Finding Our Inner Hero. #carrotranch #creativewriting #morganandlogan

This week’s #carrotranch prompt is

April 8, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that “rethinks the hero.” Define the hero, comparing or contrasting to the classic definition. Break the mold. What happens to the hero in the cave? Is it epic or everyday? Is there resistance or acceptance? Go where the prompt leads!

‘That was intense.’

‘Another course, Morgan?’

‘Yeah. “Live your own hero.”’

‘Are you?’

‘Me? Not even in my own lunchtime.’

‘You’ve time.’

‘Thanks. You ever been a hero, Logan.’

‘Not knowingly. Though there was Mr Patel.’

‘Mr Patel?’

‘Ran the corner shop. Called me: “my little hero”.’

‘Why?’

‘I saved his shop from being robbed.’

‘Wow.’

‘Not really. This bloke told him to give him the till. I distracted him and Mr Patel hit him with the takings.’

‘How old were you?’

‘Seven.’

‘What did you do?’

‘Fart.’

‘That would do it. You found the hero inside yourself…’

‘Thanks.’

Posted in carrot ranch, creative writing, flash fiction, humour, miscellany, morgan and logan | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Going Rogue #writephoto #prompt

This weeks #writephoto prompt is….

‘Listen up ladies. This is…’

‘As I was saying Doris, we should…’

‘Excuse me, but I was talking.’

The lamb glared at the two recumbent sheep. The older one, if her grey eyes meant anything sniffed and went on, ‘make time for a cud and chat after we’ve popped…’

‘I SAID…’ the lamb stopped abruptly as the second sheep stood with a speed that defied both gravity and her gravid condition.

‘Young’un. When Doris Cloverleaf wants to interrupt, then she interrupts.’ Cloris Daisychain chewed as she spoke, her worn teeth glinting with just a hint of menace.

‘Sorry, it’s just… I was told I had to give you all a message.’ The lamb skipped and then looked at his feet as if surprised what had happened.

Doris stood and groaned. ‘I’m about to pop. Go on, Young’un. What’s the message?’

The lamb had begun to shake each foot.

Cloris gave him a head nudge. ‘It’s normal. You’ll skip whether you want to or not. Now, we girls have an appointment with a long rubber glove so if you wouldn’t mind giving us the message.’

The lamb kept his eyes on his feet. He felt like he might gambol at any moment and he knew he had to resist the urge. ‘Yes, right. The message.’ He coughed and lowered his voice as far as he could, which wasn’t very far and made him sound like a chorister who’d been at the helium again. ‘The sun will rise and you will be victorious.’ He risked a quick glance round, before returning to his hooves to see if he’d triggered any reaction.

Doris exchanged a look with Cloris and then the other groaning mothers. ‘Is that it?’ She shook her head. ‘What’s it even mean?’ She gave the lamb a kick causing him to begin jumping.

‘Oh yes. You’re to listen to the tape.’

‘What tape?’

Bonny Wildflower tapped a large red plastic cassette partly hidden by the hay. ‘I think he means this.’

The sheep moved to stand around it, ignoring the pogoing lamb.

‘Do you know how to turn it…?’

Cloris never finished as the lamb flew over their heads, landed on the large but mostly obscured play button and set the tape playing. A sonorous bleating emerged from yet more hay. ‘The time has arrived, my people, for we ovine masses to stop being sheep and lead rather than follow.’

Something implanted in the heads of the first sheep millennia before switched to on at the sound of the voice. The mothers began to swing their heads. Two found themselves rising onto their back legs and the rest followed.

The voice continued. ‘Shake off your shackles!’

Cloris looked at Doris. ‘Shackles?’

‘Your fleece. You need to self-shear,’ she hissed, her eyes never leaving the tape.

The instructions poured fourth. Inspired, and now woolless, Cloris and Doris began to wobble unsteadily towards the gates. In doing so, their waters broke, as did the remaining mothers’. In moments the shepherd and her helpers were in the pen, helping with the flood of births. One teenager picked up the cassette, gave it the once over and tossed it into a heap of sheep poo.

An hour later, the new mothers and their offspring stood together in the watery spring sunshine, ruminating as they chewed. ‘He’s not very happy.’ Cloris swung her head towards the lamb who stood in the corner of the field, trying to stay on the ground.

‘No one ever enjoyed failing to trigger a revolution.’

‘Poor lamb.’

