The Shanty


​Maverick Mustang Manuscripts 

The Story Teller                 ​ 


'Mumblings with Martha'

“That’s just like you to be leisurely lazing about lying on a lounger LISTENING to lyrics, when you should really be WRITING some! Just because you are staying in Spain at the moment, it doesn’t mean that you should be using the ‘Manana’ approach. What have I told you before about procrastination? But since you are in a musical mood, I’ll go with it and say in the words of from a Beautiful South song: ‘Do you know your problem? You keep it all in...’ When in truth you should be adopting the sentiments of the song from ‘Frozen’ and ‘Let it go...’ I know that you have lots of good ideas but you are not putting any of them down on paper! You were telling someone the other day that you are a techno-dinosaur; no wonder you are becoming extinct...”

“There she goes again, that’s Martha, my Muse. Looks very like I’ve another ear-bashing coming on. It was her idea that I should write this blog. So maybe I should start at the beginning. As SHE has told me many times now that that is always a good starting point for a narrative.  Just sometimes.....

So, dear reader, to give you the full S.P. I’m Dusti Rodes, and I am her ‘residency’, or so she says. We’ve been ‘together’ for several years now. Ever since the ‘meeting’ in fact. Except she informs me that she has been shaping my career for a lot longer unbeknown to me. She reckons its close on fifty years now.
So while I’m listening to her latest outpouring of wisdom, you can all amuse yourselves by reading the background to this point in the proceedings. Hope to see you all on the other side. Tarah for now!”

Sometimes Martha says some strange stuff. Like the other day. She suddenly came out with, “When Ted was talking about the need to diversify in order to survive in this writing business while we were at the seminar in Menorca, it suddenly occurred to me; I wonder how one becomes a professional ‘Hit Man’? It’s not exactly a job that you can find easily advertised at the local Job Centre, is it? Or I suppose it really must be a business for the self-employed person! And how do ‘employers’ contact one; again I really can’t see it as a situation for ‘business cards’ or an entry in Yellow Pages, do you?”


Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.”


Not only will exercise help you keep a healthy body, it’s also a good way of releasing stress and switching off. No one has to be super fit, just going for a walk or the completion of some light movement can make you feel better. Doing this during the hours of daylight is also to be encouraged and can give you a much-needed boost of energy.

Eat Well

What you eat can have a huge impact on how you feel.


It is important to get good sleep to allow your body and mind to repair itself. If you struggle with sleep, you can try setting yourself a routine, consciously clear your mind of thought, practise listening to your breathing, try reading for a short period or doing other relaxation exercises.


Make time to do the things that you enjoy. It is important to put yourself first and make time to relax, switch off and have fun.

Be Kind to Yourself

It is okay not to be perfect or admit that life is not how you pictured it right now, give yourself a break. Exercises of mindfulness can help you get perspective.

