When The Fish Has Your Chips #writephoto #shortfiction

The woman nudged the silver fish with her boot. ‘What is it?’

The man squatted for a better look. ‘More to the point, where did it come from? It wasn’t there a moment ago.’

The woman pushed it again and it squirmed. ‘God, it’s alive. Should we get it back in the water?’

‘Don’t you bloody dare.’

The man looked at the woman who looked scared. The boy took an involuntary step back. The fish had just spoken.

‘Did you…’ began the man.

‘Yes, I spoke. Get over yourselves. And no I don’t want to go in the water. I don’t like water. I don’t have gills, ok?’

‘Er, well can we help?’ The man exchanged another confused look with the woman. ‘I mean, fish normally die when their out of water for too long.’

‘Yes, well, and not many of them talk, do they? Shall we call me the exception to the rule? Would that help?’

‘I suppose.’ The woman had squatted down and reached out a hand.

‘What is it with this touching fetish? Can’t you just leave me be?’

‘Well yes, but I mean….what are you doing here? How did you get here?’

‘Questions, questions. If you give me… five…’

‘Did someone drop you?’

‘…four…’

‘You’ll be pretty valuable.’

‘…three…’

‘Maybe you’re some sort of AI.’

‘…two…oh, they’re early.’ The fish turned its head and looked up. The man and the woman followed its gaze. The boy was bored and had begun digging yet another hole.

Above their heads the clouds that had been gathering coalesced into a silvery structure that looked much like the fish only many times the size.

‘What the bejeebers is that?’ Asked the woman.

‘I guess you’d call it a space fish,’ smirked the fish. ‘Here we go.’ As he spoke the bottom of the enormous fish opened and many thousands of similar fish poured out crushing the man and the woman though the boy sat in his hole and thought he really needed a pee.

One fish became many which became one massive fish. The hive mind absorbed the man and the woman and taking the best of both adopted their characteristics changing in moments into an enormous version of a human.

Looking round, the newly formed super clone took in the frightened faces of the other beach users. One, braver than most shouted, ‘what are you?’

The hive mind scoured the accumulated wisdom of the man and woman, which wasn’t a lot. ‘Think of us as an invasive species. Now which of you shall we absorb first?’

While the panicked humans began to run and the superhuman sucked them into itself in a perverted inversion of the traditional fish supper, the little boy watched.

As the battle lines were drawn between the Gomorrah beast of Blackpool sands and the human race the little boy grew to be its most ferocious opponent. Over the years they fought many battles though throughout they always had one thing in common. Neither enjoyed swimming.

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany, short story | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

When I’m Cleaning Windows #shortstory #anthology #lifesentences #lifeinaflash

I’m currently in the final throes of preparing some of my short fiction for another anthology. I already have three such…

Life in a Flash

Life in a Conversation

Life in a Grain of Sand

This one will be called

Life Sentences.

To prepare the ground and give you a taster I will publish different stories over the next few days and make each of my anthologies on offer if you’d like to pick them up for a dipper inner over the summer season

When I’m Cleaning Windows

Serge readied himself to knock on the door. It was an impressive piece of oak. ‘Just nod and smile, ok? She’s not keen on anyone new.’

Darren shuffled his feet. Serge thought him an odd lad. Sometimes he seemed shy and nervy, like now; at others he was full of himself.

‘If she asks you a question, let me answer it.’

He knocked.

Somewhere inside the house a dog barked and was stilled. Then a door could be heard to open and close and finally, after what seemed an age, the door itself began to move. It was on a chain and Darren could see a rheumy eye appear in the gap, stare at him, then at Serge, before the door closed again. Another pause and then the door opened fully.  A short ancient lady, in thick grey cardigan and woollen slippers peered out.

Serge smiled broadly. ‘Morning Mrs P. Come to do yer windows.’

‘Of course. Who is this, Serge?’

‘Darren. My apprentice. Good lad. Hard working. Always…’

‘He knows the rules?’

‘Course. First thing I explained. Don’t yer Darren?’

Darren looked confused; he’d been told not to speak, hadn’t he? After what seemed like an age, the old lady nodded. ‘Your money is in the tin.’ She turned and pushed the door shut.

Serge let out a breath and then smiled at Darren. ‘Ok, let’s get this place done. All these bloody crittall windows take a bloody age.’

The two men unloaded the ladders. As they stood by the outside tap for the first bucket to fill, Serge said, ‘Rules. One, clear the sills with a separate cloth; she doesn’t like soap on the sandstone, says it stains. Two, don’t use a squeegee as it doesn’t get into the corners of each little pane of glass. Three, the two windows at the top, round the back, are outside our arrangement so leave them.’

‘She do them herself?’

‘No idea but I doubt it. You’ll see they’re all grown over anyway so you’ll get scratched to pieces if you try.’

Darren picked up the bucket and looked up at the front façade. ‘How many windows does this place have?’

’47.’

‘Geez. Better get on with it.’

‘You do the side and start on the back and I’ll get these sorted. She likes these especially clear as they are the best view.’

Darren pulled a face. ‘Pretty crap if you ask me. A school and shops.’

Serge smiled. ‘No, the view in; she likes people to admire the house.’

Darren lent his ladder against the back wall and looked up. The gable at the top had a double window, which, as Serge said, was covered in rose stalks and creeper. A lovely large red rose grew out in front of the left side. Darren pointed up at the flower. ‘Nice rose, that. My Mel would like that one.’

‘Yeah, sure. Buy her some. Come on, the sooner we start the sooner you can have some cash and waste it on that girl.’

When Serge heard the short scream and the thud he feared the worst. Hurrying round the back, he found Darren lying on his back on the grass, a rose in one hand and a look on his face that spoke of surprise and bewilderment and, yes, terror.

Serge looked up; it was clear from the placement of the ladder and the height it had been extended to that Darren had been at the topmost window; the forbidden window.

Carefully he bent to his prone colleague. ‘Anything broken?’

Darren shook his head.

‘What did you see?’

‘It was awful. Hideous.’

‘A body?’

He nodded.

‘Dead?’ He’d often feared what might be up there.

‘No, worse.’

‘Oh god. A prisoner? Were they tied up? Chained?’

Darren shook his head. ‘Far worse.’

Serge frowned. ‘What? Tortured? Mutilated?’

‘Dancing.’

‘Dancing?’

‘Mrs P. Dancing. Naked.’

Serge patted Darren’s shoulder. ‘There are some views no one should see.’

The offer is a free book if you buy one between the 5th June and the 9th June of

Life in a Flash

Click here to go to the relevant page on Amazon UK.

And here on Amazon.com

Posted in anthology, Books, miscellany, short story | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Looking Forwards, Looking… #cinema #TheFather

I can still remember my first trip to the cinema. The Astoria in Purley. A double bill of East of Eden and HG Wells’ First Men In The Moon.

We only went because my brother wanted to, having read the original. He moaned it was nothing like the book. Took the gloss off the experience in truth, but it didn’t stop it sticking in my mind. The queuing, the smells, the odd red edged torches of the usherettes as they showed us to our seats, the mind expanding sight of the big screen as the curtains rolled back. It was really a sensory overload, so much so I doubt I’ll forget it

Yesterday we went back to the cinema for the first time in 15 months. We wore masks, queued at a respectful distance, entered the auditorium via a door I didn’t know existed to ensure a one way system was followed (mind you, this was as nothing to the weird way out that took us via the neighbouring cemetery…) and took our seats with nervous glances around. It felt like a first time of sorts and I doubt I’ll forget this one either, for very different reasons (though cinemas still seen to have their own odour… and the adverts remain self indulgent wastes of time…)

The Father.

And then we settled in to this challenging, compelling film. Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman, Olivia Williams and Imogen Poots give a tour de force in truth but this is entertainment on the edge. It’s a hard watch.

Any film about dementia tends to play about with time to give the audience some understanding of the sufferer’s experiences, but the director probably achieved this as well as any I’ve seen. And it hurts. As it happens a close relative is experiencing the early stages of these most crushing of diseases so there were a number of poignant and breath stopping moments of recognition and realisation. One of the genius elements in this film is to communicate the terrifying disconnect this disease wrings out of the sufferer. We rely so much on the use of memories to tell our story, to give context. We take a memory and build from it and on it and the journey that is our lives make some sort of sense. We remember the family home, the move away to work or study, the shared flats with friends, the homes we move through. But if something goes missing, if one move conflates with another how do you root yourself? In my experience the loss of that connection leads to many moments of untangilable confusion and Hopkins has the same problem, one we gradually unpick, in ways he can never do.