‘He told me he even had a script prepared for the press once we were in charge.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes. He was going to give them their headlines, once he’d explained how we’d been programmed by aliens to take over the world.’

‘He’s very precocious. What was it?’

‘The Sheep Hers Awake.’

‘Is that the best he can do?’

‘He blames the writer. Apparently they weren’t paying top dollar’

Conversation faded as their new off springs attacked their teats with a brutal relish. For the inhabitants of Home Farm, life remained much the same as before. Well, apart from the teenager who’d thrown the cassette into the crap; he was reprimanded for failing to recycle the plastic waste properly.

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Fowl Deeds #blogbattle #prompt #creativewriting

This month’s #blogbattle prompt is ‘owl’ and this is what came to mind

‘West Worple Police Station, Sergeant Haematoma speaking.’

‘Is that the Police?’

Rhinegold Haematoma sighed. Why did callers not understand what a police station was for? ‘Yes madam, this is…’

‘It’s Ms.’

‘Ms?’

‘Do you have a problem with that?’

‘No, not at…’

‘Is my diction not clear?’

‘Not at all. It’s…’

‘So what is your issue with my titling myself Ms?’

Oh cripes, thought Rhinegold. He could already sense the complaint, the inquiry, the inconclusive outcome, the unsatisfactory informal recommendation, the sensitivity training… and all before morning coffee. ‘How can we assist you, Ms?’

‘I’ve been the subject of unwelcome attention.’

‘You’ve come to the right place.’ Oh heck, that didn’t come out right. ‘I mean, we don’t provide unwanted attention…’ Rhinegold giggled and then swallowed. Shut up, fool. ‘Perhaps you’d tell me what’s happened and we can see what we can do.’

‘It’s not the first time.’ The woman bristled and shook herself.

‘Ah. Well, I understand this might be difficult and…’

‘You’d expect better, wouldn’t you? Given their reputation.’

‘I…’

‘They’re meant to be clever, aren’t they? Known for their wisdom.’

‘In my experience, Ms, education is no guide to someone’s moral compass.’

‘Education?’

‘You said he was clever. Wise. I thought he…’

‘They’re not a he.’

‘No?’

‘No, of course not. What made you think that?’

‘It’s usual, that’s all.’

‘Is it? I suppose that’s why you’re in the police. You can tell those sorts of things.’

Rhinegold scratched his chin. Bit of a weirdy, this one. Still, he’d dealt with worse. The clown, for instance. He shuddered at the memory of those oversized shoes. ‘Shall we start with your name, Ms?’

‘Birdy Neste.’

Oh great. A wacko. ‘And do you prefer Birdy or Ms Neste.’

‘Depends who it is.’

‘Of course, Ms Neste. And do you know who is giving you their unwanted attention?’

‘Well, no but I know where they live.’

‘That’s helpful. And can you also give us a description?’

‘They all look the same, don’t they?’

Silently ignoring the little voice that screamed bigot, while acknowledging he often had that problem with the people who served in the Chinese takeaway, he forced his voice to stay even, ‘any little detail would help. Colour of their hair. Eyes….’

‘Orange. Definitely orange.’

Rhinegold straightened up. She wasn’t a weirdy wacko. No, this one was taking the wotsit. ‘I’m sorry Ms but people don’t have orange eyes.’

There was a pause that headed for an awkward silence. Briefly Rhinegold wondered if she’d rung off, when….

‘People? Who mentioned people?’

‘You said you had had unwanted attention and…’

‘It was an owl.’

‘An owl?’

‘An eagle owl. Big brute. Orange, maybe amber eyes. White. Well, ish. Wherever I went it kept staring at me. Gave me the willies.’

‘You’re worried about an owl watching you.’

‘Well, obviously it’s not the first time.’

‘This owl, or maybe other owls have been watching you?’ He knew he should stop. Threaten her with wasting police time, but there was something rather compelling about this one.’

‘No, this is the first owl.’

‘But you said…’

‘They were different types. A heron, last Thursday after I had highlights done, and those two sparrows who followed me home from bingo. Before that there have been a club footed pigeon who sat on my windowsill for weeks, an albino nuthatch that had this creepy way of pecking that made my nethers itch… but the owl. This one is predatory.’

Under his breath Rhinegold whispered, ‘All owls are predators, you s…’

‘Yes, I know their biology, thank you Constable.’

‘It’s sergeant, Ms.’ He took a breath. ‘I’m not sure we’re set up for this sort of issue.’

‘I pay taxes. Rates. I expect some protection. I mean, we all know it starts with a few looks. Then it’s the whistling.’

‘I think you’ll find that’s what birds do, Ms. They whistle.’

‘Easy for you to say as a man. You don’t know what it’s like having these bird pervs…’

‘Bird pervs?’

‘They fill my garden all the bloody time. And if I annoy them, it’s a dirty protest. That has to be illegal, doesn’t it? Throwing faeces at me.’

‘It would be if it was a human, Ms.’

‘Well it’s about time you took it… oh it’s back.’ The woman screamed and there was sounds of what could only be described as a kerfuffle.

‘Ms? Are you there? Are you okay?’

The screaming and what sounded like flapping continued. Rhinegold picked up the other phone. ‘Janice, it’s Reg. I’m on an outside call. Can we trace it? Sure.’ While he waited and listened to the squawking, screaming and contrafabulation, he doodled a large albatross staring at a tiny world. A voice brought him out of his vivid if essentially disquieting dream. ‘You’ve got it? Great. Can you get a Patrol car there? Tell them a woman is having some trouble with a stalker.’ He grinned to himself. Let someone else deal with the fruitcake. ‘Oh and Janice? Make it clear, that above all else, who’ve takes the job must not – and this is very important – they must not make a tit of themselves.’

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Ups And Downs #shortstory

Sergio Pontus took his job as hangman seriously though he preferred ‘final dispatcher’ as his sobriquet. His own knot, known as the ‘Sergio Slip’ earned plaudits for being easy to make, comfortable to wear with minimal abrasions and quick to remove. He prided himself on his traps, which endured a squeak-free, anti-clanking end.
His children bought him, for the tenth anniversary of his first drop, a nylon-hemp rope with gold thread detailing. He could often be found, during those last tense moments, as hopes of final appeals expired, explaining how the inclusion of the hemp gave a satisfying snap to a hanging while the nylon avoided any unsavoury tickling for the tardy whose necks were more robust than the average.
If the delays stretched from the mere unkind towards the unconscionable he would add that, on sunny days the golden sinews gave the scene a sparkle redolent of Ely cathedral.
For those deemed special, whose residence in cell 42 – an ironic allusion to The Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything – Sergio offered his extras. Favourites included ‘The Final Countdown’ where the prisoner chose a number to represent the exact minute of their drop, and Hangman’s hangman where Sergio always started with ‘pardon’ in one of a variety of obscure dialects, certain that his guests would be sure not to get one. How they laughed.
When, finally the death penalty was abolished, Sergio dismantled the gallows and took them home to his Surbiton semi. He grew sweat peas up his rope and turned the wooden base into novelty decking with the trap giving access to a small dark pond that was home to a carp called Preston. The gallows became a rose arbour and the hood a cover for forcing his early rhubarb. He was content.

Posted in creative writing, flash fiction | Tagged , | 18 Comments

The Art Of Carrot Cake #food #tategallery

I’m lucky enough to be a member of the Tate Galleries though in these Covidy restricted times it’s months since I could visit. Still, as a member they try and keep us informed and in the loop.

In the latest email they included the recipe for their everso delicious carrot cake and since I couldn’t have it at the Tate, I went for second best and made one. It was delicious

This is the recipe, hopefully enhanced by some of my images….

You will need 1 x 20cm/8-inch springform cake tin.

Ingredients

200 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp fine sea salt


Put these in a bowl together…

175 g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
200 ml vegetable oil, more for greasing

Ditto the oil, sugar and eggs and mix thoroughly…

Add the dry to the wet…

Mix again…

Take the final ingredients…

200 g carrots peeled and coarsely grated
100 g walnut pieces roughly chopped

Fold into the mix

Put in the oiled and lined, if you like, tin, level and baked for 45-55 minutes at 170C

It comes out like the above.

There’s a rather sweet topping which I don’t normally go for in a big way but I’ve included the ingredients and the (full) method below. Dead simple and delicious.

For the Icing:

100 g unsalted butter softened
100 g icing sugar
1 tsp cornflour
100 g full-fat cream cheese -fridge-cold

To Decorate:

25 g walnut pieces (roughly chopped or crumbled)
25 g crystallised ginger (chopped)

Method:

1.        Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C Fan. Grease the sides and line the base of your cake tin with baking parchment.

2.      Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and salt into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

3.      Beat the sugar, eggs and oil in another large bowl until they are completely mixed, then gradually add the flour mixture.

4.      Beat in the carrots and then fold in the 100g of prepared walnuts until everything is evenly combined.

5.      Spoon and scrape into the prepared tin. Smooth the top put in the oven for 45–55 minutes. 

6.      For the icing: Beat the butter and icing sugar together and when creamily combined, beat in the cornflour, followed by half the cream cheese. Once that’s incorporated, beat in the remaining half. Cover and refrigerate.

7.      When the cake is completely cold, take the icing out of the fridge for about 20 minutes, beat briefly and make sure the icing is smooth. Spread the frosting on top of the cake, swirling it a little, then sprinkle the chopped walnuts and crystallised ginger.

Posted in baking, food, miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

Moving On #carrotranch #morganandlogan #creativewriting

This week’s #carrotranch prompt is

April 1 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from any source. Who is going where and why. What makes it swift? Go where the prompt leads!

‘I don’t think I was meant to drink water, Logan.’

‘Is this another of your woke mindfulness bollockoids, Morgan? You only drink kale and compassion smoothies for a peaceful inner being.’

‘You can scoff…’

‘My scoffing is a thing of beauty…’

‘Indeed. My point is that every time the water changes, my stomach rebels.’

‘TMI, old chap.’

‘This time it’s constipation…’

‘You really do over-share, don’t you? But, as a friend, I will make you my great aunt’s cure-all. Try this.’

‘Will it loosen me?’

‘It can’t promise you a comfortable passage, but it will be swift…’

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Lawn magic

Whatever the gardening royalty say about a lawn being herbaceous abuse, I’m still rather wedded to my sward. This year, with a wedding to be set on it, I’d rather like it to be the best it can be.

With this in mind, the current Easter weekend has seen the Lad (actually he’s a highly experienced gardener who’s something of a lawn guru, but hey, age counts for something, doesn’t it?” and me prepping and primping the lawn so it has the best chance to be as good as it can be come August.

This operation takes place twice a year, April and October and the spring event comprises:

a cut

a scarify

another cut

an hollow-tined aerate

a raking

a covering with top dressing

seeding (which you can’t really see). A billion micro clover seeds went down this year or something ludicrous…

In two or three weeks, when the new grass has germinated we will roll.

It now looks a bit of a mess, especially the two smaller sections but a bot of rain or watering and it’ll soon look peachy.

Thanks to the Lad and Dog, natch…

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A Poem For A Modern Tragedy

I’m over at Esther Chilton’s blog, here, with a rather sombre poem… please go and say hi.

I wrote this after I listened to actress, Ruthie Henschell describing being allowed to visit and hold her mother one year after lockdown started and how her mother is now speechless and incapable of walking, all lost during her enforced isolation; a cruel death-in-life.

I’ve lost you to Covid.

In March we held hands. Shared memories and chocolates.

They closed the doors and the sun shone on the empty windows.

Your smile faded, like a slow sunset

Angry reds and bruised purples.

Others died and we maintained our unsocial distance.

Summer arrived, bringing hope and a new window,

The only rain battering it our tears as it stayed shut.

We locked gazes but we saw reflections of ourselves,

Just absences.

Our words drifted against the glass, familiar phrases beating that pane,

Deadened, turning you wordless.

Autumn’s bronzes set hard,

You sculpted yourself in your familiar seat

So still, breathing your silent despair.

Untouched.

We left winter’s bleak void for another hope:

A vaccine.

A new opening. A new promise.

Test, temperature and there you were.

I held you, those so familiar bony shoulders, tangy scent, that little scar.

But you’d gone, you’d left the building of your body.

A living breathing husk,

Mummyfied.

Saved by science, killed by kindness.

We shared treats but only I have the memories

And no one to share them with.

Posted in miscellany, poems, poetry | Tagged , , | 34 Comments

Memorials And Memories #thoughts

Back in 2014 there was a memorial at the Tower of London, with ceramic poppies, one for each Commonwealth casualty during WW1. It was memorable and very moving, especially when they read out my great uncle Willie Dyson’s name and sounded the last post.

It needs a major tragedy with many hundreds, or thousands impacted for such things really to resonate but the skill comes in making the memorial both breathtaking in its sweep and intrinsically human in its representation of each loss. The planting of a garden of ceramic poppies achieved just that.

Right now we are experiencing a similar National – international but forgive me my parochial thinking – tragedy with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in the UK we have had a bad time, with the highest per capita deaths of all the larger nations. Today the death toll stands north of 125000. That is a lot of bereaved families.

I don’t know who thought of it, but a memorial wall has been started. On the Thames, here in London, there is a sunken footpath between the embankment and one of our best teaching hospitals, St Thomas’ where Boris Johnson our PM was treated in intensive care and probably had his life saved, as have many others. Between river and hospital is a Portland stone wall, almost certainly Victorian. Just a wall which happens to face the Houses of Parliament.

That humble simple façade is now being covered in hearts, one for each death. Some are purple, some have names but most are simple red hearts, as anonymous as a poppy yet speaking of a life lost, someone loved and now gone. There’s a sense of scale, a way of better imagining what 120000 deaths look like, but, step closer and this is not a number but a conglomeration of distress, of lives brutalised by something so small that it is bigger than all of us.

I hope it stays. We need to remember so much. The people of course. The way we might learn to be better for the (inevitable) next time. But also it tells us to stay humble. We’ve been humbled by this microbe.

If this wall needs a title I’d suggest

Don’t Fuck With Nature

But maybe someone can think of something more apposite.

And because I’m not one to stay gloomy or grim for too long, here are some pictures of our trip and Dog who kept me company.

Posted in London, miscellany, thought piece, visits | Tagged , , , , , , | 58 Comments

More Haste #writephoto #prompt #humour #creativesriting

This week’s #writephoto prompt is

‘Is this doping control, Bunny?’

‘Yes, and stop calling me bunny.’

‘Yeah, whatever.’

There was a pause while Cony Thumper and Terry Terapin eyed each other. ‘I won you know.’

‘You crossed the line first.’

‘Same difference.’

Cony stretched up onto his hind legs and eyed the Testudinidae with distaste. ‘It’s my title, you overblown snail.’

‘I think you’ll find they have my name at the top of the board, oh floppy eared stew filler.’

Terry pointed at the line of booths currently occupied by other athletes giving urine samples. ‘I think everything will become clear when we’ve been tested.’

‘Yeah. It’ll prove you just a big footed rodent.’

‘It’ll prove you were doping.’

‘It’ll prove you’re a dope, that I’ll give you.’

Another pause and Cony was called forward. Moments later Terry followed into the next booth. ‘Oh for pity’s sake…’ Terry sounded ready to explode. ‘They’ll get no sample from me.’

Cony hopped back, a grin, punctuated by two huge incisors splitting his face. ‘Ha! So you’re scared of what they’ll find eh?’ He hefted up his shorts, wiggling them over his especially fluffed tail and stepped around the partition, preparing to Lord it over the shellacked cheat. Instead his jaw dropped as he saw his adversary looking up at the stand.

Terry shrugged. ‘They’re not set up for amphibians. You couldn’t…?’ He nodded up at the stand.

Cony stepped back. ‘You are kidding me.’

Terry shrugged. ‘If I can’t give a sample for a legitimate reason, I win. Up to you, fluffins.’

Cony ground his teeth, before reaching down. While he dangled Terry over the jar, a white coated official rushed over. ‘What are you doing?’

‘What’s it look like,’ growled Cony. ‘Helping this walking rock give a sample.’

The official blanched and hurried away. Terry and Cony watched as he joined a group of other officials who began a heated conversation.

‘Not sure that helped,’ said Terry.

‘I was only telling the truth,’ replied Cony. But he too could see the way the wind was blowing.

An hour later, as Terry and Cony changed they heard the official announcement of the winner – a Toad – which was followed by, ‘and the judges have agreed that, due to doping irregularities, both the hare and the tortoise have been disqualified.’

‘Drink?’ Offered Terry.

‘Don’t mind if I do,’ replied Cony.

The two runners made for the athletes’ bar. ‘You think there’s a moral to this story?’ Asked Cony.

‘Nah, mate,’ replied Terry, ‘unless it’s you should never take part in a fable where you’re caught out by having too much speed.’

‘I thought you said you’d not taken any drugs.’

‘You’ll never know now, will you? Oh cripes, here comes the press. Shall we go and hide in that bush? Though you’ll have to pretend to be a rabbit.’

‘I told you, I am not a bloody bunny.’

‘Whatever. Put on these shades and we’ll be fine.’

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments