Guest Writer Spot MY NEW BOOK!

I’ve been over at Esther’s blog, as guest author where she announces my latest book of short fiction. She acted as my editor and chose her favourite story from the book. Click on the link and have a look and see if it whets your appetite. I hope so.

via Guest Writer Spot

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The Erosion Of Hope #writephoto #flashfiction

The Erosion Of Hope

For longer than people knew the two figures had stood sentinel, staring out on to the North Sea, watching, forever watching those tumultuous waves. They weren’t ancient, but their origins were unknown and many a passerby, hoping for some information plaque or storyboard were disappointed to find no guidance as to their history. Who, or what had placed them there had been lost in the sea frets of time which regularly hid the duo, the Twins of Madcaster as they were known, from the eyes of humans.

And the Twins themselves? How did they see things?

‘But parky, Desmond.’

‘Not as bad as ‘47, but worse that ‘62.’

‘It’s getting rough out there.’

‘You always say that.’

‘I don’t. It’s just I notice… things.’

‘Oh not that again. That guy really got to you, didn’t he?’

‘He made more sense that you. He made me think.’

‘Right. And what exactly is this thinking?’

‘Sort of what we’re doing now.’

‘Ok… and that is what? I thought we were having a bit of a chat, passing the time of day.’

‘But don’t you see Percival, it’s got to be more than that. I mean, we have to have a greater purpose than just having a bit of a chat.’

‘Why? Isn’t that enough? The heather’s happy just to grow, flower, die back, repeat.’

‘It’s a plant, just a organic extrusion. We were made, crafted. That guy said so…’

‘Oh, give me an extra molecule. That guy said this, that guy said that. He was making it up.’

‘You don’t know that, Percy. Something took a lot of trouble to put us here, he said. There had to be a reason.’

‘Why? Could be someone wanted to put us somewhere and here was as good as anywhere.’

‘You weren’t listening, Perce. He said…’

‘I wasn’t listening because he nearly did what centuries of the wind up my arse couldn’t do and that was send me to sleep.’

‘No, listen. He said the Installers deliberately put us so we faced the sea. We’re Sentinels.’

‘Oh come off it. We’re a couple of sheets of iron cut to look like silhouettes. We’re… what did that chap call us, ‘87 or ‘88? You know after you got bent by the wind and they had to bash you straight.’

‘That was humiliating.’

‘He said, if I recall correctly, that we were troupe d’oeil. Put here to make it look like someone had reached the summit already.’

‘We’re not some sort of sculptured joke, Per…’

‘Better that, than to have a purpose which we don’t understand. Enough to turn you bronze, that line of smelting.’

‘That bloke said we were Greek Gods, guarding the sea. Famous twins.’

‘Rubbish. We’re left over cladding put here for a laugh.’

‘I have proof, P.’

‘Proof? Really? Go on, this is going to be good.’

‘We are the latest representations of  Castor And Pollux, the Greek twins Gemini, who’s task is to guard all seafarers and…’

‘Oh come off it. How do you make that leap of logic, my two dimensional friend?’

‘What’s printed on your rear?’

‘On my…?’

‘Rear. Just below ‘Product of Thwaite & Godbottom Foundry.’

‘It says “Cast”.’

‘Exactly. Originally it would have been Castor. And on me it says “Poll” which is…’

‘Oh give me strength. It’s nothing of the kind.’

‘Well how do you explain it then?’

‘“Cast” is short of Cast Iron, the “Iron” bit wore away because it was the right height for any bloke who wanted to take a slash and needed to lean in against the wind and avoid unfortunate slashbacks.’

‘Is that what they’ve been doing all these years? I thought they were reading your name. What about my name?’

‘Oh that’s easy. That’s what’s left over from when that MP chappie came up here a year ago. Dead upset he was.’

‘Why would he carve a Greek god’s name on my rear?’

‘He didn’t. He carved ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ and pretty much that’s all that’s left.’

‘Oh.’

‘Sorry Des. I didn’t mean to disappoint you.’

‘No, that’s ok. Let’s face it, we’re here for the long haul. I expect everything will become clear eventually. What do you think that makes us?’

‘A metaphor.’

‘A metaphor?’

‘Yeah, he wanted a second referendum, so the fact it’s worn back to ‘Poll’ is a sign.’

‘Do you think he realises there’s a message on my bottom, Percy?’

‘Nah, them lot don’t know their arses from their elbows. They’re a bit like us, Des.’

‘How so Perce?’

‘If there ever was a reason why they were put on this little piece of rock, it’s been long forgotten.’

This was written in response to Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto challenge

 

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Love Sonnets And Terrible Poetry

Warning: this is a tacky post with poems that, well, are terrible, except the first and I didn’t write that…

Willie Shakespeare had a way with Sonnets. As you do. One of his more famous ones was his 130th…

SONNET 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

So I thought, as you do, I’d have my own go at it. Which I did, a while ago…

And then Chelsea launched her latest Terrible Poetry Contest and I was reminded of mine because she wants Love Sonnets, terrible ones, and, well, really this has to fit the bill. Doesn’t it? Anyway, here’s my entry…

Only Skin Deep (After Sonnet 130*)

 

The azure of the wide Pacific seas

Has depth, unlike your bland insipid eyes.

A dancer’s legs are shaped by art to please

But yours are not for show, they need disguise.

My tongue, whose form can change to suit all tastes,

From gentle probe to pert, priapic beast,

Becomes a dry and flaccid thing, all chaste,

If suffocated by your doggy breath’s release.

Facial engineers, who can craft Kate Moss

From Quasimodo, turn and run a mile:

I’d give my soul to Satan, bear any loss

If they’d mould Venus from your Cubist smile.

Let’s face it, love, on me you’ve placed a hex:

It’s not your looks that bind us, just the sex.

and then I read a couple of Chelsea’s examples and, well, I decided to really let the side down with this (with due apologies to the Authors of the Book of Genesis) and took love as a verb not a noun…

It’s Really Not His Fault… 

 

It had been, for God one heck of a week

So in fairness we should let it pass

And forgive that Adam, His coup de grace

Could have done with the odd final tweak.

 

The papers focused their gaze on the Fall

And those pictures of Eve in the buff

Where instead they should have done their stuff

And told us of His mighty cock and ball.

 

For Adam shouldn’t have needed a stiffy

To get himself into a sweaty old state

Where his only urge was to copulate

And his end was always so sticky.

 

And all he was given to perform this role

Were balls in a bag and a bewrinkled pole…

 

and for inspiration, well I couldn’t do better than Robin Williams

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House Proud #prompt #speculativefiction

Mus Souris had a problem. The tornado had been inaptly timed and having his house blown up into an acacia, while normally a mere inconvenience, was a potential disaster. First his soon to be mother in law was coming to stay and second his wife’s fourteen nephews were on a sleepover and needed to get to school without the distraction of the front door now being fourteen foot off the ground.

Mus scrolled through the google responses to his ‘who can help me move my house?’ question toAlexa. The first ten, irritatingly, focused on the contents rather than on the house itself, though Mus chided himself for failing to focus the question more accurately.

Entry eleven, however, suggested a more hopeful response. He dialled the number.

A cheery, if rather menacing voice answered after one ring. ‘Proboscis Plant and Animal Hire. All your lifting needs dealt with, with a grunt and a grin!’

‘Oh hello. Do you move houses?’

The responder sounded unsure. ‘We can, er, Sir?’

‘It’s Souris. Mus Souris. My house is stuck up a tree and I wondered…’

‘Oh! Are you an, erm, you know, thingy?’

Mus sighed. Weren’t they beyond this causal mousism? ‘Yes, I’m a mouse. So?’

‘No, really it’s not…’

‘Ok, we squeak but all that stuff about messing our own homes is exaggerated, I for one haven’t been inside a wheel in a decade and personally I hate cheese. Anyway most of the rubbish you hear was spread by those bloody rats to deflect from their own problems…’

‘No really, it’s only…’

‘What?’

‘Well, our lifting operatives are all elephants.’

‘Ah…’

‘So, you’ll understand there might be some health and safety considerations.’

‘Crushing?’

‘Inadvertent dimensional reconfiguration has been known, Mr Souris, but as caring employers we have to ensure the mental wellbeing of all our staff and, well, most of our Hefalump Hydraulic Operatives are inclined to bouts of RAIN…’

‘What? They dribble?’

‘No, not rain. R.A.I.N – rodent anxiety incapacity neuralgism. Basically if they see a mouse…’

‘Excuse me? You’re slipping into institutional mousism again.’

‘I’m sorry. Of course I meant a mammal with rodentian characteristics. They freeze. Which, of course, depending when they become aware of a mo… when they first notice the, erm… it can cause problems. Only last week one of our best operatives was draining a lake prior to removing some boulders and came upon a party of water voles over from Helsinki for the grain festival and he let go of several hundred gallons of water in his panic.’

‘Did he kill the water voles?’

‘No, they loved it – they’d been on the grain for a couple of days and basically surfed the ensuing tsunami. But a flock of passing sheep thought differently. Their coats were just about to be harvested – they were at maximum bouffancy – but after the dousing both the wool and their profits shrank by seventy four percent.’

‘You can’t help then?’

‘I fear not. But you could try Derrick.’

‘Derrick?’

‘He’s a crane. Now I know you’re going to say one bird isn’t likely to be of assistance but he manages an avian assistance association. They’ve become pretty adept at difficult lifting jobs like yours.’

‘Thanks. It’s kind of you to recommend a competitor.’

‘Oh they aren’t really competitors. Most of their work is small scale. It’s only where we can’t take on the job that they might be the answer. I mean, there are the side effects…’

‘How so?’

‘Well for starters, you would have to expect your house to be redecorated.’

‘Sorry?’

‘To lift a house you’ll probably need at least 200 different species of birds… that’s a lot of straining and a lot of…’

‘Oh shit…’

‘Precisely. Would you like their number anyway?’

This piece was written in response to Diane Wallace Peach’s February Speculative Prompt

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On The Road To Nowhere #travel #humour

As a youngster I loved a pre Python TV show aimed at children called ‘Do not adjust your set’. Palin, Jones and Idle starred alongside Neil Innes and the Bonzo Dog Band. Denise Coffey also played many a part. One sketch involved a bicycle tour of the West Country ‘taking in Looe’.

I loved Looe as a place name. It contained all that a smutty schoolboy could desire in a place name. I made up my mind to visit one day, in the hope it would live up to my puerile imaginings. Such a surreally potty title, up there with Piddle Hinton, Shitterton,  Vagland and, well never mind.

Roll the clock on ten years and the longed for opportunity presented itself. My then girlfriend (now the Textiliste) adored Genesis (we all have our weaknesses) but tickets were like gold dust. However she joined a company where a colleague announced he too loved Phil et al; so much so that he belonged to the official fan club. As such he could pan us a couple of nuggets in shape of tickets for a concert on the next tour.

It is now 1981 and a new tour has just been announced. Garfield (near enough his name – a dopey cat that is nothing but trouble) passes on the good news. And the even better news he has indeed sourced 2 tickets (for her and her guest) to join him and his guest at the first concert on the tour. Whoop-de-doo. Cue much back slapping.

As the date approaches a couple of small logistical problems emerge.

First that first concert is in Looe a good four hour drive from London. Never fear says Cat Man he will hire a car and drive us.

Second, between acquiring the tickets and the date he is seconded from London to Brighton. Never fear says Cat Man we can catch the train to Brighton and we will drive from there – increasing the journey time by an hour – he says.

The day arrives. A B&B is booked – two rooms, how decadent – and we set off ludicrously early to be in Brighton for 9 on a Saturday. ‘My girlfriend will be on the same train,’ he tells us.

I will admit something here which I may have hidden from you, dear reader. I didn’t go big on Garfield. Spending time with him was rewarding in the sense that making your gums bleed when you clean your teeth is rewarding because it helps remove bacteria. I don’t make a huge effort to find his girlfriend on the train.

But the Textiliste has better manners than me, so as we exit the station for the collection zone we spot a young lady of our age, scanning the incoming cars hopefully. ‘Hello, are you Laura?’ The T offers her hand and her winningest smile which are both ignored and a back is pointedly turned.

Moments later The Puss Mobile pulls up next to the young woman and Cat Man emerges. He goes in for a kiss and misses by some distance. The Girlfriend is already in the back of the car, with arms so tightly folded that the dye in her pullover starts oozing from the collar.

I can be slow on the uptake, painfully so but the choice of front seat next to The Dear Leader suddenly appears a tad more appetizing than the misery zone in the back.

As we load our bag, the T and me have a quick confab.

‘What on earth’s wrong?’ I whisper.

‘No idea,’ says my better half. ‘They’ve only just started going out and I thought they were in the golden glow phase still.’

To anyone who contemplates a round Britain tour and finds themselves facing the leg from Brighton to Looe along the South Coast passing such gems as the New Forest, the Jurassic Cliffs at Lyme Regis and Dartmoor, my advice is, instead, check in to have your piles cauterized: it will be ultimately more useful and less painful. In any even it’s a case of ‘I wouldn’t start from here’.

It takes 9 hours. The tension mimics the hours leading up to the Cuban mission crisis. Every attempt at levity is squashed by the Miserablist in the backseat. Every break is spent with the T and me sitting together watching Garfield beg for some kind of forgiveness. The sourpuss seems animated in these moments. Lively but not happy. We do not have any chance to find out what the problem is.

Because we are so delayed we have to go straight to the concert venue to pick up the tickets. We do this while the Cat and his Whiskers drop the bags at the B&B.

We are sharing a well earned bottle when they return. G joins us while she visits the ladies, probably to drain excess venom. We are sympathetic. It has been a hard day for him. He flops down. ‘Bloody woman.’

‘Whats wrong?’

‘She’s utterly convinced I planned to bring my old girlfriend – she’s always been jealous whatever I say.’

‘Why does she think that?’

‘I didn’t tell her about this trip until the last minute as a surprise but she now thinks I only asked her because Laura couldn’t come.’

The T and I share an anxious glance. I say, ‘So Laura’s your old girlfriend?’

He laughs. ‘Yes, confusing isn’t it? She’s Lorna and the old one’s Laura. Imagine what Lorna’d be like if I confused their names.  Beer?’

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Signs, A Dyslexic’s Guide #carrotranch #flashfiction #thoughtpiece

Signs, A Dyslexic’s Guide

‘It must be a sign, Logan.’

‘It’s a cloud, Morgan.’

‘No, but it’s like an Arrow and that means love, so she…’

‘Love?’

‘Love’s Winged Arrow. Eros.’

‘More like a straw and you’re clutching it.’

‘Ha bloody ha. My mum saw a cloud like a face once and next day she found she was pregnant.’

‘She had to be pregnant already.’

‘True. And she said it looked like a frog.’

‘Are all your family into signs?’

‘Gran’s not. She thought she was going to a book singing. Very disappointed when she just got a scrawl and Cliff Richard’s autobiography.’

This was written in response to Carrot Ranch’s latest prompt

February 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.

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The Just Right Royalty #writephoto #shortfiction

Gruinard the Abashed couldn’t complain. Not really. After all, as was constantly pointed out by the Court Sycophants he was Heir to the Throne, commonly considered a dish, comely of aspect and sturdy of build. He held a pose, he profiled especially well in the setting sun and his beetled brow was universally said to be as fine and as rugged as any in the kingdom.

And yet and yet, Gruinard wanted none of this adulation. He wanted none of the consequent fawning and genuflecting and gratuitous oohing and ahhing that followed him around Castle Comfy, his ancestral home.

His parents despaired. Queen Opal the Alright and King Glean the Sorted wanted nothing so much for their son as to feel at ease. Of course he would have to do some ruling one day, but beyond some choreographed wrist waving and the occasional proclamation, the role of Sovereign was no more taxing than, say, having a mole removed, necessary though that was to ensure the royal lawns remained pristine. That’s what they had Lord Chamberlains for. They were the ones who did the solemn and weighty stuff. No point being a Monarch if all you got was a peasants’ revolt and an ulcer.

Therefore after one especially painful Royal Flaunt at which Gruinard hid behind the curtain, the King and the Queen sat with their principle advisor, Lord Stern of Countenance to discuss that regular worry of all fictionalised fairyland monarchies ‘What must be done?’

It boiled down to two possibilities. On the one hand give the boy what he wanted (King Glean); or on the other make the boy do what has always worked in the past (Queen Opal).

‘He must be allowed to find himself.’

‘He must be found a wife.’

Lord Stern did some fairly impressive frowning and emitted a couple of pretty telling harrumpfs before opining, ‘Both are required.’

And so it came to pass. Gruinard was given a year to go forth and spend time as an unroyal spreading oats and other grains in an agricultural rite of passage while the Queen swiped right left and centre in the hope of stumbling on a suitable match.

Twelve months passed and Gruinard plied the females and scattered his good seed all around (later this was misheard by a deaf minstrel who penned the royal dirge ‘He ploughed the fields and scattered the good seed all around’) before ceasing his Royal Roistering and heading for home.

His mother waited for him. She looked appalled. ‘Gruinard, get in there and get yourself ready. Look at your hair. Do something. You’ll be wed in an hour.’

Gruinard sat in his chamber and considered his lot. All things considered he was ok. A bit tired but, yes, he was ready to be Kingly and marry. He picked up his Royal sword and a strand of hair. No, he’d keep the tresses as a memory of his gap year. Instead he turned the sword round and began to clean his nails. It was the least he could do.

This was written in response to the latest #writephoto prompt

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