Hallows and Heretics

I published my last book on Amazon Kindle and in paperback in November 2019. I have never stopped writing short fiction since then, but for the first time I don’t have a novel underway and I have barely started putting together another collection to publish. But Hey Ho, with all that’s happened in the past couple of years it doesn’t matter and I do have five novels and four collections always available – unless something happens to Amazon! The late Cyberspouse always helped me with the technical side and designed the covers, which made up for him never reading my fiction! Later on I was thrilled when it became possible to produce paperbacks through Amazon Kindle, at last my mother could hold and read ‘real’ books by me.  

If you have read all my books and are waiting for a new one let me know… To read about all my books here just link in above to My Books. In the meantime, I am always thrilled when a fellow blogger mentions one of my books in his blog and especially if he gives it a Five star review…

Top review from the United States

Geoff

5.0 out of 5 stars All Good Whether Dark or Light

Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2022

Verified Purchase

I purchased Hallows and Heretics because I favor short stories. These are all winners because you do not know where you are headed when you begin reading one. Gogerty is comfortable in both ordinary and quirky settings. Relax and enjoy the twisting journey through two dozen different stories. Fun reads.

Take a look at Geoff Stamper’s blogs if you aren’t already following him.

Insurance Strategies | Suicide Squeeze (wordpress.com)

Prologue:      Hallows and Heretics is my second collection of short stories. Twenty four tales to take you through the year. ‘Gate’ is set in a Western Australian summer, return to Saints and Sinners for an English spring and pass through all the seasons in the British Isles. ‘Red Car’ and ‘Moving On’ take place in my local area. Discover the Hambourne Chronicles, other places you may not find on the map… These are short stories, the shortest is 700 words, the longest 3,000 words. As in the previous collection ‘Dark and Milk,’ some tales are light and others are very dark, but you won’t know which is which until it’s too late to turn back.

Hallows and Heretics was published in 2013. I was going to call it Saints and Sinners, after the first story in the Hambourne Chronicles, but after looking it up I discovered many books on Amazon had the same title. Hallows and Heretics reflects the good and evil in some of the darker stories. Hambourne is a place you may not find on the map, though perhaps it will feel familiar if you have visited Middle England. All the stories in the Hambourne Chronicles were written to read out at our writers’ group and are linked.

Some of my stories were entered for competitions and ‘Experiment’ was written for a competition run by Diamond Light Source, which does really exist.

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron. It works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce bright light that scientists can use to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses and vaccines.

About Us – – Diamond Light Source

Alas, visits by the public are now put on hold due to Covid. But in my story the hapless Gregory, hoping for inspiration for the science fiction thrillers he writes, gets an experience he hasn’t bargained for… I wasn’t placed in that competition, but I entered it for a local competition in 2013 and came second. Amusingly, when I went up to get my prize, the judge was totally astonished that I wasn’t a man, she assumed only men write such stories?

Have a peep inside the book.

Silly Saturday – Transport Trials and Tribulations

Everyone is worrying about transport; panic buying at petrol stations because of a shortage of petrol tank drivers, what alternative transport would you use…

Panic about empty shelves because of a shortage of HGV drivers; turns out the food does not appear in shops by magic, perhaps other means of delivery should be considered…

But it is no fun being a delivery driver; nowhere to park and rest in big cities…

…and poor facilities at driver stopovers…

They can only dream of better.

Why not continue to escape reality with one of my short story collections…

Silly Saturday – Not the News

If you have been worrying about the fate of the stolen gold rosary that Mary Queen of Scots took to her execution, I’m afraid there is no news except for this exciting development…

POLICE have released photos of two ladders thieves used to break into a historic castle and steal treasures worth more than £1 million.

Officers are hoping someone will recognise the ladders which were used to gain access to Arundel Castle last month.

I cannot show the picture of the ladders here in case some readers are offended, but here is a link

https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/19345832.arundel-castle-theft-police-release-photos-ladders-used-thieves

In breaking news police have released cctv footage of someone they wish to question.

Someone else in the news was Barbie who has decided to set her fans a good example of helping the environment by wearing upcycled outfits – clothes made by herself from charity shop bargains and fabric finds in the rag bin. Barbie is a talented seamstress despite her congenital rigid hand condition.

Lounging Around

In a Heathrow hotel conference room the tables were scattered with a host of battery operated furry creatures; this apparently was to ‘break the ice’. British Airways was paying for our catering company to attend a course of several events on passenger service, quite amusing as British Airways needed to learn about passenger service, not us – in my opinion. It was we who had to soothe the troubled brows of passengers by the time they had made it to the business class or first class lounges.

We didn’t need the ice broken as we were already relaxed and chatting to friends and fellow staff we hadn’t met before; a good chance for a natter without being interrupted by passengers. Being paid to have a day off with coffee and lunch instead of being at work, what was there not to like?

My first job as a lounge hostess had ended when the Qantas Lounge ceased to exist and Qantas moved over to Terminal Four. The lounge was now British Airways, used for flights to the USA and unless you noticed the kangaroos on the glass screens you would never know. The first class lounge became the quiet area and first class passengers had their own little lounge downstairs – at least they didn’t have to cope with the awful lift. We now worked for a much larger catering company who were subcontracted to work for a variety of airlines. Our new uniform consisted of a comfortable blouse and elasticated skirt which adapted itself to any figure, the fabric design was a multi coloured jigsaw pattern which also hid a multitude of sins. The navy jacket made it look quite smart, but my younger son was horrified and said ‘You’re not going wear that on the bus are you!’ On the bus and anywhere on the airport, we could easily spot who else worked for the same company, though the chaps wore white shirt and grey trousers with just a tie in the zingy pattern.

A cleaning company was also contracted to work alongside us, ‘Airspeed,’ a contradiction in terms for some of their staff, such as the lugubrious Raymond who became a permanent fixture. On the front desk a variety of British Airways staff rotated, some very efficient and passenger orientated, others not quite so; they provided us with great amusement, but probably not the passengers. One was an alcoholic who had easy access to the two bars and liked ‘orange juice’. His announcements when he called the flight were most entertaining; his exhortations not to leave anything behind and have passport and ticket ready came with colourful warnings of what might happen if you did not. Another staff member was always on the phone and her easily heard telephone conversations were interesting, with the added frisson of worrying if the passengers were listening. One morning I heard her say within easy earshot of passengers ‘We’ve got a right load of trailer trash in here today.’

The passengers were lovely friendly, polite Americans who said ‘Thankyou Maam’ plus an assortment of Brits and others.

The first manager we met said he was ‘running eighty per cent Pilipino’ and without the hardworking Pilipinos I imagine the lounges wouldn’t have run at all. We didn’t see this manager often and he hardly spoke to me until he discovered it was my husband who was the licensing officer for Heathrow and he needed to be interviewed by him to get the licence for the lounge to serve alcohol.

Our immediate manager was an Indian bundle of energy who had his own unorthodox way of running things, which worked with our wonderfully mixed staff. He was never without his large diary and mobile phone; if anyone was off sick, or needed to change shifts he was on the phone and in seconds had a replacement. There were always people happy to do overtime or do him a favour because he would help them out in turn. Some of the Philipinos worked every day without a break and saved all their holidays and days off to go ‘back home’ for three months each year, often investing their savings in property in the Philippines. Some staff were supporting all sorts of family members and needed the extra money, while others obviously preferred being at work to being at home. Heathrow airside and no doubt any big airport, is a world of its own, cut off from the rest of the world.

I started off with no intention of doing overtime or being whisked off to other lounges and terminals, but gradually I found myself doing just that and discovering that each lounge and airline could be very different… but that’s for another blog.

And what of our passenger service course? We also enjoyed a dinner out at another hotel where we had to rate the service and one to one coffee, cake and chats. They were asking us for our opinions, taking down all our suggestions for improving life for us and the passengers. None of our suggestions were ever acted on , but at least we had had fun.

Silly Saturday- About and Out

So you are allowed to venture to more places now, as long as you have booked in advance, taken six negative Covid tests, have a vaccination certificate and don’t mind queuing. To save stress why not visit places and attractions nobody else will want to visit?

Your friendly local.
Boat trips
Buckingham Palace – the cheap replica.
Orient Express – economy size.
Forgotten art gallery.
One star hotel
Two star hotel
Family hotel
Economy sized great cathedral.
Plastichenge
Marina
A rural hideaway full of charm.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday Flash Fiction – Trinity Tree

As the ground shook violently tiny fungal filaments sent out warnings and pleas for help. Mighty roots that had lain undisturbed for centuries trembled. Then there was a silent scream as she felt herself cleaved in three from the highest twig down, down, down to her deepest roots.

‘Giles, I pleaded with you not to do this, how could you, that tree was planted by your ancestor.’

‘He planted loads of trees, that’s why we have woodland; one less tree on the edge won’t make any difference. What will make a difference is the fortune that rich idiot is paying us for digging up an old oak tree. Enough to keep the estate going for another year.’

‘What if it doesn’t work, how can it work, transplanting a huge ancient tree into his back garden in London.’

‘That’s his problem, we’ve got the money, no refund.’

The residents of Oak Avenue had thought they had seen everything in the past year. Despite their many objections the new neighbour had demolished the pleasant square of sheltered bungalows for the elderly and built his dream house. Noise, dust and the very real fear their own homes would collapse in a man made earthquake had created a nightmare. As peace settled they gazed upon the geometric glass edifice of jumbled storeys, rumoured to have a split level basement with a kitchen, cinema, offices, snooker room or swimming pool, depending on who you talked to. Some rather liked the building and imagined it would be elegant inside with the central atrium apparently bringing light to all the rooms and the basement. But they had not been invited in to look so it was not welcome in their avenue. Now at nine am on Tuesday morning local social media had alerted them to the closure of all surrounding roads, to facilitate an oversized delivery to the new house. Amid jokes about huge Amazon parcels everyone was out to watch, especially when a television filming unit was spotted round the corner.


Never had she been horizontal; survivor of many storms, now she was fallen, brutally felled. Once tall and stout, one being, now she was three. But as she found herselves raised up again she realised they were a sacred number, a holy trinity with a new power. Her roots trembled for a different reason now, she must gain a hold and use her strength.


Harry smiled at his scowling neighbours as the cameras focused on him and the reporter asked the questions everyone wanted answers to; why, how, where?

‘The only way to uproot and transport such a huge tree was to slice it in three vertically and put it on three over length loaders. Now London has a bit more greenery and I have improved the neighbourhood. ….yes we dug down so deep to accommodate the basement there is a good tree sized hole, just like buying a shrub from the garden centre, but on a bigger scale. It will work, the bark will join up again.’


Harry’s wife looked out at the designer garden. The ancient tree just off centre enough to look natural. Harry was clever, she hoped he hadn’t been too clever this time, but her new home was fantastic, just a pity the neighbours weren’t very friendly.
As they enjoyed their morning swim and clambered out to sit in the jacuzzi she noticed the pool level seemed lower, Harry promised to check the pumps. Back in her office with the skylight view of the tree she thought she saw a crack in the wall. She went up to the kitchen to make coffee and wondered if that was a hairline crack in the window. In the garden she felt better as she nursed her coffee. Two weeks and the tree was showing tiny acorn buds and the leaves were green. She touched the healed bark and felt happy.

The next morning the pool was lower and she noticed something strange at the bottom of the pool. Harry said it was just twigs fallen off the poolside plants, but she insisted on diving down the six foot depth. She tugged and tugged, but had to come up for air.

‘Harry, I think that is a tree root pushing up through the tiles.’
’Don’t be ridiculous, I’ll go down and look.’
When he didn’t come up again she wondered if he had had a heart attack and as she slipped into the water in panic she heard an almighty shattering.

Oak Avenue was a scene of devastation. The neighbours’ first thoughts as they heard the horrendous crash of glass was that the tree had fallen on the house, but it was still standing, surrounded by the debris of concrete and glass. The fire brigade and police assumed a gas explosion or bomb, but the building seemed to have imploded rather than exploded and it would not be easy to search for survivors.


Unfolding the Roadmap

Monday marked the penultimate stage on the English roadmap out of Covid and like the real paper road maps of old, there are lots of creases and you can’t read the parts where the folds are. Most of us are convinced the roadmap will be folded up again, but in the meantime…

I didn’t go anywhere exciting on Monday as I had a hospital appointment, but there was the hope of rounding it off with a treat. The hospital destination was the furthest away in our conurbation, but the easiest to get to. The journey encompasses almost the whole of the bus route and takes an hour, but stops right outside the hospital. Every seat has a phone charger so I could catch up with blogs and emails – if anyone reads any strange comments from me that is because it’s not easy tapping on a phone jolting along. I had a pocket full of coins as it was too early to use my bus pass – easily accessible coat pocket as I didn’t want to be fumbling around in my purse and exasperating the driver. I still exasperated him as he could not hear what I was saying with my mask on and behind his plexiglass screen. When he did grasp my destination I could not hear how much he said with his mask on.

The hospital is built halfway up a hill, a delight for hospital architects whose main aim is to make it impossible for anyone to find their way around. They now have different colour routes, plus instructions on your hospital letters. I had been this way before so no problem, upstairs, follow purple route, out the back door and down a long ramp then off to a totally separate building. When I was in the waiting room a lady came to the reception desk and said ‘I am completely lost, I can’t find the car park. ‘ She was advised to ‘go back upstairs to the Ladybird Suite and start all over again.’ After my appointment was finished the receptionist asked if I could find my way back. I smugly assured her I could as I had done it before, forgetting that last time I mysteriously ended up at the north entrance, which fortunately came back out onto the main road. This time I was aiming for Costa Coffee near the main entrance, but I did not pass any familiar landmarks such as shops, glass dome, information desk. Luckily a person pushing a trolley asked if I was lost and directed me to the nearest stairs. Of course, if you go upstairs on the outward route it helps to go down on the return route. At last I reached my destination.

Not an accurate representation of Costa.

I am not a Costa addict, preferring to visit independent places and I don’t like takeaway cups, but even though the coffee was lukewarm by the time I had checked in with my NHS app and realised you had to ask for sugar, it tasted wonderful. At last I was actually sitting inside on the first day coffee shops and cafes were open properly again. I nearly forgot to take my mask off, that felt strange and I exchanged remarks with the lady at the next table at how excited we were to be in a coffee shop.

Silly Saturday- Out and About

Monday is England’s next step on the ‘roadmap’ to normality. Wherever you are you may be closing down or opening up or more likely your leaders are doing another u-turn. Normality is a long way off and though you might read messages on line from your favourite places – ‘Welcome Back’ – do they really mean it? Here are some nice places you probably won’t be able to go to…

London

Bridges open, but one way only, bad luck if you’re on the wrong side of the river.

Dreamland.

Dreaming about eating out? Stick to dreamland, everywhere else is fully booked.

Bournemouth

Must have beach app on phone to check if you are allowed to visit.

Portland Bill

Lighthouses – good for social distancing, but only one visitor at a time.

The Moon

Someone else got their first, closed until further notice.

Cruise Ships

Cruises currently limited to passengers who have been vaccinated and are good at rowing.

Portmeirion

Wales, different rules to England, you may not be allowed to cross the border.

Salisbury Cathedral

Cathedrals are always interesting to visit, but this may be as near as you can get. Enter only if you are fully masked and have had a negative Covid test.

Air museums

Museums are popular outings, especially if it’s raining, but book in advance for your thirty minute slot, book separately in advance for a cafe fifteen minute slot.

Iona

Scottish holy island – ferry only goes once a day. Scotland has different rules to England and Wales so you may not be allowed across the border… what a shame, you would really have loved Iona…

Kingston Lacey

National Trust houses always popular for an outing; they are opening up again – of course you have to book in advance and once inside will have to walk round in single file, one way only, no stopping or turning back…

A Big Country House

Chances of getting inside here for a look round? Very unlikely…. unless you live there.


Where will you go for your next outing?

Friday Flash Fiction – Therapups

I had never heard of the charity Therapups, nor had Google, but one of my late aunt’s dog loving friends sent me the postal address. Aunty had requested no flowers for her funeral, just a donation to her favourite charity. I sent a small cheque and a brief letter with my address included, requesting the next copy of their newsletter, which was apparently going to feature a tribute to my aunt.

A week later I received a hefty envelope, almost a parcel, with a gushing letter thanking me for my generosity. The newsletter was to follow shortly, but in the meantime they were pleased to send me a Therapups key ring with dog whistle attached and one hundred biodegradable poop bags in a designer carry case; all in the distinctive charity colours puce pink and sunflower yellow. I don’t own a dog, but they weren’t to know that. Also included was a colourful booklet explaining the charity’s work; it seems they provided therapy and assistance dogs not covered by other better known charities.


I was quite impressed, Therapups gave every dog an opportunity to make a contribution whether they were a St. Bernard with shopping panniers or a handbag sized ball of fluff you cuddled to calm your nerves. The newsletter duly arrived and gave more enlightenment as to my aunt’s contribution; who would have guessed her knitting skills would have been put to such good use or her Aloe Vera plant stand at the annual fete so popular? It was even more of a surprise to learn that her bad tempered terrier mix, who drove the neighbours mad with his constant yapping, had been a ‘wonderful therapy dog whose sad passing at the age of nineteen left an unfillable gap in Thelma’s life, undoubtably leading to her untimely demise weeks later at the age of ninety nine.’

Enclosed with the dozen copies of the newsletter was a puce pink and sunflower yellow picture frame with an unflattering photo of Aunt Thelma surrounded by half a dozen very ugly puppies. I wrote once more to thank them and promised to pass the newsletters to the rest of the family, though what I would do with the remaining seven copies I had no idea.

A week later another parcel arrived with a dozen Therapup calendars and an apologetic note… ‘I know it’s May already, but hopefully we all need calendars now we’re on the roadmap to Covid Recovery.’ I did not get around to replying or hanging a calendar up; I got the impression from the pictures on the calendar that they took the dogs no other charity wanted.



I was surprised the next week to receive yet another parcel from Therapups, a strange pink and yellow object which turned out to be a folding water bowl. I gave it to a dog owning friend. It was barely a week later when another package arrived; a paperback biography of the founder of Therapups. By now the charity had spent more on postage alone than I had given them in the first place, but it wasn’t hard to guess that they were expecting more from me. Enclosed were direct debit forms for regular contributors and leaflets on their free will writing service. I put them all in the recycling bin; I had little prospect of much money, now or after my death. Friends had expected Aunt Thelma to leave me her run down, but valuable house. She left her house and possessions and £57.37 all to Therapups.
They were not put off by my lack of response and further gifts left me wondering if they thought I was in need of a therapy dog. I received a yellow and pink rug for my wheelchair and dachshund shaped herbal wheat bag for chronic pain. My latest gift is a cuddly sunflower yellow toy puppy, far more handsome than their real dogs and I have to confess he is rather a comfort and I even sneak him into work.

Friday Fantasy Fiction – Meeting The Dragon

Today I woke up excited as it is Saint George’s Day; Saint George is the patron Saint of England. Then I remembered nobody is quite sure why he is our saint, or what we are meant to do to celebrate. Fortunately it is also William Shakespeare’s birthday and we can all celebrate that. In honour of our great poet and playwright here is a not very good ballad I wrote years ago, still relevant…

From the molten depths of the Iceland peak

Many gathered to hear their lord speak.

‘Centuries under the mountain we’ve lain,

centuries passed since my brother was slain.

Now is the time to return to the isles;

my son must fly across the miles.

Now is the time to forgive and forget;

the wingless, cold creatures may need us yet.’

Now with the day longer than night,

the prince bade farewell to all at first light.

With heavy heart he heard them roar,

as up into the sky he soared;

sun glinting on scales, colours unreal;

emerald, indigo, turquoise and teal.

Below, icy peaks turned to ripples of green;

Many miles he flew before land was seen.

Crowds cheered to hear the outsider had won;

George Saint now the new mayor of London.

The whole of London he wanted to reach,

Embrace the millions in his speech.

‘Tomorrow we celebrate the greatest city on Earth,

Tomorrow we remember Shakespeare’s birth;

On the South Bank on St. Georges Day

We’ll celebrate London in a wonderful way.

George worked late that night in City Hall,

Plans for tomorrow, he reviewed them all;

At the Globe, a prize winning play

Written by young Annie Hathaway,

How the dragon rescued the beautiful maid

From forced marriage, kept her safe in his cave.

At Tate Modern, in the great turbine hall

Meeting the Dragon installation art for all.

From City Hall’s glass walls George looked out

As he left the building, descending round about.

Saw the shining city, Thames at low tide,

Alone by the river his heart filled with pride.

Beneath Tower Bridge saw a fiery glow,

Strange shape moving down below

On the river bank, heard a sighing,

Amazed, George saw a dragon lying.

No one in sight, down the narrow steps he trod,

Heart pounding, saw the giant head nod

In greeting, snorted flames and then it spoke

I have come to visit the wingless folk,

Whom do I have the honour to address?

His father had told him politeness will impress.

On hearing George’s name the dragon trembled,

But no fierce knight did this puny being resemble.

Misunderstandings soon swept away,

George and Dragon talked, soon it would be day.

Many thoughts tumbled inside George’s head,

The magnificent dragon must be sheltered and fed.

As dawn came at Tate Modern, the young artist paced,

His new creation could not fill this vast space.

Suddenly a long shadow fell upon the hall,

He heard the Mayor’s voice urgently call.

Turning he gazed up and up with awe,

Was the most wondrous creature he ever saw;

Though he trembled with fright he just had to gaze

As rainbow scales shone in the Sun’s first rays.

Together they planned how to care for their guest,

Vegetarian food was what he liked best;

That’s lucky quipped the artist, for my art installation

Is made entirely of fruit and vegetation.

As people swarmed to the South Bank that day,

From the Wheel to Tower Bridge, all the way;

Musicians, magicians, jugglers, living statues,

At the Festival Hall free concerts to choose.

On T.V. the Mayor promised finale at Tate Modern,

Broadcast to the nation, Londoners surged in.

Crowds made the Dragon nervous but he bravely stood his ground,

The Mayor stood beside him and spoke to all around.

‘Today London welcomes a visitor unique,

no city ever will enjoy such a week;

but first pray silence from everyone I ask

for I must perform a very solemn task.

On behalf of all England, new bonds let us forge,

Pray forgive us for your uncle’s slaying by the wicked knight Saint George.’

The Dragon’s voice enchanted all, with his speech urbane and witty,

The Mayor of London thanked him with the freedom of the city.

Each morning Londoners thrilled at the sight

Of the Dragon soaring gracefully in flight.

But not just for fun, he was on a mission

Reporting to George on the City’s condition.

Spotted Battersea power station derelict and sad

Had an idea to make George glad.

No fossil fuel needed at a dragon power station,

At Battersea restored, his flames could heat the nation.

At City Hall George held his press morning,

TV and papers full of dire warnings.

The Mayor refuted the wicked claims

That the Dragon’s father had issued the flames

That started the Great Fire of London.

‘I trust completely this fine dragon,

he wants to help us of his own free will

and his carbon footprint will be nill.’

Elections for Mayor of London take place on 6th May; as one of the candidates is Lord Binface, a self-proclaimed interplanetary space warrior, who has challenged both Boris Johnson and Theresa May in general elections, George Saint probably stands a good chance.

London mayoral race 2021: The candidates standing in this year’s election – BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-55748037