The devotion of the daughter, the pain for her, the difficulties of her husband trying not to blame and yet… it all held me captive.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t really enjoy it. Not in the sense of being uplifted, taken to another place. No, that’s not quite true. I was taken deeper into places I’d prefer not to go, but I’m so glad I went. It gave me a certain clarity, a way of thinking I’d perhaps ignored up to now. Films aren’t just entertainment or education; they can be self revelatory too.

It’s a fantastic film but not one if you’re looking for escapism, to be taken to a happy place. But if you’ve seen dementia first hand and want help understanding it, or want as good a way of accessing some of its pitfalls and pratfalls, then this will be a must for two hours. If they allow it, take wine… or ice cream. You’ll want a treat…

Posted in Film, review | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

May, The Garden Grows #garden #dog #May2021

Another month, this one cold with a warm end. The colour we hoped for has been postponed and should make itself apparent in June when we will begin the planting for the wedding. Some of the structure we envisage will become apparent then. Still that’s for next time.

So what has it looked like?

In the first half we had some nice days and things began to appear…

Of course I’ve had my lawn worries, but really, for now, it’s all going okay (please, please don’t say I’ve peaked too soon…)

In the second half we’ve seen more sign of irises and aliums, more colour generally…

And then there’s Dog…

And as a prelude to the summer, I’ve even had the moth trap out, with a few specimens… more to follow…

So it’s good bye from me (and him)…

Posted in gardening | Tagged , , , | 41 Comments

Moths And Memories #nature #memories #garden

One thing that brings me back to my childhood is seeing a moth. Dad loved butterflies and moths and at some point in the 1960s bought a second hand moth trap at the Amateur Entomological Exhibition.

Every night, when rain wasn’t forecast because the bulb was so hot it would likely shatter if hit by cold rain, dad put the trap out and in the morning over a cold dawn cuppa would go through the moths that had been attracted by the light and become trapped.

A couple of years ago I bought a new trap, as much to see what a London garden might divulge as to trigger those memories. It’s been so cold and then wet this year that last night I put it out for the first time.

This morning I switched off the light and sifted through the egg boxes to see what had been caught. There were ten moths, not exactly a success but they are still beautiful even if small.

I’ll try again tonight and post some more images. Hopefully as the nights follow the days and warm up the examples will grow.

And meanwhile Tweedledum and Tweedledummer watch on…

Posted in gardening, memories, miscellany, moths | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

Breaching Scotland’s Defences #carrotranch

This week’s #carrotranch prompt is

May 27, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tiny flying insects. Think about how the insects shape the scene or add to the action. Go where the prompt leads!

‘Have you thought about this year’s holiday, Logan?’

‘I’m staying here.’

‘Oh you can’t. We’ve been locked in and…’

‘We chased our tails around the States, if you remember….’

‘That wasn’t a holiday.’

‘You’re telling me…’

‘I meant it was business…’

‘Those goats weren’t a pleasure, that’s true.’

‘So a holiday…’

‘Abroad is out.’

‘We could do a staycation.’

‘Not England.’

‘Why?’

‘Too many English.’

‘What about Wales?’

‘Too wet…’

‘Scotland…’

‘We’ll never survive the attacks.’

‘They’re not unfriendly…’

‘We’re not talking of the people. Remember?’

‘Ah…’

‘Exactly. Midges. Genetically designed to eat the English. William Wallaces with wings…’

Posted in carrot ranch, flash fiction, logan and morgan, miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Bridge The Ancient To The Modern #writephoto

This week’s #writephoto is

Gromit Underfoot wasn’t a complaining sort of troll but he knew he’d been stitched up.

Like all young trolls he’d been looking for a position in which to practice the skills he’d learnt at the Troll Academy: randomised scaring of passers-by, eating those who weren’t scared enough, levying impossible tolls and a variety of crushing techniques. When Grunguard Overspan had mentioned to Gromit’s rather desperate teacher that he was looking for an apprentice to guard the steps leading to his bridge, with the hint that one day the bridge itself might be included in the role, it was Gromit, despite being small, beige and inclined to sag who she proposed. ‘It sounds like just the sort of job for a spickety keen newbie like you,’ she’d said, with the lack of conviction Gromit was beginning to recognise. ‘You’ll fit the bill perfectly.’

Gromit knew he should have asked some questions: the rates of pay, the hours, the uniform options – he thought blue complimented his natural blandness – and whether he really had to eat anyone who was rude or dismissive but by this time he was just pleased to have some work; everyone said he was lucky.

Grunguard eyed him warily, his expression suggestive of contempt or wind. ‘I’ll show you the ropes and then, next Monday you’re in charge.’

‘Right. Er, will I… you know… be expected to eat anyone?’

Grunguard checked the letter he was holding. ‘Entirely up to you.’

‘I mean you won’t mind if I let people pass. Occasionally.’

His employer counted some foreign looking money. ‘No skin off my nose,’ he said, before fingering his face where his nose used to be, it having been lost to a determined Doberman. ‘Chin,’ he corrected. ‘Do what you like.’

‘Really?’ Gromit stared, encouraged by his boss’s apparently considerate attitude.

Grunguard stopped counting and looked at the deflating troll. ‘I won’t be here. You’re in charge. I said so.’

‘Of the steps?’ Gromit added carefully.

‘Everything. I’m off on… on…’ he pushed the brochure under his desk, but not before Gromit saw the heading ‘bridges of the Rhine’. ‘A fact finding mission. Scouting out other opportunities.’

Gromit goggled. ‘Me?’ He waved rather desperately. ‘Of all this?’

Grunguard patted his shoulder. ‘Don’t be such a worry wort. No one will be crossing the bridge.’

‘No one?’

‘The council are repairing it. You just make sure they leave my office alone and I’ll be back for the grand opening. They’ll be some rich pickings then.’ But Gromit was sure his voice lacked conviction.

That was a week ago. Since then, he’d been woken by the early drilling, then exposed to the light while he was performing his morning ablutions, had concrete poured into his ears, and then ignominy of ignominy been asked to hold a pole while they checked everything was level. He’d tried to appear threatening, made demands and even tried out one of the hard stares he’d been taught but the men just laughed, offered him a bacon roll and ignored him. Ignored! That was the worst. To be ignored.

As the last of the workmen disappeared, Grunguard appeared, sipping on one of those cocktails and brushing off some sand. ‘How’d it go?’

‘Dreadful. There was absolutely no respect. I’ve a mind to complain. The men gave me an email I could contact.’

‘No point, young ‘un. I’ve tried when they introduced non-slip steps a few years ago. Dreadful. Complete absence of accidents.’

‘What happened?’

‘They threatened to cancel me, told me they’d a policy against trolling.’

‘What did you do?’

‘What can you do? No one appreciates the old ways, the personal touch, that face to face experience. It’s all distance learning, WFH… there’s even talk we might become a tourist attraction.’

‘No one said. At the Academy.’

‘Oh, they want the fees. It’s a matter of time before we become a myth, just talked about to scare the children. It’s time we moved over for the modern trolls. Still there are compensations…’

‘Really? What?’ Gromit tried and failed to grasp onto a sliver of hope.

Grunguard dug into his bag. ‘Cocktail? I’ve one of those little umbrellas. And we can still scare the bejeebers out of the dogs… Especially that damned Doberman…’

Posted in #writephoto, flash fiction, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Baked In #food

I had this urge…

I had to bake…

There’s this recipe for baked cheesecake…

Ignore the Graham’s crackers… Uck! Nope a packet of chocolate digestives, blitzed to crumbs and mixed with the butter… no extra sugar needed.

Stick that on a greased and lined cake tin

Bake at 180C for ten minutes…

Meanwhile mixed everything other than the eggs with a hand beater…

Then add the eggs one at a time…

Stick on top of the cooked base

If the base looks sticky, worry not…

Then bake at 180C for an hour.

You can top with fruit ( heat fruit and water, make the cornflour into a paste and stir in- please leave out the sugar if using pineapple; I mean, seriously…?) or have with cream, ice cream or all of the above…

It is fab….

He thinks so…

Posted in baking, cooking | Tagged , , , | 29 Comments

And Now…

There are days when even my pearls of wisdom don’t convince even my most generous critic…

I wonder what’s thinking.

Anyone any ideas?

Posted in miscellany | 33 Comments

Shoes And Towels

Today is Towel Day so my mind went to shoes, naturally. This is a small homage to the man who inspired so much in my writing esp. the shorter fiction and whose oeuvre is celebrated on this most wholly of days.

I have had a few influences in my writing career but one stands out, and shoes are at the heart of the art. As any one reading my work here, they will know I love taking a well known setting and subverting it, adding more and more surreal yet internally consistent twists to it.

The late, great St Douglas of Adams reached his apogee in the promulgation of the economic theory that is shortly known as the Shoe Event Horizon.

Simply stated, explaining the correlation between the level of economic (and emotional) depression of a society and the number of shoe shops the society has, this states:

as a society sinks into depression, the people of the society need to cheer themselves up by buying themselves gifts, often shoes. It is also linked to the fact that when you are depressed you look down at your shoes and decide they aren’t good enough quality so buy more expensive replacements. As more money is spent on shoes, more shoe shops are built, and the quality of the shoes begins to diminish as the demand for different types of shoes increases. This makes people buy more shoes.

The above turns into a vicious cycle, causing other industries to decline.

Eventually the titular Shoe Event Horizon is reached, where the only type of store economically viable to build is a shoe shop. At this point, society ceases to function, and the economy collapses, sending a world spiralling into ruin. In some cases, the population forsake shoes and evolved into birds.

Genius. But shoes have always been there, front and centre of my existence, setting the pace, showing me the way.

At primary school we had a strict code. Black lace ups in the first two terms and brown sandals in the third. I wore mine out at an expensive rate – I was one of life’s instinctive scuffers – so much so that when a new make appeared claiming that if the shoes wore out in less than six months they would be replaced with a brand new pair, no questions asked, my mother was all over the local supplier like a homing duvet.

Tuff shoes had no idea what circle of hell they had entered. A veritable crucible of experimentation. When, to the incredulity and incipient depression of the store owner, this particular eight year old came back for the fifth time inside six months he offered my mother any pair of shoes in the shop at his expense just for me to go away. The advertised promise was quietly dropped.

My father’s views on shoes were from a very different perspective. Shoes, like hats spoke to a man’s character and class. Not only had they to be clean but also highly polished, a skill he insisted my brother and I had to learn. There were six brushes in the special box we had: two black, two brown and two that seemed just a bit mucky and never had much use (but you had to have them). Each pair comprised one for putting the polish one, and one from polishing it off when it had dried. A rag was then used to buff the toe cap. The highly polished army boot, where the polish is heated with a little water was understandably for young boys, probably a risk too far.

While mum would get the rest of our uniform’s ready, washing and ironing shirts, chipping school lunches off ties and using steamy damp cloths to try and eradicate stubborn and inexplicable stains from shorts and jackets, my father would use Sunday afternoons to cajole us into the act of shoe cleaning. Often he would do his alongside us, a co-conspirator in manliness training.

Later he explained the strict rules of City wear explaining how brown shoes were absolutely not to be seen Monday to Friday and only at weekends, if wearing a sports jacket and cavalry twills. This was as important as wearing the right hat (bowler during the week, trilby at the weekend and never a cap unless attending a sporting event) and furling your umbrella correctly. He was sorely disappointed to find, when I started work in London in 1979 that none of these rules applied anymore.

There was a lot that happened around shoes. Laces broke and had to be replaced by the correct length. The threading pattern was crucial to a gentleman’s sense of place. However, there was nothing throw away about your shoes. If a sole wore out a new one was commissioned to be stitched in place. Latterly rubber heels and soles would be added and Dad had a last, a three footed contraption which he used to affix said rubber accoutrements when needed. If, as I did you walked with a pronation or in-turned toes so that the heel wore unevenly, blakeys might be added providing a satisfying clippety-clip on hard surfaces but, for the unwary, adding a knife like edge when pulling off a reluctant shoe – many is the finger I’ve sliced with a concrete-sharpened blakey.

I had a Geography master at my senior school – also my form teacher in the fifth form – year 11. Mr Meredith was of military bearing with the sort of smudged moustache that might have been the consequence of poor shaving or a secret addiction to sniffing marker pens. He stood at the front of the class, hands behind his back, rocking too and fro on the balls of his feet and berating us for not knowing the annual production of soya beans in the Cameroons or the capital of Tristan Del Fuego. I found his footwear utterly fascinating, the toes of his shoes curling upwards at an unfeasibly angle. Each rock back exposed the bottom of his shoes and there always seemed to be something stick there – chewing gun, a label, maybe something written. I may have failed dismally at Geography but I developed the ability of staring at people’s feet into an art form.

These days shoes are for comfort, not fashion or speed. Boots more than shoes in truth. But with a wedding in the offing for August I will have train my insteps and heels to be ready for the proper shoes I will be expected to share. I already feel a hobble coming on. Time perhaps to learn to fly as anticipated by Douglas….

Posted in humour, memories | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments