hi Alison and the admin Folk,

Just to let you know I emailed you , because the email for this account no longer works!

So-in case, it comes into your spam folder...

and-the exhibition on Utopia-will you be posting up when and how to see it?will it be online?

All best, from a disbelieving-and-delighted-at-what-I saw shifting crow!!!

15:09, 23 May 2022
Hello - all is well. The pieces are now with our competition sponsors, Good Business, who will nominate a winner very soon.
We will put up a new title shortly! Thanks for entering.
All the best, Alison

10:35, 21 Apr 2022
Seeking Wolf
thank you to Alison!
As Miris says, this was indeed sorted out-i should have come back here to say so!

19:32, 12 Apr 2022
Hi Seeking Wolf - just to reassure everyone that this was sorted out!

10:45, 5 Apr 2022
Seeking Wolf
hi Jennysmurph....

Sometimes, you can get in touch via the bottom of the page there are contact details....i am currently trying to do just that!i know Alison is up to her eyes,.but,,i am worried as have received no entries to mark this time...I really hope i do soon, or i don't get mine critiqued, or entered, either!
All best!

17:35, 4 Apr 2022
Seeking Wolf
Hi Alison,
I sent you an email-URGENTLY!-re this comp, as I am worried my email gone awol and I need to get entries to mark!
I hope you see it in time!
I know you will be up to your eyes...

all very best
Wolf n seeking....

12:46, 7 Mar 2022
The wind doth blow
and bringeth snow
the streets are mostly empty.
Six tiny mice
want to feel nice
and snug and warm and toasty.

Oh Mama please
we're going to freeze
if you don't bring a blanket.
I might stay here
Papa I fear
is out and not come home yet.

She leaves her spot
the fire just hot
and bundles up her babies.
The wind doth moan
the trees do groan
her thoughts what ifs and maybes.

Papa meanwhile
lies in a pile
of snow so deep it's scary.
He sees a cat
imagine that
he knows he should be wary.

Mister Feline
have you got time
to help me in a pickle.
I've heard the hype
I know your type
can tend towards the fickle.

He holds his breath
awaits his death
then a sudden pull-he's free!
The mouse looks round
cat puts him down
he’s off quick behind a tree.

He makes it home
(mice don’t have phones)
his wife is sadly weeping.
He kisses her head
climbs into bed
the mouselings all now sleeping.

The wind doth blow
and cleareth snow
the sun shining all around
The mice do play
and shout Hooray!
our brave Papas been found.

13:51, 4 Mar 2022
Hi Seaside Scribbler - in response: 'Anyway there is just a blank space and the markers said 'nothing here'... Is the work retrievable?'
...sadly I think not - I have checked on the output of entries for that week and it is showing blank on there too. The only thing I can think of is that the site currently seems to keep users signed in for a shorter time before signing them out (it used to be more or less permanent), and this is something we're addressing with dev at the moment. However, as it hasn't affected any other entrants the last two weeks, I'm hoping it doesn't happen during the competitions themselves. What I would recommend is clicking 'save' every ten minutes or so while writing, just to make sure. We should have the 'logged-in' issue fixed in the next couple of weeks.
Happy to give you a free code to enter this week, though I realise you're more concerned about the writing itself.... Alison

13:43, 4 Mar 2022
Seaside Scribbler
Hi there, I wrote a 1600+ word entry for Wind Doth Blow, and submitted it. I couldn't reread it as it disappeared when I hit 'submit'. It didn't appear on Ephemera, so I thought it would appear when marking was done. Anyway there is just a blank space and the markers said 'nothing here'... Is the work retrievable? I'm a bit gutted as I wrote it off the top of my head and didn't make a copy! Often these spur of the moment stories turn into bigger things. I'm not really wanting to write another entry until I know what happened to this one! I'll try to make a copy before I hit send in future, though I never had to do that before. Many thanks, SS

22:19, 1 Mar 2022
Seaside Scribbler
Hello void...
just finished marking. I like that this is here... Is Alison still involved? Yes I'd already entered. I forgot to click to say it can be on Ephemera as it didn't appear on there...
Busy day today so I'm away to sleep.
Sweet dreams...

22:39, 28 Feb 2022
It can do! Great to see you here, and that you can write a story off the top of your head. Just twenty minutes left to enter tonight, but you have probably already done so. Do keep spreading the word as we develop things...

21:13, 28 Feb 2022
Seaside Scribbler
Is the void going to shout back....

13:19, 25 Feb 2022
Seaside Scribbler
Also nice to see I can still write a story off the top of my head - the tight parameters help me focus. Have been working on a second book of short stories and a novel, but so far no publisher.... Kind regards Alison and I hope this keeps going for a while. I shall help spread the word on twitter.

13:14, 25 Feb 2022
Seaside Scribbler
Hey! Nice to be back :) Got a buzz when I saw this week's e mail. Thought last week was a one off and I didn't have any time anyway, but this week's was here too. Smiles.

09:50, 25 Feb 2022
The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the robin do then, Poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing, Poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the swallow do then, Poor thing?
Oh, do you not know
That he’s off long ago,
To a country where he will find spring, Poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the dormouse do then, Poor thing?
Roll’d up like a ball
In his nest snug and small
He’ll sleep till warm weather comes in, Poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the honey-bee do then, Poor thing?
In his hive he will stay
Till the cold is away
And then he’ll come out in the spring, Poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the children do then, Poor things?
When lessons are done
They will skip, jump and run,
Until they have made themselves warm, Poor things!

[The North Wind, Anonymous]

22:17, 2 Dec 2020
Hour of Writes
Finnbar - it was both! :) Nice to see you

17:19, 1 Dec 2020
Really hoping that "testing the site" was a real prompt and not a developer note about launch-testing an update :)

06:19, 3 Nov 2020
What inspiration is there left to draw from a declining world? A world where we are disconnected from the forces which guide our own celestial motion, through the dance that is life.

What horror frames our days?

What beauty can be found within these four walls?

Are we no more than stunted shades, purchancing goods in order to fuel the void growing within all of our hearts?

We must connect with nature, for nature to exist at all.

16:41, 3 Sep 2020
Delighted to have won the last contest but confused re.not receving any other entries to mark and whether there is a prize as I haven't been contacted by HOW staff at all.

Anyone else enter and not receive marking/emails re.marking?

07:59, 6 Aug 2020
outside the window
are days full of my mother
my father’s gardens he calls
prints of Punjab

like the pages of a yellow book, my mother's nameless youth
was caged between book ends—
mother, father, daughter, mother

her mother’s phulkari
hand spun subterfuges to release,

a family heirloom

like a painting to complete,
it took many strokes to cover our days,
a languorous summer, fall, winter, summer
sometimes in between, like estranged cousins,
impish winds would come to play

a lover’s story
sweet sweet warbles, singers made to order
Pigeon fliers

even in two tight plaits
I felt free

a sickly gaze from the bedside
sometimes upholds the promises of an opulent life

up and down and between the shadows
taming a temperate sun’s impish play

what can a sickly gaze spare after all?
irreverent skies, or cheap ticket stubs to window romances? —as if
pastiches of romeos and juliets and romeos

even with my romantic hair
I am caged

chipped pieces of bargain
scattered all over the window sill.

10:09, 28 Jan 2020
Will any of the the previously submitted entries be marked? Thank you

13:05, 5 Dec 2019
A new competition is now live.

23:46, 8 Aug 2019
Cold Step

Step of despair
figures of fear and frustration,
A positive break fast;
It a glass balance without a heart,
It deciding if she was to nourish or neglect the day;
It possessing a constant magnetic tether over her.
A single tear plummets onto the cold step;
Back to square one.

15:41, 25 Jun 2019
I would love to receive an update about the site. I hope all is well and, like Seeking Wolf, the person who manages the site is well and ok. I am hoping, that as the site is still running, that the outstanding entries that have been submitted and paid for will be marked.

15:32, 21 May 2019
Seeking Wolf
I am not the only one to wonder what is happening with this competition..
I used to enjoy writing for it from time to time, and I would be interested to see the latest results and entries...
I find myself worried in case there has been incapacity or illness for the admin people, since this is such a lovely , accessible, interesting concept..
All best

13:15, 2 May 2019
Laura Labno
Time Broke

into pieces

In a loud 


And spilled


A tone of 


I remember this one


Which we shared for

A while

In eternity's


And this view

will remain

In small room in my 


The emptiness will now 


All that we could one day


But bruised chests good time'll


Emptiness will be 


But the sadness will remain

and the questions in my mind

What your skin's taste would be like

What your skin's taste would be like

19:26, 1 May 2019
Laura Labno
I'm sinking into nature's


The colors of the ending 


Preplexing my unsettled 


Among the grass and flower's


Among the whites and greens and


Uncertain colors of my


Do not fit in here quite 


So I should go but choose to


I'm sinking into darkening 


Dark colors tend to win my


14:30, 30 Apr 2019
Laura Labno
You approach them dangerously close
A voice whispered

Beasts caged in an imitation of

You stretch your hands trying to touch
the colors of their words

The sophistication of their mouths
Which turns lights into sounds

Making empty page alive
With endless laughs and cries

You approach them dangerously close
The voice hissed

Beasts caged in an imitation of

Immersing yourself in their hidden

While Night falls from the skies
capturing Stars Into its Hands

Now there will be no light
Only Their Eyes

You approached them too close
Now You Won't Come Back

So that's all you will have
for the rest of your life

(You were born into that)

A voice gently whispered.

22:57, 23 Apr 2019
Is the site still in operation?

11:29, 10 Apr 2019
Enda Boyle
The Cream of The Jest

Summer had largely been a non-event until on the last day of August when Johnny Magee woke up in the bed of Elizabeth Gerkan. He’d been vaguely aware of Elizabeth as a young woman who worked in his Great Aunt’s antique shop, but it was not until he saw her the night before at the comedy open-mic that he had really noticed her. She had stood out amoung the other performers who mostly based their sets around dreary third-hand imitations of Bill Hicks and George Carlin (Atheism and Anal Sex). Elizabeth had come on wearing a 50s style polka dot dress with her red curls pulled under a black felt hat and deployed a high-pitched innocent voice which bypassed Disney and landed directly on Pollyanna to tell bluntly filthily sexual anecdotes. Naturally Johnny had to talk to her.
For once he was sober and clear-headed, getting up he saw a postit note on top of a stack of paperback Dean Koontz novels (well no one’s perfect). It read ‘Gone to work come for lunch if you want cereal in top shelf help yourself.’ While Johnny was rummaging through the cupboards of Elizabeth’s public lavatory tiled kitchenette he reflected on the note, while Elizabeth would never win fame as a composer of aboudes she was an excellent absentee host. It did not take long for Johnny to find a box of Coco Pops, opening it up he found that the cholate rice puff had been mixed with up with Frosties, clearly Miss Gerkan had the tastes of a child he would have to remember to tease her about it when he came to see her at lunch time.
Deciding to take Elizabeth lunch Johnny stopped at the corner shop near his great aunt’s shop. He purchased a ham sandwhich, can of Coke and a large honeycomb chocolate bar. As he walked towards his Great Aunt’s place he could not help remembering Elizabeth’s performance, the way she pulled a shocked Daily Express Mum face after the punchline to her own jokes her little false coughs, her pale oval face. Johnny entered the shop with a cheek bone to cheek bone grin which immediately shut closed like a bear trap when he saw sitting at the counter not Elizabeth but his great Aunt Betty and her sisster May.
If as Johnny often suspected woman over the age of fifty-five could transmit disapproval telepathically then his two great Aunts were giving him full blast at the moment. Both women mentally cleaved humanity into the respectable and everyone else. However, they differed on how they spilt the sheep from the goats. May believed one could be justified by acts as long you had attended one of the local Catholic Grammar Schools, earned an annual income over thirty grand and drove a new car at least once in your life. Betty on the other hand had a much more Calvinist worldview, only thoese who bore the surname McDaid were counted amoung the elect. Needless to say, Johnny was dammed from both points of veiw. A few years back when he had earned a place to study at Ulster Univerity Betty had begun to speak more civilly to him prehaps hoping that though the process of higher education he would gain the same kind of rough facsimile of respectability the unmarried mothers who provided her home care as part of their social care courses. This period of relatively warm relations ended when a picture of Johnny at a protest again the last G8 summit appeared in the local paper.
“Ah Betty look who’s come to see us today”. May pushed herself up from her steel backless stool and walked to the centre of the room to greet me. She was a large woman and now the middle of the seventh decade she’d put on even more weight as if her body sensed the end coming and had expanded to give the Reaper a harder job carting her off. Her head was as round as a tennis ball and her arms were meaty and solid like two enormous pot marked anvils of pork. May put out a hand for me to shake. “May how it’s going you’re still giving Betty a hand on the weekends then then?”
“Yes, you’re as well working while your alive. Speaking of which no word of a promotion for you yet?”
“Acch at the minute I’m not really bothered I only started with the National Trust at Easter time enough for all that.”
“Hmm I suppose so”.
“Hows the shop going you must be coming into the busy season”
“Things are going perfectly well thank you” May snapped she wanted to end this conversation quickly clearly under the impression that I was about to ask for money.
“Listen May is Elizabeth about”?
When she heard this question, Betty looked up from her catalogue. “Indeed, she is not, she did not bother herself to come in today.” She pulled a face like a gargoyle sucking on a sour gobstopper, Betty was one of those women who had a strong distaste for other woman.
“Well you don’t happen to know where she might be?”
“I suppose I should have known she’d be a friend of yours. No, we do not know what that silly wee girl gets up to when she’s not here. If you do run into her today tell her not to worry about coming in tomorrow. Her attitude and work ethic were always atrocious she was given plenty of chances and I will not be taken advantage of anymore”.
“Not a problem, listen Betty Elizabeth told me to meet me here I’m going to have a look for her if she does come by could you tell her I was looking for her?”
“Very well I suposse it is too much trouble for you to stay and give your two elderly Great Aunts a hand running the shop for the day. Say hello to your mother for me.”
Johnny left the shop without saying goodbye, for a few minutes after he left he stood outside facing the road taking deep breaths. The standard protocol in the extended family was to remain calm when dealing with Betty and May and Johnny always felt he was pretty good keeping his head anyway. However, he had reached the limits of his patience despite the fact that there would surely be repercussions when the rest of the family heard about it he was about to go back inside and unload twenty-three years’ worth of boiling anger on top of the auld bitch’s heads. His hand was on the doorknob and he was about to turn when and eggcorn hit him in the dead centre of his forehead.
Rubbing his head Johnny stared at the industrial bins outside the café opposite the shop trying to see who threw the eggcorn at him when he heard a familiar English-sounding voice behind him. “Are you looking for Oscar The Grouch”? Johnny did not turn around, he did not want Elizabeth to see the tears that were forming in his eyes. He blinked a few times before replaying.
“Careful now this street is clearly a hotbed of poltergeist activity I’ve just been whacked in the head with an eggcorn.”
“Yeah sorry, that was me I was aiming for the window of the shop.”
“Most people use a brick when they want to vandalise their former employers store fronts, but then you like to put your own individual stamp on everything you do.”
“Well when I came in this morning the two charming old women who own and operate that establishment told me that they did not like my face that it was only a matter of time before I stole something, and it would be better if I just left and never came back I had one of flare of anger. After I crossed the street the eggcorn was the first thing I saw”.
“Okay, aye I can totally understand that reaction my Great Aunts must have been extermly hard to work with”.
“OMG sorry I forgot you were related to Betty and May I’ll won’t say anything else”.
“Nah its not a problem in fact I was going to go in a chew them out for how they talked about you when you hit me in the face. I am however a bit confused I May, and Betty told me a slightly different story about what happened this morning. I had brought you some lunch to eat at the counter but as that is now no longer an option. Shall we grab a descent lunch somewhere”.
They went to a nearby Chinese Restaurant and availed of a lunch time offer, Elizabeth shoved pieces of sweet and sour pork into her mouth with alarming speed. In between bites she explained that May’s pathological lying was not simply a family affair, she did it in the shop as well. She had apparently accused Elizabeth of stealing money from the till on a number of occasions and a last Tuesday a vase went missing during her shift. At first May had told her not to worry about that her and Betty knew she would had nothing do with it. Then that morning as Elizabeth had had to gone in and open up she found the two of them already inside and ready to blame her claim they knew she had stolen it and that they did not want to see her again. Elizabeth paused to finish the last third of her Tiger beer in a singel gulp. “And that’s when I hit you in the head with an eggcorn. Sorry about that by the way it’s just you know sometimes you get these flashes of anger and you have to do something about it”. She stooped talking for a moment and looked me directly in the eye. “OMG yes that’s right I saw you when you were outside the shop, your casket was ready to pop off as well this is perfect you can help me we can be a team”.
“I’d be more than happy to, provided of course you tell me what I am supposed to be helping you with.”
“With my revenge of course. Look even if I had been able to break a window with the eggcorn I still would not have been satisfied I need to do something else something bigger. Running in to you, a fellow artist who also has a reason to dislike the crones McDaid has given me an idea. Why spend ten seconds committing a petty act of property damage when you can write, rehearse and perform a sketch tearing the shite out of them.”
“Right things are becoming a bit clearer. I assume you want us to write some sort of piss take of my Great Aunts and perform it at next moths open mic.”
“Aye I must admit I’m tempted by the idea my current is getting a bit old and I do feel the need to vent a little. But you must understand in my family we keep Omerta, if we do this you might away safely but I’d be found a few days after the performance skinned a with my balls stuffed inside my mouth.”
“Oh come on what’s the point of being a young artist if you can’t kick against your background a bit”.
“But what do you do if the background kicks back.”
“You do what every other Irish artist did and go into exile. I urge to do this by telling you that it will be a laugh but that may rather trite.”
Johnny finished his own beer and ordered two more from a passing waiter.
“Ok” he said “but only if you agree to stop talking in monologues.”

Johnny and Elizabeth spent the next few weeks preparing their new act, the writing of the script only took a few days, they both had a wealth of material to draw upon. After they had enough written it, they took it to the organiser of the open mic, surprisingly they were given the extended headlining slot. This meant that they spent four evenings a week rehearsing and re-writing their act. When the appointed evening came around Elizabeth told Johnny that she had a gotten her hands on some special costumes and set dressing, she wanted them to be a surprize. Therefore, Johnny was sent downstairs to pick up drinks while she set up. Coming up from the bar Johnny first saw Elizabeth’s creation. He almost fell back down the stairs, some how she had managed to create a rough re-creation of his great Ant’s shop. She had found the same kind of backless steel stools with the same purple and green striped cushions on them. Off grey next curtains were hung from the railings behind the stage. A square from very similar kind of fluffy beige carpet as the kind his Aunts had was placed under the stools. To top it off draped over the lighting rig were two long sleeved Paisley Pattern dresses one very Pattie and the other extermly large.
Johnny went over to the table nearest to the stage and placed Elizabeth’s vodka and coke down on the table. “Thank you darling, maybe you’re useful after all. By the way when I was coming in this evening, I saw that relative of yours the one who is always hanging about the shop. It looks like he’s going to watch the show tonight.”
“Fuck you don’t mean George”.
“Is that his name your Aunts never introduced us”.
Johnny’s cousin George was the only member of his family he detested more than Betty and May. He had always been one of thoese guys with an inherent understanding and love of hierarchy. At school, at work and especially within the family circle George always naturally understood who was in charge and how to ingratiate himself with them. If he saw Johnny performing a parody of Betty and May in front of a small group of people, then word would come back to the two Aunts in such a way that would further elevate George in their eyes while Johnny was permanently cast into the outer darkness. “I suppose I’d better go over and say hello then”.
Johnny found George preached on a back-cushioned chair on the downstairs bar. He was studying the bar menu and was wearing a face which seemed designed to get him elected to the office of High Pontiff of Peevishness. “How’s thing George “?
“Oh, Hello Johnathon it’s good to see you, I did not see you upstairs, so I came down stairs to get a drink and a bite to eat. Do you come here often?
“A few times a week after work and on the last Friday of every month for the comedy, why?
“Very nice that must be very relaxing for you, but don’t you find the menu somewhat limited”?
“Nah, it’s just good bar food, try the chill cheese fries.”
George took a twenty-pound note from his wallet placed it in his right hand and stretched his arm over the bar to get the attention of a member of staff.
“Portion of chill cheese fries and Spitfire pint of, thanks”
He placed the bank note on the table then turned his back away to face Johnny.
“I must say I’m looking forward to seeing you perform tonight, we were all talking about you last night and we all think it’s nice to see you doing something constructive.”
“Thanks man, listen I have to go and get ready things are kicking off soon.”
Johnny went back up the stairs smiling it would be intresting to see if the various members of his family still thought that his performing stand-up comedy after tonight.
The performance was supposed to be the climax of something, Johnny had expected an ill-defined big thing to happen. Yet half way though the routine Johnny paused for a moment and looked out at the crowd the expected catharsis would not happen. In fact, very few people seemed to be laughing, a few tables seemed be giggling out of pity. The plain fact was the routine was simply not very funny. It was not ready, Johnny looked round at Elizabeth it was clear that she also clear that she was beginning to realise that it was not working as well. They would just have to get through it.
After the open mic a few friends had come over to awkwardly congratulate him. Elizabeth flatly thanked him for his help before buying him a whisky. She clearly wanted him to stay behind to rework the act. It was obvious to Johnny that it was unsalvageable. However, the seed of a new one was plated in his mind, he thought about Betty and May’s haughty demeanour on the day Elizabeth lost her job or the look on George’s face as he left that evening. Bores were everywere, like hydrogen they were a universal constant. They had an unbreakable grip on the world. These types of people could force themselves on to everyone else though sheer brute will, frequently our only resources we had to fight against them were internal. The trick was to perform alchemy, Johnny would transform his web of dismal familial into threads of comic gold. From the outside it looked like he was lose but the cream of the jest would come when everyone saw him joking though his own failures.

11:28, 10 Apr 2019
Enda Boyle
The Wedding Gift

It was while he was staying in his father’s study the pervious Christmas that Markus first read about Branwell Brontë. Obligatory attendance at the extended family’s Christmas Eve whiskey party meant that he could not sleep that evening. Markus spent most of that night reading a biography of the Brontë family. After the first few references Markus went to the index looking for more information on Branwell. With each passing page interest, turned to fascination, to distaste and eventually to recognition. Branwell the other sibling, the restless drunken failure. Branwell the artist.
Markus knew something about what it was like to live with brilliant sisters. Take Emily the eldest member of the family. She was playing piano by ear at two, first concert hall at nine and international orchestras by thirteen. Next up came Charlotte if anything her process with the Cello was even quicker. The youngest sister Mary played the bass. As soon as Markus was born it was expected that the trio would become a quartet. One of Markus’ earliest memories was the day his mother placed a violin into his podgy toddler’s fists expecting the subline and getting a blast of scratchy atonal noise back. After that he was usually just given a box of crayons and some white paper and expected to keep quiet during the long rehearsal periods.
It was during those long silent afternoons that Markus uncovered his own interests. While the rest of the family sat in the living room sharpening their ears to pitch, melody and timbre Markus spent his time looking at things and ‘scribbling’. Everywhere he went he saw interesting things to draw, Stick men, bits of graffiti he saw in the street, monsters and most of all the cartoons he saw on television. Thus, their childhoods took their expected courses the sisters scaling the Himalayas of their talents while Markus climbed the more modest slopes of his own. Despite this Markus bore no resentment towards his sisters until early adulthood, a time he would later describe using an analogy from a favourite childhood cartoon. In the Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner shorts, the titular cartoon coyote would be so blindly focused on stocking his prey that he would often run off cliffs. For a few moments his feet would paddle though the air propelled forward by the fury of his own obsession not realising there was no ground beneath him. Suddenly he would look down see the gap beneath him and plummet all the way to the ground. Markus often thought one’s twenties were like that. His fall would take place during a family wedding.
Markus had been conscripted into the groom’s party a fortnight before and as such had turned up at the hotel early. He found his fellow groomsman sharing a plate of chips in the lobby. Both of the groom’s bothers Pongo (so-called because of his unfortunate canine-like face) and Spanky (So-called because of an incident involving a stack of pornographic magazines during a school assembly) saw him and signalled him over. Pulling a chair from another table Markus had just sat down Pongo grabbed his hand and began to shake “Markus man how’s it going, you still working at the vodafone centre?”
“Aye for now, what about yourself, still at the garage?”
“For the time being I’m thinking about going back to Tech get my English you Know. Spanky’s been plugging away at it for a while recons he’s close this year.”
“Really, good man would Tesco’s take on full time then?”
Spanky grunted by way of response before getting up and heading for the bar. Markus had always felt kinship with his two cousins they well all younger children whose older siblings were much more successful. Still seeing them as they were that day he was forced to consider the idea that an Art Collage graduate who worked temp jobs and picked up the odd bit of freelance graphic design work had it much than the academically unsuccessful sons of a family of teachers and accountants who looked like they’d scrape along working for minimum wage their whole lives.
When Spanky returned he was crying a tray with three half-pints of larger on seeing them Pongo winked.
“Sorry it can’t be anything more Markus man we promised Ma we wouldn’t drink before the wedding. Still we had to get something you are pulling us out of the hole we were in when that mate of Brain’s said he couldn’t do groomsman. One eh us has to do the speech.” Markus padded the jacket pocket which contained his notes. “It’s no bother at all”. If he was asked he would have to had said that he was looking forward to delivering this speech. After a life time of sitting quietly during his sister’s recitals and being for the most part overlooked he had grown fond of public speaking of being watched a listened to for a change. He leaned back in his chair and look a sip of his larger. It was going to be a fine day.
After finishing his drink, Markus went to check in and drop his bags of before the ceremony, coming out of his room he saw his father at the other end of the corridor. “Could I have a world Markus”? His father was grinning, and he could hear traces of his native Devon accent as he spoke. Clearly the cousins weren’t the only ones who started on the drink early.
“I understand that you’re delivering the best man’s speech. Could I ask you a small favour?”
“What is it”?
“I have not had a chance to talk to you about Brain’s wedding present. Your mother and I wanted to give the couple something a bit special and your sisters are all a bit short of money with the trip to Vienna coming up. So, we all put our heads together and have come up with an idea. We need your help keep an open mind.”
“What do you need”?
Listening to his father Markus was beginning to remember their last conversation. During a dinner to mark his retirement Markus’ father had pulled him aside and suggested that he enrol on a course which trained bookkeepers. He could hear the same tone of voice he used them entre into this conversation.
“We have spoken to the parents of the couples and asked for a bit of time during the speeches to present our gift. You see your sisters have been working hard over the past few months and they’ve cooked up with a small composition to mark to the occasion. I understand you were looking forward to delivering your speech, but I was just wondering if you could refrain from it and just sort of introduce your sisters.”
“Yeah of course no bother”
“You’re not disappointed”
“Nah not really I’m looking forward to hearing the piece.”
Once he had heard what his father had to say Markus walked away. He was being churlish he knew that. Whatever the sisters had come up with it would be great, better than great it would be perfect. What other newly married couple could that they had a new piece of music by near geniuses as a wedding gift? It was about Brain and his new wife, they were centre stage no one else really mattered. Still it would have been nice to spend one day with his family without it turning into the Emily, Charlotte and Mary appreciation society.
The ceremony itself was remarkably quick owing to the fact that the celebrant raced through the it in order to get out and place his grand national bet on. This meant that the dinning room was not ready for and the guests would have to wait another hour. Markus was trying to avoid his father when he heard a shout coming from the bar. Pongo had obviously been let off his leash. Markus decided to go in and investigate. He saw his two cousins (neither of them much taller than five foot) sitting at the bar with glasses of whiskey in their hands and their feet dangling off their stools. They had both somehow manged to lose their charcoal-grey suit jackets. As soon as Markus entered the bar Pongo called him over and placed a bottle of Black Bush with ice into his hand. They followed this with pints of larger, and finally some shots of tequila. At this point Markus realised that he had not eaten that day he was rocking in his chair and his thoughts turned to his speech. He knew he was too full of drink and resentment not to make a balls of his introduction at this point it was all about damage control.
The bell rang in the dinning hall and it was time to entre. Markus made his way past the rows of circular chestnut brown tables and the flower arrangements up to the big head table. Once he got his seat Markus took a breath he just had to get though it just ten more minuities then he could eat. He had just begun to relax when he saw waiters carrying sliver jugs, they were pouring the contents into the wine glasses of each guest. He would be expected to drink some of that wine. A waiter leaned over his shoulder and poured dark red Merlo into his glass. Markus’ stomach went into a spin cycle he could hear his name being called. The bride’s father put the microphone under his chin. Markus stood up he could not quite focus on any one section of the room. The room seemed to assault him with absurd details Spanky’s Karloff-flat head, the exquisitely untrimmed eyebrows of Uncle Alo. Markus opened his mouth to speak at the very end of the room he could see his sisters getting ready.
“Ladies and Gentlemen normally at this point normally the best man’s speech is supposed to focus on the groom. However as many of you know nothing can happen in this family unless the McCain sisters are at the centre. So sorry Brain and Mary we’re going to take time away from you to listen to a tune the girls wrote”.
He had planned to go but then the vomit rose in his chest and pushed through his throat, before he was even aware of what was happening Markus’ shirt, tie and the tablecloth beneath him were all covered in yellow pea soup bile.
Markus bolted out a side door near the main table, a small clump of tress stood on the opposite side of the driving path. Taking off his jacket Markus leaned against a tree and let the remaining contents of his stomach evacuate his body. He began to weep, everything was fucked up. He wanted a bit of attention to be talked about for a bit. The extended family would be talking about his behaviour for quite a while. A hand pressed on Markus’ shoulder.
“Are you okay Markus”. He looked up to see Emily standing above him carrying a glass of water. “fine” he replied. It was bad enough that she was beyond talented worse still she was also pretty enough to become an object of adoration for his friends. The fact that she was considerate enough to come out and check on him even after he had just insulted her was almost unbearable. “I’m not the Branwell you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“Branwell Brontë miserable fuck up brother of the novelists.”
Emily’s smile snapped shut when she said this. “Is that really how you see yourself?”
“Next to the three of you how could I not?”
“Fool”. Emily opened her small powder -blue clutch bag and pulled out a folded piece of paper throwing it at Markus’ feet.
“I just wanted you to know that I’ve been showing this to everyone this past weekend”.
Markus picked the paper up and unfolded it. At the start of the month Markus had been commissioned to design a poster for a local music festival. He could not believe Emily had taken it with her that weekend.
“Of course. You do know that the father has a big blown up copy above his desk. In fact, my friend Jackie has been torturing me to get you to draw something for her.”
Emily bent down and helped Markus up after handing him a few wet wipes she turned away to make her inside. Just before she reached the path she looked over her shoulder. “By the way Branwell’s poetry and translations were respected and well-reviewed in his own life time.”.
As soon as the dinner was finished the tables were put away the disco was set up. After the obligatory awkward dance with the Bridesmaid Markus went back to his seat pulled out a sheet of paper and began to draw. He was just finishing his cartoon drawing of a tuxedoed best man vomiting with such force that he was propelled into the air when he saw his sisters dancing in the centre of the dance floor. Things weren’t necessarily alright they wouldn’t be for weeks, months or possibly longer. There was nothing else for it but to keep scribbling.

09:39, 28 Mar 2019
Hi There, is there a theme for this week, March 25th to March 29th 2019?

16:49, 5 Mar 2019
Following on from the recent notes, I am very keen to know what is happening with the site?

11:57, 26 Feb 2019
Well thanks for asking what was on my mind Finnbar. I've lost all hope of seeing any more results or comps...just kidding...

06:05, 22 Feb 2019
It seems like a long time since any of the contest winners were announced, anyone know why?

15:04, 5 Jun 2018
To be happy is to question your own sanity, because happiness in a world of chaos can only mean that life has finally driven you crazy.

20:14, 20 May 2018
Does anybody know if the 2016 annual is still coming out? Filled in my blurb for it a while ago and not heard anything.

18:50, 14 May 2018
Hi there, just wondering if anyone knows what is happening with the site? Thank you

14:16, 1 May 2018
Has the email issue been resolved? If not, please give us an alternate email we may use to communicate with you. And please also update us on what is going on and why judging and prize-awarding are more than a month behind. This is getting ridiculous.

15:27, 20 Apr 2018
Hour of Writes
Hello - the Hour of Writes email account has stopped working. I am trying to find out why, but haven't received any emails sent to it since the 9th April. I will try to contact winners by other means...
All the best,

05:21, 19 Apr 2018
Have winners from the past few weeks been contacted regarding their prize? I have not been, nor has another winner I know of. Anyone else?

13:57, 18 Apr 2018
When might we see results for From the Dead? Thank you.

11:17, 5 Apr 2018
Where's the February markings?Its skipped to March!

01:03, 31 Mar 2018
What's the meaning of life?

07:27, 23 Mar 2018
Will there be a 2016 edition of winning entries?

22:31, 19 Mar 2018
The Power of Myth
It was 2018 and Harlequin was bored. He put aside his mask and carnival clothing and changed shape for fun.

Sitting in a Knightsbridge Costa, he checked over the girls chattering around him. Two blondes in Pashminas, long boots and flicking hair; No. A brunette; hair dye too dark, faux fur coat; constantly on her I-phone; No. The girl with red hair? She arrived carrying her Latte and searched for a seat.
He looked up and smiled, moving along the bench seat to make room. At first, she glanced elsewhere but he had chosen carefully and kept space on his table. With a diffident smile, she sat down carefully placing her china mug on the table. He glanced at his Times and then caught her eye.
"Busy time--have you enough room?"
She murmured something in reply which he didn't catch. He noticed her hands were long and thin and the way she held the drink, as if a precious thing, so delicate that it might break if she put it down.
"Much better in a china cup, don't you think? I hate those plastic beakers!"
She looked at him for a second and nodded but she said nothing.
He leant forward, not too far but, just enough to engage her attention and try his best smile--the one he used to show his sincerity. His blue eyes gazed straight into her eyes.
"Can I ask you a question?" He spoke gently and he waited for her reply.
"What is it?" She looked back, curious.
"I have the feeling you are a musician," he said, he held up his hand and smiled again--"don't tell me yet! I want to know if you find that too intrusive."
"I don't mind," she said and put the mug down on the table. "I'm just working in the Art Gallery in Montpellier Street, I'm no musician."

He put on a grimace, showing his even white teeth as he bit his lip. "Oh Dear! I know you are artistic but certain you were musical!"
"How would you know that?"
"Because I'm a natural!" he laughed and ran his hand through his wavy blond hair. "I'm never totally wrong. You must have some connection with music."
"Well, I sing in a choir at home but not down here."
"I knew it, will you allow me to boast, if I say I was part right at least?"

She laughed and he noticed how the corners of her mouth lifted as she smiled exposing her neat white teeth and heart shaped lips. He moved to leave. It was time to go; first step done. He folded his Times and stood up. She didn't see him slip a paperback book onto the floor near her feet. He smiled again, said goodbye with a wave and made his way out into the Brompton Road. He moved away swiftly once he left the coffee bar, to make sure she could not catch him and return the book on the spot. That would be annoying. He had left his mobile number and assumed name on the fly leaf to set up the next move.
On Friday of that week he spent the morning in the Art Galleries of New Bond Street, away from Knightsbridge, but full of the latest trends in expensive art. He bought catalogues for several upcoming exhibitions and studied them. At the Albemarle, he gave one of his cards to the receptionist.
"Yes Mr Harlekan, we will be open for you on Friday, of course." He nodded and left.
On Monday, he scanned the Costa to see if she had returned. She had not rung him to return his book and he wondered if she might have missed it. He went in and sat at his usual place. The clientele seemed identical. He wondered if there was some time warp at work; the blondes and the covens of smart ladies chattering appeared to be the same.
Then she walked in. Her auburn hair pinned up on top of her head and her long neck accentuated by pearl earrings. She looked round and saw him and smiled shyly. He waved to her to join him and she hesitated but gathered up her cup and came over.
"I wanted to catch you," she said," I found this book under the table last week. Is it yours?"
"Thank God! I am reviewing it for the Guardian," he lied "I have a deadline!"

He asked her whether she had read it and she shook her head. She blushed and lowered her eyes in confusion. His eyes glinted with malicious delight as he saw the effect he created.
"No, I didn't forget," she said "I hoped to find you here again, so here it is."
She handed over the book without another word.
"Does this mean you forgive me for my intrusive questions?" He laughed and grinned easily to relieve her embarrassment. "Look, I am thrilled you thought of me and so kind of you to return the book yourself. You don't know how much it means."
She sipped her coffee and looked up at him for the first time. He liked her large green eyes and how the light from the room caught the deep red tints in her hair. She really was a prize. When she got up to leave, he offered to walk with her the few hundred yards as far as Montpellier Street. They spoke about her work in the gallery and the exhibition on show there.
"Look" he said "Can we meet some time this week? I'd like to show you a Paul Klee I've seen on the Albemarle Gallery, which I like. Would you come?"
"To buy?" She said.
"Yes, I have a small collection and enjoy adding to it." He spoke as if it was a matter of minor interest and noted the effect when she opened her eyes with surprise.
"Do come" he said "can you make Friday afternoon?"
"Well, yes I suppose. I could get away at about four."
"It's a date." he said. "I'll come round to the gallery and collect you. I'm James Harlekan, by the way"
"Jane Seymour."
They exchanged mobile numbers and he took her hand as he left, just a moment's contact, but enough to signal his interest. She gave a brief wave and he walked away. The smile on his face was not one he wanted her to see.

Friday morning he chose some expensive jeans and a cashmere polo neck for the occasion. She was waiting outside the gallery when he arrived. He hurried forward.
“I walked through the park and forgot the time, I'm so sorry!"
"Well, we close early on Friday. Most people have gone away for the week end." People, meant the wealthy Knightsbridge crowd.

They took a taxi to Piccadilly and chatted on the way about favourite painters. She adored Hockney and disagreed about Francis Bacon and they arrived at Albemarle Street in a few minutes. A young man was waiting for them.
"I hope we haven't kept you. Most people want to get away on Friday afternoon."
Harlequin offered his hand and the smart-suited fresh faced young man semi-bowed.
"We always have time for an enthusiastic client." He said and showed the way into the gallery.
It was carpeted with fine rugs and the room breathed a mellow atmosphere of luxury. Fine French empire furniture mixed with a few modern pieces decorated the floor and they were conducted through into the gallery itself where an elderly man with a goatee beard awaited them. He wore a grey suit and a Hurlingham Club Tie with its purple garish colours. As if he had known him for years, he greeted Harlequin, pressing his arm in a familiar way.
Champagne and canapes were laid out on a Pembroke table and they were helped to them by the younger man. It was amusing to see the antics of these mortals with their minor cupidity, prostrating themselves for money. Under soft spot light, two paintings, mounted on easels, caught the eye with dazzling colours splashed across the canvas.
"So fine," said the elegant older man, "he took several years to recover from the war, you know."
"But his output was prodigious," said Harlekan, "I prefer his later work and I'm looking for smaller late pieces for my collection."
The old man nodded sagely, "Yes, I understand, so much more sophisticated, would you say?"
"Agreed." He turned to Jane "What do you feel from these two? Do they resonate with you?"
She said "They are museum pieces, not for a small private collection, if I am allowed to say so."
"Of course you can, dear lady, you show a very wise judgement, if I may say so." The old man smiled at her with gritted teeth.
"Anything later?" Harlekan dismissed the two masterpieces with a wave of his hand.
"Well, we are sure to have something to intrigue you within the next few weeks."
Harlequin smiled at this. He recalled the old men in the souks on Casablanca used the same phrase when they had nothing appealing to sell.
"By all means let me know while I am in London."
He offered his hand and wished them both good day.

"What conceit!" he said as he escorted Jane across Piccadilly. "Let's wash the taste away with tea in Fortnum's"

She laughed and was relieved that he had valued her opinion and agreed with it.
Soon they were chatting freely and time passed quickly.
"I suppose you have plans to go down to the country this week end?" he dangled the prospect of further meetings with a smile which quickened her heart.
She blushed and Harlequin noted the charming colour that came to her cheeks. For a single second he felt a twinge of compassion for this immaculate young woman, but the impulse to torment and win was too strong to resist.

He took her hand and held it gently. "I can't imagine what is happening to me" he said "I feel as if we've known each other for a long time, yet there are so many things I want to learn about you."
She looked into his wide blue eyes and left her hand in his while he spoke.
"Could we meet again soon?"
"I don't know what to say" she said, "we are strangers; I suppose yes," -here she looked down--"I would like that too."

He held her hand for a second then released it.. He busied himself with the tea things, making sure he was inept so she would take over. Predictably, she enjoyed the simple task and he smiled appreciatively.
"Well, am I too pressing if I ask, would like to go to see the new film at the Academy tomorrow night?"
She smiled, "I'd love to. I wanted to catch it and haven't had a chance."
"That's wonderful," he said and dropped the subject for the moment.

They talked about her family in Wiltshire; Daddy at the stud farm and mother as a JP in the local magistrate court. Then he told her lies about his foreign background and banking interests which kept him travelling most of the year. She accepted all of it and he enjoyed the fantasy as she gazed at him with innocent credulous eyes. When the time came to leave, he hailed a taxi and she gave her address in South Ken. On the way, he made arrangements to pick her up at seven for the show at nine p.m. He gave her a peck on the cheek as she left the cab and she waved as he pulled away.

He was comfortable. Pleased with progress, he gave the cabbie instructions to drop him at Shepherd's Market off Park Lane. This was an area he had known since Georgian Times. Of course it had changed! But the gambling houses and high class brothels still flourished. Just the clientele was different. Instead of dandies in silken hose and blowsy tarts, there were Arabs with limitless cash and their entourages. The girls were different too; cleaner and more luxurious.
He knocked at the door of number 17 and a black man opened the door carefully, then he smiled broadly.
"Welcome back Mr Harlekan. Good to see you! Your usual table?"
"Thank you Bob, can you get me some company?"
He spent the rest of the night with two beautiful Russian girls and plenty of white powder to sustain him. Strangely, in the still moments of the highs, he felt it was all too familiar, too repetitive and stale. He left at three o'clock and made his way back to Albany off Piccadilly to sleep a dreamless sleep. He awoke at four in the afternoon and ruminated on what to wear and how to arrange his evening entertainment.
His flat had been furnished to his taste. He had always enjoyed the voluptuous silks and colourful drapes from the Ottoman palaces of Persia. They brought back memories of exotic nights, wild escapades and perfumed women, captives for pleasure. He ordered new sheets of silk and chilled champagne for the evening. Then he bathed and chose his clothes with care.

At seven precisely, he arrived at her door, a single rose in his hand. She stood in the doorway and held it like a precious jewel marvelling at its glowing colour.
"It's a summer rose from Provence," he said "I sent specially for you."
She smiled and offered her cheek shyly as gesture of thanks.
"So lovely!"
His heart gave a strange skip. What was wrong? He ignored it.

She wore a simple dress of plain blue with a belt of black leather around her slim waist. Her hair was loose and as she moved it flowed around her pale face in a glossy wave. He handed her into the cab and he watched her graceful figure as she sat besides him. Something was wrong. His fingers tremored as he sat alongside her; he gripped the door handle to steady himself. She chatted excitedly about the film and never noticed how silent he was. When they reached The Curzon, he got out first. He felt better as he touched the ground. Nothing to worry about, then.
The film was a black comedy created by some avant-garde Italian director. She laughed in all the right places and he enjoyed the fact that they both saw the crux of the film in unison. At I one point, she rested her head against his shoulder and her soft scented hair brushed against his cheek. It was a gesture he had never felt before--a natural touch, not a deliberate move as he had done a thousand times before. Something strange and yet exciting. Again, the little throb made his heart beat out of time. He became a little dizzy and sweat gathered on his forehead. He wiped it away and sat upright. She touched his hand, concerned,
"Are you alright?" she said, "you seem uneasy?"
"No. I'm fine. It's just a little hot in here."
It soon passed and they enjoyed the rest of the film. As they left, she took his arm naturally and he sensed the warmth of her body next to his as they strolled towards Piccadilly. It felt good and he returned her smile as they made their way among the Saturday night crowds enjoying the late summer evening.
"Where are we going?" She asked.
"I thought you might like a bite to eat at Albany, it should be fun on a warm evening."
"Where's that? I haven't heard of it. Is it a restaurant?"
"Well not exactly, just the most special place that few people in London know about."
He smiled his special dazzling smile and tucked in her arm protectively.
"Wait and see."
The Albany is set back from Piccadilly in a courtyard with elaborate gates away from the bustling street. Built as apartments in the early nineteenth century, it remains, perhaps, the most exclusive address in London. A uniformed porter saluted as they came in to the oval courtyard and Jane wondered how she had missed the elegant building which she must have passed a hundred times. Lights gleamed from behind doors of mahogany and glass; beyond were Persian carpets and gleaming brass fittings.
Jane stiffened a little as she wondered at the luxury of the scene. She had imagined some dining Club with a noisy society crowd but this was all in exquisite taste but so silent and dignified, a little daunting.
"Come and see where I live." He said and threw open the door to his apartment. They walked in and she gazed at the opulent drapes and bright colours of the room with some surprise. It was exotic and luxurious at the same time; as if she had passed out of modern London into a world of Arabian Nights.
"It's fascinating," she said and he took her arm and guided her to one of the sofas arranged around the fireplace.
"I can be lonely here," he said, “but it suits me, I have to write, you know."
He spoke as if it was a burden that weighed him down, "Deadlines can be a curse!"
He took up a phone on a side table and rang for room service. Without consulting her, he ordered cold salmon with mayonnaise and thin white bread.
"Are you hungry?" he smiled and kissed her hair as he passed by on the way to the kitchen. She felt nervous but excited.
"Yes, I'm famished!"
He returned with a bottle of dry sherry, cold from the fridge and poured two tall glasses of the pale yellow wine. They drank and discussed the film while waiting for the meal. Gradually, she relaxed and began to enjoy the ambience of luxury and isolation which the apartment provided. When the meal arrived, they both ate with appetite and laughed a lot.
Harlequin joined her on the sofa as he filled her glass a second time and helped her to more food. She sat close to him and afterwards, he played a little on the piano in the alcove of the room. She told him how much she enjoyed it and asked him to play something romantic.
"Will you come and sit beside me, to inspire me?" He said and he recalled a night when he had seduced one of Edward the Seventh's mistresses in this very apartment with the same ploy. He had to leave London for a season as a result, but the scandal had been worth it.
She did sit next to the piano stool and he had the chance to see her in the warm lamplight. Her hair was soft and waved in a natural way unlike the sophisticated styles of the women he was used to. Her skin was radiant, but with a glow of good health and her green eyes reflected the light in such a way that he saw his own reflection clearly in them.
He began to play something he recalled but could not remember its name; she got up and danced, moving gently to the rhythm.
"I know this," she said "It's Ivor Novello."
He watched her as he played, her feet tracing a delicate pattern across the carpeted floor; she was enchanting. She had the grace and a lightness of spirit which only existed in an innocent soul and was spellbinding. He played on with some difficulty but his mind began to falter. He gasped for breath and his fingers would not follow his commands.
She stopped dancing immediately and ran to him. He stumbled from the piano and she helped him to the sofa. His face was ash grey and he sat back against her arm as she cradled him.
"What happened?" She cried "Is there something I can do?"
He shook his head, although his mind was in turmoil. He knew what the trouble was affecting him.
"You must go," he said, "Forgive me, I have to be alone tonight. Can you ask the porter for a cab?"
"But I must stay; I can't leave you like this!"
He moaned, with every word she said. He writhed with pain and she trembled as she held him in her arms, feeling desperate to do something to help. He knew that every minute she stayed would be like a torment. Her innocence and untouched beauty was like a caustic poison scorching his soul. He turned his face away and felt the transformation begin.
"Go! I said go!"
He looked down and the shame of deceit welled up inside him. She hesitated, uncertain how to deal with this stern unexpected order. Gathering all his strength, he stood and turned towards her.
"Now GO! The Comedy is over!"

She shrank at the sight of his face. A mask covered his eyes and his face was a pallid narrow shape with painted lips and pointed teeth. His head was covered in a black skull cap and he stared with a luminous glare. Then he crouched down on the floor and sobbed.
He knew that whatever pain he inflicted, he suffered eternally; knowing pure innocence was sublime and unobtainable.

22:13, 8 Mar 2018
Hour of Writes
Everything will be updated very soon, with full results announced.
Apologies if you have emailed and not received a reply. I've tried to answer things on the whole.
As I mentioned before, there is some further development planned for the site in the latter part of this month.

09:58, 5 Mar 2018
Hello, same here: how is it possible to see who won previous competitions? I started with "just say it" but still no results in sight.

23:59, 2 Mar 2018
Seeking Wolf
hi Hour of Writes!

Thank you for your answer...

Strangely, this was dated 1st March, but has only appeared at some point from this afternoon today...

The feedback for two markers is now there-bUT I am still waiting for my third marker.....

23:54, 1 Mar 2018
Hi, I joined and entered ‘just say it’ but can’t see who won and got no feedback? Is this normal or am I not looking in the right place?

22:48, 1 Mar 2018
Hour of Writes
Hi Seeking Wolf - you are still waiting for feedback? Let me check your account now....

16:49, 28 Feb 2018
Seeking Wolf
hi again..

Are others still waiting for all their marks from last week?
I have also received NO comments!

I don't really want to enter another before reading my feedback....!!

All best..tis getting near the next deadline......

10:52, 26 Feb 2018
Seeking Wolf
Hello, I am wondering why I have had only two markers this time?
This happened once before, early on...which I took as a blip..
It's not so great to have marked three myself, and find this hasn't happened for me!!!
(Hopefully, third on way...?)
Also, it would be good to see winners from most recent weeks before embarking on a new piece; very helpful as part of self-critique...
That, said, it's good to get inspired to write anything-which your place provides for me!

19:31, 14 Feb 2018
I went to check my feedback for last week and there was none. It stated that I had not marked my entries. But I can see the entries with my marks and comments dated last Saturday. There is no way to know if they were delivered, but I notice one of 3 doesn't come up. Would that mean the other two did not go? I'd like the people to get their feedback, especially as I went to the trouble of doing the work.

19:33, 2 Feb 2018
Seeking Wolf
Just wondering if there is any way to re-format, when submitted work looks differently shaped in Ephemera from how it did on the entry form??

21:51, 27 Jan 2018
Hi Alison. I am really enjoying being part of the Hour of Writes community! Just wondering when the entries from last year and previous weeks will be marked and if the weekly announcements will be reinstated? I find the weekly updates really motivating and a great part of the Hour of Writes premise. Thank you x

21:33, 22 Jan 2018
Hour of Writes
It isn't closing! It's just a little slow at the moment. I'll try to send an email to all registered users soon. We're planning site development for end of March.

20:47, 19 Jan 2018
Ah but Caesar, where is the joy, the satisfaction in the known, the achievable. If we don`t overreach, if we do not fail then we will never know our limits. And if we do not know our limitations how will we know when we have exceeded them?

12:20, 18 Jan 2018
Jim bob
Is Hour Of Writes Closing down does anyone Know?
Would be a shame

14:51, 15 Jan 2018
New on old?

21:39, 12 Jan 2018
Seeking Wolf
hello Red,
I just want to say that i find your two "notes" startig "you smile" extremely moving, and poetic..
I didn't see them entered into competitions, but they are POWERFUL..
All best

21:27, 12 Jan 2018
Seeking Wolf
hello All,
I was thinking of entering this week..
but i see from notes that perhaps this site is stopping?
How sad!
i have enjoyed the whole concept the times i entered, and grateful for the opportunity to get well as feedback, and th echance to read others' talented work..
All very best to all!

21:54, 11 Jan 2018
Thank you Sémaigho! That is really helpful and encouraging.

14:32, 11 Jan 2018
Thanks Octopoda. No idea either. I only recently started getting interested in Internet writing resources. Even since I joined here I have researched more and it is amazing what's out there. Look at '31 writing competitions for 2018' for example.

11:17, 11 Jan 2018
Such a shame to read the recent notes. I wonder if the outstanding entries will be marked? I hope so. Congratulations on your recent wins and featured entries.

22:41, 10 Jan 2018
Well done Jocasta. Yep, think the party is over. Checked up on company register like you were saying. Company will be fully dissolved on January 18th. Commiserations to those involved. I'm sure you started out with good intentions.

16:27, 8 Jan 2018
PS to Semaigho. I see there’s now some movement - congratulations on winning on 25th Dec, and also my piece is featured this week. Maybe they’re pulling it all back together after a 6-week gap?

16:20, 8 Jan 2018
Hi Semaigho, Seems like we joined at the wrong time. There’s an application on the Companies House website to compulsorily strike off this company, which was filed at the end of October 2017. It’s bizarre that the site is still active and taking people’s money.

11:08, 3 Jan 2018
Hi Jacosta, I'm new too. However I can say there have been no results posted for the past seven weeks, coincidently the week of my first entry. I have received the feedback each week from peers (except sometimes I might not get 3 reviews), and I have fulfilled my end by reviewing 3 pieces each week. Otherwise it seems a bit of a ghost town with little interaction between writers.

16:05, 1 Jan 2018
Hi, I’m new to the site. I can’t see any competition results for December on The Canon page. I thought there should be pieces published every week? Thanks, Jocasta

20:24, 16 Dec 2017
Thank you Tauren! I very much enjoyed your 'in defence of clichés!' Have a great weekend.

20:50, 15 Dec 2017
Hi Octopoda, yeah that happens sometimes. I guess maybe it`s a numbers issue, or perhaps one of the people assigned your piece to mark was unable to do so for whatever reason. The annoying thing about it is you have to wait until later in the week to read their feedback and you`re left on tenterhooks, wondering what they thought of it.

16:13, 15 Dec 2017
Hello all! My entry has only been marked by two people this week - I just wondered if anyone else had experienced this? Thank you

13:57, 11 Dec 2017
you smile and teach me to inhale
warm rays of sunshine
smoothening the jagged barbed wire
taking up all the space
in my crumbling lungs

you laugh and teach me to breathe,
it's the hardest thing i've done since taking that shower,
the frost melts
and for the first time in years
i'm warm

you grin and teach me to talk,
to let all those chained up words
escape with groans of relief and
murmurs of uncertainty,
let go, you whisper as sun-lit fingertips creep over the horizon

you cry and teach me to use
the scorching searing fire that burns
skeletons who get to close,
you show me anger can be beautiful
and that it's okay to feel

you shout and teach me to let words spill,
like spring rain in March,
you show me how to let words embrace the dark,
that sharing isn't a death sentence
nor exile

you sing and teach me to smile
without sadness clinging to it's edges,
to laugh unhindered,
and to cry silently and so very loud,
to not let the darkness win

you whisper and teach me to remember,
to remember,
to curl my fists up tight
and swing back hard,
you remind me to fight back

you embrace and teach me to never ever give up,
to welcome the darkness
with scarred arms
but that it doesn't mean
it's everything i am

you jump and everything you've taught me
disappears in a whirl of screams and accusations
and salty tears that aren't mine
because i've forgotten what
you've said about crying.

you break and fucking hypocrite is all i can hear
in the memories of your soft voice and violin strings
and broken bones from long ago,
you promised, because you promised,
echoes down my buckling spine under
the weight of what i did wrong and what i could've done right
and the what ifs and could've beens

you die and leave me behind
and as the frost ices over and
my anger scorched rings of fire around me,
i stop talking and smiling
and fighting back
and i'm sorry but i've forgotten
what you've taught me

13:33, 11 Dec 2017
you smile and suddenly I can breathe through the suffocating smoke and barbed wire that ensnare my lungs with twisting snarling claws

you smile and relief seeps, like water through thin cracking ceilings, into muscles stained by decade old tension

you smile and poison leaks from my veins through crumbling fingertips, raw and bitten, let me out

you smile and words, harsh and acidic, sputter and fade, leaving behind nothing but a breathe of slightly stale air

you smile and cool crystals collect and form in the hollows of collarbones and deep in the shade of shoulder blades

11:47, 8 Dec 2017
Hour of Writes
Head over to Twitter @hourofwrites for fascinating writing stimuli for this week's title from the Progress conference on 'Crossing Frontiers: Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction'. We are discussing topics such as 'what makes a sperm a sperm?', creating life in the lab, immortality through germ calls, and the sci-fi-sounding SHEEFs. See you there.

17:57, 7 Dec 2017
Seeking Wolf
Hour of Writes

Thank you for replying when you must be super-busy conferencing!

What an achievement this is, encouraging people here...

and what a very interesting conference-and essay!-topic...

Will check spam ...!!!

All best

16:40, 7 Dec 2017
Hour of Writes
Is this competition part of a larger group, I wonder...?
- No it's not - I built it from scratch and set it up in 2014. It has further potentials yet to be explored...

Also intriguing to wonder why such a thing would mean the original title wasn't ok!!
- The conference is an ethical one about the boundaries of reproduction, and not about the moon - the point of the tie-in is to generate creative response to this very interesting area of modern science and philosophy.

You sent me an email with the moon title, but didn't send another with changed title..
- The email with the moon title is an auto-one from the site, when a new title goes up. The second one was from me via Mailchimp about the changed title. Perhaps you unsubscribed from these emails at some point, or maybe it went into spam?

Enjoy the conference!
- Thanks!

12:51, 7 Dec 2017
Seeking Wolf
Hello Hour of Writes!

Conference tie-in sounds fascinating...Is this competition part of a larger group ,I wonder...?

Also intriguing to wonder why such a thing would mean the original title wasn't ok!!

For info, you sent me an email with the moon title, but didn't send another with changed don't know if I am a registered person here or not!!!!

All best
Enjoy the conference!

12:48, 7 Dec 2017
Seeking Wolf
Hello Tauren,

Many thanks indeed for the clarification!

I do agree that the marking process helps support my own writing-or SHOULD, were I better at looking objectively at my own work!!!
And-since I realised that the"marking guide" was something that could be clicked and opened, I have more of an idea for marking numbers...
In any case, I have found the various comments of markers very helpful, for thinking how to improve things I wrote(So interesting when one marker writes s/he really likes a section that somebody else finds unclear!!That's where three markers is a great idea I think, to get a range of reponses!)

Re the inability to use italics...While I think the level playing field is a great aim, I am not sure that not being able to use italics facilitates this aim, as it means that people can't indicate when they want a tone rather different from what may be expressed through using capitals.
Also, not being able to keep the text arranged as intended may disadvantage somw, since , perhaps especially (but not exclusively) in poetry, the arrangement often enhances the feeling for the reader, indicating emphasis more precisely.

Still, if we can't , we can't!
And I am enjoying browsing all the great ideas, and trying to write some of my own..First time since school , many years ago, I have finished writing a fictional story!!
Thanks to those involved in setting up this competition, to provide incentive!

09:39, 7 Dec 2017
Hour of Writes
Hello all - I put up the 'The Super Moon' title on Sunday evening, and then discovered that the conference tie-in was going ahead the following morning s had to change it. I sent out an email to all registered users about this, that day, but unfortunately I can't make the site send out another 'official announcement' due to how it's set up. There'll be live tweets from the conference all day tomorrow which should provide interesting bits of inspiration.

10:09, 6 Dec 2017
Hi Tauren, First re your note on marks. I didn't realise there were 'proper' judges. I thought we, the writers were as good as it gets. Yes, I've only started the critique business but I can see already how it helps writing too.
Now re my take on the cliche: All great cliches came from writing or creative minds. It is your job (and mine) as writers to come up with the next cliche. Besides it's head wrecking fun trying to come up with another way of saying something, or turning a cliche on its head. Yes, I agree also, it could be a defining characteristic of a character to use cliches, and tell things about them. I had a character in a play and his amusing idiosyncrasy was malapropisms, which I love making up or hearing said by people without realising. For one example my character said 'A bird in the hand is worth two on one wing'. I know I'm not talking about cliches; just making point about being creative.
PS: I actually did advise somebody in the last critiques not to use cliches! Don't think it was you because I had nothing to say 'suddenly'.

21:15, 5 Dec 2017
In defense of cliches.

Now there`s a line you thought you`d never read, it being a staple piece of advice to all writers. I was reminded of this by one of the Marker comments for my last piece who suggested, among other things that I avoid doing this.
But really isn't telling a writer to "avoid cliches," well, a cliche in itself, my aren't I in a catty mood "Mee feckin Oww" :)

But then I thought, well why should I avoid cliches, precisely what is so terrible about them. And so here I thought I would appoint myself legal counsel and present the case for the defense.

Cliches don`t simply pop into existence, they are not baseless, their existences are in fact hard earned and deserved. After all for a phrase to become a cliche it must be widely used.
Real people use cliches all the time and used properly can give the reader an indicator into the personality, educational standard, even nationality of the character we choose to utter one of those dreaded phrases. Some cliches can be so location specific that you can almost tell which part of any city in the world they hail from just by inserting a few well chosen words into their vernacular.

So I say yes to cliches, but sparingly.

P.S. And what precisely is so bloody awful about "Suddenly" that we`re not allowed to use it, and who`s making up all these rules anyway? that`s what I want to know.

20:34, 5 Dec 2017
Hi Seeking Wolf, sorry nobody got back to you about your questions, I dip in and out of notes only occasionally, usually when I have something to say, but I`ll do my best to answer your questions.

On the fonts issue; as far as I know there is no way to alter the font in any way, at best it makes for a level playing field and a judging process that is focused on the quality of the writing.

As for the editing process, I always click save before switching between pages to check how the finished product will actually look.

Ah the points; I`ll answer the second part of your question first, the points have no bearing on the judges decision, I`ve had pieces average 400+ not even feature and won with a piece that only averaged 255.
I don`t believe the judges get to see the points or the feedback, after all they need to make an unbiased decision.

As for the range of marks, well that`s a piece of string question, it`s entirely up to you, after all creativity is a completely subjective pastime. I myself have discovered that the longer I`ve been critiquing other writers work the less generous I`ve become; that is to say I feel I was overly generous at the beginning, not that I`m being overly stingy now. Being a critic is like any other task, the more you practice it the better you become, and you have to remember this is almost certainly the first time you`ve ever been asked to critically assess another writers work, and I don`t know about you but I found it quite daunting at first.

The good news is not only does it get easier, but you will find it a boon to your own work as it will help you spot the flaws in your own writing leading to you becoming a better writer.

I hope this has been of help

11:21, 5 Dec 2017
Seeking Wolf
hello again Sémaigho!

I too am puzzled..
Woke up with an idea for the moon title..
to find it has been changed!!!

howl and grrrrrrrr---

Thank you for the merry comment on my name!

I do find I am enjoying the incentive to try to write however...

18:07, 4 Dec 2017
I got an email for a prompt 'THe ...Super...Moon' and the site prompt says 'Limits of reproduction'. Are we ahead or behind!

18:14, 3 Dec 2017
Not called Seeking Wolf for nothing so! I'll check that next time. Thanks

21:06, 2 Dec 2017
Seeking Wolf
hello Sémaigho,

No-no answers...but,,this time, I suddenly realised that, if you click on the italic title "marking guide", it becomes clear!
I had thought that was just a title for the different categories!

No way yet to make italics work in text as far as I can find..and annoying when a piece has its shape changed-when perhaps I had wanted indentations for instance!

All best!
I have found the comments from co-markers very helpful btw, so I hope this is your experience too...

11:15, 2 Dec 2017
Hi, Seeking Wolf. I'm a newbie too.I was hoping you'd get an answer to your 2 posts because I had the same questions. Looking back through comments I notice it seems to be a very quiet site for posting such feedback.

16:27, 26 Nov 2017
Mr Golightly
Thanks to the folks who reviewed my piece last week. It's the first time I've won and it made my day. The comments didn't show up for a while so I've only just read them but I got some really extensive feedback and it was a great mix of constructive criticism and praise. It was much appreciated. Ta.

22:05, 21 Nov 2017
Seeking Wolf
How do we know what kind of range of marks are suitable?
I think I marked within a different kind of frame than that within which my own piece was marked..
Does it "matter", as it's all relative, I guess?
So you can see, from one marker , what s/he did or didn't like ..

Or, does it affect the overall judge?

I enjoyed reading these pieces by th eway

22:34, 18 Nov 2017
A sincere thank you to all the reviewers of my 'Waiting For You' entry. To the third reviewer - thank you so much for commenting so generously. To know that the piece resonated with you and that your element is water - that was truly wonderful to read. Thank you again x

17:55, 17 Nov 2017
Seeking Wolf

I am wondering, in case I enter another time, how to alter font to italic, and how to make sure line positioning stays as I want it?
It seems to have changed since I submitted my piece!
Not a huge deal..what is a bit harder is a couple of sequences didn't adapt to my edits,,perhaps because I left the page for a few minutes?

All best, it was interesting for sure!

12:39, 13 Nov 2017
Hour of Writes
I think everything is up-to-date now! Apologies for the delay. Thanks for the explanation Tauren.
All the best,

12:13, 11 Nov 2017
Hi Maxie, Yeah it can be a "little/very" frustrating, depending on your point of view. It goes like that sometimes, as I understand it Alison`s had a lot on her plate this year so it can get a bit like buses; you wait ages for one and then four or five show up at once. Hang in there it`ll get done.
Btw had a look at some of your stuff, interesting conversational style you got there ;)

21:35, 3 Nov 2017
Don`t you just hate it when you review a posted piece and all the small errors you`ve missed leap out at you?

09:17, 17 Oct 2017
To the third marker of my What's My Tribe entry; thanks for your kind feedback, it was really lovely. I'd like to know you too, I'm sure.

02:19, 16 Oct 2017
Love Jaguar's mirror poem, especially the first stanza.

16:04, 29 Sep 2017
Hour of Writes
In our British souls which we carry around with us, we have always the persistent rain and those old churches, and funerals on the side of muddy hillsides, and the houses of great-aunts smelling of that pixellated-texture soap and butterscotch sweets and old-fashioned cologne, and bus-stops. They sit somewhere in the bottom of our stomach like weights. When someone invites us to fly we have to make a huge effort to rise with them sitting there.
Britain, shrouded in mist, a myth from which we sally forth into the world which is like the Lands at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree, knowing we can return to our enchanted forest once we have whatever spoils we wanted.

15:05, 25 Aug 2017
The blank page is as terrifying as the open door of an aircraft in flight. I know from experience that once I jump, and the parachute opens, everything will be fine. Nevertheless, I pick up the pen and the gaping portal into thin air dares me to fill it with my ideas, my voice, my body itself. Time and gravity and uncertainty taunt us our whole lives. Writing is an exercise in faith and self-confidence, qualities we must cultivate if we're ever to share a true sentence with ravenous readers eager to shear the flesh from our bones at the first hint of weakness.

19:26, 15 Aug 2017
Thanks Safemouse. I didn't realise.

16:19, 15 Aug 2017
Results can take 2 or 3 months to be posted sometimes.

22:14, 13 Aug 2017
Have the results of the Time and Space and Feel the Fear been announced. If so, I can't seem to find them. x

19:34, 4 Aug 2017
You're welcome, K Maid Marion.

16:13, 30 Jul 2017
Thanks for your response Safemouse

00:37, 30 Jul 2017
Either those responses were posted after the marking period or they don't refer to the author. (I would guess).

20:56, 29 Jul 2017
How do the Show Notes work? I 'note' that some respond to pieces of work written - but I thought it was anonymous until they were marked?

09:31, 25 Jul 2017
Nice work (Time and Space poem)...and quick off the mark, too.

12:30, 15 Jul 2017
Just read and enjoyed 'Matter of heritage' by Paul McDermott.

14:39, 13 Jul 2017
Just got back my first feedback and I love you guys! I was so nervous as I never let anyone read my writing before and you have really offered some helpful constructive thoughts.

22:39, 28 Jun 2017
Jaguar...pebble beaches in Margate?? They're all sand as far as I can tell...

13:42, 2 Jun 2017
Seth Dinario
WhoA! That was an adrenaline rush. Discovered the competition only today and, rather than wait until next week to spend five days really crafting something great, I thought 'I can do a 2K story from scratch in an hour, no sweat.'
Incorrect. Buckets of sweat, and an incomplete story! Anyone else had this issue? Hubris, I mean.

The last time I paid money to feel this jacked up yet frustrated was my first (and second) driving tests.

FYI, markers, the final sentence should have been: 'Ms Chattingham, start the procedure.' AND there was going to be loads more in there about the bottles, where they're from, what they're for, yada yada yada. Sigh.

16:18, 22 May 2017
Hour of Writes
Thanks for the feedback Safemouse. I always enjoy hearing from you. Hope you'll be able to enter 'For The Many' :-) Alison

22:39, 17 May 2017
Thanks for your reply, Alison. Of course, HOW is your baby and you must do what you want with it. As a semi-regular user I just wanted to give you some feedback...

15:20, 15 May 2017
Hour of Writes
Thanks Safemouse! I appreciate your response, and the balance within it - also that what you like about HoW is not politics (I think you can assume that I am aware of that, and was when I wrote the email too). However, I think there is virtue in using something built for one purpose for another one. I grew up in South Yorkshire during the miners' strike in the '80s, the last Tory government, so personally have a very negative experience of Conservative policies. I am pleased at the way this election is becoming properly competitive in a way the last one never seemed to, the 'Milibean' image getting in the way of anything approaching policy. Having a proper opposition means that the Tories won't be able to get away with as much exploitation as otherwise.
The question of 'evil'/Tories/left-wingers is a fascinating one and deserves its own conversation, and indeed, research project in my opinion. We need a better system to have these conversations on the site. I will see what I can do.

12:59, 12 May 2017

Having read your recent email I would say this. I am going to uni in September as a mature student and I don't begrudge paying fees. Afterall, I don't pay anything til I finish uni and then only after I earn £21,000 per annum,which is alot of money to me. In particular, I think it's unfair for people who go to university to expect those who didn't to fund their education. As for who to vote for, I'm enjoying the retro feel of this election cycle and am torn between the different options. The Tories are bringing back grammar schools, Labour are going to nationalise the railways and UKIP are bringing back highway men and gibbets. Seriously though, on this occasion I could quite happily vote for almost anyone (i.e Tory, Lib, Lab, Green) or no one. I'm a genuine floating voter. I don't think the sky would collapse if we scrapped Trident, I don't think the Tories are inherently evil.

You caution against the fear and brow beating agenda of the right wing perhaps without seeing those elements in your own message. A message which implies that unless I vote for the 'true alternative' the swords of hunger will come beating on my door!

Granted , they are here already somewhat and a Labour vote might best further my own interests but... I don't seek a political solution to my core problems which will remain, by and large, whoever gets in. I will study the manifestos and vote as wisely as I can but my life is not really about politics and the political aspect of HOW is not what makes HOW attractive to me...Just sayin'.

15:17, 10 Apr 2017
Congrats to Jaguar for your Trolls and Bridges story win. I enjoyed marking that!

01:32, 3 Apr 2017
Hour of Writes
Is it really blocked in China? I didn't know that. Interesting.

16:15, 2 Apr 2017
Hour of Writes is blocked in China... :-(

02:30, 1 Apr 2017
I think some of the entries this week are pretty good! I'm in the midst of marking now and enjoying. Have speed read a few others and will take a proper look later.

08:40, 30 Mar 2017
Like the fabled cigar, sometimes a story is just a story.

08:39, 30 Mar 2017
Hi Maxieslim, I've never had to wait weeks for feedback. If there are three markers I get their comments on Tuesday, less than three, then it's Thursday. It must be horribly frustrating if you're waiting longer than that, have you considered contacting Alison.

08:26, 30 Mar 2017
So my writing style has finally become recognisable, I did wonder if that would happen. And yes I admit it wasn't my best work, but hey if I only write one mediocre piece out of every thirty five then I think I'm doing all right :)

00:14, 11 Mar 2017
Good point, Maje...Thanks!

18:44, 26 Feb 2017
I have too, sometimes you don`t get three to mark, occasionally I`ve only gotten two, did you get any at all?

12:27, 26 Feb 2017
Has anyone received their stories to mark for Live Dream?

17:11, 23 Feb 2017
A dream & Rhyme.

Poetry is walking through woods,
her soles to soil, bare and pale.
And morning has come,
descending ambers, spirits sinking from a sun.
Poetry is sensing the chestnut earth,
dirt drawn by her tempered wine veil.
Leaves marooned and rich,
fluttering brittle sparks, burnt a telling trail.
Poets, claws and nose, are tracking the air,
autumns incarnated creatures of quite curiosity,
chirping a chorus of their primordial prayer.
Poetry strolls concealed by her crown,
of a hundred vibrant breathing, and burst tulips.
And morning has awoken,
sprinkling syllables like sage on the flesh of their lips.

20:14, 20 Feb 2017
No problem, I`m just a nosy fecker is all :)

16:48, 20 Feb 2017
Hello Tauren,

I prefer to keep stuff that I may re-work and enter elsewhere out of the public domain. I think in some ways it's the best thing I've done on HOW, though I admit it does require more work from the reader than usual. So I'm grateful to marker 2 for understanding where I was coming from but I understand marker 1's point of view, as well.

07:49, 16 Feb 2017
Safemouse you tease.
You can`t post a note like that,
and then conceal the piece it`s about.
C`mon make it public so we can all have a peek at what all the fuss is about ;)

15:03, 14 Feb 2017
You can't please all the people all the time... (two reviews for Note to self)

Marker #1: 10, 0, 10, 10, 20
Marker #2: 75, 65, 75, 75, 75

Marker 1

What I liked about this piece: Not a lot, to be truthful. I was fair and read the whole thing a couple of times but it was beyond me. As I was trying to find something I liked, I came upon the cliche " time is now worth more to me than money" so I will stop racking my brains on this point.

Favourite sentence: " Molly for Prime Minister"

Feedback: This was impenetrable to me. My heart sank when I saw how long it was too. Have pity upson your readers and give us something to work with here!

Marker 2

What I liked about this piece: A brilliantly original piece.

Favourite sentence: Truth has a funny habit of getting stuck like a stone in the shoe of one’s conscience

I do need to find someone that’s going to blow my socks off…
But you pulled one of them down

Feedback: I really enjoyed this piece. It's not necessarily the easiest to read, but I loved how haphazard and realistic the notes were and how the thread of the story was woven into the note. There are some brilliant, thought-provoking ideas in there as well - above love, religion, war, sex. Very clever - well done.

20:46, 5 Jan 2017
Too Late....

Too late did I the blemish see
Too late the doctor did I see
"Too late am I" he said to me
Too late
The late

21:54, 3 Jan 2017
So perhaps an explanation is in order;
In writing I like to find the rhythm of words, make them flow into each other as seamlessly as possible, draw the reader along, make the reading effortless. I`d hate to think of readers frowning as they read my work, and while this is true in prose, it is especially true in poetry....Ordinarily.
However; as Shades and Charades was about depression, I chose a different route. I eschewed rhythm for discord, deliberately setting lines to jar off one another, disrupting any attempt at fluidity, making it impossible for the reader to "find the flow" as it were. I wanted each line to be read in isolation as well as part of the whole, I wanted the reader to not only frown, but scowl as they stuttered to a halt, forced to re-read lines, trying to make sense of what they were reading.
The end result is not pretty, but it was not meant to be, (at least it`s not as ugly as the illness)
This poem was prompted by many factors, I have more than a little personal experience with the illness myself; not to mention the suicide of a friend who, outwardly had the bubbliest personality you could imagine, and finally by an opinion piece by some smug asshole in an Irish newspaper who not only disbelieves in depression "sure don`t we all feel a little depressed now and again," but going as far as calling people like my friend cowards and worse.
So an experiment, that`s all, whether it worked or not I leave up to you, and as I always say, "I`ll try anything once, if it kills me I won`t do it again," :)

09:59, 23 Dec 2016
When all else fails, confound them with the truth.

17:34, 9 Dec 2016
Once upon a time...

I did breast stoke across a direct debit agreement
Time is a great schemer
Dried myself, forgot the 20 pence in the locker

17:07, 8 Dec 2016
Hey Tauren, thanks for your interest in the next chapter! I must admit, the novel has been on hold while I've been mulling how best to roll it out. The problem is, it's going to be hard to get each chapter to be a standalone story in itself and I'm just not sure if a serial is best suited to this site or a writer's group site like Critique Circle, which has lots of writers submitting chapters from novels and a younger audience that might be more receptive to it. Meantime, I'm also working on the film:

03:50, 5 Dec 2016
In answer to Tauren: Um...maybe there’s no right answer but I tend to go for plot. For me, the advantage of a plot driven story- even within the maximum 2000 word confines- is that it's a more forgiving medium that creates a natural framework that human curiosity responds very well to and the contrasts in a plot and the fact that there’s more going on can be more satisfying than one long passage that is an extended thought or an exploration of a moment. Then the writing has to be really good to hold the reader's interest (and usually I don't think it is).

As it happens, I was one of the markers on your Shopping Channel story. It wasn’t the most original of concepts, for me, but you hit the ground running with the way you tell that story, IMO. There’s no fat on it and no false beginning. It is very condensed, with an excellent economy of style which makes it a much smoother read than many things I see on HOW. (I see also that your latest is a tale written with great care. Had I marked it I can see it scoring in the 60s, it has no real twist (and you're maybe too much in Stephen King's shadow) but there are some really good little bits of drama. What it so often comes down to is good quality human observation. I liked the line, 'the comfortable silence of a couple who feel no need to fill silence with inane chatter'.

Also, if you’re looking to please anyone, besides yourself, maybe look at the general aesthetic of the website and adjust accordingly. Really really good writing will usually shine through, I think, but I would suggest that merely good writing might lose out to something that happens to chime more with someone’s personal tastes, agenda, political outlook etc. That could work for or against you depending on who you're writing for.

This is not a horror story website per se, likewise if I write anything that's too metaphysical or dark I know I'm probably going to pay the price...I wanted to say something else but I've forgotten what it was so I'll leave it there. Hope this helps.

23:18, 3 Dec 2016
A question?? Which is better, to write a story in broad strokes,necessitated by the word limit, expressing as much of the plot as possible; or focus in on one aspect of the story, minutely deconstructing the emotional conflict inherent within each character. Which would you, the reader prefer. A question I am forced to ask myself, what does the reader want? Until now I have written for myself, but here I am no longer writing for an audience of one, I am in fact, as well as deed, forced to consider what does the reader "You" want.
One of the pieces of feedback I received on my latest entry suggested that "I think less plot and more evocation would have made it more powerful," which provoked this inquiry.
So what I, "the writer" want to know is, which would you "the reader" prefer, a more complete, broad stroke story, or a more focused interrogation of a single moment?
I would really appreciate some input on this, Thanks.

23:14, 3 Dec 2016
Hi Novelist, hows that second chapter going? Really intrigued on where you`re taking this.

22:00, 24 Nov 2016
I'm intrigued about those 'monumentally scary dreams', Seaside Scribbler...

17:32, 15 Nov 2016
If you Mark entries on a portable device/Tablet. Please read this:

There appears to be a difference in how entries are displayed on portable devices compared to computers. When I checked the feedback for my entry in last weeks competition (The comfort zone) this morning, I was surprised to find a comment from one of the Markers that I had failed to use the apostrophe in the words he`d and I`d.
As someone who finds it frustrating to read poorly punctuated entries myself I immediately rechecked the piece, and discovered to my mortification that it appeared that I had indeed failed to include the appropriate punctuation. However there seemed to be a smudge over the "d`s" and as I was at work on my tablet, I zoomed in, and found my errant apostrophes. I am not sure whether this is peculiar to android devices, (I don`t have an i anything, so if you have an ipad please let us know if it suffers from a similar problem) but the apostrophes appear as an accent over the letter, a teeny tiny accent at that. Whew! was I relieved.
So if you`re marking on a tablet and the piece seems to be peculiarly punctuated, please, please, please, (Jesus that`s a lot of P`s:) take a closer look, they might be there after all.
I presume Alison reads these notes, but in case she doesn't I`ll email her, though I doubt there is anything she can do about it.

22:51, 18 Oct 2016
Hmmmm? interesting premise :)

01:05, 17 Oct 2016
Tauren, thank you for your note, chapter 1 is pasted below. More coming.

00:59, 17 Oct 2016
The man who had all the time in the world

Chapter 1- (Chapter 2 is coming soon as a HoW entry)

He unlocked the door to room 11 with some trepidation and was surprised to find it nicer than he imagined, when taking the stairwell and corridor into consideration. He entered a small hall side on so that a bedroom was the hall’s width in front and the lounge six feet to the right.
In the bedroom he could see a room just shy of 11x8 feet, cosily lit with a standard lamp and furnished with a brass bed, book shelves and old style television on top of wooden drawers.
Through the lounge doorway he could see a lamp lit on a pedal stall desk by the window. It was like he’d walked right in on someone’s life.
He approached the doorway to the right. He could now see that the lounge had a galley kitchen at the left end and a bathroom entrance at the right hand corner. There was plenty of room to swing a cat but overall it was a compact set up perfect for a bachelor. He peeped through the makeshift curtain of the kitchen sash window, made from a bed sheet, down on to the urban road four stories below, glistening in the rain and artificial light.
Out in the big wide world, there were always stones that lay unturned. Voyages that might end in shipwreck and captivity. Journeys that took one to the edge of endurance. There were friendships to be made and broken, precipices and passes unclimbed and untrodden. Drinks to be downed in God forsaken bars in sub-arctic cities. He could have known the intrigues of the harem and the wisdom of Amazonian plants. “I could have been a gun runner in Afghanistan,” he joked. With himself. But he knew, if one really can, that he was in a prison cell. Confined by a locked door, or poverty, or the condition of the mind. No matter, the fact of his incarceration was more important than the agent. Then the phone rang. He approached it with the cautious curiosity of a cat but didn’t answer. The answerphone kicked in.


Then his eye was caught by the laptop on the desk. He sat on the squeaky chair in front of it and tapped a key. A message faded into view.



TEL. __________

“Forever to think on my sins? Piece of cake, I’m a writer AND a Catholic,” Jack murmured. Then he looked up at the room again, as if seeing it anew. He put a Carpenters record on for a snatch, just to see if this was really happening. If the Carpenters sounded the same this was real. He looked disconsolately at the meagre contents of the fridge and took a sip from a bottle of value sugarless cola and spat the contents in the sink. Then he took another look at it and tasted.
“Hmm,” he said approvingly, having rapidly re-evaluated. “To Horace Holden,” he said. And took a swig. Horace Holden was one of Jack’s ‘go to’ people to propose an ironical toast to. He had to admit, the seamanship of Captains Bligh and Cook were second to none and for sheer stubbornness Shackleton deserved a handshake, but for services to sheer bad luck the American seafarer Horace got the cigar. For those who don’t know, Horace was not an out and out explorer but one by happenstance, who had an awfully rough time in Polynesia in 1832. Several times in Jack’s own life there seemed to be echoes of lessons in Horace’s odyssey, including his lack of success as an author.
‘And here’s to explorers everywhere- palace eunuchs, admirals and bearded hikers all,’ Jack thought, finishing the bottle. He considered himself one of their fraternity, having lived many years abroad. Having never long been settled in one place. ‘But as I am now detained here for the foreseeable, paradoxically I have the true freedom of this apartment, a wealth of unexplored choices. So I shall strike out to see things as I have never seen them. For the place I apparently spend so much time in is full of secrets, even to me, ‘ he added.
As he had all the time he needed he was in no hurry, though. He made use of the facilities.
‘I once read that when you die at first the place you go to looks like Earth and you might even have a physical body as well. Complete with your normal bodily functions,’ he observed internally, and flushed.
In the draw of the desk he found a dictaphone. He took that and some buttermints, then spoke aloud into the old-fashioned machine:
“I don’t know who I’m talking to, but whoever I’m talking to: you’ve got to see this place. It’s my flat. My mess. I recognise it but I don’t,” he said with a chill and then his eyes darted from side to side. “I’m scoping this place out.”
He began in the hall, dictaphone poised. “Like all great halls this is almost a room. Besides coat hooks it houses two dining chairs, a Casio keyboard and a book shelf complete with fascinating books no one reads cover to cover. The Japanese home keyboard is completely wasted on man with his temporal concerns, her average lifespan of a few score years. Its rhythm patterns and tones can normally only ever be fully exploited by some theoretical children who always brush their teeth before bed and ask nicely to leave the table. Worse, in this age of Facebook updates and smartphone notifications, what hope is there for its myriad capabilities? Sure, I’ve messed around with things like this but where was the enjoyment in that? Always having that awful feeling I had no time for it? Well that’s all going to change.”
The phone rang again. Jack let it go.
“Leave a message this time. Why don’t you?” Jack said. No message was. Jack looked more carefully at the books and resumed recording.
“But it’s not just any hall. It’s mine and these are exactly the kind of books I would fill a shelf with. Judging by how random some of them are, I don’t doubt for a minute several came from charity stores. What with such titles as, THE DORLING KINDERSLEY ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS BOOK and POPULAR HOUSE PLANTS.“
“The bedroom is perfect for snug winter nights watching old VHS tapes. And no doubt, like many bedrooms there’s more to it than meets the eye. With any luck, my alter ego might have a sex toy or two stashed away somewhere.”
He opened the drawers. Jack stopped and put the Dictaphone down. He could see the letters of a familiar magazine peeping out from under some clothes.
“My God,” Jack said. “It can’t be,” as if he had found the cup of the Holy Grail. In fact, it was his first glamour magazine. A January 1990 issue that had apparently gone to press before the fall of Communism in Romania, so it was really late ’89. “How did this get here?” he asked. In another life he must have tracked it down and bought it off Ebay but in the one familiar to him he had clean forgotten it. He sank on to the side of the bed and slowly turned the pages. He couldn’t explain why but these girls were not exactly how he remembered them. His favourite model, ‘The girl next door’ didn’t seem to fill the page as she had in his memory. He was glad the photographs accorded her an amount of respect that now looked quaint but the shots still looked awkward. Most peculiarly, the room she was in had a bed and drawers closely resembling his.

“Okay. Lounge. I have all the time in the world to look at the map. And when you really look at a map- for hours and hours and hours the reach of the white man cannot be in doubt,” Jack mused half-heartedly onto tape. “Oh, screw this. I’m going to do some writing.”


He must have had writer’s block because it took a while. He managed to find a typewriter but wasn’t sure about paper. One drawer was stuffed full of it but he couldn’t type on it because it was already full of students’ unmarked homework. No, that was just a bad dream. He was starting to have them. There WAS unmarked homework, a lot of it, from when he was a teacher abroad; but that was not part of this alternative time line. He had been counting the days he had been there. Two weeks just to find some paper. He could see how when you had time you just filled it up.
“Maybe I don’t want to write my life story. I might get sick of hearing my excuse-itus every day.”
The phone rang. And rang. Jack didn’t answer. Why should he, if they weren’t prepared to leave a message? He wasn’t going to break the habit of a lifetime. Instead, he wrote his life report in three days, a self-imposed limit. Apart from the last chapter, that is.

‘The Muslim traveller Ibn Battuta remarked that, “Travelling leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.” It can also cause verbal diarrhoea that alchemizes into the wise nectar of stony silence,’ Jack typed. ‘So let me be brief. Not much of interest happened on my last assignment. As you know, I was pretty well travelled by then. I’d been to North Korea to poke fun, I’d been arrested in Dar Al Salem and played the British passport card, I was stung by a jellyfish in Australia and cried like a baby. I’d also done six months in Kalamay, which is one of the most remote cities in China. So it was kind of annoying that they wanted me to come for an interview in Hohhot when a Skype call will normally suffice. But they insisted. Paid for my flight from Xi’an.”

Jack sighed and took his glasses off. He looked around the flat. It always looked the same and yet different. Bottles moved. A new microwave oven appeared in place of an old one. New food appeared in the fridge. Cleaning products were topped up. It was like it was playing on some loop.

He fell asleep again, this time, at his desk. He dreamt of the job interview at the last campus he worked on. Its pencil thin Scholar trees swaying in the breeze. Then awoke to a noise downstairs. A man was screaming. Hours later, maybe days, he still had his ear to the floor. It was hard to say but it seemed like there were two people downstairs and one was being coerced. The one being coerced was a woman. He got up and walked to the door.
"No, it's not my concern," he said aloud. "And its not real." Then he paced around, knelt down and put his ear to the floor again. He banged his fist.
"You shut up down there! Leave her alone."
His eyes filled with helplessness. But downstairs they were laughing now.

The phone rang. Jack picked up.
“Afterlife? What kind of afterlife is this? he asked.
“The afterlife is what you make it, Mr Soirant,” came the reply. And the line went dead.

21:47, 16 Oct 2016
Hi Safemouse, put up a note from your novelist account so we can find it.

11:07, 13 Oct 2016
My favourite poem on hour of writes is said the baby giraffe to the lion by Vanita 18 closely followed by featherlight by experimental. My favourite story is survive the jungle by Reba Kaye. I am dictating this on my iPad mini two so please don't mind punctuation errors et cetera

17:20, 10 Oct 2016
FYI, I have registered another account called 'Novelist' where my story 'The man who had all the time in the world' will continue. Thanks.

07:04, 4 Oct 2016
Reading the feedback on my last entry, which gave a fictionalised account of a true story: the founding of a gay football team, I felt some reflection was in order:

Did I downplay the extent of homophobia prevalent in 1991:
The story contains a pretty clear indication of the likely homophobia that would be faced and one clear incident. Beyond that, I kept it to one side because I wanted to focus on the forming of the team. The plain fact is that, except when directly faced with the likelihood of homophobia or some imminent attack, gay men themselves sidelined it - in order not to allow it to dominate their lives. Indeed, getting on with life and pushing boundaries [such as forming a football team] are seen as ways of having fun, developing communities and challenging homophobia - but by focusing on themselves and their activities rather than on homophobia, per se. There have been, and still are direct political steps taken against specific acts of homophobia - and always will be, I hope. [The Orlando tragedy is a case in point].

Did I get dangerously close to simply writing stereotypes?
Well, Kevin [who makes quiche for the players at matches] does exist - though his name was changed. I have met numerous Kevins in different arenas. Many gay men play to their notions of gayness[and stereotype, by implication] and, of course, many do not. This is common with the community groups - for complex reasons: fun, acceptance, creating an in-crowd, the embracing of the complexities of Camp, a coded shorthand concerning aspects of what Susan Sontag and others called a gay sensibility.
Played out in more public arenas [as Kevin and Don do at their first game, against a straight team] Camp becomes subversive, political, a way of fighting back that often undermines "the enemy" without resorting to violence. When Kevin challenges the opposing team, he is using his camp behaviour as a direct challenge: "we are here". I hope this came across.

One reviewer commented that s/he liked the story because there were no women in it. Tania is in it and she's a woman. In fact she is the key scorer on the team.

In the "noughties" I carried out some academic research with a colleague into the emergence of amateur gay football and interviewed members of numerous teams in the UK. It was a moving and enlightening experience that contributed to my understanding of my own sexuality - and to my admiration for the many people involved in the league [yes, there is now a league].

I attended The International Gay and Lesbian Football Association tournament in London a few years ago. It was an exhilarating experience but I was astounded by the Mexican team [the only one in their country so they regularly play high profile matches against straight teams at home]. They appeared in kit that was the brightest pink imaginable. Before kick-off they proceeded to perform a highly flamboyant short dance routine that clearly owed much to the "war" chants beloved of teams from other sports. This performance was pure camp and was clearly an unequivocal announcement of their joyous presence. Stereotypes? It's camp ... for a purpose. And because they enjoy it. It's who they are.

23:26, 27 Sep 2016
the sun is pouring through the windows, and it's too early to be awake/but you rise anyway. you need the money./get dressed, drink your tea, make lunch/in the miracle machine of the blender.

22:26, 20 Sep 2016
The veil that separates genius from madness
is gossamer thin as a spiders web
and just as fragile

14:13, 13 Sep 2016
A young couple in love
Travelling across the border
Soaking up glorious sunsets
Embracing their future hopes and dreams

A victim of domestic violence
Fleeing across the border
Hoping for a life free from fear
Desperate to give her children a better life

Solders serving their country
Destruction across the border
Bravely sacrificing their lives
Wondering, will they ever see their families again

A group of friends
Across the border on a shopping trip
Browsing the delightful displays
Searching for that special something to return home with

A long awaited family reunion
Unconditional love across the border
Every moment together treasured
Happy fullfilling memories that will last forever

Abundance of families in dispair
Taking inhumane risks to get across the border
Desperate to make it alive to a safer place of uncertainty
Mourning those who dont

Each person
Opportunities lie at the heart of every border

23:28, 10 Sep 2016
Youth is wasted on the young,
Or so the elderly claim,
But is it, is it really?
I say not.

Youth is where it belongs,
The elderly would only hoard it,
Terrified of spending it,
Going to their graves still clutching it.

Youth is where it belongs,
It was meant to be used,
Misused, misspent, abused even,
By those who cannot understand it`s worth.

Let the young alone,
Let them be reckless, feckless,
Let them be wastrels,
Let them live.

23:26, 10 Sep 2016
The middle of nowhere
That fictitious piece of real estate
Popularised as fen and glen, as peak or trough
populated by those in search of losing themselves
Where the lonesome cry of the Gulls,matches the weary song in their hearts

Unplugged from the digital drudgery
Desperate to slip the electronic shackles that bind them
They stride forth in ones and twos
In hopes of reclaiming a life they`ve never known
Unaware that the middle of nowhere exists in but one place, their hearts

For they may never discover the truth in the saying: loneliness is a crowded room
That everywhere is somewhere if you have someone to love
Or someone who loves you
But for those others, the unloving, the unloved
Everywhere is the Middle of Nowhere

19:47, 9 Sep 2016
Is "Hour of Writes" a space in which to experiment? I think so. But there is no way to convey that to your entry readers ... so you are a little at the mercy of their preconceptions. But then, why should they be concerned about your experiments? They will read and consider .... and comment.

12:43, 6 Sep 2016
There are acts of terror, shootings in the street, beatings, ill-treatment of people with disabilities, children and the homeless - rude people on trains, buses, in supermarkets, bricks thrown at the window of a passing car. And always there is someone on hand to film the exact moment. How does that happen? Are some of these acts staged for the camera? Are some people just habitual voyeurs walking around with the phone camera permanently poised for action? Does nobody want to help? Given the choice between being Nelson Mandela and Stephen Spielberg, which would you choose?

10:14, 31 Aug 2016
Hour of Writes
Welcome to David Zetland, this week's guest judge, water economist and author!

22:01, 30 Aug 2016
A sincere thanks for the feedback that spotted my overenthusiastic use of the apostrophe, that kind of technical criticism is invaluable.
And I can assure you I have duly rapped myself on the knuckles, given myself a good talking to, and am currently in negotiations with the wife about a spanking:) though I have to admit I`m finding her enthusiasm a little disturbing; damn you E.L. James.
Also one of you brought up an interesting point, the word what`s; is it one or two?
Words that is. Being more than a bit of a pedant myself, I took to the internets (deliberate misspelling) and it seems the jury is out on that one, it appears to be a matter of personal choice. of more interest to my pedantry, how many words is can`t, which is a conjunctive of cannot, which is itself a conjunctive of can not. Discuss?
Heh Heh.

22:50, 4 Aug 2016
Tabitha D.
Shattered on the inside.

How ice, at its purest, seems to me:
external surfaces, a delphined wake,
as silent, cracking fissures tear the core.

When old glass, flowing downward,
obscures the truest view.
And fractals piece together what remains.

Of haunted, whitened forests
soft footsteps pressing in,
the glacier, unhindered, calves again.

When snow, packed underfoot,
creaks with weighted stress,
my heart constricts, and shudders
with a loss to end all ends.

Skin tinged blue may yet regain
the bloom of life
within this perfect cave.

All whiteness blinds away the pain
those stress-cracks hold such beauty
as beyond compare.

Delicate destruction, a promise of threat.
All along the fracture
sings a sacred ache.

I am broken and forsaken
though a saviour may be near:
as winter rolls around again
to refreeze my hurt and fear.

22:49, 4 Aug 2016
Tabitha D.
Inside a star.

The fleeting, yes, my heart's desire
the barely-there, a wraith
Ephemera, whispers on the wind,
impermanence my faith.

I tremble before the eternal,
faced with nature's stand
Beneath a soaring mountain
being scoured and withered to sand.

In the shadow of mighty forever
I tremble before the abyss
Toes inching and sending down trickles,
the landslides remind me of this.

I sleep in perfect hollows,
and cut my teeth on bone
The glory of calcification
rolls in my mouth, I am home!

Cascading the ones gone before me,
throughout my own blood by their dust
Absorbing a lifetime in seconds
turning my fillings to rust.

Temporal consumption thus rendered,
my heart winds to stillness sublime
How quickly we flash to our endings
how rapid the animal time.

22:44, 4 Aug 2016
Tabitha D.
Spirit Lab.

Breathing in the dark,
Chemicals cloudy
Aged and coloured,
By the breaking down
Of skin, soft tissues
And dreams.

Animals dream, too,
Here in tubular palaces
Captured and floating.
Each footfall vibrates
On singing parquet
And they stir,
Timed by my movement.

Breathing in the dark,
Heart settling to a rhythm
Swaying in time,
With these spells of ages
And a Blackbird caws
At the centre of my brain.

In dim-lit netherworld
Songbirds feast
On plastic berry Bacchanalia,
And the owl eyes a mouse
Who has yet to discover
His second death.

A fox cub
Infinitely curling about herself,
Shows a varnished bacon tongue.
Cutesy and hot-headed in her starring light.

And I…
I stand as still as they.
Suspended in this spirit lab.
A player just as beastly,
Mentally reanimating
Every twitching nose,
Lightless eye
And curious, scratching paw.

22:44, 4 Aug 2016
Tabitha D.
Blood in the Fire.

The smell of the foundry surrounds you
abounds and wreaths around you.
A man of ore, born of the earth

I thought of you as Roman.
Alive, shuddering with the stress
and exertions
of recent war

The thrill of hardship
fresh upon you,
made ever-stronger by violent work
your fibres stretch then relax
to gather in quiet, resting power

Glittered in sweat,
you have raced through history
to arrive, tattered and magnificent,
heaving, and worn like a mountain

I have melted into you -
piston thighs greased with excitement!
As your black-ringed fingers
chase a whitened path,
through my pebbled steam

Our minerals mix:
salt and blood, tears and love
and the hooves of legion drum in my ears,
outpacing a gathering storm
as little death overwhelms me

You are home,
hanging suspended in a grief-cloud above me.
And I invite you, with a succession of imagined dilations,
to rain down.

22:41, 4 Aug 2016
Tabitha D.
In these dangerous, uncertain times, some things persist as immoveable mountains of truth and certainty. Here’s what’s been on my mind this evening:

My sister and I: a brace of ‘same difference’ cleaved from DNA that means both of us will cry just as easily at a You Tube video of a baby elephant trying to get out of a paddling pool, as at news footage showing the bodies of tiny innocents washing up like flotsam on Mediterranean beaches.

My mirror, the yardstick by which I measure the foolhardiness of all my flaky schemes and plans, and the one for whom I wish ultimate safety in the solace and comfort of true love: would there be one to deserve her and man enough to attempt the climb.

She’s incisive, decisive and totally logical. I love talking to her, about anything under the sun. I’m equally just at home sitting in a room with her and saying nothing for hours on end.

My mother: shot through with luminous, trembling care, she reminds me, always, that to be kind is the greatest of virtues. A humanitarian to the core, she bears the marks of stresses woven into herself like an heirloom quilt under which she keeps us all warm. She’s the bravest one of all, and the most beautiful.

The woman is also utterly maddening with her habit of asking a question, then talking straight through the answer, only to re-ask the same question five minutes later and do precisely the same thing. I only state this fact to remind myself that this habit will, in time, come for me, too.

My brother: he ticks like a vintage wristwatch. All matters of history and science wreathing together, bursting fragments of bent and dented philosophy skywards, eager to see where the pieces fall. He picks, crane-like, through dusty knowledge, feathering his phantasmagorical mind with layer after layer of abstraction (to the exclusion of all but the most pressing domestic elements, and sometimes not even so).

My father: if my brother is the wristwatch, my father is the mantle clock. Presiding quietly, ready to sound with a gentle chime should any of us veer too far into perceived assumption. He squirrels away all worry and doubt into psychic crevasses as deep as any in his beloved Les Trois Vallées where, undoubtedly, he retreats whenever we all start hollering over one another.

Of course, he also loves to make his own noise. The difference being, he’ll do it using Led Zeppelin at decibels Environmental Health deem completely unacceptable.

My husband: An almost-decade has done nothing to tamp down my curiosity for him. He’s very proper, a stickler for the rules, but it hardly ever prevents him from shrugging off the shackles of responsibility in favour of throwing caution from a great height if he believes the risk worth taking.

And, should caution shatter like a frozen pigeon on the cobbles of utter folly below, what then? With the confidence of one who knows that legends are made out of vulnerable men, he’ll start the following day as though disappointment had never visited him at all.

My family: irreplaceable, irreverent, enduringly fascinating and the ones with whom I like to be with most of all.

22:44, 28 Jul 2016
For those who were wondering about the characters motive in "I can change" this was a much longer story, 3,500 words, when i wrote it, and I had to delete certain things for the word count. Mary is a deep cover operative who had just been activated and was quite literally burning her previous life, which is why she killed the prostitute and her husband, who after all looks for a dead woman. The reason for the bags of smoke is for the coroner, it would show they died of smoke inhalation, which is how most people die in house fires. show someone what they expect to find and they stop looking. The reason for the radio frequency jammer was so Roshana`s pimp wouldn't be able to track her. if anyone wants I can post the full story in my notes? not sure how you can let me know though? I`m new to this site.

23:09, 1 Jul 2016
Learning to Read
Is that the duty psychiatrist? ‘the caller asked as I groaned inwardly. Somehow you can always tell when it’s a police officer. Why did requests for Sections always come so late at night? It was two a.m. by the time I reached the jail.
‘He’s foreign, doc.’ the burly desk sergeant told me. ‘Been working the tills at Tesco’s for six months. But behaving odd recently, the manager says. Went crazy this afternoon. Shouting that people had been spying on him, pulling foodstuffs off the shelves, scaring the customers.’
The man was sitting on the floor in the corner of the cell, his chin resting on his chest, his hands covering his ears. He was unshaven, dressed in blue jeans and a clean t-shirt. The police had removed his belt and shoes. His name was Ali.
An enormous constable stood by the cell door while I began my examination of his mental state.
Ali looked up, listening carefully as I introduced myself and my purpose, then got to his feet.
‘I’m sorry doctor,’ he whispered, head bowed, looking at the floor. ‘I did not mean to cause this trouble. I must apologise.’ I was given a plastic chair and sat with my notebook on my lap. Ali sat on a bed which was fastened by rivets to the wall.
‘How long have you been in the UK, Ali?’
‘Eighteen months.’ He was still addressing the floor.
‘And you work in a supermarket?’
‘Here yes, but I was school master in Damascus.’ He shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans and lifted his head slightly.
‘Why did you leave? I asked’
‘My students held an anti-government demonstration. The next day a stranger came to my classroom and I say “who are you” and he say “ the man who has taken your job.” I would have been arrested if I’d argued. My brother is student here and I want to be teacher but my English no good so I read. To learn the language. But now they are sending me home and the people at the supermarket make fun of me.’
‘Why do you think they were making fun of you, Ali?’ I asked. I was confident that an examination of his thought processes and content would uncover evidence of paranoia and wondered if he might be an undiagnosed schizophrenic.
‘I tell them I am learning English and soon they begin quoting from the books I am reading. They always doing it. I know they haven’t read them so how would they know?’
‘What sort of things have they said?’
This morning my supervisor, she says ‘I haven’t slept a wink’ and then that the manager has sent her on a ‘wild goose chase’. Lots more also, but I forget some.’ I was puzzled by this.
‘What books have you been reading, Ali?’
Shakespeare and King James Bible, like on desert island discs. I have radio and always listen to it.
‘Why do you think these quotes mean your co-workers are making of fun of you?’
‘Someone must be watching me,’ he said, crossing his arms and looking up at me properly for the first time, his eyes narrowed. ‘Making record of what I read. Why would English people make phrases from Shakespeare? What sense does it make to them nowadays. There are no wild geese in Tesco’s.’
‘Is it just Shakespeare?’
‘No,’ he said shaking his head. ‘King James Bible also.’
‘What have they said?’
‘Yesterday one said ‘no rest for the wicked’ and another said ‘the blind leading the blind.’
‘So what happened today, Ali?’
My caseworker phoned this morning to tell me my asylum application had been rejected. I told the manager and he just said ‘you’ve got yourself in a pickle, Ali’. I’d just read ‘The Tempest’ but how could he know that?’
‘Anything else happen?’ I asked. By then I’d stop making notes.
‘There’s an old man who always comes on a Friday. He and I are friends. He likes football like me. I ask him if he is going to the match. But even he was in on the joke.’
‘What did he say?’ I asked. Ali shuffled his feet.
‘He say ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ I just read Matthew’s gospel the night before. Somebody must have told him.’
‘But Ali,’ I said, ‘these phrases are commonplace. People say things like this all the time in England.’
He shook his head slowly, rubbed his jaw, then laughed.
‘The ordinary people talk like Shakespeare or King James?’ he said.
‘Yes, they do. Sometimes they don’t understand where the words came from, but they know what they mean.’
‘So they were not spying or making fun of me?’ he said pulling on his bottom lip, then ‘It was just chance they used them then?’
‘I think so, Ali,’ I said. ‘If you listen to people chatting on buses, in the street, on radio and television, people who don’t know you, they’ll say the same things. Not just Shakespeare and the Bible. Borrowed words and phrases from everywhere.’
Ali stared at me, not sure whether to believe me or not. I recommended that he be released, that care in the community would be more appropriate than a mental health sectioning.
I didn’t see him when he first attended for clinic review but did four months later. He was clean shaven and wearing a smart suit and tie. He smiled when he recognised me, grasping my hand.
‘You were right doctor,’ he said. ‘The English people, their heads are lexicons. Every time they talk they use the words of all the people who have come and gone long past. Arabic language is nothing like this!’
‘So no more worries that your colleagues are making fun of you, Ali?’
‘No, no more, doctor. But I left the supermarket. I work as teaching assistant now. My asylum has been successful.’
‘All’s well that ends well then Ali, as an Englishman might say.’
‘Yes doctor. But like you said, not just Shakespeare and the Bible. The Romans they left words behind and the people picked them up, then forget where they found them. The Angles and Saxons, the Vikings and Normans. All their best words survive and survive, even when the people have vanished. Most do not know when they chatter they honour all these people who once lived on this island. People like me, perhaps we’ll leave words for English too.’
‘Perhaps you will Ali.’ We shook hands, said goodbye, but he hesitated at the clinic door.
‘In my country,’ he said ‘bad people, they smash up their ancestry, pull down all the beautiful things left from the past. But this could never happen in England.’
‘Why not, Ali?’
‘Because everyone here carries their museum in their heads. A museum of words that cannot be smashed or lost. So many words I still have to read. It is good to know that they will always be there ready for me.’

14:39, 29 Jun 2016
The Sunday Sermon

During the run up to the EU Referendum I didn’t use Facebook as a soapbox and now that we’re out I think we need to accept the result. Personally, I voted in. I am and always have been in favour of ‘ever closer union’. However, I noted that there clearly wasn’t the political will for a United States of Europe in this country (or, sadly, anybody making the case for one) and voting out might be painful but lead to a chain of events which could potentially see us back in a Europe stronger and closer; and with us knowing what side our bread is buttered on. I don’t think this will happen anytime soon and in the interim we may see the loss of Scotland and troubles in Northern Ireland. In the mid-term the EU itself may unravel and there may even be war with Russia. Worst case scenario, a small nuclear incident. But (perhaps) we’ll get there in the end, members of some sort of European union that has our full-hearted support. History so often shows only misfortune or coercion make this sort of transformation possible. No pain, no gain and all that.
Staying in would have given us another headache, that’s for sure. We'd have been in limbo, not fully co-operating with Europe but with half the population not satisfied with that concession, anyway.
Of course, it may all play out differently- by some estimates we’ll end up only slightly worse off- and by others we’ll sail off into the sunset. Nobody knows and we should try and make this work and concede that not all experts were on one side and there are positives and negatives to being in a union. Nicola Sturgeon certainly seems to think so, as she is now in the process of trying to stay in one and leave another. But one thing I think we all know is that the NHS isn’t on the brink of a massive windfall, nor will the challenges of immigration disappear, as many Brexiters hope. The challenges and rewards of an uncertain and changing world remain with us. And if we’re still trading with the EU they’ll probably still be making laws which we have to follow. Amen.

14:33, 29 Jun 2016
5 Ideas on enhancing HOW.

1. An occasional sideline competition (in addition to the main one). For example, to continue a story or maybe to have a serial competition, where entrants write a 4 chapter story, 1 each week for a month. There could be marks each week and a prize at the end.
2. A monthly article from a HOW user on something writing related. Could be their tips on the art of writing or talking about a favourite HOW story of theirs. They could be paid in credits.
3. An annual prize for the best piece of writing.
4. A judge’s prize of the month for most constructive critique. Maybe a free credit.
5. A small prize for accruing three featured stories. I suggest being able to choose the theme for a given week.

I wouldn’t want to see HOW change too much from its present format. I like its uncluttered feel and how we can control access to our unselected stories but feel it could be more involving and a few small tweaks may enhance its overall appeal for all concerned.

22:38, 27 Jun 2016
Nicholas Gill
Visionary and Cynic Raging in the Countryside
(Hour of Writes entry for “Love Thy Neighbour”)

Said my Inner Sioux Chief, “All of Nature is in us, and all of us is in Nature. We are neighbours, you and I – though I lived a long time ago, still my breath is the same breath you take and also the breeze which flows through forest and meadow. Nature is your Mother and she will take care of you if you let her”.

So too said Percivale to Arthur, “You and the Land are One. Drink from this cup and be restored.”

I heard these words and chanted them as a mantra, walking past red gash of poppies, blue inlet of lavender and yellow blanket of oil-seed rape – nature's colour chart offering summer samples to blend with the soul's wallpaper. I walked along the the good red road asking the questions all good mystics ask.

Is it me, the sky? Am I a cloud drifting on the edge of life's horizon? Where does the green field end and where do I begin?

Am I grass?

But another voice said, “Pipe down – you sound like Fotherington Thomas saying Hello clouds, Hello sky...

“Any fule kno that poetry is wet and nature is a gurly place where aunts skip around with butterfly nets and say how luvly is the lark ascending...chiz, chiz.”

Then the voice changed again and I remembered lying by the river with warm revolver in palm, the kind muzzle nuzzled by my temples and seeing the willows bowing low to the river

“not in the slightest like Japanese diplomats in green kimonos,

nor in the least like an emerald firework display,

and certainly not the cascading hair of the River Goddess.”

Said a voice, “This is it, baby. Life is a matter of being born, struggling through the wilderness and flopping gratefully into the black hole at the end of it.”

But something in that hard Chandler voice hadn't quite convinced me. The swans didn't seem aware of the nihilistic, fully automatic model of the universe.

So I'm still walking, seeking a deeper connection in spite of the Inner Punch and Judy Show where the Big Stick beats it all down.

“Let's be down to earth about this – you've come out here to get some exercise because the last blood pressure readings where a bit off-beam. You are an organism among organisms. Flowers have colours to attract insects. You put on a cool jacket and poetic aura to attract the Dames. So it goes on. The sky is blue because the atmosphere refracts light. Clouds are just bunches of water waiting to rain on someone's parade. The countryside is wet and full of cow shit and stinking dead sheep. We live in a planet-sized laboratory administered by the Divine Vivisectionist.

“That's why we have cities – to keep people safe from all that oozing horror.”

But I don't want it to be like this. I want to hear the deep heart's core of mystery in the song of Nightingale and Darkling Thrush.

These voices are all my own – neighbours within the Inner inner city council flats of my mind. Neighbours forever fighting for ownership of my soul.

But I wouldn't be without them.

“Let us go then, you and I, while poppy fields spatter their bloody petals by fields of chemical corn, rotten as a green corpse.”

Let visionary and cynic walk together.

We all know that poetry is not nature, but a manufactured version of this wet graveyard we have to walk through. Let us walk and get fit for whatever is to be...

“Nature sucks.”

08:26, 18 Jun 2016
The cricket and the frog sing different songs. But neither is quiet.

23:13, 24 May 2016
Jim bob
Ghost Story

We moved early November 1983, the first signs of heavy frost settling hard against the fertile land. The wintry greyness merged well with our new surroundings; Yorkshire landscape, rugged and harsh. Unforgiving perhaps. But, the house itself, resting high above the tiny village, was the dreariest. It wasn't as if we wanted it. No. My late Uncle, Richard, left it to us, and with little choice, except to remain living out of an even dreariest bed sit, I decided that an extra20 mile trip to work ( longer ) was worth it if just to be rent free for my wife and little daughter, Emma.

I'd never met my Uncle, who'd lived his years out alone here, since his wife had gone missing back in the late sixties; someone he'd never got over according to my late father. She'd been a star of the silent era films going back to the early twenties, drawing love and attention until she dissapeared, thus drawing further popularity. Her beautiful features- fired auburn hair, silken white skin, mesmerising smiles attracted everyone. From little boys and toothless freckled girls to aging pensioners struggling to battle the winding, hilly roads without the aid of walking sticks, they all adored her. A glamorous heroine, that emerged from the depressed darkened days of the Great War.
' A beautiful, beautiful thing' my dad called her on many occasions.
'She had those eyes, unlike your mothers, but don't tell her that.' He'd say to me and then giggle, childishly over his brown ale. I was almost too young to admire on what he was on about, but old pictures of her from well-loved scenes of her silent screen days did capture my attention, raising a subdued dormant pubescence into flickers of attention.

10:51, 22 May 2016

Lost motes of glass dancing upon an invisible cascade of the winds. The spirits of the wastes screaming their lamentation, their entombment in a frozen prison of ice and snow. A wanderer fortifying herself against the endless onslaught, her mind fraught, her body wearied, but her will cast in iron.

Through forests of oak, their arms thrown up in a fruitless attempt to appease the anger of nature. Through lakes, retreated beyond a surface of fear, through villages, devoid of humanity, through cities, no longer bustling beacons of hope, through the world, enshrouded in a perpetual storm of snow. She still wanders to this day; I only hope one day I will find her.

21:32, 11 May 2016
I said boo
But no one was there
Twas a lonely boo
But I didn't care

20:16, 29 Apr 2016
Jim bob
A haze of intoxication from the night before
Wedding reception.
Same clothes, the pink and white striped shirt.
Worn with heady confidence, a smile of effort, of indifference.
The old platform stands alone, worn drum skins, singers gone
Pink and white shirt tails hang over hired stained pants
As he asks of the girl in the tight jeans with his useless giggle.
His tone shaky, unfortunate initiates simmered smiles
Amongst a spacious ungracious cigarette butt filled floor
But that night had rolled on

Their is another left in the tank, a quick sweep, empty bar.
No one can see, his thinking confirms.
Grand mother looks on, grandson looks on
In a shallow smugness he lights a bent Rothmans
Pulling on the sharpness, he watches the wide window
The vast vacant vision of grey consumes his freshened buzz
And echoes of previous nights foolishness abates
The buffet was good, he opens, the buffet was lovely.
Long fingers grabbing at defrosted shrimps
Sauce running off his chin
But the band played on that night.

But the girl looked good, under coloured shimmers
Really good, the real deal.
Un like the snot rolling emissions from the sad face
Once a glad face
A face demanding love, insisting success
A fool playing it
Formica topped stained, surfaces enhance coldness
As the people speak without tone.
Sunlight attempting to break through a consistent insistent cloud.
And the fool played on

12:24, 22 Apr 2016
Lil' Me
White noise,
lost in the vibrations.
Buzzing like a bee.
The drones.


21:53, 25 Mar 2016
Jim bob
Coffee Ass

I didn't question my love for coffee. An irreplaceable beverage I’d thought many times. Especially after quitting the booze- at one time, a drink that substituted nothing, I remembered, shuddering. Nowadays, coffee a better alternative, no more. Most afternoons I lazed around my favourite coffee haunt, a place for the thinker and reader; the walls filled with pictures of famed poets, writers, musicians, mostly in black and white. Monochrome images always beautified the nostalgia of these famous folk from bygone eras, I thought. Even Sylvia Plath, someone whose poetry I detested. And I disliked all poetry, but did attempt to read it now and again. My buddy, Jim, a construction worker, who’d often spill words with me over an Americano or two, adored poetry, he’d told me many times.
‘I’m not one for the poetic,’ I said to him, a father of three, and a lover of everything from Dr Seuss to Shakespeare's sonnets.
‘So you keep saying, Mel,’ I replied.

We were sitting in the corner of of one of the rooms of ‘Coffee Ass.’ Mr Albert the proprietor, preferred to use ‘Ass,’instead of ‘House,’ in the title of his business, as he’d told me a long time ago, that it was something personal to him. He had a fondness for pronouncing the name of his thriving café in harsh cockney. He said it tickled him. It tickled me, too. In fact it amused a lot of patrons, who’d ultimately be inspired to speak in a cockney accent when ordering their coffee. Eventually, this had become the norm for the regulars, and a great source of entertainment, especially new faces, who’d look on with baffled smiles, as cockney accents, especially during the late morning rush, would be flying left, right, and centre. ‘Coffee Ass,’ based in Liverpool, a location, causing a clash in dialects, made it an even greater feature for the humble customer.
‘So, Jim,’ I’d continued. ‘You’d really be lost without poetry, wouldn't you?’
‘Certainly would, pal,’ he responded, sipping the dregs from his cup.
‘What if you no longer were able to read poetry? What if for example, reading poetry became illegal?’ A charcoal drawing of the Bard looked down on us, the artist had included a cigarette which the world famous writer held daintily between thumb and forefinger. I could never decide if this was offensive, or simply, an endearing addition.
‘I’d be well pissed off, mate’ he returned, getting up.
‘Another coffee?’ he asked.
‘Colombian filter please, Jim’
While he was gone I looked at the waitress, Mandy, admiring her curves, cuddled by her tight yellow frock. I wondered if she was okay, as she was always so quiet. Unusually quiet, especially for someone whose work connected them to the general public. I struggled to recall a time recently that I’d had a conversation with her. It was likely she had burdens, I thought.
‘You okay today, Mandy?’ I asked as she cleared napkins, and a couple of empty glasses from our table.
‘Yeah, Mel, not too bad,’ she replied, a hint of a smile forming, creating lovely dimples in her cheeks. Then she was gone. I considered my wicked way with her, and I thought I could impress her by showing her the final draft of my novel. I smiled to himself, a brief wave of pleasure overcame me, then Jim returned with the coffees.
‘It's like cheese and crackers, isn’t it, Pal,’ he said after taking his seat, emptying paper sachets of demerara sugar in to his coffee.
‘What is,’ I asked, my eyes looking in the direction of Mandy, who was chatting to Mr Albert about something.
‘Poetry, and coffee, pal’ he replied. His broad Glaswegian accent, annoyed me, not something I’d tell him, of course. Jim was one of the folks who didn’t take part in the cockney speech game. I didn’t blame him. Even if he did, I doubt he’d make a good job of speaking in that dialect.
‘I suppose it is, well for you, perhaps.’
‘No perhaps about it,’ he said. ‘They go hand in hand, pal. Reading poetry or writing poetry. If I don't have a coffee to prop me up, then it just isn’t the same.’
‘I see,’ I said, taking a long slurp and savouring my favourite blend- sharp, bitter, slightly smoky.
‘I find this with writing stories, and reading them too,’ I said. ‘But I wouldn't consider it essential. I mean, I can easily drink tea, fruit juice, even water. Coffee for relaxing like right now, for instance, and to start the day, but that's about it.’
‘See that's where we differ, Mel.’ I was surprised to hear him use my name instead of using ‘pal.’
‘You have commercial success now, and are an accomplished writer. Me? I’m just this part timer, that fills in between work. But I simply got to have the fuckin’ coffee.’
‘I hear you,’ I said, more interested in looking at Mandy who was still chatting with Mr Albert. Their conversation appeared to have become heated.
‘It’s like bacon without the eggs, or a holiday in the Bahamas without any sun. It's that simple, pal. Sipping coffee and reading poetry, merge together like sand and sea. Writing it becomes less arduous when sipping a favourite blend- they mingle, and flirt together. There is a harmony I find irresistible with this beverage. They compliment one another, the taste of good verse does harmonise with that of good coffee. The struggles in writing satisfactory verse, are, for me improved with the injection of a steady flow of coffee.’
I was quite surprised at the seriousness of Jim’s theory. It made sense, to a certain extent; my own writing perked up, especially with the re write, if I was gorging on a big mug of brew. But, I couldn't help thinking, Jim was exaggerating. This irritated me, as much as his Scottish accent, and his insistence on referring to me as ‘Pal’. Sometimes I did consider that Jim was perhaps lying about things. Last week I’d seen his wife in here. She’d been sitting alone for some time. Eventually, a man joined her, and after a few minutes, I’d noticed that their body language and facial expressions suggested more than just a friendly chat. As Jim never has a bad word to say about her, I concluded that he was putting on some kind of façade. His appearance wasn’t as bright these days either; grey had formed around the sides, his cheeks hollowed, and something in his smile didn’t quite ring true. Jim was only 43.
‘Why do you keep looking at that girl,’ Jim suddenly asked, shifting the subject. My eyes had been glancing towards Mandy again, her conversation with Mr Albert persisting.
‘I think I have the hots for her, Jim.’ I replied, smiling.
‘Your old enough to be her father, Pal,’ he piped, lifting his mug to his mouth.
Can't help it, Jim,’ I said, still grinning. ‘Jim, women and men, regardless of colour, age or creed shouldn’t matter, should it? Isn’t it like poetry and coffee. You've made several comparisons about it yourself today.’
‘Absolutely, Pal. But there is strong coffee and weak coffee. There is bad coffee and good coffee. There is instant coffee, and freshly percolated coffee. Do you see what I’m getting at?’
‘Strong men and weak women mix, don't they, Jim,’ I responded, smirking.
‘Perhaps they do, but strong instant men, don't really, or shouldn't mix with good percolated women,’
I laughed, at this, and although I found some kind of acceptance in this ridiculous correlation, I thought Jim was going over the top. I spotted a new addition to the artwork on the walls. In fine scribe, it was a quote from Robert Burns. At the foot of this piece of prose was a drawing of a steaming cup of coffee which related appropriately to the accompanying words. I thought it was a bit too PC for the kind of café we were in.
‘What a load of bollocks,’ I said still laughing. ‘Hey, she may be old enough to be my father, but there is such a thing as old classic blend, and new improved, isn’t there?
‘Oh piss off, pal,’ he replied, forcing back a grin. It was good to see this. I wanted to address the circumstances with his wife, but decided to let it slide, and wait. Although we weren’t close, Jim and me, and as irritating a person he was at times, I didn’t like to see any man being cheated on.

‘Well, I’d better get back to the wife.’ Said Jim. He rose from his chair. As I took in the pictures covering the walls; Simon and Garfunkel, Wordsworth, Blake, Keats, Dylan Thomas, and Bob Dylan, amongst many others, I decided I’d hang about for a bit.
Perhaps I’lol try to have a look at some verse, get my head round it, I thought. I still had a little time on my hands, and after all I was getting a little concerned about the, what now seemed, an altercation between Mr Albert, and Mandy.
‘She wants to discuss divorce proceedings,’
‘You what?’ I said, turning back to him, hearing enough despite the distraction to know what he was on about.
‘She’s leaving me, Mel’ he said, putting his coat on. ‘The fucking bitch been cheating on me for two years. Gotta go, pal. See you later.’
Just like that my curiosity had been answered. He was on his way out before I had a chance to respond. Then, immediately, I became angry with myself; we were barely friends, so what right did I have to judge him for the way he spoke? Because that is what I’d been doing. Yes, the accent irritated me, but I was allowing myself to ascertain, even conclude on the level of his moral fibre based on his accent. Maybe he did adore his poetry with coffee? He certainly had adored his wife. What did I know? Not much, was what I concluded. I decided to leave, not to bother with concerns over Mandy and Mr Albert.

On my way home I picked up a copy of popular 20th century poetry. I decided to give it a bash. My wife made me some coffee to drink while I slowly paged through the paperback.
Later that evening she said that my final draft was brilliant, and we made love before sleep.
I didn’t feel I deserved the love of a good woman because of my thinking. I did enjoy the poetry though, and this surprised me. But, I didn’t like the coffee. My wife makes dreadful coffee, but I do love my wife. And lusting over young Mandy earlier on? Hey, men and women. Just like coffee and poetry, right?

21:54, 12 Feb 2016
Jim bob
Name Of Love

Ralph didn't think she loved him, really. Not in the true sense of the word anyway. He also knew he had to come clean. But, when she called him from New York to tell him she would be over next week, he started to believe it might be possible that she did.
‘ I’ll be on the Heathrow flight’, she’d said, her Manhattan twang shrill, intense through the hand set, thought Ralph.
‘So’ he’d replied. ‘You’re really coming then’. He’d just finished brushing his teeth when the phone had rang, and not quite got as far as the Listerine. A few specks of white froth had flown from his mouth as he'd spoke.
‘Of course I’m really coming, Ralph. What is that supposed to mean? Eh?
‘It's just that you said a lot of things in the past, and they never came off,’ said Ralph, feeling brave for being firm. Silence ensued. Ralph engaged the Listerine bottle, swigging from it, gargled, and spat in to the kitchen sink. Still, a silence.
‘You still their’ he asked, feeling like he had some semblance of an upper hand here, a modicum of an advantage, a stream of steadiness. Ralph also knew that he’d loved her dearly for almost five years now. Everything from the green eyes to the flowing locks, to the high cheekbones, to her steady addictive giggles. The whole caboodle.
‘You don't think I love you’, she said breaking the silence. ‘Do you, Ralph? You don't believe we have anything now, Is that so?’
It was Ralph’s turn to feel deflated, he thought. Jimmy Grimshaw, Ralph's best friend and fellow musician, had told him to be careful ‘ with this one’ he’d quoted. Something Ralph hadn't forgotten, despite this announcement almost three years ago. Ralph knew it was the danger element of their relationship that grabbed him, the excitement, the torrid aggressive love making, the meaningful, rich discussions always lasting in to the early hours. Ralph loved her too much, yet still wondered if this was reciprocal now.
‘I don't know,’ said Ralph.’ One minute you say you’re coming, the next you’re not. What am I supposed to think, Kalyn. Just what am I supposed to think?’
‘You know how much work I have to complete with the departments, and the heads of congress. You know that I can't just fucking drop everything like that. You choose to live in England and you know that I can't live over their with you right now.’
Another silence. Long. Kalyn was upset, thought Ralph. Moira Stewart was reading the ten o clock news he noticed, flickers of light from the television dancing around his dimly lit living room.

Jimmy Grimshaw had been married three times after finally throwing in the towel to it.
‘I’m done with that Ralph’ he’d told him, also three years before. Perhaps it's me, perhaps not, but I can't get to grips with them. I simply can't.’ This was something else Ralph had clearly remembered, and he’d considered his opinion, not for the first time, may well apply to him too.
The only problem was that he loved her, madly. He ought to consider her political commitments, he ought to remember her torrid past. Perhaps it was selfish of him not to. But, in the name of love, what was he to do. Jimmy couldn’t help him here. Ralph was on his own with this one.
‘Please come over then, Kalyn. We can talk for a week and try to sort this out’ he said in his quiet way, a tone he always managed to maintain. Ralph absently picked some nuts from the bowl on the table and popped them in his mouth. They tasted strange, he thought. A combination of Listerine, and cashew nuts, he decided, was nothing short of revolting. He quickly cushioned the headset against his ear and shoulder and poured a large MacAllan to douse the taste in his mouth. It worked.
‘I can't leave my Mum, Kalyn. You know she is dying up there in the home. When the time comes, I’ll be over, but now isn't it. Just come here, and we can talk for a week.’ Ralph took another generous sip from his drink and swept back his long hair. He thought that wearing it this length made him look younger, at least that's what Jimmy Grimshaw had said. Ralph didn’t think it did. Ralph thought, especially on days like these ones, he looked every day of his 55 years. The drugs and wildness from years back had taken its toll. The life of a successful musician had its pit falls, however, Ralph knew that it had been worth every minute. He enjoyed the life of writing songs now, and an occasional appearance filling in as a session musician. He earned enough, and besides, royalties still accumulated from the early days especially though out the Summer. The Macllan engaged his head, something he wasn't that familiar with these days. Booze, thankfully was something he could still take or leave. Many of his friends weren’t so lucky. But some, quite a number in fact enjoyed their lives without it.
‘Ten am Heathrow, the usual flight. Saturday’ she said. And Let's stay in London for the night, like we did a couple of years ago.
‘ I’ll book the Mayfair, like I did a couple of years ago,’ returned Ralph, feeling somewhat resigned to his thoughts, instead a decision of acceptance, something that he’d done many times before. Ralph could hear her laugh at the other end, a quiet laugh, audible enough to satisfy him. It was the kind of laughter that said all was okay with her, that pronounced, for the time being, things were acceptable.
I’ll bring the rabbit’ she said.
‘What’ said Ralph, surprised. ‘Rabbit?’
And she laughed again. Loud this time.
‘You know, the scented rabbit you gave me all those years ago. You’d sprayed your cologne over it.’
‘Oh yeah. My God, I remember that’
‘I never forgot that, Ralph. The day it arrived in the post. The whole mail box reeked of Ralph Lauren.’
Ralph thought of Jimmy Grimshaw again, and a time his comments had been thought provoking. He’d told him he had to surrender sometimes, if things were to be wonderful. He’d have to love her enough to want her every day of his life. Sacrifices came with a price, he’d said. But, those sacrifices had to be worth making for every second of their lives together. Highs and lows, he’d said many times. Jimmy was, indeed a friend. Although it’d been two years since he’d died - a victim of excesses, Jimmy’s advices spoke to him regularly, as if he was some kind of guardian angel.

As he listened to her giggles through the receiver, Ralph paid close attention to his dog, Lulu, an old white German Shepard, lying by the long radiator. The dog didn't move about much anymore, and Ralph knew the old girls days were numbered. It's colour, mostly greyish white now with balding patches here and there, were well earned age signs, that embraced her, epitomizing her enriched life, not a decayed one. To Ralph they were symbols of grace, of battles won, of love earned, and power respected. Lulu suddenly yawned, looked up at Ralph, emitted a shallow bark, then rested her head back on her feet, and closed her eyes.
‘I do love you Ralph’, said Kalyn, finally serious again. ‘How could I not’
‘I know you do’ he replied, turning away from Lulu, and knowing, within himself that he wasn’t sure. This thought, he considered was merely a testament to how he felt. Jimmy had told him many times that you got to love yourself, on all occasions. If you don't then you’re doomed. Yep, another thing Jimmy was right about. Ralph hadn’t always liked himself. And there was good reason to. He knew that. Of course Kalyn loved him, he supposed, but did he love himself? That was a question with multiple answers. Multiple choice if you will. Perhaps it was time to come clean he thought.
‘Do you really’ she asked.
‘Do I really what’, he asked, her question distracting his thoughts.
‘Know that I love you’ she said. He could hear her puffing on a cigarette, exhaling the smoke in long fast motions. He admired the way she smoked, powerful, aggressive, the way her nature sometimes was.
‘Of course I do’ he said, and finished off the whisky. He’d tried putting it behind him, believing it was something that shouldn’t affect him because it happened years ago. Before they’d even met. Another part of his life. But, it did. And this was, in some way, whether he liked it or not, fucking with his head. He looked at the town lights from the window. So much light, he thought. So many more buildings had been erected in the last three years. So much more to look at. Ralph didn't think it was a good thing. Everything moved so fast now, rushed, frenetic, ugly.
‘That's good then. Well, I’ll see you Saturday. Don't forget to book the restaurant too. It's going to be busy.
‘Yeah course I won't, love. Right must be off to bed. Rehearsals in the morning’
‘Sweet dreams and I love you’. Then she was gone.

A week later they were sitting in one of the restaurants at the Mayfair Hotel. Kalyn was armed with Harrods bags by her side. They sipped on Crystal, and toasted their six month gap. They ordered food, conversed with the Maitre D. They had a special dessert, on the house; Strawberries flambe with peach ice cream. They toasted again, and smiled engagingly as the restaurant slowly emptied of patrons. Later, they made passionate love, mostly throughout the night, in between more champagne and cigarettes. They even serenaded as the sun emerged gently over the London skyline.
I have got something to tell you’ said Ralph, later that morning. They were breakfasting on the terrace.
‘Have you now,’ she answered folding her arms, a small smile, possibly sarcastic emerged on her lips.
‘It happened a long time ago, and I hadn't considered it important’
‘Why not?’
‘I don't know, perhaps it is important after all, otherwise I wouldn’t want to be telling you’ Ralph found himself saying.
‘You took the words out of my mouth, Ralph’ Ralph paused
‘You may not like it’ he concluded.
‘I may not but tell me anyway’.
He drained the rest of the espresso, hoping it would alleviate his champagne head, evading his hope that Kalyn wasn't going to leave him.
‘Come on then’ she said, a smile still evident, her eyes digging in to him
‘I killed a man in cold blood, Kalyn’ he said.
Silence. Kalyn replaced her cup in the saucer, and dropped her head.
‘You what’, she said, her head remaining down.
‘You heard me, love. You heard me’
‘I just can't believe this’ she said. A waitress came over and cleared their plates, and quickly made herself scarce again noticing the tension between the couple.
‘I,m so sorry’ he said.
‘I just can't believe this,’ she repeated, and raised her head. She broke out in to a smile
‘What? Asked Ralph, amazed at her cheer. Then she began to laugh.
‘Are you alright’ said Ralph, her reaction concerning him enough to think that this may be too much for her altogether.
‘Yes I am’ she replied sweeping back her hair from her eyes.
‘You know what, Ralph’ she asked
‘What's that’ he asked, impatience engulfing him
‘So did I,’ she said. ‘So did I’ she repeated.

11:10, 14 Jan 2016
'Mummy! Is that the man you really liked,
who died?'
says the two year old boy,
pointing at a passer-by
on the street.
'Where? No love..'
(smiling ruefully).
'Why isn't it? Why?'

21:59, 1 Jan 2016
Hour of Writes
‘Happy New Year,’ Grace murmured under her breath, the wind whipping the bitterness from her lips and spreading it out amongst the trees.
Reunited in death, her mother lay just three rows from Uncle Bernard now. She taken by the sudden and catastrophic failing of her heart, he more gently by old age. Grace felt exposed by the loss of him.
Uncle Bernard, her protector. He could be nothing but a hero to a little girl who, cowering from a storm, had been discovered by his kindly eyes. Even now his name recalled the scent of mint and tobacco as he had handed her his jacket and raincoat. In the darkness of that moment she had been wrapped in the warmth and flavour of him.
Bernard had not intruded, had not scolded, he had not tried to force or coerce the child she had been to leave her safe haven. He had remained, selflessly giving her the protection that he needed from the lashing weather, accepting his role as sentinel.
From beneath the bench she had watched the interaction of mother and watchman, seen the primal force of maternal fear diminish to sparkling laughter with just a word and a gesture from this man. Bernard had been unaware of his power over them, of how he had utterly changed their lives.
The storm that had thrown them together was not the source of Grace’s fear. It was only that the noise, the bluster, the sudden violence of it reminded her of something else. From the first distant rumble of the key in the door, the rolling promise of anger in his voice, to the tumult of limbs, the crack of pain and the piteous shrieking. Grace had learned to run for shelter at the first sign.
Bernard was the warm front that moved into their lives and calmed the storm. From that first moment, when he had seen Grace and decided she was worth protecting, when he had prioritised her over himself, he made a silent statement; Grace and her mother had value.
When a young Grace had learned the role that St Bernards carry out for mountain rescue she had giggled, calling the man a saint until he had begged her to stop. It had seemed so apt though; he had arrived to find them frozen and exposed, and the friendship he delivered thawed them from the centre as sure as any nip of brandy.
Her mother had explained to her that we are all formed by the generations that precede us. Her father’s upbringing had been uncertain, harsh, and it had made him violent. Bernard regaled them with stories of his mother, the woman who had been a living example of kindness, generosity, and compassion.
Just as he had stayed with her on that stormy day, so he stayed with them through the years. A reassuring presence, asking no questions, expecting nothing, giving much.
There had been no children for Bernard, no wife to bear them. Grace had privately speculated as to why, but the answers now lay in the dirt of Munich. She hoped that his life had been happy, in spite of the absence of these things that so many valued.
Grace stood at the foot of his grave enriched by his estate and by that most valuable of lessons; knowing she was worthy of love and protection. She would not repeat her mother’s mistakes. None of Bernard’s blood flowed in her veins but he had formed her more surely than DNA.
‘Happy New Year,’ Grace murmured under her breath. She had promised Bernard she would find him a corner to sit in while she danced the night away but she could hardly keep that promise with him six feet below.
A breeze enveloped her, warm and gentle, and scented somehow with mint and tobacco. Closing her eyes, Grace accepted the reality that her Sentinel was not yet ready to give up his role. He would watch her dance, wherever he was.


Vision blurring and stinging, James fled Dr Laurence's office, his sinking heart seeming to match the descent of the elevator until both reached ground level.

James stumbled outside of the pristine office suite and gazed blankly at the busy street. The building behind that had come to symbolise a concrete cocoon from which he had eventually hoped to emerge free and beautiful, seemed now as vacant and unfriendly as an abandoned cicada shell.

A lingering memory of his mother in her long pink skirt with the bells floated to the surface of James's consciousness. He had always loved that skirt. He knew if she emerged from her bedroom in the morning wearing it, that they would have a smiling day. She would sweep around the room with him in her arms, they would laugh and she would jingle like a kitten chasing a ball. As the years went by both his mother and the pink skirt appeared less and less often in the mornings and he got used to eating breakfasts by himself.

Although James had found himself alone many times in his life, both in his childhood and more recently in his search for someone able to unlock the safe of his subconscious, this time felt somehow different.

In the past, when his carefully balanced card tower world had been demolished, he had been distraught and numb of course, but with an unwaveringly constant buzz of desperation to repair or supersede. His eternal mantra "The next one will be better." had given him a degree of focus. That drive had been the one thing James felt separated him from the depressives these shrinks had insisted on lumping him in with. Each one seeming to conclude that exploring, rather than erasing, his inner thoughts and feelings was akin to unlocking the evil of the world.

Desperation was James's comforting friend, always there to pick him up in his darkest moments and keep him plodding forward in the quest for the proverbial Pandora to release all but Hope from the bone cage that was his skull, had given him purpose.

Immobile on the bustling street, James became aware that the need to replace what had been lost was now mysteriously and inexplicably absent. It suddenly appeared that desire itself had been the thing to grow its wings and ascend from Dr Laurence's pristine prison of tinted windows, leaving James himself, empty below.

The idea of seeking out another professional to help him access himself seemed ludicrous to James now, and he found himself laughing mockingly at the notion which had always been a source of comfort.

In his hand was the prescription Dr Laurence had printed for him. The latest unpronounceable poison designed to cloud and further suppress unfavourable thoughts and emotions.

In an unforeseen frenzy of rage which left as quickly as it came, James frantically tore at the script before opening his hands in submission, allowing the wind to carry the pieces and make beautiful patterns in the air from something so ugly.

His eyes followed the path of one of the tattered pieces of scrap still baring the smudge of Dr Laurence's signature stamp, as it moved along the footpath. Without thought, need or emotion to guide him, James found his feet tracing the rambling path of the tiny piece of paper.

Entirely focused on the trail he was pursuing, James was only vaguely aware of the background noise that was the horn and screeching brakes of a green Suburu, and was entirely surprised to find himself flying through the air, in a slow motion arc, watching the approach of the road below scattered with paper remains.


She just loved texting, it made her feel connected, wanted, even loved. Some days it was a challenge, but she didn’t feel as if the day had gone well unless she had had a text from him. She enjoyed the subversiveness, the furtiveness, the sheer naughtiness of a suggestive text.

Sometimes she wondered if it really mattered to him, but she let him off. He was busy, he wasn’t alone, the battery was low, the signal was bad. Life was like that.

All was forgotten when that little ping sounded, how had it happened that it took so little to give her a thrill? It was almost like him touching her. As soon as she saw his name on the screen she wanted to open the text and read it, but got caught mid – expectation. Would it be a ‘look love, I can’t do this anymore’ text? (She had got skilled at dealing with those now). Or maybe a bland ‘really busy, catch you later,’ text, or one of those ‘I’ve been thinking about you all day’ texts (she had had one of those, she knew what that meant). She supposed that this was why she loved the little computer that she held in her hand so much. The possibilities that it offered were so big in her small life.

It wasn’t as if her life was empty she rationalized. There was lots for her to do, lots of projects on the go and her job kept her busy didn’t it? And the garden, that would need a lot of her time soon. She needed to keep on top of things, well, you never knew did you?

She was very strict with herself, well, that was important wasn’t it? No texts before 09.00, give him a chance to get to work, she didn’t want to risk disturbing him at home and no texts at weekends or on Bank Holidays. She knew that it wasn’t fair and he liked to keep her separate.

Some days it was such a struggle to keep the discipline. Evenings were the worst, she often thought of a little snippet she would like to share with him, but she couldn’t, could she?

She thought that it might be good to talk to other people too. She texted friends, of course she did, and they dutifully texted back. She could usually guess the back story. The ‘poor Mary’, ‘she’s alone again you know’. ‘I like to support her as much as I can’, should we invite her round?’, discussions. She didn’t need their pity; she had Paul, hadn’t she? She understood why he limited the contact so much, she knew he didn’t want his wife to find out. Poor love, he was so caught. He didn’t say much but she just knew. Their grabbed coffee, and those special times. She was sure that any day now he would ask her if she would come on that conference with him. Once or twice he had admitted that he thought of her when he was at home. She knew that he would love her if he were free. The birthday card he had given her last year was still standing in her room. She just knew he hadn’t forgotten this year, she knew it was difficult for him.

Every work day she dressed carefully, glad that she had always looked after herself. Of course, she was older than him, but he had said he liked older women.

That little sound broke quickly into her thoughts and she jumped on her phone will the light was still on; ‘Paul, text message’, it was practically all she needed. She considered making a cup of tea before she opened it, she had asked him how his day was going; keep it simple, don’t make demands – she always tried to be quietly in the background, supportive, ready, his for the taking.

Abandoning her attempts to be cool, she tapped in her code and opened the little hope. ‘Good day thanks & you?’ Oh, how lovely, a question, he wanted her to reply. A chance to text him back. She hated it when she had sent 3 or 4 texts in a row, she much preferred it when they took turns.

‘Mine’s fine, busy, but that’s OK. Would you like coffee?’ press send. And wait. She started on the new customer accounts, she liked to keep on top. It wasn’t really time for coffee and a break would put her behind. But she didn’t mind, anything for Paul.

She spent vast stretches of time planning their life together. She knew she would be just what he wanted. She would enjoy cooking and cleaning for him. She knew that women weren’t really like that these days, but he would love it, she felt sure. She wouldn’t ask for much, but would be very grateful for anything she got from him.

She flicked the screen on, no reply yet. She knew he was busy and he’d asked her not to visit his desk, in fact she only saw him at work if he was doing one of his walk abouts. But they did have to be discreet didn’t they?

He’s only kissed her once but she knew he had liked it. That ‘thinking of you’ text that had followed had kept her going for two years now. The following year’s office party had disappointed her, but she knew that they shouldn’t be too obvious.

She had known that she would be on her own at Christmas and was never keen on going out New Year’s Eve, so that didn’t matter at all. Its what happened, it was the price she paid for falling in love. One day he would know the consequences of her love, but for now, she would just wait for the next text. be continued....

21:56, 1 Jan 2016
Hour of Writes
The story so far....

Legacy Of Learnings

The sounds drift in. The buildings are
The life of the city never lets go nor do you
Ever want it to.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

I say this to every hearing mother
I say this to philosophers
I say this to wise men and not
I say this to untraceable ethers: Pass the parcel.

Pass on the design of life
The spirit that rose with you every morning when you stepped out of bed
Pass on the heart that knew how to carry on
Pass on the perceptions gained over dykes of pain.

Split the atoms of things that happen, into two -
One for now and one for times to come
The mind might teeter at the edifice of endurance
But save solemn imprints for those still in the womb.

Pass the parcel of your learnings
Make an easy passage
That 'they' may know without knowing
The unspoken, untrodden, unseen...all that you have been.

And let something remain of your presence here
Something more significant than blood
A secret answer to a secret question
A preciouswakefulness, a dream within a dream.

Pass on the pearls, Spread the light
Leave a trace : Clear voice, clean intent
Fill empty spaces with goodness
A continuous sphere of life, rolled time and time again, but unbent.


My name is Lao Tse and I have been invited by my masters in the Democratic Republic of China to write the “Topical Essay” for 2050. I have chosen the title: The Exceptional One

Tolstoy asserted that the times produce the person, and that Napoleon’s appearance was therefore inevitable. When Napoleon was born, European powers were competing for a dominant position and democracy was threatening monarchy. There was tension in Europe. Tolstoy seemed to have a point.

But suppose Napoleon’s mother had not succumbed to Marbeuf’s adulterous advances and her boy had not got to the military college. The chance that someone else as talented as Napoleon in politics, as intuitive in war techniques, as ambitious and intelligent, would have been available is probably small. Napoleon’s replacement in history would have been a lesser general, the conflicts would have followed a different course, and perhaps petered out long before three or four million people were killed. The situation in Europe a hundred years later was similar and led to all out war, but produced no Napoleon The world is seldom tranquil, so if Tolstoy’s assertion is correct we would expect Napoleons to be produced constantly. Fortunately they are not, but we would expect them to appear sometimes, and one did, albeit in a modern version in 2033.

The world had been in an unprecedented state of instability for more than twenty years. The hitherto unimaginable global communication made possible by the so called “Internet” almost abolished security in any field. It allowed any individual or group to spread ideas, information and misinformation around the world without delay, and skilful manipulators to intercept and change private communications. Dependence on the Internet for the control of most of the operations of a community and its defence, provided opportunities to create both social and military chaos in a way not conceivable before.

In politics, democracy in the “Western World” was becoming only a facade because of the globalization of commerce. Any laws made by the elected governments had to suit the “multinational” companies. Refusal to comply with their demands would result in withdrawal of credit and investment, two things believed to be critical to a country’s survival, or at least to the survival of the party in government.

Nationalism had been effectively tabooed by associating it with racism, which in turn had been tabooed by associating it with Naziism. The proclaimed attitude of the Western World at the time prevented people from admitting to the natural (and from the lessons of history, reasonable) human suspicion of other races or nationalities. They accepted instead a dogma of equality and tolerance which forgot the basic principal of survival, and developed a “human rights” philosophy which it took so far that it was unable to eliminate organized crime or terrorism. So people from poor countries were able to invade wealthy nations without firing a shot, simply by calling themselves refugees and invoking equality, tolerance and human rights

World population continued to increase uncontrollably. The consequent overcrowding in the wealthy nations increased social tension and anxiety and created a new poor class. A fundamentalist Muslim movement openly proclaimed its intention to rule the world and kill the “infidels”. They declared an “Islamic State” and took over a large section of Iraq. Millions of supporters migrated to it from neighbouring countries, but a logical response to this from the infidels was never formulated, and the rest of the Muslim community made no official comment.

In spite of all this, no exceptional person appeared to exploit the situation, until 2033 when charismatic Hieronymus Graham founded the “Righteous Economists” movement. Heironymus, affectionately known as Ronny, first came to attention as a “televangelist”, spreading his version of the Gospel around the USA via television and the Internet. Economic dealings he insisted were inseparable from religion, and in whatever form, were justified by it. The more complicated the economic dealings the nearer they were to God, and the various “derivatives” developed by share traders were a good example of this. Those who adjusted their thinking to his new concepts were destined to unlimited wealth by joining his church he claimed.

His influence grew rapidly and The Church of Righteous Economists became wealthy from Ronny’s brilliant money trading, and the tax benefits available to churches. Members were encouraged to lend money to the “church” and received huge dividends. Investors began moving money to the Church of the Righteous Economists from the Stock Exchange, and this gave Ronny manageable control over that already shaky institution. When there was sufficient money under his control he attracted the potentially corrupt and it was not long before he could rely on support from influential people and political organizations. A skilled computer hacker himself, he had connections to a network of talented hackers whom he employed when needed. His band of well paid loyal executives expanded, and his organization became large enough to enlist the help of organized criminal gangs when required. He had enough of his people on the boards of the IMF and the World Bank to influence their decisions.

By 2040 Ronny was ready to install his chosen President. His political and financial connections, and his ability to hack into information that moved around the Internet, ensured his man’s election.

In 2042 Muslim terrorists exploded a nuclear device in Manhattan.

The non-Muslim world went wild. Muslim apologists were murdered in the streets and there were calls for retaliation. Ronny instructed his President to begin by playing cool and suggesting the “Christian” response of turning the other cheek. This had the two desired effects. The bulk of the populace began calling for the removal of the President and only his retreat to a safe place saved him from assassination. This gave time for sufficient hydrogen bombs to be aligned to pattern bomb The Islamic State. The President then appeared on television saying that it was now clear a gentle response had not been effective, since Muslims around the world had openly cheered the hellish act. Retaliation was underway. Two days later the Islamic State ceased to exist.

The world is now experiencing the fallout from all this, and while it has not been as bad as expected, a long period of suffering will be experienced. The world population has been reduced to about two billion and many are expected to die over the following years. The world is unified in shock and everyone is working together towards a new start.


Pandora's Box

And, Zeus was proud when he viewed all creation
The strong and the meek, the rivers and trees,
And the woman of clay, her exuberant elation,
As she wandered his world, adorned with leaves

Pandora! Those eyes, like cerulean orbs,
Hair thick as honey which gleamed in the sun
A body so lithe, with decorative daubs
Of olive, peaches, rich cream and plum.

Prometheus shrank from the heavenly prize,
And warned his brother not to take to the girl
But Epimetheus scoffed, dazzled by her eyes
And when he asked for her hand, his world did unfurl

Their marriage was lavish, a courtly affair
With guests from afar, at Epemetheus' behest
They sighed in adoration at the bride's flowing hair,
The tint of her cheeks, and ornate wedding dress

They plied the couple with copious gifts
To establish their lives on a perfect beginning
But the most intriguing of all made Pandora's heart lift
An ornate lacquered box, and a warning 'gainst sinning

She carried it close, held the box night and day
And pondered the wisdom of turning the key
Until her mind strayed, and her fears slipped away
Her patience ran out, and in secrecy she-

Opened the box, seeking jewels, art or gowns,
And stepped back in disgust, discovered her fate
The plagues of hell, fury, pestilence, frowns
Rushed in to the world, and she knew it too late

The evils within were let loose, and they stung
Like a river of misery, powerful and free
Sadness, murder, with poisonous tongue
They promised one more gift for Pandora to see

She opened the box yet again, because what
Could be more horrific than what she had seen?
And, with a flutter of wings, with light white hot
Hope flew from its confines, with a silvery sheen

Praise Zeus for compassion, despite all his tricks
For the final, beautiful shimmer of light
To combat the darkness and offer a fix
Against pestilence, poverty, illness and blight.

Pandora, curious woman of clay
Your questioning mind unleashed hell to the world
And your actions bring misery, even today
You beautiful, shallow, remarkable girl.

But just as a woman withstands many ills
And still rises again, and again from the mire
So Hope kindles light, in the darkness it kills,
And brings strength to the weary, and heat to the fire.


And the Consequence will be

But the old Gods are dead
And a new fiction not yet agreed,
For the taste of summer cherries,
The smell of grass after rain,
The feel of a lover's touch.

I pick up this gauntlet
With a warning.
I am half-beast, half-angel;
My mind divided
By incompatible philosophies;
An unreliable witness.

Receive the gift of education, of unbiased reasoning
And the consequence will be tolerance of others.

Endure the burdens life imposes
And the consequence will be acceptance of love when offered.

Conquer your fear of the shark
And the consequence will be that you grasp the pearl.

Learn to remember the best of the past with joy
And the consequence will be coming to terms with loss.

Take pride in your hopes, more than your accomplishments
And the consequence will be making the best of what you are.

Understand that your finest faculty is your imagination
And the consequence will be the creation of your response to the world.

You live in an era of consequences
And the time for pro-crastination, obfuscation and delay is over.

Open your door to let the Old Year out
And the consequence will be the New Year coming in.


The old man sat by the glittering Christmas tree, snoring gently in his comfy armchair. His white hair sprouted outwards in untidy tufts, clean but unbrushed. His puffy face and corpulent stature spoke to seasonal over-indulgence, and the way the chair seemed to form around him suggested that he hadn't moved in some time. He wore soft pyjamas and an old but clearly very comfortable robe. His feet were encased in fluffy slippers, and his chin rested on his chest in slumber. In short, he was the very picture of ease.

The family of the house went about their business, paying the old man no mind. Mother bustled in the kitchen, parcelling up the leftovers to freeze for another day. Father watched the sport on TV, cheering on his favourite team. The two children poked and teased one another, bored now the first rush of enthusiasm for their Christmas presents was past. Life was back to normal after the festive excess of the last few days. Soon, another year would begin, and it would be back to the real life of work and school.

Some hours later, when the children were snug in bed, Mother and Father drank a glass of champagne at the appointed time, while the old man slept on in the corner. Finally, Mother gestured at him with a significant glance.

"Don't you think it's time to make the exchange?" she said.

Father sighed. "I suppose so."

He levered himself up out of his chair and approached the old man, somewhat reluctantly.

"Come on, you old duffer," he said, loudly. "Time to go!"

The old man gave a snort and a snuffle as he woke. He looked up at Father, bleary-eyed.

"What's that? Go?" His voice was plaintive. "But I like it here. It's warm and comfortable, and I can do just as I like."

"Your time's over now," Father said, sternly. "We need to make plans for the future."

He grabbed the old man's arm and hauled him up onto his feet. While Mother looked on, half regretful, half eager, Father marched the old man out of the room and up to the front door.

"Don't you like having me here?" the old man protested. "I don't make any demands on you. In fact, I encourage you to enjoy yourselves - eat, drink and be merry. That's my motto."

"True," Father admitted, "but we need to stop indulging ourselves now and start forming better habits again."

He steeled himself and opened the front door, letting in a blast of cold air. On the path outside stood a smiling young woman. She had perfect hair and perfect teeth, and the body displayed by her leggings and leotard was fit and trim.

She beamed at Father, bouncing enthusiastically up the steps to the threshold.

"About time you came to let me in," she said. She threw a disgusted glance at the old man, then turned her attention back to Father. "Ready to get started?"

Father pushed the old man unceremoniously out into the cold night. "Good riddance to you, 2015," he said, then gestured for the young woman to come in. "Welcome to the family, 2016. We've got big plans for you!"


I never knew kissing could make a guy so dizzy, so forgetful. I could not feel my feet. I almost never heard my mother calling my name. I had lost track of time. Jane and I would be late and we would get in trouble.

We had to stop kissing sometime. We probably set some kind of record. We both pulled away from each other. Jane looked just as startled, “we will have to do that again, sometime.” When she said it, it sounded like a promise.

“We will have to go,” I felt sad and I was not sure why when my heart was doing somersaults. You could have used my excitement to launch a rocket ship. “Or we will get in big trouble.”

Jane smiled like I never saw her smile before, “and it will be worth it. When can we meet tomorrow?” I liked how that sounded. I sounded like more kissing.”

“How about after school,” I suggested. It felt like a negotiation. It felt like I was ruining my chances.

“How about during classes,” she countered. She must have liked kissing just as much as me. “I can miss a couple of classes and still maintain perfect scores.”

I knew she was smart; however I struggled in every class including gym and study hall. “I am not so lucky.” As much as I liked kissing, I needed all the studying I could do.

“I could tell the principal that I am tutoring you.” Jane made it sound so rational and convincing. I was not so certain. There were doorknobs smarter than me.

I am not totally stupid. I said, “We probably would not get any studying done. All I want to do is kiss you some more.”

We lived near each other, so we naturally went on the same sidewalk, but all I wanted to do was kiss some more. I began to wonder if kissing was addictive.

When we arrived at her house, I waved goodbye like I always did in the past. However, my goodbye felt like an urge to stay together longer. She must have felt the same way. She suggested that we exchange telephone numbers. On the rest of the way home, I repeated her number a dozen more times. Then I dialed her number as soon as I reached home, breathless, hoping to hear her answer the telephone and listen to her voice. Her voice would sound like kisses.


An agonising wait while her phone rings: no more than a hundred yards from my house to hers, why doesn't she pick it up ... ?"
At last! My throat constricts: the roof of my mouth is as dry as the Gobi desert, my tongue is super-glued ...
"I ... had to be sure I remembered the number ..." I manage to croak.
"You sound different."
"Others have said I sound different on the phone" I stammer. "Perhaps it's the distance ..."
"But we live on the same road, less than a hundred yards!"
"It's still a hundred more than I'd like it to be: too far away to kiss you, anyway."
My memory of our walk home from school is still fresh, vivid, alive and indelibly stamped on my lips. Her perfume, the toss of her hair...
"Mmmm, that's nice to hear! But if you'd like another kiss, you know what you have to do."
Speechless, I replace the phone in its cradle. I float out of the door, I waft along the street: breathless I approach Her Door, as I have done a thousand times in my dreams without having the courage to knock. This is different, I tell myself. She invited me - didn't she? Or was it a dare? Or worse, an insincere tease? On the step I hesitate, suddenly overcome by doubt.
Before I can decide whether to knock, ring, or flee the door opens and there She is: no longer in school uniform (I have also had enough clarity of thought to change clothing) and looking a hundred times more beautiful than I've ever seen Her.
"Come in: I have something for you."
My hand reaches automatically for hers, but she half-turns and offers her cheek. I am happy to kiss it instead, my lips caressing her satin-smooth skin.
"My parents will soon be home, Peter, but while we have this moment to ourselves I want to give you this."
The hand I had tried to touch as we stood at the door reappears from behind her back. She opens it, and from her fingers falls ...
A thimble?
"I don't underst...?"
"You silly boy!"
Her voice is not the fragrant songbird memory it has always been, even to the moment she greeted me at the door. It has become the harsh croak of a crow, full of malevolence and cruelty. Terrified I raise my eyes from my shrinking palm to see the Vision, my Dream, has become a hideous nightmare Hag, towering over me. I dare not look down at the thimble in my hand but I can feel it is becoming unbearably hot, searing my flesh. I am unable to open my fist: I can feel the thimble embedding itself. The pain is unbearable.
"You are mine. With this Kiss I claim you. From this day you will be my obedient serf and servant. You will wear this Thimble as you cut sew and repair my clothing until I tire of you and find another to take your place ..."


Kneading the Clay

It is one of those mornings when the human male body suffers a surge of hormones bringing an uncharacteristic vigour to parts usually forgotten. Blue sky pours through the window, soaking through the eyes, revitalising deep-brain circuits still humming with dreams as the phone rings.

It is my good woman talking of her wish to start pottery classes. She has a profound desire to get her hands onto some clay and start moulding. Unexpectedly, I think of Angelika, the Polish care assistant who supervises the Alzheimer patients at the day centre where I play piano to entertain.

“I need a good wooden surface, a couple of square feet at least...”

“What about your dining room table?”

“No, it's laminated. It needs to be real wood with living grain.”

“You mean, something organic? Something smooth but porous - like skin?” (Angelika has skin like freshly planed alder.)

“Yes – plastic is a dead surface.”

“Ah, but it was living once.” (As I was alive once, when singing the good old songs with Angelika glancing at me and smiling as she jollied the old folks along with a force of compassionate nature such as you often find at the eastern end of our continent.)

“Wood is more supple and responsive when kneading the clay.”

“Ah yes...kneading the clay...cradling the round, cool orb and then pressing it gently down onto the wood...” (Her breast is fresh clay awaiting the master potter's touch!)

“I think I'll work by the window with a view of the trees.”

“And the sky, the clear sky.” (As clear as her eyes, flooding the optic nerve with a blue that the calmest, deepest sea would not adequately reflect.)

“What would you make from your soft kneadings?”

“It's of no consequence what you make – the meaning is all in the activity, getting yourself re-connected with the earth.”

“Yes, we need that connection. We need it so badly...but there must never be...”

Consequences. Even when a surprisingly blue sky floods a tired male body at hormonal dawn, there must be no consequences.

Angelika's clear psyche overwhelming the senses – a moment of blue more intense than life itself?

Tantric sex transcendent?

But what of the rest of it? Unrelenting guilt and the rest of life rolling by like dark fields past the window of a train through the long night. When the coupling's over, how shall we ever deal with the consequences?

Will the judgement fall heavily upon us for having dared to eat a peach? Or will we be found guilty by Life for remaining innocent of it?

The old dog might have his day.

And then he'd have to pay.

Better stick to clay.


[Continuation on from, ‘An agonising wait while her phone rings…’]

Be Careful What You Wish For

All I’d wanted was to kiss her cherry red lips. I was only aged fifteen. How could I possibly have known that the legend of the Succubus was, well, real?

Dad had always warned me that the very pretty girls would steal my heart. I thought he was joking. He’d not mentioned that one might capture me with the promise of a kiss and then throw me into a jar, threatening to enslave me for all eternity.

It had all started when I’d stupidly called her on the phone and walked to her house, after having spent an hour getting changed out of my school uniform and trying to decide which of my band logo tee-shirts was the most appealing. But, clearly she had no appreciation for Motorhead, or anything being louder than anything else. Nor did she have any interest in my gelled hair which I’d fashionably sculpted into a shark fin.

Whilst I sit bored and lonely ruminating in this human-sized pickling jar, I feel as though I have been misguided. Part of me hopes that I can still play around with the shape of my quiff and that she’ll admit her mistake, let me out of this jar and finish the kiss.

I shouldn’t kiss her, I know that, but the spell is too strong. Or is it what my Mum called ‘teenage urges?’ I doubt it’s her issue, it must be mine. Mum must be right. Magic doesn’t really exist. Does it?

Why doesn’t she like me? Why doesn’t she like my music? Maybe I should have shaved the back of my neck? How had I caused her offence? Why does she punish me?

I am tapping my fingers on the glass and making a clinking sound, but there is no one else around to hear my protest. The jar I reside in lays on its side, covered.

I stop tapping. I’ve been here for days, I know that it’s futile. She won’t give me any attention.


Several more days have now passed. I vaguely remember my uncle Bill telling me once that if I ignored the girls then they would be more likely to pay me attention. Now take it from me, it’s incredibly hard to ignore someone whose attention you desperately seek. As I try to nap, I constantly have one lid raised a crack. I hope that she’ll think I’m dead and let me out. I’m not sure if there is a limit to my oxygen levels in this jar. Maybe I really will die? Will she let me out then?

I’ve stopped thinking about the kiss. I keep trying to think of how ugly her face became when she performed her ‘magic’ on me. Part of my brain fights me. My memory keeps trying to push out the image of her warts, voluptuous nasal hair and mismatched eyes. The other part of my mind tries to convince me that her haggish image was a trick of the light. Not everyone is perfect. I must have just missed her imperfections with my immature lust.

Dad had always said to work with what you have. I could work with a few warts I tell myself, but I’m not so sure about her attitude.

I feel like I am going nowhere as I press my cheek against the side of the glass.

Without warning I feel that my prison is being pulled backwards. Before I know it I have been tipped upright. I have to open my eyes whilst I stumble with the readjustment.

There she is, her cherry red lips pouting through the glass at me. But wait, what has happened? It seems that I am no taller than her face. The only way to kiss her now would be to nibble on a section of her.

I take a good long look but I can’t see the warts and her facial hair seems to be under control. As long as I study her, she studies me - turning my jar in the air. I try to hold my stomach in and mentally will her to release me.

She smiles and drags her tongue across her teeth in a way that is a little unsettling. God she’s not going to eat me, is she?

Her fingers reach to the jar’s clasp. I hear a clink as the airlock is broken.

“Well, well, well,” she states, peering in at me.

“Destiny! What are you doing?” My voice sounds small and squeaky. I kick myself, thinking I’d got past that stage. How embarrassing.

She reaches in and places a hand around my body and lifts me out. This is the first time a member of the opposite sex has ever touched me. My heart flutters and I am too scared to wriggle about beneath her grip.

“You are mine now, Theo. You don’t seem particularly loud. But, I’m sure you understand that I had to take some precautions,” she said, shaking the empty glass.

I feel a little confused. Hers? Was this her way of saying she wanted a relationship with me? Whilst her actions seem a little obscure, my ego flutters with the knowledge that she’s registered enough interest in me to read my tee-shirt.

“I need your help Theo,” she says.

“How can I help you?” The offer of help has left my mouth before I can stop myself. Why should I help her? I’m a teeny bit mad if I’m honest with myself.

“My trousers need fixing,” she says, pointing at a pair of black skinny jeans laying on the floor.

Before I’ve time to negotiate, I’m being placed into a large cage along with the jeans and set onto Destiny’s night stand.

“If you don’t give me any trouble, then we’ll have a talk about your ‘situation’,” she says, twirling her finger at me.

She leaves almost instantly, and once again, I am left alone.

I suppose she did mention something about fixing some clothes the night I came round to visit. It had been shrieked with other words like ‘slave’, so I just assumed it was all part of her letting off steam. I mean, people say things that they don’t mean when they’re mad, don’t they?

I thought I didn’t know how to sew clothes, but my fingers immediately set to the task with ease.

I've probably got a while to consider the consequences of lust, but still, I feel relieved that we are talking again.

I’m sure she didn’t mean that about me being a slave.

Maybe we can work this out?


[continuation of last week’s work “The
Unparsimonious Parcel Finds Its/His

To trace the parcel of which I wrote

a week ago I promised you I’d let

you know the where and when

of me, the parcel floating off southward

bound, accompanied by my appointed one.

Others preferred to say farewell, preoccupied

by mercantile’s--not mercy’s--call. Off I

sailed; the barge required more than a week

to find its pokish way to bid England goodbye

and moan its sultry pace toward Romish death.

My sapping frayed, even dismayed, my nurse,

who sought solace midnight on deck. Parcel arrived!

No return receipt. Act kindly every day: eschew year-end

decrees; resolve not to resolve again. Adieu.



She called every day to cheer me up.
Said I'd become dust
if I didn't step out of the house,
didn't meet people.
I'd become a yak-tail fly whisk -
different, but useful only to drive away flies.
As boring as a whale bone.
As dull as a lesson in syntax.
She went on in quaint humor.

She said she'd make me a palanquin
if that was what it took for me
to go out and mingle,
to leave the cage, the social apoplexy.

A woman needs wiles, her voice carried on,
Needs to be pagan - like a flagon of rum.
Needs to be gracefully rapacious like the rainbow
that wants both ends of the skies.

After I'd put down the receiver,
I concurred silently,
I gazed at the sagebrush plains outside my window.
Realized, that life didn't, couldn't grow back without roots.
Good air and sunshine were just not enough
to go out there and socialize.
I was the consequence of rejections.
My roofs were adrift, the sap in my veins all gone.


[a continuation of Withdrawal - My roofs were adrift, the sap in my veins all gone]

She stepped out of the house. Put one foot in front of the other. And started to run.
She felt silly at first. Self-conscious. She could feel every awkward movement of her legs, her hips, her shoulders.
What should she do with her arms? She'd never had to think about that before. Everything else she did in life her arms seemed to follow, seemed to find their own role, their own home. But not with this strange thing. Not with running.
They hung down at first, flapped a bit like a penguin feigning flight, and bashed into her side as they inevitably crashed down again.
All very unfeminine she thought.
But her feet kept going. And within a few minutes, within a few yards, her body found some sort of rhythm. Not exactly Jessica Ennis-Hill. But at least a little less Pinga the penguin!
Her breathing was heavy. She made a mental note to herself. Bring the iPod the next day. At least some music, or story tape, would take her mind off the wheezing.
She was just about to stop. Just about to give in to the stitch and the short breaths, when she saw the milkman rounding the corner.
Her pace picked up. She tried deeper breaths. She forgot the pain in her side for a moment.
"Keep going, you are doing great," said the milkman, getting out of his van to make his latest delivery.
That's when she first discovered the "encouragement effect". Her legs pumped faster, her breaths became deeper, she even started to smile.
She slowed as she climbed the first incline. But she kept on going. She never thought she would.
And as she got to the top of the hill, came the reward which brought an even bigger smile sweeping across her face.
Her first downhill. The Ski Sunday theme tune suddenly came into her brain. Cue almost a laugh. Maybe she'd take a rain check on the iPod, this uncovering long-forgotten things from your brain was fun. Like some random shuffle button attached to your memory.
She let her legs go. Long strides. And took the opportunity to take deep breaths. And really let her arms pump. Swinging them now like some marching soldier on parade, only at a run, rather than a quick-march. She stopped that. She thought she was in danger of getting all penguin-like again. Getting carried away.
Before she knew it, she was at the mile-and-a-half stage. Past the newsagent, the post office, the garage and the primary school, and having enjoyed the downhill dip to the halfway mark.
What happened next was a further lesson in psychology. She never thought she'd learn so much on a short run!
No sooner had she turned at half way, back into the wind as it turned out, than she could hear the words in her head.
"You've got this. You've run 1.5miles already. So you know you can run 1.5miles back."
She wasn't quite sure the logic worked. But it felt so good, who was she to question it?
And despite battling against the breeze, her legs stretched further, her strides lengthened, she straightened her body, and actually found herself thinking the unthinkable. It was the 'e' word. And it was that brain again. This time telling her: "I'm enjoying this."
She quickly dismissed it. Somehow it felt like she was cheating on herself. She'd told herself all her life, and anyone who would listen, that she hated running. Surely she hadn't lived a lie all these years.
She put it to the back of her mind, and concentrated on the road ahead, the task in hand, to finish the run
A short, steep, hill stopped her thinking for a few moments. She needed all her energy for the climb.
God, she hoped she didn't see the neighbours now, all puffing and panting, wheezing and groaning. Red faced, bent body, legs and hips zig-zagging from side to side just to ensure she made it to the top.
Her brain kicked in just when she needed it most, urging her to "keep going" she was "nearly there".
And when she got to the crest of the hill, and felt her limbs going downhill again, she felt like she was entering the Olympic stadium on the final circuit of the stadium to achieve her own personal gold.
"Yes," she shouted out loud. Then quickly looked all around to check no-one heard. They hadn't.
Nothing stood in the way of her success now. She rounded the final bend, into her drive, and touched the front door in celebration.
The shower. The tingling. The sense of achievement was just the icing on the cake.
The consequence the next morning, she wanted to do it all over again. And again
Soon, she was talking to the milkman, to the paper delivery girl, to the dog walkers and other joggers.
She felt she was achieving at something.
Felt she was successful at something in her life.
Felt she had something of which to be proud.
Who cares if it was only a daily three-mile run.
To her it meant everything.
It meant she'd turned her back on years of fear and isolation.
It meant, finally, she was ready to face the world again...


Continuation of “It meant, finally, she was able to face the world again...”

Elise got up on what she knew to be day one of the rest of her life and looked at her morning face in the bathroom mirror. She gazed into her eyes, her sea-grey eyes, and saw a steeliness there. It was something which, through the years of fear and isolation, she had stopped seeing. She lifted her hands to her face, smoothed back her hair and kissed the mirror.

“What the hell?”

Behind her Harris was grimacing, scratching his belly through his pyjama jacket. Elise was no longer afraid of him. She brushed past.

"I'm going out for my run," she said. There was no conversation to be had with him. Not yet, at any rate.

Elise pulled on her running gear and started towards the front door.

"Woman, when are you...?" but the end of the man's sentence was lost in the slam of the door.

She was tired of being called 'woman'. He might as well have said 'animal' or 'slave'. Not that anyone knew. In society Harris was everything people expected of him - polite, courteous, apparently a gentleman. As Elise settled into her run she could think about it all clearly. Her breath steady, she was in control. She was doing something for herself, something he could not take from her.

She had known before they married. An instinct told her that the chivalry was on the surface only, but she had wanted to believe in it, so much wanted that. And she had convinced herself. Nearly. For on their wedding day there had been a moment, a moment when the bright light of the day was dulled, tainted, as she saw the way he looked up at Charmaine, her sister. And in that instant she knew the truth, but it was too late, their vows already made.

Elise had pushed that knowledge from her conscious mind. For if she had allowed herself to be aware of what was going on, before, after and, most hideously, on her wedding day, how could she have survived? So she pushed the knowledge deep inside her and turned a key to lock it there. But of course it ate at her. When Harris was late home from work she believed his lies about demanding clients who her had to wine and dine. She absolutely believed them. But with each one, each lie upon a lie, her spirit closed in on itself a little more. She continued to make a home for a man who, in truth, used her merely for that purpose. To make him meals and keep him in clean under and outer wear. Things he would never expect of a mistress. Of Charmaine. Who, of course, was just as much used, if she, poor fool, had only been able to see it.

Elise did the things that were required of her as a wife. She saw Charmaine rarely, and only at family gatherings. They had once been close, and their mother Bernice was bemused as to what had changed. Neither one of them could, of course, speak to their mother about it. They both suspected, although they had no proof, that their father Eli had been unfaithful to her, but since his untimely death he, "the poor, poor man," as Bernice referred to him with a little shake of her stiffly-permed coiffure, had entered sainthood within the family and no ill could be spoken of him.

Friends saw what was happening. Elise's friends. Charmaine's friends. Some of them tried to speak to one or other of them. Charmaine merely laughed, in the breathy way which Harris apparently found appealing, especially between the sheets, but which all her girlfriends knew to be a studied affectation. Charmaine thought her friends were jealous of her having a man who pampered her. They could not get her to see the truth about Harris. Charmaine, just as much as her sister, had bought into a fantasy.

If Charmaine's fantasy was about satin sheets and champagne, Elise's was about security, the security she had craved since she was three years old and her father had left her by the river. No-one else believed this story, and now Eli had to be treated as a saint Elise no longer mentioned it, but it had happened, she knew that it had really happened. He had left her there, knowing that eventually, tired and weak, she would fall into the water and drown. It had been a miracle that a fisherman had come by and found her, shivering and crying, and returned her home to a distraught Bernice. Who had forgotten all about it, this unbearable event.

"How could such a thing have happened to you and me not remember?" he mother had lamented, in earlier times.

But it had happened, as it had happened that Harris had gone into a bedroom with Charmaine on the day we was marrying her sister. Elise had seen them, but she would not admit to herself that it was what it was. Her father had abandoned her; another husband would not be allowed to do so. She believed, she truly believed, Harris' story that he and Charmaine were discussing arrangements for the honeymoon.

"But it was our honeymoon, you and me, not you and her," she would have said to Harris, had she been able to speak of it. But she was not able. She smiled at him. He said nothing. And so it continued. Until she found that she could run. She had wanted to run away from Harris for four years, for all of their married life. She had not known a way to do it. And now she found that it was very simple. One foot in front of the other. Now she ran for three miles each day and things were changing. She had found her steeliness and, with the kiss to the mirror that morning, knew too that she could love herself. She no longer needed his supposed love, the love which was bound up with betrayal.

In consequence, she was free. And as she ran, day by day, she planned her next steps.


At What Price?

' They've raised the odds because she's been skipping breakfast.' said Nate.
'Really?'' replied Jack helping himself to a Twiglet from the box.
'Yep, that’s what they say. Gets the bookies apprehensive, apparently,' she said putting a hand on his, squeezing it.
'Come on, Jack' she continued. 'What do you say eh'. She smiled in the way that enticed Jack, a tempting persuasive way. And she knew it did. And she knew that he knew it did. Nate stood up, the kitchen chair moving back from her body, its legs scraping against the wooden flooring. She walked over to him, surveying him, arms crossed, her smile persisting.
'And you realize the consequences if we lose don’t you' he asked.
She stroked his hair, bent and kissed him on his stubbly cheek.
'Of course I do, love' she said quietly, almost whispering. The cars outside, motoring up and down didn't smother her voice. Neither did the small transistor, playing reggae, suffocate her gentle voice.
'And this business about not eating its breakfast' said Jack changing the course of the subject.
'All I know, love is what my horsey friends natter on about' she said, continuing to stroke his head.
'It didn’t stop him winning before, and he's never lost a race, the beautiful, wonderful thing. When he was young, he'd sometimes go without breakfast, but this never stopped him performing. The bookies know little about this because he was an unknown then.'
'I don’t know love, its a big wager' said Jack 'And the consequences of losing'
Nate put a hand to his mouth.
'OK so if we lose, it's a smaller holiday this year. We don’t spend as much next Christmas. Less parties. Is that such a big deal, love?'
Jack went to the cupboard and opened it. He pulled out a bottle of his favourite single malt whiskey- a present each birthday from his niece, Jennifer, and poured two bonus measures in to two crystal goblets.
'This requires a drink' he said sitting down again and handing her one.
'We;re trying to buy a house, and £5000 is a good chunk of a deposit.'
'But is it love' she asked, and sipped her drink.
'My goodness this is lovely' she continued. 'Cant remember if I've had this whisky before.'
'Just once when you had flu last winter.' I gave you a shot' Jack replied.
'Oh.'Well, its yummy' she said smacking her lips, then running her tongue along them, showing her satisfaction. She smiled her seductive way, and jigged her upper body slightly, to the sound of Bob Marley coming from the radio.
'We'll survive. We'll have to make cuts. Thats all', she continued.
' I know' said Jack. 'Yes we both work, we're both young and, your right. We can replace this loss with a few economical strategies. Easy.
'So whats the problem?' she asked
'Its just, oh, I don't know, love, he said and polished off his drink. 'Just the risk element, I suppose.'
'Honey' she said. 'Everything is a risk, but just imagine the consequences of winning.'
Nate emptied her glass and fetched the bottle. The cat jumped on the table. Nate picked it up after serving their drinks.
' I like you Churchill' she said to the cat. 'You're the best cat this side of London, but we want our own tom one day, and youre Mr Castles moggy.' The landlords grey, overweight feline, licked Nates face as if agreeing.

Jack pondered, sipping his drink, swirling the glass, admiring the amber liquid and the way the colour amplified through the fluorescent kitchen lighting. She looked at his wife of two years, the woman he'd loved for much longer than that. The woman who was sweeping her black hair over her shoulders, the way she always had.
'You hungry babe' he asked.
'Depends what for, babe' she replied. Jack smiled, grabbing her hand.
'Lets go get some food at Dunnies, talk this through, okay.'
'And then some hanky pankey when we get back' she said laughing. Then kissed him.
'And when we've placed the bet' she concluded.
'No No.' he said. 'You ain’t that easy, bitch' and he slapped her hard, on the bum. She screamed in delight, and Churchill ran from the kitchen.

'Whats, the nags name' Jack asked.
They were seated at Dunnies, the Italian just a half mile up the road from there place.
Milos, the Ukrainian waiter, served their grilled calamaris and asparagus- a favourite of Nates
The place bustled for a Saturday afternoon, and Milos had no time to stand around and talk with his friends. A fine sheen of perspiration coated his face, and after serving them, he moved his stout body at an alarming pace, surprising the pair of them into exchanging looks of bewilderment.
' Dellroy’s Assassin' replied Jools, after they'd settled in to their appetizers. She nibbled on the asparagus, as Mick forked large mouthful of squid away. He was starving.
''Now that's some name.' he replied.
' Lets hope the beautiful stallion brings us luck,' she said, laughing.
'Steady on lady. I've said nothing yet.'
Jack knew his wife wanted this; With the distress her father had put her through, she deserved some happiness. God, he knew they could both do with the luck. He just hoped that Dellroy’s Assassin would come in for them. He finished his appetizer, Nate leaving most of hers.
'Not hungry, love.' he asked. You've hardly touched it'
'Just thinking Dellroy’s Assassin, love.'
' Me too,' he replied.
'Do you realize' she said. We'll be able to have mad sex all over the house, without Mr Castle walking in through the front door. We can frolic in the kitchen, frolic in the bathroom. Fuck each others brains out in the living room. Just imagine love. We can have a big labrador, a couple of cats. Even a fucking tortoise... We can start a family, Jack.'
Milos cleared their plates, sweat persistent on his brow. He acknowledged them, and excused himself for the hurry in his eastern european knack, quick but efficient.
'I'm sold' said Jack. 'But if we lose, I'm divorcing you.'
Even under the subdued lighting of Dunnies, Jack noticed how striking the green of Nates eye were; the illuminous qualities to them, the colour bolder and brighter like the shallow, tropical waters of the Caribbean. When she looked at him, they pierced him, like small harmless daggers, penetrating with a pleasant persistence.
' No you're not' she said smiling and raising her glass of Chablis ' Cheers'
'No I'm not. Your right. I'm stuck with you love. I'm stuck with you forever.'
'And I'm stuck with you, babe', she replied. 'I'm stuck with you forever too. I'm part of you, as much as you are me. We cant survive without each other.'
Nate sipped her wine, then sobbed .She brought the napkin to her eyes.
'Is everything alright' he asked.
'Nothing could be better, Jack. Nothing. I'm sobbing because I'm so lucky to have you in my life. You are my treasure, and I never want to lose you.'
' Chill, Natalie' he replied, chinking his glass with hers. 'That isn't going to happen.'
A few moments later, Milos brought over their tagliatelle, again with asparagus tips, also bacon,and mushrooms. He ground black pepper from a huge mill over their dish. He also grated generous quantities of parmesan. The way the couple liked it.
' I hit a customer over the head once with this ' said Milos, holding the pepper mill. He laughed.
' Well I wont complain about the food' said Nate, smiling again. 'Did you seriously' she concluded.
'I did. He was very drunk and insulted my wife who used to work with me back then.'
'Good for you, Milos. You didn't kill him I hope.'
'Just concussion and a spell in the hospital. Enjoy your dinner.' Then he was gone.
They ate away, mostly silence, Nate playing with her food more than ingesting any. But, her appetite was still frail, unlike Jacks who again forked giant swirls of pasta dripping with oil into his mouth.
'Whens the race, babe' he asked, resting his food and engaging the wine.
'It's at three, tomorrow, Haydock', she answered.
'So soon. Wow,' he answered.
'We don’t' have to do this love' she said. 'If you said no, then I'd honour that, you know that.'
Milos cleared their plates, several moments later. Nate swayed her body to Tracey Chapman’s, Gimme One Reason, that played softly through the restaurants audio. Jack thought she still moved seductively.
'I want to do this, as much as you, Nate. Any reservations I had were doused back there at home.' he said. 'I'll be working as you know, so I'll leave it to you to tell me the result.
' I'll have some lunch waiting for you when you get home', she replied, squeezing his forearm.
'You'd better place the bet by the way.'
Milos brought over a small plate of Tiremesu, another favourite, always served to them without question. He thanked them, presenting the bill too.
'I've already done it' she said, trying not to smile without much success.
'I am going to divorce you, you know' said Jack. 'I am.' He smirked
Then she really did laugh, so loud that it turned the heads of several patrons, one or two smiling along. It stopped Milos in his tracks, too.
Later they slept. Eventually.

Jack returned from his office the following day, greeted by Churchill, and the aroma of fish stew simmering in the oven. Work had been unproductive, however he didn't want to arrive home till the race was over. Jack was alarmed at how anxious he'd become. There was no sign of Nate.
'Nate' he shouted from the bottom of the stairs, Churchill at his heels. He looked in the living room, then the conservatory. Then he thought he heard a thump upstairs, and knew it'd be her. He also knew she'd probably have showered or was reading- something she often did on Sundays while he was at work. He waited. Patiently.

She appeared minutes later wearing, her Sunday casuals- blue silk gown, red slippers. The expression on her face suggested nothing, thought Jack.
'Well' he asked.
'Well what?' she casually asked, walking towards the fridge
What do you mean well what, love. The race of course'
'It was close, a photo finish' she said. Jack thought he saw a smile develop, but couldn't be certain.
'This is killing me, come on.' he shouted.
We did it babe.' she said finally, removing the bottle of Dom Perignon. We really did it.'
'Holy shit, said Jack jumping up. 'Holy fucking shit.'
They threw their arms round each other, swirling across the kitchen, the cat leaping from table to chair. to exit. Eventually they sat, and she placed the bottle on the table.
'Holy shit is right, but holy you is better. Wonderful you made this happen love. You did. I could have always cancelled the bet, you know that.'
'I know that' he said.
She placed a hand over his mouth.
'There's something else too' she whispered. Rain pelted against the window in the dreary January way, but the whisper, somehow, smothered it.
'Whats that then,' he asked, grabbing the bottle.
' Our hero, Dellroy’s Assassin was put down after the race, which is awful. But, I think of it as being the end of his rein His journey was complete, and his journey had been sensational- just as ours is going to be, babe.'
Jack smiled, hands resting on his chin, still absorbing the good news.
'Theres another thing too' she said. The bottle popped and Jack put it to her mouth. She swallowed the fizz most of it overflowing down her chin.
'Whats that' he asked laughing at her struggle for words, himself now up, dancing wildly.
'I'm pregnant.' she said ' A life for a life, and fifty six grand. They're the consequences, babe.'
Jack stopped in mid flight.


The consequence was always unfolding. Things never happened as they should. As he watched the gull glide across the clear blue sky, he had a sense of freedom; of life without constraint.

The assistant's voice still rang in his ears:

"You can practice with me", she had said.

That she had come from Granada was a miracle too far, the first being her stoop to pick the coin he had dropped from the shop floor, the second that he had actually engaged her in Spanish conversation on that rainy day, and the third that she had responded with unexpected Andalucian charm. Would a fifth be in order? Would she call him, or text him as promised?

Life was not a movie, or indeed a short story written by Henry James or EM Forster; the more he searched his inbox for an unknown number, the more absent it was of the promised text. True, in the Edwardian or Victorian worlds, any missive would have been in paper form, pushed through a solid door letterbox, or left at a hotel reception, but the process was the same then as now. Links were either made or not made. Consequences were the outcomes of actions. He had acted. Now all he could do was wait.

Days passed uneventfully; the rains eventually cleared as the storm murdered its way westwards. Her smile and her words remained seared on his memory. Yet the more he tried to make the memory materialise into a new event, the further from likelihood such an event appeared.

He lay still on the beach, listening to the waves and the wind. he could hear voices of young,happy people close to him, a group of European students, he imagined. This area had become a magnet for English language students, bringing with them their usual air of resentment and suppressed rebellion - he had taught many such students thirty years ago, and whilst harboring fond memories for their Latin smiles and one unexpected affair with a mature French accountant, whose Provencal elegance charmed him from the first "Bonjour", he recalled mostly frustrating hours with dull text books, and Parisian teenagers longing for decent food and shops. That part of his life remained seriously past and imperfect.

Within his space of stillness on the beach, he kept listening to the young voices. The common currency of tutored but flawed English was passed around. His eyes remained closed. As he lay there, thinking in part of the past, in part of the present, he could almost remember the smell of Corrine's perfume; her smart coolness, and indeed the way that he had eventually spurned her advances towards lasting significance for eachother. How the young pilfered opportunity, he mused - she had had been smart, wealthy, and generous. Those virtues were in short supply, he realised, as opportunities dwindled in his middle years.

Here, now, he was significantly alone. A solitude like his could become its own fragrance. Others, women particularly, could smell it, the scent of desperation. Too much adrenaline when a new chance appeared; like the moment in the chemist's shop perhaps. A place he had not dared to revisit since their encounter, for fear she might mistake it for stalking.

Their voices emerged from the sound of waves crashing on the shingle, and the rinsing sound of the back - flow.

" He was rather old"
"How old? Very old?
"Oh yes. Fifty. At least. No hair on the head, how does one say in English?"
"Yes..bold. No, not bold..that is something different I am sure"
"Ah..yes..Bald. Bold is for having courage."

They always struggled with those short, Anglo-Saxon words, the French, the Spanish and Italians. He remembered that. Their words occasionally audible across the shingle, gave him a stir. But still he kept his eyes closed. With eyes closed, sounds penetrated further, as though the cognitive power of the unused sense was being absorbed by the remaining one, doubling its capacity.

"He said he was learning Spanish. So perhaps I will text him?"
"An old bald man? No is stupid idea. If he was younger, yes. But he is old already to be your father. He wants more than speaking Spanish, Matilda."
"You think? "
"I know yes. Men always meet for that."
"Yes is true."

He was sitting up now. It was the assistant from the chemist's shop, though now without the designer spectacles, and her hair was down . She was with a French girl that he vaguely recognised from one of the seaside cafes down the prom. They were talking about their meeting in the chemist's. He had been worried that the meeting would have no consequences, but he needn't have. She remembered it as much as he. The consequence was this conversation; a confidence between two young women about an approach to one of them by an inappropriately older man.

"What if he had been George Clooney? He is also so old."
"Yes, but not bold, bald...bald but not bold...I am bold with George Clooney"
"Moi aussi! Such a pity he is married."

And how they laughed. In another world, in another man's shoes, he walked back now across a sandier beach tha this one, at a steadier, slower pace, his heels and soles warmed by the scorched crystals. She put her hand in his as they returned into the shade of the streets where a cool hotel room awaited them, his Panama hat cocked to one side, her lovely hair caressing his shoulder as they moved on.

The fierce wind picked up again. Another storm was on its way.


Consequences (A normal day..)
The fierce wind picked up again. Another storm was on its way.
It was years ago when he had been this far from his house on a trip in to the past.

These days it was difficult to walk and he had to force himself step by step from the bed to the dining table where the house service had placed his breakfast of boiled eggs and black coffee. He took a bit of time to settle in the chair and thanked God that Parkinson’s had not crept in to the long list of ailments that troubled his frail body. He glanced out of the window at the bleak sky , let the storm rage outside he had nowhere to go today or for that matter next few days. Was it Mary Ann? or Mariam? who used to say storms uplift moods once they pass by. He looked at the eggs he must eat them even though he was never hungry these days and the drink the coffee to wash down the pills from the dosing box. He remembered the last time he was in the hospital he had eaten the toast and he had choked the nurse had come and scolded him never to eat without drinking something. She had sat for some time, God bless her kind, she was in her 60s, from Turkey or was it Budapest?

The wind had started howling but his mind drifted to the autobahn in West Germany where he had been frightened with cars zipping at 250 kmph, the noise all round one heard on cracking the window open even a wee bit. Klara had to shout at him to shut the window as she couldn’t hear the traffic radio. Klara had settled in Okinawa, she must be close to 90! She was his only sister and the only one who cared or remembered him these days. He could hardly understand what she said or mumbled but she called him once in a while to talk about their father and his small house on the outskirts of Copenhagen.
He was used to the waves splashing his feet as he walked the rocky beaches with memories like pebbles popping up now and then as the waves played with them. Rockland was a close confidante with whom he had shared all his business secrets and God bless him, he had never let him down until his dying day. After the demise of Rockland, he had wound up his business and retired for good. He remembered how Brian tried to convince him to continue the Sticker business himself rather than selling it to him; he had even refused to renovate the shop for a few months. Brian was his younger stepbrother but more than a real one and looked after him in his old age.

They should shut the damn TV! Spewing out nothing but nonsense! Some Caliphate carrying out executions , countries bombing each other, why can’t they have Liz Taylor reading the news? And this cacophony they call music…Summerwine.. so soothing…

Grace shook the old man and reminded him to finish his eggs as she had already finished. Grace was a fine woman now, he had seen her years ago as a toddler, it was another storm another day and had left him drenched in sweet memories. He had found Grace crouching under a bench as the storm winds had raged the coast, she was frightened to the core but would not come to him since her mother had warned her not to talk to strangers, he had sat down on the bench to wait till her mother came back. He was in Skagen, Denmark that summer, he kept sitting on the bench but gave Grace his jacket and raincoat. A short hailstorm later he saw a frightened woman shouting for Grace, he hailed her and showed where Grace was hiding and both burst out laughing, he in his late 60’s and she in her early forties. The generation gap was carried away by the pouring rain as they rushed to the nearby café to warm themselves. He had to be hospitalized by evening that day as he had caught severe cold. Both Grace and Krista, the mother of Grace, visited him daily for a week till he was fit enough to move back to the hotel. The friendship grew under the stormy weather and flourished in to a lifelong bond, enduring distances, and turbulences in their lives. Krista lived in Munich and he in Innsbruck.
Last year Krista had succumbed to a massive heart attack and therefore he thought of visiting Skagen with Grace to immortalize their association.
He was thankful to memories, distorted, incomplete, erroneous, or otherwise, it was all an old foggy like him had to pass the time from one doze to the other.
He told Grace that he will go for the New year Eve dance that night, provided she could find a comfortable corner for him to sit as she danced her way to the dawn of 2016., and he would drown in the storm of memories as they would come pouring down.


‘Happy New Year,’ Grace murmured under her breath, the wind whipping the bitterness from her lips and spreading it out amongst the trees.
Reunited in death, her mother lay just three rows from Uncle Bernard now. She taken by the sudden and catastrophic failing of her heart, he more gently by old age. Grace felt exposed by the loss of him.
Uncle Bernard, her protector. He could be nothing but a hero to a little girl who, cowering from a storm, had been discovered by his kindly eyes. Even now his name recalled the scent of mint and tobacco as he had handed her his jacket and raincoat. In the darkness of that moment she had been wrapped in the warmth and flavour of him.
Bernard had not intruded, had not scolded, he had not tried to force or coerce the child she had been to leave her safe haven. He had remained, selflessly giving her the protection that he needed from the lashing weather, accepting his role as sentinel.
From beneath the bench she had watched the interaction of mother and watchman, seen the primal force of maternal fear diminish to sparkling laughter with just a word and a gesture from this man. Bernard had been unaware of his power over them, of how he had utterly changed their lives.
The storm that had thrown them together was not the source of Grace’s fear. It was only that the noise, the bluster, the sudden violence of it reminded her of something else. From the first distant rumble of the key in the door, the rolling promise of anger in his voice, to the tumult of limbs, the crack of pain and the piteous shrieking. Grace had learned to run for shelter at the first sign.
Bernard was the warm front that moved into their lives and calmed the storm. From that first moment, when he had seen Grace and decided she was worth protecting, when he had prioritised her over himself, he made a silent statement; Grace and her mother had value.
When a young Grace had learned the role that St Bernards carry out for mountain rescue she had giggled, calling the man a saint until he had begged her to stop. It had seemed so apt though; he had arrived to find them frozen and exposed, and the friendship he delivered thawed them from the centre as sure as any nip of brandy.
Her mother had explained to her that we are all formed by the generations that precede us. Her father’s upbringing had been uncertain, harsh, and it had made him violent. Bernard regaled them with stories of his mother, the woman who had been a living example of kindness, generosity, and compassion.
Just as he had stayed with her on that stormy day, so he stayed with them through the years. A reassuring presence, asking no questions, expecting nothing, giving much.
There had been no children for Bernard, no wife to bear them. Grace had privately speculated as to why, but the answers now lay in the dirt of Munich. She hoped that his life had been happy, in spite of the absence of these things that so many valued.
Grace stood at the foot of his grave enriched by his estate and by that most valuable of lessons; knowing she was worthy of love and protection. She would not repeat her mother’s mistakes. None of Bernard’s blood flowed in her veins but he had formed her more surely than DNA.
‘Happy New Year,’ Grace murmured under her breath. She had promised Bernard she would find him a corner to sit in while she danced the night away but she co

18:09, 28 Dec 2015
Hour of Writes
This week's competition is a game of 'Consequences'. You need to read the most recent entry on Ephemera, and write something which responds to or continues it in some way. Ultimately we should have an interesting and varied narrative with poems, dialogue, screen-play, prose and essays making up its whole...

02:16, 18 Dec 2015
An explanation for those readers who weren't quite sure who or what I was referring to in the story for 'Date of Birth'...

CRIB SHEET FOR FLIRTING WITH DEATH STORY (a mangling of Greek mythology).

Main Character = Thanatos (‘death’), the guide for non-violent/peaceful deaths, ancient Greek precursor of The Grim Reaper.
Sidekick = Hypnos (‘sleep’), his twin brother.
Minor Characters = Apate (‘deception’) and Nemesis (‘indignation, retribution’), two of his sisters.
Cherie, the young woman Thanatos is called to visit. She is not an ancient Greek but a modern-day woman.
Daisy, Cherie’s tortoiseshell cat, who possesses more powers than Cherie ever realises. Also not an ancient Greek, well at least not in this one of her nine lives!
Mentioned = Geras, one of Thanatos’s many brothers, god of old age.
Momus, another of Thanatos’s brothers, god of blame and of poets & writers.
Panacea, goddess of universal remedy/health and daughter of Asclepius (god of medicine & healing) and Epione (goddess of soothing of pain. She was one of four sisters and four brothers.
Aceso, Panacea’s sister, goddess of the healing process.
Hesiod, Greek poet who didn’t think much of Thanatos.
Mick, faithless worm who’s married to Cherie. Not an ancient Greek but a modern-day man.
Pimply Work Experience Youth, acne has long been the bane of teenagers, even ancient Greek ones.
Background Info:
The brothers are always seen together and wear wreaths of poppies. Thanatos dresses in a black cloak, carries a sword in his belt and an inverted torch – indicating the snuffing out of life – in his hand.
The Greek poet Hesiod, active between 750 & 650BC, said this of Thanatos: “He has a heart of iron and his spirit is pitiless as bronze and once he’s seized you he holds fast.”
Author and poet, Homer doesn’t have anything good to say about him either, and the same applies to the lyric/comedy poet and playwright, Alcaeus (born 620BC).
Hesiod only had good things to say about Hypnos – “He roams peacefully over the earth and the sea and is kindly to men.”
In Greek mythology, Chaos, the primeval void, was the first thing that existed. According to Hesiod, Chaos came first and born out of that were Gaia (‘earth mother’), Tartarus (both a deity and the abyss where souls are judged after death), Eros (‘love’), Nyx (‘night) and Erebus (‘darkness’).
Thanatos’ & Hypnos’ Family:
Their parents are mother Nyx (‘night’) and father Erebos (‘darkness’).
Other siblings are:
Brother, Geras (‘old age’ and where the term ‘geriatric’ comes from)
Brother, Momus (‘blame’ and also a god of writers & poets) and his twin sister, Oizys (‘suffering, woe, pain, distress’).
Sister, Nemesis (‘indignation, retribution’)
Brother, Moros (‘doom, destiny’)
Sister, Apate (‘deception’)
Sister, Eris (‘strife’)
Brother, Aether (‘brightness, the upper air’)
Sister, Hemera (‘day’)
Sister, Philotes (‘friendship, love, affection’)
Triplet sisters, The Hesperides (‘evening, sunset’) - the nymphs who guard the golden apples of immortality – Aigle (‘dazzling light’), Erytheia (‘the red one) and Hesperethusa (‘sunset glow’)
Triplet sisters, The Moirai (‘fates’) – three goddesses – Clotho (‘spinner’), Lachesis (‘allotter’) and Atropos (‘unturnable’).
Multiple sisters, The Keres – female death spirits of violent death.
1,000 more brothers, The Oneiroi (‘dreams’), one of whom is Morpheus, God of dreams.
Some legends also connect Charon, the Stygian boatman, with the family.

19:29, 10 Dec 2015
At last there was quiet. For so long he had felt assailed from every side by constant noise; the sound of car stereos turned up to pain threshold passing by and making his windows rattle, the shrieks and yells of the drunk people staggering out of pubs and clubs, their bravado bolstered by round after round, and the blaring horns of early morning traffic. Day by day he felt the pressure build, slowly surrounding him like water making every movement, every gesture, increasingly different.

15:45, 23 Oct 2015
In the house of the monster

There’s a monster under my bed, but he’s not that bad. He just lays there in the dark among the dust bunnies, his ragged breathing almost wounded, his red eyes, almost teary. I met him once when Dad came home in a rage. I heard him come in when he slammed the door and before long, I heard him coming for me. I hid under the bed.

The monster said, “Stay quiet, hide back here in the dark corner; he can’t reach us here.”

Never believe a monster. They lie. Sometimes I think they just want you to get caught. At first, it worked. Dad came in and threw off the covers. He screamed my name and went looking for me in the bathroom. I heard him stomping all over the house until he came back, madder than ever.
He grabbed the mattress and threw it against the wall. He tossed the box springs the other way. There I was, between the slats, an the monster nowhere to be found. Where’s a monster when you need him.

Dad grabbed my leg and pulled me out, but tripped and fell backwards onto the mattress. I jumped up and ran. It took him a while to get up and I had time to get out of the house. I ran outside and locked myself in the car, lying on the floor in the back seat. He came out with a flashlight and found me, but forgot his keys. He roared and beat on the roof of the car with his fists. When he ran back in, I opened the door and ran for the woods.

Nights were just starting to get cold, the first few frosts had brought down most of the leaves. I found a spot between some fallen trees and buried myself in the leaves. I heard him come back out and shout my name. I heard him roam the property, search all the shed and then come down the path near where I lay. His feet threw leaves on top of the pile where I had hidden.

“I’m going to fuckin’ kill you when I get my hands on you,” he screamed.

An hour later, he passed me on the way back. He was mumbling something about how the night out in the cold would do me good. When he went back in the house, I climbed back in the car. Later, Mom came out and let me back in. He had gone to sleep and she had put my bed back the way it was.

“You all right?” the monster asked.

“No thanks to you.” I said.

17:19, 6 Oct 2015
Jim bob
Fraulein Pesterer

I never liked working with her, because I ended up doing her duties, the main one being vacuuming, She had the smidgeon of a face, small, mouse-like and she glided regally across the empty restaurant floor during the mornings after the guests had finished breakfast. I am not sure if she liked me, because if she did, I had the most absolute faith she was pretending to. False. Beautifully false with her sequined earrings and flowery frocks. Her English was perfect, evidently foreign of accent, yet a soft well spoken tongue that made me cringe. It made me cringe because it was too nice, too grandiose, even dramatic, but moreover because behind that glowing facade of hers lay something else. I don't know what. I do know that Frau Pesterer always had the upper hand, at least, that’s how I saw it.

20:01, 2 Oct 2015
Jim bob
Waves & Particles

She crouched, reaching into the surf, her tiny hands scooping up little portions of sand that escaped between her minute fingers. Mummy sat watching from some feet away, quoting Molly’s fun with laughter that distracted the seagull away from a stale pastry. Little Molly, tiny Molly, plopped down into the soft, wetness, and clear water flirted against her body in quick caresses while she scooped away at the golden brown texture, inspecting it for hidden treasure, or toys or sweets. The stretch of barren, peaceful beach travelled beyond sight; afternoon mist fogging the view, but enhancing the sense of isolation for coastal lovers- a kind of sanctuary of tranquillity. Little Molly knew no different, as did our seagull that waddled towards the coastline, pastry consumed except for several flakes stuck to its beak. Fifty yards, perhaps less was the gap between mummy and Molly, as the bird could attest if only it could speak! A wail of joy, and a scream that was consumed by the noisy surf and humid air. The Seagull, however, retreated two steps from this, but then knowing no danger advanced again, its size levelling to that of Molly's.
' Come on back Molly' Mum shouted, her laughter simmered and apprehension warming towards her daughter, surrounded by a pool of tropically warm water splashing patiently over her. But, distant surf, larger, beckoned and bubbled on a threshold within the darker waters.
'Here Molly,' her mummy shouted again. Molly scratched away at the sand, inspecting the particles; some fine glass pebbles, blue coral, minute bits of orange bone, likely to have belonged to a lobster or crayfish. The seagull stood right behind her, almost gigantic in proportion, pecking at the moist air, and stretching its wings.

The Cayman coastline, almost masked in mist now was almost eerie if not for the early moon, like a sun trying to burn through the late day, or the surf way out thrashing against rock. Mummy walked towards her little girl now just a head in the water, something she was unfamiliar with; her age denying any comprehension, her hands stubbornly grappling at particles through the waters density.
'Molly, Molly' screamed the mother as her trot accelerated, sand spewing up in puffs behind her bare feet. The seagull, pecked at her tiny blue tee shirt visible through the clear water. For a moment little Molly was oblivious to this as her determined efforts to find treasure pursued, and the growing breakers grew, the waves building closer to the shoreline. Still, the gull pecked, and mummy’s pace increased, her screams now barely audible in the dusky humidity and swelling surf. A paltry tug bobbed on the horizon its yellow light barely simmered across the fading day, flickering at the coast in scant servings.
' Jesus Christ' she shrieked,audible to no one but within ten yards of her, while Molly quickly began to realize things, one of them that she was inhaling water. The pecking gull continued, and flecks of blood emerged in small rivulets through the swell. Molly's hands slowed down, her head disappearing below the line.
Then the seagull was away as mummys approach alarmed and in one swoop fished her daughter from the defiant waves, watery redness dripping off the blue tea shirt.
' Gotcha,' she exclaimed in one long breath.

17:50, 10 Sep 2015
Jim bob
Back in the seventies, our college bar buzzed. It was also the focal point for discussions, and getting drunk. Lets face it most students fight, and drink a lot,

13:53, 10 Aug 2015

My big fat brain

Let’s take a brief look at the inside of my brain,
Maybe you will find an answer to what's sending me insane,
Brain scan images show no liaisons, just a F***ing massive stain,
"No wonder this young lady's been in so much turmoil and pain"

The frontal lobes, the largest area of the brain, they patrol,
Muscle movement and conscious though, they control,
Attention, language, solutions and understanding provide a goal,
Determining personality and the basis of your soul,

"Area 1 over here, has been severely affected,
In fact it looks like it’s actually been totally disconnected,
All bridges burned out the A1 tunnel is shut,
A1 will now stand all alone, all ties have been cut.

Moving on, A2 houses episodic memories of any kind at all,
My A2 is a layered room, with memory piles big and small,
90 percent of the memories are stored correctly, in cabinets on the wall,
There’s never a peep outta them, and hierarchy never has to call.

But that 10 percent over there just won’t do as their told,
There impulsive and reckless blowing between hot and cold,
They cause all of the trouble and never seem to get old,
There hiding undetectable and then brassy and bold.

It’s messed up in here let’s move onto A3,
A small area of the brain housing short term memory,
It’s not as organised as A2 but it’s smaller as well,
The cabinets keep on jamming as if on regrets it does dwell.

A4 houses memories, procedural in nature,
The place that tells you when processes mean danger,
Normal brain function indicates sooner rather than later,
My A4 is patchy, its threshold seems to be greater.

A5 is so important, housing semantic memories or knowledge,
It stands to reason that A5 can be improved by attending a college,
My A5 has no regularity, picking at random what to acknowledge,
It’s full to the brim with information but can’t be bothered with the haulage.

A6 is the section where recognition takes place,
Its remarkable normal, everything’s in its own space.

On to B1 the control centre for emotional response,
There seems to be a blockage, Area B1 seems non-chalance,
Every once in a while the barriers may lift,
Resulting in crazy erratic behaviour as responses rapidly shift.

B1 is more damaged than anywhere else,
There’s no order or regularity and no sign of a shelf,
These receptors must be faulty, this is bad for your health,
There’s no instruction manual or quick fix even with wealth.

B2 could be classified as the "social brain"
Processing social information an understanding when people are the same,
This B2 needs updating with norms, expectations and a coherent behavioural chain,
If not the same kind of mistakes will happen again and again.

B3 would technically be called the occipital lobe,
Where our eyes send information, as we look around the globe,
Encoding colour and movement, as the eyes continue to probe,
Any damage in this sector would alter our visual strobe.

Again this areas damaged but it hard to find the source,
There’s no clear cut explanation as to b3s driving force,
It’s irreparable, simply strayed too far off- course,
Inseperatable from neighbouring B2, now they’re going through divorce.

13:52, 10 Aug 2015

Mate i swear, you don’t yet understand,
Everything will break that you touch with your hand,
Events will be minor but this head of ours will make it grand,
Yet somehow on your feet you will always seem to land.

My advice to you is just to take it day by day,
There’s no chance you can predict the s**t that gets in the way,
Stand by your beliefs and don’t be scared to have your say,
For all the wrongs you carry out, one day you’ll have to pay.

The vision of a rollercoaster existence is reality to us,
You will never want the drama or purposely ask for the fuss,
But your own insane behaviour will leave you nobody to trust,
And you better get used to being looked at with disgust.

There will be some days when your feet don’t touch the ground,
The harder you try to gain clarity the more the boundaries shift around,
You’ll agree to far too much every day and constantly feel your heart pound,
Don’t be fooled into thinking it will be a quiet night, when you have a few people round.

Honestly mate don’t ever try to work yourselves out,
For whatever reason, this is it, this is what were about,
A heart of gold, blinkered eyes and a history full of doubt,
Too many patchy incomplete memories resulting from the latest blowout.

Embrace the intense emotions, they prove you think with your heart
Try and suppress the negative side or at least recognise if it should start,
If you find it helpful to regulate the mind, put everything down on a chart,
You have more control than you think you do when normality falls apart.

Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse,
That moment, that second, seems to re-trigger the curse,
Before you know it you’re weak and frail again having to rely on a nurse,
All the qualities that make you, you, have seemed to just disperse.

You will be back though, sooner than you think,
As long as you remember, we can’t fix this with a drink,
Open up that bottle and our ship will continue to sink,
There’s only so many times you can come back from the brink.

What else can I really say, I’ve no more advice to give,
Play the best hand with these cards we been dealt, an make sure your life you remember to live.

11:41, 5 Aug 2015
The bottle of sunscreen hit me, hard.
'You'll need that where you're going.'
Where I’m going?
I don't even turn to look at her, I know whose voice that is. Marion Greenfield.
My lips move in silent recitation as I bend to recover the bottle that she has thrown 'Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes.'
I check the container for damage before I straighten and, all without turning to look in Marion's direction, hand it to the manager who is frozen on the sidelines. He looks conflicted, realising his corporate duty to bring Marion to task for throwing stock, but feeling the pressure of our small town society to decree that I deserve it.
'It's alright, Bob,' I murmur as I pass, making my way out of the store, stopping only to leave my basket of goods where they will be found and redistributed to the shelves. I hate to put someone to the trouble of doing it, but I think everyone would agree it is best if I don't tally there any longer.
I go, as I always do, across the small, neat, town square to the church. The building stands, perfectly white, Gods truth made manifest.
I know that Marion led a protest to Pastor John, asking him to refuse me the comfort of the church. It can't have been an easy thing for him to deny her, and I know his decision troubles him. If I am found to be guilty, he will never live it down.
‘Murderer!’ Marion’s voice is shrill as it cuts through the background hum of a small town centre.
I stop, close my eyes and take a deep breath.
‘He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart,’ I mouth, the words are only for me, I don’t seek confrontation. I don’t have the stomach for it. The words are my anchor, and once they are spoken I can move again, albeit like an injured bird. I hop across the square with my eyes on the brilliant white of the church, my Sanctuary.
‘What did you do to her, you devil!’ Marion screams now, and a part of me wonders if I will ever get to scream that. If I will ever be so sure of blame, that I can demand satisfaction with such certainty.
The thought tears at me, and I run now with little regard for traffic into the church. I throw an apologetic glance back to Fred Turner, who had to brake to avoid a collision. If he had hit me, he would probably be a town hero.
I can breathe again as soon as I am inside the church. I dip my head in reverence before straightening, and find that Pastor John has appeared before me.
‘I heard her,’ he says simply, placing a comforting hand on my upper arm.
I nod. Everyone heard her, I think, and I chide myself for the twinge of pleasure I get from knowing that God heard her too. I should not relish the prospect of Marion’s accounting, it is an unworthy thought.
‘There is some silver to polish, if you’ve a mind?’ Pastor John suggests, gesturing with a hand towards the Vestry.
I nod again, hoping that I have somehow communicated my gratitude to the Pastor. I chide myself for pride, the Pastor does Gods work and needs to thanks from me to measure its worth.
There is a pile of silver laid out for me, and I set to work with pleasure. I have found that if I concentrate on a small task with great intensity, it quiets the chaos that besets my mind if I relax for a moment. Whether it be memories, of darling faces and the honey sweet scent of baby hair, or the torment of imagination, shallow graves or watery ends.
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight,’ I whisper to my reflection as I buff and polish.
I move a large vase, and my breath catches. There is her face, staring out at me from the newsprint. My heart. My only love. My daughter. Tears fall in huge splats and I try to push them from her image before it blurs, a low, animal keening coming from inside me as I am exposed to the hurt that I have tried so hard to protect myself from.
I don’t need to read the words, I know that they say ‘Missing’ or ‘Still Missing’ or ‘Presumed dead’. Her story has changed my life, from its very beginning. I only want to know if it has ended, and if it has, how.
Pastor John comes running, and he pulls me into a comforting embrace as he sees what has happened. I make out the word ‘wickedness’ and his apologies; he knows that this was left just for me to find. It is another protest of his continued support of me.
It takes some time before I am recovered, but I feel better for the tears, like the woods after a storm. Lighter, somehow.
Composed, I continue my work until all the silver gleams. I suppress the hope that God will see how diligently I work and bring my daughter home to me as vanity. I am not worthy of her, while sin remains in my heart.
I pull on my gloves as I leave the Church, and looking down I almost walk into Sheriff Turney. His face is drawn, his hand comes to rest on my arm where the Pastor’s had just an hour before. Something happens as he speaks, as though the world becomes distorted and out of time. His lips move, I hear him, but the two are not in time. I know I am staring blankly at him, and I see him gesturing wildly across the Square to the front of his office where two cars are pulled up. In one sits Marion’s husband, Dennis. He looks pale, crumpled, his eyes huge in his face with what looks like fear.
In the other is a face I think I recognise, but the light is on the glass and…
I see that she is not the child who left me, dark rings circle her eyes, a bruise colours her cheek. None of this matters. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart’.
I know where I am going.
I run to her.

17:02, 28 Jul 2015
Jim bob
Holiday Discussion

''Yes we can' he said, then pulled hard on a Marlboro, staring at her.
'No we can't, Mike, she replied, and waved at the fog of smoke that rushed at her face. Em wiped her eyes, the smoke igniting tears from moments ago, and her pinkness that flushed,was sympathetic to the way she felt.
' Come on, Em' said Mike. 'We've been through this before, over and over again.' He stamped out the cigarette in the full marble ash-tray, a butt spilling on to the table as if making way for the new arrival.
' I know we've been through this before'. she replied, taking a sip of tea. 'Too many times, but I just can't see how we can do it'. She walked over to the television and switched it off, the images of post terrorism in Paris adding to an existing, heated emotion.
'I have told you how we can do this, Em,' he shouted. ' You heard what my take on this is. Jesus Christ'. Mike rubbed at his grey stubble and looked around the room, noticing their son in the corner.
' Exactly, you see? Dont you?' She said, ignoring him and pointing at the baby. ' You are thinking the same as me, and don't say you're not.'
Mikes eyes shifted from the boy to Em, and for a moment he glared at her. Em re-coiled from this, something she'd done several times that afternoon.
' Ok, okay, Em.' he said moments later. 'You win.' He lit another Marlboro, again drawing deeply on it. ' I know Uncle Eustace cant take care of Tommy because he drinks too much. And, there is no one else who will look after him while we're away, because they're too, damn busy with their own lives, and we just dont know enough folk in this neighborhood.'
He poured a large scotch in to a crystal tumbler, and lifted the bottle towards Em in a silent offer. She declined, shaking her head. Mike knew they'd both badly needed a break for a very long time. Traffic outside buzzed along in its consistent, evening, rush-hour way, the smell of exhaust fumes almost detectable in their small kitchen.
'Well, if it wasnt for Uncle Eustace and his un quenchable thirst, then our problem would be solved.' she said. 'He cant even take care of himself, let alone a toddler barely out of nappies.
' No need to get like that' Em, he replied. He took a large sip from the glass.
'He isn't a bad man, you know. My Uncle raised me well enough to know stuff.'
'Two recent admissions to hospital on two bottles of Vodka a day suggest he is a sick man, she replied. 'Not a bad one, just a very sick one'. Said Em, calmly and matter of factly.
Mike looked at his watch, noticing the one on the wall had stopped. From this, he knew he still had a half hour before his evening shift began at the station. Then, Tommy began rocking in his high chair, and Em was aware that the on set of tears was imminent.
'Time for bed, for you,' she said conscious of this noisy cue, and picked him up,his thick head of hair smothering over her chest. Mike watched them leave the kitchen, and could hear her footsteps against bare wood as she rose the stairs. He'd been meaning to get around to fitting the new carpet for them for some time now. But, right now, Mike knew something that Em didn't, and didn't think he could continue hiding it for much longer.

'Is he sleeping?' asked Mike as she entered the kitchen.
'Like he should be' she replied, morosely.
'Like a baby!' said Mike, and let out a smile to this little joke they'd often share after she'd set Tommy to bed each evening. But, Em wasn't smiling this evening, and Mikes grin didn't even influence her. She had been wanting this break away together for a long time, as well as her husband. Efforts, she'd thought now utterly futile. Mike watched her load the dish-washer, her jeans, he noticed, how snugly they still fitted her shapely figure after ten married years. He carried the rest of the crockery over to the sink, and then put his arm around her.
'Come and sit down, love' he whispered quietly in her ear.
'Got to get this done, just leave me be for now,' she replied.
' Got to go to work shortly. Come on. Dont want to go off with us having had a row.' Em could smell warm whisky breath on him, and this enticed her to pour a small one in to a plain tumbler, the last clean drinking vessel left in the place. She sat at the the rickety, but clean table, and Mike joined her.
' We can go, you know.' he said.
'Mike, please dont start again. I thought we were going to have a little chat, not another bout of this.' she replied, burying her hands in her face.'We cant go' she concluded, her speech sounding muffled through her hidden appearance, and long hair that had fallen in to it.
'Yes we can' he anwsered.
She removed, her hands exposing tearful eyes and an expression of amazement.
' Why dont you just go to work, love,' she said finally, knowing now she was already upset enough with all this to become further enraged at her apparently sensless husband.. ' And whats that?' she asked noticing the white envelope he'd removed from his pocket,and placed on the table.
'Oh yes we can,' said Mike, ignoring her question, instead developing a barely noticeable grin.
'What you been up to Mister?' she asked, aware of his sudden change in temperament. She drank from the tumbler, then folded her arms.
' I visited Uncle Eustace this afternoon, between shifts, Love.' he said, and lit up a cigarette.
' How is he doing?' she asked curiously, moreso for Mike's change in mood.
'He is okay,' he anwsered. 'A nurse visits him every other day now to check over him, and make sure he is taking the medication. He was up and about which was good to see. He gave me this.' Mike picked up the envelope.
'Whats in their?' she asked, taking another sip.
' Uncle Eustace took me to one side' Mike said, ignoring Ems question. 'He took me to one side and handed this envelope to me' Mike slid it across the table to Em. 'He said we both needed a holiday, and thanked us for all the help we'd given him recently. He said I looked tired. Cheeky sod, I thought, and asked him if he'd looked in the mirror recently. That made him laugh, it really did, Em. It made me laugh too. Just to see him, his old self back, or some part of it, at least. But hey, I was even happier to find out what was in the envelope.'
As Mike spoke, Em was opening it.
' Oh yes we can, Em. Yes we can.' he said, a larger smirk widening on his face now.
'There's over £500 here, Mike'she said,oblivious to his ranting.
' I know' he said. 'Uncle Eustace said if it wasn't enough to let him know, but....
' Hey you,' Em shouted, interupting. ' Why then have we been arguing just then, when you knew about this already?'
' We have more than enough to pay Toddler Carers for Tommy, so I may give some back to uncle.'he said, ignoring her again but, however, smiling in full awareness of her reaction. He stubbed his cigarette out, this time in a clean marble ash-tray.
' You bastard' she said.
'Holiday is paid for too, Love.'
'When?' she asked. 'When was it paid for?'
'This afternoon, just after I came from Uncles.' he said.
' I cant believe this. Why didnt you tell me' she shouted, getting up from the table while reaching for a hand towel.
' No time, Em. It was all a rush. Had to chat with Lorna at Toddler Carers to arrange to drop Tommy off on Saturday.
'And all that palaver earlier. You knew...
Shhhh' he said,interupting. He got up to meet her and placed a finger horizontally against her lips, smiling.
'Dont shush me Mister' she said backing away, and then suddenely she swiped his backside with the towel. Mike moved away putting his arms up to prevent the blows she tried to apply to him.
' We're leaving Sunday Morning, love' he said trying to get away from her swipes.
'Really? she asked,somewhat out of breath
'Really, Em. Two PM British Airways, non-stop to Bermuda.'
Silence pervaded. Between them both.
' And now, is this the part I'm supposed to say I love you?' she asked, breaking the peace,and putting the tea towel down.
'If you want' he replied, moving towards her. But his sarcasm went unnoticed, and Em shed tears of a different kind,a joy emerging on her face,one that Mike hadn't seen for a very long time.
'Yes we can, my love.'
'Yes we can' she whispered, smiling. ' And yes, you can?
'Yes I can what? Mike asked puzzled.
'Take the night off work' she returned, a smile broadening.
'No, Em, I cant do that.'
'Oh yes you can,' she replied, lifting the tea towel again.'You are going to help me pack, young man. Em started applying blows to his backside once more. Then, she lifted a finger to his lips,horizontally.
' Pack, and more,' she whispered.
Then she giggled, and they kissed in the way only loved ones can.

21:06, 17 Jul 2015
Hour of Writes
Who just phoned me to ask if they can enter twice this week? Best way to do this is to set up another Profile and do it through that...

23:07, 3 Apr 2015
On this mountain, this great mountain
Men come to measure themselves.
To steal into its highest reaches
To trace their path across its flank
And stand victor of their own fears.
Pristine, crystal white glacial slopes
Bring them to their knees. Like
Great Apes slain they sink
And slide across the snow
And into their own abyss of
Doubt and shame and wondering.

The ice and wind and fear
Lay bare their animal desire
To conquer? or to discover?
But what? Not the peaks or the summits
Not the ravine or the cliff, not even
The dreadful loneliness, alone
On the ice in the night, bivouacked
With only a rope between life and death
Clinging onto living while slowly the
Cold bites at the cord and you listen
For the sound of it snapping.

Is the mountain inside the man or
The man inside the mountain? Does
It sink beneath his skin till even the
Gentle, seeking, unrequited
Touch of his lovers hand itches?
What is he expecting stood before
Its greatness? There are no
Answers only more questions and
The steady beating of a constant
heart, singing, I want to live
I want to live,I want to live.

23:04, 3 Apr 2015
Rochers de Naye, February 2015

We came for the view
Clear across the Alps,
French and Swiss,
Matterhorn and Mont Blanc both.
And down far below to the fresh
Deep waters of the faraway lake.
Crisp, clean, crystal summits
Shining like angels against the icy blue sky.
And the train, of course,
Tiny feat of engineering genius
Grinding slowly up the slopes
Teeth catching in cogs
Pulling us upwards towards the heavens.
And bringing wonder to your eyes,
My little train man.
We didn't expect the birds,
Great soaring blackbirds,
Casting their haunting dark shadows
Against the pale white snow.
Our lunch crumbs their carrion,
One landing briefly on my wild girl's hand
A memory she'll carry forward forever.
On this mountain, we left behind pebbles
smooth, flat and grey, small, yellow and shiny,
collected on the shore by little fingers
over 1500m below us now, a lifetime away.
Placed them on the Nepalese Stupa,
Precarious pillar of piled stones,
Small fragile trace of our brief touch.
Praise be to the Ouria,
Pamola and Sansin
Jacawitz and Cabrakan,
Great gods of sacred places
We walk here by your grace.

02:54, 1 Apr 2015
Ruapehu, My Beautiful Mountain

I've sat with my back against the sun kissed stones sprawled at the base of your rocky skirt
I've gazed up in awe at the majesty of you, towering sky tipped above me
You've taken all I've had to give and listened without complaint
You've held me in your strong embrace and caressed my face with your soft white kisses
I've bled my fears and cried many tears on you, soaking them into your earth
The scorching pain of my heartaches I've laid bare upon your snowy blanket, Rivulets of despair I've leached into the icy cold stream babbling across your feet
In my world of pain and uncertainty you were always there, waiting
and watching
To listen and nurture and hold me close to your powerful heart
Thank you my beautiful mountain, for being there when I needed you.

21:14, 30 Mar 2015
On this mountain
Gazing at stars

07:07, 30 Mar 2015
CeRiously wriiten
The 360° West Coast Sunset Memoir

Dear Flyover Checkers,
I heard, not too late though
That autumn’s greetings were sent to spring fields of summer
It was fun to have a breakfast with misty waves
At the Waterfront, charmed with seagulls and cherry blossoms
French toast and dark roast Rhymed with a pinch of cinnamon and holy honey The False Creek might have been missing my slideshows of her
Well, Stanley’s green fern-carpet won’t leave me alone
As I thought of dropping by at my adopted paramount aquarium spot
For beluga, dolphin and sea otters encounter
Wondered how the serene jade pond serenades the taihu rock and other miniatures,
That was really amazing, lauds to the fifty-three legendary craftsmen!
My Epistle keeper showed her chromatic sneakers
Made extra creaky gallops at the Suspension Bridge
Connected with the pine tree spirits at Grouse Mountain
Been there camping, but did not have any floating sleeping bag
So, as a wanderer, played my cards to the domed OMNIMAX
Vertigo revisited my cornea, but I claimed that I need to walk the deck Where another stirring of dark roast will make me SuperWoman
There, my spectacular lookout and hideout, my supernova affair
Behold the time of all times, the lounge is mine.
I enjoyed the polytonic sentiments of the harbor’s opalescence
Where the tombs of the unfound mountain of echoing laughter and gripping finesse gazes

Return after the total recall.
Wished me more daybreaks of granted wishes
With all the loved and Missed Memories.

©Caroline Nazareno a.k.a. Ceri Naz

20:50, 26 Mar 2015
Behind the moon I believe is a myriad of miracles and wonderous magic but what do we really know of the reality.
Would we even understand it if we knew?
On this side of the Moon we have witnessed stunning bright colours, explosions, the birth of new planets, landings on the Moon and Mars but what is happening on the OTHER side of the Moon?
Imaginations run riot but I doubt any imagination could top the reality.
The movie world is full of creative geniuses who bring us Sci-Fi movies like ET, Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Black Hole, When Worlds Collide, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and so the list goes on and on.
So how realistic do we think these movies really are?
There are asteroids out there that are excrutiatingly close to earth lately. Remember the movie, Asteroid?
We don't really want to find out how close to reality that movie was.
I would like to think there is life out there, there has to be surely.
How arrogant would we be if we thought we were the only living 'beings' in the Universe.
Maybe we are the only living creatures on THIS side of the Moon but there's a gynormous galaxy out there that we have yet to discover.
I suspect they might discover us first, if they haven't already.
What if they have?
Who are they, what planet are they from, and is it a planet or something we don't have any comprehension of.
I don't think our brain structures are wired for this - yet.
Maybe that's why we haven't yet been shown what is behind the Moon.
But watch this space, things could get real interesting over the next few million years.

23:04, 9 Mar 2015
Jim bob
Jake thought it was a matter of heritage. As simple as that.
Alan had been looking at him for sometime, and somewhat concened of his driends expression.
'Whats up Jake' he asked whilst picking up a piece of Neapolitana Pizza from his plate. The restaurant was crowded out for St Georges day, although, quite evidently, St george had nothing to do with this. Francis, their Irish pal sipped at a lager and also observed Jake questioningly
'Nothing really, Matt' he replied. 'It just seems that we dont have much to celebrate any more, and it kinda pisses me off'
'No need to get all sad Jake' said Francis, through a mouthfull of spaghetti, and overtones of irish drawl. 'Lets face it, you lot pissed everyone off'. And he laughed, bits of pasta shooting from his mouth, a couple of strands dribbling down his chin. Jake didn't look too amused by this comment
'Hey, Francis thats a bit harsh innit? said Matt on noticing Jakes reaction. But Francis ignored this, instead was, looking at an attractive backside that belonged to a tall woman.'
'Yeah I know what you mean' said Jake across the table. The noisy retaurant didn't help with his soft voice. 'But that doesnt mean we dont have the right to celebrate our heritage' Matt signalled across to Jake to quit the on set of an argument. He knew Jake was a bit touchy and that Francis could be a bit cocky, especially after a few drinks.
Jake agreed with a small smirk as the waitress walked by which dustracted Francis' attention from one backside to another. The bits of spaghetti were beginning to dry onto parts of his face.


09:46, 7 Mar 2015
Hour of Writes
This morning the wind still sallies forth outside in desperate howls; inside I savour the thought of frying mushrooms and wholesome egg.

10:11, 5 Mar 2015
Hour of Writes
At Robotics and Sensors Opportunities conference today and tweeting throughout from @hourofwrites. Get writing!

22:33, 3 Mar 2015
Punch in the time card, open the door
Pull on your dust coat, head out to the floor
Stand by your station, at the conveyor table
Reach for the product, and apply a label.
'This one's not right!', shout's the man at the top
'Do it again, quickly now, chop chop.
If you mess up one more time it will be curtains for you
I don't want to see that to happen to a nice girl like you.'
The machines quietly murmur their way through the day
With automatons like us who tend to get in the way
At last the bell goes and we all file out
'Cuppa tea time,' comes a merry old shout.
'How was last night Gladys, did you go out with Steve?
And did you see the Andy with his new girl on his sleeve?''
All too soon tea breaks over and we all wander out
To stand at our tables and dull ourselves out
An automaton is what we've become, lifeless and listless and totaly numb

03:50, 24 Feb 2015
She Loves Me

He thought she did, in his own self involved mind
He thought she would be his forever, to have and to hold
To control and manipulate, to do his bidding,
But finally she said no more, and walked out
He thought she loved him, he hadn't noticed the changes in her
The sadness, the tears in her eyes, the pain in her heart
He broke her wings, took her freedom away
She couldn't breathe, she couldn't stay
He said, I thought you loved me
She said I thought so too.

03:38, 21 Feb 2015
The Peace Deal

White Dove carries an olive branch
as the storms of wrath abate.
Both sides sit at the table
heart in mouth...and wait.
Who'll go first, who'll pick up the pen
Who'll sign their name on the line.
What's done is done, don't look back
to forgive and forget takes time.
She picks up the pen and signs her name
He takes the form and does the same
She watches him, doesn't show how she feels
now that they've signed off on this Peace Deal.
It'd been many long years, many battles fought
But it wasn't all bad if one gave it thought
Both sides lost and both sides won
But now the marriage is over and done.

11:45, 19 Feb 2015
Hour of Writes
Racing Hearts Go! winner announced...

17:22, 13 Feb 2015
Ruth Evelyn
The safety of a heart
engaged to heal

It mended
It softened
It joined
It allowed
It fulfilled

The safety of a heart
healed to engage

It mended
It softened
It joined
It allowed
It fulfilled

The safety of a heart
received to give
gave to receive


16:25, 13 Feb 2015
Ruth Evelyn
He sat across the room
and I watched
As he thought and considered
he processed

A mind at work

I explored him
from afar
I thought and considered
I recognized

His mind at work

Two minds at work
Two minds engaged
My heart joined
to play

A heart engaged

He stood and crossed the room
to me
He sat. He considered.
I watched. I considered.

Two hearts engaged

10:58, 9 Feb 2015
Hour of Writes
Valentines Day this week, and we have sports writer Jen Offord all in all, Racing Hearts Go!

01:36, 6 Feb 2015
Yes we can....

I was bottling my tomatoes the other day
When the thought occurred - there has to be a better way
So I rang the people at the Watties Factory
The answer they gave me was most satisfactory
'Can you put my tomatoes in a can young man?'
And the reply came back -
'Yes we can.'

12:04, 5 Feb 2015
Hour of Writes
Speed Of Light winner to be announced this evening! Watch this space...

12:43, 29 Jan 2015
Hour of Writes
Cup Of Tea results announced later today....

08:30, 24 Jan 2015

One More Day….

Everything happens as usual,
The sun rises in hazy smog,
Unknown cars honk on the distant road,
Birds chirp in hunger
One more day begins in unhurried impatience

My eyes hurt craving for some more sleep,
The CEO’s early call to meet today rings on my phone,
My heart wants me to take it somewhere far far away,
The morning newspapers lie lazily on the doorstep,
At last something to cheer about and cry for…

Some more deaths in a distant land of unknown people,
The Army Chief wants troops withdrawn from Iraq,
The sultry ramp model believes in life after death,
Another CEO announces a takeover for a few million chips,
Daily astro-forecast proclaims accidental gains for me

“The Boss had to get into an emergency meeting, Sir,
He’s kindly requested you to wait.”
Requested or Ordered!
The battle between survival instincts and self-respect occupies me,
The electronic clock and the secretary’s hairdo tell me the time,
My wait waits in an impatient patience..

“What will you have, Sir? Tea, coffee or maybe...”
“No, nothing, er - maybe a glass of water...”
The Secretary vanishes
A new wait for that elusive glass begins,
And drowns the thought - I have been taken for granted
Anxiety takes the place of activity,
Is he avoiding me?

The glass of water appears,
Dangling between the manicured red nails
“The boss has asked me to tell you,
he’s sorry to keep you waiting.
He’ll meet you shortly.”
I try my best to regain my trust in the limitlessness of the word - shortly
The Theory of Relativity - from a new perspective perhaps!!!

“Let’s go for lunch and talk”,
The elusive boss of the ever-smiling Secretary comes out of his cabin,
With no one following him through the door
Was this a tele conference!!!!
The battle re-surfaces in a new avatar

“Sorry to keep you waiting for a little while,”
The CEO grins
“It happens.”
I stretch my jaw muscles to their extremities
The battle drowns in activity again

Weather, bombings, wars, capital market, ramp models
Occupy the CEO’s vocal chord and lips
With a liberal smattering of his confused vision of ‘my company’
In between
With his eyes darting between my necktie
And the low necklines of the lady on the other table
At last the meeting is happening.

And happens for a little less than three hours,
The content repeating itself in amazing regularity,
“I understand”,
I say, whenever he finds time to look into my eyes
Without a hint of the absolute confusion in my mind
I listen, pretend to listen and practice sleeping with eyes open
Waiting for the CEO to hear his own voice,
Which happens coincidentally at last,
Just when the lady on the next table stands up

“Ok, then. Do send in your proposal.
Let’s begin from Monday next.”
The CEO growls in his suave arrogance
With his eyes fixed
On the fast vanishing feminine silhouette
“Yeah. Sure”,
I mutter with my eyes fixed
On my credit card,
Stooping under the weight of the charge slip

I come out to face the sweltering metropolis,
With the Sun forcing its way through the hole
In the Ozone layer
The traffic snails before and past me in impatient laze,
The grey clouded western sky has orange linings
My mind thinks of the charge slip and the accidental gain

Everything happens as usual,
The sun sets in hazy smog,
Unknown cars honk next to me,
Birds chirp restlessly for a shelter
One more day ends in unhurried impatience.

08:22, 24 Jan 2015
Lessons from a learned pigeon

If you find a pigeon hovering over your laptop, don’t stop it from tweeting
If you do, don’t chase it
If you do, don’t scare it.
If you do, don’t scare it so much that it craps on your laptop
If you do and it does crap, don’t chase it again
If you do, don’t scare it further
If you do, don’t keep the windows shut
If you do, be gentle and open the window
While opening the window, don’t curse the pigeon in Hindi
(Pigeons don’t like their mothers and sisters subjected to human repression. And Indian pigeons know Hindi. Try Swahili instead. If you’re lucky, it hasn’t yet used its passport and has never been to Africa.)
If you do, say sorry and don’t anger it
If you do, don’t let it crap out of anger
If you do, don’t step on it
If you do, don’t slip n fall
If you do, don’t fall on your back
If you do, don’t let anyone be around
If you do, don’t let that one try hard not to laugh
If you do, don’t say I am okay
If you do, don’t keep lying down
If you do, don’t betray your helplessness
If you do, don’t refuse help
If you do, don’t go to your regular doctor
(He already knows your unseemly ways)
If you do, don’t give the gory pigeon-details
If you do, don’t let your doc get wild at the pigeon
If you do, don’t let your doc suffer the same fate as yours and your laptop a repeat insult
Take your doc’s advice and make a resolution not to chase the pigeon that craps on your laptop
Moral of the story – Pigeons love to tweet.
Trust me – you cannot hear from a better horse’s mouth

03:44, 23 Jan 2015
A light tap, tap tap, at the door drew Millicent's thoughtful gaze from the dancing flames in her fireplace to the source of the distraction.
A white gloved hand appeared from behind the heavy oak door which was hinged into the wall of the dimly lit wood panelled drawing room. The fingers were splayed out to balance a tray heavy laden with silver and fine china. Following the tray was a rather stern and ancient looking butler in his black frock coat, severely starched white shirt front and white bow tie.
'Ma'am' he queried in an old tired voice.
'By the window please Jeeves, ' she ordered, the years of experience giving orders dripping off every word. She rose from her seat beside the fire, her silk petticoats whispering softly beneath her white organza gown with the embroidered bluebell pattern. It was her favourite.
The butler expertly placed the tray on the delicately embroidered lace table cloth which adorned the small round table beneath the square lead light windows. Either side of the table stood two tapestry embroidered, oval backed chairs waiting patiently for their occupants.
'Thank you Jeeves. I will serve today,' she dismissed him from the room with a delicate but companding flick of her tiny hand.
Another knock at the door and Millicent turned expectantly.
'Mrs Gertrude, Armitage-Jones-Forsyth m'Lady.'
'Oh Gertie, you do look lovely in that gown, the colour suits you so.'
'Millie daahhling, oh I love to see you in your pretty organza. Whoever would believe that another year has just danced on by my dear. Fifty years we have been meeting at this very same time in this very room to celebrate our birthdays together before the big hurrahs. Hasn't it been such fun being a twin.'
'It has my dearest and neither of us looks or feels our 80 years do we.'
'Not at all, not at all.'
After partaking of their tea with scones, jam and cream, Gertrude rose to leave.
'Millie it's been such a lovely visit, as always. So nice that the two of us can catch up without everyone else butting in don't you think?'
'I do dear, that I do.'
'Now Gertie, Edward and I are off to that new Vaudeville show next week, why don't you come along with us.'
Oh Millie, thank you but you know full well those shows are just not my Cup of Tea.

00:26, 17 Jan 2015
Hour of Writes
Great entries for Love And Music this week - looking forward to seeing what wins!

22:02, 14 Jan 2015
The little blue planet.
Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away there was a little blue planet called Earth. It had been around for millions of years and had its very own solar system. One day the Earth mother, Gaia, called upon the planet Gods.
'I am very concerned about my beloved Earth,' she told them. 'It is dying, we need to do something.'
'What can we do to help Gaia?' they asked kindly.
'Well,' she smiled, 'I have a plan. Why don't we overlay the Earth with a great blanket of powerful Love energy and see what happens.'
'Wonderful idea,' they chorused. 'When shall we do it?'
'Well the planets will be well aligned on March 31st, 2015 why don't we do it then. We'll call it the Photon Belt and set it to last for a thousand years'
So that's what they did, and the results were remarkable. The nations who had been at war, some of them for many generations, lay down their weapons and embraced their enemies. Each nation sang it's anthem with such great gusto that it made Gaia tingle with delight.
The terrorists suddenly found it so difficult to hate that they gave up their campaigns, came out from their hiding places in the desert and threw off their masks. They formed rock groups and wrote love songs instead.
All the races on the planet threw off their glasses of difference and realised that they were all one people and they embraced each other. Gaia beamed with delight when she heard and felt a beautiful humming thrilling through her.
'Aaah they are singing the blues, oh how I love the vibration and rhythm of the blues, it touches the human soul unlike any other music I've ever heard.'
Before long the whole world was humming and singing and whistling and dancing and smiling at one another.
All the world leaders got together and held a summit meeting, signing a treaty that they would do everything in their power to uphold this wonderful peace on Earth. They linked arms and sang the Beatles song, Love, Love Love. That's when the Earth turned from blue to the most brilliant rose red pink the galaxy had ever seen. It spun and sparkled and shone its brilliance all through the universe causing the inhabitants of other planets to stand and gaze in awe.
And so the people on Earth lived in peace and harmony for the next thousand years.

00:15, 7 Jan 2015
I raise my glass, I wish good cheer and say goodbye to another year

Auld lang syne wafts through the still night, fireworks create a stellar delight,

what's done is done, what's been has gone, 'Another year over' sings the singer of the song,

We've had fires and flooding, volcanic eruptions, melting ice, earthquakes and catasrophic destruction,

planes falling out of the sky to the ocean, civil unrest and racial emotion,

lying and cheating and political upheavel, some hideous crimes that were simply pure evil,

May this year be more fruitful and bring you good cheer, I raise my glass to you and wish a Happy New Year.

18:47, 6 Jan 2015
It crawled from some pit, slithering across the room, an old discarded beauty, now without arms, it's torso lumped noisily on the floorboards. Why have I been left here, without colour, with an absence of light? Why have they left me, driven me away and left me to die in this place?

Pleasure attained, was my modus operandi, my way of life. To lie on a grecian daybed, with some beauty brushing my hair, until the copper strands shone like burnished metal. Fed on pommegantes, moist figs and spoon-fed fattened duck's livers with soufflé-light mascarpone filled eclairs, sugary-light, like the lemony wintry sun that streamed through the window.

The child had been born soon after. She was a beauty. Holding her close, I could smell her newness, her skin smelled of blackberries and buttermilk, like late Summer and I loved her.

All I remember before this - is a disintegration into colour, I disintegrated, everything melted, my own matter and substance stayed with me, but everything melted under my touch. Objects slid from my grasp and dissolved into the air, colours ran amok, and with shivery hiss, adder-like, slid though the tiny gaps in the floor.

There is a memory flash - he sits at the table, legs crossed, holding a manuscript. He is crumpled looking with a top hat wedged firmly unto his ears. Long hands with a bejewelled finger, a cut garnet, which glitters when he turns each page. What did he want? She felt unwell.

If she could hold this coal long enough, clamp it between both hands, feel its intractable hardness press into the cups of her palms, could she with an alchemical thought turn it into diamonds. Shower her child with the glittering hard rain of diamonds, fill their shared boudoir with pure carbon, pure love, maybe then they could both live.

The days were long now and all the nights were filled with horrors, great gaping maws of dread. Smells of death filled her and she faded to a crystalline shade. Sparse. Her hair hung in limp hanks from her little skull and her hands folded over the blanket which held the perfect little skeleton of her dead love. She sang. 'Shush my baby, don't you cry, papa is gonna buy you a diamond ring'.

01:43, 6 Jan 2015
Hour of Writes
REMEMBER: Entries on Ephemera can now be shared on social media as they happen, so please do try this out!

23:01, 3 Jan 2015
Hour of Writes
Happy New Year! 'From The Cold' results out later tonight...

04:22, 1 Jan 2015
I was scared.
The first thump outside my window brought me upright in my bed, heart pounding.
'What was that?
The second thump brought me to my feet. I grabbed my dressing gown hanging behind the bedroom door, unconsciously slipping it on as I ventured furtively out into the hallway. As I crept past the spare room door my heart stopped beating. There at the naked window was the shadow of a man. No hairline. Was he wearing a hood?
Who was he?
Why pick on this house, why me?
I slid back in to my bedroom, jelly legs giving way as I plopped down on the bed.
I grabbed the bedside phone. Don't turn the light on.
'Police, how can I help'
'There's a man trying to break into my house.'
'What's your address maam. And your phone number please. Okay we will get someone to come out and see you.'
I hung up and went back out into the hall stopping briefly outside the spare room leaning against the wall for support. He was still there working determindly to get the window open. I ran on tip toes to the kitchen, yanked open the cutlery drawer, cringed at the noise it made, and grabbed a large carving knife. There I stood, in the dark, trembling, a knife in my sweaty hands, adrenalin pounding through my veins waiting to confront my intruder. I wasn't just scared, I was terrified. I stood there hoping to hear a siren approaching but nothing. Then I heard the intruders feet hit the floor. He was in the house. In that moment I thought, 'Stuff this, my life is worth more than this.' I threw the knife on the bench and ran across to the ranch slider. I pulled it open as quietly as I could. I hesitated.
'Were there anymore of them out there, waiting?
In the end I decided to take my chances. I ran for my life up the driveway to the street expecting someone to leap out and grab me at any moment. But once at the top of the street it was all quiet. No cars, no people, nothing. I saw some lights on in a house at the end of the street, maybe there's someone there. I ran up the path to their door, pounding on it and calling for help. No-one came. There was no-one there, they were just security lights. So I crouched down and hid in the flax bushes in the garden and waited for the cops. I waited and I waited and I waited. Eventually I made the decision to run down the road towards town in the hope that I might either meet the cops or find a house with lights on. It must be after 11pm by now, would anybody still be up? Finally I saw a house with lights on. I banged loudly on the door startling seven bells out of the lone male occupant.
'There's someone in my house, can I use your phone?'
He showed me to the phone. 'I'll put the jug on. Are you okay? Would you like a coffee?'
'Yes to both, thanks. Hello, yes, Police. Yes it's me again. He's in and I'm out, where's the bloody cops?'

The police did turn up shortly after but it was an hour and a half after my first call which was never acted upon. I thank God I never stayed to confront the intruder that night in the hope that the cops would turn up to save me, otherwise I might not be writing this today. True story.

Post script: True story. Long story - but to cut it short - I decided to run for my life. It took another phone call to the Police before they eventually turned up an hour and a half later. This gave the intruder plenty of time to make off with a whole lot of goodies. Never saw my stuff again and no-one was ever charged although the culprit was later identified as it was a town of only 2000 people.

05:14, 29 Dec 2014

Perfect, large, beautiful eyes stare at me
Your luscious hair taunts me
I only mirror dull features
But my small, broken eyes have a history.

My shallow breath felt stronger once.
This fragmented heart puts on a brave front.
But you with your arsenal of a perfect nose and lips
You slay my mighty tower and bring me to pits.

I was once sailing on cloud 9, cautiously grabbing at the stars
But I have fallen down so hard so fast
That though I tenaciously try, I cannot find my anchor
The one that made me so easily look into the mirror.

My palms bang against all walls, but in vain
There’s no escape from this prison I’m locked in
I shut my ears from this place that I can never flee
That echoes your tantalising whisper, “ugly”.

05:13, 29 Dec 2014

You dream of those tickling butterflies
I’m told to dream otherwise
You dream of those first nervous glances
I’m told that they will give me the chances.

You dream of the diamonds adorned on that magical night
Me? I’m told not to dream in blithe.
You dream of melting into the sunset, feeling it’s warmth
I’m told to avert my gaze to the north.

You dream of peeling off your vulnerability
You dream of creating passion laced with tranquility
I’m told when to reach out and when to fly
I’m told to keep my feet on the ground, not to brush against the sky.

You dream of those strolls while our hands are clasped shyly
Growing into a walk that ends in rings joining us tightly
You dream of flying together, even if from the bottom we start
You wish for all this on an ethereal being- a shooting star.

I’m told not to wish for those cold winter nights
I’m told that sharing your warmth isn’t right
I’m told that to wash out the fire blazing in my soul
I’m told that one spark can burn down my haven if I fold.

You want to whisper it, cry it out, scream it
You want the spotlight on us, brightly lit
You want this world and so much more from it
They zip my lips, but in the carcass of my heart,
I preserve it.

18:16, 27 Dec 2014
Hour of Writes
Are we all just snow men, slowly melting.....?

01:18, 26 Dec 2014
Ohakune in Winter.
The ice cold air slapped me in the face as I left the cosy warm confines of the local club. Snow covered the ground, the cars in the car park were covered in ice. I tried my key in the lock. Damn, it was frozen over again. I congratulated myself on at least taking the time to put newspaper on the windscreen. As I rummaged through my handbag for my trusty expired credit card slash ice scrapper I noticed another patron leave the warm club and head to his vehicle. As I was scraping the ice away from around the keyhole my attention was drawn back to him. 'What was he doing? Oh my God, he was peeing on his door lock.' When I recovered from my initial shock I decided it was probably not a bad idea, pity I wasn't physically equiped to do the same. Finally I got the key in lock and persuaded it to open the door. As I was removing the frozen newspaper from the windscreen I watched intrigued as my fellow car park inhabitant leapt onto the bonnet of his truck. 'Now what's he doing? Oh my God, he's peeing on the windscreen. Yuk'. I quickly grabbed up the rest of the newspaper averting my gaze so he didn't catch me watching him. Then I heard him call out.
'You alright love, can I give you a hand?'
'Ah, no thanks, I'm all good.'
'Suit yerself' he laughed.
I quickly slid into the cold interior of my car and prayed that it would start first pop. It didn't. The truck started straight away. Of course it did, he'd probably peed in the gas tank. I heard the truck sidling up beside my car. He wound the window down, I did the same.
'Sure you don't need a hand love?'
'Nope, all good to go.'
'Okay then, if you're sure,' and he was gone.
Third time lucky, I was finally away. Soft fluffy snow flakes plopped onto my windscreen as I left the carpark. Cool, I loved driving when it was like this. I decided to take the long way home and enjoy the falling snow finally pulling up in the driveway. A beam of warm yellow light fell across the path as the door opened.
'What took you so long love.'
'Took the long way home Dad.'
'Silly girl, come on in from the cold.'

12:52, 18 Dec 2014
Lossie Laxton
Just before Christmas I feel myself disintegrate, with desolation all around
and my particles soon to be vibrating with high speed and dislocation all over the surface of the earth.

15:36, 16 Dec 2014
Hour of Writes
We spent one February heatwave Valentine's Day in the park, a group of friends drinking vodka. We watched the ducks in the pond. 'I wonder what happens when one of them dies? How do the others feel?' We see them carry on swimming, eating, doing their thing but inside do they all feel different at the loss of their pond-sharer?

Pass Note

02:08, 15 Dec 2014
I sat huddled on the floor in the corner of the vanity, heart breaking at the thought of losing my soul mate. We were both 26, the year was 1979. They wouldn't let me see him at first, there had been a family rift but seeing me so upset they relented at the final hour.

As we sat hand in hand in the intensive care unit, his warm hand comfortably curled around mine a million thoughts flooded in reminding me of all the precious moments we had shared together. I laughed, I cried, I smiled. I love you I said and kissed his forehead, the last flesh to flesh moment we would ever have.

Then it was time to go, the Doctors wanted his gorgeous, precious 26 year old body so they could extract his organs for donation. He was so fit and healthy. His parents hearts were torn into a million pieces, they were sobbing with pain, how were they meant to say yes to someone cutting up their beautiful boy - he was still warm, he was still breathing - but not on his own. Oh God, how painful is this, the battle between grief and pain and doing a good deed. Finally they said yes and he was gone, through the doors. I couldn't bear to dwell on it anymore, it was time to switch off and gather those beautiful memories back around me for comfort.

I am currently an organ donor but my spiritual beliefs are swaying me away from the idea as they believe that cutting into the body while it is still technically alive, also cuts into the Soul and is thus carried through with you into the next life.

08:41, 10 Dec 2014
Paranoia In The Dark

Here you come again. Every night you come, unbidden, relentless, merciless.
I hate you but still you come. I scream and cry out but still you come. Why?
Why can't you just leave me alone in the Light.
I can't sleep when you are here, there is too much happening outside my window. I hear noises in my house that only come when you are here.
When she comes, the full moon, and hangs herself on your dark canopy I can sit and watch what is happening outside my window.
Why can't you bring her every night?
The only thing I like about your visits is the bright splash of Light and colour that appears on the horizon when you leave. Then I sleep.

00:34, 10 Dec 2014
Hour of Writes
The rain and hail is battering the windows, like a carwash. Then, suddenly, the lights went out. They came back on. My laptop has 100% but soon we will be in the dark I think...

11:15, 5 Dec 2014
True Reflection

As she perched nervously on the edge of the stool, and started to raise her head to look in the vanity mirror, she almost laughed at herself and her foolishness. It was not as if she never looked in a mirror, she did so all the time. And yet...and yet, as she let her mind flick through the notes of her memory, she realised that the mirror was a functional tool and little else.

Her mind visually skimmed her interactions with the reflective surfaces in her life, and yes, she rarely looked away when a mirror came into view, but that was not the same as looking, really looking. She used a mirror to check for a rogue lock of hair and to brush it from her face. She checked a mirror to find a smudge of mascara that needed wiping from under her eye. A mirror let her find a stray eyelash that sat on her cheek.

Of course, there were more than fleeting glances; in the morning she applied her war-paint to face the enemy of the day, and spent sometimes a full quarter-hour looking at her own reflection, but again, this was different. She was looking at each individual element to see what she needed to add, the sweep of colour across her lids, the twist of black on her eyelashes, the smoothing of foundation on her skin, and finally the slick of red across her lips. Each time she looked in the mirror it was to see less of herself, to take away the truth and bury it underneath a publicly acceptable façade.

If the make-up was not enough of an amulet of strength against the world, then there was always her hair to strengthen her daily defense. Washed and blow dried daily, primped, sprayed and smoothed to within an inch of its life, her chestnut mane was a sleek and shiny helmet against the world.

So then, if the mirror was nothing to fear, then what was she so afraid of now? It was sheer force of will that made her raise her head, and open her eyes at her reflection. It was easy to start with, the face was painted, the hair was artfully draped over her shoulders, but for once she wasn't there to look at these, she was there to look at herself, her true reflection. Slowly, she pulled her hair back from her face into a careless ponytail. Step 1 complete. Next, she took the creams and lotions from the vanity and began removing her make-up in slow gentle sweeps. As she glanced down at the used cotton pads, she saw her safety blanket being Dismantled and disposed of. Finally the last of the products were removed from her skin, and she could look up and see her true self.

For months the burning question, Who am I? had been stalking her thoughts. Dissecting her habits and routines, calling into question every moment that normally brought her pleasure. There it sat, like an unwelcome guest in the centre of her mind, mocking her with its simple and cruel presence. Since its arrival, everything she said and did, every though and every plan seemed ridiculous and futile. And now, staring into her own eyes, the eyes that should have reflected back the woman she was, she saw nothing.

She sat back on the stool, devastated. What did she really think was going to happen? Five minutes of quiet reflection looking in a mirror and it would all just work itself out? Useless, worthless and feckless. That was all she was and would ever be if she stayed this cowed, frightened creature.

For what seemed like hours, but could not have been more than minutes, she raged. She screamed and sobbed and tore at her hair, her face, teeth tearing at her lips until they poured blood from her chin. Her mind went to the darkest places, imagined every end, a blade at her wrists, a gun in her mouth, a jump from a bridge. She saw her body, bruised, bleeding, broken. She glimpsed into the nothingness that would follow.

And then, she looked up again at herself in the mirror. Her expression wild, her face bloodied, but her eyes...different. The fear was gone, the emptiness away. Somehow, by facing down the worst of her thoughts, by staring right into the pit of the abyss and giving in, she had survived. Slowly, she began to smile. A real smile, one for herself only, not one for anyone else. Her reflection looked back and seemed to say to her, yes, that's right, you know who you are now.

She knew right then that her life would never be the same again.

06:19, 5 Dec 2014

Oh! My lord! Let me born
In a world
Where my head raises in sovereignty
Where my hands stretch in brotherhood
Where my feet land in solace
Where my eyes open in social justice
Where my fellow-creatures stay safe
Where my fellow- beings live long
Where my soul remains for sanctity
Where my society stands for morality
Where my life ends in bliss
Where the world is without prejudices!

05:53, 5 Dec 2014
Change is a sign of growth , isn’t it ?
The flourishing changes
social, political and environmental
palatable or inevitable ?
The growth of mechanization
yielded in pollution
The growth of modernization
yielded in self- Alienation
The growth of IT Revolution
yielded in de- humanization
The growth of Globalization
yielded in derision

Craving for prosperity
Passion for technology
Craze for comfort
Made us
Blind to the Threat of Global-warming
Deaf to the screams of Habitat
Dumb to the pangs of misanthropism

The struggle for monopoly
Ended in chaos and mystique

Change for growth
a fallacy, a myth
Let’s arise, awake
And stop not, till the world is changed-
For a virtual, eco-friendly
And nourishing environment.

15:11, 4 Dec 2014
Hour of Writes
You can't walk through the door - and then stop!

18:21, 2 Dec 2014
John Farragher
small as a tree I cry
branches running down my cheeks
planted in grass deep green
my feet cannot be seen

19:00, 30 Nov 2014
She wore her skin like chalk on stone. It was her face but she was detached and numb to it's expressions. It's reflection shared no symmetry to her soul, it's characteristics no more than signposts. She waits endlessly to feel like a refined cohesive product, but is worn down by the anticipation of something better. The denied presence of knowledge that acceptance is the only end to this road lurks. How does she move on? How does new begin?

14:40, 26 Nov 2014
Lossie Laxton
In ‘Paint your wagon’, as the folks start leaving No-Name Town when the gold runs out, someone comments to the Lee Marvin character: ‘Well, I guess there’s two kinds of folk in this world – them who stays, and them who goes’. Lee Marvin says ‘No that ain’t true – there’s folk who’s going somewhere, and those who’s going nowhere. But you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about..’

17:13, 21 Nov 2014
My motorcycle needs more fuel.

15:12, 21 Nov 2014
Hour of Writes
The site is now live! New live test competition going up this weekend, then official launch 1st December.

00:52, 17 Nov 2014
Hour of Writes
Hello! The site is going public this week so no formal competition as live content may get lost in the process, but instead please write short pieces entitled 'A Small Story' in Notes and share them!

10:47, 14 Nov 2014
shobhana kumar

there must have been
a hundred kites up
in the sky that day—
every colour and size
filled the dark, blue sky.

people set out
their picnic baskets
and brought out
their Sunday's best
behaviour and such.

all was well
until one little
red kite teased
and taunted
the three-times winner.
such impudence,
it took just seconds
to bring him down.

kite-hormones surged
and armies soon
took their sides.

strings were cut
kites were felled
as laughter died

minutes before
the winner was
a gust of wind
thought otherwise.

and so this year,
there was no trophy
to take home at all.

talk is abound
with plans
for the next fest
when kites will be painted
like country flags.

rumours are rife
as to who might win
against the sky.

15:01, 8 Nov 2014
sometimes I think should go prison, because I could murder a cup of tea.... anybody?

12:57, 8 Nov 2014
Hour of Writes
Hi Magnus! The notes don't connect to anything currently, but are in a state of aided evolution. You mark entries if you have entered the competition. The new title will be released last thing Sunday night / first thing Monday morning and you'll get an email when that happens!
Writing this to test a bit of fixed functionality with editing existing notes...let's see if it saves...

12:46, 8 Nov 2014
Hour of Writes
Some beautiful and thought-provoking pieces this week in response to 'What Is Treason?'. Don't forget to do your marking! Results on Wednesday. Looking forward to our www debut soon... x

22:59, 7 Nov 2014
Nicholas Gill
Beyond Treasonable Doubt

I didn’t want it to end this way. Of course not. But as the rope tightens round my gizzard I must confess to savouring the moment. For this is the final proof of my victim-hood and we would not have it any other way.

To strangle the life from this body is a more tangible murder than what I have done to my soul over the years with rusty knives.

I look at the virtual crowd on a vast screen above me, faces in the Cloud. It was a big selling point that a billion YouTubers could subscribe to the grand finale, and that I would watch them watching me watching them. The rope chafes my neck. I may be getting a rash. It worries me.

The black cloaked man that is a recording of myself continues to read the charges. It is clear, his wrinkled lip sneers, that I am guilty of failures and betrayals beyond all treasonable doubt. But treason against whom? Our brave boys who fought for the English language?

It is true that I never listened to the Word of my Teachers, the grey tank-tops charged with transmitting the tribal lore. I stared through the classroom window for ten years, cultivating succulent shoots of asparagus syndrome.

And then the years of my rebellion. When Royal weddings came I limply refused the general erection. As gleaming carriages passed by I wanted only to be a passenger on that Golden Gravy Train, not an on-looker. When the great arenas filled with human fragments of collective charitable hysteria I deserted to fields of absinthe green reading Keats beneath a tree. When the Soap Princess popped her diamond slippers I kicked the flowers all over the road and laughed when they locked me up. And you know what? I’m glad I done it.

And when they wanted cynicism I was sincere. And when they wanted sincerity I became heartless. And when sex became a cyber-product I found some real balls. I fell foul of the family nexus. Refused to consent to consensus reality. Systematically avoided the System.

As a youth my collars were always too tight. And to think I once contemplated clipping on a dog collar! This bow tie around my neck takes me closer to God. I’ve learned to tie my own, you know.

But when it comes down to it I might say that my greatest act of treason was to collude with all of you. To have suffered a thousand whips of rejection and given sanctuary to them all in this prison of laughing faces is the act of a man determined to overthrow his own State of Mind.

And if I don’t jump now, you’ll want your money back. But I ask you this. Whose face is this? Mine or yours? Did you dare to be yourself or did you sell your own body down the river a long time back? Whatever. I must think of a good last line.

“Minnesota Fats, you play a great game of pool.”

Not mine, but it will do.

21:56, 7 Nov 2014
bloody cat's tapping at the window again

21:53, 7 Nov 2014
loved Mother hood poem. Do the notes connect to the texts? how do I mark entries?

21:50, 7 Nov 2014
navy blue, dark hue, the colour of old school shoes, scuffed. walls, why are you so blue and impermeable?

15:02, 7 Nov 2014
Lossie Laxton
The sound of a cushion being plumped....

22:21, 31 Oct 2014
Before the party I was feeling slightly

22:52, 23 Oct 2014
great comp guys

11:32, 15 Oct 2014
many minds manifest cityscapes like forests

16:38, 20 Feb 2014
Winning entries from testing have started appearing on the site

00:59, 18 Feb 2014
i posted one of my earlier stories @ creatavist...

12:03, 15 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
I would have to dedicate part of it, to people who had influenced my life. My Nan passed away at 99 and had always been such an admirable person. I would have to post something there that she asked me to create - My tribute to the Queen.

12:00, 15 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
My Facebook movie would be on-going. A writer should always be able to create and share.

11:58, 15 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
This piece would certainly be there. As the first piece of poetry ever written by myself. It was sent to the guide dogs for the blind and recorded on tape for their members and followers to hear.
"Looking from the window,
On to the back lawn,
I watched with sheer fascination,
As the family were being born.
Jet is the oldest of the bunch,
The first one to arrive,
Without a doubt he's always shown,
The others how to survive,
Snowy who's the next in line,
Has a coat like new fallen snow,
She's always as bright as a button,
With big eyes that appear to glow,
Then comes Patch, such a sweet thing,
White from toe to tail,
With just an area of black around one eye,
A lovely looking male!!
He's followed closely by Toby,
Different again to the others,
He has a smashing curly coat,
And a temperament to match his mothers,
Then last of all but by no means least,
You come to my favourite of all,
Ben - looking cute and cuddly,
But alert at the quietest call.
That completes the Family,
What a beautiful picture they make,
Huddled close together,
With the puppies barely awake,
Dad is a lovely old dog,
Good natured through and through,
Mom is ever faithful,
A companion forever true,
Before we know it the puppies,
Will all have separate lives,
Where they will help people less fortunate,
By becoming their ears or their eyes.
It would have to be part of My Facebook Movie.

11:40, 15 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
Whenever I think of you
My eyes fill up with tears,
Especially when I think about those very happy years,
When yesterday was not important and tomorrow,
Just another day,
When hours flew by
like seconds,
In such a positive way.
But now that it all over and you are no longer here,
And I just sit and wish that your memory would disappear.

11:37, 15 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
It would contain footage of my nearest and dearest loved ones. Be full of poetry written by myself letters written from the heart

11:30, 15 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
I would like to think that My Facebook Movie would hold all the gems of my life - the fact that I had started up my own business at just 20 years of age and that it was still going strong 29 years later, having gone from strength to strength.

11:27, 15 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
This is a difficult one. To be honest, I have very little to do with Facebook. Nevertheless, I have been shown things on there by other people and sometimes, I really cannot believe things that have been put on there by others. They are normally things that individuals should really be embarrassed with or even ashamed of! You know, like people in badly fitting clothes, terrible make-up or embarrassing situations.

07:26, 15 Feb 2014
i started the hour of writes journey at the anniversary of the bombing of dresden...

22:38, 14 Feb 2014
Sophie Six
Hello everyone, spread the writing love! Happy writing!

22:37, 14 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
Looking back now 2014 was a beautiful year for me. I finally got over a previous love and found a new one, all in the space of twelve months.

22:36, 14 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
I felt a lump come to my throat just thinking about it. At which Simon decided to change the subject and tell me that he was divorced, had nine children all under 20 and was desperately looking for larger home. At that I said " I may be able to help you, I run the estate agents over the road".

22:31, 14 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
Well fancy you remembering my name I thought to myself. "It's a fair few, I have to admit". I remarked. We stood and talked for quite sometime. I commented on my last ten years and told him how I lost the love of my life in a car accident in 2003. He said how he had remembered the accident being in the local paper, together with the horrific photo. Peter had been in his red sports car on his way back to Birmingham, that day in October, when the incident with a vehicle trailer caused it to take the roof right off. The accident killed Peter outright.

22:25, 14 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
"It's been years Jenny hasn't it?" He commented. When we were at school, he was every girls dream. Lovely locks of blonde hair, broad shoulders and massive blue eyes.

22:23, 14 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
It was such a difficult game sometimes. Some people won. Others lost. Simon to me was and always would be an absolute winner. I remember the day we met. I was rushing round Asda in search of something wonderful for tea. I needed some brainpower. My English lit essay needed to be in tomorrow. The deadline. As I starred at the fish in oily sauce, rows upon rows of it, he excused himself to come by. We meet again in the vegetable isle and finally, just as I was reaching for a bag of Rocket, we actually touched!

13:21, 14 Feb 2014
Has anyone tried making a voice note yet?

13:20, 14 Feb 2014
Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.

09:50, 14 Feb 2014
' I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?'

22:44, 13 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
I couldn't believe it when I woke the next morning - there - again in his bed. All the regular signs surrounded me. Him lying half across me, and me showed right to the very edge of the mattress. Any empty Rose bottle on the bedside table along with my glass. God I was hot! Knew I would just have to get him off me. My cheeks flushed and my temperature soared!!

22:41, 13 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
There was just no escape. I could of kicked myself. If only I hadn't of come down to my favourite spot, I would of had the chance to disappear and be gone from his life forever.

22:39, 13 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
As I walked along the prom, trying desperately to avoid walking on all the fag ends and chewing gum, I suddenly saw him in the distance. He jumped in the air waving. "Jenny" he shouted. What did I do now I thought to myself. Well I couldn't just walk away, he was more than aware that I was there. I smiled and waved back.

22:36, 13 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
After finishing my chips I crunched the polystyrene cup within my hand. I moaned at myself, saying that I should be half way back around the harbour by now. Otherwise he would be coming to look for me. I fastened the belt on my coat and pulled up the collar. Looking out across the harbour, the water appeared to be getting rougher, as all the stationary boats bobbed up and down in the water.

22:29, 13 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
I now needed to know exactly what I was going to do. Should I stay and try to get my relationship with Paul to work, or to just walk away without him? It had to be my decision.

20:12, 13 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
Suddenly I was brought back to life by a large seagull overhead and a young couple trying desperately to stop him stealing their evening meal.

20:10, 13 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
Now the ball was in my court for a change. This really was my chance to do something about this dreadful situation. Was I brave enough to leave him? In my mind went through all the grief and hassle he had given me. I was no saint but I liked to think that I would be approachable. He would be able to tell me what he was really thinking. He didn't have to really hide how he was feeling. He could be honest with me and I would respect it.

20:06, 13 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
I stood there so unhappy watching the waves lashing against the shore.
My heart was heavy. Our love was strong.
Paul loved storms. I should think so too! We had had many of them. Most of them full of thunder and lighting. Overhead suddenly there was the biggest clap of thunder and the dark grey clouds were highlighted by the electricity of the lightning.

21:59, 12 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
What made it even worse, as though killing him wasn't enough, they had to do it in front of the children. Life is tough enough, when you have to have the difficulties of life put in front of you, but this was appalling. They saw one beautiful creature, full of grace, shot before their very eyes. What chance did a parent have of justifying that?

21:51, 12 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
Yorkshire Wildlife Park would of given him such a brilliant home. Enabling him to breed with his own species, as he looked across the Yorkshire Dales. What a perfect, perfect thought.

21:50, 12 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
My writing always comes from the heart, with the head correcting it as it is written down on the paper. My writing is often personal and I can feel extreme emotion when it comes to actually reading it aloud. This is certainly no exception.

21:36, 12 Feb 2014
Julie Callcott
Today I feel so different. Sick to the core. Marius was perfect and THEY were worried about him inter-breeding.

15:38, 12 Feb 2014
There's a storm coming: not the towering grey walls that rise up out of the sea like clouds of ink, a dark madness growing within them, but a storm of opinion, of minds united, ready to crash down as one to wash this all away.

15:36, 11 Feb 2014
Hello! You can publish notes to this ShowNotes feed by making a note and then clicking the padlock.

14:35, 11 Feb 2014
They talk about the food: excited eyes spooning mounds of congealed, melted, cheese onto paper plates that buckle under the weight.

13:42, 11 Feb 2014
I love the idea that reading is thinking with someone else's mind

11:22, 11 Feb 2014
Líbera me, Dómine, de morte ætérna

10:20, 11 Feb 2014
One of the most evocative passages from T. S. Eliot:

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

And then the lighting of the lamps.

16:50, 10 Feb 2014
When I fell down into this place,
My father drew his whole day's pay,
My mother lay in a set-in bed,
The midwife threw my bundle away.

- W. S. Graham, The Nightfishing

01:05, 14 Dec 2013
Hour of Writes
It's late. I'm winding down. The fire is burning out.

11:01, 9 Dec 2013
Hour of Writes
We prioritise and give acclaim to things based on recommendations, even with literature. Publishers are like the appointed gatekeepers of the literary world who allow us to know we are not wasting our time when we read. The only point of reading something no one else has read is in order to know something they don't, or in order to seek to popularise the information therein.

22:48, 4 Dec 2013
Chemically, wood is a composite material of about 50% flexible ‘cellulose fibres’ (what paper is made of), glued together with about 30% ‘lignin’ (a biopolymer – a type of plastic). Lignin has this amazing property: that if you heat it to 100⁰C it softens just enough for the cellulose fibres slide against each other if some external forces are introduced. This means when the wood is hot, it can be squashed, stretched, compressed, split, twisted and bent to some degree without breaking it. When it cools the lignin sets, and when the wood dries the bend becomes permanent.

11:45, 30 Nov 2013
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background

15:50, 20 Nov 2013
Hour of Writes
And we’re frozen
in the searchlight of
Cold water

My Notes