Flushed and Fabulous – a homage to sewage

I don’t want you to get the impression I’m obsessed with London’s sewage system but, see, the thing is, without the extraordinary achievements of our engineering forebears, the London that developed over the last 150 years would not have happened. And while many were involved in that achievement, one man’s contribution really does stand out: Sir Joseph Bazalgette.

During last year’s A to Z blogging tour I stopped off at ‘E’ with

E for Embankment

You’ll find it here and it will tell you something about Bazalgette’s achievements in central London.

But let’s move everything on a ways, out east. In U is for Utilities I introduced you to Abbey Mills on the north bank of the river, the Temple of Sewage. But as you’ll see if you glance at this post, this is still a restricted site, a marvel that has yet to be revealed generally.

Instead let’s cross the Thames and head even further east. This is, frankly, a rather depressing part of London’s sprawl. As you leave Woolwich with its Victorian barracks and rather splendid buildings behind, you find yourself on faster wider roads and surrounded by some post WW2 over-spill developments; these are not the quaint curios to the west much loved by Betjeman and his Metroland, which sprang up after WW1 but the brutalist blocks of a Stalinist architecture that compromised good taste with urgent need. Thamesmead grew like a necessary canker, filling empty acres with a sprawl that is home to many but unloved by most.

And as you reach its end, as you approach the river and the remnants of industrialisation you find this.

Another sewage plant.

Crossness is smaller and maybe less well known than Abbey Mills. It was, though just as essential.

Let me explain.

In the 185os London’s population was exploding, the industrial revolution was adding to the filth and the newly popular water closet was adding to the already polluted streets and river. Given that this was also the source of fresh water for the population it was hardly surprising there was an explosion of disease. Cholera and Typhoid especially. When Parliament awarded £3 million to the Metropolitan Board of Works it was a huge sum. But very necessary.

The solution that would need this cash involved taking the sewage, in a combined drain with the sewage mingled with surface water run off, down river to the two storage and pumping stations at Abbey Mills and Crossness. Here the dirty water was held until the tide turned so that it could be washed out to sea.

Hardly a perfect solution and soon enough the denizens down river at Barking and Gravesend were complaining. When the Princess Alice sunk and 640 people died, some by asphyxiation because the sewage (some 75 million gallons) had recently been released and the gasses, just above the water, meant it wasn’t breathable, something had to be done. That’s when they built sludge pits to treat the sewage with the solids converted into sludge and dumped far out in the North Sea; one of the first barges used for this purpose was the Bazalgette – some memorial!

This continued to be the solution until EU regulations came into being at the end of the 1990s and now the sludge cakes are burnt to generate power for the new fangled treatment plant next door.

As for the original building, well, the boilers were removed in the 1950s and the ornate chimney stack demolished but there wasn’t anyone capable of dismantling the huge beam engines and fly wheels (built by James Watt & Company) so they and the building were mothballed.

A trust was formed in the 1980s to preserve this extraordinary work of Victorian engineering and gradually plans for restoration grew.

Of the four engines: Victoria, Albert, The Prince Consort, Edward, Prince of Wales and Alice (his wife), two either have been or are to be restored; the other two left as found so as to show the befores and afters.

Work has progressed so that Victoria is capable of  ‘steam up’ and being run as it used to be. Apparently it is nearly silent, so accurate is the engineering.

If you get the chance, go.

We’d not have the city we enjoy without this place and they are extraordinary achievements.

And if you chose a day when the steam is up, report back. It’s still on my bucket list.

 

 

The great man is even immortalised on the outside..

 A few more pictures..

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By Royal Appointment #writephoto #shortstory

Quinton Ghumme liked being a dentist. It was a simple existence, he felt, catering for just one part of the overly complex human body. Well paid with regular hours, he enjoyed the prestige and the recognition. But, today, 9th March, it all felt a little too much like a burden. For today Quinton became the Queen’s dentist and had his first appointment with Her Majesty.

