How The Stars Aligned #carrotranch #flashfiction

Comets shoot across the skies like luminescent smears of silent light. At the Carrot Ranch this week they portend what exactly…?

August 16, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a comet. You can consider how it features into a story, influences a character, or creates a mood. Go where the prompt leads.

 

‘There’s a comet passing tonight, Morgan.’

‘Huh? So?’

‘No, come on. Even you must see how extraordinary these things are.’

‘They’re a bunch of rocks and ice, Logan. You may think watching space grit is fascinating but I’ll stick to the footie.’

‘These are nature’s warnings. They portend the great events of history. The Battle of Hastings, Genghis Khan’s attack on Europe.’

‘Rubbish. Your average Russian isn’t interested in Hastings.’

‘You know what significant event occurred when Halley’s last appeared? It changed the world as we know it.’

‘What’s that?’

‘We started school together and you stole my banana.’

Posted in carrot ranch, creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Heads, Tails And Everything In between #writephoto #shortfiction

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto this week is 

 

Alderman Montgomery Blush coughed. ‘If I could call the meeting to order? I…’ He glanced to his left. ‘Perhaps I’ll let Vincent introduce the next item.’

Monty thought Vincent Van Grot resembled a rabbit with a headlight fixation. ‘Me?’ Maybe a mouse would be nearer the mark given the soprano-esque delivery.

‘Yes, Vinny, you. It’s your probl… proposal.’ He essayed a smile but it really didn’t suit his face.

‘Right, Ok. Well, has everyone read the report?’ He looked at Vinny. ‘The works should have started again, as the report shows. Vinny?’

The other members of the Highways and Bye-ways (Special Task Force) Planning And Financing Committee nodded, apart from one.

Vinny coughed. ‘Could I start by tabling a short addendum?’

‘Point of order Madam Chair?’ Marigold Twinbobbles launched her right arm in what, to Monty, faintly resembled an inappropriate salute.

Monty sighed. ‘I think the correct appellation should be Chairman, or even just Chair.’

Marigold sniffed. ‘You’re just standing in, Montgomery. Patience remains chair so it’s her I’m addressing, in absentia.’

‘It’s me you’re addressing, Mar…’

‘You’re representing her, like someone pp’ing a letter.’

‘What’s your point, Marigold?’ Monty didn’t try and hide the effort it was to continue the debate.

‘Standing Order 13/57 of 1992 clearly states that addenda have to be submitted at least…’

Monty squeezed his eyes shut. ‘Vinny, will you be explaining what’s in the addendum?’

‘Er yes. Why?’

‘Because the order to which our colleague alludes concerns written submissions…’

‘It’s a paper, Monty. Of course it’s written.’

‘But if his addenda is oral, accompanied by a paper then the addendum, per se…’

‘You’re weaselling, Monty.’

‘Agreed. Can we move on?  Vinny?’

‘Me?’ Vincent had the look of someone who thought he had dodged the teacher’s question only to realise he’d merely postponed the horror.

‘Yup, you’re on.’ Monty leaned towards the terrified executive. ‘Good luck.’

‘Right. Ok. To recap, last month the progress of Netting-On-Wold bypass was halted due to the unfortunate discovery of a previously unidentified stone circle in the Woods at Peachbuttock Topping. An archaeological desktop indicated the circle might be Neolithic which if true would require a delay to investigate of some 18 months. This committee agreed to a R&R strategy…’

Marigold’s arm sky-rocketed. ‘R&R?’

‘It’s in the minutes, Marigold.’ Monty nodded at the pad. ‘Remove and Replace.’

‘I was going to ask what that meant. Does it…?’

‘Yes it does. The contractor, working diligently…’

‘…at night…’

‘…so as not to alert…’

‘…disturb…’

‘Yes, sorry, disturb anyone…’

‘… the potentially nesting wildlife…’

‘… what?’

Monty glared at Vincent. He hissed, ‘We agreed it was a question of priorities. Newts may be nesting…’

‘In a wood? On the top of a chalk hill?’

‘We couldn’t take the risk.’

Marigold’s fingers performed a passable rumba-by-digit as she rifled through the minutes. She peered at a paragraph and then lifted her head to meet Monty’s steady gaze. ‘You really moved the stones?’

‘More a case of repositioning…’

‘An ancient, possibly significant symbolic circle and you…’

‘I think, Marigold that significant could be considered pejorative in this context. Consider the newts.’

‘Bugger the newts, you can’t go around…’

‘Well, we have. You’re part of the committee. You didn’t object to the minutes.’

‘I was visiting Patience. I wasn’t here.’

