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.


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

Imagine

This evening, women and men all over the United Kingdom will be lighting candles to remember Sarah Everard, a young woman in her thirties who went missing on 3rd March while walking home in London. She had been kidnapped and murdered. Although we were told this sort of crime by a complete stranger was very rare, women of all ages and parts of society spoke up to say fear and harassment on the streets and anywhere in public is all too common. A national dialogue has started and my guest blogger, Fiona Hallsworth, was moved to write this powerful piece.

Don’t think about my gender, don’t think about your gender. Forget “men vs women”. Just read my story. All of these examples really happened to me, they are just a small sample of many.

Imagine you are 11 years old and at a family party. You play with the other children, oblivious to the two grown ups staring at you. Your mother overhears them laughing and referring to you as “jail bait”. She realises that society’s sexualisation of your young body has already begun.

Imagine you are 13 years old. You notice that EVERY time you walk to school, grown ups slow down and stare at you as they drive past.

Imagine you are 14 and on a school trip to a theme park. The older, bigger, stronger person behind you in the queue pinches your bottom.

Imagine you are 15 and waiting at a bus stop with your friends. A grown up stands next to you and repeatedly says “I am going to rape you.”

Over the next few years, you are taught “the rules”. You must wear modest clothes and not get drunk. You must stick to well lit public places and never walk home alone. If you don’t follow the rules, a bigger, stronger person may grope, rape and/or kill you. It would be YOUR FAULT. You NEVER hear the bigger, stronger people being taught that they should not grope, rape or kill you.

Imagine you are 16 and take a job in a corner shop. It is the beginning of your life long lesson in how to look and smile at the older, bigger, stronger people just enough so that they know you are kind, but not so much that they assume you want to have sex with them.  Many customers repeatedly interrogate you about your ethnic origin. The older, bigger, stronger people stand over you, demanding to know where you are “really from”. You start to understand how they fetishise the way you look and see you as an easy target. A friend insists on driving you home after your shifts, because if you walk home, you might get raped and murdered and it would be YOUR FAULT.

Imagine you are 19 and going for a jog. A person who is bigger and stronger than you deliberately jumps in front of you so that you bump into them. You are scared and run home.

Imagine you are 20 and in a nightclub. Bigger, stronger people repeatedly grab your bottom. One person does it FOUR times. You tell the bouncer but they ignore you.

Imagine you are 22 and going for a jog. A bigger, stronger person takes a photo of you as you jog past. You run home and decide you probably shouldn’t jog in public anymore.

Imagine you are 23 and travelling to and from work. EVERY time you get on a bus or train, somebody stares at you. They look at you like they want to kill you or eat you. If you are wearing shorts, they sit opposite you and stare at your legs until you feel so uncomfortable you have to move seats. Sometimes they try to brush past you on a crowded train, sometimes they take your photo when they think you are not looking.

Over time you learn to select the “right” train carriage that has other people like you on it. Then as the train empties at each stop, you worry that you might not make it home alive. You learn to sit on the bottom deck of the bus so that you can’t get cornered by someone who is bigger and stronger than you.

Imagine you are 24. Someone approaches you in the street and asks you out. As soon as the date starts they try to have sex with you and get angry when you say no and leave. The next day they text you “I don’t want to see you again because you are ugly”. You think it was probably YOUR FAULT as you really should not let people approach you in the street.

Imagine you are 25 years old and walking from a pub to a train station. Three bigger and stronger people approach you. One of them follows you a WHOLE MILE down the road. Luckily you reach the train station and merge into the crowd. As you travel the escalator down into the station, people passing on the opposite escalator stare and shout at you. Sometimes its rude comments, sometimes they just grunt weird sex noises at you.

The next time you walk home, you wonder if you should put your headphones in so that no one will talk to you. Then you remember that if someone attacks you when you are wearing headphones, it will be YOUR FAULT.

Sometimes you have to go home earlier or later than you would like so that a friend can walk you home. Sometimes you have to get a cab that you can’t afford. When you do get a cab, you anxiously check that it is a licensed cab. Because if you get raped and murdered by an unlicensed cab driver, it will be YOUR FAULT.

Imagine you are 26, standing in a pub chatting to friends. Bigger and stronger people keep on walking past you, grabbing you round the waist and brushing their crotch against your bottom. When you say “don’t touch me” they reply “I was just walking past there isn’t enough room!” You notice that they don’t grab and brush when they walk past people who are bigger and stronger than them, even if it is very crowded.

Imagine you are 27 and cycling to and from work. People stare and shout at you as you cycle past. Sometimes it’s rude comments, mainly its just the weird sex noises again. A bigger and stronger cyclist repeatedly overtakes you whilst staring at you, then slows down, forcing you to overtake them. Eventually you decide to stop, get off your bike and call someone. That way, if you do get raped and murdered, someone will know when you went missing. You breath a sigh of relief when the other person cycles off into the distance, but decide that you probably shouldn’t cycle in public anymore. You go home, lock your bike away and instead buy a train ticket that you can’t afford.

Imagine you are 28 and on a bus.  Another person on the bus starts chatting to someone smaller and weaker than them. When they realise the other person is not interested they start shouting and swearing at them. You politely suggest that the bigger person should leave the smaller person alone. They start shouting at you instead.

There are about 20 other bigger, stronger people on the bus. They can’t intervene because if they do, they might get stabbed.  You have to get off at your stop, knowing that the victim and the abuser are both still on the bus. You are haunted by this experience for the rest of your life. You will never know if the victim got home safe. If they didn’t, you know it would be YOUR FAULT.

You are 32 and it is your wedding day. You are fortunate to live in a culture where you can get married when and to whom you choose.  You think about how lucky you are to marry someone who loves you, respects you and does not beat you.  One of the best things about having a partner you love, is that when you walk down the road with them, some of the staring and harassment stops.

Imagine you are 34 and at a family wedding with your partner and child. A family friend you have not met before grabs you where they shouldn’t when they hug you. You keep quiet and tell your partner about it on the way home.

You are now 37 and decide to try jogging again. You put on the “right” clothes that won’t attract attention. People who are bigger and stronger than you shout at you as you jog past. Luckily, by this age, you have learnt to wear headphones, sunglasses and a baseball cap to help you pretend that the shouty people don’t exist.

Imagine you have a career that you love and have studied hard for. Over the 14 years that you work in the NHS, various patients make rude comments about your body, try to grope you, stand in doorways to stop you leaving, or threaten to spank you. Sometimes you have to take a bigger, stronger colleague with you so that you can do your job without being harassed or intimidated.

Imagine you are 38 and a parent. You notice that you seem to be invisible to a lot of people. You have to walk in the road with your small children because the younger, fitter, stronger person ignores you and doesn’t let you pass. Whilst this frustrates you, you are glad that you have reached the “invisible” stage of your life, because at least it means that the staring, harassing, groping and intimidation has stopped. You can’t wait until you become a pensioner, because then you will be really invisible.

You listen to the news. Sarah Everard has been murdered, despite following “the rules”. You cry for the victim and family and lay awake at night worrying. People like you are told to curfew in the evening in case you get murdered.

You try to explain to people that the roots of this violence lie in the predatory behaviour and aggression that you have experienced since you were 11 YEARS OLD.

Bigger, stronger people respond by saying “But we are not all like that!” “We get killed more than you!” You look up violent crime statistics and see that they are correct. Then you wonder why you have spent your life under curfew and following “the rules” when the bigger, stronger people are both the majority of perpetrators and the majority of victims.

You try to explain that, although you have a lot to be grateful for, your quality of life has been dimmed by fear EVERY DAY since you were 13 YEARS OLD. This fear was not created by social media. It began before social media existed. Your bigger, stronger partner and your bigger, stronger siblings have grown up free from this fear.

Some people listen. Some people ignore you. Some people laugh at you and call you rude names. Some people reply “well what do you expect, it’s YOUR FAULT”.

by Fiona Hallsworth

Beautiful Bird

Concorde was like a beautiful bird when she took off… and noisy, but that was part of the thrill. If there had been frequent flights taking off I’m sure the novelty would have worn off and there would have been plenty of complaints about the noise. Teachers in local schools automatically stopped talking at 11am when the morning flight left for New York. Once, I was taking the children to the police Christmas party being held at the BAA club on the airport side of the Bath Road. As we got off the bus Concorde landed on the northern runway and my youngest burst into tears. That close the noise made your breast bone vibrate.

Our last home at Heathrow was the nearest to Heathrow and on the edge of Harlington Village with fields and skylarks on the other side of the hedge. Our daughter had the end bedroom and her wardrobe vibrated when Concorde took off. On winter evenings at 7pm I would abandon the cooking and dash outside to see her afterburners, bright in the night sky.

Concorde was the future.

A Puffin children’s book!

Air France Flight 4590 was an international charter flight, from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris to John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, flown by an Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde. On the afternoon of Tuesday, 25 July 2000 at 16:44:31 local time, the aircraft ran over debris on the runway during take off, blowing a tyre, and sending debris flying into the underside of the left wing, and into the landing gear bay.  A terrible omen perhaps that the 21st century was not going to be what we hoped for.

Following the accident, all Concordes were grounded for almost a year with the introduction of new safety improvements such as Kevlar-lined fuel tanks and better electrical controls. But spiralling maintenance costs for the 30-year-old aircraft, led to British Airways and Air France’s joint announcement on 10 April 2003 that the planes would be retired that year.

The last French plane touched down in Toulouse on 27 June, while BA’s fleet left service on 24 October, with three aircraft landing in sequence at London Heathrow.

Concorde was about to become history and we remembered the proud and happy times.  My younger son says there was a lot of pride in having your windows rattling and everything falling off the shelves when Concorde took off.

Cyberspouse spent his entire thirty years with the Metropolitan Police at Heathrow Airport. One time when he was on the Airside Traffic Unit they visited Concorde in her hangar and he asked the pilot if he could take  pictures of the cockpit. He was invited to take a seat.

In 1996 Heathrow Airport celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a flypast that included Concorde. The planes had to take off from Stansted Airport and children from local schools were invited to have a ride on Concorde to Stansted, but home by coach, they were not allowed to stay on board for the flypast. One child from each year at each school was chosen and our older son got the lucky ticket. Parents were told they were not going supersonic, but they did. These are his impressions of the flight.

I remember it being a lot smaller on the inside than you would think. The windows were tiny. And when it takes off, it goes really steep and then they cut the afterburners and it feels like your belly drops about 100 ft. Apart from that it was very smooth and pleasant. Going supersonic was not like anything really, it was just a number going up. The only jumpy bit was the take-off.

One time Cyberspouse and I decided to cycle to Windsor and we were just cycling through Colnbrook Village when Concorde took off right over our heads – that was the closest I ever got.

In Concorde’s last years I was working in a British Airways Business lounge with a perfect picture window view of the southern runway and the highlight of the morning was of course the 11am take off. Raymond the cleaner, our resident grumpy old chap, loved Concorde, said she was his baby and the only time he came to life was at 11am. As soon as he heard her he would race across the lounge to the window, sending passengers flying… But we never tired of seeing her take off.

Heathrow Airport 50th Anniversary Flypast 1996 (Full programme) – Pt 4 of 5 – YouTube

Friday Flash Fiction 950 – Writer’s Retreat

‘…yes, but I’m used to being on my own, with Giles away half the time and I rather like it now they have all left home… I know Tammy won’t be popping in every week when I’m up there. That’s half the point. She won’t come round with the children anyway, while all the work is going on next door, because of their ears and lungs… Yes it is that bad, that’s why I demanded they pay me compensation, enough to be away from home… but it’s not as if I could join Giles in the Antarctic. No of course I can’t afford a luxury cruise; what you call my Victorian Villa is more of a millstone, always has been, like a hungry monster that constantly has to be fed… We WERE thinking of downsizing till Dave and Debs got in first and sold next door for a fortune; no one is going to even look at our house while the foundations are being shaken. Yes Dave and Debs did say they had sold to a nice quiet family, a nice family who for some unearthly reason want to live underground… and a wine cellar and entertainment room… Oh they’ve started again, can you hear that awful thumping, that’s the pile driver. I almost wish the whole place would implode down into the Central Line. Do you think we could claim on their insurance if our house was swallowed by the London Underground? … Northumberland… but not as cold as the Antarctic…  I won’t be roughing it, there is an oil tank, just no electricity. I won’t need to charge my phone, because there is no WiFi… Pen and paper, like writers have always used. Long walks, fresh food and making a start on my new novel… Well it was bad timing the car conking out, but that’s part of the adventure, go up on the train to Berwick-upon-Tweed, local bus to this farm and then the farmer take me the rest of the way… Okay, love to Phil, yes I will, if he manages to Facetime tonight, not quite Shackleton, but it’s not easy communicating with a scientist at the South Pole, even if he is my husband.’

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I should have started ringing round the rest of the family, but packing was my priority if I was to get to Kings Cross Station in the morning with one manageable rucksack.

Once the bus had dropped me off there was no turning back. I hoped it was the right farm gate I was standing by. I couldn’t even figure out how to open it, but just as I was wondering if the farm was occupied at all, a figure emerged from what I presumed must be the farm house. A voice hailed me, the only clue as to what sex the figure in green overalls might be. But when she strode up to the gate I was surprised to see a young woman with blond curls tied in a bunch and a huge baby bump. Already I was putting her into my novel. She introduced herself as Abby.

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After a cup of tea and home made scones, in a farmhouse kitchen straight out of the fifties, it was time to set off before it got dark. This was real life for sure. My home for a month had once been a tenant farmer’s cottage, a tied cottage. The family had done it up to rent out and supplement their income. The land rover was more comfortable than you might expect, even though it did smell of damp dog and cow manure.

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So there I was, by the cosy light of an oil lamp, in front of a wood fire. November nights up here were colder, that was to be expected. I have to confess Abby had already laid the fire earlier and got it going for me. She showed me the wood pile, the kindling, the oil tank that fuelled the Aga. Not that I was planning to do much cooking. There was no phone. I would not see anyone till next week when they would pop in with more food supplies. Abby looked rather doubtful when she asked if I would be alright.

I went to bed early. There were plenty of books in the house, how delightful to be Kindle free, but the evening felt long and I was tired after my journey and couldn’t muster the energy to start writing. It was so quiet, I hadn’t reckoned how much I would miss not being able to turn on the radio; still this was a good way get inside my character’s head.

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I woke up suddenly, in complete darkness, without any idea where I was. When I came to my senses I fumbled for my torch, but I had lost all sense of direction; the door and the window had disappeared. I felt an overwhelming longing for the intrusive street lights at home. All I could think to do was to feel my way outside, at least there would be moonlight. I stubbed my toes, banged my shins, nearly fell down the uneven wooden stairs. My watch was not luminous, I had no idea of the time without my phone to look at. I tried to picture the stairs in relation to the door. At last I felt the metal latch and heaved it up in panic.

There was no moon. The darkness was so thick you could slice it. The wonderful open fields that had surrounded me earlier had been replaced by dark nothingness and oppressive silence. With Giles this would have been an adventure, with a group of city friends it might have been a laugh. Alone it was turning into my worst nightmare.

For more stories I have four collections on Amazon.

Try Dark and Milk for only $us 1.28 or 99p.

Dip into the selection, what will you find, dark or milk, soft centre or hard, a moment’s pleasure or something to chew on? Stories for your coffee break or dare you read them at bed time?

Open the book…

 

Friday Flash Fiction – Waterloo

I got off the train wearily, borne along the platform with the other commuters. It was only Wednesday but I was fed up already, who wouldn’t be, having to go to work on a sunny July day.

How had this happened to me, fourth generation of my family on the train to Waterloo every morning to a job I loathed. Was that what it had been like for Dad, Granddad, uncles and aunties, or did they just accept it as their position in life? Twenty three and still living at home so I could save up, save up for what?

I was working for a company everybody except me thought was exciting; Bright Designs was going places, but I wasn’t.

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I stopped on the busy concourse and stood still for the first time ever; I usually dashed straight for the escalator to the underground. Around me everyone was rushing, I thought of Tim my old school friend, in Thailand teaching English, travelling cheaply and posting beautiful pictures on Facebook. Voices intruded into my Land of Smiles fantasy and my eyes focussed on a couple at the barrier to platform 13.

You just don’t get it, do you Josh? A train to the seaside is not my idea of a surprise holiday, even if we were staying together.

I stared at Josh, smart looking bloke, but sounded like he was as successful as me with women.

I don’t understand Lizzie, I thought you wanted to get away for a few days and talk.

It’s too late for that.

Lizzie disappeared into throngs of commuters oblivious to her little drama, out of sight before Josh had even turned his head. He tore off his back pack and threw it on the ground and then, as if he could feel my curious stare, he looked up at me.

‘Hey mate, care to swap lives. Looks like you could do with a trip to the seaside, train leaves in ten minutes.’

He proffered his train ticket.

‘You wouldn’t want my dreary life Josh.’

‘So neither of us have anything to lose, go on, hand me your man bag and take my rucksack.’

 

What on earth possessed me? I slung the back pack on my shoulder and put the ticket in the slot at the barrier. Josh had already gone, taking my wallet, paperback and ID pass for Bright Designs with him. I patted my pocket, my phone was the only thing I still had of me.

Settling into a window seat I almost laughed out loud, runaway train. Nobody except Josh knew where I was going; I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t care.

As the train moved off I looked at the ticket, Bournemouth. Then I casually dipped into the rucksack as if I knew what was in it; a wallet with notes as well as several debit cards and a thick envelope, signed for delivery. I had no compunction about opening it, Josh wanted me to have his life. Afterwards I realised what an idiot I had been, it could have contained drugs or might even have exploded.

But all it contained were two sets of keys, detailed computer print out maps, a set of directions and two pictures, a row of beach huts and a smart white apartment block. What was Lizzie missing? My initial thoughts had been – arrive at seaside, get ice cream, go for a paddle. But now I was going to have a holiday.

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Just when we would have been having coffee at work I was standing on the cliff top. The sea and sky were unbelievably blue, the air balmy, this was a dream. I followed the instructions for the beach hut and descended a steep path with cliff on either side framing a view of sparkling sea with land on the horizon.

Ten minutes later I was in the little wooden hut divesting the rest of my work life and putting on swimming shorts out of the collection of beach gear handily provided. With the warm sand between my toes I was a child again. I plunged into the sea, not as cold as I was expecting. My freedom was complete as I struck out through the gentle waves then turned to look back at the cliffs, I was out of my depth and out of my life. I whooped like a teenager, how I wished everyone at work could see me; perhaps not. This was a holiday that would not be posted on Facebook.

Liebster Award (Retro)

For more tales of land and sea dip into…

 

 

 

Silly Saturday – Baz Fixes Brexit

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Few of you will remember Baz the Bad Blogger, most of his blogs sink without trace, his words not mine, I would not be so rude to a guest. His winning of the Unread Bloggers Award gave him a boost in confidence and perhaps drew the attention of the powers that be.  Today I am thrilled to be first to interview Baz since his sudden rise to fame. Let Baz tell his own story.

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Hello Baz, happy Saturday. Did you always have political aspirations?

Well I do sweat a lot.

Had you met members of the Royal Family before?

No thank goodness.

Would you call yourself a republican?

I do like a drink, real ale.

You don’t have to answer this question, but did you vote Leave or Remain in the 2016 referendum?

I didn’t bother voting, I had no idea what it was all about, still don’t.

So being neutral, neither Remainer nor Leaver, makes you the perfect candidate for the new position.

If you say so.

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I think we are all keen to hear how it came about that, after Her Majesty the Queen dissolved Parliament late on Sunday night, you became a member of the new parliament and were quickly appointed a minister by His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales.

Oh Charles you mean. I have to be modest here. Members of Parliament were to be chosen from among bloggers with the most Likes, but most of them didn’t want the job.

But to be chosen for The Cabinet as well, that was a surprise.

Not when Charles heard my Big Idea, Baz’s Big Idea he called it, wondered why no one had thought of it before.

Can you reveal it?

Weelll, do many people read this blog?

No, hardly any.

Okay then; this is my plan to please everybody. We leave the European Union as soon as possible, tomorrow… Leavers are happy. Then on Monday morning Europe joins us and Remainers are happy, not only are we still part of Europe, even better, Europe is part of us. The European Union will become part of the United Kingdom, The United Kingdom of Europe.

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Friday Flash Fiction 950 – Writer’s Retreat

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‘…yes, but I’m used to being on my own, with Giles away half the time and I rather like it now they have all left home…  I know Tammy won’t be popping in every week when I’m up there. That’s half the point. She won’t come round with the children anyway, while all the work is going on next door, because of their ears and lungs…  Yes it is that bad, that’s why I demanded they pay me compensation, enough to be away from home…  but it’s not as if I could join Giles in the Antarctic… No of course I can’t afford a luxury cruise; what you call my Victorian Villa is more of a millstone, always has been, like a hungry monster that constantly has to be fed…  We WERE thinking of downsizing till Dave and Debs got in first and sold next door for a fortune; no one is going to even look at our house while the foundations are being shaken. Yes Dave and Debs did say they had sold to a nice quiet family, a nice family who for some unearthly reason want to live underground…  and a wine cellar and entertainment room…  Oh they’ve started again, can you hear that awful thumping, that’s the pile driver. I almost wish the whole place would implode down into the Central Line. Do you think we could claim on their insurance if our house was swallowed by the London Underground?…  Northumberland…  I won’t be roughing it, there is an oil tank, just no electricity…  I won’t need to charge my phone, because there is no WiFi…  Pen and paper, like writers have always used. Long walks, fresh food and making a start on my new novel…  Well it was bad timing the car conking out, but that’s part of the adventure, go up on the train to Berwick-upon-Tweed, local bus to this farm and then the farmer take me the rest of the way…  Okay, love to Phil, yes I will, if he manages to Facetime tonight, not quite Shackleton, but it’s not easy communicating with a scientist at the South Pole, even if he is my husband.’

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I should have started ringing round the rest of the family, but packing was my priority if I was to get to Kings Cross Station in the morning with one manageable rucksack.

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Once the bus had dropped me off there was no turning back. I hoped it was the right farm gate I was standing by. I couldn’t even figure out how to open it, but just as I was wondering if the farm was occupied at all, a figure emerged from what I presumed must be the farm house. A voice hailed me, the only clue as to what sex the figure in green overalls might be. But when she strode up to the gate I was surprised to see a young woman with blond curls tied in a bunch and a huge baby bump. Already I was putting her into my novel. She introduced herself as Abby.

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After a cup of tea and home made scones, in a farmhouse kitchen straight out of the fifties, it was time to set off before it got dark. This was real life for sure. My home for a month had been a tenant farmer’s cottage, a tied cottage. The family had done it up to rent out and supplement their income. The land rover was more comfortable than you might expect, even though it did smell of damp dog and cow manure.

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So there I was, by the cosy light of an oil lamp, in front of a wood fire. Although it was spring, the nights up there were still cold. I have to confess Abby had already laid the fire earlier and got it going for me. She showed me the wood pile, the kindling, the oil tank that fuelled the Aga. Not that I was planning to do much cooking. There was no phone. I would not see anyone till next week when they popped in with more food supplies. Abby looked rather doubtful when she asked if I would be alright.

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I went to bed early. There were plenty of books in the house, how delightful to be Kindle free, but the evening felt long and I was tired after my journey and couldn’t muster the energy to start writing. It was so quiet, I hadn’t reckoned how much I would miss not being able to turn on the radio; still this was a good way get inside my character’s head.

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I woke up suddenly, in complete darkness, without any idea where I was. When I came to my senses I fumbled for my torch, but I had lost my bearings; the door and the window had disappeared. I felt an overwhelming longing for the intrusive street lights at home. All I could think to do was to feel my way outside, at least there would be moonlight. I stubbed my toes, banged my shins, nearly fell down the uneven wooden stairs. My watch was not luminous, I had no idea of the time without my phone to look at. I tried to picture the stairs in relation to the door. At last I felt the metal latch and heaved it up in panic.

There was no moon. The darkness was so thick you could slice it. The wonderful open fields that had surrounded me earlier had been replaced by dark nothingness and oppressive silence. With Giles this would have been an adventure, with a group of city friends it might have been a laugh. Alone it was turning into my worst nightmare.

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For more tales dark and light choose one of my selections of short stories.

 

Friday Flash Fiction – Who am I?

At my beginning unnoticed,

Disturbing a few blades of grass.

At my departure miles wide,

Or so it seems to those who pass.

 

Older than any empire,

I’ve watched over cities and towns.

Crossed by legions, traversed by millions,

So often I’ve changed my bounds.

 

I am the setting for history,

For politics and power.

Painted and prosed by the famous,

Unfortunates dreaded my tower.

 

I’ve sucked down many to their deaths,

That was never my intention.

Gentle meadows are what I love,

Not man’s intervention.

 

The city turned me dark,

Hemmed me in with squalor and hate.

I’ve been loched, bombed and tunnelled,

Till my very bed vibrates.

 

My fortunes like tides fall and rise,

Stories captured for many to tell.

Painted by Turner, Canaletto,

Written by Dickens, Jerome and Wells.

 

I dream of a spring in the meadow,

And wonder am I still me,

As my banks sink and salt currents swirl

And I’m swallowed by The North Sea.

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