Life is cheap #writephoto

Sue Vincent’s prompt this week is this

Tunnel Vision

 Liam Trevor felt embarrassed. The Times wanted to interview him. Sky News had one of their top reporters on her way to speak to him. And the BBC had indicated there would be a slot on Panorama for his story.

He felt a fraud. ‘The man who escaped death’ ‘The Human Cat’ ‘Bungy Boy’. He was just lucky. Ok, so not many walked away from air crashes, especially when everyone else died. And falling 14 stories was always fatal unless you were lucky enough to fall into a truck full of cardboard boxes.

He also worried that there might be more to it. That was worse than being lucky. What if he was special? What if that woman, the old seer, was right and he had been charmed as she said he would be. If it was true, if he couldn’t die before he was 30 then he could make some real money.

He had an hour before the first interview. If he was going to milk this he had to know.

Did he have the guts to find out?

He shuffled forward and peered down the Chimney, a twenty metre fissure in the hillside. Light reflected back at him from the river that ran at the bottom. Just jump. That’s all. Trust to this charm. In his head he heard the Crone’s cackle. ‘Yer need balls, boy.’

Balls? He needed something a bit bigger, something to land on.

The voice came again. ‘Go on. Get on with it. If you dare.’

Another voice. His late father. ‘I believe in you, son.’

Liam paused then tipped forward. He just hoped it wouldn’t hurt too much.

Unbeknownst to Liam a small group including a film crew watched as he disappeared into the hole.

Seconds later he reappeared, sprung from the shaft as if he had face planted a trampoline. People ran forward calling out his name as they helped him to his feet. Someone tossed a stone into the well. Several seconds passed before a splash was heard followed by a cheer. The reporter took Liam’s arm and led him to one side. He noted the shocked look on Liam’s face. ‘So, Liam Trevor, tell our readers what you’re thinking?’

Liam shook his head. He knew they wanted something about his fame, the inevitable wealth but all Liam could think about were the old woman’s words:

Nothing can kill you until you are 30

  1. That was going to be one shitty birthday.


Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

History Repeats #microcosms #flashfiction

This is based on the latest Microcosms prompt – a 300 word story incorporating these elements

National Park, Day Tripper, Thriller

‘Hey Bud. Can you get this one?’ Jimmy headed for the men’s room.
The car was a classic, Gran Torino. The driver wound down his window ‘What gives, fella?’
Bud tugged at the sweat patches on his shirt. ‘Park’s on lock down. Some crazy at the visitor centre.’
The driver had a sharp smile. Bud thought ‘matinee idol’ and shook his head. Mabel would have liked him. ‘You need to turn round.’
The driver seemed in no hurry. ‘Like ‘74?’
Bud frowned, glancing at Jimmy. Young’un always teased him if he mentioned the siege of ‘74.
‘I heard one of you Rangers was the hero that day.’
Him. Bud. Took a bullet though not a hero. Shut in the John, wetting himself. Ran out covered in blood, thought he was dying and clattered the perp by accident.
‘Ancient history.’ Bud adjusted his glasses. ‘Bit young to remember that, ain’t you?’
‘You not heard the news? Guy who did it, he got out. You guys think he’s back to finish it off?’
‘It?’ Bud wished he’d just leave.
‘I heard he had a grudge, you know?’ The driver pulled off a glove. The back of his hand was covered in a tattoo.
Bud wondered why it was familiar. ‘Yeah, so he claimed. He was just a nutter.’
There was a movement behind the driver’s mirror shades, like he blinked or something. He said, ‘He thought there never should have been a park here, on sacred land.’ He turned to look into the park. ‘Probably.’
Bud was suddenly conscious everywhere was quiet. Jimmy had disappeared, too. The driver’s hand covered Bud’s. A gun pointed up at Bud from the driver’s lap. ‘My daddy never forgot you, Bud. What you did. Time I introduced you properly and we finished what he started.’

Posted in creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany, prompt | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

The Urge to Splurge #affluenza

Affluenza (n) a portmanteau word fusing affluence and influenza and meaning a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

I wrote recently about my weight loss over the last year. On the whole this has been a good thing in terms of health but I did note a few negatives, one of which was the changed shape meant perfectly sound clothes no longer fitted me. In the case of trousers and shorts, especially, this led to an uncomfortable bunching around the equatorial regions, necessitating a few new purchases.

But it didn’t stop there. As a wise man once hypothesised (French philosopher, Diderot in his essay ‘Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown’) if you upgrade one element the rest seems so shabby so a cycle of spending results. T shirts and collared shirts were next, the former baggy large sizes hanging 0ff me like a renegade Glastonbury tent billowing in the breeze. Jackets sloped off the shoulders rendering years in gym work (ahem) redundant in a surfeit of linen. Even pullovers appeared to have developed the urge to suggest I was gender bending somewhat with a new taste in A line knitwear.

When did the needs become desires wrapped up as needs? As a species, especially in the west, we have been over consuming since the baby boomers settled to their task to rid the world of any post WW2 blues. International stability, whether through a balance of terror keeping nations apart or a growing global consensus that mutual mass destruction really doesn’t cut it, has created a climate where we seem to have more so need more. If you are regularly fighting for your very existence as now happens mostly outside of the west, buying the latest must have isn’t high on your list.

Chasing what the next class up has, has given way to chasing the next celebrity must have, which is never better exemplified by the mobile phone. How many bloody upgrades do we need? It is a matter of time before the telephony tyrants offer us optional phone connectivity on our hand-helds, so overwhelming are the apps and ways we can link up. Seeing an iPhone and all it can do reminds me of the first washing machine I bought in 1982. Even back then I pondered the need for 21 settings. Over its 10 years of life we used 3, maybe 4. Now my phone does so much that I don’t need and often can’t understand anyway and the next one promises… we’ll actually just more of the same with some bells and whistles I don’t need except I’m told I must have it.

I do not want any more upgrades. If the screen cracks I want it repaired. Ditto if the charging point becomes dodge. Why can’t I have a battery that is replaceable when it is tired of life and wants time in a caesium rest home? Did you know Apple was taken to court for blocking phones that the owners had sought to have repaired in non Apple stores? WTF? Their reasoning? To protect the consumer from dodgy upgrades.

I stood in front of a mirror, rather saddened that one of my favoured T shirts made me look shapeless. And then reality stepped in. I’m 60. It’s me who is shapeless, not the T shirt. My elbows, once pert curves over which Fibonacci would have purred because of their perfection just cried out for a new equation, have slumped into little purses of puckered skin. Where is the point in buying more stuff to create a superficial impression of health and well being when my natural covering is that of the deflated balloon kind?

No, that isn’t the answer. I have a far better idea. Since the Lawyer is working abroad until October and has had to leave nearly all his clothes behind and since I happen to have shrunk to fit his sizes, I merely need to open a couple of cardboard cartoons…

Tommy Hilfiger anyone? Continue reading

Posted in humour, miscellany, thought piece | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments

Hunting the Inca: Part 4, Puno and Lake Titicaca #peru #travel

For those following our travels in Peru in the autumn of 1987, you may wonder where we have got to. I suppose, after the tranquillity of Arequipa which we visited here it was inevitable that we would find another gear as we left to head for the Bolivian border and Lake Titicaca. What a splendid name that is, combining a smutty expression with slang French; the school boy in me couldn’t believe such a  place might exist and, at some level, I wanted to see it in much the same way as I wanted to see Piddle Trenthide in Dorset.

In fact things didn’t get perky for a while as we stayed in the lakeside town of Puno which is memorable for being unmemorable. The lake is the border with Bolivia and is, at 12,500 feet above sea level, the highest navigable lake in the world. I suppose giving up geography at 12 I find these statistics awesome. I mean why doesn’t it drain away, if it’s so high? Surely there’s a crack somewhere? I remember going to Fraser Island off the coast of Australia and being told it was made of sand. Then we saw Lake MacDonald and thought: water on top of sand… erm, how come? Is this another dastardly Aussi plan to confuse the pommie? It certainly left me wondering.

Anyway, as I was left to me confusion, we settled into a hotel and rested up. Travelling was tiring hereabouts. The thing that made a difference, though, was that we had been in Peru for a week and by now spent a significant amount of time at altitude. My teeth had settled and I was no longer squeezing mango slices between my incisors. Solid progress with solid food.

We had a full day in Puno mostly planned around a boat trip on the lake to visit the man-made reed islands. These are world renowned and inhabited still by the Uros Indians who make them from the reeds on the shoreline and then add to them to stop them sinking as the lower reeds rot.

It’s an odd experience, stepping off a boat and sinking into the matting. In places water seeps through to your shoes and the mind says ‘come on, find land, you moron’ while the guides and the locals all smile and encourage you to step further away from the boats.

It was fascinating, meeting these short squat people, wrapped in shawls with their curious round rimmed bowler hats and stunning clashing colours and their simple woven homes, like human weaver birds. But soon enough the choreographed nature of the tourist visit began to jar. The guides, educated and English speaking corralled a group of women and children who sat creating small pieces of basketry and toys. They waited until a sign and then laid them out for our inspection.

Part of me wanted to help by spending but the money goes to the intermediary and I knew that the cut for the women would be paltry. I offered a note to one who looked askance and offered me a knitted something. The unspoken rules meant my charity was to be channelled and my guilt, which is a constant in these sorts of set pieces, was not assuaged. These folks are as on display as any museum exhibit, a sort of living diorama for my Western eyes. Some argue that without the money I might input their lives would be deeply ingrained into desperate poverty but is the solution this form of economic circus act?

Later I looked at our purchases, meagre things that we neither needed nor, frankly wanted but if we’d not bought them how much more guilty would I feel? I had paid to be complicit and knew no way out.

The next morning there was a palpable excitement at breakfast. Our group had gelled reasonably well given the disparity in ages and expectations – though the estate agent had a thing about lawyers and wouldn’t stop niggling at me to justify why my profession was full of intransigent bigheads; it didn’t help that I agreed with her – so we shared each others fun. We were to make one of the great railway journeys of the world, crossing the extraordinary Altiplano to Cusco the home of the Inca.

The journey took many hours climbing up and down the plains of the Andes peaking at nearly 15,000. All along the way we say small groups who’d run to the train if it stopped and offered us anything from bags of nuts to live chickens.

In return they accepted money or, the children, biros which appeared to be the currency de jour.

I nearly never made it. Things happen slowly in Peru. There’s a languid approach to things like timetabling. We were ushered on board, into the luscious if rather shabby first class coach and settled to wait. And wait. And wait a bit more. One of the group decided to take a photo of the train and headed for the end of the carriage. I followed as we had been chatting and, to my surprise he climbed off the train and onto the clinker that formed the bed of the tracks. There was no platform here; it was a ladder to the track level.

History doesn’t say why he called me down to see something but I followed and he fired off a couple off shots. He then turned and climbed back. I waited with my hand on the bottom rung until he’d created space. As he stepped up to the footplate, the train began to move. Surprisingly quickly given its size and the fact it hadn’t moved an inch before.

One minute I’m enjoying the train yard and this behemoth of a beast; the next I’m swung into the air with my legs flailing far too close to the enormous and now turning wheels. If you’ve not trapezed your way onto an iron beast as it picks up speed across the highest railway in South America then I have one recommendation. Don’t. It is off the scale shit-scary.

The Textiliste smiled at me as I took my seat; the waiter brought us the first of three three-course meals that we enjoyed as we began to dip down out of Puno. I sat back and stared at the cameraman who had already taken his seat. He had no idea; no one had any idea of my narrow escape. As is often the way with me, as I pondered the what ifs, the terror wasn’t a result of the near death experience. No, it was the idea that, had I been left behind I would not have been able to explain why. For me it is far more awful to suffer such acute embarrassment than to be extinguished. I confessed my near stupidity to the Textiliste later. She smiled in understanding as she patted my leg; her silence could have been a kind way to forgive me or it could have been merely an unarticulated way of saying ‘silly man’.

Posted in miscellany, peru, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Mothery update

Regular readers will know I have been keeping an eye on the moths visiting my garden. They come in all shapes and sizes and, frankly, are often jewels of nature with subtle colour shifts.

Often as not the difference between a full range of moths appearing and a limited selection is down to the cold/wind. So last night, when the temperature in South London hovered in the mid 20s and little wind (not something often said in my house), I rather hoped for a decent uptick in those passing through the turnstiles.

And in amongst the pictures here’s a poem I wrote aeons ago about poetry. Its relevance to moths? None at all.

Ars Poetica (2)


A poem is an erotic pass the parcel with words,

Seductively shedding its millefeuille of meanings to tease you with its deceits.

You climb up through its stanzas, in search of the rhythms on the next horizon

Which may leave you, if bereft of inspiration, fractured on its beguiling carapace.

Sometimes, the poem sneaks an idea past your guarded eye with some keyhole trickery;

At others, it blasts its revelations from your heart with a dum-dum of apt metaphors.

At best, a poem can take you by the hand and lead you gently, and with small, ecstatic steps,

To the edge of a chasm of thought, that leaves you breathless at its ineffable depths.

You may hate a poem for showing you that long covered two-way mirror,

Which shines a black light on the inner reaches of your craven self.

Or you may love it for providing you with a periscope to a world,

Which contains a truth about nothing, other than your previously unknowable self.

Posted in gardens, moths, nature, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Blooming Marvellous

I thought I’d share a poem of dad’s with an update on the garden

Island Ferry

Crisp and fresh, the air this morning, on the open upper deck

While the muddy river waters froth and churn

There’s a drift of salty spray as our vessel pulls away

And Lymington is slowly left astern.

The sun is still half-hidden in the early morning haze

And all around the screaming seagulls fly,

And, ahead, the island lies on a barely seen horizon

Like a supine giant, dark against the sky.

Across the gleaming mudflats the distant reed-beds stand,

A verdant carpet, lavishly unrolled,

While beyond, the tops of trees, barely shifting in the breeze,

Catch the morning sun and briefly glow with gold.

A solitary heron, still and silent, sees us pass,

Poised to strike and single-minded, shows no fear,

For the swirling tide reveals the writhing silver eels,

And swiftly falls the deadly, darting spear.

Past the Yacht Club and Marina, past a multitude of masts,

Past the posts and buoys that mark our course along,

‘Till the Solent is before us and seabirds raucous chorus

Is mingled with the rising seawind song.

The mist has nearly gone now, and across a sparkling sea

The ferry, slow and steady, makes her way,

And all the world is bright in the shining morning light,

With the promise of a lovely Summer day.



Posted in miscellany | 29 Comments

Dawning realisation #carrotranch #prompt #flashfiction

Carrot Ranch is in the capable hand of  this week and this is the prompt.

June 15, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that symbolically, mythically, mystically, or realistically involves dawn, as a noun or verb. Write about the dawn of time or the time of dawn, or the dawning of an idea. As always, go where the prompt leads.

living in the northern hemisphere so far up we don’t get the lights on, lights off that represents dawn and dusk on the equator. It’s a slow burn, a smudge and a smear, a hint. Not so much the break of dawn as a slow realisation that things are changing. Black to white becomes grey for some while before the change is effected.

There is something unhurried to this, like night is considering leaving but might stay for one more drink while day turns over and puts its alarm on snooze. Indecisive or balanced I’m not sure. Dawn though is a beautiful time to be alive not least because nature seems somehow more engaged in the process. The stillness of night, the slow moving shadows give way to a tumult of bird song, shapes shift and solidify, substance takes over from superstition. Dawn isn’t so much a new birth as a reminder you are alive and here’s a new opportunity to be the person you aspire to be.

This week’s flash finds Paul in reflective mood…


‘What you doing love?’ Mary slipped next to Paul, hunched under a blanket in the conservatory. ‘It’s barely light.’
‘Darkest before dawn,’ Paul sounded rueful.
‘Couldn’t sleep? Work?’
Paul stared at the smear of red in the sky. ‘Penny told me I was unfair to you. 3 years since your dad passed and I go to the pub.’
‘No she’s right. Looking out for you.’ He smiled. ‘The dawning of womanhood, eh?’
Two hours later Penny found her parents snuggled on the sofa, asleep. She rubbed her eyes, grinned and went to make them all some tea.

And if you’d like to find out more about Paul Mary and Penny, click here. 

Posted in creative writing, flash fiction, prompt, thought piece | Tagged , , | 3 Comments