In one way, he knew he had made it to the pinnacle of his profession but Elizabeth was now a spit away from 100 so it wasn’t likely to be a long relationship.

He had been briefed on protocol and preferences – no polishing, minimal scraping, bad news kept to himself and shared with the Private Secretary after – but still felt nervous.

However the sun shone, his wife and children were excited and he knew he could cope with whatever was thrown at him.

She was smaller than he imagined, rather hunched. He couldn’t be sure but he detected a smile on her lips.

‘How do we pronounce your name? There’s been some debate.’ The Queen waved vaguely to the Equerry.

‘Goome, your Majesty. Rhymes with Loom.’

She nodded and walked into the royal dental room, taking her place on the couch with practiced ease. She handed the hygienist her glasses. ‘We did wonder. I imagine people do.’

He nodded and glanced at Karen. ‘Can you get another extra X ray set up? I think we should redo these.’

The Queen relaxed. ‘Be apt though, don’t you think?’

‘If you could open wide?’ Inside, her mouth was a craggy, stained mess evidencing too much plaque and too little flossing. He tapped the third molar that looked a little dark. No reaction.

‘Mind you. I suppose if it was you’d need a different rhyme. Gum rhyming with…’

Quinton Ghumme and Queen Elizabeth II, the world’s longest serving and oldest monarch shared a moment before the Queen began to giggle. The giggle took hold as tears popped out of the corners of her eyes. She struggled to say the word that had occurred to her. Placid one minute the royal complexion began to go through a rainbow of changes.

‘Your Majesty? Are you…?’

It is, of course, well known that the plans for the Queen’s eventual death are well laid. ‘Project London Bridge’ will gear into action as soon as the Queen’s doctor certifies her gone. Given her role and need to travel, the dossier caters for a death at Buckingham Palace, Sandringham and Balmoral (where the local sensitivities make things a mite complex) as well as across the globe. All main broadcasters and organs of government rehearse what they will do in the minutes and hours that follow the announcement.

But one person not primed for the demise of the sovereign a short period before her 100th birthday was Quinton Ghumme. As it became clear the Queen was no longer breathing Quinton panicked. Had she swallowed something? Maybe part of the tooth he had tapped had come loose? Calling for Karen and, indeed, anyone who might be lurking nearby, Quinton pulled open the Queen’s mouth and peered inside.

His mind raced then went blank; hands pulled him away and sat him down. Frantic attempts at revival were undertaken but sooner rather than later she was pronounced deceased and the long prepared machinery of death ground into action.

When Quinton returned home that night his wife sat him down. She was solicitous, given his shock. But even she couldn’t break him out of his malaise. ‘Darling. It wasn’t your fault. You were just unlucky to be the one there when it happened.’

Quinto shook his head sadly. ‘It’s not that.’

‘What is it?’

‘After, when I was having a cup of tea this man came up and asked me if I was okay. I thought he was a Palace official.’

‘Well?’

‘He asked about Her Majesty’s last words. So they had a record of them.’

‘What did she say?’

Quinton explained about the rhyme.

His wife essayed a smile. ‘Well, they’ll decide how to cover that up.’

‘That’s the thing. The man was from the press, the Sun. Imagine the headlines.

 ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Life Ends On A Bum Note’

This is written in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt

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Slipping Down the Slopes #travel #skiing

Day One

 

Funny this skiing lark. You travel miles to obscure valleys and mountains that clever engineers have criss-crossed with wires and metal stanchions. You put on clothes in colours normally seen in Farrow and Ball paint charts (pistachio with a hint of catastrophe; puce spume a la recherché) in multiple layers to defy a cold you need but secretly despise.

You force your feet into corrective footwear that even Torquemada might baulk at while lugging thin sheets of two by four up a series of vertiginous cabins precariously suspended above pockmarked scree slopes just so as to put your body through a series of painful and bowel loosening manoeuvres.

