Rocking It

‘And you’ve thought this for how long?’

‘Eons.’

‘Eons?’

‘’Yes. Several eons. Many. More than a handful. A heck of a lot…’

‘Yes, got it. For eons…’

‘Lots of..’

‘Lots of eons you’ve believed yourself to be..’

‘I am stone.’

‘You consider yourself to be a stone.’

‘No. I’m stone.’

‘Mr. Pavement…’

‘Please call me Rock…’

‘Rock, you’re a forty something white male who…’

‘You see, I knew you’d say that. You can’t see it, can you?’

‘See what?’

‘My strata.’

‘Those are wrinkles, loose flesh. Part of the normal impact of ageing on the elasticity of skin.’

‘You need to open your eyes, Doctor.’

‘You need to get yours tested.’

‘Sorry?’

‘Look, let’s accept – for the sake of argument only – that you’re a rock…’

‘My name is Rock. My species is a stone.’

‘Stone’s aren’t a species they’re… they’re…’

‘Exactly.’

‘They’re geological. Igneous. Metamorphic. Sedentary.’

‘You mean sedimentary.’

‘Looking at you I think I was right first time.’

‘Charming. Just because I don’t move much, doesn’t make me sedentary.’

‘So why are you here?’

‘I’m a standing stone.’

‘Keeping in mind this is just a thought experiment, why are you a standing stone?’

‘I don’t like rolling. No

‘No, sorry, that was a little joke. I’m a homage stone.’

‘Go on.’

‘You don’t believe me?’

‘Put yourself in my position, for a moment. I get a call telling me there’s this … this… someone… has taken up residence on the moor, buried up to their knees in sand and covered themselves in an artificial rock-effect shell and lichen. Everyone has tried to talk that someone down without success so it’s my turn. When I ask I’m told they’re a homage stone. That’s a new one on me so perhaps you might explain.’

‘If I do, will you leave me alone?’

‘All I can promise is I will report back. It’s up to the park authorities what happens next.’

‘They’ll not get rid of me. They can’t go digging me up.’

‘Not my call. So homage…?’

‘Yes, right. See, there was a stone circle here, once and someone removed one of the standing stones. Tragic it was so over time I came to realise it is my calling to replace it, and so re-complete the circle. I’m a homage to the Stone That Was.’

‘According to the records, there were three missing stones.’

‘Exactly. There are three of us. Basalt…’

‘Basil?’

‘Hello, I’m Basalt!’

‘And Slate…’

‘Kate?’

‘No, Slate.’

‘And me. Rock.’

‘Geez, you’re all bonkers.’

‘Now look here. We’re not doing any harm. We’re meeting a need. We’re correcting a wrong…’

‘You’re three middle aged men who…’

‘I’m not…!’

‘Sorry… two men and a woman, dressed up in painted polystyrene, covered in mould, stuck in the ground in an area of outstanding natural beauty who are pretending to be rocks…’

‘Don’t you believe in diversity?’

‘You’re not rocks…’

‘We’re presenting as land formations. We’re entitled to call ourselves what we want to. Who are you to decide?’

‘Ok, ok. You’re a couple of shovelfuls short of a gravel trap but I’ll make my report and then the park authorities will implement plan B.’

‘Plan B?’

‘Yes, didn’t I say? Tomorrow the first school trip will be allowed in. Teenagers. I understand that they’re going to be encouraged to scratch their messages on the rocks. A new approach to art.’

‘But…’

‘Of course if you were human that would be assault, but really it’s just a little light graffiti, given your impermeable carapace.’

‘But you can’t let them do that.’

‘Live and let live. That’s what I say. Mind you, I’ve seen the little treasures and if I were you, I’d be off to find a safe space, pronto. You know what they say?’

‘What?’

‘If it ain’t woke, don’t fix it. Cheeripip!’

Posted in creative writing, fiction, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

It’s Never Too Late To Die Young

Harry smiled as Melissa perched the daisy crown on his head. She pushed a grey wisp from his scalp. ‘These things used to stay put when you had hair.’

