Friday Flash Fiction – The Curse of the Cheap Lipstick

I was ready for my interview; arrived early, driven past company headquarters, found somewhere to park, checked my make up in the rear vision mirror, delved into handbag for lipstick – gone? I rummaged then tipped out all the contents on the passenger seat, no lipstick.

There were no decent shops nearby, only ‘CostaLittel’ and I would not dream of going in there. I recalled overhearing a conversation in the beauty department of ‘Dearmans’, my local department store.

Fancy paying that much for a lipstick when you can get them for £1.99 in CostaLittel.

The woman speaking and her friend looked as if all their makeup and clothes came from Costalittel.

But this was an emergency. I slipped in to Costalittel, picked up a bottle of milk and a packet of fake digestive biscuits, holding them aloft so everyone would assume the office tea club had sent me out and sneaked a look at shelves full of unfamiliar boxes and bottles. There they were; rows of plastic, silver cylinders, three colours to choose from.

‘Would you like a carrier bag?’ said the young man on the till, changing my twenty pound note without batting an eye lid, or sparing me a glance.

‘No thank you, urgent supplies for the office.’

I slipped the lipstick in my pocket and just before I got to the door saw a large bin, donations for the food bank, I dropped the milk and biscuits in.


Through the revolving doors, signed in at the desk, into the elegant ladies, marble everywhere with free standing elegant bowls and gold taps. In the fancy frame mirror I applied the lipstick, which co-ordinated remarkably with my blouse, but set my lips tingling. I prayed I would not have an allergic reaction before the interview was finished.

In the swish lift I checked the long panel of buttons, looking for the fifteenth floor, hearing heavy breathing I turned to see a huge stomach squeeze through the doors just as they were closing. I was pressed into the corner, my eyes level with the sign that said ‘maximum of 12 persons’.

My lips tingled again. ‘He must account for eleven people’ I smiled to myself.

‘I beg your pardon,’ said the fat man ‘did you say something?’

first floor, lifestyle health suite said a disembodied female voice.

‘Bet they wouldn’t even let chummy here through the door’ I thought. My lips tingled again, but fat man was blocking the mirror on the lift wall, so I couldn’t check if my lips were swelling.

He cleared his throat loudly and glared at me, I pretended to examine the names of the companies and relevant floors.

‘Which floor did you want?’ he barked.

‘Fifteenth, I’ve pressed the button, Buchannon and Tate – if the poor lift makes it that far with his weight’ I added to myself.

The man’s face flushed, from the puce colour it already was, to purple. That’s when I wondered if my lips were speaking my thoughts out loud… no ridiculous. ‘Please let him get out soon.’

‘I’m also going to the fifteenth floor’ he rasped.

Fourth floor…fifth floor… sixth floor

The female voice continued unperturbed, as the doors opened people stepped back to wait for the next lift, until one brave older lady squeezed in.

‘Good morning Mr. Buchannon’ said the very smartly dressed woman.

He grunted and my heart sank.

‘I hope I get Mr. Tate on the interview panel’ I prayed. My lips tingled and I knew I had spoken the words out loud.

‘It’s Mrs Tate actually’ said the woman tersely.













Star Sheep and Show Shires

The members of the New Forest Agricultural & Horticultural Association, formed nearly a hundred years ago, would be unlikely to recognise the New Forest Show of the twenty first century. The early shows cost two shillings and four pence to get in with competitions, one tent and livestock tethered up to a piece of rope between two oak trees.


The modern show is on for three days and it would take three days to see all the events and exhibits; it can be quite exhausting being a visitor, let alone for the people working and taking part. On Tuesday, armed with our tickets from Stewarts Garden Centre giving us entry to their hospitality tent, we enjoyed free light refreshments all day, ample toilets with no queues and seats by one of the main rings; albeit looking into the blazing sun. As we sipped our first cup of tea riders were showing off their working hunters. The beautiful horses were examined for their looks then observed for their elegance and obedience as they trotted, cantered and galloped round the ring. The male judges wore bowler hats and for the lady judges a hat wider than their hips was the dress code, they all had very big hats!


I wandered off at intervals to explore the show ground. Arts and crafts, holiday homes, furniture makers and funeral directors all had stands, alongside vintage farm machinery and ferret racing. In their quarters the ferrets had tiny hammocks to sleep in, more exclusive than the tent full of show rabbits.

I came across a dancing sheep display and learned a lot about sheep as well as having a good laugh; the finale was the shearing of a sheep, it’s not easy to be a stand up comedian and shear sheep at the same time.

Stewarts had a garden display, with beautiful wildflower beds; you could buy packets of seeds to make your own. There was a garden tent with exquisite flowers and a guess the weight of the cabbage. The Women’s Institute had a varied and delightful display to celebrate their centenary; the theme was a woman who has inspired you; each entry had to feature three different crafts, variety and imagination was in abundance.


Back at the show ring the cows and sheep were having a winners’ parade, the highlight being a ram who managed to escape and run around making fools of the humans chasing him. Two beagle packs came on and children were invited into the ring to play with them, parents were reassured the beagles were longing to play with their darlings; we heard someone behind us laugh and comment … and rip them to pieces… but nothing untoward happened.

The highlights for me were the horses. The heavy horses’ musical ride is not seen anywhere else in the whole world, so we were told. Among the giants the Shires are my favourites with their feathered feet and elegant trot. But the best was yet to come, Atkinson Action Horses. If you watch any television dramas featuring horses, you will have seen some of their stars. We ladies love the scenes of our heroes galloping along cliff tops and across fields and these are real flesh and blood horses, not CGI; trained by experts, they enjoy working. The show display was action packed with gymnastics on Cossack saddles, bare back riding, jumping over fire and lying down and playing with their ‘best friends’. There was an hilarious commentary; riding and talking at the same time is very clever… and ladies, these chaps were fit, very fit. The girl riders were also amazingly agile, so I’m sure they had plenty of admirers.


Big and modern though it is, the show is still about animals, country life and competitions.

Silly Saturday – Staycation


There’s a hold up on the motorway,

After junction 59.

Rain is heavy, sky is grey,

Traffic stopped in line.

Must mean we are on holiday.



Day two and still it rains,

But we have an agenda,

Uncle Ted to steam train,

Then visit Aunty Glenda.

She’s in the Royal Infirmary.



Day three on sunshine beach,

Lots of places to go.

No holiday is complete,

Without a secluded cove,

Scenery and strangers to meet.



Bridges over rivers and bays,

Lighthouses, harbours and piers,

Rolling fields and bales of hay,

High crumbling cliffs to fear.

Where shall we go next day?



Houses of National Trust,

Cathedrals with towers to climb,

Great statues of rust,

Museums and art sublime.

Then home at last we must.


Salisbury Cathedral









Friday Flash Fiction – Black Mamba

John had set out to buy a birthday present, but had no idea where to go or what to choose. The initial euphoria at being invited to the party, albeit at the last moment, had been replaced by panic. When his mobile beeped and he looked at the message one question had been answered; what time to turn up? Two of the others in the group were going to meet him at the tube station; he had never been to Ali’s place before.

He smiled to himself, now he had a timetable to work to and the weekend was looking up. That was the good thing about being in London, you didn’t have to be lonely, there was always something going on, especially if you were part of a group. He had started going dancing to get out and meet people and it seemed to be working. The group of twentyandthirtysomethings had absorbed him. From Valentine’s evening to bank holidays, it didn’t matter if you weren’t in a couple; there was always a dance or a picnic in the park. With mobile phones and Facebook everybody kept in touch. He tried to explain to his mother on the phone that these days girls and boys could just be friends; if he mentioned a girl’s name she was liable to get twittery.


Ali was his friend, she was everybody’s friend, the centre of the group. He had no idea if there was a boyfriend lurking in the background, too new in the group to know much about the lives of the others.

John sighed, he surely wasn’t the only bloke who fancied Ali. She was tall, slim and beautiful, but there was more to her than that. The first time he saw her on the dance floor, her long legs were encased in jazzy black tights and she wore a short red tartan skirt that his mother would have called ‘no more than a belt’. Ali’s short black hair, stunning eye make up and black lipstick were set off by the broad, black leather collar with spikes that she wore around her long neck. It was a look that only Ali could carry off with aplomb. She had done modelling, but was far too intelligent to actually be a model; her job was something interesting and arty.

He found himself at the flower market near Brick Lane. Flowers would be a safe gift he pondered, as he paused at a stall. Amongst the lush bouquets he saw a small pot, a neat plant with two small flowers.

‘It’s a Black Mamba Gallia Lilly’ the flower woman interrupted his thoughts.

John picked up the pot and examined the exquisite flower. No flower could be truly black; these blooms were deepest purple, the hint of colour gave them their beautiful velvet sheen.

‘I’ve got some nice pink tissue paper if it’s for a present’ she said helpfully.

Ali certainly didn’t do pink.

‘Do you have black tissue paper?’


When the three of them arrived at Ali’s place it was so crowded he wasn’t sure of the set up. Girls were arriving bearing shiny gift bags; he tried to see what the other men had brought and hung back as Ali gratefully hugged everybody. As people wandered off to get drinks he nervously edged forward and proffered his gift.

‘Oh, it’s perfect, that’s so me, you really get it.’

She pecked his cheek and he kissed her shyly, wary of the collar spikes. She clasped his hand.

‘Come through and meet Lucas, my fiancé.’

London National Park City Week celebrates the city’s unique green spaces

Cities are here to stay and they don’t need to be escaped from – people need and like to live in them. In some ways they are more evironmentally friendly than countryside as residents are not dependent on motor cars. This project should inspire us to make all cities as green as possible.

Life & Soul Magazine

London’s unique green spaces, trees, waterways and natural environment will be celebrated as part of the London National Park City Week, which runs from 21-29 July.

National Park City Week is part of the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s plan to help make London a National Park City in 2019.

A host of events will take place across the city throughout London National Park City Week. Londoners will get the chance to explore the city with walks, talks, explorations, family activities and more.

Events include walks and explorations to discover some of London’s lesser known green gems, footpaths and waterways; family activities in parks across the city; encounters with urban wildlife from butterflies to bats; opportunities to help look after local green spaces and find out what you can do at home; and boat trips, bike rides, tree trails and more.

The Mayor is working with the National Park City Foundation and other partners towards the aim of…

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To Free or not to Be

We all read books for free; library books, all those paperbacks people have passed on to you and if you have forked out fifty pence in the charity shop for your favourite author – your favourite author won’t be seeing a penny. I once went to a chat at the library by a noted local author; a strange coincidence occured a few days later and a hundred miles away when we were visiting a National Trust property. There was the usual  second hand bookshop in an interesting outbuilding. As I browsed, there on top of a pile of books on the makeshift counter was the very book the  noted author had been talking about. It cost me fifty pence…

Indie Authors wring their hands and discuss whether they should, or if it will be worth it to offer their book for free. The hope being that readers will be so enamoured they will buy other books by the writer, or more importantly, the reader will be so grateful they will write a glowing review. A week later some authors will be posting in chat forums or writing in their blogs in great distress because no one has written a review yet.

I am happy to accept a free offer, or a ’99 pence today only’ bargain if the book appeals to me and I will review it, because I try and review all the books I read. But by the time I pick a book out of my TBR collection on my Kindle I will have forgotten if it was free or what I paid for it. I just want to enjoy reading.


A while back I came up with an idea brilliant in its simplicity, based on the premise that Indie Authors can do what they like, even if they have sold their soul to Amazon. To avoid technical stress I would not bother with free offers or prices going up and down. Come to my bookshop and I guarantee there will always be books you can buy for ninety nine pence. If you want to buy a paperback for your aunty who doesn’t have a Kindle they start at £5.99.


If you want a novel try Quarter Acre Block. It is my best selling book, probably becaue it has always been 99p and readers know what to expect…

‘In the nineteen sixties many ‘ten pound pommies’ had never left England before and most expected never to return or see loved ones again. George Palmer saw Australia as a land of opportunities for his four children, his wife longed for warmth and space and their daughter’s ambition was to swim in the sea and own a dog. For migrant children it was a big adventure, for fathers the daunting challenge of finding work and providing for their family, but for the wives the loneliness of settling in a strange place.’

You can read the background to the story on my website.

If you are brave enough to tackle my trilogy you can buy the first novel for 99p.

Leaflet 2015 back

If you enjoy short stories I have four collections.

Try Dark and Milk for 99p.

Dark and Milk.jpg

If you would like free fiction there are always stories to be read on my website.

And look out for Friday Flash Fiction here at Tidalscribe.

Visit my Amazon Author Page

How do you choose which books to buy? How long is your TBR pile?




Sunday Salon – Guest Blogger

Second in the series of occasional blogs by my Sister Down Under

Return To Sender

I often send Birthday cards to relatives in England, and as I seal down the envelope and stick my address label on the flap, I always find myself wondering if there is any point. If the address was to be incorrect, would they take the trouble and expense to send it all the way back to Australia?

37072684_10213413731471370_3835982618025787392_nI now have my answer. The other week, I received a blue envelope with an air mail sticker and an Australian stamp on it, and it was addressed to me. Someone had crossed the address out with a blue pencil, and there was a red Royal Mail sticker on it declaring that the address was unknown. It wasn’t a surprise that the address was incorrect, as it belonged to the youngest of my nephews, the inventor in the family, the itinerant creator of firework displays with a bedroom full of enough electronic equipment to drain the power grid of the Southeast of England. What was surprising was that the Australian postmark said it was posted at 6 pm on the 26th of July, 2011. Seven years ago. 


So, yes, they do go to the trouble of returning letters. And an awful lot of trouble by the looks of it. Not for the Royal Mail the conventional route of placing it on a plane to fly half way around the world. No, this was more like the challenge taken on by Michael Palin to go around the world in eighty days without flying. The Royal Mail Postman was to get to Australia travelling overland, and taking sea journeys only when it was unavoidable.

What a tale that post man must have to tell! Imagine the deprivations and adventures he must have encountered on his 7 year odyssey! Crossing the channel to France was probably easy, but was he then waylaid by a French temptress, dallying with her for many months before silently slipping out at dawn one morning to continue his journey? Did he scale the Alps and get caught in a storm, to be nursed back to health by a local farmer and his daughter?

 One imagines him crossing the Mongolian plains, joining the Mongol herders, living in a Yurt and learning to survive off the land. He would have regretfully had to say goodbye, explaining the Royal Mail always gets through, and he would put his uniform back on with pride, not withstanding that it was getting a little threadbare. He would have gone on a pilgrimage through India – retracing the steps of his colonial forefathers who had first brought British law and the British postal service to that teaming and untamed land. Then on to South East Asia, tiring now of the crowds and the jostling, longing only to reach that wide, open land of Australia.


What a relief he would have felt as he stepped off the small fishing boat at Darwin, only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. He would have spent quite some time in detention, and despair would have been his companion as he waited for his superiors in London to confirm who he was and what his mission involved. There would have been a delay at their end, while they overcame their incredulity and double checked his credentials before rejoicing that he was not, as believed, dead – the first (or so they thought) postman to die in active overseas service.

And finally, catching a cruise ship (courtesy of the Royal Mail in gratitude for his services) around the coast to Fremantle. What a reception he would have from his Australia Post colleagues – glad to see him, but at the  same time a little jealous that they could no longer boast they had the longest mail routes in the world.

And as for me – time to tell my nephew that he isn’t unloved, and that I did send a card, but something happened to it along the way

Kate Doswell,  15/07/2018.

Silly Saturday – Various Verses

                                              Beach Hut


Six years we’ve waited for this wooden box,

With flaking paint and rusty locks.

There’s barely room to stand,

The floor covered in sand.

The towels are damp and musty

And all the shelves are dusty.


But the kettle and mugs are well in reach

And there’s a great view of the beach.

In the sun we sit and read books

Waves beckon, costumes hanging on the hooks.

Wet and cold return for hot tea,

Strip off and dress in modesty.


The neighbours are close, two inches away,

Her next door is topless today,

His huge stomach should not be seen,

Thank goodness for the screen between.

The other side are out of sight,

Soaring under parachutes bright.


Their boards dip the waves, then ride up high,

We sit and watch them in the sky.

If we fall asleep as we usually do

We won’t notice when they drop from view.

Until we hear roaring whir above the wave

As Coastguard hovers, kite surfers to save.



New Things


How to adore new things.

No need to buy, to bring

The sensual delight

Of touch, smell and sight.


John Lewis sells to you

Cotton, wool, silk, bamboo

Knitting yarns, skeins and such,

Many hues, soft to touch.


Call in at the bookshop,

Look out for new stock,

White paper, page pristine,

Smooth spine, jacket clean.


Tack shop for leather new

Saddles, bridles on view,

Shopkeeper hopes to sell;

No, just here for the smell.


Go down to the saw mill

Experience the thrill,

Newly sawn scented wood,

Golden sawdust feels good.


Ancient ocean, old land,

New waves, new tides, smooth sand,

Grains glitter, sparkling foam,

Before feet start to roam.


Sunrise reveals hard frost,

New scenery at no cost,

White landscape, yours to view,

Air sharp, breath anew.







Friday Flash Fiction – Happy Days

 He leaned back in the chair and smiled; the best things in life were free. The afternoon sun bestowed its life giving warmth and he understood why the ancients worshipped the golden disc. Myriad specks of light danced on the calm turquoise sea, a scene to delight the impressionists, but no painter could do justice to such a view; the chalky cliffs of the Isle of Wight and the green sloping downs of the Purbecks.

He languorously reached out for his glass of wine; it tasted like the nectar of the gods. Silky arms wrapped themselves around his neck; Tasha crept up behind him and kissed the nape of his neck. He sighed contentedly, love in the afternoon.

Tasha stretched out on the other chair and they watched life below on the promenade and beach; happy cries of children drifted up to them. They pondered where they would eat tonight, what they might do tomorrow. The sea air made them pleasantly drowsy.

Friends said he would tire of the sea view, but if he did he would call a taxi to the station. At Waterloo he would step off the train and stroll along the embankment to another balcony, with spectacular views of the Thames; watch the sun set and the city light up. Then perhaps go to the theatre, dine late, take in a club.


He opened his eyes from his daydream as he felt Tasha’s fingers on his cheek. It wasn’t a daydream, it was real. Money could buy you happiness; a seaside apartment, London penthouse, holidays to anywhere, a beautiful woman and a life free of debt and work. Winning the lottery was certainly helpful if you wanted to exchange a grotty rented room in a rundown house in a dreary suburb, for a new life.