Another Entry in the 'Spotlight on Talent' Series


Michael Bernard is now a new member of the Stevenage Writers Group. When I first met him earlier this year, his opening gambit was that "he had written a book for his grandchildren'" ......

 I think this could be deemed probably the greatest understatement I have heard this year so far.

About the Author

 He was born in Kenya and was still a small child when his father was shot there. His mother married three times and moved to Zimbabwe where he grew up on a farm. His mother eventually shot herself, his stepfather died in a car crash, his half brother was taken by a crocodile, and his aunt ran off with a white hunter, but otherwise his life and family were pretty normal. After gaining agricultural qualifications he became a farmer for a few years before changing to engineering. He studied part time while a technician at a research institute to obtain entrance to an engineering college in England where he graduated as a professional engineer in his thirties. He returned to the research institute in Zimbabwe as head of the department. While there he also served as a part time policeman. He then worked for one of the UN organisations for ten years as a technical expert elsewhere in Africa. He has carried out crop drying consultancies in about twenty different countries around the world and now lives in England. You can contact him at galafactor@gmail.com


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​'Drinking from Life's Coffee Cup , One Sip at a Time ...'

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A Call to Arms - Marching Orders

Write, write, write!


GETTING KNOWN!

Stick your head above the parapet!

It might get blown off, but at least it'll get itself known!

We haven't ever had so many chances to let people know what we are doing, believe me, it can't last, any day now Amazon and all the others will start making an admin charge, and YOU will be too late!
 Now is the time to get busy, to write, to edit, to ask for advice, and to get something out there!
 Come on, for goodness sake! Write, write, write!
 Turn off the telly, disable the video, get out your keyboard and hit the keys!
Make an Ebook before its too late!!!!
Please?
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(A timely message from the Stevenage Writers Group secretary , Tony Burton, a prolific writer in his own sphere. You can find various titles by  this man on Amazon Kindle in several genres)

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Here is more of Michael's story in his own words!
"When I published The Galahad Factor on Kindle they said they needed an author’s biography. Include anything unusual and interesting, they said, so I mentioned that my brother had been taken by a crocodile. After all, it’s not everyone who loses a relative to a croc. Someone asked me how this came about.
Well, it was a long time ago in the Colony of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. I was away at boarding school, as the custom was, when my brother and two friends decided to go fishing at Kariba Gorge in the Zambezi River. This was before the famous dam was even thought of, and the gorge was as wild and inaccessible a place as you could wish to find in Africa. There was no proper road, but one could get part of the way through the bush on the age old elephant trail beaten out by the great beasts during their centuries of seasonal migration. The modern road to the dam follows the same ancient route. My brother was in his early twenties, a tall and powerful man, as were his friends, all members of a local rugby club. At some point, probably bored with fishing, discussion arose and my brother, who was a strong swimmer, decided to prove he could swim across the river and back. Knowing that the current in the centre would be strong they fastened a rope around his waist as a precaution, with his friends ready to haul him out if necessary. But before he even reached the middle his head went under and an immense tug on the rope started to drag them irresistibly into the water. They held on desperately for as long as they could but finally had to drop it to save themselves. It was only years later when the area was opened up for the dam that it became famous for its population of large crocodiles. A big one can weigh several hundred kilos.
The repercussions of this sad affair caused my mother to become overprotective of her precious remaining chick. A qualified nursing sister, she was in any case somewhat dictatorial by nature. This affected me for years as I learnt to pay lip service while waging guerrilla willpower warfare, culminating in a confrontation of epic proportions. I worked on the family farm for a couple of years before seeking higher education and earned enough money to buy a car. Sent to town with explicit instructions to buy a particular small, safe, and thoroughly uninteresting model, I returned instead driving a second hand sports car, cream coloured with two beautiful red leather seats, wire wheels, and an enchanting exhaust note.
The Croc That Ate My Dog
Writing about a crocodile recently reminded me of the one that ate my dog. In those far off and long ago days in colonial Rhodesia, the Serui River made one boundary of our farm, immediately before its junction with the larger Umfuli. The Serui was quite small and usually stopped flowing at some time during the winter dry season. Our house overlooked the point where a rock outcrop formed a natural weir, which backed up a deep permanent pool perhaps twenty yards wide and several hundred yards long. In the season it was possible to cross the river by scrambling from rock to rock, and two of our assortment of dogs sometimes did this on moonlight nights to forage on the far bank. As there were neither people nor livestock in the vicinity, they did no harm and we did not worry about it.
In our pig section the dry sows between litters lived in a paddock not far from the river, where they could root around and do piggy things to their hearts content. The man in charge of them was a cheerful soul though much given to weekend inebriation, so when one sunny afternoon he reported seeing a crocodile there we could not believe it. We had never ever seen any trace of a croc in the Serui and doubted one would be so far from the water in broad daylight. There was no sign of it when we looked, but we moved the pigs to a more distant area just in case.
We found how wrong we’d been one evening a week or so later. Startled by the agonised scream of a dog from the river, we had hardly risen to our feet when the big Ridgeback came rushing in, trembling with fright. An immediate but wary search by torchlight showed nothing. It was scary, trying to search in the shifting shadows of the torch beams but though we called and called there was no sign of the Alsatian. She had totally disappeared, and a better search in daylight found nothing. It could only be a croc and we owed the pig man an apology.
Nothing more happened for two or three weeks, until one quiet morning I was told, very excitedly, that the croc was on the bank above the rocks. When I looked sure enough, there it was, a monstrous brute that could not have lived undetected in our pool for any length of time. It must have come up from the Umfuli, detouring hopefully past the pigs before snacking on our poor dog. Quite apart from the dog, we could not tolerate so dangerous a large predator on our doorstep; the farm workers often fished there in their spare time. I was on my own, everyone else being out for the day, and I had to take the opportunity while it offered. We were not into guns, and the only firearm in the house was a shotgun. I had no heavy shot, only AAA with pellets of about .22 calibre, which would have to do. Hardly the best weapon for a crocodile, and I would need to get very close. The rocks offered a hidden approach from further downstream, and it seemed fitting to attack it from where it had ambushed the dogs.
Clutching the gun and a pocketful of cartridges, I circled round and started climbing as quietly as I could, desperately afraid it would hear me and slide into the pool. Worried that it might hear the snap of the breech if I waited until I was close, I broke all the safety rules by clambering up with it loaded. Finally, trying to breathe quietly through an open mouth, heart thudding in my ears, careful not to clink the gun on a rock, I peered cautiously over the top. It was still there, only a few yards away and looking larger then ever, facing more or less upstream, three quarters turned from me with a clear view of the soft skin behind the front leg. I fired both barrels into this, and with a jerk the beast scrabbled in the sand for a second before it gained traction and splashed out of sight into the water. There was a great cheer and I looked around to see a group of workers jumping up and down in the distance, but I was too busy mopping my bloody nose to wave back. In my haste I had held the gun too carelessly for the recoil of both barrels.
The body surfaced two days later and with a great deal of effort we dragged it out. It was very heavy and was an effort for six or seven men to move. We had no means of weighing it, but it measured 12 ft 3 inches from snout to the tip of the tail. I wanted to open it up to see the stomach contents, but the workers were adamantly against that. They said that some organ, probably the gall bladder as far as I could tell, was very dangerous and would be a source of great evil if an nganga or witch doctor got hold of it. They insisted it had to be totally destroyed, so in the end it was ignominiously cremated without even a tooth as a souvenir."