Day Eight and now the real writing starts. The penny has finally dropped. Martha kept me awake half the night. Martha? I’ve told you about her haven’t I? No. Well let me explain. Martha is my muse. And a right pain in the arse she can be sometimes! Like last night for instance, there I was trying to get some sleep in order to write some more of my novel for NaNoWriMo, when she says “What have I told you? It’s QUALITY not QUANTITY! You’re a bloody poet and a sometime writer of SHORT stories. Not Novels!” “But that’s the name of the game; I’ve got to write fifty thousand words by the end of November, apart from having grown this bloody moustache as well. Then of course I had to go down to Jaywick and close the caravan up for the season over last weekend.  I lost two good writing days over that. Then there were the hospital appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday Fat lot of use they were. Just because that optician at Asda’s didn’t understand my physiology, he sent me to Moorfield’s to get checked out for Glaucoma. Glaucoma! I ask you! For a man that doesn’t like bright lights and wears photo chromatic glasses, to have to go through the palaver that I did the other day was ridiculous. First the nurse, or should I say one of the nurses put what I thought were the drops to dilate my pupils so that the optician would be able to see inside my eye better.  But were they? No they weren’t! Turned out those drops was just the anaesthetic in order to numb my eyes so the first nurse could use her machines and measures to actually touch my eyeballs. “Need to measure them accurately” she said. Turns out one are larger than the other but I could have told her that! And what about all those questions about my personal details? Do I drink? And how much? Is that weekly or daily? I told her that with my three Iron mistresses I would be lucky if it was monthly.” What Iron mistresses?”she asks. “My heart medication” I reply. “And what are they?” So I tell her, don’t I. “Foxglove Extract, Rat Poison, Thyroxin, and Chalk,”  “What?” she retorted. Gotcha!  I thought. “Well, to you they are Digoxin, Warfarin, and Leveothroxin and Ad cal tablets; according to my doctor my Vitamin D levels are low. (Another one who doesn’t understand my physiology!) “Oh, I see” she said. But what I want to know is, in the light of the end situation, what’ll happen to all that information?  So much for the Data Protection Act, but I don’t trust them any more than I do Face book!” “Face book? What ARE you talking about?” interrupted Martha. “You know! When I first went on the site six years ago, it was a great place to be. Plenty of like-minded creative people to talk to. But now it’s the multi-national be moth  of advertising, everybody’s friends of friends cousins aunts sisters get to know all your details, whether you want them to or not.” “I get the picture” she said. “So what else did this first nurse do then?” “Well, she then went on to EXPLAIN if you will, that your common or garden optician use the puff of air to test the pressure in your eyeball. But not her! She was going to put her little measuring meter right on my eyeballs.”You may feel a little discomfort, nothing too distressing.” “She should be on the end of it, that’s what I say. Nothing too distressing my arse! After she had done that she put the searchlight in my face ““Searchlight?” “I don’t know what else you’d call it, after she’d played around with for a while; all I could see was stars. Then she used the blue light thing that created, or should I say split the white light back into the individual hues of the spectrum. Hasn’t had that experience since I was last on Alpha Centauri. But we won’t talk about that too much, will we?” “Wasn’t one of your better efforts, was it?” “You’re a fine one to talk! Look at some of the roads you have had me travel down over the years. Especially the last few.””You are always complaining your exploits have fired imaginations, created a whole raft of new writers.” “But that’s the problem nowadays, isn’t it? With the internet, apps phones, tablets, laptops, social media sites, like Face book, Twitter, Watt pad, Tumblir  to name but a few, EVERYBODY thinks they’re a writer! One six line sonnet on StoryENet, and they think they are Robert Frost! You know full well that I’ve had to labour for my efforts. Every one of the accolades today was hard-earned. I put my sessions of burning the mid-night lamp in many a time, haven’t I?” “That you have” agrees Martha. “But not without my help on several occasions, as is the case in question.” “Sorry, what are YOU talking about now?” “As I was saying earlier, before you so badly interrupted me, you are a poet, whose discipline by its very nature crystallises thought in order to use only one word to describe something that in prose will require ten. Volume of output is not your forte. So what are you doing attempting to write a novel of what is it, fifty thousand words, and without me it seems” “Don’t tell me YOU don’t know about NaNoWriMO?” “And who do YOU think created it, then?”” Sorry,”I mumbled, out of the side of my mouth. “Of course you’d know about it, wouldn’t you? Bloody Mrs Know-It All. I thought it was a brilliant cause, with principles so very close to my heart that I have a bash at doing it this year. Actually, you’re just winding me up again, aren’t you? You know full well that I entered it last year and was going to write the story that I’m entering in it now, but you know perfectly what happened with Linda’s situation at that time.””Yes I do, of course. And it was absolutely first rate what you did for her in her very frightening experience. You also know better than most what it is to stare Death in the face. She was totally unprepared for it, and refused to the very end to accept the inevitable. You know all mankind have to meet our Maker sometime, sadly for many it seems too soon. But you also know that He has a purpose in all that HE does. You saw how friends, family reacted to the news and even the situation. For yourself, you have taken away from the experience. You have written the poem ‘The Big C’ and I know you have stored up the experiences and emotions that you have felt for future use in your writing career. And believe me, Dusti; you are going to have one as a writer. I wouldn’t be wasting my precious efforts on you if I didn’t truly believe in you. That’s why I approached you when I did. You have a lot of natural talent, but you sometimes lack direction, like as we are discussing now for instance. I know full well why you are doing what you have, and your intentions are honourable of course. But as usual YOU are going about it the wrong way! The rule of this competition and even that is a paradox, because it isn’t a competition as such. It is just really a device in order to try and get people to write. Maybe channel their thought processes into a direction of creative output. You read the Pep talk that you received by yesterday’s messages. But as usual, you were slow to take in the actual message of the piece, weren’t you? Better save this section now, I don’t want to have to repeat myself again, we’ll be here all day that way” “Eh? What did you just say?” “I said SAVE this piece of writing before the computer gets a glitch or your wireless mouse goes into sleep mode and when you try and pick it up to save this script it’ll kick in and go back to start like it did when you wrote that two thousand word article on StoryENet the other month. And you wouldn’t want to have to do that again now would you?” “No I wouldn’t!” “Then just use the touch pad, because I can see that the mouse HAS gone to sleep now and just save this piece of writing NOW!” “OK, You win!”  “Great stuff! As it happens we are both winners, because I understand that now due to your previous efforts, without my efforts I might add, but then again if you believe that you really have spent the last seven days alone, you really are a bigger fool than I take you for! (But you also know that I don’t underestimate you at all. As I have told you many times before I trust you as far as I can throw you, and I cannot even lift you off the ground!) Anyway, as I was about to say, I believe that now your daily word count average to reach fifty thousand words by the completion date at the end of November is something like fourteen hundred words a day. Well, it seems that with this little conversation between us, we have more than covered today’s quota. And you haven’t finished telling about the rest of your experiences at Moorfields on Tuesday; let alone what happened on Wednesday. See you tomorrow then? Bye for now! 


“So what is the battle plan today, then?” “What do you mean?” “I hear that today is the NaNothon, (No word count left behind)”What is your local region doing? Anything?” “I understand that they have a guest speaker at the Library in Milton Keynes. But I can’t go because I have a previous engagement.” “So what is happening with your writing schedule today?”Doesn’t look like I’ll get to do any today, it’s a nuisance but my appointment has been a long standing one” “Where are you going? Croydon?” ”Well, yes actually. How do you know about that? That’s stupid, of course you know all about what happened, don’t you?””I know we have only been together for what is it? Six years now but I am aware that you have been chronicling your experiences for a lot longer. How long has it been now since it happened? “”It’ll be twelve tears filled years on Monday. “Was that a Freudian slip there?” You wrote ‘Standing at the Cenotaph’ on the strength of it, didn’t you?””You know I have.”” Should been in here, along with the one you wrote last year, what was it that you called that one? Remembrance Day. “Recite them both to me now,”

Remembrance Day

Sunday the Eleventh
Of November
The sun is shining
A good day for the Service of Remembrance
At the Cenotaph.
The Maverick and I
Are out walking
And have been for more than an hour
Plenty of time for reflection
Me and him
Him and me
Strangely silent

Another Sunday the Eleventh
Of November
A number of years back now.
Frantic phone calls
To my home.
Made by loved ones
Desperately trying to tell me
The sad news.
But I wasn't there
Having to be somewhere else
At that time.
I had my mobile
They didn't have the number.
I have never made that mistake since.

“That’s good, and what about ‘Standing at the Cenotaph’? Go on, go for it!”

November the eleventh.

Twelve years to the day
That you went far away.
You remain here in my heart.
At this time the ground
Stands cold and bare.
There are no poppies gathered there.

At other times this place
Reflects the golden sun.
Acting as a tribute.

All is quiet as I stand here
Two minutes of silence
Is short measure
For the length of a lifetime.

“They are both very good, Dusti, and while we are at it, you should be adding the poems that you wrote about your father. And just remember this is all about playing the word count game so you should be adding the poem that you wrote about Linda in here, the body of the manuscript not in the Author’s Bio page. Since you’re going to use it as the dedication anyway.”

Final Farewell

In an oaken casket,
On a glass-sided,
Flower-bedecked hearse;
Drawn by two magnificent
Coal-black creatures:

He slowly made his way through
Crowd-strewn streets.
On the way to his last appointment,
Here on this earth.

Having always been a quiet, private man;
The pomp and pageantry of this auspicious occasion:
Probably was in no way what he would have wanted.
But it was merely a fraction of the public accolade,
Of which he was truly worth.

It seems to me,
Somehow fittingly poetic.
The fact that he was delivered into,
And dispatched from,
This entire mortal toil at last;
On the very same January date.
The only difference being, of course,
That Eighty-one years had passed.

So it seems its farewell, dear father;
We must now finally come to part.
But I'll always remember you,
In that very special place,
In my ever grieving heart.

Father & Son

I talked,
He listened
As we walked.

We went up the hill together
Father and Son
As we had always done.
We watched as the clouds rolled by
High in that late summer sky.

I half-heartedly
Pulled at a tuft of grass.
It came away easily in my hand.
I carefully scattered ash
All over the exposed land.

Then I walked back down.

“Again, Dusti, I really like it, I think you should put ‘Final Farewell’, on here as well. Probably be better in front of this in order to give some sense of timing of events. I know his funeral was again several years ago now. Then of course you should add the poem that you have dedicated to Linda.”

“How do mean, like this, perhaps?”

The Big C.

She already knew that it hurt,
But what she wanted to know
Was if it could be fixed.

When they said no,
It only served as a double blow
And increased the pain even more.

It's not three months till the tenth
When the little bump heralded
The beginnings of the end.

First the pain in the groin,
Followed by a larger lump
Then another and another.

The sickness worsened daily
She found it difficult to swallow food
Even harder to keep it down.

In the end she didn't bother eating
which only served to make
the weight loss more pronounced.

“Yes, that is perfect. You only need to add how it was that we met, and your readers will be up to date with proceedings and will then probably understand the next thirty-five odd thousand words”

OK, I suppose that experience will fit in just fine with the rest of the madness that’s being exhibited here!”

Martha, My Muse

My muse, a Harridan hag? I don't think so!

Some have familiars, in the shape of cats. Others have Spirit Guides, which are Red Indian warriors.
(I don't do all that PC stuff, and say they are Native North Americans!)

Me? My muse is a wizened old woman.

I was killing time, standing outside the Hospice shop, waiting for my watch repair to be ready.
One split second she wasn't there, I swear, the next she was!
She appeared from nowhere, I'm telling you!

The encounter with the woman in the grey shawl.
It took just ten minutes that was all. But it will last a lifetime. Mine.
Was it real, or was it a dream? Was she a witch or a wraith? Merely a ghost or a gregarious goblin, in disguise?
The situation certainly had all the makings of a mystery, and all the trappings of a thriller.
The people I tell just stare at me strangely. Who wouldn't? I ask myself. I'd probably do just the same, if it wasn't for the fact that it happened to me.
She came from the North, or so she said.
Irmerston is a name I recall her using more than once. Or was it that she had relatives there? Was I really 'touched by an angel'? There was definitely ' a laying on of hands', as in the biblical sense.
Could this have been an encounter of the Fourth kind? Hebrews thirteen has a lot to answer for. She said she was eighty five, and had been a Mormon since she was forty. But in some lights I would have sworn she wasn't yet sixty. In others, she had a face that had seen more than a thousand summers. I've heard of shape-shifters, I never thought to meet one. Many say I talk at tangents, and maybe they are right. I do waffle on a bit. Never keeping to the same subject for long. Fleeting thoughts, forever fluttering like a butterfly in its short life span. Over the last couple of years, the diagnosis of my chronic atrial fibrillation has caused me to consider my life expectancy, and to realise it may be seriously shortened at anytime in the near future. But she spoke confidently and authoritatively about longevity, quoting several incidences of people living to a good age. Katherine Hepburn living to a hundred; her long relationship with Spencer Tracy. And made it sound so matter of fact, that Katherine had given him a cup of tea, shortly before he finally died. It was as if she had been there at the time. Her opening gambit had been to draw my attention to a boxed set of Frank Sinatra records displayed in the shop window. As I intimated earlier, I'm sure I was alone outside that shop, and the sound of her speaking to me had startled me, into realising she was standing beside me. She started by saying Frank had a daughter, Nancy and a son, Frank Jr. She talked about his Mafia connections. When I retorted that rumours were rife during all of Sinatra's life but that he had never publicly admitted to the allegations. She intimated that the reason being was that Frank had not actually done anything 'bad' so to speak. At that moment, she gave me the distinct impression that she might have known him and his family intimately. But how could that be? I was becoming afraid of the enormity of the developing situation, so I made my excuses to leave, and she let me go wishing me well. We parted. Me going my way, she hers.
I picked up the watch from the menders. It must have taken all of two minutes, when I suddenly realised the terrible mistake I had made in cutting our conversation short. I began searching the town, shop by shop. Each individual lane up and down. But to no avail. Seeming she had disappeared the same way she arrived. Suddenly.
It wasn't till I was on the bus travelling home, feeling thoroughly desolate, that I heard her voice again. But this time it was different. She was inside my head, talking to me. She said artists, of all kinds, needed inspiration from time to time; and she would be mine, if I let her.
I know now I made a mistake: I thought I was her 'mark' in the town, and she was just getting ready to put the sales spiel on me; to buy her that expensive bottle of sherry that she said was the only one that she drank.
She'd talked about many things, and how everybody had vices. Drugs, booze, cigarettes etc. She said how hers weren't too bad; just a tipple now and again of sherry that could be bought in Tesco's (which had been across the way from where we had been standing), at nine pounds a bottle. “Here we go," I'd thought, "Here comes the pitch; hard times 'n' all, for an old lady. You seem a nice person. Could you see your way clear to buying me a bottle, maybe?"
This is why I had up and ran. But instead, here was she offering me the gift!
Some writers have residencies. I am hers.
Where we will go from here, is any body's guess. Just watch this space! But I do suggest you don't waste your time, standing outside the Hospice shop, in the vague hope she might just amble along. Because she's mine; and I'm keeping her!

 In Remembrance

God looked down,
At the carnage of life;
Caused by the folly,
Of mere mortal generals.
The trenches dug
By the sweat of many.

Filled with the bodies,
That were once the seeds of Youth:
For the generation of Nations.
Serving now as only ploughed furrows;
In the fields of the dead.

All this He saw;
The waste of mankind,
The futility of war;
And He wept.

Such was his grief,
That his tears rained down.
Churning the ground,
Into mud;
Until the ugly scars of War,
Were covered.

He then caused the Poppy to grow there;
With leaves of Haigh green;
A hue rarely seen.

The petals were blood red,
As ran the fields of the dead.
The centre was black,
The colour of mourning.
To remind us all,
"Lest we should forget."

Some only remember,
For two minutes,
On a Sunday in November.
During the service from the Cenotaph.
Many don't remember even then.

“Of course you’ll have to write more about your poem ‘In Remembrance’ that you specifically wrote for the time of year, which will lead you on to the poem about Wilfred Owen, won’t it?” “Yes, I suppose it could”

“It’s all very Axel Foley, isn’t it?” “WHAT?” “You know, Guns & Roses, Sweet Child of Mine. #Where do we go? where do we go? where do we go from here? #” “Don’t you mean AXEL Rose?” “Yeah, of course I do! I ALWAYS get those two mixed up! But that’s the thing, you need to start writing the stuff down. If you are going to play this word game thing, and it’s obvious that you are. Then you need to be maximising the effort. Your trouble was that you flew off those first fifteen thousand words or so last week and have written yourself into a corner, if not even a dead end! You’re the one that likes the quotes, well, you should use their logic. The fact that daily life gets in the way of your writing schedule should be incorporated in here. Don’t just write the story; write about the STORY behind the story! Tell the readers about the day to day problems that prevent you doing as much as you would like to. Let’s be fair, you know that you are in good company. Half the people in your regional group are in the same boat right now, aren’t they? But you should be chronicling that you lost the first two days this month because of closing up the joint caravan in Essex, “I already mentioned it””Yes I know you have, but then there was last weekend as well. And you are pretty tied up this week with the cooking and decorating of those Pudsey biscuits and Gingerbread characters for the annual marathon Children in Need appeal on Friday. And not to mention the fact that you will be out doing ‘stupid’ stuff all in aid of your fund-raising efforts on Friday, won’t you? Not much actual chance of writing there then is there? But you can use the emotions and experiences later as you usually do, can you not? The Good/Bad thing is that will be half way through the month then with only a fortnight left to go and who knows what tomorrow brings? So you must just do the best you can, but not beat yourself up over it. This challenge is a double edged sword isn’t it? The aim is to write fifty thousand words in thirty days, the rules even say it just can’t the same word over and over again, but then again it DOESN’T say that you can’t just two words! But it is aimed at getting participants all over the world WRITING. As I have seen through your eyes the pep talks that you have received saying maybe people should have lower aims if necessary, i.e. just do the first six chapters of your book. As someone else said, the end product at the end of the month is thousands of semi-completed manuscripts. And whether they are fifty thousand words long or only twenty; the big question is as I said earlier #where do we (or you) go from here? #.The organisers won’t care about content too much, just that you’ve made the word count. But you will have the makings of your first real novel. An autobiographical biography of the Poet/Writer Dusti Rodes.  


Thursday the Fourteenth.

Panic over! I got an advanced warning yesterday that the Power company were going to turn off all the electricity in our area for essential maintenance today. My first reaction was “Thanks for nothing! Plenty of warning, I don’t think! “The second thought was “What am I supposed to do about my writing schedule?” I am stuck in the house today anyway I am expecting a parcel delivery. And you know what that means, ‘Our driver’s delivery window is between eight and five, we cannot be more specific than that!’Terrific! So I at least thought I could use the time on my writing. Then I got this flyer through the door yesterday afternoon. I should maybe explain at this point about my writing style. I have found that being only a one-fingered typist, it is just as useful to type straight to the document. If I write it all out in longhand, I only have to re-read anything I have written down in order to re-write it one letter at a time to the screen. So I tend to cut out the middleman most times now. The only other fault that I seem to find with this procedure is I often get so engrossed with my chains of thought that I forget to save it regularly. I had that problem only the other day; I had just written a close on three thousand words piece for a blog-site that I post some of my writings on. I went to ‘Publish Now’ my piece but during all the time it had taken me to write it, my wireless mouse had gone into SLEEP mode so when I picked it up it kicked back into Start mode and I found myself staring at a blank word document! So as I say I try to remember to save as often as possible. (This reminds me,)  That’s that bit saved! Anyway the gist of this piece is the fact that I had returned from walking with the Maverick and came back to find the power still on. “Funny I thought!” in my best Dudley Moore impression. “That’s strange?” So I re-read the flyer and found that I had seriously misaligned the Power company. It is an advance warning. They are going to turn the power off in this area NEXT Thursday, the twenty-first! The problem with my laptop is that it is now getting a bit old hat. I’ve had it over six years now. When I bought it the salesman, Jake, told me it was state of the art and it would be future-proof for any technology that might be developed. Little did any of us realise back then just how fast progress can be made. It has a two hundred and fifty gig hard drive memory, but now you can ones with a terra gig of useable memory space. But even they are becoming obsolete with everybody who is anybody using cloud technology for storage of their files. Available anytime, anywhere, and from any machine, not just your own. When I bought my computer, three hours battery life was considered the bee’s knees. Now if you don’t have one with at least a seven hour life, the manufacturers say you are courting trouble. As I say with mine, if it isn’t the rechargeable laptop battery going down on me, it’s the two triple A batteries in the mouse that seem to die very quickly. My friend’s wireless mouse is powered by one Double A battery that stays on permanently, just going into SLEEP mode when not in use. It lasts for about three months at a time. Mine is as I say powered by two Triple A batteries. It is turned completely off when not needed for use, and if the batteries last a fortnight, that’s considered a LONG time! (Time for save, I think!)

Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? I now realise that I should have started at this end of the room when I began varnishing this metaphoric floor. Because I have written (come painted) myself into a corner if not a dead end. The door is now far away and all I can do is sit and wait till the varnish dries in order to escape from here. And the worse thing is I will have to return here later in order to varnish the area on which I’m now standing!

I had to go to the town today, I looked in our two local COSTA’s but I couldn’t see anyone who looked like they were working on a manuscript. Maybe I’m the only one in our area doing the NaNo challenge this year. I cannot believe that is right though. And I’ve noticed that our library opens some very restrictive hours these days. Who goes there at those times I ask myself.

Friday the Fifteenth

It’s just after nine thirty a.m., and I’ve been up hours. I haven’t really but it sounds good. Actually I have been awake since just after six, when the clock radio kicked in. I must have moved the volume knob when I was dusting yesterday. Yes, I am house-trained! Anyway, it came on at such a volume it almost gave me that heart attack that we have all gone to great lengths to stop happening to me. But that’s another story in itself, so I’ll leave that for another time when the inspirational flow is in its ebb! Having been shocked into the world of full consciousness I heard the news this morning. It was very sad to hear that Gladys Mason has finally passed away. Who was she you might ask? Gladys had been the oldest British person alive (before her death) to have been born in the nineteenth century. She was born on the seventh of December 1899. And she was one hundred and thirteen years and three hundred and forty two days old when she finally died. She was at that time the sixth oldest person in the world. Now a woman called Ethel who lives in Bradford is the oldest person in this country. Gladys never married after her fiancée was killed in the Great War. He himself is worthy of mention as he was one of the earliest causalities of that war. And given that it started in nineteen fourteen, Gladys could have been no real age herself at that time. The writer in me says that this worthy of researching more about, as their story probably is screaming out to be told. Much the same way as the storyline behind the film ‘Titanic’. I will make it my business to discover more details. Here in England, it is the British Broadcasting Corporation’s BIG day. The annual Children in Need appeal. This has been going since November 1980 someone told me the other day. And it made me think “My God, I remember watching the first one!” A friend has been having me make and cooking cupcakes all week now and she has been selling them at her workplace. (I know, you cannot but help thinking about the paradox can you? A big hairy ex-biker hard man both dusting and making cupcakes, eh?) Although I think if I was to pal up with another of my motorcycling friends that also cooks, I think there could be a TV series in the making! What do you mean, it has already been done? As to the cake making, some, in fact many say that I do a mean sponge mix. Very light and with the added ingredients, vanilla essence, cinnamon, nutmeg etc it comes out pretty tasty too. I’ve taken to making what have become known as ‘Dusti’s Delights’. I cut a small ‘divot’, fill the cake with jam or lemon curd, then replace the divot as best as I can and cover it with butter icing that I have either added food colouring or cocoa to give a chocolate effect. As I have intimated they go down a bomb and people cannot get enough of them. They really are surprised by the hidden fillings. Talking of lemon curd, now there is a thing that isn’t often heard of today is it? Personally I haven’t eaten the stuff for over fifty-odd years now. Not since my grandfather told me a ghoulish explanation of how people with very heavy colds manufactured it! It has put me off it for life! I have also been making and decorating Pudsey shaped biscuits and gingerbread bears for her to sell on her stall. And I personally will be sitting in a bath full of baked beans from noon today! (Strange things that you can get people to do for charity!) But then again on a more serious note, I have sent some money by PayPal towards the Philippines Disaster Fund. Some sent me an email last asking if I would like to sign the petition to the National Lottery about them donating the fourteen million pound Euro-millions jackpot that was not won on Tuesday to the Disaster Fund. Good idea, I say. It is the same situation for tonight. There have been adverts on the TV all week about the special EIGHTY million pound jackpot prize for tonight’s special draw. No one person NEEDS eighty million, but it really could do a lot of good in the Philippines right now. It is the same situation really with this NaNoWriMo contest this year. As a writer, it is a should I say fun mental exercise, I like many others am finding it difficult to fit in being able to do the required fifty thousand words along with all of the other demands on daily living. As I have quoted John Lennon said ‘Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans’ and that is very true in my own case. As I have said in my Author’s Bio, I entered last October for the first time, but just about that period, a very close friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I spent most of November attending hospital appointments, having multiple scans and tests, all to no avail. She finally died in my arms on January the eighth this year. Elvis’s birthday, she liked that, poetic she thought. She had been a life-long fan, she was devastated when he died and some of her last words were that she would be at his party on that night! It was such a shame about the whole situation. I have written a poem that I will use to dedicate my novel to her when I finally finish it. And finish it I will because of her. She hadn’t long celebrated her fifty-ninth birthday late in September and was looking forward to a joint holiday with friends to celebrate them all being sixty this year. She had two sons, one of which is gay. And not having Sir Elton John’s resources, the chances of any grandchildren coming from that quarter were remote. But her other son and his wife had a baby boy in late September and she was really looking forward to doing the full Grandmother thing and spoiling him rotten. Sadly it was not destined in the stars to be, but a driving desire to be there for his first Christmas kept her going long after the doctors thought that it should have been all over. It was after she had finally been able to contact  and talk to her estranged father that she had not seen for over thirty years, that she finally seemed to loosen her grip on life and come to terms with the inevitable end result.  


But that was last year, so this October I was determined to perhaps re-do the original idea in honour of her memory. But once again Life gets in the way of plans doesn’t it?  The Saint Jude’s Storm hit us here on the Monday morning; it did some serious damage to some friends of mine’s farm. They needed some assistance with the cutting up and removal of some fallen trees. They also sustained serious damage to some of their outbuildings that house their cattle and horses over the winter. Friendships come in all shapes and sizes don’t they? I couldn’t very well say that I was sorry but I would be unable to help them with the essential repairs required immediately because I was involved in a mental challenge, could I? Then on the first weekend of November, I had to go down to the Essex coast and shut up the caravan that I share with other friends for the winter period. Another two days writing time lost. And again last weekend I had a long standing appointment that I could and would not want to abandon, hence yet another two days lost. As I have again chronicled here, I have been seriously involved this week with making cakes and gingerbread Pudsey bears for the annual Children in Need appeal. More precious writing opportunities lost! Hopefully next week looks promising at this point in time! But then again as I have intimated you NEVER know what Life has around that hidden bend, do we?


It is pouring with rain. Absolutely tipping it down. Even the ducks are hiding and taking cover under bushes. So I physically CANNOT do the tasks that I am supposed to be doing today, anyway. Hence I maybe can get on with the writing schedule! Really I should be out cleaning up the fallen leaves from the sycamores all around. Not only the leaves but the ‘spinners’ too. Before they take root in any nook or cranny that they can find. Much to all our annoyance next Spring. The worst offender of course is the self seeded monster over in our neighbours back garden. I should have taken it down myself over twenty years ago now, the elderly tenant, George was his name, was really too infirm at that time to have done anything about removing it. I of course was tied up with working then, a young family to provide for etc. So it didn’t get done. He died and the new council tenant that took over the tenancy quite liked the young tree, so it stayed. They were at the time an elderly mother and her son in his early thirties. They did tend it in the early period of their dwelling there, but sadly the young man developed mental problems and hence spent long periods of time in hospitals and various institutions. All this was unknown to us at that time. The tree being what it was grew steadily, quite rapidly in fact, The mother became infirm and was put into a nursing home, the young man was eventually institutionalised. The property stood empty for some several months whilst it was refurbished and brought up to the new housing regulations specifications, then it was let out to the present tenants who have been there some five or six years now. This brings me back to the tree. It has grown very much and several large boughs overhang my property. We have made some headway in our mutual discussions and we did last year cut away a couple of the more offending culprits. But it has still left a very sizeable tree in their garden. It has a copious crop of seeds every year, to say nothing of the leaves that also cover most of my garden annually. The annual clearing saga has been documented in my poem ‘Little Big Horn Revisited’ which I will republish here.

‘Little Big Horn Revisited’

 Resplendent in their coats of many colours,
Many wearing war bonnets and painted faces.
The enemy can now be easily seen.
Having spent all summer hiding in plain sight,
Camouflaged in uniforms of green.

Gathered now on high,
Surrounding us on all sides.
Awaiting the arrival of their Chiefs,
Blowin' Wind, Thunder Cloud and Driving Rains.

As I espy the daunting scene,
I wonder if this is how Custer may have felt.
Early on that fateful morn,
Standing at Little Big Horn.

Unlike him, I am aware,
We can never win the war:
Only but hope that we do well in the battle.
Inflicting heavy casualties,
As they mercilessly advance
In their marauding hordes.
Millions strong, as the buffalo once were.

Some say that the poem is good; I leave it for others to judge. Anyway back to the tree in question. The St. Jude’s storm the other week broke off a very large bough of the tree, very nearly splitting the tree in two, and now whilst at this moment it is lying where it fell and is protruding over their back fence they will have to eventually dispose of the offending dead bough. That can only serve as a bonus for ourselves as it has at one stroke so to speak literally halved the problem of the leaves and growth and loss of lighting throughout the spring and summer months when the foliage was abundant. As I say it is pouring with rain. That will not help with the smell of the rotting leaves. With all the Council cutbacks, they do not come around now like they used to and clear up the majority of the fallen leaves. This action or should it be lack of action, is causing problems for the elderly residents around here, with the slippery surfaces that the wet leaves create underfoot. It’s Bin day around this area today. It’s the time for the recycling bins and boxes. The local authorities recently changed the criteria for where we now have to put our cardboard. It always used to be able to put it in the large one hundred and forty kilo brown wheelie bin along with the compostable garden waste of lawn trimmings, weeds, vegetable peelings etc. They did suggest that we also put our food waste in these bins, i.e. bones, animal carcasses, giblets etc. But with the collection being only fortnightly due again to the cut-backs in financing, many people complained about the situation that arises in the hot summer months with the flies and maggot infestations. It is fair to say that it has not been one of the most popular suggestions the council has made! Again I digress, now they say that the cardboard has to go in the little blue forty litre boxes along with the old free newspapers, magazines, junk mailings (of which we are getting an increasing amount weekly, I might add!). The point I am trying to make is that these boxes are easily filled within the two week periods between collections and the lids on the boxes are not fixed as they are on the wheelie bins and are prone to come off in the slightest of wind. Given that we have gales today along with the rain squalls, you well be able to picture the scene out in the roadside and surrounding green verges. Paper being blown everywhere and being soaked into the bargain! Creating on heck of a mess that will require extra clearing up.