‘I’m sorry but that’s collective responsibility. Can we move on? Vinny is going to tell us when…’

‘Where’s the circle?’

‘What?’

‘You said you moved it. Where?’

‘It’s …. Vinny where did it go?’

‘That’s the second issue that the addendum addresses. There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding. With the contractor.’

Monty fingered his inhaler. He had never liked the word ‘issue’. He focused on his breathing. He was good. He didn’t need chemicals to get through this. ‘Misunderstanding?’

‘He used the stones in another project. As foundations. You said they needed to be be well buried. They’re now part of the Joyful Well- and Mindful-ness Centre.’

‘Oh god…’ Monty pulled out the puffer, staring at it bleakly. ‘You know this is a disaster.’

Vinny looked surprised. ‘Shall I finish?’

‘There’s more?’

‘I mentioned issues.’

‘Did you?’ Monty knew he really shouldn’t ask. He put in a new canister. Somehow he knew that was a good move. Prudent.

‘When they dug up the stones, they found these skulls… well, they’re more heads, really. Embalmed. Though…’

Monty decided he hated ‘though’ more than ‘issue’ and sucked on the puffer. ‘Though..?’

‘Well, that’s the other issue.’

‘Isn’t that finding the heads?’

‘No, they went with the stones. They’ve been reburied.’

‘So what’s the issue?’

‘The headless corpses. They’ve only just started to appear. The contractors won’t start again until they’ve all gone.’

‘Gone? Are you taking them somewhere?’

‘No they just leave.’

‘How can that be? And where are they going?’

Marigold glared at Monty, then Vinny. ‘Perhaps they think they you can’t have a full body treatment at a Well and Mindfulness centre if their heads and bodies are separated. Maybe they’re going there.

Marigold and Vinny turned to where Monty sat, their attention drawn by a sharp pop. Montgomery Blush’s complexion had changed to a darker hue, his hands flapping at his throat. He appeared to have swallowed his inhaler. Vinny leapt into action and performed some clumsy but effective first aid.

Marigold gathered her papers. ‘You’ll not get away with this Montgomery Blush. When Patience hears  about this, heads will roll.’

Monty and Vinny exchanged a look. ‘Please don’t minute that.’

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Remember #poem #poetry

Christina Rossetti wrote Remember as a paean to her lover, a poem for someone about to die. It’s rather heartbreaking.

Me, I’m in Edinburgh, at the Fringe and, well, it’s rather uplifting. Ephemeral, sure but with curios aplenty.

And some catch you by surprise.

One set we saw today involved comedian Arthur Smith, talking about his late father, Syd. Syd spent time in Colditz the prison camp, but what was most poignant were his words describing his return to England when released. He spoke of the journey by train, bus and foot to his family home, the flags and friends and family there to meet him. Now I’m a father I can stand in the shoes of his parents, imagining the hell they went through waiting for that moment. I cried, just a little, as I imagine they must have done. It seemed very natural. Funny how dusty words about events over 70 years  old can do that.

So my take is not as flippant as originally intended. That wasn’t my mood. I hope you enjoy it.

Remember me when I am gone away

Even though our eyes met but once on meeting

You gave me a look as I went to pay

That spoke volumes though your gaze was fleeting.

‘Do you want chocolate’, words dusted

Lightly, their meaning clear – I know you well,

You’re saccharine to my sugar – Not trusted

False promise this. ‘No thanks.’ I can tell

You wish it could be so different;

Our lives should take the path well trod,

In that glimpse our future is not so distant, 

A cup’s width. We are ripples. Then a nod.

You will remember how we parted. Strange

To think it’s all because I couldn’t. ‘Change,’

You said.

Posted in Edinburgh Fringe, miscellany, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Sight Of One’s Voice

’Find your voice,’ say the writing seers, as you dip your toe into the blogging and authoring world.

Which is odd when you think you are writing to be read not heard – unless you’re going straight to Audible, a rather pretentious alternative to the 1980s’ films that went straight to video.

It’s one of those statements that can flummox the novice and be difficult to explain, leading to advice such as ‘you’ll know it when you find it’. This is up there with ‘you just know when they’re the one’ and ‘this Government will make a difference’ as the most universally unhelpful guidance you can offer the perpetually bewildered.

But, and here’s the thing, I’m beginning to wonder if you need to find a blogging voice or whether it’s one of those things that emerges of its own accord with the passing of the years, like cynicism and hairy ears. It finds you, if you like.

I didn’t have expectations about blogging when I started and I certainly had no ideas about who I might engage with through reading and commenting. If you’d asked me I’d have assumed people of my own age and demographic, broadly.

Digressing briefly, because that’s what I do, there’s a fascinating programme on the Beeb just now that follows a prosecutor as she puts together cases to be taken to trial. These take team work with the police and other lawyers and so far we’ve seen them create cases against those involved in modern slavery in British towns and using drones to get drugs into prison. The thing is the star of this show is totally blind, using a guide dog and some nifty technical gizmos to get about and do her job.

In judging witnesses, indeed people generally, she goes by what they say. She gets no visual clues. She gets gender, accents, tone, and emotions through sound. Unlike we who use our five (or in the case of the Textiliste, six – she has a bullshit sensor) senses. And she is very comfortable with that.

I cannot begin to categorise my own little blogging community. I’ve met a few and I’m pretty sure in some cases, had we met face to face first the friendships I’ve forged on the blog might have been stillborn because those visual clues would have created a ‘first impression’ that might have coloured our reactions to each other.

Instead that first impression is based around other clues. Humour, empathy, articulacy, things you can pick up from the written word. I follow and happily engage with people half my age, my children’s age from parts of the globe and imbued with cultural memes so far from my own.

Without visual clues to help me, and them, we must form our judgements against a different set of criteria. One we are not used to using.

I’ve been involved in running the Bloggers Bash from its inception in 2014. One of the recurring themes for those attending the meet ups for the first time is their nervousness whether, and their delight at finding that, people are in fact like they are on their blog.

’I was really worried about what (other bloggers) would be like.’

It’s as if we expect to be conned because we cannot see and hear (and maybe smell and touch, if you are members of the Fngg Brotherhood of Trampoling Monks Of St Sponge) said Bloggers.

But I’ve met a fair few bloggers now and they are pretty much what it says on the tin (or in the About section – though if you have a blog and not an About  section which also allows comments, you are missing a trick – just saying).

Their ‘voices’ are original and they are unique and above all pretty authentic. Whatever they try to be, those voices come through.

And like me, probably without trying. Their voice is there. As they settle to what makes them comfortable their voices emerge and if they are thoughtful, empathetic, generous, humorous and so on, that comes out.

I know this isn’t always the case. There are clever con artists out there but for the broad majority that isn’t the case.

And better still, those voices aren’t distorted by the kinds of instinctive prejudices and stereotyping which we are all prone to lean on when forming our judgements if using the full range of available clues

It means I’m exposed to a wider range of people than might otherwise be the case. Which is, I’d say, all rather splendid.

Now all I need to do is find my voice in my novels and I’m set….

 

Posted in miscellany, thought, thought piece | Tagged , , , | 44 Comments

The Future Of TV #flashfiction #Ichallengeyou

‘And… cut. Well done everyone. Take five and we’ll be back after the adverts.’

‘Harry, can I have a word.’

‘I’m a bit busy Maureen. Can it wait?’

‘It’s just I was down by the screen, keeping the sweat off…’

‘I know, horrid job but we can’t afford the smears. Some aircon is on order…’

‘It’s not that. It’s the little girl. She’s seen us.’

‘Well, I hope so. Rather the point of watching TV, don’t you think?’

‘No I mean she’s seen us. You know, actually us. In here.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous, Maureen. You know humans have no understanding of we Wemans. They think they’re the only bipedal opposable-thumbed mammals on this planet capable of memory, emoting, reasoning and formalising hopeless voting structures. It’s the hiding in plain sight stratagem…’

‘Yes, Which is fine for your average suggestible adult but children haven’t been indoctrinated. I caught her looking in the side of the screen. I’m sure she saw me looking back…’

‘YOU MADE EYE CONTACT?’

‘No. Well, no exactly. More a mutual askance. Thing is she’s out there now, round the back trying to see inside.’

‘Where are her parents?’

‘Making tea. What…?’

‘People! Listen up, we have a situation. Jim, make ready with the Shortbox. Daphne, I need a public service tableau. Number four.’

‘What are you doing? We need to stop the girl.’

‘Maureen, watch and learn. We can hardly jump out and, what tie her down, tell her to behave, can we?’

‘No…’

‘So if we can’t stop her, who can?’

‘I don’t know? The Authority?’

‘Perlease. You know what they’d do? They’d have the set catch fire so the girl doesn’t get to see any TV. You want to be out of work?’

‘No….’

‘Ok. That’s why, when her folks come back with their tea, we’ll wait while the girl tells her folks. They’ll laugh and she’ll go and point out where she saw you. At that moment, Daphne’s troop will put on a playlet showing the dangers of letting children near the TV what with all the electrical charges held by the capacitors – it’s beautiful, the way the little girl dies of electrocution – so poignant. At the same time, Jim will set the Shortbox going. Now that’s spectacular, all sorts of bangs and fizzes and sparks. The parents will be horrified, assume it’s something that the little girl has done and the ‘little people’ inside the box will be forgotten. You go take a seat. We will be back to normal in 30 minutes.’

