Saturday, 19 November 2011

Fridge poetry

The trouble with magnetic fridge poetry sets is that the choice of vocabulary almost forces you to write in a certain way. Some words leap out at you (like 'breast' and 'chocolate') and just demand to be used. And some have obviously been included to complement each other. Some words are annoying in their absence. So I have a go at writing 100 words ... and this is what I come up with:
Creature left me the following message in the middle of the night:
So this morning while my tea brewed it became this, by a process of mere word substitution, still 100 words:

Sunday, 13 November 2011

strange beings

They came out of the mist, unsteadily, the tufts of grass and uneven ground was difficult for them to navigate and their ungainly stride made a faintly ridiculous sight. Their intent was unclear but it was argued amongst the professional observers that it was plain they carried no obvious weaponry. The more wary advised a cautious approach with defensive preparations kept in close reserve. Hysteria was inevitable however, one faction rushing for the hills, the other reaching for their guns.
It was assumed they must communicate by some kind of telepathic method, there was no obvious oral or any other sensory communicating organ. Their limbs were stiff and indicated a preference for some kind of powered movement. They appeared superficially homogenous but on closer inspection the subtle differences in their surface markings demonstrated an individuality comparable to humans.
The ship that hovered above bore a distinct resemblance to a welsh dresser, the rows of willow patterned plates rotating slowly and emitting a quiet hum. The blanket of white had concealed the means by which they had descended to the surface. We waited. They waited. It seemed a standoff was developing, neither wishing to make the first move for fear it be a faux pas.
Then an unassuming volunteer stepped forward. She seemed to have some instinct about the strange beings and they reciprocated, parting awkwardly to gather her into their fold. She looked back once and was gone.

(Linking back to Magpie Tales 91. Finding myself a little surreal today. My first thought on seeing the image was the scene at the end of Close Encounters where the bloke goes up into the space ship surrounded by all those weird little aliens ... go figure.)

Monday, 7 November 2011

Man Mountain

Although his tall frame had withered quietly with the passing of the years Rose had always thought of Mr Mountain as a big person. Maybe it was just the memory of their first meeting when she had crawled from under the hedge and found him on the other side. The box that emerged from the back of the hearse looked as if it could not possibly contain him.
The gathering was small, just a nephew and his wife who had driven up from Stroud and a handful of stalwarts from the village, and herself. The memorial on the neighbouring plot somehow made her feel unreasonably irritated. Why did people think so much of themselves that they felt the need for such ostentatious megaliths, since it was never really there for the dead person but for the visitors who came to mourn. She tried to bring her attention back to the muted murmuring of the vicar but it all seemed so irrelevant. She thought fondly of the time he had rowed them out to the duck island on the boating lake and the duck call he had bought specially for her to try and lure them out. She suddenly had an almost irrepresable desire to sing 'Toot Sweets.'

(An out-take from my NaNoWriMo novel, but I like it so much I might put it in.
Linking back to Magpie Tales 90)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

quick brown foxes

I taught myself to type after I left Polytechnic, on my mother's old manual typewriter, by typing 'the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog' over and over. It has all the letters of the alphabet, so gradually you learnt where they all are on the keyboard. You had to pay close attention in those days, there was no going back and erasing the mistakes. And you had to hit the keys pretty hard. None of this namby pamby tap tap tapping, it went clunk, clunk, and at the end of each line sprung back with a loud 'ka-ching'.

(Linking back to Magpie Tales 89)


Today I don't want to write 100 words. I can't be bothered. I have sat and stared at this stupid little empty square. I am tempted to just write 99 and see if it will tell me off. Because I seem to be doing everything wrong today. I chose the wrong day apparently to feel pissed off and taken for granted. Because today was the day when I was supposed to be strong, competent, supportive parent. Today I get accused of being unapproachable and judgemental. When I am asked for help i have never turned any of them away. Ever.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

First NaNo meeting

The anxiety started to build as we waited for the tram. Creature was convinced we were 'late', I said I bet there would be hardly anyone there yet. It was half past by the time we got off at Market Street, though we were reassured to see the place across Piccadilly Gardens, right where she thought it was. It was crowded inside so I asked and was directed towards the back. We weaved through the bar, were briefly concerned at the sight of a random group of middle aged blokes, and then we saw the signs on the tables, 'NaNoWriMo'.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Macaroni cheese

It's a macaroni conspiracy. You go to the cupboard and invariably most of it has escaped from the packaging and you have to sweep it up from the shelf. Or there is only that stuff that you bought in an emergency and it was never very nice, far too starchy so it stuck together when it cooked, so it was left at the back uneaten. Or you've got a lovely new packet, specially bought for tonight and the packet bursts and spills its contents across the kitchen floor. But a good cheesy sauce can effectively cover all manner of sins.

(another inspired by Creature who is downstairs cooking her favourite dinner)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

bad news

A siren sounded in the distance but somehow he knew that it was not coming to his rescue. He stood back in the corner of the room and tried to calm himself. In only a few minutes they would be there and he was supposed to be in control, at least of himself if not the situation. The door opened and the men filed cooperatively to their desks. He took a deep breath and began handing out the assignments. "Well Mr Manson, I'm sorry, but you'll have to re-write that essay, it's really not up to your usual standard."

(Feeling uninspired Dunk found a random writing prompt generator for me and it came up with 'a teacher gives some bad news to a mass murderer')

road rage

Eunice's knees were feeling particularly bad that morning, and she hadn't slept well, so the move from her bed to the chair was going to be a slow one. Her slippers were as she left them the night before, just under the edge of the bed. She shuffled with her walker to the bathroom and relieved herself noisily, sighing with pleasure. She put in her false teeth and peered closely at her face in the mirror. Then she ran her brush through her fine hair and coiled it into a tiny bun. She shuffled on, and in the kitchen made coffee and toast. It was difficult to walk and carry so cup and plate where shifted to the edge of the counter, then to the telephone table by the door, then to the coffee table by her chair. She finally sat down and sighed again, settling herself with the Radio 4 news.
The first sip of coffee was interrupted by a loud crunch and the blaring of car horns. Eunice pulled herself to her feet again and leaned against the window frame to see down to the street. Two big expensive cars were stopped directly below. Already both drivers were out of their cars and angrily blaming the other for the collision. She opened the window a little wider, took from her windowsill a glass paperweight, and pitched it smack in the centre of the first car's windscreen. In the stunned silence that followed she sat back and picked up her coffee.

(Linking back to Magpie Tales 88.)

Friday, 21 October 2011

no baby

There is a pushchair parked in the wheelchair space, but there is no baby in it. Instead it is piled with bags of junk. In a plastic carrier is a yellow plastic truck with blue wheels. A child's pink backpack hangs from the handles but most of the space is taken up with a bursting bin liner. Out of the top protrudes one of those CD racks that looks like a huge metal toast rack. From another bag pokes the leg of what might be a bamboo stool or maybe a small table. The woman looks at first as if she has dreadlocks, but in fact her hair is just very tight tangled curls. She gets up from her seat abruptly and goes up the stairs. We can hear her having a conversation, perhaps on the phone, asking someone to come and meet her from the bus. She comes back down and tries to strike up a conversation with a woman she appears to know. The woman acknowledges her momentarily then turns her attention back to her newspaper. She seems embarrassed that the attention focussed on the woman is reflecting on her too. The woman with the curls keeps chatting, oblivious to the fact that the other woman is ignoring her. She shifts her laden pushchair out into the aisle and the driver tells her off. She makes a fuss about moving it out of the way and starts a loud diatribe against Manchester buses and announces she is going to London. I hear someone towards the back tut dramatically, as if they have heard it before. She makes preparations to get off, standing in the way of other people for several stops, repeatedly telling the driver that she wants the next one. The bus brakes and her pushchair rolls down the bus, crashing into the door. As she rescues it she continues all the while her conversation with the unresponsive woman, who appears to slump with relief when she finally disembarks. As we pull away an elderly lady with neat maroon gloves asks the woman with the newspaper, "Does she have anyone?"

Thursday, 20 October 2011

foreign poetry

It's funny how you can tell that poetry is poetry even when you can't understand the words. It has a rhythm unlike normal speech, patterns within the language that are there over and above the meaning of the words. But then I wonder if it is really possible to translate a poem. The words are so carefully chosen, for the nuances of meaning that come with intimacy. Surely when translating the words what you are doing in reality is writing a whole new poem, even if the author themselves translates it. Language is just so much more subtle than that.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


It was a dark and stormy day, the rain came down in torrents. Word passed swiftly around the office concerning the atmospheric conditions causing disgruntled mutterings amongst the postmen as they waited to leave with their laden bags. Where ordinary people make polite conversation about the weather, for Royal Mail employees it is the subject of serious discussion. The weight and duration of any potential precipitation, the rise and fall of the temperature are always of great interest. A day is judged as 'good' or 'bad' based on the moisture content of your shoes at the end of the shift.

Monday, 17 October 2011


The cat watched him through the window, as if she knew what he was up to. The grass was sodden with dew so he stomped down the garden in his wellington boots. In the shed he found the spade, it had a coating of rust pitting the surface and a bit of dead bramble tangled round the handle but it would do. He decided on a spot behind the compost heap and cleared away the leaf mulch and some fallen branches. The ground was soft and easy to break open, it wouldn't take him long to get it deep enough.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


The birthday card sits, threateningly, on the fireplace. It portends the disappointment to come. There have been years when things have gone quite well; friends came, candles blown, cake eaten, but the excitement and anticipation of childhood have mellowed into a cynical disenchantment. Too many years when there was no one to invite, when there was nothing that she wished for. Sometimes I am glad that she is so un-acquisitive, that her happiness is something much more intangible. The trouble is that it's very intangibility makes it all the more elusive. We try to keep things low key nowadays.

Friday, 14 October 2011

bike ride

I am a demon cyclist. Like Cruella de Vil chasing the puppies in her car, bloodshot eyes flashing, hair flying wildly, dishevelled and frantic, I race up Oxford Road. I jump red lights, dodge around buses, weave in and out of standing traffic. Then a nice smooth run as I join the cycle track up past the university, only the odd straying student to beware of. I hit a red at the RNCM but make my way to the front of the queue. The fumes choke me but I am determined to make it. Don't you just hate being late.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A near miss

The man stepped out , oblivious. Just wandered across even though the lights had changed. The bus slowed, only slightly. The people on the pavement barely had time to react, but barely reacted. Then the man stopped and held up his hand, like a traffic policeman or a lollipop lady, as if he had the authority to arrest the traffic. The bus jerked, lurched, jerked again, and stopped, within a few inches of the man. Two girls across the aisle screeched in alarm. He took a few meandering paces across the tarmac, obviously unsteady on his feet. Then we moved off.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Joining a biker gang

"I'm off to Patrick's, can I have tram fare?" The bag has her book and her contact lens stuff. I am always telling her off for sleeping in her contact lenses when she stays over with friends. "Will you be back tomorrow," I ask. "Of course, he has college on Monday," she reminds me, irritated at my forgetfulness. She ties her hair back, shoulders her bag and is out the door before I can interrogate any more. Walking swiftly to the end of the road she glances briefly behind her, climbs on the back of the motorbike and is gone.

(For Creature, a private joke)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Home Education

If you chose to home educate your children you should first be aware of the rigorous demands on your constitution. In the name of encouraging curiosity you will let your children fall into ponds, climb very high trees, bring home dead animals and melt stuff with matches. You must be prepared to drink bad tea in draughty village halls while they charge around with other wild children hitting each other with sticks. You will never have a moment's peace and the noise will echo around your head for years after they have left home. But it will be worth it.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Messenger

"This is getting ridiculous, we must do something."
Artemis looked accusingly as Zeus, it was the third time this century that she had bought up the pollution problem and each time he had evaded her demands.
"I realise that your approach has become a bit more laissez faire over the last couple of millennium but it really is time we stepped in. War ravages so many lands and peoples, their thirst for resources is destroying the last of my wilderness, and the filth and waste they churn out is taking it's toll on the whole planet."
"So what are you suggesting?" Zeus retorted angrily, he didn't much like anyone questioning his policy decisions. "They have their 'free will', it's no longer my responsibility."
"How about a message, a sign that can't be ignored," suggested Hera, trying to keep the peace. "It wouldn't be like any kind of direct action."
"It's got to be pretty big though." Hermes joined in, warming to the idea. "What's the most massive creature we've got?"
"An elephant," said Artemis, enjoying having some support for a change. "Human beings have a soft spot for elephants anyway. But we have to make a bit different, we don't want them thinking they've had a visit from Ganesha or the Hindus will just think they've won."
"Ok," said Zeus, "I'll just give him some wings, that way he can fly himself down there and arrive in style, visit all the important people and then fly himself back again, I mean we can't just leave a winged elephant wandering around on earth can we."
So the giant beast was adorned with wings and dispatched to proclaim his message to the people of earth. He landed amongst the factories and chimneys of the industrial countries. He raised his trunk and trumpeted his warning, urging the humans to give up their destructive ways and turn to peace and cooperation with their planet. But in their eagerness the gods had forgotten to give him the power of speech ... so his voice went unheeded, his warnings misunderstood. The humans took him for a freak of nature and stuffed him for posterity, so their children's children's children could see what an elephant used to look like.

(Linking back to Magpie Tales 85)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

pine cone

The pine cone on my dressing table continues to open and close with the weather, even after thirty years, though there are no longer any seeds within falling from between the scales. We were holidaying in France, 1979 I think. The campsite was hot, dry and sandy beneath the pine trees though we were more than a mile from the sea. We had long days of getting sunburnt on the beach and sitting in the café playing pinball with french boys, me pretending to be grown up like my sister. Before we left I picked it up as a momento.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Mr Grey

Mr Grey sat on the bench in front of the house. Not watching, not waiting, just sitting. When the neighbour walked out to the shop he stared at the ground and pretended not to notice. He smoked skinny cigarettes that he rolled between stained fingers, flicking the butts into the neglected flowerbed. About ten thirty a funeral cortege rolled slowly past, a single occupant in the limousine. He followed it impassively with his eyes, all the way along the street until it disappeared under the railway bridge. He closed his eyes for a moment, then he rolled himself another cigarette.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ding Dong

I dreamt that the doorbell rang. It was very early, I thought, for someone to be ringing. It was still dark. I dreamt that I went to the door and there was a bundle in the porch. It moved. Inside I found a tiny baby. It was not very cute, it's ears stuck out. I took it inside and fed it from a tiny spoon, dripping milk into it's tiny mouth. Later I wrapped it up and took it to the park and pushed it on the swing. It laughed and laughed. Then the alarm woke me …beep …beep …beep

(Contemplating joining the 100 Words project during October in preparation for NaNoWriMo.)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night and the rain came down in torrents washing the heat of the day into the swollen river. The traveller huddled down closer under the rocky overhang that just barely protected him from the worst of the onslaught, drawing his cloak tight around him. He had thought to make the town before nightfall but the downpour had turned the forest path to a quagmire. The man was no longer young but there was still a strength and vigour to his body. Calloused hands and a scar that ran from eyebrow to jaw told the tale of a harsh life but the quiet peace in his eyes said he had not been beaten by it. The cloak had seen better days but the clasp was silver and finely wrought. He travelled light, purposeful, a staff and his sword his only other possessions. He crouched in the rain, neither resentful nor impatient, but merely waiting for it to ease. As he rested his head back against the rock and closed his eyes, resigned to a long wait, violent lightening flashed across the sky and the man started at the sight it illuminated. On the far bank stood a woman, her hair wild and her arms flung out, not welcoming, he knew, but summoning the storm. He watched her as she whipped the wind and rain to a frenzy and roused the thunder to greater peals, and as the storm crashed about them he rose. She was more startling than he had anticipated, and more beautiful. He had known the confrontation would come, had prepared during the long months of the hunt, but now faced with her reality a momentary doubt seized him. Fire flashed suddenly from her fingertips and ignited the trees above the rocks. They burned ferociously in spite of the rain, and he knew that the fire would spread and destroy everything in its path. So much depended on him, and he felt the weight of it as he drew his sword.

(Linking back to Magpie Tales 84)

Monday, 19 September 2011

Who's charming who

The serpent awoke and descended from the high canopy to the deep green undergrowth, luxuriating in the dense heat of the enclosed atmosphere below and then the cool water that dripped from leaves onto his scales. He was drawn by distant sounds, unfamiliar but irresistible, faint but hypnotic. The ground beneath his belly was soft with rotting leaves and it rustled with life. Not hunting, just following the sound he travelled towards the river. He wanted so much to find the source of the music, but instinct still held sway and he was cautious. He slithered stealthily into a tree by the clearing. Below him the naked woman was toying with his kin. Smaller than he, and more foolhardy, they gambolled and writhed around her limbs as she played. The rhythm increased and their bodies became entangled, but she was still waiting. And then she saw him, and struck a long wavering note that vibrated through his very soul. He could no longer resist. Her eyes, black and shining, drew him towards her as she wove her magic music around them both. She held out a hand, pointed to the tree and whispered a single word,

(Linking back to Magpie Tales Number 83, The Snake Charmer)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

the revenant

I was at my usual table when the bell on the cafe door tinkled and I looked up from doing the crossword and saw a young man enter. I took a sip of coffee, and then glanced at him again. He looked vaguely familiar. He ordered tea and joined a girl at a table by the window. There was just the three of us in the place, and the woman behind the counter who served them and then moved about unobtrusively wiping tables and clearing cups. I looked at the couple bent over their drinks, talking quietly but intently about something. His hand stroked casually down her arm, and I felt a chill run through me that made me look away. I tried to go back to reading my paper but merely stared blankly at the page without seeing the words at all. My heart began to thump fiercely as I looked again and realised that I distinctly recognised the girl's skirt, a rust coloured corduroy that should have been just ordinary, but that flooded my mind with memories of all the places I had worn it. I could not really see her face but her hair fell forward and she kept tucking it back behind her ear with a gesture that was achingly familiar. The boy was more lovely than I remembered, dark intense eyes that focused on her when she talked and looked uncertainly elsewhere when he responded. I watched them openly and they talked on, unaware of my gaze. She drank her tea and watched the rain outside. He leaned forward and pressed his face into her neck for a moment and kissed her. I could almost feel the warmth of his breath and with sick dread remembered the moment and what the day was. As he got up to leave I wanted to stop him but I stifled a cry, it made no difference, they could not have heard me. The bell tinkled again with his departure and a minute later she rose to follow. As she turned and put on her coat she looked across as me and smiled, almost in recognition. I smiled back. She left and I sat on, with only my cold coffee and crumpled paper for comfort.

(Linking back to Magpie Tales writing prompt 82. I did not like the picture much so used only the title 'The Revenant', which means 'someone who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead'.)