You stop when your thighs are humming the Marseillaise to themselves at a bar thrumming with disco circa 1978, sung by a emaciated Albanian with halitosis and the sort of mullet that Rod Stewart still thinks works. You buy coffee that was once a British staple but is now the principle ingredient found in road mending or a beer that makes you realise why no one has yet genetically modified an Austrian and a plate of cheesy comestibles that are the dietary equivalent of a trip to Dignitas.

You use euphemisms like ‘I caught an edge’ or ‘she cut me up’ to excuse your woeful inability to stay upright. Dehydrated you eat five courses of artichoke and wurst soup with glutinous croutons and go to bed early, notionally to be ready ‘to hit the pistes before the crowds’ but really because you can no longer stand. It costs you the price of a terraced house in Basildon and you are well aware it ruins a delicate ecological balance.

But you love it. Don’t you?

Day Two

 

There are fourteen of us here. Two couples and the rest having left their other halves behind because, well, they’ve been there, done that and realised a week walking the dog and chitting the early potatoes is more fun.

Some still work at jobs as varied as law and management consultancy, banking and journalism, dentistry and architecture – not that varied, then – while others have retired from full time employ and undertake other missions in life writing silly stories or officiating at humanist funerals.

We talk about Victorian bricks and the Kardashians; Gilbert George Scott and Brexit; the best tarte tatin recipe and cycling up Mount Ventoux. What we don’t do is talk skiing. Technique and snow depth fail to engage us as they once did.

Is that sad? Inevitable? Or a sign that all good holidays just need an excuse to get together but they don’t need that excuse to stay together.

Day Three

 

I first skied in 1984 in my late 20s. It was awful. A week being shouted at by an Italian with the girth but not the voice of Pavarotti and the subtle educational skills of Sean Spicer and I never wanted to go back. I went the next year and loved it. Over the years I’ve got faster, braver, more resilient and yet I have retained the ‘lowering himself gingerly onto a cold toilet’ gait that makes every turn an exercise in slingshot body swaying.

These days I know I must prepare my body for the experience. I have to go to the gym and work my legs until you can hear Nessum Dorma echoing from my quads. So why go? Well the scenery is stunning even when it’s not – by that I mean it might be howling like banshee who’s just stubbed its toe and the visibility might be better inside my small intestine but it is magical to experience sooooo much snow when my part of the UK gets less than Darfur.

There’s some really rather engaging company, too. And there is the challenge. When my parents mixed their DNA 60 years ago the little guy who decided I got dad’s ears and mum’s nose made the fatal decision to give me dad’s ego with a twist of my maternal grandmother’s. The result is a continuing belief that I can do this thing even when the evidence presents itself differently.

Today it snowed hard. The white sky joined the white slopes in the topographical equivalent of invisible mending. But, see, I was prepared. I had state of the art goggles, that enhanced and yellowed my vision – the fact it looks like the snow Frank Zappa warned against is something I have managed to suppress.

https://g.co/kgs/UlRv28

Sadly the goggles still fog up when I exert myself. So here’s the thing. Stay upright and see okay. Fall over, lose my skis, crawl back up the slope to retrieve them; and put them on and realise the bindings haven’t been reset; reset the bindings and try again; realise the snow is impacted on the  bottom of my boots; beat my boots with the pole and try again; repeat on the second ski; realise I have let go of my second pole when using the first as a hammer; hunt for same and fall over; repeat. By the time I’m ready to ski again the inside of my goggles resembles London circa 1952 at the height of the smogs. Or as one colleague put it far more eloquently than me ‘my cockpit is full of smoke’.

It’s thrilling this ‘feel the snow’ baloney that’s peddled by ski instructors the world over, up there with ‘bend your knees’ and ‘weight down the slope’. I mean they’re not wrong, of course they aren’t but if at the particular moment you are viewing life not so much as transient as historic, glib cliches are about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Day Four

 

A friend told me at breakfast that I need to ‘attack the slope’. I checked he didn’t mean beat it senseless with a ski pole in frustration.

‘Believe it’s yours, you are the King of this Mountain.’

It’s all about confidence, being prepared sartorially, physically and mentally. So today we structured a plan. We took time putting on the right layers for the microclimate; we made sure the boots were properly secured, the clips gripping with just the right mix of pert ferocity needed to ensure feet, ankles and legs were ready to go when the brain told them to; we cleaned the soles of our boots of impacted snow so the bindings held as intended by the manufacturers.

We stretched and we massaged; we breathed with the calm mindfulness of an experienced yogi; and we squeezed and gripped our hands so the blood flowed effortlessly. Above all we focused on that first slope, that first turn; we drew on our collected years of skiing to implant a picture of the right posture, the correct mix of calm and tension in all the many muscles we were about to call into aid. We were mindful, peaceful and ready.

What we mere mortals forget in these moments is Flake, god of skiers, a contrarian curmudgeon who delights in the unforeseen. As I pushed off, awash with Joy and Endorphins I missed the flash of blue to my right. By the time my beauteous trance-like state had been interrupted by Bonkers Bazza from Bollocks-on-Avon, he had crossed the back of my skis pinning them to the piste as I continued the forward motion.

As advised, I attacked the slope with gusto.

With my face.

Day Five

 

Lunch on the mountain is one of the great occasions. Each European country has its own speciality, be it raclette or rosti, schnitzel or strudel. I don’t drink alcohol like the others but the thinner air, the generous company and the delight in another morning survived are intoxicating enough to bring a perma-grin to the face.

On good days, like today, as the sun shines, the crisp air turns sweat to steam and gives the outdoor seating a volcanic ambience there isn’t anywhere else to be. Those who work, forget the desk or the screen; those whose families are a struggle put the agonies away. Conversation is light, gay in a 1920s way, funny and moving. Laughs become a tsunami of giggles around the table. All is right with the world.

And then you go to the toilet, slip on the icy stairs and break your arse into four even pieces. Flake never gives up.

Day Six

 

If it rains you can’t do anything but sit and talk. These days talks are interspersed with clips of music or YouTube snippets. The usually avoided subjects of Brexit, Trump, the monarchy and religion are the subject of gentle banter rather than pithy and prickly debate. Families are boasted about. Holidays past and to come vicariously enjoyed. Anecdotes shared, for the tenth time yet treated with fresh hilarity. It’s the reason we come, after all and the enforced day off allows the conversations to develop in the oddest of ways. Someone talks of the Necropolis railway, another the short history of bananas in Iceland. We learn about Mormon family trees and how to remove dead wood at work. It’s all rather splendid. And the best thing? When it works, people leave their phones on the table and talk, unless their use enhances the conversation. Yep, old school but all the better for that.

Day Seven

 And so it ends. There’s a small death at the end of a good holiday, especially when the group dynamic functions without any creative or other tension. We have awards, a singularly childish yet much loved institution which last night threw up the usual surprises. Mine? Best skier? I think not. Most confident user of a piste map? Let me digress and ask what topographically illiterate wrote the first piste map and then persuaded the style to be adopted world wide? These are the cartographical equivalents of madness personified – writing the same thing time and again and expecting them to be useful. So no, I didn’t win that. I was gifted Anecdotist of the Tour, which I liked, plus an honourable mention for providing a homely reminder of what it was like to ski with young children as my fellow skiers enjoyed my seemingly endless runny nose. As James, our cheerful if eviscerating host put it, the fact I seemed to be as oblivious as the children once were made it all the more poignant. He once worked for PWC so I felt this award had to have been intended for another but, endlessly polite I accepted the wrong gong and my trophy – a classy shot glass inscribed with ‘stanton’ – with good grace. We will get him back and he knows it.

So I am strapped into a British Airways metal cigar, pulling away from the quaint Frederickshafen airport and skirting the snow covered Alps to the south. It’s been grand. A pleasure. Even if it means spending the next hour and a bit with the unwashed pensioner to my right. Probably an advocate of the Queen Bess philosophy on bathing: ‘I bath once a week, even if I don’t need to’.

