It’s Not About The Paint #carrotranch #flashfiction #morganandlogan

‘You decorating, Logan?’

‘I was fed up with the colour.’

‘I always thought it was one of those pretentious ‘white with a hint of snot’ thingies.’

‘It was Forest Dapple.’

‘You’re kidding? Which bit of that “yesterday’s cappuccino” effect was forest and which dapple?’

‘You’re right, it was just brown. Now it’s Sunshine Glory.’

‘Yellow?’

‘But a really deep and inspiring yellow that speaks to love and harmony.’

‘Sort of lemony, then?’

‘Why don’t you decorate your flat rather than scoff.’

‘I plan to, tonight but I’m going much bigger than my flat.’

‘Yeah?’

‘I’m painting the town red.’

This was written in response to Charli Mills’ latest prompt at the Carrot Ranch

June 27, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves paint. It can be fresh, peeling or in need of a coat. What is being painted and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Posted in carrot ranch, creative writing | Tagged , , , , | 31 Comments

Into The Garden

Every Year in October, my father wrote a poem to my mother on her birthday. Many were centred around one of their mutual passions, their garden. I like to think, if they could see our garden this year they might think ‘not bad’. June has been glorious and so, shamelessly here are a few more images to enjoy… oh and of course, Dad’s poem

On your special day, my love, the world is touched with brightness,

As the slow October sun, warm and drowsy as a child,

Floods the garden with rich golden light.

Along the tangled ancient hedge, bees quest and murmur in the ivy flowers,

And butterflies, with quivering wings, grow tipsy on the juice of tumbled apples,

Soft-decaying in the dappled orchard grass.

Late roses, petalled pink and red, beckon from the secret corners which are your delight,

While clematis, unscathed as yet by chilly nights, still clambers skywards,

Gleaming star-like through the shady shrubs.

So, nature smiles Her thanks to you today, remembering your gentleness, and loving care,

And I, who love you very much, smile too, but cannot speak,

Lest foolish tears betray a trembling heart.

Posted in gardening, miscellany, poems | Tagged , , | 37 Comments

Yes Mr Speaker #flashfiction #humour

Martin Clarke stood in the Speaker’s private office and admired himself in the mirror. He shouldn’t be here, he knew but the open door spoke of temptation. One day soon, he promised himself as he adjusted the ermine collared cloak, he would be Speaker of the House of Commons, in control of the Mother of Parliaments.

The costume was ridiculous, he could admit to himself: breeches and stockings, buckled shoes and an embroidered jacket. But he did look good in it.

Reluctantly he changed back into his frankly drab, if expensive suit and hung the cloak back on the hanger.

Prime Ministers came and went but they never had the power that resided here, especially in these days of hung Parliaments. Real power to decide who spoke, which motion came before the House, which were voted on. He looked again at his reflection and intoned: ‘The ayes to the right have it. The ayes have it.’

A small cough brought him back to the moment. ‘Perhaps this might be a good time for you to leave, Mr Clarke. The Speaker has just entered the Building.’

Martin nodded, possibly a touch too anxiously he thought, but Sponge did that to you. Wizened little gremlin. It was like being back at school, fagging for Carpenter. He knew how to make you feel inadequate. That would change when he became Speaker. ‘Right. Thank you for… you know, Sponge.’

‘Not at all, Mr Clarke, and if I may make so bold, if you are talking to The Right Honourable Member for Cotswolds West you would be well advised to mention the chinchilla rabbits and Yvonne De La Grasse.’

‘Really?’

‘Indeed sir. I think you will find his reluctance to support your candidature for Speaker might reduce somewhat.’

‘Shouldn’t I know what it is that might cause such a Damascene conversion?’

‘I suggest not, Mr Clarke. You would want to maintain the plausible deniability that only true ignorance ensures.’

‘But you know, Sponge, don’t you?’

‘Indeed it is my burden to know these things on behalf of the holder of this great office of state.’

‘Are there many, erm, Yvonnes? If I can put it that way.’

‘More than enough, Mr Clarke to ensure that only those best placed to undertake such a delicate role as Mr Speaker, are able to achieve the necessary, if not willing support.’

‘And you think… that is Mr Speaker thinks that could be me?’ He knew he sounded feeble but he had always thrived on some gratuitous flattery.

‘Oh yes. A perfect candidate you’ll make, Mr Clarke. Now, if you would be so kind as to perhaps take your leave, I need to brief Mr Speaker on the day’s schedule.’

Barnabas Sponge watched Martin Clarke stroll away heading for the members bar. There was just the right amount of unjustified confidence, chummy bonhomie and man of the people faux sincerity in that one, he thought to make him the perfect candidate. That plus his penchant for oiled hairless romps with a couple of toned Ivans and a boxful of blue pills. The Speaker may be powerful but not as powerful as the keeper of the Speaker’s secrets.

Barney Sponge straightened the blotter and headed for his own little office, modest in its size and trimmings. Time to organise a little competitive bidding around the identity of the new Speaker and place a couple of bets. Then he could focus on the upcoming patronage round. Yes, Mr Speaker Clarke would be only too keen to help support a few of Barney’s favourite causes when he balanced the inevitable gratitude with the sure and certain knowledge that Barnabas Sponge has him where Barnabas Sponge wanted him: by the balls.

Posted in creative writing, flash fiction, humour, miscellany, politics | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Corona: Part Three

Inspector Thorne waited. Janice Strutt took a moment to compose herself. He’d pretty much accused her of being involved in the mysterious burial of human remains so her silence wasn’t a surprise. What was, was her eventual reaction. She stood without a word and disappeared back into the hallway. Briefly he wondered if she was about to do a runner. Then the possibility she was hunting out a weapon came to him.

He relaxed slightly when he heard her steps as she went upstairs. Whatever she was after didn’t take her long to find as she was back inside five minutes. She placed a folder on the table between them as she sat, facing him, her hand on top so he couldn’t open it.

‘After Roger died, I found a sheet of paper in the inside pocket of his jacket, the one he was wearing on the day he died.’ She opened the folder and pulled it out. ‘I couldn’t make head nor tail of it.’

Peter Thorne turned it to face him with the minimum contact with his finger, not wanting to compromise any forensic evidence. In the middle of the sheet one word had been typed.

Help

‘Like that sheet.’ She taped the plastic pouch. ‘I’m no expert but the same type writer, if that broken ‘p’ is anything to go by.’

‘You think it might be the Corona?’

She shrugged. ‘How the hell would I know?’ She rubbed her face. ‘The day he died we had spent hours at the cottage, clearing it before it went on the market. Roger focused on the attic. He found his dad’s old typewriter stuck behind the water tank. He said he was happy to throw it out but I found he’d dug it from the rubbish and hidden it in the car. I dumped it in our bin, when we got back but maybe he retrieved it again, that afternoon. Maybe he typed that.’ She tapped the sheet in front of the Inspector. ‘It was a Corona though I don’t see how it can be the one you found buried.’

Thorne dug in his left pocket pulling out thin rubber gloves. ‘May I?’

She nodded.

Carefully he picked up the sheet and turned it over. Blank. ‘Can I keep this?’

Her shrug suggested indifference. As he fumbled with another pouch she continued, ‘Part of me wondered what it meant, of course. Hardly suicide. I was in two minds to throw it away. That’s when I found these. At his mother’s. It was up to me to finish the clearing.’ Once again she opened the folder and pulled out more sheets which she placed in front of him. ‘They were tucked in books. The first fell out when I started emptying the shelves. Then a second. After that I shook every book.’ She finished by pulling out a sheaf of pages and dropping them on the top. ‘Some are covered in just one word repeated, like the one you found, some have a single word. Help, pigs, shame.’ She paused, until he looked up at her. ‘And Colin.’

‘Colin?’

‘One of Roger’s Brothers. Roger was the youngest of three, his older brothers were twins. I think they were, maybe five years older. They disappeared when Roger was fifteen or sixteen. The other twin brother was called Christopher.’

‘Did you know him then?’ He checked his notes. ‘You went to school together didn’t you?’

‘I moved to the same school as him in the sixth form, shortly after they left. I knew of Roger but we didn’t get together until after university.’

Thorne turned over the pages of his notes. ‘I don’t have anything about the brothers disappearance. Was it reported, do you know?’

‘I think, at the time, it was believed they’d had a falling out with their father and left to work in London. It was only later, after their father died that Roger tried to get in touch. I think his mother asked him to help. He said he couldn’t find them. I’m pretty sure he told his mother he could report them missing but she insisted he stop there and leave them be.’

The policeman wrote some more notes. ‘Do you happen to have anything of your late husband’s – a hair brush or similar.’

‘Why?’

‘The bones we found. If we can find his DNA, we may be able to find enough to establish if there is a familial link.’

‘You think it might be Colin?’

‘Or Christopher. Or both?’

‘Both? You only mentioned a hand?’

‘We are re-examining the site. What the forensics do tell us is that it is likely the bodies were left with the pigs. Probably to hide any evidence. The hand must have been missed. It’s possible both brothers were disposed of this way.’

He waited again, registering her dismay. When finally he judged she had absorbed the information again he coughed and in a quiet voice, said, ‘You still haven’t explained how your fingerprints are on the typewriter that we found in the pit?’

Posted in creative writing, fiction, horror, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

The London Olympics – My Part In Its Downfall: Part Two

Having won the bid, the initial euphoria diminished somewhat. Beijing still had to host their games and there was sure to be a lot of controversy there. In addition, in typical British ways, as soon as we’d done something successful we started picking it apart; if self flagellation became an Olympic sport we’d be nailed on for Gold every time.

It was going to be too expensive. We’d fail to build the facilities on time and make the Greeks look efficient (this was an appallingly familiar theme). The Chinese would set the bar too high. Londoners would prove themselves to be indifferent at best and downright rude at worst. The rest of the UK would shun yet another London-centric project.

The critics weren’t without evidence. We had rebuilt our national football stadium at Wembley but with a massive cost and time overrunS. Ditto the building of the Jubilee Line and any number of Government run projects. And don’t mention the Millennium Dome.

I watched these tall poppy harvesters with a mix of annoyance and mild despair. If we talked it down then we’d succeed in ruining it.

On a personal level I did manage to have a small role in those early days. One of my partners, a boulder of a man with a genial smile and an intellect of gargantuan proportions wanted us to be the lawyers of choice. One of the small but compelling elements in London’s bid was that the London Olympics would not just have commercial sponsors but also professional ones. This was new and only possible because of the size of the professional firms that inhabited the London market. In the legal sphere there were perhaps a dozen firms with the size and technical expertise to be able to provide the range and depth of legal resources needed. If a law firm could provide the manpower, gratis, in return for sponsorship associations with the Games then the money that would otherwise have been spent on hiring lawyers could be defrayed elsewhere.

Now, let’s be honest here. Corporate sponsorship of the Olympics is one of the bugbears for a lot of people. But it costs a ridiculous amount of money to run these Games. I understand those, some who will read this piece, who are convinced that the money spent on a six week sporting extravaganza across the Olympics and Paralympics is an egregious waste of that money. You are welcome to that view. But it would no more be found and spent on other worthy projects that will the money saved from being in the EU somehow go to reduce the waiting lists in the NHS. I see the upside, the improved infrastructure, the redeeming of dereliction, the fun, joy, buzz that comes with the Games. I will always thing it worth it. If you don’t then of course you are perfectly entitled to that view. Even if it is wrong…

But whatever your view on that, it takes a bunch of cash to have the Olympics. The headline figures that we had to grapple with were initially something like 2.4 billion that rose pretty quickly after the bid to 9.3 billion. What? You’re kidding?

Nope, the figure that was needed in the bid documents was not and was never actually ever going to be the cost of the Games. But that wasn’t explained up front and as a result a lot of people called foul. Governments, hey? They are incapable of telling it as it is. And this is true.

And even there, that 9.3 billion – it didn’t cost that btw, that contained a contingency which wasn’t all called on – wasn’t all of it. Nope the 9.3 was to create the facilities to house the Games, not the cost of hosting the six weeks of sport.

There are two parts to any Games. The cost of putting in place the facilities the infrastructure etc to house the events and the running of the extravaganza itself. There are always two entitles involved. A public sector one for the first element above and a private sector one for the second.

In London’s case that meant the Olympic Delivery Authority formed under statue – the Olympic Act of 2006 – technically a non governmental public authority (oh I do like a bit of nerdy legalese) – funded by the 9.3 billion to buy build and maintain the Olympic park and all the other facilities and LOCOG a private limited company jointly owned by the government the London Mayors office and the the British Olympic Association (I think) which was funded to the tune of some 2.4 billion to run the Olympic and Paralympic Games. That 2.4 billion came for a mix of corporate sponsorship, ticket sales and broadcast fees.

These two entities had many differences. Structure, funding, goals, personnel. Obviously they wanted to see a successful games hosted but there are many ways to achieve that and the big beasts involved with even bigger egos were never going to get on totally smoothly.

In the run up to the moment I really dipped my toes in that piranha pool, one memory sticks out. I helped source some temporary office space for the Bid Committee which led on all aspects of the early stages of the construction of the facilities, that was before the ODA came into existence with the passing of the Olympic Act. The in house lawyer then, Charlie W and my colleague were discussing some aspect of the bid documents which needed refreshing. ‘Take a look’. They were unusually simple for major legal contacts, less than a page. In simple terms the document between HM Government and the International Olympic Committee spelt out one truism which anyone with half a brain would realise but which I found took my breath away. It said come what may the British Government would pay whatever it needed to host the Games. No contingencies, caveats or wheedly wording. No wriggle room. That didn’t surprise me. What did was the signatory: our famously (self proclaimed) Mr Prudence himself Gordon Brown. I wondered how many scotches he needed before he signed that?

Posted in experiences, history, law, London, miscellany, Olympics | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Corona: Part Two

If you would like to begin at part one, click here. If you are already up to speed, then off you go…

Mrs Strutt? Detective Inspector Thorne. I met you when…’

‘When Roger died? Yes, I remember. You were a sergeant then?’ Janice fought back a shudder of memory. This man had been the one who confirmed he was dead. What an awful job. She hated him then, in that moment. Now she felt a surge of compassion.

The policeman nodded, his gingery quiff bouncing with each movement. She remembered that quiff, thinking it made him look younger than he probably was. ‘It’s not about that. Well, not directly.’

How would she describe that expression. Cryptic? Confused? Certainly awkward. ‘Would you like to come in?’ She turned on her heels and headed towards the back and the kitchen. He could close the door. She needed a moment to compose herself. It might have been three years but time hadn’t reduced the power of her recall, finding her husband at his desk, eyes stretched impossibly wide in terror, a grey streak through his hair. The autopsy said it was heart failure. He had a weakness. It might have happened at any time. What they never could explain, certainly not to her satisfaction was the proximate cause. Because the look had to have been triggered by something. Sudden death syndrome didn’t leave time for any sort of realisation of impeding doom so his terror wasn’t a result of his appreciating what was happening to him. And nothing explained the grey streak.

Another memory: they hadn’t believed her when she said he didn’t have a grey streak in his hair. She saw it in their expressions. The if-you-say-so-madam scepticism. The whispers she may or may not have been meant to hear: ‘he probably dyed it’. Thorne – What was his first name? Peter? – he hadn’t been one of them. He was as baffled as her, especially when she showed him a photo of Roger’s father in the year before he died. With the exact same streak.

She busied herself with a kettle while she listened to him settle onto a stool. ‘Tea or coffee?’

‘Coffee thanks. Can I ask how you’ve been?’

She put down a cup and some milk and sugar while she prepared a cafetière. ‘Have I moved on, do you mean? Yes and no. Good and bad. Grief is an indifferent and inconsistent companion.’ She splashed hot water into the jug. ‘Strong or weak?’

‘Strong would be great. Yes, I can imagine.’ He smiled and sipped. ‘I’m sorry if I sounded rather cryptic earlier.’

Yes, cryptic would describe him, she thought. Same as before, holding things back. She nodded for him to carry on and sat opposite him.

‘It’s about your husband’s family home.’

‘Pottinger Cottage? We… I sold that two years ago?’

‘’Nineteen months, yes. To Patricia and Colin Normanby?’

‘That’s right.’

‘They sold it to the present owners, the Humbolts last year. June.’

‘I didn’t know.’

‘No? I suppose there was no reason why you should. I wondered how much you knew about the cottage?’

Janice stared at her coffee, a black ground floating asymmetrically on the surface. ‘I never lived there. His parents inherited from his grandfather, paternal grandfather. I think it may have been in the family for about fifty years?’

‘And it was part of a farm?’

‘Originally yes. His grandfather farmed from Yallop Farm until he became too ill to carry on. Roger’s father took it over. My impression was he didn’t want to but felt some compulsion. He sold off the farm and land but kept the cottage. His parents had preferred living in the cottage so I suppose it was a sentimental decision, but the place gave me the creeps.’

‘Really? How so?’

‘Oh I don’t know. It was cold for a start. I always shivered when we arrived however hot it was outside. And there were the usual range of creaks and moans that go with old buildings that could give you – me anyway – the willies. And there was this odd smell, outside the back door. Sort of drainy even though the drains were on the other side of the building.’

The policeman checked his notes. ‘It was a smell that led to us being involved.’

Janice raised an eyebrow but let him continue.

‘His mother stayed there until she died?’

‘Yes. Stupid really. We told her she should leave, come and live with us but she had this misplaced loyalty to her husband, my father in law, Gerald. She died there. We’d been clearing the place out, ready to sell it when… when… the day Roger died.’

‘I remember. When the place was part of a farm, did they keep pigs?’

Janice looked up sharply. ‘Why?’

‘Did the pigs live near the cottage?’

‘I’m sorry, I don’t know.’ She stopped to swallow and take a sip of coffee. Another shudder, like the first one when he arrived, ran down her spine and she fought to keep her voice even. ‘From memory the only animals Gerald kept by the time Roger and I started going out were some goats. He had this thing about his garden and used goats to keep the grass on the left side shorn.’

‘The garden is strange, isn’t it?’

‘I never understood why they didn’t dig it up or lay it to grass. There was this patch outside the dining room where the only thing that ever grew were brambles, you know blackberries but the fruit was disgusting, really bitter.’

Another knowing nod. ‘You remember nothing about when they stopped keeping the pigs and why? What happened to the herd?’

‘No, I don’t think it was ever mentioned.’

He sighed.

‘What’s this about?’

The Inspector took a moment and then pulled out a plastic envelope. Inside was another envelope and a sheet of A4 paper. Janice stared at it, unable to move.

‘The Humbolts were disturbed by the smell and had plans to landscape the garden. They had a contractor come in to investigate – they wondered if there may be an old cesspit under the garden. When the contractor reached the bramble patch he found a pit. At first it looked like it just contained animal bones.’

Janice’s voice was barely a whisper. ‘Pigs?’

He nodded. ‘It was when they started pulling them out they found this envelope.’ He tapped the plastic evidence pouch. ‘Intriguing, isn’t it?’

Janice has already seen the addressee on the envelope. Her name, including, as if to make sure there was no confusion, her maiden name. But that wasn’t the main thing that stopped her breath. It was the A4 sheet. Every spare inch comprised one word. ‘Help.’

She looked at the Inspector. Yes, it was Peter. He smiled sympathetically. ‘This must come as a tremendous shock, Mrs Strutt. Given the decomposition of the animals it is decades since that pit was dug and filled in.’

‘The letter was buried a long time ago?’

‘That’s the odd thing. We are doing some tests but it looks like the paper is the sort that was developed from computer printers so unlikely to be more than five or six years old.’

‘That’s… how can it be there?’

‘We don’t know. We’d like to understand that ourselves.’

Janice began to feel calmer. ‘How strange. Though why are the police involved? Dead pigs aren’t criminal, are they?’

‘No. Ordinarily we wouldn’t have anything to do with this. It was the fact that there were also human remains in the pit that has us interested.’

‘Human remains?’

He finished his coffee. ‘Oh yes, this is one strange hole. Pigs, a human hand, a letter addressed to you and, perhaps most bizarrely, an old typewriter. A Corona.’

Janice’s voice wobbled. ‘A typewriter?’

‘Yes we ran a check for fingerprints. If you recall we took yours for elimination purposes when we investigated your husband’s death. His are on it. As are yours. I don’t suppose you can explain that?’

Posted in creative writing, fiction, horror, miscellany | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

The Philosophical Differences In The American And German Approaches To Trade Policy (Rattus Rattus Version) #terriblepoetry

Chelsea Owens encourages terrible poetry. That suits me and this week’s prompt

the Topic is small rodents’ opinions on political policies

generated this pile of doo’doos. I’m not sure you are meant to enjoy it; you’ll need to ask the progenitor. And I’m pretty sure I’ve failed to achieve what the prompt was meant to achieve.

But it is terrible so there is that…

Angela Merkel

The German gerbil

Dominated the world’s Rathaus.

She cleaned her whiskers

And bled her blisters

Caused by her love of Strauss.

Come on you chump

I’ll lead with trumps

Said the toe tapping rodent.

I find it’s the best

Way to road test

Which policies are the most potent.

If you only knew,

Said the pinched face shrew

Who pitched a wicked idea,

What the world really thought

About a rat without

A sausage and gassy beer.

The orange hued hamsta

More goon than gansta

Scoffed when told of her plans.

Sat on his white sofa

He fondled his gopher

And declared her ideas to be pants.

Just build a wall

To keep out them all

He declared with zero decorum

My ideas are a killer,

He addressed the chinchilla

Who chaired the NAFTA trade forum.

We’ll go it alone

He began to intone

And not plan but shoot from the hip

And we’ll play the white hat

And use a fat cat

To drive you rats from the ship.

Posted in miscellany | 13 Comments