A clash of metal on metal made him start. The Assassin’s stage filled with light and smoke as the opening bars of Sweet Home Alabama cracked the air.

Harry adjusted his deaf aid, shifting his seat.

 ‘You want to stand?’ 

He shook his head. ‘I’ll save it for Hendrix. Always thought Van Zant overrated. Can’t waste my energy.’

‘Or your pain relief.’

‘Bah. There’s  life in the old dog, eh? Who’s next?’

‘After Jimmy, it’s Morrison, then Buddy, then Bolan…’

‘I’ll have my kip then…’

‘Closing with Freddie.’

Harry coughed greeny phlegm on the ground. ‘For a Brit, he’s ok.’ The old man’s rheumy eyes took in the empty fields, the wispy corn and the one tractor ploughing steadily in the distance.’

‘You think it’s bigger now than then?’

Melissa wiped a bead of sweat from his cheek. ‘I expect so. They’ve worked hard to get the old crews back for one last concert.’

Harry coughed and held his side, allowing the pain to ripple across his stomach. He watched as the song ended and Melissa put a new disc in the machine. ‘I always thought them lucky, you know. Dying young.’

‘Not long now.’

A spot picked out Hendrix as he riffed across Purple Haze. ‘Never did see Jimmy.’

‘But you said….’

‘Yeah. I lied young. Ha!’ Harry shut his eyes. ‘I’ll kip now. Thanks Mel.’

Melissa watched her father close his eyes. She turned off the music and shut her laptop. Bird song filled the air, nature’s harmonies carrying his soul to his long lost soulmates. Maybe now he’d see Jimmy play as he always said he had.

Posted in creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Poetry? A limerick? Does That Count?

Esther Chilton prompts limericks on her blog, here. This week’s prompt was moan and this is what occurred… Make of it what you will…

After an epic Kardashian moan,
The devil turned Kim’s buttocks to stone.
Being no longer callipygous*
She became quiet religious
And joined a convent so as to atone.

*in case this is a bit obscure – callipygous: having or pertaining to beautiful buttocks, easily one of my favourite words

Posted in limericks, poems | Tagged | 25 Comments

Taking Crime, Itself A Crime #1975 #bristoluniversity

In 1975 I started a law degree. It wasn’t, academically the wisest choice and I struggled to grasp what I was meant to be learning. It wasn’t my only struggle

When I signed up for a law degree, I really did have no idea what I was letting myself in for. At the introduction day we were given details of the subjects we would be taking in the first year. Interesting choice of verb that. ‘Taking’. Not learning or the passive ‘being taught’ as we had been at school. There was nothing passive about this course, oh no. Some would take it, wrestle it to the floor and beat it into submission, before claiming it as their own. Others would slip it inside their coat and try and sneak off with it without being seen. I’ve never been a fighter or involved in deception so rather hoped it would offer itself up to me to pick up, say thanks very much and pop out for a Devon pastry without working too hard. What I hadn’t anticipated was the bloody subjects would man the barricades and face us down. Boy, did the law fight back in those early weeks? If I was going to get anywhere, I’d need to engage the enemy.

So what did I learn?

I’ve already mentioned one subject we tried to grab hold of in those early weeks, one that behaved like soap with Parkinson’s: Tort, my understanding of which remained pretty elusive throughout that first term. I liked tort because it was something my friends had never heard of and lent an aura of mystery to my course, in ways someone studying maths or French struggled to impart. And the cases we studied were often examples of why writing fiction is nothing like as surreal as the real thing.

But there were three other subjects to whet the blank canvases of our imagination. Let’s take one here.

Criminal Law at least had a ring of familiarity, but peel back the charge sheet and it was an awkward mix of categories. There were what were known as common law offences – basically those that had been tutted over since Pontius had taken his Pilot exams, like murder and which were almost all created by precedent – basically some judge decided something and everyone else remained stuffed by his decision until another judge decided the first one was a tosser and found a way to ‘distinguish’ the first judge’s heap of juridical do-dos and impose his own decision on the rest of us.

Don’t you love English? We talk about being ‘distinguished’, indicating someone is worthy of our deference whereas legally it means finding a way to say the first decision sucked while maintaining the pretence it was actually brilliant.

The next category contained crimes that were made such by Parliament and, like most man-made law where the powers that be think they can get it right in one document, usually a dog’s breakfast. Some, like road traffic offences naturally needed statute but others, such as theft you’d assume had been around a while and would fall under category one. Theft had been ‘codified’, which was another way of saying buggered about with, in 1968 because the old law of larceny – that’s what we used to call theft – wasn’t fit for purpose like the professors in the law department. We had fun with theft and the statutory definition of taking something with the intention of permanently depriving the owner thereof.

On yes, the lingo. When you butt up against a ‘thereof’ you know you’re sinking into a pit of legal bollicky.

Mind you, that’s better than bloody legal Latin. I mean, give me a break. The Romans left when we began to take the piss out of their taste in mosaics in 300 whatever; we relegated the Church of Rome into the ecclesiastical second division on away goals five hundred years ago and still the law hung on to Latin like a security obfuscation- or maybe Latin hung on to the law like linguistic herpes. Whatever, in crime we had to struggle with things like the ‘mens rea’ and the ‘actus reus’ – in order to be banged to rights you not only had to do the deed but also consciously think about doing it. I think the only Latin expression I ever considered worthy of long term usage came in family law – I studied this in my second year – and was the tag given to the act of consummation of marriage – a necessary but not sufficient condition (Ha, another bit of bollicky) for a couple to be treated, legally as married. Delightfully the Latin expression was Vera Copula which we all thought should be the name of a sex goddess.

The third category came about because those who decided these things realised having strict conditions didn’t always get all of the grubby humanity they thought should be got and so mens rea and actus reus didn’t always have to apply – ‘we can’t let the little snotballs get away with that behaviour, Gervais’. So we studied the exceptions. These were intriguing but also frankly confusing crimes, which of course had a fancy name: the inchoate offences – basically not doing the deed but being tangentially naughty: conspiracy, attempt and aiding and abetting. Never let it be said you can’t both be incompetent and a criminal. Much like a lawyer, really.

I enjoyed studying crime and thought I’d actually taken to it rather well. Then I took my end of year exam, scraped a challenging lower second (what most people would call a ‘C’) and decided not to have anything more to do with it. I think that was a wise choice.

Next time, I’ll try and explain the other two subjects I took. I may fail.

Posted in Bristol, memories, miscellany, university | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

It’s Magical #poem #poetry #kipling #thewaythroughthewoods

Another go at one of the BBC’s top one hundred poems in English, this one based on The Way Through The Woods by Rudyard Kipling which came in at no. 48. It was one of my father’s all time favourites so I hope he’ll forgive the liberty. As before, I take the first line and the structure and then go off on a frolic of my own…

They shut the road through the woods.

It’s caused some constrenation.

It isn’t right; it’s beyond the pale;

We deserve an explanation.

Someone said, ‘There’s been a death.’

Another announced, ‘It’s pretty gory.’

But this is such a magical place

That must be some fairy story.

We’ll ask Ma Hood; she’ll know the truth,

Or those two in that sweet cottage,

Or that girl who lives with those seven blokes

And makes the Bears their porridge.

It’s been confirmed; someone’s dead;

They’ve been pulled limb from limb.

I know they’ll blame Old Man Wolfe,

But my bet’s on the Brothers Grimm.

Posted in poems, poetry | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Quietly Vegetating #growyourown

This year is the first year we’ve really put our backs into growing veg. It’s a lot of effort, especially when growing from seed and it’s probably because we’ve not gone away so have been able to make daily adjustments to the watering, pricking, pruning and picking regimes that has led to such a bumper crop so far.

And in July

The first crops were the mange tout which included, to my surprise since the packet of seeds didn’t have a picture, included purple pods, followed by french beans and courgettes. There was some Swiss chard too. And lately custard marrows…

One courgette did get lost in the foliage and grew into a nearby shrub. Rather a marrow monster if one’s honest.

We’ve had a plentiful supply of gooseberries and while the rhubarb hasn’t warranted any applause (I move them in the autumn and they are taking a while to establish) the onions and potatoes are making up for any disappointment.

Shortly we will taste tomatoes and some late planted beets, followed by some sweetcorn and celery and possibly a cucumber that is beginning to develop.

All in all, rather pleasing.

And Dog?

He’s not really inclined to the vegetarian side of life…

Posted in gardening | Tagged , | 38 Comments

Weather Or Not #writephoto #WIP #extract

In response to the latest #writephoto’s prompt, I’ve adapted a short extract from my current WIP, a humorous fantasy novel involving a character I’ve written about before, Pearl Barley in The Surge Of The Spirits. In this section, we meet Rebecca, a weather engineer, as she tries to sort out a problem for Celia Pilates, the wife of The Reverend Pontius Pilates, something of a nemesis for Pearl

The Vicarage sat back from the main road, at the end of a long drive along which a battered dirty white van drove past and up the drive. The sign on the side had a dark cloud with a fork of lightening through it and ‘We Make Beautiful Weather!’ underneath.  

A woman in red and orange striped dungarees climbed out of the driver’s side and headed for the front door.

The intercom crackled. “Hello?”

“Mrs. Pilates? It’s Rebecca from We Make Beautiful Weather!”

The voice crackled over the intercom. “About time. Come round the back and I can explain. Take the track to the right of the house.”

Rebecca pushed her tangled mass of hair out of her eyes and returned to the van. She turned the key and squeezed her eyes shut, as if she was praying. After a total silence everything shook and the engine sort of apologised into life. She let go a breath and engaged the gear.

Somehow she knew this was going to be difficult. Rebecca was a weather engineer, managing aspects. Her speciality covered skies of all kinds, plus views, general selected weather systems and personalised microclimates. Usually these were only for events because the energy for a longer term climatic solution would cost a fortune. As their marketing had it, ‘We ensure your outdoor function goes with the bang you want rather than the one that has been randomly selected by the vagaries of Mother Nature’. A bit wordy and worthy but it seemed to work.

 Today though she was on a rescue mission. Miss Pleasant Pilates was to be married and a spectacular aspect had been commissioned from The Sky’s The Limit but as Rebecca knew from past experience they were a bunch of amateurs and had left the Pilates garden the subject of a persistent downpour that they’d shrugged and said they couldn’t shift.

She looked at the clouds looming over the house and sighed. Here we go, she thought.

Curving round a corner, Rebecca could see the full extent of the marquee and the downpour. The tent was surrounded by mud and small ponds. While Rebecca manoeuvred the van as close as she could to the marquee without sinking into the mud, a short terse looking woman holding a large golf umbrella and wearing over large green rubber boots sploshed her way towards her.

Up close the persistent stair-rodding rain was plain to see. Even though Mrs. Pilates stood no more than ten foot from the van, she was in the rain, the water fountaining off the canopy of her brolly, while the van stood in the dry. A reddish glow from the lowering sun reflected off the front of the clouds, the cause of the deluge.

.  

A movement to her left drew Rebecca’s attention. A small black cloud, like a child’s version of a cumulus nimbus buzzed in a circle above various tables, apparently pulsing rain at each one.  

Rebecca pulled on her waders, grabbed her own brolly and joined the client. As she sploshed across to her, Mrs Pilates said, “Well? Can you help?”

Rebecca raised her own umbrella and pulled a clipboard from under her coat.  “I’m sure we can do something to make you visually credible. At least I can stop that nonsense,” she pointed at the small table-bombing rain terrorist, “but to sort out something for your event and get the main clouds to behave will take until a few days. The earliest we can start – we’ll need to survey them properly – would be tomorrow afternoon. The wedding is at the weekend, yes?”

Mrs. Pilates nodded, a glimmer of hope trying to push its way into her expression, but still smothered by all the hours spent anticipating disaster.

“You’ve got yourself a bit of a nightmare, haven’t you?”

Mrs Pilates constipated expression suggested she wasn’t helped by Rebecca’s unrelentingly cheery tone.

Rebecca continued. “If it’s a fault in the strato calibration, which it almost certainly is, I can have the boys around at, say, two on Thursday. They’d aim to conjure up a south-westerly which will help get rid of all that nonsense,” she pointed straight up without looking, “and you should be pretty dry out here by ten on the Friday. It’ll be very noisy. How are your neighbours?”

“They’ll be fine. I’ll let them run the tombola at the village fete. Shall we sit and discuss this?” Mrs Pilates took Rebecca’s proffered arm as they headed back towards the house where the rain hadn’t intruded.

Rebecca chatted as they went. “We will need to bring in generators. Maybe two.” They sat and stared at the erratic black cloud, which appeared to have landed and attached itself to a hosepipe. “Did they leave the controls?”

Mr Pilates pointed at a plastic box that sat under a table to the right. The table, unlike everything else on the terrace was saturated.

 Rebecca nodded. “It’s trying to short the remote. Cheeky scamp. Cheap piece of crap, really. Just a mo.” She strode across and picked up the box, shook off the surface moisture, retrieved a remote and prised off the back casing. She grinned. “This will be fun.”

Mrs Pilates’ face suggested fun had gone out of fashion with stay-press and corduroy spats.

As Rebecca pressed a couple of wires the cloud leapt free of the hose, shot in the air and headed their way. Rebecca smiled and under her breath muttered, “Come on, come to mummy.” As the cloud slowed and began to gain height, swelling as it did so, Rebecca dropped her gaze, focusing on the controls in her hand. Speaking out of the corner of her mouth to Mrs Pilates, she said, “Tell me when it stops climbing and starts coming at me will you?”

Mrs Pilates nodded. It took maybe a minute and then the cloud, now three times the size it had been, stalled and pointed down. It seemed to pause. “It’s stopped. It’s still stopped. It’s… here it comes!”

The grin on Rebecca’s face almost split it as she spun and pointed the controls at the cloud. She held a second handset out of which a red laser-like beam shot, piercing the cloud. One moment the cloud was hurtling at Rebecca, the next a short fizz of lightening exploded from its side and what was once a cloud turned into an orb of water. It drenched a corner of the marquee and the flower beds to that side and flopped onto the lawn, like a punctured paddling pool.

Mrs Pilates watched with her arms wrapped around her head as trying to shrink into their cover. She sighed. “Can you dry that out too?”

Rebecca nodded. “Indeed. Once it’s dry, I’ll have a team get up and reel in the clouds. We can give them a good shake, get rid of all the rumples and wrinkles. We’ll make sure they’re tucked in properly this time. It’ll even out the colouration too, less Armageddon, more Amalfi. Shall I go and take some measurements and then give you a quote?”

The older woman stood uncertainly. “Please. I think I’ll go inside and fold some napkins.”

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing | Tagged , , , | 28 Comments

Parenting – Winning The War Or At Least Losing Gracefully

This is based on a post I wrote some years ago and was triggered by a somewhat bizarre discussion with my mother in law about taking medicine.

A parenting lesson, which a conversation today brought back to me and which I thought I’d share.

Back in 1998 when we visited friends in Bahrain, the Lawyer, aged 8, was heavily into Pokémon – the soft toys, the cards and the Game Boy games (blue and red, if you recall). I guess it is only the preteens and their parents of those times who will remember the fascination and  sheer overwhelming bloody horror of the marketing that swamped us following the release of the games and all the clutter and hoopla that accompanied the launch – given this was just after those ghastly Tamagotchis had ruined our lives – you had to ‘keep them alive’ – oh how I wanted to drown the little bastards – all this seemed to be, back then, the stuff of parental nightmares. I wonder what the equivalent is today?

Anyway, there was something about that trip – a longish break from work, two long haul fights and a lot of down-time – that gave me the opportunity to do something I would never have seen myself doing in several millennia and still don’t really believe I did – I took over a Game Boy hand set, plugged in a Pokémon Blue cassette and played the game from start to finish, going up the levels until I had completed it. My chosen Pokémon was Charmander who evolved as they do, though I cannot recall into what. Some memories are happily blocked out. I became obsessed with, and obsessive about, it – when one of the hosts’ children found the handset and was on the verge of resetting it to play the game himself I nearly killed him. It took me something like 25 hours 47 minutes and 12 seconds (I don’t remember exactly) to finish it and, well yes, I was just a  little chuffed with myself. I was 42 years old and should have joined Pokémon Anonymous (‘My name is Geoff and I’ve not evolved for three months’ – cue cheers).

My comeuppance came in 2000. Pokémon, The Movie – a quite ghastly piece of cinematic anime – was followed swiftly by Pokémon 2000. By now we were in San Francisco (we travelled – what can I say?). On one wet day we were with a group of  friends and fractious under twelves who were so hyper that the only way to stop the National Guard being called out to stop the riot was to offer them their choice of film. Yep, unanimity to see Pokémon 2000. Each parent looked at the other briefly and then looked away. Into the howling silence the Textiliste offered ‘Geoff likes Pokémon. He played the game from start to finish’. Oh how they cheered, how they whooped and hollered. Such was the outpouring of goodwill that the reinforced Special Relationship and the Blair/Bush lovefest were the inevitable consequences.

I sat through 114 minutes of torture – who needs extraordinary rendition when Hollywood can do this to you? The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: ‘If you have to go see this film, take your tax return and a torch – it’ll be more fun’.

I survived with the love and support of my family, a lot of counselling and copious slices of cake. I blocked out Pokémon from my life. Well until that godawful Pokemon Go phase but let’s not go there…

Or at least I thought I had. Wind the clock forward to 2014 and I found myself helping fund a piece of fan fiction anime for my Nephew…. another post probably… during which I embedded in YouTube. Research, you know? When clicking through it I came across a post by IntrovertJapan on the subject of high quality fan based films of Japanese anime and computer games.  It included a fan based film trailer for a live action Pokémon Movie. With a degree of trepidation I clicked on it. Brilliant. It’s dark, moody and grim and uses Pokémon for the equivalent of cock fighting within the backdrop of illegal gaming. I would happily see this movie. I feel cured, vindicated (no, that’s tosh) but certainly a tiny weeny bit better about my lost day and a bit while hunched over that Gameboy console and then in that dark picture house.

And the lesson?  Redemption comes via a Youtube clip on the internet? Don’t play with computer games because you don’t know where that addiction might lead?

No. It’s because thinking back to 1998 reminded me of something. In part it’s about letting children have their own childhood and not involving yourself in it too much. By playing that game I wanted to know what my children were doing, partly to help them but partly to be a cool dad. My father never ever tried to be the equivalent of cool. We, the Archaeologist and I, were allowed our own space to be us – doing stuff our parents wanted nothing to do with. Today we want to be our children’s friends and to monitor and regulate in the name of safety and being great loving parents. And that’s kind of ok (even if we risk bringing up overstimulated children who are incapable of dealing with boredom – the subject of another post maybe). But it seems to me that the closer we get in those early years, the more important it is that we prepare ourselves for the inevitable time when we are pushed away. My parents were never pushed away – they didn’t see the need to be so close in the first place.

There are a lot of dictates around today about how to bring up your children and one of them is that once your children start senior school (in the UK at 11) it is essential that you retain the ability to influence them. You can control them, for sure. Limit their hours on the computer, filter social media etc, keep them indoors via groundings or whatever. But physical control isn’t what we’re talking about. Laying down the law isn’t the same as having influence.

At primary school you drop them off and meet them at the school gates, having had a good debrief on the who’s and what’s with other parents. You organise their playdate and often accompany them, getting to know the parents. If you want it that way, they know little to nothing but your (and their teachers) views on the world.

From 11 it all changes. They want you nowhere near; they want to travel to and from school without you (or if it is with you, without you talking). They want to go on new playdates ( now sleepovers) with people you don’t know and whose parents you don’t meet. Now if you collect them, you wait outside in the car until they emerge, or, better, round the corner and out of sight, all the time wondering if you’ll be arrested for kerb crawling or casing the joint.  You’re given a list of topics to be avoided at parent’s evening and what you can and cannot say in front of their friends. You can proffer advice with little hope of being listened to.

And it’s critical you are listened to. Always has been the case but it feels like, today, it’s more critical. There have always been weirdoes, it’s just we know more about them and feel we have less control over how they can inveigle their ways into our children’s lives.

We want to have that dwindling influence. And you know what? There’s an answer, a simple way that avoids massive fights and sulks and yet allows you to nudge and direct albeit in a  sneaky, underhand and, yet often wholly effective, way. You make those friends of theirs, those sulky miserable teens of other parents, as welcome as you can. You become as cool to them as you can. You welcome them into your house, opening your fridge to them (it worked with us, both boys and girls). You undermine (but just a little) their parents’ rules on drinking Pepsi after nine, or watching GoTs or whatever it is. Because those friends have the influence you lack. They are listened to. And because you aren’t their parents, with all the accompanying baggage, you are given a fair hearing. And messages that your own children will simply not hear from you they will hear from their ‘bezzies’.

Sure it isn’t fool proof; there are friends you really don’t want them to have and it gets pretty tricky with boy/girl friends and your food bills do mount alarmingly but it’s a tactic and as with all wars you need a strategy to fight a long, bloody but effective rear-guard (and be under no illusion – you are on the back foot throughout all this time).

It’s hopeless isn’t it? Bah, bloody teenagers. It does end because one day they will have the same revelation that Mark Twain had so many years ago:

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” 

And then they ask to borrow money….

And you know what’s keeping you sane? It’s the thought that the point will come when they will discover a universal truth that is hidden from us as children (and even if we are told it, we wouldn’t believe it). One day, assuming they live long enough those awkward, loveable, irritating, reliable, opinionated, stubborn founts of wisdom –  aka your parents – will overnight become your children. From telling you how to drive they become incapable to buying a car without your say so; from expressing their exasperation at your wasting money on an indulgent holiday, they need you to approve their holiday plans; from proffering all sorts of gratuitous and intrusive advise about you home-making choices, they want you to decide if they should sell the house and how to invest the proceeds.

And if there’s one sure fire truth it’s that, if we think it’s difficult to influence our children when they’re 13 to 18, it’s near impossible when they’re north of 70.

Posted in thought piece | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

The World According To Vicky #poem #tortoise

If you live with a tortoise

It’s not likely to improve your poise

Or lessen any ambient noise.

But equally you’ll never cuss

Or jump about or make a fuss

Living with a tortuss…

Posted in pets, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Tragedy #flashfiction

A sombre piece triggered by an item in the news last week…

The gendarmerie were first on the scene. Soft insistent voices, urging her to hang on.

Hang on? To what? Why?

‘What’s your name. Mademoiselle? Can you hear me.’

‘Marie. Marie De la Frontielle.’ It was as much as her body allowed. She felt so tired.

‘We’ll have you out soon.’

Out? Doctor Martine’s face floated into her vision. His words measured, serious. Trapping her with the diagnosis. No ‘out’, not for her. Not now. Her body was her prison.

‘It’s like an ice rink out here. Why was she going so fast?’

She always went fast, the ice always her friend: spins, Lutzes, toe-loops, Salchows, nothing stopped her. The applause. Rippling over her, holding her up, making her fly.

‘How long will the Peripherique be shut, do you think? She’s stopped everything for miles.’

‘Who’s the driver?’

‘That figure skater? She was in the Winter Olympics?’

‘Her? The one…?’

‘Yeah. Fell twice. Never happened before. Her chance of the title. Tragic.’

Tragic? Falling on ice isn’t a tragedy. Even twice. Even losing a final. It’s not being able to stand up afterwards, that’s going to be her tragedy.

‘Do you think she meant it?’

‘Falling?’

‘No, this. Looks like she crashed deliberately.’

‘Why’d she do that? No, the conditions are awful and she’s only young. A star. Whole life ahead of her. Why’d she want to do this?’

Once that was true. Before Doctors and tests and MS. That’s when she had a life.

‘You think she’ll survive?’

Please, no, not that. I wanted to live; surviving isn’t enough.

‘It’d be a tragedy if she does. Look at her legs.’

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