‘Gosh that’s clever. 

‘Not really. Anyway, it’s a losing battle.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘We’ll soon have to find a new way of making ourselves useful. Flat screen TVs will make us redundant. Still there’s no reason to worry.’

‘No?’

‘Have you heard about AI? Those humans think they’ll have invented robots to look just like themselves in the next ten years. And guess who’ll be inside those metal carcasses?’

‘Goodness, I didn’t know.’

‘Yep, very hush hush. Though, word to the wise. If they make them exact replicas you might want to specialise, sooner than later. Stay away from anything to do with the bowels.’

This is is response to Esther Chilton’s  prompt I Challenge You…

Posted in miscellany | 17 Comments

Bridging The Gap #walking #london #thames

It’s been so hot and dry in London for over 2 months that my regular walks with Dog have been curtailed. He’s not been happy.

Wednesday was different. Clouds had rolled in, a breeze had been evident and a front was somewhere over the horizon.

‘Shall we go for a long one?’

It doesn’t take much, you know.

There are several parks on route. This one is near Wandsworth

I’d read about an organised walk which, sadly is fixed for a Saturday when I’m away which starts at Putney and follows the Thames eastwards crossing every bridge until they run out at Tower Bridge (Oh all right, there’s the QE Bridge in Dartford but that’s not for pedestrians, leaving aside it’s several miles away).

Putney Church, ready to be recycled…

This bridge zigzag in 25 kilometres and had a lot to recommend it.

First up, Putney Bridge and the first of many ornamental street lights

’So,’ I asked having explained the plan, ‘that Ok?’

On the base of the lights there were these shields.

‘You have water?’

Tick.

Putney Bridge with an iconic London Bus

‘Biscuits?’

‘Tick.’

The footbridge by the tube; there were three, and this made second spot

That’s alright then.

As you wander towards Wandsworth Bridge you cross Bell Creek…

… and then the Wandle one of the nicest tributaries that flows into the Thames

London’s bridges span (ha!) many generations. Those not built in the period 1950 – 1990 (these are concrete lumps with little adornment) have a lot to recommend them especially in the way of the street lighting.

Westminister Bridge’s lighting is, not surprisingly, pretty impressive

The Victorians, Edwardians and early Georgians understood the importance of twiddly bits. When did we lose the urge to adorn?

Wandsworth Bridge is pretty functional, as the street lighting shows. When it was built it was surrounded by industrial units and the Fullers Brewery but these days the area is more posh-residential…

The Thames is tidal all the length of this walk. On a few occasions with the tide being out I saw people on the little beaches that appear.

I’m photobombed by a crow! Though at least no one was paddling…

In one case a retriever was gambolling in the water. I hope its owner knows about the quantity of sewerage that gets released into the river, pending the completion of the new mega sewer currently being drilled beneath our feet. It’s an odd thought, that – 90 metres down below me an enormous tunnel is being drilled the length of the section I was walking.

Battersea Bridge… nice lights!

Simple but effective…

Mundane and super modern separated by the distance of a football pitch. Glad you can’t feel it.

Even the embankment lighting is stunning…

And then there’s Albert Bridge… sigh!

And Chelsea Bridge, after Battersea Park… It’s very photogenic and see those lights…

They’re like some sort of Pythonesque guard…

The rhythms of such a walk are upset by three things, broadly speaking. One is the need to cross roads, while London’s traffic grinds its way hither and yon. Two is other people most noticeably when we reached Lambeth Bridge just before The Houses of Parliament as tourists were out in force. These groups pretty much disappeared at Southwark bridge only to pop back at the Southbank by HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge.

Three, statues. London must be the plinth capital, surely.

Every corner there seems to be some one whose past is still celebrated in stone or bronze. Thomas More stands -sits- like an extra from a film, overlooking Embankment Gardens near to a water fountain memorialising an obscure judge who presided over the huddle masses of what used to be Madras.

Tom Carlisle – a bit of a scribe

This memorialises Hans Sloane a noted 18th century collector whose collection was bought by the nation and formed the basis of the Natural History Museum.

There are three footbridges over the Thames. The first lies alongside the tube line the comes out from Putney running a neat parallel to Putney Bridge itself (see piccy above). It’s an old iron rattly thing that has served its purpose for many years – not pretty not classy just effective.

Millennium Bridge, much chunkier than planned…

…but the views down river from the Millennium Bridge are rather splendid.

The second is the grandly named Millennium Bridge which opened to much fanfare in 2000, wobbled disconcertingly because of the circa 200,000 people or some such who wanted to use it all at once and was closed for 2 years while the designing engineers scratched their beards, added a load more ballast that made it look like state-of-the-art gubbins and reopened to no fanfare whatsoever. The concept was a slim construction which you would barely see; the result was this clunky compromise of tubes and wiring.

Simple…

…and effective

The third, also planned for the Millennium sits alongside Hungerford Bridge, another railway line, this one into Charing Cross Station. This replaced an ugly walkway, infamous for the poor tramp tossed over the parapet by drunken thugs and being, reputedly, the longest single urinal in Europe. It is simple, elegant and arrived on time. Why is it that we cock up the ones with the most publicity? Or is it that the cock ups get the most publicity? I know what I prefer.

Sorry, random shot of Battersea Power Station… a post in its own right… back to the bridges…

Vauxhall…

And a statue.. agriculture I think

If you did a poll of people’s preferences, asking which bridge is their fav, you’d end up – probably – with Albert Bridge winning. It’s dainty with a sort of Disney charm but that’s to damn it, I suppose. I like it, sure…

Lambeth

And its lights, type one

Which is better than type two, a real 1930s chunk..

Lovers of concrete would tick Waterloo’s box, while Chelsea Bridge has probably the most iconic lights and is the grandest.

Westminster Bridge isn’t the fancy Dan crossing you’d expect… well apart from the lights. They’re cool…

And the little park by the House Of Commons, that is cute too…

The statue here is cool too. Emmeline Pankhurst the suffragette. Wearing the famous ribbons. 2018 is the 100th anniversary of votes for women. Something good eh?

Me, I think I prefer Vauxhall. It’s more bridge that design statement but the buttresses are adorned by caryatids – more statues – which is a ludicrous indulgence for something whose utility lies in going across it, not looking at it. These statues were the result of artistic pressure to give the bridge ‘meaning’ and two men, Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy were commissioned, each to design four statues to sit on the up and down stream buttresses respectively. Variously they represent Pottery, Science, Agriculture and so on. But critics then as today weren’t happy.  Siting them so they sat below parapet level, it was said, meant the only people capable of enjoying them were the ferrymen and lighters who plied their trade on the river. Or the old bloke and his dog out for a walk. Not intellectual enough for the audience.

Waterloo – its functional. And that’s all I’m saying…

Though the views from Waterloo of the City (left) and the South Bank (ahead, The Shard on the distance) are grand

Its easy to be seduced into thinking that a riverside walk is on the level and, yes, mostly it is.

Blackfriars railway bridge and the old supports for the now defunct Chatham railway

Thought the kept the rather grand embellishment – the Victorians didn’t go for modest, did they?

But bridges, especially ones designed to let boats go beneath have to be raised. There are slopes and steps which, by the end of the day. begin to pall. Why, I pondered did I follow the route proposed for the organised walk where each bridge was crossed?

Southwark Bridge – only two left and this is another one that is not given its due. I like these lights..

they aren’t ridiculous statements – they do what they are needed to do but they aren’t bland either – just right

 

Dog felt much the same. We were both tired – we’d not done this sort of distance for a couple of months – and we skipped crossing Tower Bridge at the end. I don’t think anyone noticed.

Eh, Dog?

Tower Bridge – everyone knows this one…

and London Bridge … no one want to know this one. The old one was sold to some bemused Americans who thought they were getting Tower Bridge. Somehow one gets the impression, were that true, then their due diligence might have been shite… probably a myth https://www.citymetric.com/skylines/was-american-really-conned-buying-wrong-london-bridge-1162

Posted in London, miscellany, walking | Tagged , , , | 53 Comments

If You Go Down To The Woods #carrotranch #flashfiction

Carrot Ranch prompt this week is…

August 9, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

‘You can’t see the woods for the trees, eh?’

‘That’s another stupid expression. All I was saying was I saw something in there.’

‘Ghost? Phantasm?’

‘Seriously, it was alive.’

‘Ent? Tree-sprite?’

‘It could be that weirdo.’

‘Any specific weirdo?’

‘I’m going home.’

‘Don’t be a wuss, Morgan. Probably a deer.’

‘Or a lion.’

‘In Surrey?’

‘You know they say a tree makes no sound if there’s no one to hear it when it falls. Do you think you can see a lion if you’re not there when it appears?’

‘You’re a moron as well as a coward, Morgan.’

Posted in carrot ranch, flash fiction | Tagged , , | 23 Comments