Posted in Friends, holidays, humour, travel | Tagged , , , | 31 Comments

Next to Godliness #janedoughtery # microfiction #flashfiction

Jane Doughtery’s prompt comes with this pciture

Hands 

Francesca Skylark spent her whole life fighting disease. As a girl she nursed her twin sister back to health through, first, scarlet fever and, later, measles. At 15 she watched helplessly as her father contracted dysentery and her mother a nasty virus common in the south-eastern Punjab. Womanhood came and she joined a troop supporting the British forces as they expanded the Empire across the globe, working feverishly to keep the mainly male teams fit and well. It seemed obvious to her, long before it became common practice, to ensure a high level of personal hygiene.

But such dedication took its toll. Gradually while her strength continued to astonish, her mental health suffered and her dedication to cleanliness became an obsession that impeded the progress of the adventures her superiors were charged with undertaking. Many had cause to thank her for saving their lives but at a terrible cost. When eventually she could no longer separate her nightmares from reality she began to wander around the camps and outposts where she was taken, ceaselessly washing her hands in the way she had designed to ensure each wrinkle and crevice was free of germs before any operations commenced. Eventually she died and it is said you can see her ghost, on still nights, walking the wards, washing her hands and encouraging all to better, healthier ways.

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Melting In Their Arms #blogbattle #shortstory

When Captain Fr’ngg Oblique plotted the coordinates for the next planet on his list he didn’t suspect he would be the one to discover a highly-developed but unique intelligence, the first humanoid to do so. Nor did he expect to find that, on landing his sub-galactic hopper, he would be treated with barely disguised contempt.

Intelligence takes many forms in the universe and most of them have the same characteristics of species that we have on Earth. On Ptolemy 457 the intelligences were characterized by their state, and the highest form on P457, in that self-regarding way planet inhabitants have, who have yet to master space flight was considered to be the gaseous puff-streams from the Omovoidle caskpits. Having a hierarchy meant a strict separations between states.

The appearance, literally out of the blue, of Captain Oblique changed that.

The rules of engagement with any new intelligence weren’t very clear, mainly because not many had been discovered. Basic contact was encouraged with an emphasis on peace and understanding. Ideally after that first brush, the captain would withdraw for instructions.

Easier said than done. Captain Oblique did report back but to his surprise his curiosity had been aroused by the apparently amorphous but strangely present clusters he encountered. And none captivated more so that a sinuous puff-stream called A’bush, who was allocated as his initial liaison.

For her part – ‘her’ being a somewhat loose sexual categorization but sufficient for this tale – A’bush carried with her the standard contempt for a solid. When told of her role, her form sagged visibly, creating a nimboid denting in her normally pert cumulo-curvation.

‘Why me, boss?’ She hissed wearily.

Her superior, Grorge Oel, was a hybrid, a rare genetic mutation that allowed him to morph. At times of stress or when some especially tricky gas-management skills needed to be employed, he could solidify into a liquid, a skill much admired and indeed envied but little understood. He splashed some enthusiasm into his syrupy vowels as he puddled around A’bush. ‘Because you enjoy a challenge. Just give him your best zephyr and he’ll follow you like a limpet. This is an important role, A’bush. We know you’ll blow him away. Like you did with the last Solid you worked with.’

Clump. A’bush rustled as the memories of Mani Clump flooded back. ‘That’s what worries me. Thing is Grorge, if this one is like the last lump it’ll make me want to set.’

Grorge gurgled at the joke – at least he assumed it was a joke but pure gases were notoriously difficult to interpret if they didn’t colour to show their emotions. ‘Don’t sink to his level, A’bush. Keep you molecules moving! He’s a foreign visitor and we need to make an impression. Our masters have their heads in the clouds for a reason and they say it’s up to you.’

A’bush floated away, her spirits as formless as her context.

Waiting by the reception, currently manned by two giggling pools of acro-ponding, each reflecting the other as they sought to outshine their co-worker, Fr’ngg felt oddly nervous. ‘Don’t freeze,’ he told himself, something not usually a problem for solids. But this contact was so important that nerves got the better of the Captain and so it was that their first encounter was as Fr’ngg dropped his coffee cup, splattering the receptionists and rendering them two adhesive sticky balls of almost-mucous that appeared momentarily shapeless. He pulled himself together, grovelling out a profuse apology, while A’bush nodded, keeping her tones as neutral as her self-control allowed but she knew he had seen some colour.

‘Right. When you’re quite ready let’s start.’ She wanted to restore some semblance of authority so she vented away at speed. Only as she looked back did she realise how mortified he was, either from the slippage or from catching her toning. Her nuclei filled with affection before she swarmed herself together. Stupid cloud, she scoffed. He’s a solid, even if other-worldly. Get a grip on your tendrils.

Something though must have stuck and over the next days and weeks, as A’bush showed Fr’ngg her planet the two found themselves understanding each other more and more, teasing each other at the formlessness of the one against the inflexible rigidity of the other.

Twice A’bush asked Fr’ngg home. Twice he came and spent the evening, oddly tongue-tied for someone so sophisticated. A’bush felt frustrated. Surely he likes me? Surely he’s interested? But maybe he doesn’t understand, given he’s from another planet.

She asked a girlfriend who swirled with delight. Cross substance sex, while not common wasn’t unknown. ‘He doesn’t know how to read you, silly. You need to make it bloody obvious.’

So, on the third night, after they had shared a vaporised steak and a rather delicious pixelated Merlot, A’bush slipped to her restroom. She called Fr’ngg to follow. When she saw him, through the leaded lights in door she let all self-control go, allowing a neopolitan display of the most exotic colours to suffuse her every atom. Fr’ngg stared, awestruck then pushed open the door. He removed his clothes and allowed A’bush to envelope his every inch, both shivering with a delicious ecstasy.

As one heated and the other cooled their passions took over and they bonded and flowed, melting together and becoming liquid in love.

 

This is part of Rachael Ritchey’s blog battle

Posted in blog battle, creative writing, miscellany, short story | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

Surviving the Honeymoon Period #flashfiction #carrotranch

Charli Mills’ prompt this week is 

March 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. It can be between a couple before, during or after the honeymoon. Or it can refer to a honeymoon period. Go where the prompt leads.

So you’ve done the marriage bit; what image does a honeymoon conjure up, in your mind’s eye? Choirs of angels, aching cheek muscles from smiling, romantic dinners a deux, a vast amount of sex?

Mine was, well, a curio. We’d bought a flat and a car and were pretty skint. So we decided on 4 days in Paris, the home of romance etc etc. Only I booked it, so the incipient CEO of Dickhead Tours was at work early on. If I had plans on my honeymoon involving all of the above I should have left the planning to others.

Errors came early; don’t go cheap on the flights and don’t be a 24 Hour clock illiterate. If you have a flight at 14.40 do not under any circumstances read that as 4.40. Even in the days when you could still run for a plane carrying your suitcase and dump it by the stairs to be stuffed in the hold. We made it by the skin of the proverbial but we delayed the flight by some 20 minutes and there were definite mumblings. And the cheap? Well there’s this Paris airport called Beauvais. It makes Stanstead seem close. We landed at about 4pm and arrived at our hotel in the Rue de Russe at 9pm.

Was Paris a 24 hour city as we had heard? Was it buggery. We were desperate for some of the delightful French cuisine famed the world over, but our first meal as a married couple? Deux Grand Macs at Les Arches d’Or.

Our hotel bordered on the quaint. The only trouble was that rather than approach ‘quaint’ from ‘normal’ on the hotel spectrum, we were coming from the ‘Bates Motel’ end of the curve. The proprietor had both a grudge and a tick; he wore a waistcoat with a tricolour on it and refused to countenance any language except his own. It wasn’t that he ‘showed us to our room’ so much as ‘escorted us to our cell’. The mattress was knobbled, this was the first bolster we had seen and we spent hours fruitlessly trying to unravel it and the shower, sink and toilet – soi-disant an ensuite – were all as one, so much so that we learnt to our cost you needed to remove the toilet roll before taking a shower or you would be papier-mâchéing your own paper sheets for the duration.

We loved Paris; we walked and walked.

We saw the Louvre and Sacre-Coeur.

We fell in love with the Place du Tertre and the artists.

We ate little, having bugger all cash, and drank coffee and cheap red wine. We climbed the Eiffel Tower and L’Arc De Triomphe.

We took a  Bateau Mouche and stopped off at L’Ile de la Cite to visit Notre Dame. We drooled over the art in the Jeu de Paume and ate ice creams around the monolith in Le Place de la Concorde as we learnt about boule for the first time.

But that bit about loving trysts in knotted sheets? Not on that bed matey, however keen you might be.

And this week’s flash, involving  Mary and her half brother Rupert…

The Honeymoon Period

 Rupert sipped the tea. ‘She’s a nightmare. Total dragon.’

Mary smiled; Rupert always exaggerated the downsides. ‘It’s a bit early to decide that.’

Rupert shrugged. ‘As a new boss, you’d think she’d find out what we can do first. Allow a honeymoon period for settling in.’

‘Well I hope it’s better than my honeymoon. We lost the luggage, Paul broke his toe on the first day and I got an infected mozzie bite.’

‘Sounds grim.’

‘Not really; we got to spend a lot of time in our room.’ She winked.

‘Muuuuum that’s gross.’

Mary laughed. ‘Every cloud, you know.’

And here’s where you can catch up with Mary and her family

 

Posted in creative writing, flash fiction, France, prompt | Tagged , , | 35 Comments

The Eye Has It #writephoto #shortstory

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt is this week

It was the first time the clouds had parted in generations, a small shiny space in the otherwise uniform grey.

People speculated why it had happened and why here, in an obscure corner of an obscure country.

Many came to see for themselves. The stacks, hardly noticed in past years became viewing positions. Significance was invested in the fact that the Gap occurred above these plinths. Superstition begets reason. Religious thinkers reviewed texts and found meaning. Rationalists saw change resulting from human interference and posited the need for altered behaviours. Governments and materialists saw opportunities for coherence and cash. The unexpected sunlight damaged retinas and triggered warnings and medical advances.

Far above the cloud layer, Horace stared down through the hole and focused on a party of tourists about the climb the newly constructed stairs on the Eastern Stack, the better to view this awe-inspiring phenomena. They were the latest pilgrims who had spent their savings on this opportunity to pay homage to the Wonder of the Gap, the Eye to the universe.

Horace had become bored with Earth, a humdrum little world his father, Atlas had bought at the flea market that clustered around the foothills of Olympus and offered an overworked God the chance to pick up a birthday present for a son whose anniversary he’d forgotten due to the current focus on creating a new home for the expanding legions of deities, self-important world builders and semi-omniscient prophets. Earth, a little scuffed and shop soiled but containing an active group of humanoids seemed ideal for the indolent Horace.

Horace blew and a hurricane detached thirteen souls from the stairs, committing them to their doom and the immortality of the unexpected demise. He giggled and another twenty-seven swooning soothsayers lost their footing on the Western Stack. All eyes turned to the Gap and an almighty gasp was released at they saw the Eye, the all-seeing and somewhat bloodshot orb that filled the hole as Horace regarded his handiwork.

‘Horace!’ His mother, Athena bellowed from the Stygian depths, ‘Get down here now. Your new superpower is ready and you need to try on the uniform’

As scribes frantically sought to find just the right amount of hyperbole to describe the events that had taken place, forever changing the course of human history and allowing thirteen new religions to be formed, Horace closed his bedroom door and shuffled to the stairs.

‘And if you’ve been playing God with that grotty little planetoid your father saw fit to buy you, then please wash your hands. We have no idea where it’s been or what state it’s in.’

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany, prompt, short story | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments