After ‘Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard, 1533 – 1603

Oh, I bet that dress was heavy,
dripping with pearls and jewels,
and hangers on. The puffed up
sleeves on those young arms.
That frosty veil of lace
cloaking your drooping shoulder.

And that skirt.
Double, triple, layer
of silk and taffeta
and deep piled velvet,
dragging in the dirt,
wicking up the mire,
all heaped on your
virgin hips.

Did it weigh on you?
Did you need the fancy collar
to hold your chin aloft,
or just to stop the chain
from chafing
that pale and slender neck?

Master of None

Well, hello!  You may (or more likely, may not) have noticed that things have been a bit quiet around this blog for a while, since November in fact.  My apologies.  Life seems to have got in the way quite a bit lately.

‘Why, what have you been up to?’ you may ask.

Really there is a variety of reasons, however probably the main factor is that I have rather rashly, begun a Masters degree in Creative Writing with the Open University.  Not only does this, unexpectedly, take up a disproportionate amount of my time, but also, I’m not allowed to use for the course anything I write once it’s been published, even if that ‘publishing’ is only on this wee little blog.

Now, my writing being a bit hit and miss, I can’t afford to use any of my poems or short stories just in case they turn out to be the best I can manage and I want to submit them for assessment at some point.  This leaves potential content for this site a somewhat dry area.

Nonetheless, I’m quite enjoying the course and learning a lot, even though I’m finding it pretty challenging.  The content is all on-line and you are expected to contribute to the forums regularly, thus meeting some like-minded, like-baffled peers, which has been fun.

Whilst the course is keeping me busy, I’m still trotting off to the art group every Friday.  I’m not sure there is a lot of improvement in my artworks, but painting alongside such jolly and talented friends is always relaxing.  This week we were all doing our own thing, and producing this little flight of fancy in watercolour and pen work kept me quiet all morning! :

IMG_1070 (Edited)





Give it Time – a short story

They are just telling us the weather news (sunny but cold) when I switch off the radio. Just gone 9:00.  It’s my time of day.  I grab my little brown dog, Scooter, who is already waiting in the hall staring doggedly up at his lead that’s resting on top of the papers, willing me to pick it up and hook it onto his collar.

Routine you see. Dogs like routine.  Like to know what’s expected of them.  So he sits quietly while I put on my coat and gloves, fumble with my keys till the door swings open with a rush of cold air.

‘Come!’  I don’t even have to look down,I can feel that he’s there obediently by my side.  He doesn’t pull these days.  Used to.  Like a savage.  We’d picked him up, me and Tom, from the local rehoming centre.  They said he was untrainable.  But we trained him.  I can still here Tommy’s voice

‘Need to be firm with this little bugger’ he’d said, barking instructions ‘Come ‘ere yer bugger’

And scooter would yelp and run off before Tom could get him by the scruff again.

Anyway, Tommy’s been gone for three years now, and me and Scoot get on just fine.

It’s not long before Scoot stops for a poop.  I’ve got the bags in my pocket to pick it up if necessary, but checking round I can see there’s no-one looking, so I leave the steaming pile on the grass verge.  It’ll go.  Given time, crap disappears. Given time.

I turn into Ash Grove.  This fancy little street is just off the main road through the village.  You don’t see anyone about at this time of day down here it’s quiet as a ghost village.  Mums and dads all at work, brats at boarding school, or nursery.  Tommy and me, we never had kids, didn’t see the point. We wanted to work.  Workers that’s what we were.  Earning our crust not adding to the over population of the planet.  These people that live down here, they breed then go off and leave the kids with other people, what’s that about?

There’s a path into the woods off of the grove, and reaching it, I let Scoot off the lead for his run.  Loves to run does that dog.  Hence the name, he wasn’t called that when we got him, he was ‘Charlie’, it didn’t take him long to learn his new name though, not with Tommy’s training regime.

Anyhow, it’s clouded over and I can feel spits and spots of rain (those weather people never get it right do they?) so I call Scoot back and we turn for home.

‘Mrs Fletcher! Mrs Fletcher! Meg..!’  Much as I try to, I can’t ignore Sue Reagan’s call.  I brace myself

‘Ah, hello Mrs Reagan.’  She married an American and rumours abound that he’s related to the ex-president, but neither he nor Sue has ever done anything to either confirm or deny it. She loves it, I think. It allows her to look down on lesser mortals like me.

She’s approaching me at a trot, not quite running, but enough to make her look hurried and urgent.

‘So glad I caught you dear’

Dear. I’ve only ever used that word sarcastically, more often than not to inefficient shop assistants.

‘Been meaning to have a chat’

Oh god, what now.

‘As you know..’

I don’t.

‘we’ve decided to enter the ‘best kept village’ competition again this year’

Who decided? I didn’t.  I smile, tightlipped, and nod.

‘but you see’

She’s looking past me, looking down at her hands, looking anywhere but at me.

‘Well dear, you see..’

‘Oh, get on with it, you’re going to mention my garden again aren’t you?’

Hooray! She blushes! I have actually managed to embarrass this pushy old tart.  She’s on all the committees: WI, Village Hall, and I think she’s even secretary for the bowls club.

‘Well, yes, I think you’d agree, it really could do with a trim and tidy, and the other gardens are so..erm.. different.’

‘Mine’s a wild garden, with wildlife. I like it.’

End of.  Now go away.

‘Lovely.’ She pauses, whilst looking at me pleadingly to give her some leeway.  I don’t.

‘It’s just the front.  The bit that you see from the pavement.  Just a tidy.  We’ve got volunteers that could do the work for you.’

She’s looking at me with lost kitten eyes.  Eyes rimmed with spidery blackened lashes. Her coral coloured lips are pursed making them look like they’ve been pulled tight by an invisible string keeping them firmly closed so that no offence slips out.

‘Just the front’

‘oh yes, just a trim and tidy of those old bushes. That Choysia would be lovely with a bit of a prune you know.’

I really don’t want my garden to look like those council park lookalikies along our road.  Those with the orderly rows of pinks and pansies, roses that are not allowed to ramble, and clipped hedges.  I like the wildness of mine, but to be honest, it is a little out of control.

‘Ok.  Just the front.  When?’

I see her hefty bosom rise with relief.

‘I’ll have to let you know dear, when the volunteers are free, most likely at the weekend, if that’s alright with you.’

I just raise an eyebrow and tilt my head in response and push past her spongey pink-wrapped body which is spanning the whole pavement.

Back home I put the kettle on and gaze out through the grimy back window as I wait for it to boil.

There used to be a garden out there when we first moved.  We had plans me and Tommy, it was going to be our little haven with a swing seat and a pond, and a shady spot to sit in with a glass of wine and a good book.  Of course, we never did anything to it at all, and pretty soon it was all overgrown and full of Scoots poop.  Scoot used to like running about out there then.  He can’t now really, but he does go and curl up on the old sofa out there from time to time.  Think that’s where he picked up the fleas.

The sofa was one of the first things to go out there.  The neighbours didn’t understand, but I didn’t need it indoors, it’s not like I get visitors or anything, and it was taking up so much room in here. Now the garden is just like a room, albeit a wet one.  I do tend to put things outside.  It’s so difficult to get rid of anything. I don’t drive, so can’t shove things in the boot like Mr Willis does, and the council charges a fortune to take things.  So they just go outside.  The TV that I never watched; the old table that used to belong to Tommy’s mum; the hoover that went kaput when I tried using it in the kitchen once; not to mention the bags of Tommy’s clothes.  What do you do with clothes when someone dies like that?  Of course, there’s other stuff too, enough so you can’t really see the weeds anymore.  The busy bodies can think what they like, but they’re not going out there to ‘trim and tidy’.  They’re not coming through the house.

The kettle whistles and I search out a not too grubby mug.  I don’t have any unused teabags, so squeeze out the one I used this morning, and reuse.  It’s all the business now, this recycling you know

My old chair has seen better days, so I recently had the brainwave of putting some of the newspapers under the seat to pad it out a bit.  It really works, and I sit down, like a queen on her throne.  Scoot appears from out of one of his ‘tunnels’ and jumps on my lap for a cuddle.  He’s made the tunnels himself, burrowing his way through books and papers.  He is a very intelligent dog.

I know it’s a mess in here.  I do.  I even know it’s not quite, what others might call ‘normal’ to live like this.  But here I am, surrounded by words, history.  Printed matter is history in the making you know.  That’s what I told Tommy the first time he tackled me about keeping all my books and papers.  They were only in the front room then too.  Just a couple of piles of neatly bound newspapers, and two or three bookshelves.

‘Printed matter is history in the making Tommy.  These could be worth a fortune in a few years.’

His response was typically eloquent.

‘Stupid cow.’

‘No Tommy, you shouldn’t smoke in here, not with the papers, why don’t you go in the garden.  Get some air’

His response was the same as it had always been when he’d used up his usual vocabulary.  He spat at me.  Disgusting.  Right in my face.  Every time.  I don’t know where all that spittle came from.  Mind you, it was better than his fist.

We hadn’t been married all that long before it started.  He’d had a row with someone (I never did find out who), came barging indoors, all red he was.  Even his neck was red, and taut, the veins sticking out like tangled strings.

‘Tea’ll be about 10 minutes’ I’d said.  That was all

‘Tea’ll be about 10 minutes’ I remember it perfectly, like a snap-shot, a bit of video. He didn’t respond apart from the punch.  A punch full on the jaw. I keeled over, wooden spoon still in my hand from stirring the stew. ‘Course, that went all over the place too, so he didn’t get his tea in ten minutes did he?  Fool.

I knew he was one for fighting.  I’d met him in a bar. He had long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, and was wearing a blue vest and jeans.  I was on my own and so was he, and we just started chatting, as you do, and before we knew it, he was warming me up with his big tough body.  We’d meet up in bars, and so often he’d end up in a fight. He’d always win too.  It was exciting.  Not when I was bailing him out the next day especially, but exciting to be his girlfriend.  To hear that intake of breath as we walked in.  Yes, that was exciting.

Thinking of it is making me thirsty.  The tea is not enough, and it’s gone eleven, so time to visit the local inn.

Steph is behind the bar today. She’s wearing a frumpy lavender roll necked sweater, and her hair, neat as ever, in a red-brown bob.  Not barmaid material at all.

I swear she averts her eyes when I come in even though I come here every day.  All that business she gets out of me, you’d think she’d be a little more polite.  Eventually though, she turns

‘Hello Mrs Fletcher.  Usual?’ She could at least try and smile.  I nod and she brings me a gin.  I can’t afford doubles these days.

She doesn’t stop and talk, just turns back and tries to look busy polishing already clean glasses.  There are only two other people in the dark little bar.  Both old men with pints, I see them here often but haven’t been introduced. They are playing dominos and don’t look up.

‘Hello there Meg!’  Steph’s husband, Mark booms at me with his big barkeep voice ‘can I get yer another? On the house?’

‘That would be lovely, thanks’ What does he want, I wonder?  He fills up my glass with more gin than tonic.

‘Been meaning to have a chat, Meg’ Didn’t the Reagan tart say that this morning?

‘Oh yes, what can I do for you Mark. Do we need to go somewhere private?’  I grin, and nod over to Steph in what I think is a conspiratorial way.  Mark looks alarmed

‘No, no, just a chat’ and he tries to pass the moment off with a smile, but I know he was flustered.  Perhaps he does hold a candle for me.  It’s about time someone did, and frankly I wouldn’t say no.  I’d be a bit less uptight than Steph that’s for sure.

‘You see, we were wondering..’

‘who was?’

‘Steph and I, we were wondering..’

‘yes’ I’m interrupting him for mischief.  I can feel discomfort oozing from him.

‘Well, I won’t beat around the bush’

‘go on’

‘We were wondering..’

‘you’re repeating yourself, I’ll be needing another drink before you’ve finished the sentence at this rate’

‘It’s about your, um hygiene Meg.  We’re worried that you’re not looking after yourself properly.’ He tried.  He tried really hard.  He tried really hard to make it sound caring and kind, but I knew it was an accusation.

‘Why would you think that?’ his heavy framed glasses gave me a target to glue my stare at.

‘Well…well..’ and he leant in towards me ‘there’s a little bit of a whiff about you.  Please, please don’t take offence Meg.  We’re just worried about you. Your clothes’

I was wearing my old wax jacket, they always whiff they do, pick up animal smells somehow, and my dress.  My one and only dress.  It has a pretty pattern of pink and purple flowers scattered over its fitted top and full skirt.  Tommy used to say I looked like Marilyn Monroe in this dress.  Of course, I dare not wash it. It would definitely fall apart if I washed it. And, granted, it doesn’t really go with the wellies, but one has to be practical.

‘You see, we’ve had one or two complaints’ he continued ‘the other customers are a little, erm..bothered.’

‘what d’ya mean ‘bothered’?’ He’s lowering his eyes, but I’m not.

‘Meg, you need to clean yerself up. When did you last wash your hair?’

‘You shouldn’t wash your hair too often, you lose all the oils.’ I’d read that in one of my papers.

‘But Meg love, you do need to wash it sometimes.  Perhaps give it a brush through too occasionally.’

‘Brush pulls it out.’  It had.  In big clumps last time I tried.  I used to have lovely hair.  I dyed it blonde, nearly white, for years.  It had a natural wave and I wore it just sweeping my shoulders, so that I could toss it, and flick it out of my eyes theatrically.  It’s gone back to its natural mousey grey now, and it’s quite thin. Leaving it unbrushed seems to make it look thicker, unwashed gives it a greasy shine.  Anyway, I can’t be bothered with a beauty regime these days.  Can’t even get to the mirror to look in it if I wanted to.  You see, its upstairs, in the bathroom.  I don’t go up there these days.  I prefer to use the old toilet in the lean-to just outside the back door.   The smells dissipate quicker.

‘Listen Meg.’ I could tell Mark was going to get going on a lecture.

‘Gotta go.  Thanks for the drink’ and I practically ran out, slamming the door behind me.

I get home around lunchtime and Scoot looks up at me expectantly.  I don’t have much food in the house so we share a chunk of stale bread, picking the pieces of mould off as we go. I do still have some gin though, so fill the tea mug with it and take it back to the chair and relax.

Though I doze through the afternoon, I have a little niggle in my mind that’s gnawing away at my comfort.  I’ve never really considered what other people think of me.  Never really cared. Well, not for a long time. Tommy was the last person I cared about, and that didn’t really work out well in the end.

I’d got this very same dress on that afternoon. He’d come home full of drink and anger, grabbed me by the hair and marched me upstairs.  I didn’t feel like it at all, but there was no telling him.  He was pulling at me, at my clothes, and I was wriggling and protesting.  His teeth had gone rotten over the years and that, combined with the alcohol made his breath vile.  I really didn’t want to this time.

So I bit him.  Hard.  On his fat cheek.

Oh, I knew I’d get a slap, and sure enough he knocked me backwards with one swipe of his huge hand. Fortunately I landed right by a Dostoyevsky.  Crime and Punishment is a weighty novel in more ways than one, and on this occasion, as I swung it with both hands, its heft knocked Tommy clean off his feet.  He reeled backwards and landed plumb in the bath, bashing his head on the taps on the way.  I wasn’t sorry.

I’ve not been upstairs since. Anyway, the stairway is blocked with newspapers and books. As far as I know he’s still in the bath where I left him.  Certainly the stench that followed in the weeks after the incident has gone. I told you, crap disappears.  Given time.

I decide I’ll wash tomorrow.

Tick Tock – am I wasting my time?


The clocks went back an hour on Sunday morning, and my body clock has not yet adjusted.  So with my brain’s usual contrariness I woke up at what would have been 6:30 a.m. on Saturday but was in fact 5:30 a.m. today.  Normally of course, the alarm alarms me into half wakefulness (enough to reach for the snooze button) and it needs two more attempts to rouse me to the point where I can crawl out of bed.  This morning though, I was wide awake. Waiting.

It occurred to me that I have wasted an awful lot of my time waiting one way or the other.  I suspect at least a couple of years of my life were spent sitting in the car outside of various establishments waiting for the kids to come out of drama/violin/gymnastics/St John’s/choir classes or other kids parties.  And later, as taxi driver extraordinaire, waiting in the car at a distance from whichever pub or club they’d been to.

Then there’s the level crossing further down our road that we had to cross to get to their primary school.  Heaven only knows how many hours I’ve lost sitting waiting for the trains to pass.  The other day me and the dog were there for 20 minutes – that’s five trains worth. Twenty precious minutes of my life, gone, just like that.

And while we’re about it, what about waiting at airports, stations, waiting for buses, waiting at the dentist, the doctors.  My life ticking away while I’m sat reading out of date copies of ‘Practical Caravan’ or ‘Angling Times’ neither of which I have any interest in whatsoever.

A couple of weeks ago we watched a fantasy type film called ‘In Time’ (see the trailer here) where everyone lived until they were 25 after which they had to buy time, otherwise they were ‘terminated’.  Time was currency, and everyone had a clock built in to their arms which they could see running down.  Employment was paid in hours.  The wealthy could live forever.   Poorer people ran everywhere to save their precious minutes.

Of course, it was daft, but I did find it thought provoking (and actually much better than it sounds – worth a watch).  It made me think about the hours I waste, and the difference between wasting time, and, well, living.

Am I wasting time when I play games?  Is playing Candy Crush Saga on my phone any worse than sitting watching pap TV or reading a bit of entertaining chick-lit?  Am I wasting time when I’m writing?  Aaagghhh… now there’s a question.

I certainly spend a lot of time writing, or at least messing about on my blog, tweaking it, reading other blogs etc.  Hours pass by miraculously quickly and I often think ‘I must stop this and do something useful’.  And then go and do a bit of sewing, which if I was making clothes might be termed as useful, but I don’t, I make soppy things out of felt (you can see some here!).

I suppose it brings me back to the question of why we do creative things.  Whether it’s wasting time to just enjoy yourself.  Lose yourself in creating something original, unique, perhaps even entertaining or useful.

I’ve searched the internet for answers, and not really come up with anything definitive.  But I have had a deep think about my motives.  My motives for wanting to write, to want more followers, more readers, this urge to foist my thoughts on the unsuspecting public.  After all, I don’t think they’re particularly enlightening thoughts, probably not original either for that matter. It doesn’t even earn me any money for goodness sake!

But I have come to a conclusion:

The reason I write all this stuff and nonsense, the reason I post it on my blog for all the world to see (if they care to – come on world!), is to leave a mark.  A mark of the real me.  Not the me that is a mum or daughter, or wife even, nor the me that colleagues knew, but the nugget of me, that even I don’t know about until I start putting things on paper, the central joy of the absurd, as well as the deep chasms of darkness, that my inner self seems to dwell in sometimes. It is the yin to my outward yang.

Most of my family have found it hard to understand why my short stories tend to bend towards the dark side.  Only the other day my mother complained that they never have happy endings.  To be honest, I don’t know where they come from either, but that’s just how I write.  Some people start out with a plan, a ‘beginning, middle and end’, but I’m one of those folk whose hands practically take on a life of their own when I’m bashing out a story on a keyboard.  I don’t know what’s going to happen to the protagonist until there it is, on paper, a sticky end again.

And as far as verses go (no, still can’t bring myself to call them poems) well, they just turn up in my head as a rhymey line or two, and I knock them into some sort of shape from there.

So, basically, as well as leaving my mark, for posterity sake (my words will be around a lot longer than me), it reveals the individual in me, not only do my family, friends and followers get to know me better, I get to know myself too.

Therefore I conclude:

Writing is not a waste of my time. Yay!!

Freewriting Hell

Today’s writing 101 challenge was to do a ‘freewrite’ of 400 words.  That is to say, put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard in my case) and just write (type!). Let the words flow, don’t stop, don’t punctuate.  You can see I’ve failed in both of those. I did stop, abruptly, at 400 words though, which probably seems weird for the average reader!  I’m posting this because I don’t want to wuss out of the challenge, but it grieves me.  It’s not what I want on my blog. It’s just rambling.Not for public consumption. It’s coming down as soon as this event finishes.  I really wouldn’t bother to read it if I were you!

‘Where is my brain today?  I am trying to freewrite and yet I keep encountering obstacles.  I think it’s the full stops. My brain comes to a full stop. Nothing is in it, just a vacant echoey space.  Usually it’s full of words like ‘what shall I get for tea’; I’m really tired; I should really do some housework..you know, that sort of thing. But today nothing is tumbling out.  I am of course, tired.  Always tired.  Must be my age.  Got a bit of a headache too.  Oh goodness, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I just wrote 232 more words and deleted them because I didn’t like where it was taking me.  I know I’m not supposed to do that. Heck, I’m not supposed to punctuate either. What a rebel! Actually, it’s probably the nearest I’ve ever come to being a rebel.  I’ve always conformed, happy to stick by the rules.  Boring really I guess. I do like a frisson of excitement sometimes though. Like rollercoasters.  Like zip wiring. Like paragliding.  Only did that once, but it was brilliant.  Flying high above the sea, being pulled along by the little speedboat below.  I could just see my husband, his face squinting up at me, looking terrified.  He doesn’t like heights and wouldn’t dream of doing it.  He didn’t like the zipwiring much either, but to his credit, he did do it with me. Actually, a couple of times.  The best time though was in Costa Rica zipping above the forest. Wheeee…. I screeched….aaargghhh…he screamed.  Costa Rica was a brilliant place altogether. Several different ecosystems. Three different types of forest. Lets see if I can remember… Rain Forest, Cloud Forest and, and…. Errmmm… Dry forest.  I loved the cloud forest best I think.  We stayed in a beautiful lodge and it was really cloudy. Bit chilly too.  It made the surrounding forest seem eerie and quiet. Well apart from the noises. (well, that sounds stupid on paper!!) Animal noises I mean.  There were so many birds.  All sorts, and the lodge was dotted with feeders where I could have spent all day watching the humming birds visiting.  Yep, Costa Rica was great, but that was a few years ago now. We like to travel and recently visited Southern India. Kerala to be precise.  It’s a very beautiful part of the country. Less manic than some of the Northern cities that we visited……’

Neighbourhood Watch

Today’s writing 101 challenge –  complete the following story from the perspective of a 12 year old boy watching from across the street:

‘The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.’

Ha! Some excitement ‘round this boring hole at last.  Looks like they’ve come for the old bag.  The cops.

Course, dunno if it’s cops.  Might be. Some bloke anyways. Hope it is a cop, perhaps he’ll shoot her. BANG.  Ha! Old bag.  That’ll teach her.

Wish mum hadn’t locked me wheels up.  Can’t go ‘round park without me wheels. Mum’s an ol’ bag too. I should tell the cops ‘bout her.  Taking my stuff away.  So what if I knocked that kid over? He bloody deserved it.  Little git.

Looks like there’s a bit of a bust up o’er there at old Pauley’s.  She’s got ‘er broom out.  Wonder if she’s threatening to clout that bloke with it like she did when me and Jack Sproggett rode us wheels o’er her manky old bit of grass?

It was that ‘orrible year 11 kid, Tommy Murch’s, fault. He bet us we wouldn’t.

‘go on.  Bet yer daren’t….. twinnies’ the git had said, all sarcastic like.  I hated it when anyone called us ‘twinnies’.  We’re not even bloody brothers. Ok, we look a bit alike, Jack being a ging like me.  But I’m bigger. We ‘ad a armwrestle t’other day and I beat ‘im dead good. Weedy little git.

An’ he’s got spots.  A biggun right on ‘is chin.  Watched him squeeze it ‘til it popped and white goo came out all over is ‘ands. I dared ‘im to lick it off, but he wouldn’t. Wuss.

That broom ain’t helping. That bloke’s not moving anywhere.

Oooh… the cops have come, they’ve even got their lights flashing and their woowoos going. Jack’ll be sick he missed this.

Oh boring. The cops are trying to calm the old bag down. No guns or anythin’. Looks like they’re trying to sweet talk her. Perhaps it’s that good cop/bad cop thing. Perhaps one of ’em’ll bash ‘er in a minute.  She could do with a bashing. She’s been a bit weird since the man died.  That was dead good that was.  I saw the coffin and everythin’.  Mum said he’d been ‘laid out’ in the front room.  Me and Jack went over to see if we could see ‘im through the front room window when nobody was about.  Couldn’t see anything through the ruddy net curtains though. Bit of a swizz.

Crikey, a van’s turned up.  Like bleedin’ Picadilly Circus down our road s’afternoon.  Bloody hell…they’re only putting her disgusting ol’ furniture in it. Looks as old as she is. She’s crying like a baby.  Bloody baby. Stupid old bag.

Wonder what’s for tea.


The following short story was written as part of the writing 101 challenge.  It is the third part of a trilogy Lost and Found being the first two parts.

The bloke from the gym delivered it.  He was a big grim faced bloke.  One of those who was probably grim faced all the time not just when delivering dead men’s leavings.  He said it was the stuff out of your locker.  That they were sorry for the delay, they hadn’t realised…  Of course, it was my fault.  I forgot to tell them.  Well there was so much to sort out. Insurances, banks, will.

It’s surprising really.  After all, you spent so much time at the gym honing that glistening body to perfection, you’d think it would be one of the first things I thought of.  But anyway, it’s sorted now.  Membership cancelled, bag of locker contents duly returned in three Morrison’s carrier bags.

I didn’t even know you kept stuff there.  I have to say it all smelt a bit rank. In one of the bags was a blue towel, that still felt slightly damp.  It had black mould growing in its folds. Another bag held a pair of your trainers.  Perfectly white still, like you hadn’t run anywhere in them.  They are wrapped in the white vest that accentuated your tan like nothing else did.  Come to think of it, you were always tanned. How come?  Not the sunbeds surely?

The other bag held bits and bobs.  A half empty packet of chewing gum; A sweat stained wrist band; Ten pounds twenty in cash; The photograph of us together on the beach that some poor stranger was commandeered into taking.  We’re both throwing our heads back laughing ‘cos the man’s bald head was sunburnt to a crisp.  It’s not very flattering of either of us, but I’m glad it’s the one you chose to keep in the locker. Happier times.

At the bottom of the bag I found two other photographs. Both of the same blond and curvy woman. The sort of woman you professed to detest.  You hated it if I wore too much make-up or revealing clothes.  You said you liked a woman with some decorum.

In the first photo she’s standing against some bit of gym equipment, possibly a cross-trainer.  Leaning against it, her long legs brown and bare, and trainer clad feet crossed at the ankles.  She’s wearing very short grey shorts, and a shocking pink top.  Her head is tilted back, lengthening her throat. You can just see the blond mane curling down her back. In her left hand she’s holding a bottle of water, while her right arm is draped over the machine in that casual elegance that always eludes me.

The second picture is a close up of her.  I can see her features clearly. No bruises. Fat ruby lips, upturned nose, too far apart eyes.  She’s pouting and looking up at the camera in a ghastly parody of Princess Diana looking innocent.  Innocent this girl is not.  There’s a scrawled telephone number written on the back in some dark pencil, I suspected eyeliner, but can’t be sure.  No name though, so I gave her a name.  Jezebel.

The dust had settled a bit.  Bruises, sores and soul healed, and I was ready for a new challenge.  Seeing those pictures was the catalyst that started me on the keep fit regime, so I joined the gym.

I’d been a couple of times before I bumped into Jezebel.  Literally. I nearly bounced off her enhanced boobs as she turned the corner at precisely the same time as I turned from the opposite direction.  She smiled and said sorry.  I looked her in the eye and asked brusquely

‘Do you know who I am?’

‘Err..no, should I?’ she said in an unmistakably Brummie accent.

What can I say, I was flustered. Perhaps I should have just said I was your partner, see if there was any reaction, but my mind had gone into melt down, stymied by her guileless smile, so I just mumbled something like

‘mm.. well… maybe not.’

She, understandably, looked a bit confused (she looked like the sort who was easily confused anyway to be honest) as I brushed past her and hurriedly went and shut myself in the nearest loo to think it through.

I was angry. Angry at her.  Angry at you.  Angry at myself. Hurt and humiliated.

I’d confront her.  That’s what I’d do. Grab her glossy locks and pull her off whatever she was on and find out what she was up to with you. I’d slap her, punch and kick her just like you did to me. I’d push her over and see her blood run. I thought about how it would make her hair sticky and red.  How those spider lashed blue eyes would roll back in her head.  I could picture it.

She’d look like you did the day I fought back.  A rag doll. Limp and lifeless.

Suddenly I recognised your jealousy reflected in my eyes, green and fizzing with danger.  I appalled myself.

I hadn’t thought this through.  I hadn’t even got any proof of infidelity. Maybe he knew her before he knew me.  Maybe she was a relative, cousin perhaps. And so what if you’d had a fling. You’re nothing but dust and memories and there’s nothing I can do to change the past.

I left the gym and have never been back.  To this day I don’t know who she was.  What she meant to you. If you treated her better than you treated me.  I don’t want to know.  You still had my picture in your locker.  You were still mine when I killed you.

Dear writing 101 pixies

Today you asked me to pick up a book, turn to page 29, see what word jumps out at me, and write a letter using the word as inspiration.  Now, I’ve got lots of books, I could’ve chosen any… history, plays, novels, poetry, even creative writing tomes, but today the writing gods led my hand to Marina Lewycka’s ‘We are all made of glue’ (one of my favs… if you haven’t read it, do!).

I’ve had a rough count of the words, and there’s around about 350 on that page, and do you know which one took my eye first?  Well, do you?


‘Now that’s fates hand working if ever I saw it’, I thought.

To be honest, it made me chuckle.  Of all those words that could have leapt from the page ‘hard’ seemed the most apt for a writing 101 challenge.  Not that, generally, I’ve found the pieces hard to write.  On the contrary, as each day and challenge passes, generally I find the ideas are forming quicker and the words are spilling from my keyboard in a smoother stream.

But it is hard sometimes to find the time.  Even me, in my retired state finds it hard to fit writing in every day.  Something has to give. So the housework doesn’t get done, or we get in to an unmade bed at night, or we have a quick, thrown-together-with-left-overs dinner in the evening.

Sometimes, I look at the challenge that arrives in my inbox first thing in the morning, and sigh heavily.

‘Phew, I could do with giving it a rest today’ but nonetheless, I see all the others in the commons writing brilliant stuff, and know I need to keep up.

The other thing, that I am truly finding hard, is the change that’s taking place on my blog. Up until recently, all I had posted was ramblings and rants based around my chaotic life.  Not so long ago, I took the plunge and diversified into adding some photos and poetry (that was very hard.  I had to suck my teeth and take the plunge – glad I did though, nothing but nice comments about it so far, and met some brilliant new followers).  And now, since taking up your challenge, I have been writing fiction and sticking it up on the blog.

I’ve always written short stories.  I like writing them, and think they’re generally ok.  But they weren’t really for public consumption.  Now though, everyone is getting to see the warped contours of my imagination.  Again, nothing but complimentary comments, but at least one person was worried that one of them was non-fiction. For the record…no, I haven’t murdered anyone!

The hardest thing is seeing how my precious blog is changing. Morphing into something it wasn’t supposed to be.  I’m publishing things on there that I wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing before starting this course.  I look at the home page and hope that people are not just reading the first post, but having a look around to see who I really am.

Ok, hopefully you’ve got the gist. I’m finding writing 101 hard in all sorts of ways. Nonetheless I’m loving it.  Yes, it’s hard to go straight to my computer and start tapping away first thing, but my head is now brimming with ideas and I can’t wait to get them down on the page.  Yes, it’s hard to see my blog growing up. But it is becoming varied, and with any luck, more interesting. I’ve certainly gained lots more followers since starting, and have had some lovely comments.

So thank you pixies. You’ve made me realise that my writing really does benefit  from daily practice, and that with a simple prompt my mind can fly. That if I’m brave enough to share all of it, I’ve got friends out there who will comment and give some constructive criticism where necessary.  It’s been an enormous boost to my confidence, and motivation.

Now I feel empowered. If I keep at it I feel sure my blog will grow and blossom, and it’s all thanks to you.

Best wishes



Entering the mausoleum that was once our home I smell you immediately. I’ve only been away for a while and yet your animal scent has grown and blossomed in the rooms like you are still here.

You are not.  I know that.  I saw the coffin wheel away behind the curtains and the smoke curling from the crematorium chimney.  I can feel the hole you have left in the universe.

‘How sad’ they said ‘too young’ and they put their arms around me while I tried to grieve.

It wasn’t easy, the funeral. I wonder if you were watching from wherever you are now. You are not an angel that’s for sure.  It was odd, being there amongst your friends, your family, your colleagues, and knowing that I was the only one who really knew you.  Knowing what I knew.

Your mum, god, how she cried, while I cried regretful tears.

I spent the hour or so while the vicar droned, thinking about the first few months.  That’s why I went back to the beach.  It was wonderful.  You were wonderful.  I was swept off my feet by that smile, that smooth muscular body, that easy charm. Days in the sand and nights in the sheets. No rows. No fights.  Just love.

Well, that didn’t last long did it? How could you be so jealous when you were the beauty. You were the one that turned heads, while I skulked alongside you mousey and timorous. Yet, the green monster lived in your flat hard belly.  A demon that reared it’s head and slipped it’s chains whenever I was late home from work, or went out alone.

Do you remember the first time? That first slap of the cheek? The red weal it left?  The ‘I’m so sorry’s’? The kiss and make up? And I believe you were sorry. Certainly your eyes filled with tears and concern, and you seemed terrified I’d leave.  But of course, I didn’t. Couldn’t. Loved you.

It makes me laugh now when I think of that first red weal. I was aghast and tried to cover it with make-up so I wouldn’t have to make up some story of falling against a door handle like I used to when my first boyfriend left love-bites on my neck.  I didn’t know that that was nothing. Ha! Just a bit of red on the cheek. Childsplay.

I could soon cover up a black-eye and a split lip with the dexterity of a make-up artist working on a sci-fi film. The broken ribs were different.  They didn’t show of course, but I could hardly move after that time you shoved me down the stairs. Still went into work though.  Always did.  Kept smiling.  I still had you after all.

I will never stop regretting what happened that night, but you were so angry.  Been drinking again. I’d just stopped in to Tesco on the way home to get some milk and managed to miss the bus. I couldn’t get on the next one.  I was only three quarters of an hour or so later than usual, but still you started on me. Accusing me of all sorts – meeting up with other men, being a ‘slag’, oh goodness, all the usual stuff and more.  I never got over how you had the body of a god and the mouth of a devil.

So here I am, back at the house.  Sitting on the bottom step of the stairs. The one that split your skin open like a berry when your head hit it.  You didn’t feel that though.  Of course you didn’t.  You were too surprised that I fought back.

You shouldn’t have started on me in the kitchen.  I was tired and wet, it had been a foul night of rain and high winds, and I was looking forward to a cup of tea and a biscuit before I started cooking for you.  I’d bought steak because it was your favourite, and all you could do was question and accuse. Then slap and hit. So I stopped you.  Before the punching and kicking started. The frying pan was still on the hob.  Still greasy from the night before.  You’d been home all day and hadn’t washed up. Typical.  It took a few thwacks with it before you fell.

You weren’t supposed to die.  I never had.  All those beatings and I’d only been out cold once or twice. Yet the first time I fought back, the first time, you had to go and die on me.

Christ I miss you. I miss the making up. I miss your laugh at our favourite TV shows. I miss your out of tune singing in the shower. I miss you beside me when I walk to the park.  Your smile. Your touch. But still there’s your scent.

I go to our bedroom and find your clothes still as you left them. Rummaging I find your favourite sweatshirt and hold it to my face. Its’ the one you wore when we played tennis together that time.  You hooting with laughter at my complete ineptitude. You telling me how you loved me despite my being a clutz.

Laying down on the bed clutching it’s soft fabric to me, it’s empty arms embrace me with the tenderness you lost, I’ve found you again.

Written as part of the writing 101 challenge

The Fall

Thomas needed to pause and take a breath before going in. He was very nearly late, but shouldn’t appear flustered.  It was seeing her name.  It burned his eyes and took his breath away.  Of course it was no surprise, but it had reminded him of her wedding day.

Gloria had gone to him, along with her boyfriend, and begged him to marry them.  Her parents wouldn’t agree to the marriage, and he could see why.  He thought the boy an unprepossessing lump, sitting there on the sofa next to her with his arms covered in celtic tattoos.

Gloria’s Bambi eyes welled up with tears as she explained

‘they just don’t understand.  Mikey is standing by me.  He wants to look after me, and the baby’

She whispered the final words, and shot a glance at the boy, who appeared unmoved.

‘I’ll be eighteen in a months time’ she continued ‘I want to have the wedding then. Mum and dad won’t be able to do anything about it then’ she finished, triumphantly.

Thomas couldn’t believe that this boy was capable of looking after himself, let alone a wife and child, but apparently he had managed to get himself a job as a labourer and, in response to Thomas’s questioning, mumbled that he would be able to afford a small flat on the local estate.

Thomas had known Gloria since she was a baby, and he didn’t like to think of her living amongst the dreary council terraces. Gloria’s well-to-do parents had found their faith when she had arrived seven weeks prematurely, and while she was fighting for her life, they were finding comfort in prayer.  But, as is the way of things, they attended Church every week for a couple of years, then it became just Christmas and Easter services, and eventually dwindled to nothing, but he still bumped into them in town occasionally.

Looking at her, he marvelled at how Gloria had grown from such a scrap of life into such a beauty.  Her golden skin was lit in multi-colour under the stained glass of the study window and she looked the antithesis of Mikey.  She was smartly dressed in grey trousers and loose jumper that just hinted at the curves beneath, and her glossy dark hair was snatched back from her face with a flowered band.

‘Surely she could have found someone more suitable’ he thought.

She would not be deterred though, and some two months later, there she was blinking up at him innocently with her white veiled eyes. The boy standing next to her, shuffling, and fiddling with his carnation.  She was attended by two young bridesmaids, princesses in their bright pink dresses, carrying baskets of rose petals and between them stood a small pageboy, looking sheepish in a football shirt.

‘So common. Must have been his idea’ thought Thomas in an uncharacteristic moment of venom.

He noticed that the sparse congregation were mostly the couples friends, young people dressed up to the nines. The girls uniformly wearing explosive ‘fascinators’ which seemed to be the in thing in headwear that year, and the boys all wearing suits and ties, many, he suspected, for the first time in their lives.   There was an older couple in the second row whom Thomas took to be the boy’s parents, and he spotted Gloria’s parents sitting discreetly at the back both soaking up tears with a tissue. He wondered if she knew they were there.

He managed to smile and say his lines, controlled the urge to flinch when he pronounced them man and wife, watched Mikey kissing her somewhat over zealously, and then paid careful attendance to the signing of the register. But, watching her afterwards, laughing and grinning at the camera amongst the ominous grey stones of the churchyard, the big meringue of a dress only just camouflaging the bump, he feared for her.

After the wedding he saw her occasionally at the shops, where he would watch her from a distance, admiring her ability to look graceful and serene even when she was pushing her screaming child.

Then quite out of the blue, she rang and asked if he would perform the child’s baptism.  He knew that for him to agree to take the service she really should be attending church regularly, nevertheless he jumped at the chance to see her. He offered to give her and the proposed god-parents the necessary short lessons and arranged to visit her home the following Thursday for the first session.

He wasn’t quite sure why he was so excited at the prospect of seeing her again, but he knew that she seemed to stir urges in him that he had long forgotten. It was only after spending some time in front of the mirror, even splashing on some cologne that he had won in a lucky dip, that he set off to visit her in the shabby flat.

Opening the door she smiled warmly, lighting up his world. As he entered the surprisingly tidy living room he noticed Mikey was perched on a chair in the corner. Nodding, he lifted his cup, in a sort of strange ‘cheers’ welcome that Thomas suspected may have come from spending too many hours at the pub.

Thomas really enjoyed those lessons and seeing Gloria regularly brought the kind of familiarity he had only wished for in the past.  She called him ‘Vic’, a shortening of Vicar that made him shiver pleasantly each time she said it.  The company of the young people who were to be the god-parents, and in particular Gloria, was intoxicating to him.  They lived in a different world, one of loud music and easy laughter, one he had never managed to feel part of even when he was younger.  So although the course was generally only three lessons, he used some spurious reasons to suggest having another one or two. Gloria and Mikey both muttered excuses, but he did eventually persuade them.

The day of the baptism, Thomas could barely get through the initial service, his eyes fixed on Gloria as she pacified the baby girl.  He was quietly delighted that her white linen tailored suit outlined her body in a way not entirely appropriate for the church.  Her head was covered by a wide brimmed white hat, with a modest piece of lace drawn over her eyes. He noticed how this pure white outfit accentuated the brown of her eyes, and the scarlet of her painted lips.  Sitting next to that brutish Mikey, she looked delicate as a snow flake.

Yet, Mikey was tender towards her, helping her up the step to the font, smiling his crooked toothed smile down at his young wife and baby.  Thomas noticed too, that Gloria’s mum and dad were both there, obviously reconciled to the fact that this youth was Gloria’s idea of ‘Mr Right’.

‘Happy families’, he thought dryly, whilst an unfamiliar emotion gripped him.

He managed to catch her before they left, and clutching her elbow, drew her into a corner for a private conversation.  She resisted slightly, and glanced at Mikey for approval, giving him a strange knowing smile.

‘How are you these days Gloria’ he said, surprisingly anxious for any hint of unhappiness to prove him right about the boy.

‘Great thanks Vic’ she replied chirpily ‘in fact I’m expecting again.  Can you believe it!  Not got this one out of nappies yet for goodness sake’ she grinned, obviously delighted with the news.

Thomas, on the other hand, squirmed.  A vision of the boy’s grubby hands touching her perfect white form haunted him that night, and for the days following. He began to make special efforts to pass her house, convincing himself he was ‘just keeping an eye on her’.  He watched as she chatted to friends, or hung out her washing.  He saw her in the park pushing the little girl on a swing, and studied her as she paid for her shopping in the supermarket.  To him she seemed the perfect little wife and mother, the perfect woman.

He had never found anyone like that. There had been one or two sweethearts when he was younger, but they were just flings, nothing serious.  It must have been at least thirty years since he had had a lady friend.  The last one, Jennifer, hadn’t liked the sobriety that he insisted went with the job and had flounced off one day declaring him ‘boring’.  Since then he had led a simple solitary life, with only his flock for company.  The old ladies appreciated him, bringing him cakes and the occasional stews in winter, and he had been happy.

Until then.  He didn’t understand the obsession that was taking over his life. Why did just a glimpse of her make his heart pump faster and his palms damp?

‘At my age for goodness sake’, he thought to himself ‘I’m not some teenage boy’.

And then at a fete one day he saw her with him, that Mikey.  They were laughing and smiling together, and when he reached down and kissed her brutally like he did at their wedding, she leaned into him as though he was the only person on earth.  Thomas felt a fibrillation in his chest that made his whole body shudder.

It wasn’t long after that that she rang, and asked to arrange a christening service for the new baby.  Before he had time to think, he had asked her over

‘pop round for a cup of tea and a chat Gloria’

‘oh, can’t you come round here, I’ve got the kids to see to’ she said.

‘well, I’m a bit busy, it would help lots if you could see your way to attending here my dear’

She had sounded a little reluctant but nonetheless agreed to go the following day and Thomas could hardly conceal his delight when she turned up on her own.

‘Sorry can’t stay long, Mikey’s got the kids and he has to go off to work in an hour.  He’s been working so hard bless him. He’s so good’ and Thomas flinched inwardly as he noticed her fondly touching the gold band on her left hand as she said it.

‘Come in, come in, sit yourself’ he said flustering about, pouring tea into his best china cups.  He had bought ginger biscuits, and all the time they were talking business he was thinking how sweet and hot her breath must smell.

After about half an hour she said she should go.  They had agreed a date for the service so Thomas knew he would see her again soon, but as she turned to go through the big old oak door of the vestry her fragrance overwhelmed him. He caught her arm and pulled her in towards him. As she cringed, horrified, his mantle of humility fell away and animal instinct, hidden away for so long, took over. Her struggling fired his passion, and it was with complete and utter abandonment that he pushed her down amongst the gravestones and satiated his overwhelming, soul consuming desire.

It was only when she stopped struggling that he noticed the pool of rich red spreading round her head like a halo. The grey slabs, once witness to her joyful marriage seemed now to lean in crooked sorrow.

The horror of it took his breath away, and dazed, he headed back to the vestry to try and calm himself, where in a vain effort to blot out the image of her lying there, he drank wine straight from the bottle and quickly passed out.

When he came to the next day she had already been found, and the police, happy with his quickly improvised alibi, attributed her murder to an ‘outsider’, no-one in the parish being thought capable of such a thing.

He had never suffered such pain before. Every heartbeat was a knock on hell’s door.  His faith, so strong over the years, was sorely tested, and he prayed for hours every day, trying to gain understanding of his own actions.  He seriously considered going to the police, giving himself up, but how could he abandon the good people of his congregation who relied on him and loved him?  He decided it best that God be his judge when the time came.

And now, there she was, in white again, boxed like a beautiful doll. He embraced the knowledge that his future would be full of penance and that the first of these would be to read the eulogy whilst watching Mikey weep, his two motherless children beside him bewildered by her absence.

Thomas gathered himself, and stepped up to the pulpit.

Written as part of the Writing 101 challenge, write a post based on an overheard conversation using foreshadowing.