*Interesting, Michael, to say the very least! ...*

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'Letters to a Young Poet' - Rainer Maria Rilke


“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads roots, then answer and ask yourself, Must I write?”

“There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity. Your life, in even the most mundane and least significant hour, must become a sign, a testimony to this urge.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
“In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
“But perhaps these are the very hours during which solitude grows; for its growing is painful as the growing of boys and sad as the beginning of spring. But that must not confuse you. What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours - that is what you must be able to attain. To be solitary as you were when you were a child, when the grownups walked around involved with matters that seemed large and important because they looked so busy and because you didn't understand a thing about what they were doing.”

The title of this page is an acronym for Storytellers, Wordsmiths, Authors, Novelists & Scribes

(because there is no P for Poets in Swan.)

The writers group's website blog can be found at http://stevenagewritersgroup.blogspot.co.uk

​And they can be contacted by email at stevenagewriters@gmail.com


Ghost Story


My job takes me around the country. When the day is finished, I know nothing better than to find a quiet pub and sit down with a beer and talk to people. Over the years, I've heard some interesting tales. Here's one of them.
Work had taken me to the first new town in the country. Leisure had taken me to a nearby village, and something wonderful – a pub with a built-in Chinese restaurant. After a good meal, I settled myself down at the bar and joined in the chit-chat.
At first it was nothing out of the ordinary. The local football team, in one of the lower national divisions, had won convincingly on the Saturday just past. This being the Monday after, the local people were, understandably, rather happy.
Eventually, though, the conversation drifted onto more unusual topics.
One gentleman arrived, ordered a rum and coke - “just a little ice, please” - and sat next to me.  Bill was in his early thirties, jeans and sweatshirt, somewhat overweight. We “Good evening'd” each other, and both followed the man holding the floor, who was talking about ghosts, and how impossible they are.

They can't exist,” Ted, in his sixties and portly, said. “There's never been a scientific gadget made that can detect a ghost. And all the talk of photographs of ghosts? Well, the Cottingley fairies were convincing at the time, and they turned out to be a hoax.”
Bill cleared his throat; just loud enough to get everyone's attention.
“I've seen photos of a ghost. And I reckon they were real.”
“Really?” Ted replied. “And how would you know they were real?”
“Because I was there when the photos were taken, and I couldn't see the ghost myself. Do you want to hear the full story?”
Heads around the bar nodded. Ted was a popular soul, but he did get pompous at times. The chance to see him silenced for a while got everyone interested.
“Okay,” said Bill. “This goes back a few years. At the time, I was dating a girl called Mary, and she wanted to go away for Christmas. I used to live in Scotland, so I took her up there. A house on the coast, a few miles north of Oban. We were nearly broke by this point, so Mary was wandering around the grounds of the house taking pictures.
“I'd been inside clearing up after breakfast. After that, I walked out and joined her. Mary actually looked quite nervous, so I asked her what the matter was.
“Mary told me that there was a ghost following her around. It was a guy with a beard, but he looked like he was wearing an over-the-shoulder dress.”
“A ghost of a man in a dress?” Tom sounded incredulous. “Are you serious Bill?”
Bill answered, “I explained to her that the original highland kilts were nine feet long, and designed to wrap around a person completely as a sleeping cover. When worn, they were wrapped around the waist and slung over one shoulder.”
Tom was still doubtful. “This was in the daytime?”
“Yes, about ten thirty in the morning from what I can remember.”
“I thought ghosts only came out at night,” Tom guffawed.
Fred, the barman, intervened. “That's because you frighten them away!” When everyone had stopped laughing, Fred asked Bill to continue. “This sounds interesting, Bill. I want to hear more about the bearded one.”
Bill looked round the bar. Everyone, including Tom and myself, were nodding. Bill took a deep breath.
“Mary snapped another couple of pictures. She said the ghost was right in front of her, crouching in the grass. I looked at where she’d pointed the camera, but I couldn't see anything. I never can see things like this. Mary could, though.
“After a while, Mary finished her picture-taking, and we wandered off. I asked her for a detailed description of the ghost. She told me that it was a bit taller than me – I'm a six-footer – and it had a long cloth draped round it, and think wild hair with a bushy beard. I said again about the kilt design, and she seemed happy with that.”
Bill reached for his rum. “Bear with me. My throat's dry, and I need a bracer for the next part.” He swallowed his drink in one gulp, ordered another from Fred, and sipped that one before he started talking again.
“Fast forward several months. We'd gotten home from Scotland, and Mary had finally sent the films from the holiday off to be developed. When the prints and negatives arrived, we sat and chatted over the memories.
“I was looking at the ones from the garden, and something caught my eye. I asked Mary if she remembered the ghost she saw, and did it look like this. I gave her what I could remember of the description, which was most of it.
“Mary nodded. That was exactly what it looked like.
“I pointed front and centre of the photo and asked her if that was the ghost just there.
Tom laughed. “And it was?”
Bill looked quite serious. “From the way the colour drained from Mary's face it was. She went ashen.”
“So one photo had a printing error on it?” Tom asked cynically.
Bill swallowed half his drink. “No, four did. And they were clearly visible on the negatives as well.”
At this point I asked a question. “Bill, you said that Mary went really pale. How else did she react?”
“Well,” Bill replied, “Mary went through all the pictures slowly. She put all the ones with the ghost in to one side, and then found the negatives of those prints. She got a pair of scissors, cut out the negatives with the ghost in, and put them in a pile with the photos. After that, she held them over her ashtray and burned each and every one of them.”
“And after that?” I asked gently.
Bill laughed. “After that, she forbade me to ever talk about the episode again. And she never mentioned it herself.”
Bill look at the clock. “I have to go!” He finished his drink and left quickly.
©David Cleave.

"We want you, we want you ... for a new recruit ..."


"The Triple M is proud to welcome its latest new member of the team, Fiona Hunt, book reviewer extraordinaire and the author of the blog, Titchs Reads. http://nuttymum303.tumblr.com  She is also known to many writers of all genres in her own right (or should that be WRITE?) http://nuttyreads.blogspot.co.uk
Great to have you onboard!"

…………….

'Afore Bannockburn'

"This  is a piece writing in reference to a 'Burns Night'  challenge.

It is going to be a W.I.P. and is being 'written in the round', in order that readers can observe my thinking process, warts'n'all! ...."

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Clad in only his dampened tartan kilt,

Coloured with woad, and woven in the colours and markings of his clan.

Drenched by his breaching of the burn

In his flight from the English forces.


Afeared o' forming a fire, 

Lest it's light gave away

The positioning of the place

In which he was now hiding.


Cold, wet and shivering,

Robert the Bruce lay close to dying

Of his wounds and the cold, cold weather.

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'Swimming with Swans'

*Dedicated to all fellow Cobs & Pens, and young cygnets everywhere*

There are many ‘Ugly Ducklings’ out there.
Fledgling cygnets thinking they are wearing coats
Still made of feathers stubby and brown,
 Previously only used to waddling with unsteady steps.


And using only a guttural noise
While still learning the words and sounds
That Language makes.
Living out the ‘winters’ of their lives,
In isolated clumps of cold and lonely weeds.


Desperately scribbling their precious thoughts away
Unsure to show their works, afraid of what others might say.
Until some swans espied them,
And very soon agreed that they were very fine ‘swans’ indeed.


The ‘Ducklings’ all said,” Who? Me? A ‘Swan’? Oh, go on!”
And people said, “Yes, you are Swans. Come and look in our lake,
And you will see.”
So the ‘Ugly Ducklings’ looked, and they saw, then they said,
“I am a Swan! ... Wheee!”


No longer do they walk with a waddle,
Or talk with only a quack.
And wear their fledgling coats
Made of feathers stubby and brown


But now they move with a glide,

Sing with a whistle,
And each has a snowy white back.
And a head held so noble and high.


 Who is an ‘Ugly Duckling’?
“Not I!”

*With acknowledgements to Hans Christian Anderson, and Danny Kaye.*

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'Pinched from the Poet's Pouch'


An exercise in the use of Alliteration.

A Poet is a person
With a Pencil,
(Or maybe a Pen!)

Who writes words
That very often rhyme.
(But not always!)

This is the reason
Why Publishers print
People's poems

In Paperback books
Or whack'em on the
World-Wide-Web!

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Yet another artiste worthy to be mentioned in the  'Spotlight on Talent' series is Godwill Masiwa."


Godwill is a Zimbabwean poet. An album featuring some of his poetry set to music was first released in 2010.and was recorded at the Ingwe studios in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. It was entitled 'Human Prayer'. 

The title poem was first written about thirty-five years ago and is as true now as it was back then. It was felt at that time the Aids scourge; and the general depiction of Africa as a whole on the international news channels necessitated the production and releasing of the album. 

A favourite track of mine from the album is 'Do you smell a rat?'

I have taken the liberty to add it here, I give full credit to Godwill's ability to present his  sharp and piercing sense of social comment on the injustices rampant at that time.

More of his work and commentary on Life can be found on his website http://www.mysubtleworld.com 

i personally wholeheartedly recommend you visit it sometime soon.


'Do you smell a rat?..'  

People make ideas, honey is made by many bees.

The economy is sustained by many, power is based on plenty

But Africa should depopulate.Do you smell a rat?

Uh A don't cry its gonna be alright.


Condoms stop conception, tablets reduce population.

Aids kills who do not abstain, the Blackman to contain.

At your own peril to mate; do you smell a rat?

Uh A don't cry its gonna be alright.


Zealots on the bandwagon, crying God's damnation

African libido is higher than the rest, but i have seen worse in the West.

Might as well all to castrate, do you smell a rat?

Uh A don't cry its gonna be alright.


Ngo's the saviour, birth control in their reservoirs.

Aids is colour sensitive, the black man its hive.

Colourless when it comes to gay; do you smell a rat?

Uh A don't cry its gonna be alright.


The African cannot feed himself; his thoughts are of goblin and elf.

He needs to be culled, mockery of African and God.

Survival of the fittest; do you smell a rat?

Uh A don't cry its gonna be alright.


Poor, poor monkey, to sue he has no money.

Eons of cohabitation, now blamed of extermination.

Black bodies feeding the ground; do you smell a rat?

Uh A don't cry its gonna be alright.


Copyright; Godwill Masiwa 


"And in Godwill's own words, 'Finally thanks is given to the Creator who does everything at the right time and brings the right people together' ..."


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An honest review of 'The Annual' - Volume I ....?


I was given this book by one of the authors to read and review for an honest opinion. Well I can say that in some parts there were spelling mistakes/grammar errors. Some of the stories were a bit too far fetched (but in their defence, they are new authors who are mostly testing the waters to see what we think of their types of writing).

There are a few authors there who've got either stories out there for all to see or a blog that they post their work on. Now I know some of the stories/poetry isn't to everyone's type/style, but I would say there is something for everyone in this book.

I have liked/loved a few stories, laughed at one or two as well with the story lines that have been thought up. I would like to read more on 'Ghost Story' written by David Cleave as he had me wondering what was going to happen in the next part to the story. I also found S J Gungam's 'Letter of Complaint' was a good story as it could happen to anyone and it most probably does. BUT I found ;What is the world coming to' a very thought provoking piece of work as it brings home the endangered species and what we as human species can save and help in this world. 'The Pod' had me laughing as it tells a story of what us children looking after our parents into their old age and taking advantage of their savings. 

I will be quite interested to see what these authors come up with next. Looking forward to Volume 2 in the near future. - (Titch's Reads - http://nuttymum303.tumblr,com


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* Reviews of some books well worth the effort of finding *

Kainan – Deragan Sword Prophesy Rosemary Lynch

Having read Kainan, the first in the trilogy. I am now committed by circumstance to read the other two! To use a line from an old Dirty Harry film, “I gottsta knows!”

When a raison d’être of an eighteen year old girl is, “I haven’t waited five hundred years to lose you now.” You know you have the makings of a blockbuster of a story.

Rosemary says that as a child she spent a lot of time reading in her favourite apple tree at the bottom of the garden, and creating magical worlds and stories of her own. This certainly was not time wasted as she has honed her craft as a storyteller to a fine art. I have been a devotee of Agatha Christie for most of my life, but was still surprised by Rosemary’s talent of covering up the tracks of the traitor so superbly. The classic retort of “I didn’t expect THAT!” only goes to serve well the situation.

And I want to know more about the ‘Runners’. What’s their story? Maybe I’ll find out more in the sequels. With the development of the tryst between the two most unlikely of hero and heroine, this story rates as a masterpiece. The awkwardness of their blossoming love and their need to respect the ‘old’ values of chastity are very cleverly crafted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and cannot wait to read the sequels. I wholeheartedly recommend this work of wonderment to all.      Rating - *****

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Over the Edge– Susan Lohrer

We first meet the heroine handcuffed to a tree in the middle of nowhere. Which immediately begs the question –“How and why?” A terrific opening hook in my opinion. The story then goes on to pan out several complicated (to say the least) relationships between all the parties involved. As with her other novel ‘Rocky Road’, Susan weaves just enough information into the tapestries of her stories to get the reader into thinking “I know where this is going,” and then turns the whole thing on its head by travelling down a different avenue from the one we are expecting entirely. Her characters and the situations that they find themselves are so believable and remind the reader of experiences similar that they might have well encountered or feelings they may have felt themselves. Susan gives just enough encouragement to her readers to think that her protagonists or characters ‘need their heads banging together’. The supposed outcome is so blantly obvious to all and sundry that the characters should be together, or that their feelings are not what they are portraying to the other. But Susan expands any avenue that can be supposed. i.e.’ If something can go wrong, it will,’ so to speak.

I found this story cleverly crafted, as was ‘Rocky Road’. I thoroughly recommend it to any reader that wants to cry or laugh with the realistic characters as portrayed in these novels.   Rating - *****
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Rocky Road Susan Lohrer

Thoroughly believable characters living lives that probably mirror most readers own experiences. The humour of the stories shines through. As with ‘Over the Edge’, Susan weaves a web of intrigue that gets the reader thinking “those two really should get it together – why don’t they just talk to each other?” But as in Life, people rarely do, which is what makes this story so realistic. The reader could, and probably has, been in just the same situation as the protagonists in the story find themselves.

And without spoiling the story or giving too much away to potential readers, I just say that I recommend ALL to read this and ‘Over the Edge’. You will not be disappointed, I can assure you!  Rating - *****
................................................................

Begin Again - Christy Newton

Stolen Hearts

A cleverly crafted story, full of twists and turns. The reader is immediately drawn in to the central character’s situations. These are themselves totally believable and maybe mirror events in the actual lives of the reader, which all adds credibility to the scenarios featured here. With both the protagonists having ‘dark pasts, I found it impossible to put the book down. A real ‘page turner’. Rating - *****
.................................................................

Something to Treasure


I must start by saying that I read ‘Something to Treasure’, the sequel to ‘Stolen Hearts’ first. They were both sent to me using only file names, so I just started my reading of them by pressing the first one on my Kindle. (Forgetting that they would be listed alphabetically!)

This in itself just goes to prove the versatility of Christy’s writing. ‘Something to Treasure’ is a ‘stand-alone’ story in its own right. The plot is believable as a storyline. The references to previous events, i.e., that they stole a precious jewel together, that they started a P.I. Agency, the murder at a friend’s motel. Cammie’s relationship with Miles, etc. All added to the tapestry.

On reading ‘Stolen Hearts’ all these events become plain, and in my opinion only added to the enjoyment and further understanding of the previous book, i.e. how they got together in the first place.

Christy is a storyteller par excellence!   Rating - *****

...........................................................

 Home Wrecker Brenda Perlin

As Brenda herself says this book was written from the deepest depths of her soul and was years in the making!

The first in a trilogy, it sets the scene for the sequels, both of which I am now keen to read. This is a story of Life in the raw. Knowing nothing of Brenda before reading this I take it that this is indeed biographical by her own comments. This is a truly heart rendering account of a situation that can happen to us all. I agree with Brenda that many people can relate to her experiences within their own environments.

This is a truly brave book to have written. To expose ‘warts and all’ her life up to the point at the end of this volume of the trilogy. I look forward to reading the next volumes.    Rating - *****

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"They've only bin 'n' gawn 'n' dunnit, 'aven't they?"

The Stevenage Writers Group have finally published their compilation of several of their members works. It has been entitled 'The Annual Volume 1'. It consists of two hundred and thirty-four A5 sized pages with contributions by eleven local writers.The initial print run was two hundred copies, and at this point in time after less than a week, over half of those have been sold. Details of pricing and availability of the remaining copies can be found by emailing stevenagewriters@gmail.com

Hopefully a second print run will not be long in coming subject to demand being sufficient to warrant its printing in the near future.

*Whilst of course being biased, being a contributor myself, I really do recommend that you buy this book or at least get access to a copy to read. I do not believe you will be disappointed! *

*Here are two more contributions from the pen of that 'Master of the Drabble', Neville Hunt ...*


SPOTTO!


A game they played with the kids, Spotto made boring car journeys exciting. The concept; every time you see a yellow car you shout "SPOTTO!"

It was only when I started playing it with them too I realised there were 'rules'! Calling out "SPOTTO!" as a yellow van approached, I was told "Vans don't count, just yellow cars!"

Then, a yellow driving school car.

"SPOTTO!"

"No commercial vehicles, Baba!"

I lost! Hmmmph!

I play Spotto alone now. My wife won't join in. "Too silly!"

But when I shouted out gleefully yesterday, she challenged me.

"That's too greeny!"

"Oh come on.....!"

© Neville Hunt 2017

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Ancient Practices

Pauline was worried about being the only woman in the team excavating the ancient tombs of Egypt. Still, it was exciting. It would be very hot and it was difficult to know what clothing to take, for the cold, cold tombs and the intense heat of the desert.

The work was hard, shuttling between tomb and desert heat, covering up when entering the sarcophagus. This wasn’t easy to remember and once, she forgot. Shivering as she entered the cold tomb in her very skimpy outfit, John's warm embrace did more than warm her, as 39 weeks later, Pauline was mummified.

© Neville Hunt 2017


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 'East Wind' - A refreshingly serious change of breeze blowing through the jaded landscapes of 'genre' driven publishing today!, 


This review is from: East Wind: A deaf mute with secrets to reveal...from the grave (Kindle Edition)


Chris Ash's new novel is a masterpiece of intrigue. This book is cleverly crafted by someone well-versed in the art of serious story-telling.I have read some of the reviews posted so far, and have discussed at length with several other readers. Complaints that the story line is disjointed just goes to show in my personal opinion just how jaded many people's reading habits have become! Someone told me that they had read 30% of the book so far and thought they wouldn't bother any further. I informed them that the whole situation of Chris's approach could be likened to the completion of a jigsaw puzzle. At 30% he was just still laying out the pieces. At about 70% there were large areas of completion that gave one the hint of the general picture but the there were still areas to be defined. I found that in classic good story telling form there were multiple 'red herrings', twists and turns, characters and situations were not as one thought in the earlier part of the story unfolding. And with perfect form the story really was all explained in the last two pages as all good style 'cliff-hangers' should. I thought this a very cleverly crafted piece of writing from someone who has written for a living for a long time previous. This may well be Chris Ash's first attempt at writing a novel but I for one hope that it will not be his last!


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The Shanty

Shack

​Maverick Mustang Manuscripts  

   

'Reflections on last night's meeting'


As I said at the time, I don't do the instant story thing; I have to reflect. Listening to the ongoing banter about the possibility of us reviving the Story-in-a-Bottle, and the discussion amongst other members about transgender issues; it gives rise to the concept of me possibly writing a short narrative about the writer, Ian Fleming's relationship and dealings with a fellow student that he used to meet at the Kit Kat Club back in Berlin in 1936. Alan Charles Everett, or 'Poppy' to his close friends, was a very interesting character, even by the clientele of the bohemian establishment's standards. He was the son of an American father and Canadian mother, which gave him dual nationality; useful in his later career as an international hit-man or so it seemed. His father had a manufacturing company back in the States; and Everett was in Germany at that time studying for his engineering degree supposedly. Although he was more interested in the social life at the Kit Kat. Being born seemingly male, a role he'd never felt happy in, he could be found at the Club and even socially dressed in silk dresses, wearing heavy make-up. He was even involved with the Primrose League, leaders in the field of getting rights for women. As I have said he was there on an engineering course and he often used his talent to create items out of other things. He had bored out the innards of a compass pin to make a cigarette holder and was renown for his lipstick holder made from a bullet. In later years, this item would prove useful in his chosen 'profession', the actual lipstick being tainted with poison, some said it was the forerunner of the suicide pill. He chose to wear his hair long and flowing, being held in place when needs must by clips. The lipstick 'case', used along with his cigarette holder, and it's specially adapted lighter plus a 'converted' hair clip; gave a whole new meaning to a 'hair-trigger'action. Some say that Fleming, in later years, based his character of Francisco Scaramanga in his story 'The Man with the Golden Gun' on Everett. There was also some rumour that Everett and some of his cronies, maybe even Fleming himself, being involved in a heist of several million pounds, by today's standards, of a large quantity of uncut diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires from a Berlin jewellers, under the cover of all the shenanigan's of the Olympics held in Berlin that year. The perpetrators were never caught, and the whereabouts of the stones remains a mystery to this day.(Or maybe not!)
So there you have it ... Just an idea, I don't suppose anything will come of it!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01NBL861D/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1482263717&sr=8-8&keywords=z+poetry


"I don't DO links, direct. If you would like to cut & paste this link, then maybe enter it in your own browsers, I would really appreciate it!

This will take you to Z Publishing's new anthology of Nature Poems , of which I am well chuffed to say, THREE in there are of mine!

The price of both the paperback version, and that of the KINDLE on-line digital version, are both VERY reasonable!

Well worth investing in!!!...."

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Another project the Stevenage Writers Group have been involved with this year is the 'Pocket Reads' . A scheme where at a wholesale cost of a pound per volume ,  six of our members have been able to publish fifty printed copies of their various works in an A6 sized version. The Group has been able to do this by having a uniform print format and the printing company being able to break the print run down into blocks of fifty volumes of the individual titles at  any one time.

Work is currently underway on another batch of titles of these 'Pocket Reads' for late February 2017.

The other ongoing project is 'The Annual', a collection of  twenty-odd works by twelve of our members which hopefully will be published in time for the Christmas market. The plan is for this to be the first of a yearly anthology of members works. Just an update, we are in the process of creating a new set of Pocket Reads at the present time, they should be available for hopefully a late March publication date!

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You must believe in magic, you must believe in a guiding hand. If you believe in magic, you will have the universe at your command’ – Crystal Gayle.

Dissertation on the Origins of Faerie Folk Tales


The stories collected by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm have been handed down to countless generations. There is every possibility that the brothers Grimm grew up hearing if not these exact stories, a version which was popular in their childhood. How did these stories spread? There are those who believe these stories were handed on and retold perhaps by travellers or pedlars for pennies. They nearly all use themes which the woodcutter, grocer, carpenter, cobbler and dressmaker could recognise, and maybe that is the reason for their popularity. Were they really stories for children? Some themes are dark and disturbing. Hansel & Gretel for instance explores the child neglect and cannibalism. Two children are abandoned by their parents in a wood and left to die, wander lost and scared before finally coming across a gingerbread house, starving, the children begin to break bits from the house and eat them. The old lady living in the house invites them in and after fattening them up, waits to eat them. The children trick her; push her into her own oven and escape.

Another story which would induce nightmares in the sensitive is the Pied Piper. We all know the story; rats plague Hamlyn, eating all the food. What could the people do? Just by luck along came a piper who claimed he could charm the rats away for a small fee.

The town council agreed but like politicians throughout the centuries, they reneged on their promise. They had fair warning from the piper, pay up or I will take all your children and he did just that! Playing his musical flute leading the children away, all but one, a disabled child who could not keep up. Are these really suitable stories for children? Possibly not, but if you switch the focus of the story from being for children; consider the possibility they may be part of a sanitised history.

Both Hansel & Gretel and the Pied Piper appear around the 1300’s. It was the time of the Great Famine, when many poor families were forced to abandon the extra mouths to feed or even resort to cannibalism to ensure the whole family survived. (This is not beyond belief as similar actions happen in modern times in the poorer less regulated areas of India.) What of the actions of the people of the town of Hamlyn? Faced with a dire food shortage and the devastation of the whole town; how could the Burgher meister ensure the survival of the town and people? Consider this; slavery was still rife in Medieval Europe. All the children who disappeared were of an age when they would be expected to work, the only child who was not taken was the boy who used a crutch, he would not be of any use, and he would have been slower, weaker. How much easier would it have been when the neighbouring towns began to wonder where the children had gone, to tell people they were spirited away by a pied piper? It sounds much nicer than saying “We sold them to slave traders, we bartered them for food.”

Perhaps these innocent faerie stories; were not so innocent after all.


Copyright: Mim (2016)


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And here is yet another in my occasional series *SPOTLIGHT on TALENT*

This time it is the King of the 'Drabble' format of writing, Neville Hunt.

I'll let him tell you about himself in his own words.

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"I write mostly short stories <10,000 words (because I lose interest and most of my writing is done in bursts of concentrated activity.) and 'drabbles', ultra short stories of exactly 100 words excluding titles. I  also write short length stories for a family competition run twice a year.(I have three brothers and we are fiercely competitive when it comes to this aspect of our lives.) I have won this competition several times now, the latest in fact being only last month!. I have also submitted to the Costa Coffee annual short story competition. (I wasn't shortlisted!) 

I publish my drabbles on Drablr.com, an international social media site dedicated to this form of expression. I have been doing this for little over a year and in that time I have been awarded Drabble of the Week 11 times, about which I am  pretty chuffed. At the current time I have published over 270 drabbles on Drablr.com and have submitted another to this year's Readers Digest 100 word story competition. I have heard nothing from them, so I assume I neither won nor was shortlisted. The 100 word discipline is great for helping sharpen your wordsmithery and forcing one to find simple synonyms for the complex. It helps you to come to terms with weilding the red pen!

Our extended family has self-published an anthology of some of our short stories, roughly three from each writer.If anyone is interested it is called 'The Jarmany Short Story Collection' as is available on Amazon Kindle.

One of my stories is attributed  to Charlotte Fredericks, a pen name of mine.I started to write under that name to enable me to submit more than one entry to our family  short story competition, Yes, that's a measure of how competitive we are.! I explained her away as a love-child of our grandfather, Charles Frederick Hunt. I was the only one she made contact with. Grandfather Hunt didn't write short stories, but he told tall tales!"

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*Thank you for those insights, Neville!

He is, as I have said before, a member of  the Stevenage Writers Group, and can be contacted through them via their email or website.*

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Review of ‘Three Men’ by Lydia Smith.

“I find Life has a habit of pitching curved balls. The secret of success I believe is in being able to bat them.

Take yesterday, for instance, we’re having a new combi-boiler fitted at home to replace the fast-becoming obsolete back boiler set-up. The gas fire that has adorned the wall in the living room for more than twenty years now, is being replaced by a new state of the art electric coal-effect one.

Combined with the modern-day electronics required for today’s technology; which allows the boiler to self-monitor its operation, coupled with the online facilities to change temperature, timing of operation etc., at the touch of an app on one’s mobile phone; it required long periods of the electricity being turned off along with that of both gas and water services. With the lack of electricity, the router for the internet service could not function. Hence, I was forced to find an alternative activity to while away the time of enforced inability to do anything practical around the house.

So, I reverted to the faithful Kindle, where I rediscovered Lydia Smith’s manuscript ‘Three Men’, that she sent to me for my perusal and opinion several months ago now."

As a member of Stevenage Writers, I have a high respect of Lydia in her own right.

As a writer, she is in fact phenomenal.

Having now read several of her other pieces of work, I have nothing but admiration and maybe envy of her talent.

If this is a piece of fiction as she claims, based on a friend of her acquaintance, then I truly take my hat off to her.

It is so entrenched in first person narrative that one cannot but help thinking 'it must be based on personal experience, surely?' …. But she assures me that it is not the case and I can only be fair and give her the benefit of my doubts.

The Contentious Straw to this Camel!

SWG  July 15th 2015

A poet is, indeed a wordsmith. Constructing discrete little devices, tools, ornaments, often to an expected pattern, sometimes utilitarian, sometimes trifling gewgaws, sometimes quite monumental, but always the sort of product you would expect from a smith.


To be an author is another matter entirely.

True there is still the wordsmith’s craft, but there is more of the ring of a complex architectural stone-mason planning, organising and then directly constructing a great medieval cathedral rather than the simple immediacy of the smithy.

To be an author you must aspire to authority. That is to have at your disposal a very great many things that you understand and are able to use and assemble into the complex living breathing entity that is a book!

And so, perhaps, there we have it. Few people know the names of the craftsmen that made those wonderful Russian gold Easter eggs, or the diamond encrusted wristwatch bracelets from Paris, but we all know of the houses of Faberge or Cartier, the assemblers of these pieces of individual craftsmanship into the greater whole.

Being a poet is a valuable adjunct to be a writer, but you do not need to be a writer to be a poet!

It is nice to be recognised as a poet, but in a way it’s a case of ‘virtue is its own reward’. We return to the concept of poetry having a huge self-satisfaction component. Very largely a poet could exist on a desert island, satisfying themselves with their out-put, but it is most unlikely an author would settle down to being Robinson Crusoe, at least not unless they had an inexhaustible supply of paper, ink and empty bottles (and an obliging ocean current!)

So, what have we learnt about poetry?

It’s designed to access special parts of the brain and if you don’t follow the rules..... It doesn’t work!

Every culture and language has their own way of doing it.... but they’re clearly related!

Most people can do it, even if it looks difficult, but there’s lots of fun to be had experimenting with the different forms!

At some points in history it’s very popular, at other times it’s difficult to sell it directly, though whatever we do culturally poetry intrudes.

Finally a suggestion. If you want to write more poetry, then given poems are a bit like an endangered species, why not find a way of creating spaces for your poems to live in?

How so? Start creating your own birthday and anniversary cards, they need a verse. Begin a family tradition of a celebratory verse for every occasion. Send a poem in your e-mails. Make up new words to favourite songs 9most songwriters are pretty awful, you can easily do better!) If you’ve got a blog, go for short pithy poetic comments on events, become the new Oscar Wilde. Use poems as a sort of cerebral gymnasium, work-out regularly, it’ll increase your ability to recall and use low incidence words.

Above all, use poetry to have fun!


*This was a meeting  of the Group held whilst I was on holiday last year!*

*On reading this, echoes of my past return to me, and I am reminded of the sentiments of a male gay friend of my acquaintance when he said, “Women are alright, but they’re not like the REAL thing, are they?” *  


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* POSTSCRIPT ? *

(This whole piece was originally posted on the Stevenage Writers web-page in response to the Quarterly Challenge for August last year. The only restriction on the subject matter was that it had to be relevant to The Oval. - ( a local shopping precinct in Stevenage!)

I have finally got my act together enough to posting this self-explanatory piece on the web-site... (Just as well really, as the November one is fast approaching!)

 As I have intimated ‘Turf Wars’ is eventually going to be a much more complex piece of work of prose than I am usually inclined to write, having been primarily a poet for the proceeding part of my ‘career’ as a writer. Although it is now fair to say that I may now be developing a taste for writing prose. And I give all thanks to my fellow members of the writing group for their stalwart efforts in assisting this transition from poet to possible author.

(*It is nice to realise that this preamble to the proper preamble will probably add to the eventual end word-count ... Clever, eh? *)

We dinna ken.....

In relationship to the Challenge there is an old adage that says, ‘If you want something done, ask a busy man’. Another factor that has affected my writing this month is related to the quote from the late John Lennon who said, ’Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans’.

Because my son and daughter-in-law both have to work in order to make ends meet in the modern day financial climate, the six week summer vacation from school proves difficult in terms of childcare. Hence those good old fashion fallbacks, the grandparents, are called upon to provide unpaid childcare facilities.

 Cue my wife and me.

 Having said that, she still works in paid employment in order to meet her share of our household expenditure, on Tuesdays to Fridays. Hence the burden of care falls mainly on my shoulders with me having been retired for close on the last six years now on ill-health grounds on account of my rogue heart.

Hence it is proving difficult to find enough actual  free-time in order to just sit down and compose my thoughts, let alone type up the ensuing documentation, given as I have previously stated (to all and sundry & anybody else that will listen!) that I REALLY AM only ‘a one-fingered typist’

But having said that, on the occasions that I have given thought to the project in the making, I have now come up with an idea that has in fact seriously and quickly morphed into something that will eventually be a seriously more numerous word count than the requisite five thousand.

Following on from this introductory preamble here is the tenuous first draft of the ensuing tome for consideration for the August challenge.

TURF WARS

“FUCK!”
The utterance of this single expletive was the direct result of Tommy Tucker treading on the toy bone that his dog, Towser, had left discarded on the kitchen floor. The bone being hard plastic and the floor covering being linoleum allowed said article to slide uncontrollably in a sideways direction under the pressure caused by Tommy’s foot being exerted on it. This event had the knock-on action of causing Tommy to momentarily lose his balance and pitch forward wildly. In a desperate attempt to prevent himself lurching headfirst into the sink, he instinctively extended his right arm in order to possibly steady himself against the draining board. But the angle was all wrong and his outstretched hand instead of making contact with the cold steel of said structure did in fact land hard and fast against the spherical outline of his old aluminium kettle which had only a minute or so before finished coming to the boil.

“Shit!” said Tommy. It may be noted at this point that Tommy was nowadays considered as a man of very few words. Well that at least was the opinion of most people who in fact had very little reason to know the actual man to any real extent. Those of the rest of the populace of Pin Green, and The Oval shopping precinct in particular, all well knew of Tommy Tucker. The fact that he was now a pensioner hadn’t seemed to have mellowed him one iota. In fact he had become even more bigoted as the years took their measure or toll on him.

Tommy had lived in the vicinity of the Oval for all of the sixty-eight years of his life so far. He had been born in one of those three-storey houses in Vardon Road. This was just around the corner to the flat above the butchers in the precinct where he now lived alone since his wife had died several years ago now, six to be precise. I say he lived alone, but of course he still had Towser, his Staff-cross terrier. Nobody really knew or could quite define exactly what the Staff part of him was originally crossed with but whatever it was, it didn’t do anything to dampen his ferocity or general bad temper. People say that a dog can take after their master or is it the other way around? Either way it is true to say Tommy & Towser were well paired.

As I said, Tommy was born in the house in Vardon Road. A home birth, which was unusual to happen at that period, but the fact of the matter, was that his old man was out drinking in the pub when his wife’s waters had broken, so she’d asked a neighbour to call for an ambulance to take her to the maternity hospital over Hitchin as it was then situated. But Tommy wasn’t waiting to come into the world and the neighbour had to help with the actual birth before the ambulance finally turned up. Tommy reckons with the state of the NHS today, nothing has changed in the sixty-eight years since then. He could be right I suppose.

Tommy has opinions on all manner of things. In fact on ANY subject you care to mention, Tommy has an opinion about it. Not that he is biased mind you, as he will tell you himself if you challenge him on any point. He just doesn’t like the Blacks, or the Nancy-boys, ’queers’ or ‘poofters’. He once said, and I thought it an ironic turn of phrase at the time; “All this bleeding ‘cottaging’ malarkey nowadays, my arse, they should get back in the public toilet cubicles where they came from with their dirty raincoats.” Although he did add that there was not as much sexual graffiti on display on the cubicle walls as there had been in his younger years. And on that observation I would have to agree with him nowadays. Maybe the cleaning firms are more efficient today, who knows? I must have lived a very cloistered life when I was younger myself, as I never remember seeing a single person wearing a ‘dirty Mac’ in any public toilet I ever had the cause to use. On the subject of lesbians, Tommy believes that they are ‘a waste of womanhood, and all that they need to ‘cure ‘em is ‘a good seeing to’. And even at his age now, he believes he is just the man to do it! (He informed me once, “I can still get a ‘good hard-on, you know”).

 Then there is the Government (which ever political party is dominant at the time), the ‘bloody local council’, the bus service, the state of the streets with the rubbish strewn all over them. (Of course while he is telling you this, he will be happily tossing his now-empty cigarette packet on the pavement!)

And whatever else you may think to discuss, DON’T mention ‘the rising costs of living today’. Then the tirade REALLY starts, and Tommy can and will go into overdrive. ‘Those bloody scroungers’, coming over here from God knows everywhere, receiving benefit payments that us British taxpayers have to foot the bill for. Getting houses provided for their whole families when they come here while we in this country have a homelessness problem. With many of our ‘own’ people being forced to live on the streets. In cardboard boxes, out in all weathers. (Although he believes that the Big Issue sellers are just a bloody load of scroungers themselves) And you should hear his views on the current situation at the Calais end of the Eurotunnel terminal!

He will go to great lengths to inform you how HE has to eke out his meagre State pension in order to pay the rent, council tax, heating and lighting bills, food etc. What he fails to mention is that he automatically gets a twenty five per cent discount on his community tax because he now lives alone in his flat after the demise of his wife. Due to his low stated declaration level of income, he gets the majority of his rent paid by housing benefit payments and the community tax allowance that he receives just about diminishes  any real outgoing expenses in that area.

As to food bills, he was happy to tell me how he has this arrangement with the butchers business in the shop below his flat. He gets given ‘scraps & spoiled meat’, for the dog, Towser, ’of course’. But as he says, “It all goes in the pot, don’t it? Makes a lovely drop of stew for the both of us” The vegetables that he uses are mostly provided by a short walk down to the allotments in Grace Way, either by kind donations from some of drinking cronies down there, or if no-one is about he just helps himself to whatever produce is available at the time, whether he knows the allotment holder or not.

*Postscript *

The reference about Tommy having a home birth in the house in Vardon Road is what is known as ‘modern-day folklore’. If Tommy was to ever seriously think about anything or anyone but himself; he would realise that the situation could not possibly be factual. Sixty-eight years ago, the wonderful  new town planning directives that would eventually actually become Stevenage New Town was hardly started being built in the older areas,  Bedwell, Broadwater, Shephall to name but a few. Pin Green would be a while in coming still when Tommy first came on to this mortal coil.

Tommy’s father was one of the gangs of navvies, labourers, (that today are known as ground workers), bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc, that were employed to build the post-war dream. As a self-taught ‘brickie’ that could lay several rows of bricks in a straight line in a quick period of time, he had got the job that would finally result in him being offered one of the many houses that he would be involved in building by the then newly formed Stevenage Development Corporation as fitting reward for all his sterling efforts. Back in those halcyon days, that was all the ‘qualification’ a man needed to gain meaningful employment.

 He had brought his family over from County Sligo in the hope of being able to better themselves on the ‘gold-paved streets’ of London-town. Tommy was born at home, it is true, but it was in a shared, with yet another Irish family, ‘two-up, two-down’ terraced house, still bearing the scars of the bombings in the war. Like most other households at that time, bath-time consisted of multiple jugs of hot boiled water heated on the stove and poured into a large galvanised tub on a Friday night, maybe in front of the open fire, if enough kindling or coal could have been scrounged by fair means or foul. The rest of the week it hung on the back of the scullery door. The outside ‘lavvy’ was situated at the end of the garden, definitely making the use of it during downpours and cold days (and nights!) fuelled by necessity.

Tommy’s dad described it once as being ‘hell in the winter with your bum-cheeks often being stuck to the seat if you sat still longer than a minute, and the smell emitted from it in the summer months being ‘rich and ripe’ with a heat so hot that it even gave the swarms of flies’ suntans. “

Due to having a broken latch fitting that no-one in the house would take responsibility to fix, the gymnastics abilities and contortions need to both hold the door closed to prevent passers-by in the back alley from seeing in, while using a wad of cut-up newspapers held by a lump of wire, to wipe one’s arse were skills that could only be developed through constant practise.

This abode was situated in White Hart Lane; an actual mere spitting distance from Tottenham Hotspur’s ground itself. Maybe memories buried deep in Tommy’s subconscious of life there, fuel his life-long hatred of all that exists in the surrounding areas. 

                  *********************

“You’re gonna ‘ave t’ be more careful where you leave your blinkin’ toys, Towser. I coulda broken me bleedin’ neck jist then. Looks like I‘ve done me ‘and in, as it is. Its orl gawn red and I can see it’s forming bloomin’ blisters on it now!”

Tommy was having this monologue with his dog while allowing a stream of water run copiously from the cold tap over his injured hand, while rubbing it with the other. Not exactly text book St. John’s Ambulance recommended procedure for treating burns, but Tommy never had done anything by accepted protocol so why should he be doing so now?

“This ain’t looking clever, me ol’ cocker. Think I’ll have to go up the ‘ospital’s casualty department wiv it. Wonder if Jono is about today? If he is, maybe I could cadge a lift off ‘im. Its gonna take bleedin’ ages going by buses from ‘ere, and I don’t fink the time it’ll take  me to get there that way will help this swelling much, do you mate? I’ll jist give ‘im a bell to see if he can run me up there.”

Johnny (Jono) Tomkins could be truly described as Tommy’s best friend. Their respective mothers had taken them both to enrol in the same nursery class in the infant school all that time way back then. And their friendship developed from that time on.  Looking back on it now maybe their ‘camaraderie’ wasn’t the best thing for the teachers to allow flourishing. They say that ‘boys will be boys’, but if there was mischief to be made, those two were the ones to do it. One ‘bright’ infant class teacher in her infinite wisdom had them sit next to each other in a desk near the front of the class, in order to ‘keep her eye on them’; so was the pairing of ‘Tomkins & Tucker – Troublemakers’ born on that fateful day. Over the ensuing years, many have had cause or reason to rue it.

It was one of those classic ‘odd-couple, chalk’n’cheese’ pairing of relationships that always seem to end up working out so well. Tommy always was a sickly baby, even from birth. He’d been diagnosed with a reflux syndrome, so breast-feeding was an arduous exercise from the start. He suffered badly from outbreaks of colic as well... Many a night his mother could be found pacing the hallway with Tommy cradled tight in her arms, rubbing his minute back with a gentle circling motion, trying to alleviate his obvious distress. Walking slowly backwards and forwards along the narrow corridor which ran between the rooms shared by the two families living in the house. One eye on Tommy, one ear listening for any signs that she and her near nightly ritual should be unduly disturbing to the much needed slumbering of the other occupants. Most of the time, there wasn’t many complaints from the other sharing family. In fact most of what there was came from her husband, Patrick. She remembered that on one particularly bad nightly session, her fidelity had momentarily been questioned. Patrick had cried out, “Fer feck’s sake, Kathleen, can you no keep that brat quiet! Are you sure that he is mine? No of the other babbies had o’those problems o’ feedin’ and a ‘with the sleeping a ‘nights. Who have you been with? I need my rest if I’m to do a full day’s work a ‘morrow!” In the end she gave up trying to feed him from herself, and just gave him a made-up mix of warmed water and dried milk powder that the health centre gave her. Jono, on the other hand, was the kind of baby parents’ dream of giving birth to. Sleeping as he did from when his mother first put him down in his cradle at night. Then remaining in that blissful manner usually until after dawn had broken most mornings.

Some people would find it hard to imagine it happening today, but back then in Tommy’s early youth, tuberculosis was still prevalent, and Tommy contracted it. The frequent attacks and the time taken for convalescence played havoc with his early years schooling. Whilst the medications did eventually cure it, although he would tell you himself, he never really liked or got over the embarrassment  he felt by the side-effects of the medication turning his pee bright orange! But the residual effect of the disease has left him with weakened lungs and even today is still asthmatic, and relies heavily on his inhaler in times of stressfulness.

And as if that was not bad enough, back in those dark days of infectious diseases, that other monster, polio, was doing the rounds. And in Tommy’s immune system’s weakened condition, he sadly fell afoul of that as well. This again didn’t exactly enhance a young lad’s social credence, in that for several of his formative years he had to wear a calliper, and today he still walks with a pronounced limp on his gammy leg. Both of these diseases, and maybe other genetic factors within his family tree, all probably accredited to his stunted growth development during his adolescence, leaving him unusually short of stature in his adult life. It really seemed at that time he was well on his way to be both physiologically and psychologically shaping up to be deemed one of Life’s losers.

As an aside, I find it frightening to discover that due to the scaremongering about the ‘dangers’ of mothers-to-be and  young infants having regular immunisation against such diseases, and the subsequent drop in people having such treatments, many of those that we thought medical advances had finally eradicated, are in fact on the increase within certain areas of the population.

As I have intimated before all of this had a serious adverse effect on his education, and he failed his 11+ examinations abysmally, finally ended up attending the local secondary modern school. Or should I clarify that statement by saying that he was awarded a place at the school, but he in fact could rarely be found there over the five year period of expectation of accepted attendance of such an institution. He was much more likely to be found fishing over at the lake at Fairlands or climbing trees and lighting fires, down in the crater that was later to become the Canyon play centre. These covert fishing forays have culminated in his love of the sport, and nowadays he and Towser, on occasions, can be found bivouacking in his small tent whilst awaiting bites from the prized carp that roam the murky waters in various fishing venues.

As in all classic ‘Chalk’n’ Cheese’ situations, Johnny’s life couldn't have been more different.

(*To be continued ....)


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'Sainsbury's Saga - Spoilt for Choice' - Drabbled!


My original version of this poem contains 243 words (without the five in the title!) Here is Neville Hunt's Drabbled version. I think that he has done a very brilliant job keeping the essence of the piece. I also think that this demonstrates his talent in creating drabbles from most subject matter *

Spoilt for choice – Sainsbury's Saga

I'll have fish today.

Fillet of fish.
In a dish.

Probably nice
With a portion of peas;


Don't want that one,
Too many Es.


Tuna in oil?
Tomatoey sauce?

Here's one in brine
That’ll do fine.

Do I want it in chunks?
Or possibly steak?

Maybe I’ll settle
For a portion of Hake.


Mussels, cockles
Fish with a shell

Sardines, mackerel
Salmon sells well,

Haddock, plaice,
Cod, coley and skate

Wings are ready
To fly on my plate.

Two kinds of sole
Flanking two sorts of trout

Shark steaks and swordfish
With very long snouts.

Sod it,
I'll have pasta!

****************


* I am posting the original poem here for comparison *

Spoilt for choice - Sainsburys Saga

I think I'll have fish today.


Fillet of fish.
Served in a dish.
Probably be nice
With a portion of peas;
Don't want that one, though,
Too many E's.

Beluga caviar,
Cor, isn't that taking
Housewives choice
A smidgen too far?

Tuna in tomato sauce
Or shall I have
Sunflower Oil?
Here's one in brine
That'll do just fine.

Now, do I want it,
In chunks?
Shall I have it in steak?
Maybe I should just settle
For a nice piece of Hake.

Have it fresh, shall I?
I could have a packet,
But then again,
Maybe a pie.
But then will it be,
John West, Findus or Ross,
Or just plain Bird's-Eye?

There are mussels and cockles
Scallops and whelks
Sardines, mackerels
Oysters and squid.
Pilchards, salmon,
Haddock and plaice,
Cod, coley, sole and skate;
There's even a fish called slid.

Look at the lobster,
The prawns and the shrimps,
Kippers, herrings
Dover sole, lemon sole
Brown and rainbow trouts
Shark steaks, swordfish
With very long snouts.

Jamaican snappers,
Whitebait and sprats.
Not much on them,
Even for cats!

Then on its own
Or sometime in sticks;
Even professionally dressed;
Comes the regal crab.
Making the dour monk fish
Sound positively drab!

Thinking of medieval monasteries,
Is Friar,
Latin, for Fish-cook?
And was Friday named for fish?
Has it always been spelt
With an I,
Or should it be Fryday,
Spelt with a Y?

Sod it,
I'll just have pasta!

***********