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The Tyranny of Gravity (posted on: 24-06-16)
A repost to recognise my jocular thread about anti gravity on the forum

The Tyranny of Gravity I have long considered Gravity to be the most pernicious of the natural forces. He is a most subtle and insidious elemental, one who trains us from an early age to bind us to his will. As children, we are defended from his clutching fingers, carried and cosseted by parents and nursemaids. Thus we are not exposed to his violent and sometimes damaging attentions. However, growing up, the skinned knees and scratched hands persuade us of his power and we succumb meekly, subservient to his whims. Indeed, the first tottering steps a toddler takes are invariably followed by a fall. There can be no child on earth who has stood for the first time and not subsequently, I would say inevitably, fallen under his grasp. Such is the power and presence of Gravity and such is the indisputable evidence of his implacable will to establish mastery. Thus we grow to youth cowed and mastered by an intrusive presence. Then we have our one chance. As young men and women, brave and bold, we may defy him! This is the most dangerous time for Gravity. A child can be predicted and controlled. However, a young person, free of spirit and ready to try anything, is an unpredictable source of challenge. Young people leap from heights; they climb; they scale walls and cliffs; they scramble up and down gullies and paths. And thus it is at this stage in our lives that Gravity unleashes his most dreadful punishments. Youngsters are regularly killed and lie smashed and broken at the foot of buildings or on mountains. Some, damaged for life, crippled, become living reminders of Gravity's power, subduing others who might be tempted likewise to defy him. As we grow older, we decline from that peak of challenge and Gravity relaxes his hold, punishing us less. We don't fall as often, stumble or injure ourselves so seriously. This is because we are more careful, more obedient to his will. We have become his good and obedient subjects. The damage of old age is not precipitated directly. Gravity does not wreak his venom on old people especially. He has other tricks up his sleeve – subtle, insidious. By means of the grinding years of servitude to this monster, our bodies and bones become worn and brittle. He shaves our strength away, year by year, minutely attacking our frame, penetrating our core. So, without effort, he claims many of us in a final victory, smiling as he collects a crumpled body from the foot of the stairs, or from a hospital bed where we have lain, unmoving, following a simple fall in the street. But we cannot escape him! Our feet are stuck to the ground. We can raise them from it only by sacrificing another part of our anatomy. We can sit, stand on our heads, but he always has a part of us trapped, fixed down. Over the years, man has made challenges to Gravity's dominance. He can fly in the sky with his machinery, or simply glide on lightweight wings. He defies Gravity! That is what people say. But Gravity is vengeful and persistent. He drags airplanes to the ground, down into mountains. He pulls men back to earth in the cruellest way possible, tumbling them into power lines, smashing them into rock, flaying them with trees. By such examples he warns us, keeps us in check. Gravity is a tyrant. Like all tyrants, he exists only by grace of the complicity of his victims. Let us withdraw our support for his regime, and throw him off! His continuing existence, his power, is based on our belief. Once we stop believing, his power will fade. I ask you to aid me. I urge every free-thinking person to join me in defying him. Not by acts, but by withholding belief. Disbelieve Gravity and he will fail. Pry his fingers, one by one, from their grip on our lives and eventually he will have to let us slip. Imagine that world! Free, we will float and dip on the breeze, our bodies will stay straight and tall for life, in a world of freedom, not one of slavery. Should we take this step, there might well be consequences. For instance, water would float in globules, to be plucked from the air and drunk, or used for washing. It would be everywhere. There would be no deserts but unless we have waterproof rooms we could drown in our sleep. We would have to make water shields and have regular 'water forecasts' as exceptionally large globules (maybe the size of a country) could be dangerous. And most would be salt. Some would be quite unpleasant. There would be no rain, no fresh water falling from the sky. Many plants would die. In this, and other aspects, the world would become unpredictable, our lives potentially under threat. But the human race is nothing if not adaptable, brave and clever. We have the capacity, my friends, my fellow sufferers, to change our lives by throwing off this tyrant. We now have a choice. What is better, my friends – to live bravely in dangerous freedom, or cower in safe slavery? © John F Griffiths 2003
Archived comments for The Tyranny of Gravity
Mikeverdi on 24-06-2016
The Tyranny of Gravity
HaHa! An interesting piece John, well observed and well written. I like this a lot.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Forgot I posted this. A bit awol.

Pronto on 29-06-2016
The Tyranny of Gravity
I enjoyed this it, like the effects of gravity, started off lightly and grew heavier as it progressed.
I took a fall in my garden two years ago and cracked 2 ribs. Gravity has a way of reminding us who's boss. Take mu wife's tits for instance.... (Well perhaps not) πŸ˜‰

Author's Reply:


Graham (posted on: 03-06-16)
Late entry for prose workshop 30th May. Sorry for delay.

Graham Charlie sat back in his chair, sipping his tea. 'Good day?' Caroline said cheerily. 'Usual,' Charlie grunted. 'Oh dear, has my big man gone all grumpy?' She had a way of making him laugh and charming him out of a bad mood. 'No, not good, sorry. I shall be glad when I finish my stint with the anti-riot squad. It's soul destroying.' Caroline moved across the room, sat on the arm of the chair and wrapped her arms round him. 'Well,' she said.' I've got something to get rid of that grumpiness. 'NO, no that,' she giggled as she crossed the room to the sideboard. She lifted a large box from it and brought it to him. 'Look, your old pictures.' Charlie's heat leapt. 'Oh, at last! I thought they were lost. All my childhood pictures. Where did you find them?' 'Well, you know that picture my grandma left us? I'd put it in the loft, wrapped up. Now we've redecorated the hall, I thought it would go nicely there.' Charlie recalled the painting, an old cottage an a lovely spring day. 'Yes, it would go well with the new colours.' 'It does, didn't you notice it? I hung it this afternoon.' Charlie sputtered an excuse. Truly he hadn't noticed it, too fixed on sitting down with that tea. He decided to change the subject. 'So, what about my pictures?' 'I found them up there and remembered you'd been moaning on about them ever since we moved here. ' 'I never moan.' Charlie grinned. Caroline kissed his cheek. 'After tea we can settle down and go through them. It should be fun.' Charlie wondered if there were any compromising ones. They ranged from childhood snaps to pictures just before he met Caroline. Did he want her to see all his ex-girlfriends, but he couldn't think of a way out of it. * After tea, Caroline made a pot of coffee and they sat down at the coffee table. Caroline upended the box and held it over the table. 'What are you doing?' Charlie asked. 'I noticed the ones on the top were the most recent - there's even a few of me - so I think we should start from the beginning. She carefully tipped the photos out in a heap. Many were packed in envelopes from the film processors, but the earliest ones, on top, were loose. 'Who's this little chap? How cute, on his tricycle in little green shorts.' 'You know that's me. I think I was about 5. My mother found the tricycle in the garage. They worked their way through the early years of Charlie's life. His parents, where they were on holiday, some friends. Caroline made him describe every one, and some, of his parents, brought a tear to his eye. They came to his teenage years - posing with a guitar, 'I could never play it,' he said - at a dance with coloured lights, 'Our school disco. Completely boring of course, except Graham and me went round the back and drank some cider he'd got.' 'You devil,' Caroline said, ' and smoking as well.' Charlie remembered the night. Life with Graham was never boring. 'I threw up,' he said. 'Never smoked since.' 'I know. Made up for it with the booze though ...' * They spent a good hour discussing Charlie's teenage years, and memories, with Caroline swapping some of her memories too. He could not avoid a pang of jealousy. She was an attractive girl, and she must have .... But he stopped the thought and told himself to grow up. That was then. 'Oh, here's the one when Graham got his first car.' He held it out to Caroline. The picture showed two young men leaning against a rather battered Ford. The dark haired one had a cigarette in his mouth and rather piercing eyes. 'Why did I never meet him?' Caroline asked. Wasn't he around when we met?' 'He'd gone to University. He was smart. Always successful, especially with women.' 'So you wanted to save me from his wiles?' 'Of course not,' Charlie sputtered, although there was some truth in the accusation. Graham always got what he wanted, and took what he wanted. He guessed that was why they'd drifted apart. Graham didn't seem to care that much who he hurt, or why. 'Tell me more about him. He must have been your best friend. Why have you lost touch. It's the first time you've ever talked about him.' 'Dunno, we kind of drifted apart when he went to Uni. I hardly saw him after his mother died, he didn't come back here. I heard later he'd dropped out though.' 'So he wasn't that successful then? Goodness no, knowing Graham, he's probably boss of some successful business, on his way to his first million. That's the kind of guy he was. 'You should have stayed friends.' 'No, something about him turned bad. I didn't write. I didn't want to know him anymore. 'Sad.' Caroline came over to him and stroked his hair. * Charlie was with the gang, kitting up for operation. Soon they had the briefing, the usual instructions not to incite retaliation, to hold the line if necessary so rioters couldn't infiltrate. As usual, Charlie thought, the majority would be genuine peaceable, genuine and giving no trouble. But taking advantage of them, many looting or deliberately violent. What Charlie hated most was the absolute hatred directed at him, the spitting angry faces. The operation was going quietly, when his team hit a patch of such protesters: obdurate, dangerous. Charlie was struck on the helmet by a brick, but nevertheless held his place in the line, riot shield in place. The a face filled his vision, spitting hate. He knew that face, but the person did not seem to know him. Blind rage. 'Graham?' he said.
Archived comments for Graham
sirat on 03-06-2016
Graham
This one fits a familiar flash fiction pattern, most of the story is used for a build-up to what we're pretty sure is going to be a surprise ending. The characters aren't really very important or examined in much depth, the plot's the thing. We know Graham is either going to show up at the end or the narrator is going to make some unwelcome discovery about a past affair between Graham and his wife.

The affair was the obvious one and I admit I was caught out by the fact that you didn't go for it, but examining the one you did go for I think the surprise might have been greater if there was no prior reference to Graham having dropped out, if he was always the star pupil 'boy most likely to succeed' type.

But I think you can only do so much with this kind of plot. The way to make it better (and it's asking a lot in under 1,000 words) is to get us to care about one or more of the characters, pull our heart-strings a bit. Within this little scenario, ending No. 2 might have had more mileage in it. Suppose Charlie notices something that he never did before – the dress his then girlfriend, now wife, wore to her 'prom ball' (yes, I'm thinking America) is draped over the back of a chair in Graham's bedroom. Okay, that's a bit cliched perhaps, but I think you know the kind of thing I mean.

Which of us can resist the urge to rewrite other people's stories? As it is I think it's okay but I can't really say it's outstanding.



Author's Reply:
THat's fair enough. If I had had more time to spend on it, I would have tried to fill out the characters more and illustrate the difference between them rather than state it, (as you suggest) using actions in their childhood.

I can't say the 'affair' appeals to me.

I did have great difficulty even thinking of a plot to fit that picture but finally got this.

Pronto on 03-06-2016
Graham
I liked the story in general although it was a bit short on drama. The ending could have been where he smashes the guy over the head before recognising him as he slumps to the floor.
You had the odd typo, too, like heat instead of heart. Still, a good effort it is very hard to tell a tale in so few words.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. I understand what you are saying about the end, but I had in my mind the 'frozen moment' as they do to end a film, suggested by the photo.

Typos-not surprised. Was in a hurry.


Tales of the Unexpectorated Part 3 (Conclusion) - All Good Things (posted on: 30-05-16)
A rather interesting development resulting in more tank-top time for Tilly.

All Good Things... I peered at the rather attractive woman as she lay back on the mattress in the back room. 'What do you mean?' 'It's not you, you're quite … er, very good!' She smiled and nodded, making some parts of her jiggle. 'It's just ….' 'What? What is it?' Our little arrangement was working well, I'd thought. I think partially because she was a rather attractive woman, I was probably a bit more active than with Marsha. Some days I could hardly wait to close the door and turn the sign round as she waited in the far corner, sitting on the chair with her legs crossed, just anticipating the rush to the back room, the hasty fumbling, and the satisfaction of … well you know. 'It's the tank top.' 'What?' I always wore my tank top, it was part of the fun. Walking around with no trousers and my tank top on made me feel like a young boy again, down at the YMCA. 'It's putting me off, and look …' She pointed to one of her rather attractive breasts. I homed in for a closer look. Yes, I could see some redness – had I been overenthusiastic I asked. 'It's the wool, I must be allergic. It's worse at night.' 'I must think about this. Shall we talk on Monday?' It was Thursday, and I had an idea. As she left, I gave her a small tube of soothing cream. 'Rub this in every night and think of me.' I told her. She tittered and left. * The next night was Friday. As we tussled, I was careful to inspect Marsha's rather less attractive breasts carefully. 'What you up to?' she mumbled distractedly. 'Do you like my tank top?' I asked. 'Mmm, of course, silly, it's kind of rough and tickly, nice, like a goat.' What was Marsha thinking? I had a shy nature, and some of the things she'd been saying recently had begun to worry me – and embarrass me. I'd found out that the milkman wasn't Scottish or Irish as I'd imagined, but he was still a foreigner, being Welsh. I was deeply suspicious of his effect on Marsha. The Welsh are not like us. * 'What do you think of my tank top?' The comfortable woman from number seven grunted. I didn't really like that, but it seemed to be part of her enjoyment and she was rather comfortable otherwise. I'd given her big breasts a going over and there was no sign of any redness. There was a small bite, which I remarked on. 'Oh, Mr Armstrong can be an animal, he's not a gent like you luv,' she said. 'Left a bit.' I resolved to check Marsha's breasts for small bites next Friday. * I really had a dilemma. I couldn't shed my tank top – I'd feel naked and very exposed in front of a woman. As I sat drinking my cocoa on Sunday evening I knew something had to be done. Then I had the brain wave. * 'Okay, when we get down to it, just pop this on them,' I told the rather attractive woman. 'Oh!' she said, 'that's clever. Pretty too, all those purple shamrocks and all.' When we'd finished, I asked if everything had been satisfactory. 'Well,' she replied hesitantly as she pulled on her dress.' Those ears are a bit lumpy.' Women! Were they never satisfied? I resolved to take Tilly for a long walk that evening to cool off and put things in perspective. I wasn't going to ruin a perfectly good pixie hood by pulling the ears off it! But the next day brought bad news. 'Mr Armstrong's been quarantined,' Marsha gasped, leaning against the door as she closed it behind her. We had to stop. It took six month's abstinence, and treatment, to rid us of the goat-related STD that Mr Armstrong had somehow introduced. Marsha and I never speak about it. It was embarrassing to have to tell the rather attractive woman, who has never been back since. Tonio from the Pizza place glares at me every time we pass in the street. Marsha has decided to give it up, and so have I. It was fun at first, but a little taxing. I've got more energy for my walks with Tilly now. I bought a few more model aeroplane kits for Marsha, and we've had a few good laughs. I finally sold the pixie hood. I don't think I'll stock that line again.
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Tales of the Unexpectorated Part 2 - The Arrangement (posted on: 20-05-16)
Tales of the unexpectorated, Part 2 (I warned you). Getting sexy now ......

The Arrangement I was standing in the front room, combing my hair and sipping a mug of tea, talking to Tilly, when Marsha came in. She appeared unusually flushed and hesitant. 'Bill,' she said. 'I've been reading my new magazine …' 'That's good dear.' I pressed the final strands of hair behind my ear and put down the comb. I was about to go into the hall when she clutched my arm, nearly spilling tea on my new tank top. I was very proud of this one; the colours were excellent – yellow, red and blue. I've always prided myself on my colour sense: the mottled brown tiles on the fireplace, the gas fire with its gorgeous teak surround, the bottle green carpet I'd chosen especially, the salmon pink slipcovers on the chairs and the puce curtains – what a lovely home we had! 'Bill. I have a question to ask.' Marsha went on. 'It says if you have sex for seventeen hours every day, it improves your health and general happiness.' 'Sorry dear, what?' I hadn't really been listening, but suddenly it struck home. 'Seventeen hours?' I gasped, spluttering the last of my tea over Tilly, who immediately bounded from the room. 'Oh sorry dear – minutes of course,' Marsha giggled. 'Well dear, the thought of someone pinned to a bed being rogered mercilessly for seventeen hours every day is rather incredible, isn't it? I mean, when would you do the cleaning and cooking and shopping?' 'Well?' she said. 'What do you think?' 'Marsha, I love our special Friday nights,' I told her. 'But enough is enough. I hardly think there is a man in England who could perform every night to order.' 'Oh, silly.' Marsha giggled again. This was strange – she hardly ever giggled. 'Not you, Bill, just er, some other people.' 'Who? Who has the time?'     'Well, there's the milkman, and Mr Armstrong from number ten.' 'He's nearly fifty! Could his heart stand it?' 'He's had it checked dear.' Probably noting my despondent look, she said, 'I'll keep Friday for you of course dear ...' I tried to be non-committal, but frankly, I was shocked. The milkman was foreign – Scottish or Irish or one of those. I decided my best plan was to escape. Donning my jacket, I called out my farewells, nearly knocking over Mr Armstrong, who was about to knock on the door. He stepped to one side and grunted meaninglessly. I nodded. * Later that morning I began to have doubts. Why had Marsha not asked me if I could do some additional days? What would happen at the weekends when I would be at home? I felt myself become rather despondent. And my thoughts turned again to that rather attractive woman who had come to the shop the week before. As if on cue, she appeared. She was looking even more rather attractive than before. I instinctively stiffened, holding my head up and assuming what I hoped was a manly smile. She waited at the back of the shop until the other customers had gone, then came up close. 'Excuse me, may I ask you something?' 'Certainly madam.' I grinned disarmingly (or so I hoped). 'Are you married?' 'I have been.' It was true, of course 'I've been reading ...' 'Say no more.' I went to the door and snicked the latch . I turned over the notice from 'open' to 'back in seventeen minutes' and led her towards the back room. 'I can't do Fridays, I'm afraid.' 'That's alright. I've got Tonio at the Pizza place on Fridays,' she muttered absently as she started to unbutton her coat. We have an arrangement. Every weekday but Friday. I've noticed Marsha takes a little longer shopping on Saturdays now and even goes out on Sunday. She comes back rather flushed and flustered. I have my own plans. That rather comfortable lady at number seven has been rather friendly as I pass with Tilly on our weekend walks. She likes dogs. It's perfectly true of course, I do feel happier.
Archived comments for Tales of the Unexpectorated Part 2 - The Arrangement
Pronto on 22-05-2016
Tales of the Unexpectorated Part 2 - The Arrangement
Wonderfully witty piece and combing hair whilst drinking tea and talking goes to prove men really can multi-task. Not to mention organ-ising a complex love life.
Loved it.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. Look out for episode 3

shadow on 27-05-2016
Tales of the Unexpectorated Part 2 - The Arrangement
Dear me, what some people get up to. This is shaping up to be an intriguing tale. Liked his instinctive reaction when the rather attractive lady re-entered the shop.

Author's Reply:


Tales of the unexpectorated (posted on: 13-05-16)
The full original of the edited version I posted for the weekly challenge. It's the first of a trilogy - so more to come! πŸ™‚

Tales of the Unexpectorated 'Phlegmatic?' I turned the shiny gadget over in my hand as the man read the box. 'Does it work?' he asked. 'Of course, guaranteed. I used one myself when I had an infection recently – clears the tubes no bother.' 'Hmmm.' He looked doubtful. 'Got anything else?' 'Certainly,' I said, and putting the device down, I reached behind me for the plastic pixie hood with three ears sewn to it. 'Are they real ears?' 'Well sir, I hardly think someone would go to the trouble of sewing artificial ears to a pixie hood, certainly not one with purple shamrocks on.' His brow furrowed. Just then a rather attractive woman came in. 'Excuse me sir, may I leave you to ponder while I serve this rather attractive lady?' I asked. He nodded and I thrust the pixie hood into his hands. 'Madam,' I said, approaching the woman and standing close to her, 'are there any perquisites you are desirous of?' 'Pardon?' she said, looking slightly flustered, I thought. 'What does madam wish?' I smiled ingratiatingly. 'Oh, er, suntan lotion.' 'Going on holiday? For you?' I reached out and pressed my fingers onto her bare arm. How warm and yielding she was. She pulled her arm away and stepped back. 'Madam, as a qualified pharmacist, I am merely assessing the quality of your skin to gauge the likely requirements in terms of the strength of the lotion required.' 'Very fine skin,' I added, 'does it cover all of you?' I arched an eyebrow in what I hoped was an alluring way. 'Er …' I pulled out two boxes. One had a 16 on it and the other 12. 'Is there any difference?' she asked. 'Well the wording is different on the boxes ….' At this point a worried expression crossed her face. She clutched at her basket. 'Anything wrong, madam?' 'I think I left something in the grocers.' 'Not your husband, I hope.' I smiled winningly. 'Er, I'll come back …' she hurried to the door. 'Oh, please do, madam, I shall wait with mounting pleasure.' She left. Turning to the man, I asked, 'And has sir decided?' 'Yes, I'll take it.' 'Thankyou.' I put the gadget in its box and placed it in a paper bag. 'That will be seven pounds and twenty three pence, thankyou.' He counted out the exact amount. 'Will that rather attractive woman be back soon?' he asked. 'Perhaps I could just sit on that chair and wait.' 'Sadly sir, I have the impression she won't. And even if she did, I'm afraid it is time to shut the shop for the night. Good day.' I bustled cheerily about shutting up and then set off home. * 'Bellmore, Bellmore' I woke from my reverie and leapt up. This was my stop. The bus crawled to a halt in the high street and I alighted. A man approached me, holding a handful of money. 'I have a dilemma. Will you help me?' I nodded amiably. 'Someone has given me £43.60 to buy Jaffa cakes. My problem is I don't know what types there are.' 'Types?' 'Flavours.' 'Oh.' I paused a moment in thought. 'As far as I know there is only one flavour of Jaffa cake. Orange.' 'Really? That's wonderful.' Then he frowned again. 'But what about chocolate?' 'Chocolate?' 'Light or dark.' 'Oh. Again, only one type I think.' His face brightened and he started to chuckle. 'Thankyou, thankyou, you've helped me immeasurably. I can't thank you enough.' Suddenly, he stuffed the money into my jacket pocket, and strode off, singing loudly. Perhaps a little present for Marsha, I thought. The store was still open. * 'There's a Bill on the mat!' I called as I stepped over the threshold, something I had done regularly for the last fifteen years. Marsha bustled out of the kitchen, smiling. 'Same old Bill,' she said, and pecked me on the cheek. Embarassed by such flagrant lubricity, and with the front door still open too, I became flustered, holding out the large parcel that caught in my turnup. A dog fell out of my trousers in the kitchen and came running down the hall towards me, eyes bulging and tongue lolling and lashing about. Handing the parcel hastily to Marsha, I fielded the dog and petted it forcefully. It sat. 'What is it?' Marsha asked. 'Who?' 'The parcel.' 'Oh, sorry my love, it is a present for you. A model aeroplane kit. I thought you might build it in the next few days, and on Sunday we could take Tilly here out to the park and crash it.' Marsha's face lit up. 'An excellent idea!' she beamed. I knew at once that Friday night would be special. 'Anyway,' she said, putting the parcel away in the cupboard under the stairs, 'I must get on, tea's in the offing.' 'Don't you mean the oven?' I jested to her pealing laughter as she sallied away. I went into the lounge. The things they put on the television these days! Actually with these new ones there wasn't really much room, but Marsha had managed to superglue a picture of the queen on the top of ours. I settled down. Just five minutes, I promised myself, then it's jacket off and tank top time. I was embarrassed by the film, switching it off just as Marsha entered. 'What's that?' she asked 'A bit saucy,' I replied. 'Fred Astaire.' She came close and leaned over me. 'You like those saucy films, don't you? Gets you in the mood, does it?' Then, unaccountably, she leaned down and rubbed her apron-clad bosom in my face. I didn't know where to put myself. Then she tittered and was off! Friday night was going to be really special, I could tell. 'Tank top time, Tilly,' I called and got up.
Archived comments for Tales of the unexpectorated
Pronto on 15-05-2016
Tales of the unexpectorated
As humorous as it's quirky. A bit different from the comp version but all the better for it. Very amusing.

Author's Reply:


Metaphor (posted on: 04-04-16)
A late entry for the prose challenge (which I set! shame). Based on the Kafka story 'The Metamorphosis', a story where the main character wakes up changed, with consequences ... now edited a coupe of times (much 'tell' removed)

Metaphor Greig Amunds had not slept well. Plagued by curious dreams, as he woke he had a strange feeling that something had changed. On opening his eyes, he glanced around his small room. The ceiling was as grey as ever, the blue wallpaper stared at him as normal. Through the thin curtains the morning sun glowed orange and his clothes lay, carelessly tossed over the back of the wooden chair in the corner A half empty glass of water stood by his bedside from the previous night, the clock on the wall ticked and the electric alarm whirred silently towards its appointed time. He heaved himself out of bed. Familiar pyjamas - he reminded himself he needed a new pair, these were close to threadbare. Looking down, he recognised the same old feet, the right one with the bad big toenail. But he still felt something was amiss. The feeling stayed with him as he washed at the basin, dressed and went into the kitchen to prepare his usual breakfast, muesli with some fresh farmer's milk , and once the percolator had done its job, good strong coffee. His coffee was vital. Leaving the house, he breathed in the fresh spring air. Only his light topcoat was needed. The days of the overcoat had gone for now at least. 'Frau Meindorff.' He greeted an elderly lady making her way towards him. 'Greig,' she said. 'Good morning. What about this shopping complex?' Greig's heart sank. Why was she asking him? He was the junior at the council, the Deputy only. Real power lay with Joel Barsch, his boyhood rival. Smart, popular - and a liar- Joel had climbed his way to the top quickly, promising all and excusing all, seemingly to the absolute contentment of the citizens. Greig had not been the obvious candidate for the Deputy, and he felt in a way that Joel was taunting him, or more likely providing a contrast to make himself look better. 'Yes, it could be a good opportunity for our district.' 'Or just a nuisance with people coming in from outside and causing chaos with cars and stuff.' Mrs Meindorff did not have a car, nor did she like her life being disturbed. 'And what about our local shop? Will that close with all the new fancy ones stealing Bernard's business?' Greig felt her fears were all too justified, he had seen this happen in a neighbouring community. Normally, he would have sympathised, agreed, declared the truth of what she was saying. But today, he didn't. ' I think you should put your worries to rest, Frau Meindorff. I have seen the plans and they are discreet and the traffic should hardly affect you as it will be connected from the other side of the centre, not near your house or this street.' This wasn't strictly true of course. Yes, the signs would direct traffic, but there was nothing to stop drivers using any of the roads, and indeed if there were any congestion on the preferred route, this road would be heavily used to cut through. Greig wondered why he was defending the plan so much, but seeing Frau Meindorff's frown relax and a small smile cross her face, he knew he'd partially persuaded her. He had to support the council plans, they would bring money and thereby more power into the district, a power he could take advantage of. He caught himself. What was he thinking? It was Joel who would seize any power. He would be, as ever, a willing puppy following his master's lead. 'Well, thank you Greig. That is most welcome news. And I realise I should speak to you more often, you really know what is going on don't you? I used to tell your mother I thought you didn't really have strong opinions, but I was wrong.' Bidding a somewhat happier Frau Meindorff farewell, Greig continued along the street. Bernard was just opening his shop. 'I hear the vote on the new shopping centre takes place this morning, Greig.' 'Yes, it does.' Greig smiled at the man. 'Well, I know you can't do much about it, but it spells disaster for me, I'll have to retire, and I don't want to.' 'On the contrary, Bernard, I can do much to protect you and the peace of our district, and I'll do so. I shall fight for an alternative site somewhere away from here, and it won't be for want of trying if I don't succeed. I'm on your side.' Bernard was well regarded locally, and although he held no official position, was often a spokesman for the community. 'I'm surprised, Greig. Such a positive statement, what has brought this on?' Greig grinned. 'I can be positive when it matters, Bernard, when it counts and I can protect the people of this district from damaging developments carried out only in the name of profit. Traffic chaos, noise, abuse of our community, while some big consortium pockets the profits and pays us a pittance for local taxes. I've told Joel it will hardly cover our expenses.' 'Joel - surely he doesn't back this plan?' 'To the hilt, Bernard. I mean today to have strong words with him. Joel is often carried away by grand ideas I'm afraid, and part of my job is to restrain his excesses - but of course this is all done privately.' Greig paused. 'Bernard, I may have spoken out of turn. Please respect my confidence. I'd be grateful if you would not repeat any of this to others. It would seem disloyal, and of course I am totally supportive of Joel and the things he's done for this community, such as the memorial.' 'That bloody memorial!' Bernard's face reddened. 'It's a disgrace. Penny pinching, skimped, work. An insult to our fellow citizens who gave their lives for us.' The memorial was Bernard's pet hate and oft repeated topic of conversation. 'Joel was only thinking of taxpayer's money. Please don't blame him. I agree with you but only found out too late the plans had been altered subsequent to my agreement.' 'You mean he changed the agreed plans?' 'With the best of intentions, I'm sure. Joel's intentions are good, it's just that ... maybe ... and this is strictly between us, he doesn't always grasp the full picture.' Bernard looked at Greig. 'But you do?' 'Of course. I try to keep him on track. Bu it isn't always possible with a man like Joel.' Bernard was silent for a while. 'Hmm. Thank you Greig. You know, in the past I may have underestimated you.' Greig made a dismissive gesture. 'Oh no. I do my best to help this community and won't shirk. That's enough for me. I don't seek recognition.' Greig bid Bernard farewell, and walked away with a small smile. * 'All set, Greig?' Joel smirked. 'We should get this through easily with all the support I've got. People believe in me.' 'They do, Joel. All this is down to you, and I support you fully as ever.' 'Good boy.' Joel turned and hurried off down the corridor. The decision was taken with little opposition. Joel made an impassioned speech describing the many advantages of the project and the benefits to the community. Greig was silent throughout, nodding gently. But after the vote, he stood up and spoke. 'I have supported this scheme for the good of the community, as my trusted friend Joel has promised it will be. In doing so I have put to one side some personal doubts I have about the implementation of the plan.' From the corner of his eye, he could see Joel frowning. 'I did this for the common good, but I urge council to be very careful with the details of this scheme. It has to be handled correctly or there could be problems for many people. I know several are concerned about the implications, and I would hate to see Joel's fine scheme, which of course I support fully, not reach the true promise that Joel has outlined. But we must trust him in this, and I for one am happy to do so.' * 'What was that about?' hissed Joel. 'Oh Joel, just making sure we were covered. There are some unhappy people who could scupper the scheme despite the decision. I wanted to head them off with reassurance that we were covering all the details.' 'Oh.' Joel paused for a moment. 'Well, I suppose that makes sense. It's good of you, but maybe a bit less initiative in the future, eh? I have this in the bag, I don't need additional complications.' 'As you say, Joel. I apologise, I thought it would help.' * 'You said you would be checking on the details!' Bernard shouted. The council meeting had been reported in the local press. 'There are no safeguards, traffic comes through these quiet streets and my business has dropped like a stone. Those fancy shops have stolen my customers just as I said. You let me down, Greig!' Greig held up his hand. 'Forgive me, Bernard. You are right. But I am only the Deputy, and Joel is a forceful man. Despite my pleas, he ignored me. Even when he did agree something, I found he had gone back on his word. I am only the Deputy, I have no power. If I had, this whole business would never have happened. I was against it from the start, as you know.' 'Yes, I remember. And I believe you. You have always been straight with me, and I appreciate that. Perhaps it's time we had a man like you in charge, not a self-willed dictator.' 'That's not for me to say. The citizens choose who they prefer - Joel.' 'Not any more. And less so after I tell them what you've just said.' 'But you can't ....' 'I can and I will. Modesty and loyalty I admire, Greig, but there comes a point where you have to chose. Maybe that day has come for you, and I welcome it. The elections are soon. Let us see what transpires, I shall be making some recommendations.' * 'Well, this is a surprise.' Joel shook his head. 'What happened, Greig?' 'I've no idea. Perhaps it was the shopping centre. I've been working hard to convince people of its merits, you know I fully supported you on the matter - but somehow some influential people are blaming you for the whole mess.' 'Why elect you?' 'Who else? We have worked together for so many years. And never fear, I am simply the nearest available substitute at the moment for a protest vote, as it were. I'm sure you will get back in next election and we can resume our traditional relationship.' 'Fair enough. In fact, we can carry on the same. I'll have to be called the Deputy, but we can carry on day to day business the same, can't we? Greig tried to look sorrowful. 'I'm afraid that's not possible, Joel. At the moment, the citizens won't accept you as Deputy, they have already told me. I pleaded your case strongly, believe me, I gave them my personal guarantee you were not responsible for the problems that have occurred, but they would not listen. Listen, we can't risk spoiling your chances of resuming the fine job you've been doing and it would be wrong of me to ask you to do so. You must bide your time and wait it out. I will be here for you when the time comes.' Joel clapped Greig on the arm. 'What it is to have a friend like you, Greig. I am fortunate indeed. I shall do as you say.' Greig smiled gently as Joel left the room. He had his shopping centre. And the citizens blamed Joel for it. Belatedly, Greig realised what had changed on that day months ago, which he remembered so well. He had become a politician
Archived comments for Metaphor
expat on 04-04-2016
Metaphor
A clever bit of writing there, scheming at its best. Wasn't too keen on the passive voice sneaking in where it had no place to be - the opening paragraph.
A good story, nevertheless. I'd be pleased to have written it. πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Intended as kinda scene setting for his wake up feeling different.

Thanks

Mikeverdi on 04-04-2016
Metaphor
I enjoyed the read John, if I was to offer critique, it would be the speed of the change in Greig. I guess you may have been under constraints. I much enjoyed the conniving and double dealing, far more realistic than one may think.

Thanks for posting

Mike

HaHaHa! Color me stupid John 😂😂😂

Author's Reply:
'metamorphosis' Mike. He woke up changed. That's the point. πŸ™‚


Alban and the Retributes (posted on: 05-02-16)    
For the Prose Challenge.

Alban and the Retributes 'Yes?' Alban opened the door and looked the soldier up and down. 'I have come by order of the Emperor.' 'What? Direct orders to you from the Emperor himself?' 'No.' The man coloured slightly and looked confused. Alban noted the nervous looks on the other soldiers' faces. This was serious. 'And what are your ''orders'', pray?' 'To search your house for … certain things.' Alban was surprised. This was indeed serious. 'And do you have these orders in writing to deliver to me? Remember who I am.' The soldier was now openly confused and stammered out, 'I will return with such a written order.' 'I shall return with such a written order, what?' Alban raised his voice on the last word. 'Sir.' 'That's better. I look forward to your return.' He closed the door. Alban sat back and sipped his wine. That had been close. It was only due to the inexperienced soldiers he'd got away with it - what was the army coming to? In his day they would have been severely punished, but his men would never have stood any such nonsense. It would take the man all morning to get to his superior, receive a dressing down and return. They had lost the element of surprise, now he had time to cover his tracks. He smiled. So the Emperor thought he could outwit a wily old fox like him? He was confident he could not, even though in the present situation there would be more to come now they had declared themselves, and he guessed that false charges would be laid if they could find no tangible evidence. He made his plans. *** Alban sat on the grass, taking in the sunny day. His mother approached. 'Alban,' she said. 'We're going on a long trip.' 'Where to, mummy?' 'To Rome. You've heard us talk about it.' 'That's why we are called Romans.' 'Yes, Alban, it's where your father came from, it's the centre of the Empire.' Alban had been taught about the Empire in school. 'Rome is a big place?' 'Yes, Alban, a very big place, much larger than any place you have ever seen.' 'Larger than Camulodunum?' His mother laughed. 'Much larger.' 'How long will we be gone, mummy?' 'We are going there forever, Alban. We will not come back here.' 'And Grandpa and Grandma will come with us?' His mother shook her head. 'No, they must stay here, they are not Romans.' 'Are you a Roman?' 'Yes, because of your father. You too.' Alban felt sadness at leaving his home, more so leaving his grandparents. It was not a good day. * The old Emperor smiled at Alban. 'Alban, you have acquitted yourself well in our German campaigns. You proved to be a good and loyal soldier. And now you give me valuable advice. I count you as a friend. But I have a warning for you.' Alban leaned closer. 'My nephew will be my successor. He has no love for you. I think he is jealous. Be wary when he succeeds me,' 'That will not be for a long time, Emperor.' * You are leaving the Senate? Why on earth? Alban was aware that his friend knew his reason. 'And what shall you do?' 'I shall become a trader. I have enough for the beginnings of a fleet, and over time in the Emperor's service, I have made many contacts across the Empire and beyond. I might even go back to the land of my birth.' 'What? That little island?' 'A source of much needed tin.' *** And now they were onto him, elements of his trade that the Emperor's henchmen could use publicly against him. The Emperor, he decided, perhaps growing older and more suspicious as he became less popular with the people, seemed to have decided to remove him from the picture, perhaps even banishment to a distant province or worse. The evidence in the house was gone, but undoubtedly they could find more if they began to search his business and contacts in earnest. Alban had decided to return to the land of his birth. He could divert enough ships with trade goods and riches to live comfortably for the rest of his life, and his knowledge of the Empire had taught him the people of that land, even the settled Romans, were growing independent. He had good relationships with visiting traders who assured him of support and he was confident it would be so. It would take a Legion to reach him and that could never be justified for one man, especially in the Emperor's present difficulties. So he had planned well ahead for such an eventuality. His business records and valuables were aboard a small nondescript ship they would never imagine he would leave in. Most likely they were watching his finest ship, currently in port, which he used to travel to the Mediterranean provinces. Tonight, he would sneak away. But for now, he would give nothing away. The Emperor could not outthink him! * The soldier stood at the door. 'I am, sir, as an officer of the Imperial guard, entitled to search your house, despite your position.' The man was confident, more determined. 'Then why didn't you say so? Come in.' Alban flung the door wide and gestured for them to enter. Hours later, the soldier returned to tell him they were leaving. 'And have you found anything untoward?' Alban asked. 'That is for my superiors, not you.' A flash of overconfidence. 'That is for my superiors, not you, what?' The soldier lowered his head. 'Sir.' They had found nothing. But neither should they have. Now to set his plan in motion. * As darkness fell, he made his way to the dock, hooded in his cloak. As he approached the boat, there was the sound of scraping metal behind him. A sword! A pain laced his back, plunging through him. He turned, and there was the soldier. 'Sorry, sir , but I have my orders.' Alban realised that by this means, an unexplained murder, the Emperor would keep the support of Alban's remaining powerful friends, and even sympathy by expressing grief, and finding his 'killer', probably an unfortunate, unfavoured citizen. The last words that passed his lips were 'wilier than me', which the soldier did not understand.
Archived comments for Alban and the Retributes
Rab on 05-02-2016
Alban and the Retributes
I didn't see that coming, although I should have, given the prompt! A really convincing depiction of the insecurities of power, and shifting allegiances, in the Roman empire.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou

sirat on 05-02-2016
Alban and the Retributes
The story works well, and I liked the flashbacks used in telling it. With only one significant character it was pretty clear who was going to die but I don't think that mattered from the point of view of the story. As Rab said, a nice feel for the Roman way of doing things . Echoes of 'I, Claudius'.

A few very minor proof reading errors:

to be a good a loyal soldier

Alban’s had decided to return to the land of his birth

aboard small nondescript ship

Author's Reply:
Thanks David - and for the proofing. I only just managed to finish this after a week or more on my sick bed (and still suffering)

Pronto on 05-02-2016
Alban and the Retributes
Yes very Machiavellian indeed and a hard way to discover that you're not the only clever bugger on the scene! Loved it. Well done.

Author's Reply:
Thank you

QBall on 06-02-2016
Alban and the Retributes
Well written story. I felt a bit confused at one point, but as I read on I realized it was a flashback. Not sure how to improve that.
I thought the length about right. I can find no errors.


Author's Reply:
The original story was just the first and last sections. But I felt Alban needed more fleshing out. I wrote a whole section of 'tell' , then realised what I had done and converted it.

I agree the two flashbacks could be difficult to follow immediately, but couldn't think of another way

teifii on 07-02-2016
Alban and the Retributes
Good story. You can't trust emperors.
Daff

Author's Reply:
thanks, Daff

shadow on 11-02-2016
Alban and the Retributes
Enjoyed this (I'm rather partial to the Romans). Had you any particular emperor in mind? Tiberius would fit rather well.

Author's Reply:
Alas, I don't have your knowledge of roman history,so to name names would have meant a fair amount of research, which I had no time for.

Thanks for liking.


The Trumpers Shall Sound! (posted on: 29-01-16)
My 'should have won' (:-)) entry for the weeekly challenge!

The Trumpers Shall Sound! A trump is hot air farted out Which forms a cloud and spreads about There's nothing to it, just the smell Of something nasty you can tell 'Disgusting' some say, holding nose While others raise cheeks in repose And noisily let gases fly To show approval for the guy A close group can be pretty bleak When people fart like windy sheep Disturbing, no respect is brought Just 'me, me, me,' the farting thought. So what's the game, what will transpire Will people sink into the mire? - Or raise their heads and right on cue Leave Trumpers to their farty stew? .
Archived comments for The Trumpers Shall Sound!
Savvi on 29-01-2016
The Trumpers Shall Sound!
Ha Ha very good, when people fart like windy sheep LMAO

Author's Reply:
Yep - I was pleased with that bit! πŸ™‚

Pronto on 30-01-2016
The Trumpers Shall Sound!
'Er.. Yes missus' As Frankie Howerd would have said 'can we press on and talk about something else please? I've just had me tea.' πŸ™‚
I loved the bawdiness of this ballad! Lavatorial humour at it's best.

Author's Reply:
I know my audience.

Bozzz on 31-01-2016
The Trumpers Shall Sound!
I guess the old age farts like us do contribute our share of greenhouse gases, but we learn to let it go in small less detectable amounts - a skilled technique. Yonder sheep and cattle do it with abandon so why not us, Damn the prudes who complain. ...Literally good stuff John....My best ...David

Author's Reply:
Glad you enjoyed it. I felt good about this one.


The Tyranny of Gravity (posted on: 18-12-15)
This was last posted in February 2014. I'm posting it again for Simon, after the scientific discussion he started on Gravity. A call to arms!

The Tyranny of Gravity I have long considered Gravity to be the most pernicious of the natural forces. He is a most subtle and insidious elemental, one who trains us from an early age to bind us to his will. As children, we are defended from his clutching fingers, carried and cosseted by parents and nursemaids. Thus we are not exposed to his violent and sometimes damaging attentions. However, growing up, the skinned knees and scratched hands persuade us of his power and we succumb meekly, subservient to his whims. Indeed, the first tottering steps a toddler takes are invariably followed by a fall. There can be no child on earth who has stood for the first time and not subsequently, I would say inevitably, fallen under his grasp. Such is the power and presence of Gravity and such is the indisputable evidence of his implacable will to establish mastery. Thus we grow to youth cowed and mastered by an intrusive presence. Then we have our one chance. As young men and women, brave and bold, we may defy him! This is the most dangerous time for Gravity. A child can be predicted and controlled. However, a young person, free of spirit and ready to try anything, is an unpredictable source of challenge. Young people leap from heights; they climb; they scale walls and cliffs; they scramble up and down gullies and paths. And thus it is at this stage in our lives that Gravity unleashes his most dreadful punishments. Youngsters are regularly killed and lie smashed and broken at the foot of buildings or on mountains. Some, damaged for life, crippled, become living reminders of Gravity's power, subduing others who might be tempted likewise to defy him. As we grow older, we decline from that peak of challenge and Gravity relaxes his hold, punishing us less. We don't fall as often, stumble or injure ourselves so seriously. This is because we are more careful, more obedient to his will. We have become his good and obedient subjects. The damage of old age is not precipitated directly. Gravity does not wreak his venom on old people especially. He has other tricks up his sleeve – subtle, insidious. By means of the grinding years of servitude to this monster, our bodies and bones become worn and brittle. He shaves our strength away, year by year, minutely attacking our frame, penetrating our core. So, without effort, he claims many of us in a final victory, smiling as he collects a crumpled body from the foot of the stairs, or from a hospital bed where we have lain, unmoving, following a simple fall in the street. But we cannot escape him! Our feet are stuck to the ground. We can raise them from it only by sacrificing another part of our anatomy. We can sit, stand on our heads, but he always has a part of us trapped, fixed down. Over the years, man has made challenges to Gravity's dominance. He can fly in the sky with his machinery, or simply glide on lightweight wings. He defies Gravity! That is what people say. But Gravity is vengeful and persistent. He drags airplanes to the ground, down into mountains. He pulls men back to earth in the cruellest way possible, tumbling them into power lines, smashing them into rock, flaying them with trees. By such examples he warns us, keeps us in check. Gravity is a tyrant. Like all tyrants, he exists only by grace of the complicity of his victims. Let us withdraw our support for his regime, and throw him off! His continuing existence, his power, is based on our belief. Once we stop believing, his power will fade. I ask you to aid me. I urge every free-thinking person to join me in defying him. Not by acts, but by withholding belief. Disbelieve Gravity and he will fail. Pry his fingers, one by one, from their grip on our lives and eventually he will have to let us slip. Imagine that world! Free, we will float and dip on the breeze, our bodies will stay straight and tall for life, in a world of freedom, not one of slavery. Should we take this step, there might well be consequences. For instance, water would float in globules, to be plucked from the air and drunk, or used for washing. It would be everywhere. There would be no deserts but unless we have waterproof rooms we could drown in our sleep. We would have to make water shields and have regular 'water forecasts' as exceptionally large globules (maybe the size of a country) could be dangerous. And most would be salt. Some would be quite unpleasant. There would be no rain, no fresh water falling from the sky. Many plants would die. In this, and other aspects, the world would become unpredictable, our lives potentially under threat. But the human race is nothing if not adaptable, brave and clever. We have the capacity, my friends, my fellow sufferers, to change our lives by throwing off this tyrant. We now have a choice. What is better, my friends – to live bravely in dangerous freedom, or cower in safe slavery? © John F Griffiths 2003
Archived comments for The Tyranny of Gravity
Bozzz on 18-12-2015
The Tyranny of Gravity
John, surely gravity is merely centripetal force. He lurks not just in energisng fall to earth, but in holding items together, for example, the atoms of the very stairs in preparation for the falling from thereof! Your piece is great fun ..enjoyed...David

Author's Reply:
ah, you touch on general relativity there, which is the topic (under 'gravity') that Simon introduced on the forum and triggered my posting this here. We've had great fun with the concept, and probably boringly serious to most, I learned a lot and rambled on between the jokes. My miscomprehension of many years standing has now been resolved, so I'm happier. In a way, I'm happier to find out I'm wrong and correct it than think I'm right, if you know what I mean.

Appreciate your comment. Thankyou, and Merry Christmas.

Corin on 20-12-2015
The Tyranny of Gravity
Without gravity there would be no life. JUst a random chaos of hydrogen and helium atoms flying around in infinite space. Nothing could ever poss
ibly happen!!

Author's Reply:
Nonsense. You are clearly an agent of the oppressor!

Thanks for reading and commenting.

jay12 on 21-12-2015
The Tyranny of Gravity
Gravity-phobe! This post is so controversial. I fully expect you to get a Daily Mail column within days. πŸ™‚

hope you are well griffy!

Author's Reply:
yes, thankyou, a bit knackered but still having fun πŸ™‚

thanks .


Visitors (posted on: 30-11-15)    
For the prose challenge. I used the prompt 'hidden valley'

Visitors It was thanks to Mr Tesla's amazing invention that I was now able to patrol more efficiently the Region that I had been assigned to. Assessing the population following the schisms, separation and reformation of Britain was an important task, and a massive one. The old records had been lost in the chaos and in order to raise taxes it was necessary to identify and catalogue the various groups and communities that now lay scattered across the land. Previously, I had had to travel on foot, on horseback, or where roads still existed, by carriage. It was a slow, laborious process. Mr Tesla's vehicles, which are like enclosed carriages that he calls 'cars', can skim over obstacles, water, and over hills and valleys. They are powered by enormous towers which are placed strategically about the countryside, each with its boiler house producing steam to drive the electrical generators powering the Tesla energy field. One can sit in comfort, sheltered from wind and weather, warm and safe, as one travels. Of course, only the very top government officials have personal use of these vehicles. However, when the towers appeared in my Region, I was granted access to a Tesla car for official use – and what a godsend it has been. I was able to complete months of work in weeks. I am pleased that I am well thought of by the Chief Assessor – only a handful of my fellow Assessors have the privilege of such a mode of transport. It was in one of the more remote parts of my Region that I discovered the valley. I thought I was aware of the all the features of the countryside and had studied the maps carefully. As well as marked settlements, I had been trained to look for geographical features which could encourage settlement, such as a river valley, where new communities might spring up. I was on the way to a small settlement deeper in the hills when, as the Tesla car rose up over a peak, below me was a partially wooded valley, wide, flat-bottomed with a river. But that was not all. Filling the valley were people, constructions like tents, and, strangest of all, two large silver archways at its far end. I first thought that a circus or fairground had set up in that place – but where had the people come from? I knew for sure that the community I intended to visit nearby had not half as many inhabitants as I saw below me. I was shocked. I had hopes of high office, and my record to that point was spotless. The unrecorded community could well become a blot on my reputation unless I investigated quickly. I decided on a discrete approach and quickly lowered the vehicle behind some trees, letting it settle on the ground. I then proceeded on foot to make an initial investigation. I approached from behind one of the constructions, which was like a large tent, so I could observe without being noticed. The material of the tent was nothing I could identify, shiny and slick, unyielding. It was not metal, nor any fabric I knew. As I observed the people more closely, it struck me that they were somehow different. It is hard to explain: their clothes were sleek and unusual; they walked and laughed with confidence rather than comporting themselves as normal people might. Their behaviour was odd, as was their language. I had to strain to understand the meaning. It was a form of English with a very heavy accent spoken very quickly with many words omitted. One conversation, clearer to me than most, puzzled me: 'No mask, Zad. Good air. Breath,' an adult said to a child. It sounded like some native language from the Orient. And why should one wear a mask? It was not a fancy dress ball – and what had it to do with air? Observing their general behaviour, I was amazed by the enthusiasm they all had for common things – plants and flowers were greeted with cries of delight and exclamations, people clustering around the more colourful species. A small animal running across a path seemed to make the nearby group almost delirious with joy. They all raised their wrists and held the inside towards the creature. I have no idea what they were doing, perhaps some religious gesture. I cast my gaze further around the whole scene, and noticed that occasionally people would come and go through the silver archways, the new arrivals bursting out with joy on the faces and the others trudging back. What was behind those archways – was that where their town was? – I had seen no sign of any houses as I'd approached. And why should this valley be so different from where they lived? It was just an ordinary valley with no special features, save them. I could hold back no longer, I stepped out and walked through the crowd. My appearance, my clothes so clearly different from theirs, evinced no surprise. Some interest, yes, but accompanied by smiles and greetings. Then as I proceeded I came upon what looked like a small kitchen garden. In it were a man and a woman, dressed in normal worker's clothes, digging up vegetables and laying them out on a wooden table, around which people crowded, chattering and pointing, picking up the vegetables and laughing, I went to the man and said, 'What is going on here? Who are these people and where are they from?' To my disappointment, he replied in the clipped form of English all the others spoke. 'Us. Show. See. Touch. No before. Stranger? Your place?' he said, waving an arm around at the valley. I was confused. Here were some of these strange people pretending to be normal. 'Show' he'd said. I guessed the others had classed me as part of it, one of the 'players' perhaps. I thanked the man and wandered on. When I looked back, I saw him walking hurriedly toward one of the larger tents and decided it might be time to leave and return with some support. But I was too late. A tall man, confident, clearly some kind of organiser, was heading for me. I was not prepared to flee, and indeed, if he meant me any harm, I would be trapped anyway. So I walked towards him. 'Good day sir, and welcome,' he said. 'May I ask what it is that brings you here? It is unusual to see strangers at our gatherings.' He spoke normal English, but he was indeed different. Something about the eyes and the head, the very pale skin and of course his garments set him apart. 'Thankyou,' I replied. 'But first, please tell me what country you are from. You are not English, are you?' He smiled. 'We are, but from a place you don't know.' I noticed a hesitation before he said 'place' as if he'd been about to say some other word. 'Please come for some refreshment. It is a warm day.' I explained my duties and position to him as we sat in his tent. Inside was a fantastic room, with clean, smooth walls, strange furniture and devices I did not understand. The air was cool. We drank of juice of a type I'd never tasted before. When I'd finished explaining, he said, 'Thank you, I understand why you are here and what your duties are.' He paused for a moment and added, 'Of course you must carry out your duty and you have my full cooperation, but believe me, it is impossible for me to describe to you what place we come from.' Although I sputtered and argued, he remained obdurate, simply repeating that he had no means of describing where his people came from. Finally, I gave up and told him,' Well, I'm afraid I will have to put in an urgent report. With due respect sir, pleasant and civilised though your people may be, we cannot tolerate immigrants in our country who cannot even reveal their origin. You may expect a further visit in the next forty-eight hours, and I'm afraid it may eventually involve the police force and government officials if no information is forthcoming.' 'I see. Well you must do as your duty takes you, but I advise you, for your own sake, to delay your report until you yourself make a return visit, alone.' He leaned forward. 'This is very important for you. I know your society and how it reacts. Please take my advice, I beg you.' What nonsense! For a moment, I suspected a threat, but the man's manner was benevolent and his tone kind. However, I could not understand what lay behind his plea. Was he hoping to gain time for his people to pack up and move somewhere else? That was impossible in this country as we could find them easily. I merely thanked him for his advice, and returned to my vehicle. At my offices, I immediately sent a telegraph to London. I thought the matter urgent enough to go to the Chief Assessor himself, rather than the usual intermediaries, in order to avoid delay. There could be more of these strange people entering the country and warnings needed to be sent to the ports. The Chief Assessor replied to me personally. He thanked me for my diligence and recognition of the dangers these people represented, and asked me to return with a task force which he assigned to me. The men arrived the next day in Tesla cars, which had been gathered from my colleagues in other Regions, a force of a dozen or so officers, armed and experienced in police work and interrogation. I had mixed emotions as we approached the valley with my car in the lead and the others following. Each had to keep a good distance behind me and each other because the Tesla field could not sustain cars in close proximity, even though the local Tesla generators had been fired up to maximum levels for us. Thus I arrived probably ten minutes before the first following car. I crested the rise in anticipation, then gaped. Below me lay the valley. It was the same valley, no doubt about that – as I swept down the hillside, I could see the patch of flattened grass where I had rested the vehicle two days before. I rose over the trees and skimmed up and down the valley, scouring the ground for traces of the former occupiers. There was nothing – no marks, nothing out of place. Even the patch which had been dug for the garden had disappeared and, although there was a patch of grass slightly greener than its surroundings, that was no proof anyone had been there. I rested the Tesla car by the river, and awaited the arrival of my task force. I wished I had heeded the man's advice. I would send out the other cars to scour the surroundings but in my heart I had little hope. A people who could do this were beyond our comprehension. They would not be toiling along carrying bundles. I began to laugh wildly. Of course, they'd walked through the silver archways, hadn't they? I began to feel dissociated, delirious, and it was in such a state the others found me, striding up and down, raving. My career is in ruins. My bright future gone. And to my dying day I shall be tormented by imaginings of where those people came from, and where they returned to.
Archived comments for Visitors
Rab on 30-11-2015
Visitors
Two sci-fi themes in one story! I've always liked alternative world stories, and the idea of making this none the normal world is a good one. I hope the assessor didn't lose his Tesla car as a result of his embarrassment.

Author's Reply:
Oh yes, of course he did!
Thanks.

bluepootle on 30-11-2015
Visitors
I like this, although perhaps it doesn't quite sit together as a complete story. The Tesla cars are great, but I'm not sure that they are a cohesive part of the plot more than an aside. Still, they do establish that we're in a slightly different version of the world, which is a good lead-in to the 'visitors'. Is there more to it than that and I'm missing something? Apart from that, I liked the formality of the language and the crisp observations in it.

Author's Reply:
Well, I think you put your finger on the reason for the cars. I had to establish immediately the different world it was set in.
For the visitors, I had in mind they were time travellers (hence interest in clean air, plants and animals and superior technology (what was it about the wrists?))
Of course it could equally be another parallel world (just as the tesla one is) as rab suggests.
I can't really see what more you want. It's just a shorty, with the reader (hopefully) working out the unexplained in the story itself. Hmmm.

Supratik on 30-11-2015
Visitors
Excellent John! On the critique side I think the modifier 'more efficiently' in phrase 1 should come after the verb 'to patrol'. But this is just a suggestion.
I loved reading it. Best. Supratik

Author's Reply:
Spot on! Edited and thanks. πŸ™‚

shadow on 30-11-2015
Visitors
I expect the wrist thing was because that was where their mobile phone/cameras were implanted. Pity he didn't manage a peek through the arches - though that would have made it a rather longer story, and it is fine as it is. Nice sense of inevitability about the ending.

Author's Reply:
Yes (wrist)

And thanks.

TheBigBadG on 01-12-2015
Visitors
Steampunk! With dimension hopping to boot? Or first contact? Not that it entirely matters where the visitors come from. Curious to see that you have the same as Rab, someone escaping the valley to see behind the curtain for a moment, then being punished (to varying degrees) for it. Those moments of synchronicity the challenge produces sometimes.

The formality of it suits though for sure. I wonder if the cars are a bit overplayed as well? For me it lessens the impact of the other group being so advanced and strange when your narrator is enjoying anachronistic and advanced technology. Just a suggestion anyway, works well as it is. I just can't help myself...

Author's Reply:
Not sure he's actually 'escaping' the valley.

I suppose I could have got him trekking in on foot or horse, but as I've said, I wanted to establish a parallel world (and tesla indeed had plans for the transmission of energy with big towers)

Thankyou.


Quill (posted on: 09-10-15)
An illustrated story, for penpage. All text in image and formatted (simply - can do text flow round pic an pic position with suitable programme to prepare and save as image then put on photobucket or similar. Go to share - links and use html codes.

 photo quill1.gif  photo quill2.gif  photo quill3.gif  photo quill4.gif  photo quill5.gif  photo quill6.gif  photo quill7.gif
Archived comments for Quill
shadow on 11-10-2015
Quill
A modern fairy tale - loved the illustrations. Wish I could do that, but can't draw, sadly.

Author's Reply:
Well, neither can I - as you can tell. 😀
I think I can just manage a cartoon though.

Thanks for the comment and nice to see you around


Diane with No Legs Comes Back to Bed (posted on: 09-10-15)
My entry for rab's weekly challenge - subject 'dark' I don't know what made me write this - probably when I thought of the title and couldn't resist it!

Diane with No Legs Comes Back to Bed 'That was great,' I said as she strapped on her legs. 'Mmm, it was, but I have to nip into town for my appointment. Be back in an hour or so. Are you getting up?' I considered the day. I had nothing to do, and could afford to relax for once. 'No, I think I'll just watch tele and wait for you to come back.' I gave her what I hoped was a lustful gaze. Up on her legs now, she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. 'Naughty boy, let's hope you have some energy left.' 'I'll have a juice drink – carrots, celery, onions ... ' 'Er, leave out the onion,' she said as she shrugged into her dress, kissed me again and went out of the bedroom. She was gone an hour and a half. I had my energy drink and ate an apple. I was watching an episode of Doc Martin I'd recorded, chuckling away, when I heard the door slam. After a while I called out, 'Is that you?' 'Who else?' she said through a mouthful of something. A little while later she came into the room clutching a mug of coffee, half-finished. She offered it and I took a few swigs before putting it on the bedside table. Meantime, she'd undressed and was unstrapping her legs. In no time we were curled up together in bed. She's a great woman. I always like to go under the covers when I have sex with her. You know they say: 'they're all the same in the dark'?
Archived comments for Diane with No Legs Comes Back to Bed
shadow on 11-10-2015
Diane with No Legs Comes Back to Bed
Yes, some titles just have to have a story. I did not think this was dark, though. Rather life affirming, in fact.

Author's Reply:
Thank you

Andrea on 13-10-2015
Diane with No Legs Comes Back to Bed
Reminded me of Oscar Pistorius...sorry πŸ™‚



Author's Reply:


Absalom (posted on: 21-09-15)
For the Prose Challenge. Not what I set out to write, but what I wrote. ....

Absalom Three suns passed and she still had not returned. I began to become concerned. Not only by considering what might have happened to her, but what was to happen to me. I had enough supplies for several suns but after that no power to gather more. I cursed the faulty transport that had laid me in this cave. As the fourth sun passed, I became alert to a rustling outside the mouth of the cave. We had surveyed the place before descending and found no sign of sizeable life, but clearly, something was disturbing the vegetation. I spent the night in trepidation, alert to every imagined sound. This would not do. I prayed for Klara to return, to set up barriers, even crude branches, to seal the entrance. Finally, exhausted, I fell into a fitful sleep. I awoke suddenly, aware of a presence. Silhouetted against the faint light from the mouth of the cave was a tall, elongated, humanoid figure. In panic I reached for the beam. A voice spoke in my head. 'There is no need for that. Firstly, it would be ineffectual, and secondly, we mean you no harm.' Should I believe it? The power behind that voice convinced me that annoying the creature would not be a good idea, whatever its intentions. 'Your companion is with us. We found her wandering, having eaten one of the hallucinogenic plants that abound here.' He (for I judged him to be masculine) moved forward and I could see him for the first time -- a strange, stick-like being with elongated hands and fingers, a flesh that was not quite pink or brown and the most notable feature: piercing violet eyes. It wasn't until later I remarked the bulbous protrusions above his brow. What function they had, if they had one at all, I could not tell. Although the original human species had died out long ago, most technologically-based intelligent life seemed to follow the humanoid - ape form and despite his distorted shape, he was one such. 'You must come with us. You need help.' 'I can't move,' I said. 'My legs … .' 'I will carry you.' I could hardly believe it, I nearly burst out laughing. This frail, stick-like creature looked hardly capable of lifting my pack, let alone a full size man. But I was wrong. Two arms reached down, carefully folded back my blankets and gently slid under me. I yelled at the pain from my legs, but suddenly it switched off and I heard his voice saying, 'I have removed the pain, but you are still damaged. I am not sure what of our knowledge we can apply to your species, but if you tell us all you know about yourselves, we may be able to devise appropriate techniques. Our experts will be delighted.' So I was to be a specimen? The thought was strong. Then I learned more about the creature's powers. 'No, we will try to heal you and return you to your people. That is our objective.' He could read my mind! 'Only strong surface thoughts,' the voice said. 'Much is hidden from us, never fear.' He lifted me as if I weighed nothing, and we left the cave in a sinuous glide. I detected a smell from his body, a kind of musty sweet scent with overtones of resin. I wondered how different his metabolism was to my own. 'My companions will bring your belongings and equipment.' Emerging into the light, I noticed several more of the creatures around the mouth of the cave. For the first time I could see they were at least nine feet in height. The ground we travelled over was relatively smooth, with few gulleys and dips. I could see mountains in the distance, and indeed we had observed and mapped these before descending. The actual details of the terrain were of course new to me. I know not what distance we covered on our trip, but I spent it in comfort, as if riding a magic carpet, free from jolts, bumps and changes of direction. Thus it was before the sun descended fully we came upon a large clearing, paved in stone, a beautiful glistening grey. Statues, clearly of the creatures, surrounded us, and there was a curious thing. Some of the figures were shorter, limbs less elongated, more humanoid, as we were. I wondered if they were ancestors or a sub-species but had no time to speculate. I was tired. Despite the creature's ministrations, the emotion and excitement had drained me, and my previous fear (for now it had miraculously fled) had taxed me unduly. We passed under a large archway, through which were revealed many stone buildings of curious design, milk-white and glass-smooth. Many of the creatures were going about their business. few showed interest, just the odd one or two approached, greeted my companion with some gesture I could not interpret, and peered at me for just a short while. He took me to a hall where Klara rested in a side chamber. She appeared to be sleeping peacefully. 'She will recover now.' the creature said. They placed me in a nearby chamber and fed me some of my supplies and said they would analyse the content and try to synthesise appropriate food. I said, 'Look here, I can't keep thinking of you as a creature. Do you have a name?' There was a short silence, then the creature's voice spoke in my head. 'For you, I think Absalom would be the most appropriate.' I nodded, then I slept almost at once, settled in a comfortable bed in fresh, airy surroundings. Many dreams passed through my mind. Not unpleasant but intriguing. About the creatures. I felt I was seeing something real, yet imagined. When I awoke, I discovered I knew a lot more about them than I had thought. I asked Absalom how this could happen. 'We have come to the conclusion you have some telepathic abilities. The fact you can understand me without too much effort on my part means you are partially receptive. It seems likely you are experiencing leakage of thoughts from the many of us who surround you. I apologise.' 'Not at all. If it helps me understand, I welcome it.' 'Provided you do not understand too much.' For the first time in our acquaintance I felt a note of discomfort in his words. We spent many happy suns in that city. Klara had recovered and was back to her old self. I was just ambulant. The creatures had managed to set my broken legs and heal them. I was still stiff and my legs were weak, but I was definitely on the mend. More importantly, they had produced foodstuffs suitable for our metabolisms, energy-giving and what is more, tasting delightful, far beyond any of our standard rations. We were lucky. But reality set in when we realised we were marooned. We had no way off the planet and no means of communication with The Origin. It was a very pleasant prison, but no less a prison. I would not see my mate again, nor our children, nor anyone of our species besides Klara. Even the possibility of breeding, with Klara, was impossible. She had taken accelerated rejuvenation and was effectively an old lady, past fertile age, even though her body was strong and youthful. At first the city was fascinating. I gave little thought to the more specific details. But gradually I realised that it was far more sparsely populated than I had imagined. One day I ventured into an area where not one of the creatures could be seen. It was empty. I entered one of the buildings and it was deserted. What lay behind this? This was a successful species, where were the millions? Where were other cities? I resolved to ask Absalom about this and the other curious thing I had noticed: within the high walls of the city, no vegetation grew. No trees, no plants, nothing. It was completely sterile. And why were there walls? And what were the towers stationed at regular intervals around them? Absalom was at first reluctant to talk. I did not understand until I learnt why. Their history was horrendous, and tragic. 'You noticed the smaller statues at the city gates.' I nodded. 'They were our ancestors.' Those statues must have been eons old for such mutation to occur. 'Twenty generations ago.' Surely he had mistaken his figures, or my brain had scrambled them in receiving his thought? Such mutation was impossible in so short a time. But he confirmed it. 'There was a period of radioactive exposure across the whole planet. It has cleared now. We, and other creatures, and especially the plants, changed beyond recognition. The vegetation is now inimical to us. We have to process it in order to eat.' Then, as if in answer to my unspoken question. 'There were once millions of us, great cities across the planet, a healthy, living organism where we prospered. We have histories showing that time. Of course we had rivalries and power struggles as any lively community may have. But it got out of hand. A new kind of weapon was discovered, a projector that destroyed completely. Whereas normal weaponry had no lasting effects, what we did not know was that the projectors threw intensely damaging substances into the atmosphere which did not become apparent for years, lying dormant, then becoming active. By then it was too late. Great wars had been fought. Because one strike of a projector was so powerful, retaliation was equally powerful. Instead of skirmishes and peace settlements, we suffered complete mutual destruction. Communities retreated into walled cities, and defended them with the projectors. But one by one, the cities fell, even the victors incurably damaged. 'My ancestor, we shall call him Absalom also, was a man of peace. Here, we were in an isolated part of the planet, and when he declared neutrality and peace, vowed never to attack another and disarmed our projectors, this city was left alone, and survived.' 'But why so few now?' 'One could say it was the effects of the radiation on fertility, but I strongly suspect it is the effect of peace.' I was taken aback. 'What do you mean?' Surely a society should blossom and thrive in peace?' 'For a time, yes, but then you have a society that has not had to exert itself, to try, to strive, to fight for survival. I do not blame my ancestor, but we have become stagnant, lazy, uninterested, as you saw with the little interest our people have shown you.' Sure enough, we had been largely ignored on our explorations, the citizens passing us, occasionally with a gesture of greeting but most times not.     'But the plants, the challenge of settling outside the city walls, of exploring?' 'Of no interest. We have a satisfactory life, a source of food. What would be the point in battling a whole planet? Better stay here and be comfortable. We have our social lives, the arts and much helpful science to busy us. And on that subject, we have repaired your ship. You are able to return to your own people.' As our ship climbed into the sky, I looked down at the rapidly-shrinking city - and pitied them. Despite our clashes, rivalries, petty jealousies, fights for position and wealth, at least our society had life.
Archived comments for Absalom
bluepootle on 21-09-2015
Absalom
Great last line.

It's certainly easy to engage with the story, and it gives the reader a lot to think about. With such a premise, I think it's a shame to set it up and then finish it; I could easily have explored more with the narrator, and Absalom is an interesting character too. But maybe I'm just in the mood to read something longer today, and this world strikes me as a very interesting one.

The first paragraph strikes me as being quite clunky, with the 'began to become' and the repetition of 'return'. The rest flowed well, for me.

Author's Reply:
I certainly accept the comments on 'clunky'. I did not have time either to edit properly, nor to extend the story, which I agree it calls out for. I actually started out on one tack, then changed the plot mid-write . (see reply to bbg)

have had a little go at some of it ...

Rab on 21-09-2015
Absalom
Interesting tale, and a good ending, if a little quick. I would have liked a little more interaction between the two species. From the last line the narrator's home planet isn't entirely peaceful, but it would be nice to get to know a little more about that. I wonder, as well, what the narrator and Klara were doing there. Mapping, we're told, but why? Are they doing this in preparation for an invasion? Might their species be interested in the Projector? There's quite a bit that could be explored and expanded, and I'd like to read more.

Author's Reply:
Yep. See reply to blue.

TheBigBadG on 21-09-2015
Absalom
I see what you mean about the classic feel to it, there's a good timeless sense of strangeness underpinning this. It reminds me of the good aspects of the Golden Age stuff. I particularly like the way the narration bleeds into the dialogue because of the narrators pseudo-psychic relationship. It's a crafty PoV in fact, nice idea. Especially when placed against the curiously inert Absalom and their enforced pacifism. Here's this couple stranded and fearing for their lives rescued by highly advanced aliens who are helping partly because they can and partly because there's not a lot else to do. So all he wants to do is get better and go home, but his urgency is being sapped by sharing headspace with the indulged Absalom.

I wasn't keen on the ending either though, the deus ex machina doesn't gel with the overall tone for me. I wonder if it would make more sense to have the two of them trapped there, desperately trying to preserve their vitality? A sort of mundane purgatory, where they spend the rest of their lives having worthy conversations about literature with their new hosts rather than getting back to space and adventures? Interesting ideas at work, whichever way you spin it.

Author's Reply:
Well, my original plot had him wondering why they were the only group on the planet. He discovers the remains of a vast ship and it turns out they too are marooned. (early on absalom said 'we are in the same lifeboat' which puzzled him) they can't fix their ship (or at least they haven't yet)and they have mutated due to the effects of the planet so even if they got home they wouldn't fit. The planet has a peculiar erratic changing gravitational field which is why both ships were downed.

I changed the plot to fit the 'weapons no longer used' topic given.

expat on 26-09-2015
Absalom
Some of my thoughts have already been raised by the others so I won't repeat them except to reinforce that the end seemed rushed. It left a slightly hollow taste.
I agree about the classic feel; my first impressions were '50s sci-fi'. A little over-written and formal perhaps but nevertheless a good read.


Author's Reply:
'Over-written and formal' may well be a result of my trying to show a different culture of the narrator - a pseudo-'victorian explorer' style of speaking. The trad 50's scifi would not have used that language, I agree.

It might have been better to establish that at the beginning with some floriferous statement to make it clear - 'We had embarked on our exploratory quest at the behest of our chief scientist, Melmor, ...'


Decisions (posted on: 31-07-15)
Duty, conscience, decisions. A very late entry for the last Prose Challenge.

Decisions There was only a small change in the surface of the rock, hardly detectable, certainly nothing anyone would notice, an area appearing as grey and crystalline as the rock face surrounding it. Nik put his hand on the surface and felt the coolness compared with the heat of the rock. Of course it was infinium, the wonder alloy that had transformed the world of armoury and defence. Looking close, he could just make out the almost invisible hairline crack that defined the portal. From his pack, he took out a complex-looking instrument and pressed several keys. He hoped the mechanisms still worked. He was reassured by a humming sound. A rectangular section of the face moved back a few inches, then slid out of sight, revealing a small chamber with a keyboard and screen and various scanners around it. Nik stepped in, and immediately the door closed again. Good signs: the lights were working and the screen lit. He keyed in several passwords and pressed his fingertips on a panel. After a pause, the message 'Permission Granted' appeared, with the small subtitle 'Local Security'. He was thankful that these stations had been designed to survive any circumstances, and in the absence of contact with the central security hub, it used its own information to decide.. Although the builders had not foreseen the absolute desolation that was to come, they had envisaged EMP damage to communications. So the fact that the security centre was now a wasteland of ash made no difference. The inner door slid open and he entered. Lights flickered on. He went to the nearest terminal and checked the station out: all systems running at full efficiency, supplies more than sufficient. He had a task to do. The missiles here could still be activated manually from within the station. Retaliation at all costs, under all circumstances had been the strategy, so there had been several agents like Nik trained to act if things went against the country. It had been a hard struggle, making his way around to the seven key stations. It had taken years. This was the last, the seventh. He had been the first agent to reach each one, and he wondered what had happened to the others. Had they forgotten their task? He had reached this final station just in time. He wasn't sure how long his health would last, despite the protection he wore and the anti-radiation drugs. He made his way into the facility. It was a standard pattern, sleeping quarters to the right; common rooms and canteen to the left; recreation areas, gym and pool ahead. The station had been built for long occupation. Unfortunately, the attack had been so unexpected and overwhelming that the 'code orange' had not been sent to designated personnel. All the stations he'd found had been empty, bar one. A lone electrician had been fixing some wiring, and when the crunch came, he'd taken one look outside and hurriedly shut the door. He was in a bad state psychologically, so Nik had had to ease his misery. Nik made his way unerringly to a lone panel in the wall, seemingly innocuous. With the correct codes sent, the panel slid open, revealing a tunnel with steps leading down. He began to descend. He'd pondered for a long time on the situation. He'd got access to worldwide news transmissions via a still functioning satellite internet connection at the first station, and discovered the extent of what had happened. He'd had stayed there for weeks thinking through the implications before deciding to act. The rest of the world carried on. The enemy had declared themselves 'very sorry' and said there had been a total communications breakdown that caused all missiles to be fired as the system believed it had already been attacked. They had offered massive aid to survivors. In the face of this, other countries, while protesting, tacitly accepted the situation and got on with their own problems. Of course there were demonstrations and riots the world over, and many of the enemy's representatives and nationals were slaughtered. His mission was to change things, to retaliate, to do to them what they'd done to his country. At the foot of the stairs, a large chamber opened up. Nik knew he had been checked and scanned thoroughly on the way down the narrow passage, which would force any group to proceed in single file. On one side of the chamber was a large infinium door, capable of surviving any blast, he knew, even atomics. He keyed in the correct codes and answered questions that delved far back into his personal life. God know how they got some of it, he thought. Eventually, the door rumbled open and he entered. Above the high ceiling was a lake, which would be automatically dumped before the infinium shielding panels opened to the sky. And there they were, rows of shining tubes pointing up to the roof high, high above - the missiles. Each one could take out a city, one of the enemy's cities, and for good measure, some of their allies'. Nik set to work, running over the controls and freeing the security blocks one by one. Normally, firing would take place instantaneously on complex coded commands sent via different access networks, the order of which was changed every 24 hours. But firing the missiles manually took time, because of course, the builders had realised if the systems had gone down, it would be too late for defence, and there would be time, time enough to retaliate after an attack had succeeded. He found the final command page. The missiles checked out, all were fuelled, functioning and targeted. Some subsystems had failed, but duplicate and triplicate systems had cut in, and they would do well enough. He managed to hack the control software, after all, he'd helped write it. He opened a little-used maintenance control and prepared each missile with a command. Eventually, he selected 'action in 30 seconds'. This gave him enough time to get out of the firing chamber and close the blast door. As the door closed, Nik leant against it and counted the seconds. Just a few until his mission was complete and all seven stations would have been dealt with. Inside the missile chamber, one after another, came the muffled thump of an explosion and palls of smoke welled out from the bases of the shining tubes. On the control screen, the command 'self-destruct motor and firing mechanism' glowed red. The ultimate safety provision. The warheads would sit and decay over thousands of years while the base crumbled around them, but there would be no nuclear explosions. Pressed against the blast door, he breathed out. 'Never again,' he said aloud.
Archived comments for Decisions
sirat on 11-08-2015
Decisions
Very reminiscent of the 1960s film Failsafe, where America starts a nuclear war by accident and the president has to nuke New York City and kill his own wife in order to convince the Russians that it was a mistake. The notion that retaliation means the end of everything and must be avoided at all costs. This one is okay and the ending wasn't the one I expected, but it is of necessity practically all 'tell' and the reader doesn't really identify with the central character. It's just a plot outline, it doesn't produce very much involvement. It might work better if you could set it up so that the central character tells his story to somebody else, the woman he loves perhaps, with his dying breath: "I knew I couldn't survive the radiation burst, but the alternative was the end of everything..." I'm being a little bit flippant but I think you get my meaning. It needs to be personalised, I need to be gripped emotionally. Without that, it's only a fictional version of a technical report. Sorry if that sounds a bit negative.

Author's Reply:
Not at all. I agree with you. I thought of warning that this was a familiar style and plot to many old sf stories of 50s and 60, but didn't want to preempt. It's just a story to pass the time, maybe interesting for some.

TheBigBadG on 11-08-2015
Decisions
Interestingly, this exists at pretty much the exact opposite end of the pic that you chose - A Boy and His Dog (1975), which is about an anti-hero kid trying to survive the wilderness and get laid, ably assisted by his psychic dog. Idle observation to start.

Sirat's about right here, I reckon. It doesn't necessarily have to be told to someone he knows, but it would be well served by reducing the 'tell' elements. It's a good framework as is, and the I didn't expect the ending but it needs to pull back on the information about the context of the war. So to pick one example, change 'Of course it was infinium, the wonder alloy that had transformed the world of armoury and defence.' to something like, 'Of course it was infinium, just what he needed...' Most people (including non-SF readers) are savvy with nuclear bunkers so you can likely pull back on the tech a bit in general.

It's definitely workable with what you have here, you can probably rely on the familiarities of the setting more in fact. Maybe also reveal his previous occupation by having him thinking how he never gets a break in this job, years after the war, complaining about sacrifices etc. That could help paint him as unsympathetic to help make the twist a surprise as well. If he's been working on this for that long I'd want to know how those labours have changed him; lifting that could be a solution.

Author's Reply:


Miniaturisation (posted on: 01-06-15)
My story for the weekly challenge. Progress isn't always good. It

Miniaturisation 'So, Benson, you're going to save us a million a year?' Calshaw beamed at the bespectacled youth in the visitor's chair. 'Maybe more.' 'Excellent. How?' Calshaw made a note to find out why his highly-paid executives hadn't done it. 'Well, most of the cost is in storage of records.' Calshaw nodded. 'Yes, the heart of our business, we depend on them.' 'The cost of maintaining paper records was enormous: the building, environmental conditioning, the sheer bulk. Also, people spent a long time searching for documents.' 'But we have an efficient indexing system?' 'Efficient enough for a paper system, but you were paying at least ten people to maintain it.' 'So, what do you propose?' 'Er, actually Sir ... ' Benson paused, then started speaking again. 'Well, I have developed a system which makes the storage automatic. A couple of people feed documents in and it scans the pages, then shreds and pulps them.' 'But we rejected the idea of computerisation because no-one could guarantee security except at exorbitant cost.' 'They are stored in memory chips. I used the latest super-concentrated data format.' 'So?' 'All our records can be fitted on a few microchips. Interrogating the chip with a computer allows instantaneous access by the information seeker, with no intermediaries, saving time and costs. Having the chips physically separate means they can be securely locked away, so no-one can access the data, which as you say would be a possibility with traditional servers. It's the best of both worlds.' Calshaw was impressed. 'When will you implement this plan? I take it your Director has approved it?' 'Actually , Sir, I've already started.' 'That's good. We can test it before we commit.' Benson looked uncomfortable. 'Actually, I've already put some documents through the process. The paper has been shredded.' Calshaw felt alarm, and anger. 'But surely you have the files safe, please tell me you have. How many of our files have you treated this way?' Benson's voice quavered. 'Well, I had to give it a fair test, so I needed a substantial number, about twenty percent.' Calshaw felt a cold hand on his heart. The loss of twenty percent of the files could ruin him. 'But you have the data safe, it can be recreated if necessary?' 'Oh yes, absolutely. I have the chip with me.' 'You mean you are carrying around the only copy?' Calshaw wondered if the man was completely sane. What if he had been in a traffic accident, died of a heart attack on the way here? But he spoke coaxingly and kindly. 'Oh, that's excellent, can you give it to me please?' He readied himself to call Security and have the man restrained just as soon as the chip was in his grasp. Benson was fumbling in his pocket. 'Mmm, I have it here.' He tried the other pocket, then stood up and frantically searched all his pockets. 'It was here, I'm sure it was ... at least I thought it was ...' .
Archived comments for Miniaturisation
Mikeverdi on 04-06-2015
Miniaturisation
Just trying to work out the part you were playing in this neat little story John, having read your Bio...it could be either HaHa!
ps. although you would never have lost the chip!

Author's Reply:
Ha!-probably neither I think πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading.

OldSquare on 24-06-2015
Miniaturisation
Excellent, I didn't realise you worked for the same company I do.

Author's Reply:


Times to Come (posted on: 25-05-15)
The future? A future? Any future?

Times to Come 'Is it time?' Peston nodded. He looked at his watch. 'Ten minutes to go.' From the horizon, growing black clouds were spreading. 'Does it have to be this way?' 'Calm yourself, sir. They will look after us. No individual will be harmed.' 'The children will.' 'The children will be fine.' The darkness now filled half the sky. 'The unborn then.' 'They'll be born, sir. We'll all live to a good age.' 'No, I mean the generation to come, the generation that will never be.' 'That is the price we pay, sir.' I turned to the window. 'And this is worldwide?' 'They started it at the North Pole.' I imagined the belt of cloud, like Puck's 'girdle round the earth', moving down and over the earth. 'Is there no way ...' Peston understood my incomplete question. ' In a bunker or deep underground, maybe. But the residual effects last for a long time.' 'How long?' I thought of my daughter, Ellie. Perhaps ... 'They say six months. But ...' Peston lowered his head. '... I suspect it may be longer. To trap people into ...' 'Yes, yes.' They were far-seeing and clever. Always one step ahead ... or two. The black clouds were closer. Five minutes to go. They were nothing if not humane. And apologetic. They needed the planet for their survival. They didn't need humans. But they could wait. Three minutes. They had promised to preserve human art and history forever in their museums, to inspire their people to appreciate the skills and talents of a lost race. Some of humanity had declared a 'New Age' of creativity, art and intellectual achievement. Others had rebelled. Where necessary for the safety of others, they were erased, but more usually they were 'treated', becoming happy, contented. A new age had indeed dawned. The world turned black. Peston had had the foresight to switch on the lights, but even they seemed dim. So it was done. After some minutes, the sky brightened and the girdle rolled on inexorably. I thought of our world, our lives: our wonderful, comfortable, sterile lives.
Archived comments for Times to Come
deadpoet on 26-05-2015
Times to Come
Hmm frightening- quite a trip for the imagination. Well done.

Author's Reply:
Very kind aliens.

Would it matter to you? A protected, comfortable life, but no children.

Mikeverdi on 27-05-2015
Times to Come
BUGGER....It would matter to me! I liked this, the concept is quite frightening.
Mike

Author's Reply:
yes. I've forgotten how it came to me, what triggered the idea. You can usually trace it to some event or news you observe that slides in and bobs up later. Mind you, this is but one of the many alien/earth type variants so prevalent in the classic SF tradition (but I don't remember this particular idea among them though).


Paperback Writer (posted on: 25-05-15)
My (very short) entry for the Prose Challlenge.

Paperback Writer Norman Sturgess settled in front of his computer. What should his latest novel be about? He needed a theme, an inspiration. War? No. Spy drama? It had been overdone. After a few rejected choices, he began to ponder. What was a universal subject that would always be popular and attract attention? There was only one answer as far as he was concerned: sex. Norman reached down to his desk drawer and slid it open. Must get in the mood, he muttered, then took out a magazine from the pile lying within and began to read. Venetia Sturgess, downstairs in the kitchen, looked up at the sound of the drawer, which had always squeaked a bit. 'Shit!' she said. 'And I was hoping for a quiet evening.' * Royston Tremaine sat back in his chair, perusing the manuscript in front of him, riffling through the pages to get a flavour of the novel. His mane of silver hair glinted in the evening sun slanting through the study window, against the backdrop of the book-lined shelves that lined the room. His experience of editing went back many years, and he'd learned how to quickly spot the winners and losers. This one didn't look too bad. He'd had a look at the first few pages, from which he could usually tell the quality of the writer, and found it reasonably well-written. It looked like another steamy one, he thought. But first ... he reached down for the bag of Jelly Babies. * Tristram Pargetter leaned over the carved wooden desk in the imposing wood-panelled office.'We're prepared to publish this, but we need a trilogy'. Holding up a hand to stifle protest, he went on to explain. 'I need all three parts finished so I can follow up as planned. I'm not going to risk you dropping out or overrunning the timescale. So come back when you've got three full novels.' He listened to Sturgess's protests with exasperation. 'For goodness sake, if a short thing like the Hobbit can end up as three full-length films, you can surely expand this to fit?' He tapped the manuscript as he spoke, emphasising each point. 'Now go away and come back when you've finished.' There was a murmur of dissent and a query. 'Yes, yes, I know it has a happy ending.' Tristram kicked back in his chair threw his head back and gazed out of the panoramic window high over the Thames. He drew his steepled fingers to his lips. 'But change it – let them break up.' He sat forward again, wagging a finger. 'Then book two can be all about her and what she gets up to, and book three is about him. At the end they can get back together, etcetera ... Can you do that? Should provide another couple of shades of gay – I mean grey.' He looked thoughtful ... 'Now that's an idea ... ' Norman Sturgess sighed. 'Sounds like a plan.' He resolved to get some more magazines – maybe a different kind. That would puzzle the shopkeeper. And his wife.
Archived comments for Paperback Writer
bluepootle on 25-05-2015
Paperback Writer
The first section made me laugh out loud.

A quick day in the life of a story. Very entertaining. Are you missing a speech mark or two here?

So come back when you’ve got three full novels.

β€˜ What?



Author's Reply:
Well, miss (and I'm sure you taught me this) all the speech is from the same person, so the quote marks are technically correct. BUT I agree that as it's written that is not clear. In fact, it's a bit messy, so will rewrite.

Thanks.

Rab on 25-05-2015
Paperback Writer
Had to read this through twice to get the full flavour! it may be short but there's afair amount in there; I really enjoyed it. Great names.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. It kind of started with the names and filled itself in .. πŸ™‚

TheBigBadG on 26-05-2015
Paperback Writer
The third section gave me more but then again I'm not married yet and do chew on the 'Make it a trilogy' line during the days. Although it's nuts and not Jelly Babies round my way. Fun though, it feels like a peek under the bonnet (ooh-err) for 50 Sheds of Grey.

My favourite line is, 'if a short thing like the Hobbit can end up as three full-length films, you can surely expand this to fit?' Sneaky satire with the double-take required.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. As someone who read LOTR first when I was 11 and only read the hobbit later, I had great suspicions about the the hobbit film trilogy based on one short children's book, As opposed to the LOTR one, which came as three full length books in the first place. I was partially right. It is a bit thin. But it was OK when I saw it. (see review in new film/tv forum).

deadpoet on 26-05-2015
Paperback Writer
Hehe e-griff. LOL- 50 Bales of Hay maybe?

Author's Reply:
Or bales of Hay festival

Mikeverdi on 27-05-2015
Paperback Writer
Great thinking on this one John, I agree with most of the other comments. I like the fun escaping through it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
yep. just fun with a few caustic observations thrown in to spice it up.


Lost Days (posted on: 18-05-15)
Ahh, where did my youth go ...?

Lost Days Oh for a pork pie baked in the North! The crusty pastry, jellied pork And top filled with HP Which runs into the meat at the first bite, As you wash it down With sour, soft, bitter ale.
Archived comments for Lost Days
Mikeverdi on 18-05-2015
Lost Days
I could do with that! Down here we do it with pasties πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
The best pork pie I ever had was in Cockermouth. The crust was crispy and when I bit into it, jelly ran out, and the pork was in chunks, not an amorphous mass.

I lived in Leeds for a year, and at the Pork Butcher's (Leeds was/is very Jewish) they did great pies.

A lot is memories of hitch hiking around the country, stopping off at a pub for a lovely pie and pint ... still taste them now.

Gee on 20-05-2015
Lost Days
Things never taste the same years later though so it's best to treasure the memory. (Mine is warm vimto and fish and chips in the cafe with the corner door, where I'd sit with my grandmother.)
I love the description, but pork pies were never for me.

Author's Reply:


Car Poem (posted on: 18-05-15)
In the days when we had a regular poetry challenge, one such was to include as many car makes in a poem as possible. I got 43! A bit of fun .... BTW I've just partially resurrected the poetry challenge/workshop. Why not go along and set a challenge or take part in one like this was? Slightly different dimension to enliven your work. - Click Here http://ukauthors.com/phorum5/list.php?130

Car Poem Morris was a rover, He roamed the whole country In Birmingham, at Aston, Martin said to me: 'I've met this noble guy before I think in Bristol town, You see the way he rolls his 'r' s And how he dodges round.' Morris had a vision That he had lately found 'Forget Plymouth or Lincoln Because I'm Vauxhall bound.' And so t'wards London we did go, Though bentley and not straight, Until we came to a wide ford And on a seat did wait. 'What month is it?' they asked a bloke (ap Morgan was his name) 'It's May bach,' the young Welshman said So smart and very game. 'You're Lotus-eating,' Martin said, 'Why aren't we moving? Say To Caterham or Westfield, They're both down London way.' 'Tis true I'm a land rover, Travelling on the cjeep, I have a mini-budget That I wish to keep. 'I often wish I was back home At Aust in mummy's arms, But I'm sat holden my pack 'ard And me fiats is very warm. 'I'd love to see the sunbeams play Upon my favourite hill, man And as my old Ma'z Da would say I am a 'riley chill man'.' And so we came to Bedford town. Lexus rejoice! Wayhey! 'Audi get here?' old Morris said, As Morgan came our way. 'Alfa mo!' ap Morgan frowned, 'Looks ' lada da' to me.' 'It's not so porsche,' Martin replied 'That's a lola hooey' 'Is Bedford where they used to do Those hats with mercury?' 'That's Luton, lad,' ap Morgan said 'Now I'll say 'tata' to thee.' In triumph, Martin and Morris vowed That they liked Bedford's charm 'It sa absolutely great here So transit? No, we're calm.' 43 Morris, Rover, Aston-Martin, Noble, Bristol, Rolls, Dodge, Plymouth, Lincoln, Vauxhall, Bentley, Ford, SEAT, Morgan, Maybach, Smart, Lotus, Caterham, Westfield, Land Rover, Jeep, MINI, Austin, Holden, Packard, FIAT, Sunbeam, Hillman, Mazda, Riley, Bedford, Lexus, Audi, Alfa, Lada, Porsche, Lola, Mercury, Luton, Tata, Triumph, Saab, Transit,
Archived comments for Car Poem
Mikeverdi on 18-05-2015
Car Poem
HaHaHa! That's my laugh for the morning John. Clever stuff.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. I remember it was fun to write. (I won BTW!)

deadpoet on 19-05-2015
Car Poem
Wow-- this was really well put together- I am impressed you got so many car makes into the poem. Jolly good! Rhyme and all.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. It was fun to do. I have partially resurrected the poetry challenge for that reason. A little extra interest on site.

Gee on 20-05-2015
Car Poem
Very cleverly done. I enjoyed the read and the wonderful puns.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou πŸ™‚

pommer on 21-05-2015
Car Poem
Very well composed Liked reading it. Peter.

Author's Reply:
That's all I ask. πŸ™‚


A History of the Mobile Phone part 11 (final part) (posted on: 11-05-15)
This time: all good things must .... , I get my highest daily fee ever, I cash in some shares

A History of the Mobile Phone part 11 To read Part 1 CLICK HERE Things were changing. The crash in telecoms business in 2000 meant that companies were less keen to hire consultants as they were reluctant to start projects for expansion or new markets because of uncertainty, and the happy days of post-deregulation were fading . They were pulling their horns in a riding out the crisis. Also, I found myself giving advice to young managers, and seeing in their faces that they probably would not take it. This was fair enough, I probably wouldn't let some old fart tell me what to do when I was starting out, it's natural. I always did projects for the satisfaction of challenging myself and doing something useful for the client. There were many consultants who would just put their heads down and take the money, regardless, who wouldn't have told a business a project would not fly, as I did, just to keep on taking the fee. I couldn't do that. Many of my peers had worked into comfortable niches, Chairmen of international committees, etc etc, doing the rounds of conferences and speaking. But that wasn't for me - too boring. So I decided, finally, to retire. My last project was for NTL (taken over by Virgin cable later) . I was subcontracted by Peter, the guy who assisted me with Lockheed Martin. As an established consultancy, with half a dozen staff and a central London office , his rates were much higher, so I went out on a daily rate about 60% higher than my usual. Nice. In the years running up to this, I had been working with an old pal from BT Germany, who set up and grew a company which partnered city administrations (very independent in Germany) and utilised their private telephone networks, which were usually overprovided, for paying customers. He also had a sideline in Telehouses, server farms in high-security, high reliability locations to rent out space for customers own equipment etc. which were increasingly in demand because of internet growth. He couldn't afford to pay me, but I was happy to work for free because of the experience, and to become a director of an associated UK company. They paid expenses, flights, hotels etc, so I wasn't out of pocket. When he raised the subject and apologised, I just said if they were successful, I was sure he would pay me back in some way. He did. We all worked very hard with presentations to investors. I saved them from a US guy who I found from my New York investment banker contact was a bit of a wide boy. A new company was formed, collecting the various city operations and telehouses, and I was allocated shares in it. Worth nothing of course unless someone invested in the company. Happily, they were bought for $20m, and I received my pay, a lump of money for my shares. Another nice (second) retirement present. In my first job, I travelled the length of the British Isles, Land's end to Unst (Shetland) and Port of Ness (Lewis) and Skye, organising aerials for coastal radio stations - all seaside towns. It was all expenses paid, and our honeymoon was a tour of northern Scotland, dropping in for a day's work every so often to justify the trip - Stonehaven, Wick, Oban, Skye, Portpatrick. But when I was working on System 4, we visited the manufacturer in Nuremberg and spent a week in the Black Forest, with BT paying all transport and some hotel costs. My best 'paid-for' trip was taking our campervan through Denmark, Sweden to Finland. If it rained we found a hotel, and BT paid for it. I had seven meetings on the way, which if I'd attended separately would have cost BT more in airfare and hotels, so they thought it was worth it. For the trip, Nokia lent me an NMT transportable which worked in all the countries. I remember calling the office to check on things and deal with any issues, and my PA said, 'Where are you?'. 'Halfway across the Gulf of Bothnia,' I said 'on a ferry'. I signed the first cellular contract with Nokia in Helsinki. Coming back, we took the kids to Legoland. I learned a lot about myself after quitting marketing and joining a small group. I read a book by a guy called Belbin, in which (my own interpretation) I found that people's personalities are like metal discs with bumps on. For every positive trait (a bump), if you turn over the disc, there is a negative one (a hollow), and that is unavoidable. He described, in general terms, eight types of people and how they worked in groups in exercises he set. If you take eight highly critical people, the group fails (as they spend their time criticising each other). But if you have eight luvvy people, deliriously happy together, they fail too (because they don't get the job done). The best teams proved to be a mixture of different characters. It was an eye-opener for me. I realised that the guy I thought was just a loser was fulfilling a useful purpose, albeit low profile, in the group, and began to value him. I once had a little seminar for my staff and my colleagues. I read out a nutshell description: 'Can sometimes appear abrasive and arrogant, but gets things done.' Most of them pointed and said, 'That's you!' After that, they were much easier with me and nicer, strangely enough. I didn't quote anyone other types in case the people concerned didn't like it, but they all went through the list themselves and clearly identified the types. I hope that this brought them the same realisation as I had had. If you want to read about some of my adventures (Japan, Russia) - less about me and more about places and events, - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone part 11 (final part)
Mikeverdi on 12-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone part 11 (final part)
What a life! Full of challenge and adventure...who could ask for more? Well you did...a shed load of money by the sound of it HaHa! I really enjoyed the read John, I haven't critiqued it much, there are a couple of typos (as always) the last line of the main text, but you know I don't care about that. Thanks for posting, I will dip into your travels again.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the glitch info - fixed the ones I found. Written in a hurry and unable to check as we came to France and the broadband had failed (fixed now).

To be honest, the fun was far better. The money was nice, but (almost)incidental. I didn't want to get rich (and in fact, although I'm comfortable, I'm not rich in the accepted sense) but I always wanted to make sure my wife and family were homed, fed and had some benefit from me to pass on. I succeeded in that which means more to me than anything. My only indulgence is a nice car, which my wife allowed me to buy (a year or so old)from the profit when we downsized from a big house to a maisonette a few years ago.

Just on the personality thing. I am primarly a shaper, with secondary characteristic as a researcher. Belbin found pairs of different characteristics. A shaper is a leader and a control freak - described as leading from behind with a whip while a chairman (the other leader) marches along with his arms round everybody. A shaper has ideas, new directions which he imposes on everyone if he can. But the chairman is not a control freak. The paired control freak Belbin called 'monitor/evaluator' they are generally judges, policemen, lawyers and finance people. They control by saying 'no'. A combination of a good shaper and a good finance man is great for a business. The shaper has ideas, and the finance man curbs the wilder ones. A good combination works well (as in the case of my German friends). It also worked well for new labour. Tony is a shaper, Gordon a monitor evaluator. They were a good team. But Gordon wanted control, and he was definitely not a leader. Anyone with any knowledge of personality type could have predicted his unsuitabilty for PM.


A History of the Mobile Phone part 10 (posted on: 08-05-15)
This time: I become a financial whizz, a business evaluator and tell two start-ups they are dead in the water.

A History of the Mobile Phone part 10 To read Part 1 CLICK HERE Bids for cellular and overall, mobile business, were drying up - besides which I'd done that and wanted something new. I found myself more and more in demand for business evaluation - strategy and viability. I'd learnt enough about financial modelling to be able to draw up accurate models to predict business results and confirm the accuracy of investment prospectuses. I had to state I was not financially qualified in any report for legal reasons, but frankly I often had to correct errors qualified people had made, and essentially, although some were bright high-flyers from the best business schools, they often lacked experience so didn't spot anomalies obvious to anyone who knew the business. I did a supplementary report for a small consultancy about Peterstar, a Petersburg telephone company. In the course of the visit I had lunch with a senior guy from the bank who had commissioned the work. A little while later I was asked to go and see Gordon Owen, then Chairman of Energis, the telco of the national grid. We got on very well personally, he was a nice chap. He offered me a job. I certainly did not wish to be MD of Peterstar as the business was tangled up with too much, shall we say, 'local interest', of a not too salubrious kind. So I suggested they hire me for 10 days a month (I didn't like to work too hard) for 6 months while we got Peterstar on its feet and then we'd see. He agreed. Part way through the time, Cable and Wireless bought out his interest so I only did 3-4 months of the contract. But as a consultant, you can't insist on contractual terms, you just have to bite the bullet and reduce the bill. It was enough to pay for the caviar, and some other projects were floating about. Lockheed Martin Aerospace had a project to run a satellite mobile phone service over Russia. It was a clever idea. Rather than terrestrial base stations creating 'cells' of coverage around them, the satellite antenna was designed to project a network of cells onto the land below. Through a buddy in New York who belonged to a small consultancy, I was called in to advise as they didn't have the firepower to handle it. I took a colleague, Peter, who had his own successful consultancy, as a subcontractor to handle the marketing forecasts. The US arm of KPMG, a global consultancy, had produced quite an optimistic business plan and we were simply asked to double check independently. They were confident they were going ahead. I began to become suspicious when, talking to some of the people on the phone, they told me they had estimated market size by looking at the population size of the Russian cities and equating them with cellular penetration in US cities of the same size. Errrr ..... a lot of Americans really had no idea about other countries and wealth (or otherwise). Anyway, after working with Peter and producing a preliminary business plan, I told the principals to look in KPMG's model for a line that said 'terrestrial cellular' or somesuch (I knew the US guys had got a model from the UK arm and simply applied it, maybe without understanding). 'I bet it says zero throughout,' I said. 'It's the only thing that would account for the major difference in our results'. They came back and said, 'You were right.' The business was a bust. I'd been round Russia and seen the growth of terrestrial cellular everywhere. But more to the point, 70% of the population live in cities, those that don't probably couldn't afford a phone anyway. And Russia is mostly cold. The satellite phone was not only bigger than a conventional one, but (of course) wouldn't work indoors. No Russian with wealth would get up and stand outside in the snow with a big lumpy phone while his pals happily conversed on small phones sitting in restaurants etc. Of course, the rich had dachas in the countryside, which could be out of coverage for terrestrial cellular but they already had radio links for telephones there. I told them that I thought the best bet would be India, which has rich middle class people scattered all over the country in their estates and a lousy telephone service. They looked depressed. 'We're putting a satellite up for a consortium that's doing just that.' Ah well, at least I stopped their project before they committed too much money to it. The second big bust was a Dutch/US joint venture in Amsterdam. They already had offices and had hired nearly 100 people. The MD was doing a good job operationally, but I had qualms about the viability. I asked for their financial/business model. 'Sure,' he said, 'I'll mail it to you.' He did. It wasn't a model - there was no model, no one had shown the business to be viable. What happened (and why there was a crash in telecoms in 2000) was US analysts proclaimed 'It's great to invest in this sector!' Of course it had been, for wisely invested money. But there was then a flood of people just throwing money into any project. This one had got $50m to start up, and I had figures showing the 'burn rate', how much was being spent. I built a model, just a simple one, using inputs supplied by their marketing and technical departments. I assumed an aggressive 50% share of the market (even though there were at least 8 serious competitors) but it didn't fly, it lost money. Even when I doubled sales and halved engineering costs, it still didn't. When I showed it to the MD and he said 'I can't show this to the Board' I decided to get out quick, I wasn't going to be a party to that, so I cleaned up a final report and stuck my bill in. You see, from the burn rate I knew they would run out of funds in 3 months (and the business would not have even started by then) and not even rich Americans would be daft enough to throw good money after bad. They were good payers fortunately and I got my fee. A couple of months later, I read they had gone belly-up. I found it all disgusting and irresponsible. Sure, the investors were gambling, but these folk just threw the money away (after taking generous commissions for themselves, of course - that's the game). 'Some'll rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen.' - Woody Guthrie. Next time: All good things ... To read Part 11 - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone part 10
Mikeverdi on 10-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone part 10
Always interesting, life in the fact lane. I was always told 'when the figures get to you...take the noughts off' though I never handled the stuff you write of HaHa!
Mike

Author's Reply:
I think there's little difference whether it's millions or hundredes or thousands I fought at all those levels. You still want to make that percentage. So the advice was right.

Incidentally, NEC told me that they had a British buyer, who I knew, who agreed a price etc, so it all went through head office, just needing a signature, and at the last minute he raised his pen and said 'I want another 10pc off' . They said they had to agree, but they would never do business with him again. And I believed them. Thats why the Japanese were so good. Motorola were always trying to con you, promise anything and then saying it wasn't possible when you wrote it in the contract. When Cellnet visited NEC after I'd moved on, they asked to be remembered to me and said I was 'firm but fair' - nice people and a joy to deal with.


A History of the Mobile Phone Part 9 (posted on: 04-05-15)
This time: Should I get a steady job, or remain independent? I finally win some licences and tour Russia.

A History of the Mobile Phone Part 9 To read Part 1 CLICK HERE Having been offered a project by Swedish Telecom after I left BT, I wasn't in a hurry to get a new job. However I kept my irons in the fire and was on the books of a few good head-hunters. One opportunity was as MD of British Rail Telecom. I probably would not have taken the job if offered, but I wanted to test myself and my value. I went for an assessment, and the woman there was very keen on me (as a candidate). As a result I was one of two interviewed for the job. It was funny going into the building, right across the front of Euston Station as my old office had been there in that very place. It was strange organisation. All the guys were very friendly, and nodded and smiled as I passed through the general office. But I noticed two things: One, they all wore light blue shirts. Two, there were very few women, only what appeared to be secretaries. They offered the other guy the job, which relieved me of the decision. Not being a networking handshaker or puffed up with my own importance, I probably was not the figurehead they wanted. The consortium the Swedes had joined to bid in Petersburg was led by Finnish Telecom and also had Norwegian Telecom in. I knew some of the senior guys at Finnish Telecom so they were happy about me. The bulk of the bid preparation was being done by the Swedes, but we were based in Helsinki. I was introduced to the representative of the Russian partner, the Petersburg telephone company. One of the major problems was apparent immediately. The Finns did not trust Russians, and vice-versa. The Swedes did not want to intervene. But I was trusted by both sides. I got on well with the Russian, and he was relaxed with me - I was English. After we won the bid, he made a speech at the celebration dinner in which he said 'When Djohn walked in the room, I knew everything would be OK.' Pissed? Of course. Multiple toasts of champagne and vodka, characteristics of a Russian dinner, had taken their toll. But I did appreciate it. I had in fact been instrumental in chairing the meeting at which a preliminary joint venture agreement was agreed and signed. I saw the Russians had no idea of financing and company formation, so without being patronising, explained each point with parallels (such as two people building a house) that they could understand and they were not slow to pick up the ideas. I also had to reassure the Finns I was not giving away the shop. I played it perfectly straight - no other way. The Finns put great trust in me. Clearing my old stuff recently, I came across the power of attorney they had given me to sign documents on their behalf. There was no limitation, so I guess I could still do so. Winning a bid, at last, was a great sensation. I rang up the remnants of our BT group and told them we had been doing the right things.     When I was still at BT, Alan had retired and a very smart guy more my own age brought in. He had been in finance in Cellnet - and later became Finance Director there. He was also very knowledgeable in legal matters. I learned masses from him. It showed when I spent a day in Helsinki after the bid with lawyers from Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Telecom going through the details of Joint Venture agreements, indicating what to watch for, what possibilities might occur, etc etc. At the close of business, they went into a huddle, then the Finnish guy came over and said, 'Mr Griffiths, we are all agreed you could have been a lawyer.' I managed to stop myself from laughing, and thanked him seriously. To him, it was a compliment. But who'd want to be a lawyer? I liked to dabble a bit, as I had when writing contracts with mobile phone manufacturers, but too much would simply have been boring. After a short break, at home with my family, I started to cast around different contacts in a relaxed way, addressing the head guys with a 'I recently did this, and I've experience in that, and I'm looking for a project. Do you have anything you'd like me to do?' Very laid back. I had a few meetings, one of which was with the head of USWEST International (sorry, they spelled it in capitals) in London. USWEST were Telco based in Colorado (one of the 'baby bells' split off when AT&T were broken up). In his office, I spotted a note on his desk. I can read upside down, which has proved very useful (but nearly gets me killed on pedestrian crossings!). The note said 'Is this the guy who beat us out of the licence in Petersburg?' They had been one of the unsuccessful bidders. Of course, winning wasn't really down to me, but hey, at least it got me noticed. As a result I was offered a project in Russia to evaluate ten Russian cities where they had potential cellular interest with local partners. A very interesting project indeed. I had to work out a methodology and an operational plan, and put together the necessary people to make it work. I asked USWEST for an engineer and a financial modeller (the latter in particular to give them confidence) and found others myself. US Companies were very suspicious, and checked on non-Americans very thoroughly. They also put in a 'ghost' who stuck with me on trips and reported back every day. I didn't mind, I had nothing to hide. My team included Russian speakers/translators of course, and went collecting data in the ten cities. I joined them for the first visit and a couple of others, and it was very, very interesting. From the third city of Russia, Samara/Kubychev where seven levels of Stalin's bunker lie under the town as an emergency seat of government and Ladas were made, to the Russian Far East: Khabarovsk and out to Kamchatka where 18 snow-capped live volcanoes march into the distance as you come off the plane.     My problem was I had no established means of using the data we gathered. There was no market, no history, no comparable experience. My breakthrough came at 2 o'clock one morning. A foreigner had been murdered in his hotel room in Moscow, and in my hotel there were people going up and down the fire escape outside my window. I could not sleep. To keep myself busy, for an hour or so I puzzled and scribbled, and eventually said 'that's it!' (I kid you not). I then slept soundly. The next day I consulted one of my team, a market analyst I had subcontracted and went through it with him. We agreed a few tweaks and he eventually nodded. 'That's fine, John, can't see anything wrong with that.' So I managed to produce a very comprehensive nicely-bound report which more than justified the money it had cost, and was the basis of their ongoing plan in Russia. They later offered me a job as Strategic Advisor. I didn't want to live in Moscow, so I proposed a contract with very favourable (for me) terms. If they had accepted it, I would have gladly done six months or so for the rewards it would have brought, including regular flights home. But they didn't, rather to my relief if I'm honest. In 1995 I was again hired by USWEST, this time as Bid Director in their consortium with Deutsch Telekom Mobile for Poland. I knew several of the Germans at Telekom, and they were quite happy to accept me. To cut a long story short, we won, founding Era GSM, one of the top two operators in Poland. So I got my own back on France Telecom. By the way, the Petersburg operator was called 'North-West GSM' an imaginative title (:-)) proposed by me. It rolled out over the whole of Russia and is one of the top two operators there. They only changed the name in 2002 when they were taken over - I'm often quite amused by my little legacies. Next time: I become a financial whizz, a business evaluator and tell two start-ups they are dead in the water. To read Part 10 - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone Part 9
Mikeverdi on 09-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 9
Again, another interesting chapter John. The world you lived in was top line. I always remember getting a contract nailed as the best buzz in the world. Mine were small change in comparison; the buzz is then same though.

If I may just suggest... if you were to consider printing this I would interspace the chapters with a little bit about life outside the deals. Some may wish to know more about the man and the times, the food you ate; all kinds of stuff like that. Did you get pissed with the people, were women involved. This may seem irrelevant to you ....but it's not.
As always John these are only my thoughts, not a command.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Sorry, missed this before ...

My original life story was less about my deals and my career, and focused on places and events I experienced. I was persuaded (:-)) to say more about what I was doing and why, so I wrote these episodes about me (something I'd previously avoided in case it looked like bragging - but your example showed that such egotism can be interesting for people)

Thus the two accounts of my life are linked of course, but polarised, leaving the gap in between of the stuff you are suggesting (how I first kissed my wife on a sewer pipe in Koblenz - yes, one wag at an anniversary said 'why didn't you kiss her on the lips?')

I'm not sure I want to reveal everything, like 'the only woman I ever loved' (at the time - you know the very first time you really fall) but that is mentioned in my 'My Life' university episode. Or her not so impactful successors until I met my wife.

My daughter found a diary my son wrote for school when he was 8. It had descriptions of all the family (especially his wicked, grumpy sister who was always getting him into trouble). He wrote about me: 'My dad is funny, he tells me stories, he has a high monthly pay cheque (where did that come from?) He loves my mum.' Sweet.


A History of the Mobile Phone Part 8 (posted on: 01-05-15)
This time: I love Swedes, Brigitte steals my licence, and I leave my steady job.

To read Part 1 CLICK HERE A History of the Mobile Phone Part 8 I developed a very good relationship with people in Swedish Telecom when we joined a consortium led by them to bid in Poland. They gave me much of the responsibility for strategy and bid production, also dealing with partners. At one point, I had to tell Prince Radziwill (from the Old Polish Royal Family) that we didn't want him in our consortium. I dressed it up in terms of balance and fit, and he took it very well. A nice guy. Truth was, neither our US partner, Bell Atlantic, nor BT wanted his US backer in. Poland was an experience. The place was a wreck. But we were quite well received by the telecoms people in the Ministry. The one thing our consortium offered was what we called the Baltic Mobile Telephone System, which would have included Poland in the Nordic system, offering roaming into the Scandinavian countries to Polish users. Anyway, a week before the announcement of the winner, I was invited to the Polish Ambassador's residence in Hampstead for a few drinks etc with some movers and shakers. Some woman MP started banging on to me about the iniquity of BT's monopoly. Thankfully, as I tried hard to be polite, I was rescued by a sympathetic bloke who headed her off. A week later, I'm in Warsaw, pretty sure we have won. We're sitting in a room with all the other hopefuls, and the beaming telecoms blokes who were very proud as they offered croissants and coffee, something new for them, all gave me encouraging looks and nods. Then, just five minutes before announcement time, the three head honchos entered the room - following my pal Brigitte from France Telecom! She sat down opposite me. I said, 'Brigitte, what have you been up to?' She replied, 'Well, John, France Telecom generously decided to offer support for the fixed infrastructure if we are involved in the cellular.' Bugger, I thought, but congratulated her. When the result was announced, all the junior blokes looked distinctly puzzled, and some gave me worried looks. It was all a game. But later I got my own back. Brigitte and I and a German guy, Franz, were they key representatives for a bid in Hungary. We used to meet and discuss progress in a restaurant overlooking the river and the city. It was enjoyable, and we three got on very well. Brigitte, a smart woman who later became France Telecom's Head of Mobile, had the very funny sense of humour many educated French women have. She always came out with little jokes. Franz had joined Telekom in a 'fall from Heaven' - ie he'd been seconded from a diplomatic post in the Government. Speeding back to our hotel one night, we were stopped by a motorcycle cop. In a flash, Franz whipped out a passport plastered with gold lettering. The cop nodded and departed. I met some influential and powerful people while engaged in this task for BT, many of whom came in useful later, as I developed some excellent personal relationships. I had known for two years that there were big changes afoot in BT, and was also aware that our little department really wasn't earning its keep, and would be culled in any rationalisation plan. In 1992, BT conducted a massive exercise to almost halve the number of employees. They also changed the basis of their Senior Management to focus more on man-management, with big divisions, rather than clever sods like me running specialist departments. In consequence, in terms of the voluntary redundancy packages offered, people like me got the cream, and they were very, very careful with us. I did not want to stay on in some mainstream routine job, which I could have taken, and strangely for a normally conservative, risk averse bloke, at the age of 46, I left regular employment and took a leap into the unknown. Shocking. The day I left, 30,000 people left BT. I had strung out BT until the last minute in order to leverage some extra benefits. One of the things they offered was a very expensive outplacement agency. The course was in two parts. In the first, you were analysed and advised by an experienced ex- Managing Director and an Occupational Psychologist, who conducted a battery of tests and interviews to determine what your ideal job would be. The second part was 'launch' where they helped and advised on finding getting a new job, with office space and a seeming 'secretary' for people who rang you up. I asked BT to pay for the first part on the basis that I would then decide whether to leave or not, depending on the analysis and advice I got. They agreed. So it was only two weeks before the due date that I made the decision to leave. I asked my PA to let all my contacts know. By return, I got a call from the guys at Swedish Telecom. Would I meet them the next night for dinner? So, at my favourite restaurant, L'Etoile in Charlotte Street, a bloke opened the door to us and said, 'Good evening Mr Griffiths.' I hadn't been there for a couple of years. How the hell did he remember my name? The table was booked by the Swedes. Impressed? Yes. They asked if I would work for them on a bid for cellular in St Petersburg, starting in a couple of months, on a consultancy basis. I said I'd be delighted. After, I started worrying about how much to charge etc. So I consulted a consultant (!) who'd worked for me in the past, and he gave me a rough idea of how to scale charges and what someone with my experience should expect. I was amazed. Roughly, in the redundancy deal, I got a big tax-free lump sum, a guarantee of three months paid consultancy work (they only got a week out of me before the time expired, but I still got three months pay) and more comforting, a much enhanced pension, which I chose to start at 50, four years later. Whatever happened, I thought, we would not starve. Mobile offered me a massive amount for training courses, and BT central the same. I couldn't possibly have spent it all. I went on some financial and management courses and to the French Institute in Kensington for some crash courses in French. Most useful. I suppose I should have found some financial courses run in luxury hotels in the Bahamas - they wouldn't have objected. The five-star, worldwide health insurance that covered the whole family ran for another 5 years - but we never needed to use it. Amazingly, in 2000, several pensioners sued BT for a technical discrepancy in the 1992 pension offer. As a result, some pensioners, including me, were able to review their 1992 choice with the benefit of hindsight and within reason, change the option. I gave up 5% of my regular pension payments and got a further massive tax-free lump. Excellent! So, I left the world of dependable salary payments every month and entered a world of uncertainty. Would I get another steady job, or what? I really could not decide. Next time: : Should I get a job, or remain independent? I finally win some licences and tour Russia. To read Part 9 - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone Part 8
Mikeverdi on 01-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 8
Another fascinating insight into a world I know nothing about...thank you. One of my favourite chapters so far. πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Mike.


A History of the Mobile Phone Part 7 (posted on: 27-04-15)
This time: I'm not good at my job, so I change it, I defeat the Germans, I get promoted again, we lose a bid.

A History of the Mobile Phone Part 7 To read Part 1 CLICK HERE When I moved into marketing, I inherited 60 people from the combined businesses. I hated it. Staff issues took up most of my time. I had limited time to plan or put through bright ideas; I had to look after them all. I worried about whether high-flyers were getting enough opportunity and encouragement, I was concerned that there might be some in the middle ranks being held down for the same reason, and that some of the sick lame and lazy could be turned round with a bit of effort. I'd done this in a previous small group, and put someone back on their feet after a bad patch, but faced with so many, what could I do? I should have delegated more, but felt responsible for each and every member of staff. Thus I discovered, being honest with myself, I was not good as a man-manager with a big staff. They were just starting a new department. Other countries were deregulating telecoms, and licences for mobile in particular were being issued in a bidding process, as in the UK. I knew Alan, the Director who was starting it, so I went and asked him for a job. He agreed. When I left BT later, Maxine, the Occupational Psychologist assigned to me in the outplacement agency to help me decide my prospects for other jobs, after a battery of tests, said, 'Your ideal job is to work with a small group of self-starting bright people on a number of international projects.' 'But ...' I said, 'that's the job I just left!' 'Often the case,' Maxine said. She told me that, apparently, you work your way to a job that suits you, which I had done. I loved working with a dedicated, clever team, and we got on really well as they were close to me and understood me, knowing I'd deliver and ignoring some of my little habits :-). My first big job was BT's Mobile Project Manager in Germany. Along with Nynex (US phone co) we partnered Daimler-Benz (Mercedes) and RWE (giant utility company). I was responsible for one of the three volumes: Marketing and Financial Models. As such, I had to decide strategy for bidding etc. The German in the lead position was a very difficult guy and he and I had a few run-ins. He was a very smart man, and assumed everyone else was an idiot and actually shouted at them. We had a pitched battle over distribution. I insisted we had to include the possibility of what they called 'resellers' - agents who sold airtime contracts, as in the UK. It had not been announced what policy the German Ministry would follow, and all I wanted to do was include it as a possibility ('if the Ministry so decide, we would ...') to show we were ready for all eventualities. I finally got my way with a consultant from one of the top German agencies and a German lawyer who had become my buddy sitting either side of me in a meeting and telling him I was right. Of course I was, it was simple! The irony is after all his resistance, he became Chairman of the Resellers Association which was indeed the method the Ministry chose. It was tough, but I was responsible to the whole consortium, not just him. The job I was in was more high-profile than I realised, unfortunately. I was told I could have 'anyone from the whole of BT I wanted' on my team (all 240 thousand!). As I already had several teams run by colleagues I could trust, seconded from their regular jobs, I saw no point in disruption. But, as the German companies we were teamed with were not at all market savvy, I asked for someone who had experience in modern marketing in Germany to vet our marketing plans. It was arranged by our big Divisional Director that the ex-head of IBM Germany would visit me. Wow! He sat for the day at the desk at the end of my large office in the Hotel Intercontinental in Stuttgart while I received delegations from all the working parties at the conference table, checking on progress, giving instruction, direction, agreement, praise ... At the end of the day, he muttered, 'That's ok,' and left. I was bamboozled. Why had he come? I found out. My boss phoned at the weekend, The first thing he said was 'John, what have you done?'. Oh shit! I thought - what next? It turned out Alan had been to lunch with the Director and the blokey, during the course of which he'd told them that they couldn't have found a better person for the job, and he didn't understand how I could put up with 'all those bloody Germans' (he was German of course). He'd been sent to check up on me! Anyway, luckily I'd scraped through, and as a result was promoted to BT's Senior level as Project Manager, with a salary hike, big car, company Amex and various allowances, privileges and expenses. Great! Of course I was in the lower part of the Senior Grade, but hell, I'd made it! Happy days. Ours was judged one of the top three bids amongst many. But we didn't win. I knew we wouldn't a month or so before the due date, but said nothing and still worked my socks off. The reason I knew was that small stickers had appeared on lampposts in Stuttgart showing the German eagle being strangled by the Mercedes star. Why? The public thought Daimler were getting too much power as the Government had just let them take over Dornier, an aircraft manufacturer. They'd never have been given the prized cellular system licence. It went to a consortium containing BMW and Vodafone - an understandable choice. Doom! Daimler-Benz said they would never compete in a bid again as they 'did not lose'. I sensed BT felt very much the same, as in subsequent bids in other countries, our group never really had the full backing of the centre. I honestly think also there were a lot of advisors hanging around Ian Vallance who thought mobile was a flash in the pan (I called them 'old wireline men' ), one later facet of this was BT selling Cellnet (later O2)off (which they have just bought back into!). I think partially as a result of this lack of support over the next year or two, we only succeeded with one bid (nearly) which sadly was snatched away from us an hour before the result was announced. Next time: I love Swedes, I turn down a prince, I am invited to an Ambassador's Private Residence for drinkies, Brigitte steals my licence, To read Part 8 - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone Part 7
Mikeverdi on 28-04-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 7
I never trod the corporate ladder, I could never deal with the bull shit angle. I much admire the way you looked at it, it takes skill to climb; even more to stay up there. Another interesting chapter.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks. appreciate you reading, as ever.


A History of the Mobile Phone Part 6 (posted on: 24-04-15)
This time: I silence Andrew my boss once and for all, we are reorganised and I change career, I have two jobs again for a while.

A History of the Mobile Phone Part 6 To read Part 1 CLICK HERE Andrew was getting a bit worried about me, I could tell. I worked out that while he was happy with the results I got, and praised them, he was not sure about my methods and what it looked like to other people (as I say, old civil service ....) So I decided to silence him once and for all, to do something to which was so good he couldn't possibly doubt my methods, unconventional (to him) though they were. Six months before, two factory engineers from NEC who I knew well were actually flown over to meet me in London urgently. This was unheard of. They explained that they had made a mistake in costing the phones we were getting, which meant they would show a loss against target. They didn't mind that particularly and were willing to absorb it, but their concern (most unJapanese to reveal such things, so I knew they trusted me) was that it would give their marketing department ammunition to snipe against them at a higher level. They asked if I would be willing to pay an extra £5 per unit to dig them out of the hole. This was on only 1000 units where I was paying over £800 each, so it was only £5,000 extra on an £800,000 plus contract, less than 1pc. I agreed, and asked them to send me a letter saying a change I had requested would cost an extra five pounds to implement, which I then authorised and sent to the finance department. I didn't tell anyone, let alone Andrew, as there were some who would have wanted to fire me for voluntarily paying more, even such a small amount. But good turns are returned, and the factory were grateful. I didn't realise how grateful until I hatched my 'shut Andrew up' plan. I rang the UK NEC man, Hugh, who was the only UK representative of a Japanese company that had clout with Tokyo. I said, 'Look, I don't want anything special, but if you had something up your sleeve, I'd appreciate it if you could pull it out of the hat now so I can silence the snipers once and for all.' He understood about organisations. 'OK, see what I can do.' Shortly after, I took Andrew to Japan to sign a deal where we got not only a new exclusive model at reduced prices, but 500 free units of the old model (worth over £35,000 at least) from the factory (end of line) and the cherry on the cake: £50,000 of marketing support from NEC if we mentioned their name. Hugh arranged that the Marketing Director and I had our pictures taken at a lectern with an NEC name above our head. Hugh sent this to Tokyo and they were satisfied. It was customary to give small gifts in Japan. According to status, I would give crystal, porcelain, anything very English. I got lovely Japanese pottery and technical products like the first walkman products - ones you couldn't get in the UK at the time. Everything was less than £100, so OK by BT rules. Andrew was presented with Nikon camera worth well over £300. He worried about whether he should report it. It bothered him all the way home ... When we got back, the Chief Executive, John, praised Andrew to the skies, but when Andrew turned away, John winked at me. He knew who had done the deal. Andrew never grumbled about me again. The Marketing Director, Charles, was a great guy and even though I didn't work for him, used me as his product marketing representative, allowing me full freedom with design etc, provided I was following his global objectives (which I was). When we were reorganised, I realised I'd have a boss who was an engineer when I'd run my own ship for several years and I was reluctant to move into the technical department - the fact the Technical Director was a prick (old school like Andrew but worse) also swayed me. So I took up an offer from Charles and moved into marketing as Product Marketing Manager. Of course I had limited marketing and sales experience but could do the 'hard' end of marketing (product and pricing) well - two of marketing's 'four P's'. The other two, 'Place' (distribution channels, sales etc)and 'Promotion' were handled by my 'paired' colleague, John, who was a really nice bloke, smooth as they come and great at presentations. I knew I'd have to give up the happy days of amazing technical developments with Chris and Jim and also System 4 (but I'd trained up a guy called Ken who quickly learnt as much as me, and I had him promoted to my old spot). Chris followed me into marketing and turned out to be a highly successful product manager and negotiator (the organisation was 'marketing led' so we looked for opportunities and did the commercial negotiations). He studied, and soon got professional marketing qualifications. Of course I had to give up what they called 'procurement' although I could still demand and fiddle with the designs of what they bought. I didn't mind. I'd had three or four happy years, and once I master something, I like to move on and try something new. But they couldn't find anyone suitable to replace me for six months, and I had to go on buying stuff alongside my main job (two jobs again!). The lady who they eventually found was great, and we got on like a house on fire. I took her to Japan, Chicago and Finland and introduced her as my successor. I was pleased to hand over to someone I trusted to do a good job. Not the same way I had, but equally as good I felt, and maybe more suited to the changing market. It proved to be so. In marketing I inherited a staff of 60 people, which was a challenge. It forced me into some hard self-examination and some realisation about my strengths and weaknesses, always a good thing. Next time: I'm not as good at my job as I would like to be, so I move jobs, and things become much better. To read Part 7 - Click Here .
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone Part 6
Mikeverdi on 26-04-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 6
Still enjoying the read John, life in the fast lane HaHa!
Fun isn't it πŸ™‚ If I may be so bold ...what sort of age would you have been in these episodes?
Mike

Author's Reply:
well, mid-thirties to early forties.

They do reckon, and I think it's fairly accurate, that if you don't rule the universe by your early forties you never will. High-flying maybe, but always the wing man never the Squadron Leader! πŸ™‚

Thankyou for reading and commenting. Wish more readers would.


A History of the Mobile Phone Part 5 (posted on: 20-04-15)
I spy on our competitor, I damage phones, our phones become Flymos, and I am a TV advert.

A History of the Mobile Phone Part 5 To read Part 1 CLICK HERE I always used to visit factories. They were the heart of the pricing and features, and generally I made some good friends, especially with the Japanese companies, NEC in particular, and also Matsushita (Panasonic) amongst others, even though I never bought phones from that company as they were the major supplier to Vodafone. But on every visit they were very friendly, wanting to share their experience, and they showed me all the upcoming models Vodafone would be getting. Part of the good relations with the factories was because I was a brother engineer, not a know-nothing buyer. I knew what was difficult for them, and what they could do easily, and they appreciated that when times got tough. I also gained kudos by spotting things that were wrong, arguably my best talent :-). Once, NEC showed me a transportable with a large antenna on a spring. A cable within the spring connected the antenna. It sat on a table in front of me, and I didn't touch it, just looked, I said 'If that antenna is bent by 90 degrees, as it might be in a car boot, the cable will snap.' They assured me it wouldn't. I asked permission to try, and gently pressed on it until it was horizontal. The cable snapped. Consternation! But unlike some nationalities, the Japanese reacted with respect rather than hostility, and thanked me for finding a problem. I gained a lot of face with them for that. All manufacturers had phones developed for the US market. Our specification in the UK only meant some simple changes to frequencies and channel width to meet European standards. The software logic was almost the same, so US phones were easily adaptable for our system. So I was able to inspect fully-developed products for the US and see what they were like. I always demanded changes - user interface, some facilities, shape of handset etc. My personal aim was always to present a product that a customer could use for the basic facilities without reading the instruction book. Phones these days have become fairly standardised, but back then everybody had different codes and buttons ... And early Japanese hand portables were designed by radio men, so they were quite functional, like police or military radios. Early on, I spent time preaching to Japanese companies (26 of them!) the ambition to have standardised functions, and consumer-oriented design. At the time, in the shops in Tokyo, there was beautifully designed domestic equipment, and I wanted them to make phones that followed the same principle. Today, no one has to preach, they did it long ago. At the start, to meet our marketing strategy, we didn't have the manufacturer's name anywhere on the product, just BT, and most of our phones were exclusive to BT in the UK. Later we introduced a 'house style' design, across our phone range and later radiopagers. They were created by the same man who was responsible for those nice big orange Flymos. He was an industrial designer and made perfect models with many cosmetic changes and colour. When I presented them to the Japanese, the engineers said 'we can fit the internal chassis in this straight away, and the moulding is no problem'. They were excited and flattered. Motorola and Nokia said 'no' at first, until their contracts dried up*. I think my favourite was the first hand portable to challenge the big white Motorola. It was made for us by Hitachi, and they were completely willing to do the cosmetic and software changes to our specification. Chris and I spent a flight to Tokyo designing new simplified understandable user interface menus. One little innovation I introduced seems trivial compared with today's phones, but no one else had it back then. I got them to put in five ring tone options that the user could choose from. Years before, I'd sat in a European meeting where engineers discussed what the (the!) mobile ring tone should be in Europe, and I had felt it was completely wrong that a user had to accept some arbitrary choice by an engineer, so the first chance I got .... Now, new mouldings cost in excess of a hundred thousand dollars to produce, but I got them for free. The snipers within BT said I must be paying too much, but I got turned over twice on price and they had to agree I wasn't. This was not entirely due to my genius πŸ™‚ but because having a contract with BT was seen as valuable to suppliers, so they went the extra mile. The reason I got the free changes was the deregulation of the US market, where every area had 'A' and 'B' operators. So, instead of having one model only for both operators, generally losing one of them, the guys who dealt with us were handed an attractive professional second design which they could use to differentiate the two operators, for free. A lot of my colleagues couldn't understand this, because I guess they thought in straight lines and didn't understand deals. They were good days. The procurement bloke who I took on to assist me and to please Andrew, was a great help and described me as the 'Man from del Monte' when he saw me in action, which was pleasing. I was surprised I could tackle a new skill and be successful at it, a lot of it thanks to Colin's teachings of course. I owe him a lot. *More on this in 'My Life 3.5 - The 'Late Night Call' CLICK HERE Next time: Andrew gets nervous about me, so I settle his nonsense once and for all, we are reorganised and I stop procuring :-), I get to be in charge of 60 people. To read Part 6 - Click Here .
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone Part 5
Mikeverdi on 20-04-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 5
I'm finding the story completely fascinating John. I am in awe of your talent.
I would prefer in a story not to have πŸ™‚ things popping up, best left to short comments and text I think.
Mike

Author's Reply:
You mean the link? Well it's at the end, not in the text, and surely people will only bother if they want to . In fact, following what you say, I intended to keep it out of the short and sweet episode, but it is quite an important event in the story so I wanted to reference it, at least.

Don't be too impressed. OF f course I'm bigging myself up in the story, but it's probably stumbling progress from someone facing situations for the first time. But it is true. When I said I was lucky, Maxine said, 'you make your own luck.' my wife has never believed it. 😕

Mikeverdi on 20-04-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 5
Errr... I ment as in 'my best talent :)). what I'm saying is I get it, I didn't need the smile to tell me is all. If your going to say 'win win' say it don't bracket it. I know what Kudos means. All this is not spoiling my enjoyment ...just isn't needed.
As usual, it's only my opinion.
Mike

ps. if I want to be impressed ....I will be πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
ah, ok, I see, that's a fair point. And as I'm always telling others brackets have no place in speech (of which narration is one case) , you are right. It's an intrusion of the narrator on themselves (and therefore distracts) ! πŸ™‚ as Homer would say ... dooohhhh!

oh, BTW, the reference to 'Maxine' refers to a coming episode. She was an Occupational Psychologist who advised later when I left BT. (Got a bit tangled as I was just writing that bit).


Butch (posted on: 17-04-15)
A short second stab at the Prose Challenge of Monday. This one is brand new.

Butch We were a happy family, the three of us. They treated me well, feeding me, praising me and looking after my health. It was great. The big one taught me to defend him against others who meant harm, enemies - sometimes others like him, and sometimes others like me. I would see them off quickly, they were afraid of me, and if any one of them chose to fight, I always won. Then a strange thing happened. The gentle one disappeared, and the big one changed. He didn't always provide food on time, and he didn't see to my health by my exercises. He always spoke nicely but he didn't talk to me like he had done before. One day, the gentle one came back with a strange creature. It was a small thing wrapped in cloth. They talked to it all the time and ran around feeding it and cleaning it and going to see it if it cried out. I didn't like it, but who was I to protest? They showed it to me, and I could see it seemed like them, though much smaller and not the same at all. I decided to treat the thing well, and always inspected it and showed approval to them when they showed it to me. They liked that, and after all, I wanted to please them. But gradually, over a long time, I became suspicious. The gentle one seemed very tired, and fell asleep a lot, and the big one got very bad-tempered and shouted at me once or twice, which was not normal. At first the thing didn't communicate with them properly, and only learned very slowly. Eventually, when it moved around by itself, it wasn't normal. I decided it wasn't truly one of their young, as I know the young can communicate immediately they are born, and move around like adults. I developed a suspicion that the thing was some kind of creature that was fooling them, sucking up their attention, especially from me, and it might be bad, an enemy. I lived with this suspicion for some time until one day when they were both working in the garden, they told me to look after it for them and left it with me. To be fair, I had often called them when the thing seemed distressed. They were always nice to me after. The thing itself would often grab me and press itself against me making funny noises and pulling at me, which hurt slightly. I didn't know if they were threats or praise, but I tolerated it for their sake, escaping as quickly as I could to the kitchen. I had noticed the thing had become completely demanding and they ran around trying to please it all the time This was surely not natural. It must have them well and truly enslaved, so I decided it was indeed an enemy, a threat. And it needed to be removed. So I did it. I thought that the enchantment on them would be lifted, that they would be grateful to me for releasing them from their suffering, but this was not to be so. They exhibited supreme distress, scooping up the thing and weeping, backing away from me. They shut the door and a while later two strangers came in dressed in strange clothes and fastened something around my mouth, and a chain around my neck. I didn't react. I had done my job, the job the big one had taught me, and I was sure things would be back to normal again in time. Now I'm in a car. I like cars. But I'm in a cage, chained to the side, which makes me uncomfortable. I don't know where they are taking me, and I don't know what will happen. .
Archived comments for Butch
bluepootle on 17-04-2015
Butch
It's the flipside of your earlier piece, where this time the loving dog who doesn't really understand the human situation comes to a dangerous conclusion. As such, the two stories make an interesting pair, side by side. This is more of a cautionary tale to me, short and to the point.

Author's Reply:
This was quite stark, bare of adornment or depth, apart from the main point.

Thank you for your comments! πŸ™‚

Mikeverdi on 19-04-2015
Butch
Weirdly I liked this better. Paragraph three needs a look.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Yes, the idea here was interesting, and has a telling point about responsibility for bad behaviour, whether it be dogs or people.

Not sure what you mean about para 3 at first inspection. Looks OK, but could be the way I read it and I'm missing alternative interpretations (there are often things an author can't see until someone else points them out - hence editors!). Can you expand a bit?

Pronto on 19-04-2015
Butch
Very unusual story. I haven't read the first one referred to but I found the build up of tension and conclusion was done very well.

Author's Reply:
thanks.

the first one was 'Noon' posted on Monday 13th - if you are interested.

Rab on 19-04-2015
Butch
Brilliant story; now I need to go and find the original one.

Author's Reply:
thanks. I felt guilty about the oldie (but it is one of my good stories, I think). Nice reception for this one. Very pleasing. πŸ™‚

Mikeverdi on 21-04-2015
Butch
I was thinking of....'but much smaller but not the same at all'. Without punctuation or changing one of the but's, it just seems a little weird is all. Now it seems like I'm being pedantic πŸ™
Mike

Author's Reply:
I never use the word pedantic as so often it's used defensively, dismissively, and I welcome (and consider) all comments.

Oh, Mike. Im an idiot. I wasn't reading it right. That explanation is all cock. Have replaced a but!

sirat on 25-04-2015
Butch
This is a straightforward story of good intentions and misunderstanding. I think it's clear enough that the dog was picking up a bit of ambivalence from the parents about the newcomer, I'm less clear as to whether that was because the baby did in fact have some kind of developmental problem or was just part of the usual strain of bringing up a young baby. I think that part of the story needs clarification. The dog reflects that: 'it wasn’t truly one of their young, as I know the young can communicate immediately they are born' – how would he know this about human beings? Is it dog young that he has in mind? It doesn't sound like an accurate account of human young, but you're clearly trying to tell me something when you put it in the story.

Technically the story is straightforwardly told, which I like, and the only slightly garbled sentence that I noticed was the one that began: 'I lived with this suspicion for some time but it long time later...'

The story works reasonably well. I don't think it has anything very profound in the way of content but it's generally well crafted.

Author's Reply:
Ha! It never occurred to me that the baby had developmental difficulties. If that had been part of the plot, then I would have put in visits from doctors, wife crying etc, to show it. However, if someone reads that into it, it makes no difference.

I puzzled over 'the young' for a while. If, for instance, I had put 'our young' I would have immediately undermined the naivety of the dog, and made his other thoughts, on which the story depends, inconsistent. In fact, although you say it needs clarification, you did understand it correctly, even though you may have wondered about an alternative explanation, so in that sense it works. Frankly, I couldn't see any other way to show it than the way I have, trusting to the reader's imagination and interpretation. Spelling it out would not be an option.

I'll look at that sentence, thanks ...

Thank you for a perceptive and helpful comment. JohnG

deadpoet on 27-04-2015
Butch
I believe they did a very bad job of bringing up their dog- material for thought. I don't know whether you intended to point that out. Tragic but very well described from the dog's point of view. But sad because so much harm to dog and man come from bad training and ignorant dog owners. Makes me mad.

great piece eGriff. Well done.

Author's Reply:
Yes the point of the story is to pose the question 'who was responsible, the dog or the owner?'

And the bigger question - What about humans who behave badly?

Thanks for reading and commenting.


A History of the Mobile Phone Part 4 (posted on: 17-04-15)
I’m sent into the lion’s den in New York. I put phones on trains. I upset the Telecoms Ministry.

A History of the Mobile Phone Part 4 To read Part 1 CLICK HERE Although junior, I was the senior engineer in our new business, so the Chief Executive took to ringing me direct to ask about technical things to do with mobile phones. I don't know why, as the project was about investment, not just technical, but he asked me to go to New York to meet an investment banker about a proposition to do with mobile. New York! I thought, hey! But I didn't see much except wandering up 5th avenue and having lunch in an ultra upmarket private restaurant. When I first arrived at the office, I was introduced to 3 luminaries of the US telecoms market, their leader being Billy Oliver, ex-head of AT&T long lines (ie the nationwide trunk network). What the hell was I doing in such company? What happened was Marty Cooper (ex-Motorola - first hand portable) and Arlene Harris (Harris Corporation) pitched an idea for cellular payphones on ferries. The next morning, the three gurus sat me down, me on one side of the table, them on the other, and said, 'What do you think?' I'd read the pitch overnight so had a reasonable idea of what it entailed. Can you imagine my feelings? Sitting there in front of these highly experienced blokes, me a lowly engineer. I thought of dissembling a bit - waffling on the merits and demerits. But I'm never one to duck a challenge, so I took a deep breath and told them what I thought. Silence. My mind was racing - what had I done? Would they think I was a complete fool and be kind to me, pat me on the head and send me home? Eventually, Billy Oliver spoke. 'We're glad you said that, John, we agree.' Joy! I'd escaped! The banker wrote a glowing letter to the Chief Executive, praising me. I kept a good relationship with him for many years until I retired. He offered me several jobs (which I turned down) and asked me to do some evaluations of investment proposals . He was always friendly and helpful if I needed some inside knowledge of US characters I ran into later in my career who were offering to invest in start-up businesses. For instance, in response to one chap he simply said, 'after you shake hands with him, count your fingers'. Cryptic, but very helpful at the time. Coming out of the Ferry phone idea, I was having a day off when my pager asked me to ring the Chief Executive. 'Can you put phones on trains?' he asked. 'Probably,' I replied, 'but give me a couple of days to check.' When I did, he endorsed my plan, which basically gave me carte blanch with my boss and other departments. A year later, we were putting cellular payphones on all 200 InterCity trains. The good thing was I was not only responsible for the successful engineering (thanks to Chris and Jim), but I'd then changed my job into Marketing, as Product Marketing Manager in a unified (with paging) BT Mobile organisation. As such, I was also responsible for the commercial negotiations with BR and the BT departments (payphones, phonecard). This is my number one achievement in my book because of my complete ownership of a major project. It was great stuff. Me, a lad from a terrace house in Liverpool, moving in distinguished company and spending millions! We also did cross-channel ferries and a prototype taxiphone (which we ditched because there was no money in it). My second best achievement is more personal, and to do with my rebellious streak. I'd found I was good at legal language, and could understand and write contracts that the lawyers thought OK. A lot of it was due to experience as an engineer of reading and writing technical specifications, which had to cover all eventualities and be absolutely correct. Little different really from a contract for buying mobile phones from Nokia, Motorola, NEC etc. Anyway, one day I was perusing the specification for cellular phones put out by the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and to which they were tested by BABT (British Approvals Board for Telecoms) for approval. Our dealers were supposed to be exclusive - ie only signing people onto Cellnet through us. But of course, if a customer demanded Vodafone service, what was the guy to do? We tolerated it. But I had a brand new transportable (a carry around phone not a hand portable) and it was a major step forward - our salesmen loved the prototype - smaller lighter, prettier. The phone, made by Mitsubishi, was exclusive to us. I realised that while the official specification demanded that all phones would do the basic things and work on both systems, there was nothing about additional features - such as number memory etc. So I thought, what if I get Mitsubishi to make the software switch off those features if it was registered on Vodafone? We did it. The DTI screamed. I prize a letter from them that said 'we agree you have kept to the letter of the regulations, but not the spirit.' Bollocks! It took them 3 months to change the regulations, which we, of course obeyed but only after a further 3 month delay agreed by them because of 'implementation of production line changes'.(Hee hee!) We also agreed to change chips retrospectively (for a juicy fee) after that. So we had 6 months exclusivity with the phone on Cellnet, which was fine. Andrew got really worried (!) but he was on the front page of a respectable daily newspaper talking about how BT ensured the best phones with the best performance so wished to capitalise on their efforts for Cellnet alone. Great stuff from the PR department. But Andrew? He didn't like it at all. Mitsubishi were scared of offending the government, and I had to come down very hard, reminding them the phones were ours, not theirs, to stop them changing chips for free at once. That would have spoiled the game. They were more scared of breaking their contract with BT, so they held off. What fun I had! πŸ™‚ Next time: I preach to the suppliers and demand changes. The designer of those orange Flymos smartens up our phones, and I become a TV ad. To read next Part 5 - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone Part 4
Mikeverdi on 19-04-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 4
I found this excellent John, your technospeak didn't lose me this time πŸ™‚ Still enjoying the read.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks - there's less technospeak as I move into deals and commerce rather than designing nuts and bolts.:-)

deadpoet on 22-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 4
How junior were you? I mean age-wise? I'm interested. It's not that important. Such different lives we lead! I'm glad you punctuate with the light funny bist. You lose me a bit on the company names and technical stuff. But is interesting to read.

Author's Reply:
When I went to new York, I was a 'level 3' in a management structure with 4 levels,then above that 'senior management'. It was 1983/4,so I was 38. By 'junior' I meant in experience. Those guys were high powered captains of industry. I spent 10 years at the start of my career in one job with no ambition (it was great) so I guess was a late developer. However of course, many never rose above level 2.
Amusing life.


Noon (posted on: 13-04-15)
For the Prose Challenge. I could not think of anything for this challenge, which I set, so this is an oldie that exactly fits the brief.

Noon I'm sure Mr Sigournis must be very large, even for a man. I don't mean large looking up, but large going round. He seems to have places where other people don't. We're on the porch, Mrs Sigournis and I, in the shade. Mr Sigournis is mowing the lawn, or trying to. It's a lovely sight, the wide lawn, the trees behind, the bright sky as the backdrop. Behind the mower is a trail on the grass lighter than the rest. Mr Sigournis is a vast blot on this vista. He wears shorts and a big, billowy white shirt. His face is very dark. That is bad, his face is usually pale. His face is dark, veins standing out, eyes bulging. Mrs Sigournis is drinking iced lemonade. She has a small plate of biscuits on a tray. She is knitting. Occasionally she smiles at Mr Sigournis, but he never notices. She has light clothes on, she looks cool. Her skin is pale, with freckles. She is in a rocking chair and moves slightly. The overhead fan wafts cool air over us. I stay still. Maybe she will let me have one of her biscuits? If I ask nicely. She is kind. And she has plenty of biscuits. The sun is high. Noon is hot. Mr Sigournis always starts to mow the lawn at noon. Mrs Sigournis 'tut-tuts' every time, but it makes no difference. Mr Sigournis likes to mow the lawn before lunch. Lunch is at two. Mary prepares it. Mary is kind. She is kind to me, like Mrs Sigournis. She has time for me. Mr Sigournis does not. I am Mrs Sigournis's baby, but I am not his. This can be upsetting. 'Carl! Come and have an iced drink!' Mr Sigournis waves his hand dismissively. There is a problem with the mower. If he is to complete the mowing before lunch, he has to 'get on'. I've heard him say that – those words: 'get on'. Now he has a big metal box, and he is taking shiny things out and clanging and pushing them on parts of the mower. His face is even darker, his mouth is open and gasping, his face runs sleek with wetness. His white shirt is grey in places where it sticks to him. Finally he stands up and pushes the mower again, disappearing from our sight. Mrs Sigournis turns back to her knitting, shaking her head slightly. She has a pleasant look on her face. She is a kind mother to me. I decide to try for a biscuit; I get up and go over to her. I wait until she notices me, then I ask politely. She laughs, but reaches over to the plate, and gives me two. I don't push my luck. I accept them gratefully. I walk over to the bushes and find a shady place to sit down. I can see Mr Sigournis again now. He is making loud noises; he is hitting the lawnmower, just like the times he has hit me. I take my biscuits somewhere else to eat them. The sun is still high. I wander back to Mrs Sigournis, and sit beside her on the porch. 'Where's Mr Sigournis?' she says to me. I can't answer. I give her a blank look. She smiles at me and her eyes twinkle. 'Never mind,' she says. * Mrs Sigournis is worried, I can tell. She is shouting 'Carl, Carl, where are you?' He does not reply. Last time I saw him he was lying down, resting. I think that's the best thing. The sun is so hot at noon, you should keep in the shade. He is in the shade now. His eyes were opening and closing and he reached out his hand to me. I was concerned for him. This was not how he normally behaved. I thought that perhaps I should call Mrs Sigournis. But last time I did that he shouted and hit me. So I didn't. He did not hit me, he was resting. His face had changed to pale. That's better, I thought. Mrs Sigournis used to tell me, 'He's not supposed to get so worked up, look at his blood pressure.' I have learned many words. Some I do not understand, but I know their mood, I know which are bad. Mr Sigournis is lying behind the bushes. His face is pale, that is good. He is very still, that is good. His eyes are open, and he did not blink when I licked them. That is unusual. Maybe it is bad. I don't know. Lunch will be ready soon. Mary will give me something. Something left over. .
Archived comments for Noon
bluepootle on 13-04-2015
Noon
I love the fact that Mr Sigournis has places where other people don't.

It's a good use of voice. That technique of using a animal to reflect on human behaviour is very effective here. Still, I wonder if there isn't room for a story in which the animal isn't interested in humanity. I'm reminded of a story by Neil Gaiman in which cats go off and have their own secret meetings, and tell each other their own stories. Basically, I like your story but if I had the challenge to do over I'd aim for keeping the human element to a minimum on my own. Just thinking out loud. Thanks for a good challenge though.

Author's Reply:
I understand what you mean, but the brief was about a pet's point of view, and pets are necessarily close to their human owners/keepers and mostly focused on them. Sixteen years with our dog Theo, an absolute old-school gentleman, taught me a little about how dogs react, therefore a glimmer of how they must be thinking.

Perhaps a future challenge should be just as you describe - the life of a wild animal.

If I can hark back to William Golding, his book, 'The Inheritors' is masterly in its description of how early man thought, much as I have attempted here for a dog.

bluepootle on 13-04-2015
Noon
No, I don't think it would need to be a wild animal. I meant pets who aren't focused on humans (although I'd agree that I think my dog is on my wavelength!) which I think would also be a valid and interesting interpretation. There's a quote about when you feed a dog it thinks you are a God, but when you feed a cat it thinks it is a God. Who knows what a goldfish thinks of it all? Does it even know we're there? Anyway, you've got me thinking now. I like William Golding but haven't come across that one; I'll go and seek it out.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 15-04-2015
Noon
I've read them all, I like this best....but its still weird.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Weird? Oh yes πŸ™‚

I originally wrote this with colours in (green grass etc), but I found dogs don't see colour so had to revise it. I tried to make the realisation of what the central character was linger a bit and not be too obvious at first.

sirat on 16-04-2015
Noon
I remember this one, and may have said the same thing first time around, but I think dogs live very much in a world of smells, something that isn't even mentioned. I think the dog would have reported mostly on the way that people and places smelt, and would have smelled illness and death. But I'm being pedantic. I liked the story by and large and I thought the ending was a good use of subtext. Of the three in the challenge I would agree with Mike that I liked this one best.

Author's Reply:
I do accept the truth in your comments, and I don't think you said the same before (although I haven't checked) . But as written, it depends very much on observed events, and I'm not sure smells would do it. I could scatter a few around, but would it really add to the essential thrust of the story? It's more about innocent perception and understanding, however gleaned, and only incidental that it's a dog. Could be a child (apart from licking the eyes of course).

Rab on 19-04-2015
Noon
I loved this, a great pov tale, well told. The reason for not barking, that he had been hit for it before, was wonderful.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. Poetic justice perhaps?

TheBigBadG on 22-04-2015
Noon
To echo Blue's riffing, this challenge reminded me of an article I read about contact with alien life (bear with me!) and how we assume we'll even be able to comprehend their consciousness, and vice versa. That set me to thinking about animals and how we anthropomorphise them incessantly when really their minds are unknowable. All of which probably goes some way to explaining why I didn't write anything for this one!

Anyway, the piece! A strength is sticking to the simple sentences, the uncluttered telling. There are some good lines in there too, as Blue picked out. I think my favourite aspect of it though is interplay of obedience and reactions to being hit. Something about the moral and irony in the ending pleases me. That and presenting the things we teach dogs from the other side of the line, pointing at how arbitrary they can seem: Still is good...

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. Much appreciated.

We also teach children some very strange things,don't we?


A History of the Mobile Phone, Part 3 (posted on: 13-04-15)
We start the new business, Angela is severely tested, we are knackered by the dead hand of a pre-privatisation manager, other departments are jealous, and I do deals.

To read Part 1 CLICK HERE A History of the Mobile Phone Part 3 We started our new BT Mobile Phone business with five of us in a room, discussing how we would run it and whether we thought it would work. Colin was the boss. He knew a lot about sales and marketing. Working for him were myself, Andy, David and Al. I handled the product provision and distribution, Andy repairs and customer service, David marketing, and Al sales. We worked through independent dealers as we thought BT itself would be too slow and inflexible. Al had to recruit a network of dealers (sun roof, car HiFi and alarms businesses) who knew about fitting things in cars. We had an immediate advantage when cellular opened in 1985 because for a year before we had built up our dealer network and distribution for the old system. Meanwhile the old system, System 4, boomed, benefitting from the hype given to cellular as cellular was only available at first in selected areas and System 4 had nationwide coverage, as I had just completed an expansion. Cellular had started and was doing well. At the time, the basic charge for the cellular phone was well over £1000, plus fitting in the car, and then quite a hefty monthly payment. The first hand portables from Motorola were well over £2000. We'd been 18 months in our new business, and number one supplier, when disaster struck. Up to that point we'd been very much left alone, but big BT decided it was going to pull back the independent businesses into its control. A chap who had been around for years, Andrew, took control of Mobile Phone. He was an old civil service manager, who lived to balance his yearly books, full stop. I do believe he had no inkling of entrepreneurial start ups and commercial business. Our objective, drummed into us by Colin, was to build a monthly paying customer base rather than make a profit on the phones. Such a business goes into the red maybe for several years before it comes up, breaks even then goes into profit. The more monthly payments you get, the steeper the recovery curve and the eventual profits - but you have to look at the business over 5 years at least. Andrew didn't do that. He looked a year ahead. His decision? Because we were 'losing money' we would sell fewer phones by keeping prices up when others dropped theirs. Magnificent! I was too junior to protest, but knew it was entirely wrong. He also sidelined Colin and brought in highly paid Marketing and Sales Directors. Despite these high-powered guys, we lost our number one spot and sank down the list. The dead hand of civil service management had struck! Let me tell you more about Andrew. One night we were in a hotel bar in Denmark and he told me a little story. A very bright lady, Angela, was up for promotion into a job in a business he ran at the time. She'd worked in the business for years. They interviewed her and decided she was the right person for the job and she was informed. Andrew said, 'But I wanted to make sure, so I then held a limited competition (just candidates from anywhere in BT). 'And...' I asked. 'Oh she was selected again, she was very good.' His face became thoughtful. 'But as I really wanted to be sure, we held an open competition (include non-BT candidates) . 'And ...,' I asked. 'Oh, she was selected again. She was really very good.' Then he became thoughtful and he said to me, 'Do you know, John, Angela must have been really pleased to know she was the best person for the job.' I knew Angela, and was amazed that she must have bitten her tongue. Poor girl! But that was Andrew. But back to cellular - our little team produced several innovations: the first voice-recognising phone, the fastest data modem (let you send faxes from the car). Cellnet and Martlesham were definitely jealous. and had become a little hostile - and Andrew became worried πŸ™‚ . So, I invited them all to a presentation where we revealed all our work and future plans, emphasising areas where we could cooperate and I would need their help. Andrew was very pleased. And it got them off our backs - no sniping after that. I didn't mind doing this, I never minded if someone stole one of my ideas, because I knew I'd have another one and they wouldn't, and they'd probably have problems implementing it anyway. Colin taught me a lot. He taught me about win-win deals. For instance, we found a Voice Recognition company in Dallas, VCS. Eventually, in the revolving restaurant on top of the New Otani in Tokyo (which I recently revisited) I signed the 'revolving restaurant accord' between VCS, NEC and BT. NEC agreed to licence VCS's technology, and as a thankyou for the introduction, NEC agreed to supply the first phones using it in exclusively in the UK to BT for six months (that's all we needed). That was a deal. Something Andrew never understood. Colin had left. His problem was that senior management didn't like him because he was brash and not a 'corporate man' and he worried Andrew (surprise). I'd absorbed a lot of his good teaching, but could also do 'corporate man' when required, so I got away with things and did ok. Next time: I'm sent into the lion's den in New York. I put phones on trains. I upset the Government. To read next Part 4 - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone, Part 3
Mikeverdi on 15-04-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone, Part 3
Still enjoying this John, I get a bit lost on the technical but so what. Deals I know about πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. More deals coming! I posted this last Friday, and where others got 10 reads or so, this was on zero. I thought people had got fed up with it so I pulled it, but then I posted it again Monday and it's had a reasonable amount.

I regret that the number of comments is so low, looking at all the pieces, some of which have got many reads. It must be disheartening to post your work and get no feedback whatsoever. It's not the point of this site, IMO. It's to improve, not just a showcase.

Mikeverdi on 15-04-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone, Part 3
Still enjoying this John, I get a bit lost on the technical but so what. Deals I know about πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:

pommer on 02-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone, Part 3
Yes,John I again enjoyed reading your account.Whilst having difficulties understanding the technical details, not being technically minded, I can see similarities in the management problems between your organisation and those of the NHS. Thank you for sharing.Peter.

Author's Reply:
Belated thanks!

deadpoet on 22-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone, Part 3
You're making this sound like fun. Must have been hard work too. A good working team is worth a lot. Good colleagues mean Much.

Author's Reply:
As I indicated, I owe much of my success to the great people I worked with. But in return, I always credited them and rewarded their skills with promotion as we progressed. No one can do it on their own.


The Lamp of Iophiolades - the second Chronical of Galibor the Fearless (posted on: 10-04-15)
You have never before seen writing like this. It cannot be matched. Read and learn!

The Lamp of Iophiolades. Galibor, once having returned from the quest which was to be called his 'first' just as soon as he committed to another, was intent. He decided he would set out again from his home town of Kaaarn on an errand, a fearless quest, in which on an eventual occasion, the suitable time having passed, he would be seen to succeed. Thus, having been strictly minded to his persuasion, his recumbent form levitated itself to the vertical position, and his limbs propelled him towards the entrance, which also served as the exit to his small chamber as there was no other door or opening, save a window too small to squeeze through. 'I will hie me to Flantasticore, an elder with sage engagements, that he might reveal the nature of a suitable quest to my heroic urgency,' Galibor declaimed to none but himself as he strode in muscular bounds to another place where his destination had been identified by himself in his decision-making process prior to this action and subsequent modification of location. 'The Lamp of Iophiolades!' declared the old man (who was thus described because of the number of years since he had first existed, and the supplemental reason that he had continued that existence until the time now spoken about, although at the time of the telling of this tale (the current 'now') such a circumstance does not apply and thus his existence must be conditionalised for accuracy). 'Tell me more, old man,' Galibor pleaded with eagerness as to his predisposition to the possible task that he might well be learning of should his adjuring phrases bear fruit in the fullness of time, which should not be long in his view, by the laws of averages and of politeness in the community in which he found himself until now, though that could well change. 'The Lamp' (the old man spoke in capitals befitting the title of the object he so clearly thought important to the younger man sitting opposite him in his pleas and eager yearning.) '… is long forgotten….' Galibor, by an effort of logic and straining for explanatory divulgement, made a small gesture, raising his hand. '… except by me, of course.' Galibor's hand dropped. Flantasticore went on to explain at great length the reason and purpose of the task set out before Galibor for his consideration, swayed as he was by his urgent desire for actions and fulfilment in the areas which were, in his own scheme of things, more important to him than those which were not. Thus it was not long before Galibor, fully rationalised with his intent, set out from the town of Narm, where he now lived (granting in truth that, by leaving it, he immediately negated that fact in the current sense) to Kaaarn, where he had vowed to begin his quest, so recently adopted in his strategy as a desirable objective though not having been considered before his dialogue with the sage, but which fact did not make his intentions any less strong in the time that he was holding them, and the circumstance. For three weeks, he headed due east, travelling the scarred red deserts, where the perturbed mother of all, our earth, had inadvertently created barriers for men, though not by any intent as firstly the men had not existed when she did so, and secondly, such a thing as the earth, even though men describe it as 'she' could not have intent in any case, surely? So Galibor did not hate the terrain on a personal basis, but generally, cursing it as an inanimate obstacle to his progress, which by its presence was impeded significantly. Reaching the mighty city of Kaaarn, he appeared in a distressed and significantly weakened and unhealthy state, in which he indeed was due to the attendant hardships of the heretofore-described environmental scenarios which had typified his journey. Fortunately, Kaaarn was his home city. (The city where he had been born and grown up, not necessarily his current 'home' otherwise the long journey to Kaaarn from Narm, his current home (until that is he left it to travel to Kaaarn) would have been unnecessary, irrelevant, and physically impossible unless preceded by a similar journey in the contrary direction, something which by the laws of logic, must have indeed taken place in the past, but in fact not within the time scale of this quest, so is discounted and not described here except in passing.). Thus it was that his family were able to meet him again (it too, being their home and because none of them had ventured from it, or at least not having failed to return having once done so). After two weeks, he was rested and fit, refreshed and eager to continue the quest. Consulting a mapmaker and expert, one Crittox, he begged him to describe the whereabouts of the sacred place that the sage Flantasticore had identified as the resting place of The Lamp of Iophiolades. 'Due west,' the elderly expert spoke. Though not at all lengthy, the words were well chosen to convey the meaning he had intended for them at beginning his speaking. 'Three weeks.' 'There you will find the Pool of Silence, in which Iophiolades flung The Lamp in his distress.' 'What was his distress, father?' Galibor was sincere in his desire to know the source of such emotion, which clearly had played a significant part in creating the conditions for his quest – conditions which would not indeed exist if Iophiolades had not been distressed, he divined. 'A fool's errand, my son.' Galibor stared hard at the man, searching his face for signs of familiarity. 'Really?' He was puzzled now. The old man smiled. 'A turn of phrase only, young fellow.' Then setting back once more to the task they had been involved in the description of , he spoke again, without smiling, but bearing a pleasant aspect in token of the lack of animosity between them. 'Iophiolades had been sent on a journey by a sage to find the Lamp, which had been cast into the Well of Pity in Kaaarn, and return with it to the city near the Pool of Silence. As he had travelled from Kaaarn originally, and the trip entailed three weeks of torture in the mighty red deserts, he was severely angered to be told belatedly that if the sage knew he had come from Kaaarn in the first place, he could have remained there with the Lamp. And, furthermore to the annoyance of Iophiolades, he learned that the sage's brother, who lived in Kaaarn, could have revealed to him the location without his ever leaving Kaaarn.' Galibor was astounded. 'A grim story indeed, sir. What a pitiful wretch Iophiolades must have felt when confronted with such truths of his eventual circumlocutory translocationary excesses, all to no avail in the context of hindsight as we ourselves can clearly see. Who is this sage?' 'My brother,' smiled the old man. As Galibor left, he glanced again at Crittox. He looked, in his facial characteristics and demeanour, similar to the sage in the city of Narm which he had left previously, which had been, but was not at the present time of this event, his home. To Galibor, however, this was what all sages looked like, even though his opinion was based on a limited experience of just two examples, he could not ignore the evidence of his eyes in judging, as is true of most of us. He wondered at Iophiolades' misfortune, and was grateful in his heart that he himself had found such sources of information to make this, his quest, successful. 'Oh, and you must bring it to show me.' The old man added firmly. Five weeks later, after three weeks of travail in the aforesaid red desert to the west of Kaaarn, and two weeks rest and recovery, Galibor was ready to plunge into the Pool of Silence, and therefore consequently did so as no alternative would have been appropriate in context. His search was successful, due firstly to his diligent preparations and eager keenness and secondly to the effects of a drought, which had lowered the water level to knee-height. Holding aloft The Lamp, he crowed his success to the air. It was with renewed expectancy he began his long trek eastwards to Kaaarn, to show his parents and the old man the trophy he had gained. 'So!' Galibor spoke excitedly, and in a way that was not of a placid inducement. 'What properties has The Lamp?' 'The lamp?' Crittox's tone was surprised, in a way that conveyed to Galibor that some misunderstanding had taken place, although he could not know this at that time, but did a moment later. 'None at all. It's just a lamp.' Galibor's world collapsed, He was plunged into desolate torment and despair, 'Curse this lamp! I shall destroy it!' he cried. 'Hold on!' The old man's constraining words bound him in their meaningful intent. 'Why not just sling it in that well outside – that'll get rid of it. If you throw it anywhere else it could hurt someone.' The old man's wise and immediate words penetrated the fog of anger that surrounded the present intentional state of Galibor's profound mind, and it was not long before a resounding splash heralded the descent of the lamp into the well, in retrospect. With a heavy heart, Galibor prepared to face the arduous journey back to Narm. 'Oh, and send that young man in!' Crittox shouted as he left in creeping sullenness. Galibor saw a bright-eyed young man waiting outside the portal of the chamber, which he himself inevitably had to pass through to exit from the room. There was hope in his eyes and an evident excitement emanated from his trembling corpus as if in anticipation – which proved strictly to be the case on hearing Galibor's advice to enter, as his demeanour proved rapidly the truth of the previous bodily indications of temperament. * The young man entered the chamber where the old man sat. 'So, you want a quest?' Crittox smiled 'You've come to the right man…' .
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A History of the Mobile Phone Part 2 (posted on: 06-04-15)
Saddam undoes my hard work but the Big Boss entertains me. I leave a legacy to the French, Scandinavians and Eastern Europeans. We are reorganised and I end up with two jobs!

To read Part 1 CLICK HERE A History of the Mobile Phone Part 2 I was in Kuwait City. BT had loaned me for two weeks to the local mobile telephone company to help them write a specification for a cellular system. It was a strange place. While I was there, the then Chairman of BT, Sir George Jefferson, made an official visit. I was invited to take coffee with him. He was in the same hotel as me, but while I had a small (but luxurious) room, he had an enormous suite full of French furniture. He was a nice bloke, and actually poured a cup of coffee for me and chatted about what we were doing. The next morning I was paying my bill to date. There was I, at the reception desk surrounded by gold and jewels in glass cases, for sale, with prices in the tens of thousands, and affluent Arabs drifting by, paying my bill using £25 travellers checks, which is what BT had issued me with. I had a stack in front of me, signing away when Sir George sauntered up and said 'Good morning, are you having problems?' I explained. He looked thoughtful. They changed the rules. And Saddam invaded Kuwait and stole the cellular system. Early on, I was working in a joint BT/France Telecom team specifying the next generation of Mobile, and aimed at getting support from all European countries for a Pan European standard. We adopted the NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephone) system as a basis (used in Finland Sweden, Norway and Denmark with roaming between countries). We adapted it for 1000 newly-released channels for mobile use across Europe. At the time, mobiles chugged through available radio channels until they found one free, and connected. This was fine for the old band with 160 channels, but one thousand would have taken an unacceptably long time, given the slow processors of the time. So I invented the 'Director' channels. Five channels spread over the thousand channels (not all channels bands were in use everywhere) so the mobile went straight to one, and it had a signal which told it which channel to use. So connection became almost instantaneous. I wrote the protocol to fit the system signalling. Amazingly, this was adopted, and I was able to present it at an International conference in London to all the European Telecoms operators. It was pretty daunting, as I was only a fairly junior engineer at the time. Unfortunately, Telecoms was suddenly deregulated in the UK, and the Government announced the creation of competition (eventually in the form of Vodafone). BT had to set up an arm's length operation (Cellnet) which it could only own 60pc of. The government decided the standard to be used, a variant of the US cellular system. However, our hard work on adapted NMT was not wasted. The French employed the improved NMT system we'd developed in a lower frequency band, later widespread in the newly-freed Eastern European countries as it was more economical for low demand. And the Scandinavians adopted our changes in their own improved system. I think the last NMT based system closed sometime in the nineties, so my clever scanning was not entirely wasted. With deregulation and ongoing privatisation, BT decided to invest in small start-up businesses outside the main organisation, which would fend for themselves and develop in new competitive markets. One such was BT Mobile Phone, which would sell phones and contracts to customers, bill them etc (much as Carphones do now), as the operators were not allowed to sell direct. We were reorganised, and I was offered the choice of three jobs: Development, in Cellnet; Chief Engineer of the old system, System 4 (which ran for some time after cellular started), or Head of Products in the brand new Mobile Phone, responsible for specifying, purchasing, storing and distributing phones to dealers. Of course, I chose the latter. But when they couldn't find anyone who knew anything about System 4, I was asked to do that job as well, so I agreed. I had about a dozen engineers on the system side, and just Jim and Chris on the Mobile team. So I had two business cards, one Head of Products, and one Head of Networks Ha ha! What fun I had. It was like a schoolboy dream. I was fairly junior at that time, but had no engineer above me in the hierarchy, only a commercial manager/MD type. I did what I thought fit, with no interference, no committees, no consultations (except with my colleagues to make sure I got what they wanted). Next time: I fiddle with System 4 again, five of us start the business and my. weren't those prices high! To read Part 3 - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone Part 2
Mikeverdi on 07-04-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 2
Another extremely interesting piece John, You have lived in a world few can comprehend. I much admire your achievements and am enjoying reading about them.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks. When I read your story, I thought I'd led a very dull life in comparison. But recounting it now, I see it was quite eventful in a different way. I guess we each fight through our own jungle. πŸ™‚

pommer on 01-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 2
Hi Jon. forgive me for not having commented so far, but life has been extremely busy with being a full time carer and my own health problems.I must admit that I do not understand the technical jargon, but I an enjoying the whole aspect of your very interesting career.It is a well written account of a successful life.Well done. Peter. (Shall comment more when I find the time.)

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Yes this is a bit technical, but then, I was just a humble engineer at the time. My career gets less technical as it progresses! πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading and commenting.

PS. There are many ways of being successful. Material rewards aren't everything. Yes, I was able to support my family, but more to the point I had fun for most of my career (as you will see) . There are people who don't gain lots of material rewards but are loved and treasured by others - I think that's possibly a better form of success. And for an author, critical admiration is success.


A History of the Mobile Phone Part 1 (posted on: 30-03-15)
I've tried to avoid the appearance of bragging in previous stories about my life. But no more! πŸ™‚ I realise you all have your success stories - so write about them!!!! In this episode, I am a bastard, calls get crackly, and I am famous! (in a small way).

A History of the Mobile Phone Part 1 1980 - I'd been promoted and was looking for a new job. I looked at all the departments in BT. I wanted a little one, where I wasn't just a cog, but could get on with stuff. I found a group of about half a dozen people in 'Mobile Radio' . Very little was happening at the time, but I said 'I think mobile radio (carphones) are the future', and got in touch with the boss there. He offered me a job. Probably the most momentous (and advantageous) career move I was wise enough to make. Pretty amazing for me, I'm usually not that perceptive. * At the time, there was a car telephone system with three and a half thousand users only, covering selected cities, but not widespread. Only the rich and famous were our clients and it cost them a bomb! In some ways, this relatively primitive system (one up on a police radio) was easier to use than today. In the front (or often the back) of your limo was a telephone handset. You lifted it, heard ringing and a lady answered. You told her the number you wanted, or just a name and address or well known restaurant etc. and she said she would call you back. Very shortly after, the phone rang, you picked it up and she said 'putting you through now sir (/madam)' and you were connected. Wonderful! I joined the group at a time when they were installing a new system, which gave direct dialling internationally from the handset. I was first responsible for testing mobile units, developing new equipment such as base station transmitters and specifying equipment. One colleague organised the implementation and maintenance of base stations and network, and the other specialised in testing radiopagers. Once I got into specifications, I took to the para legal language, and was then asked to write all specifications for radiopaging as well after it became a separate group. I had great fun inventing and specifying new radiopaging transmitters which could just be fixed on a wall in the street in cities rather than great lumps of fancy traditional, outdated equipment on shelves in air conditioned rooms feeding an antenna stuck up a mast. I never liked waste or bother. The bloke I had working for me, Jim, was a gold mine of information. He knew everything. But he had such a retiring personality that no-one listened to him. My other two colleagues didn't think he had much to offer. I used to take him down the pub, chat, and just listen, then seize on something and pursue it with him. 'Oh, then we could ...' 'Yes.' 'Have you told anyone about this, Jim?' 'They didn't seem interested.' The first couple of years of my career success in mobile were mostly based on Jim's knowledge. He knew; I applied and delivered. I always credited him, but of course, I got the kudos. * I'm afraid I was a bit cheeky with my implementation colleague on two occasions. We were both (by then) ambitious - over the years we chased each other up the tree in parallel departments to the senior grade. Very capable bloke. But in the early days, we often locked horns. He was very traditional, a technician come up through telephone exchanges who knew how 'things were done'. I didn't give a bugger, provided we did something useful. The first time I rather undermined him when he was on holiday, I turned the old system 'duplex'. Let me explain: the early phone handsets had a 'push to talk' bar in the handset, you pushed it when you wanted to speak and released it to listen. One of my abiding beliefs is that users should not be inconvenienced for technical reasons, and I thought, for the money they were paying, this was crap. So I'd written a spec which described a mobile unit which worked fully two way, and I had a manufacturer lined up to supply (Mobira, Nokia's original mobile phone company). But it needed a (fairly easy) modification to the fixed system and my colleague was 'considering it'. He said he didn't see why we should change it just for that reason. So I made a proposal to the boss while he was on holiday saying that to test the mobile prototype, we should do a trial in one area for a few weeks. He agreed. Once the change was made, there was no looking back. It was adopted system-wide, no question. If I had a good idea no bugger was going to stop me! The second time was more serious. It was the new automatic system. Lovely, crystal clear, good quality, but it would just cut off mid-call. I discovered it was because this chap's philosophy was if it wasn't top quality, the connection should be dropped. I disagreed. I consulted Jim, who gave me chapter and verse on the operation of the mute in our receivers (this is the signal detector that switches off when the signal drops below a certain level). So, again when my colleague was on holiday, I went to the boss and said 'I'd like to try the effect of turning the mute level down and see how that sounds to customers. Can we do a trial at one base station so I can run a mobile around?' He agreed, and so ... (I bet my colleague loved me at the time (not), but we became pals later.) Instead of the call simply chopping off (which many thought was a technical failure in the system) the user now heard increasing radio noise before the signal finally went. This enabled him to know the signal was fading, to round off his call or advise the callee he would ring back. Much, much better I thought. And the big bonus was that overall, the phones worked over a much greater area. Once we'd implemented it system wide, the customer service people came to us, gobsmacked. 'What did you do? We've got lots of letters from customers!' Oh, oh, I thought. '... Praising the changes -they think it's much better.' Hooray! My faith in human nature was soundly placed. It illustrates one characteristic which repaid me greatly: I can work out what will piss most people off with something. I was soon promoted again, and brought in a new bloke, Chris, to work for me and manage Jim. I briefed him thoroughly about 'gold-mine' Jim, and he was very successful with him. Chris was great, a brilliant engineer with ideas, and I took on more the role of promoting our work to the organisation, getting funding, as well as having bright ideas. They were happy years. We three were a formidable team. I was authorised by the government ministry concerned to sign off mobile equipment for use on the system, and no one else in the UK, except perhaps the military and security services, had our depth of knowledge and experience with sophisticated mobile equipment. So much so that when BABT was founded (the current authority for cellular phones), Ken, the bloke in charge, came to me to find out how we type-approved mobile units. Famous, eh? πŸ™‚ next time: I fight for the user, we are reorganised and I end up doing two jobs. To read Part 2 - Click Here
Archived comments for A History of the Mobile Phone Part 1
Mikeverdi on 30-03-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 1
Bugger....fame indeed, and who would have thought you knew how to piss people off πŸ™‚


Mike


Great writing John more please.

My original comment regarding 'pissing off' was made as a joke. We all piss somebody off...some more than others. In the end who gives a shit.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Hmmm . I actually said I know what pisses people off. πŸ™‚

This was in the nature of an experiment. I am interested in reactions. Some may mutter 'bigheaded git', but others may find it worth reading.

pommer on 31-03-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 1
Well, I read this article with great interest.What I found most interesting was the fact that there was someone in your organisation who had ideas which they did not seem to be able to exploit,and therefore required someone else to promote these ideas.In the long run everyone benefited.It doesn't really matter who gets the praise,as long as it benefited all.I am sure Jim must have thought to himself, I am glad I told someone.That was the only way his ideas could come to fruition.I have known a few Jims in my own long career in the nursing profession. I have myself often sown ideas in order to achieve results.I really enjoyed this piece.Be lucky, Peter.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. Jim was a very bright guy, with great knowledge. My good fortune was to able to pick up things he knew and see them in a wider context. I'm not sure he always put 2+2 together as I did, but then, we had different, complementary jobs to do. As you say, as a team, we were very good.

deadpoet on 22-05-2015
A History of the Mobile Phone Part 1


 photo mobiltelefon_zpscvlf3qso.jpg

Author's Reply:


Crystalline (posted on: 16-03-15)
For the prose challenge. Regret and guilt.

Crystalline It is with great trepidation I pick up my pen to write down what is, for me, in the nature of a confession. As I sit here in my study in my Cambridge college on the verge of retirement, I am minded to reveal at last the truth of a matter which I have kept secret for thirty years. The others involved in this great tragedy are gone: Alefson, a victim of alcoholism; Rembourne, who died by his own hand, and Roger Dante, killed in the Great War, a hero. How much their deaths were influenced by shame and regret I do not know, I only know that I myself have suffered for the last thirty years and only by concentrating on academia and learning did I feel I was I able to repair, to some extent, the unforgiveable thing we did. By revealing the story now, I hope people can learn from that. None of us ever spoke a word about the matter. And this script will only be released after my death, which thankfully may come soon. I hope we can be forgiven. No harm was intended, but that matters little when the catastrophic result of our actions is considered. * Alefson was our leader. A great botanist, zoologist and Antarctic explorer, his passion was searching for new forms of life. His was the discovery of the unique animals living in pools under the Antarctic ice, animalcules never before known or seen. He had single-handedly raised the University of Oslo to world prominence with his work. In all respects a great man, and as I found, a great leader. I was a postgraduate student at a Cambridge college, specialising in environmental adaptation of life forms. I had published some papers to mild acclaim, mostly from my peers, but in the world of academia, I was a nobody. Imagine my surprise then when a letter came from Alefson inviting me to accompany his expedition. He was most flattering and had apparently read my papers and as he put it 'recognised a like-minded soul'. I was flattered indeed, and immediately penned a reply, accepting his offer eagerly. I arranged leave of absence with my college, who were more than willing when told of my invitation from Alefson. In due course, I took a Pullman north to the great city of Newcastle and thence a steamer across the North Sea to Oslo to meet the man and the rest of the expedition. Rembourne was a peculiar fellow. Why Alefson selected him, I do not know. His speciality was biochemistry, the structure of cells. How this might be useful, I could not tell. In terms of personality he was withdrawn and uncommunicative, quite the opposite of Dante. Dante, it seemed, had little academic standing, but was strong as an ox, very quick and smart in understanding. I believe he could have done well in academic terms, but his interests lay elsewhere. He trekked, skied, swam, dived, and numbered most physical pursuits his own. I could certainly see where his usefulness lay, and I found even in the darkest times his optimism and bold spirit saw us through. * We were to land in Antarctica in the summer, when the shores were as free as possible from pack ice, and there was no danger of the vessel being locked in. We travelled from Southampton on a liner of the Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the Himalaya. It was a fine journey, and we were travelling first class due to the patronage Alefson had attracted. 'Make the most of this,' Alefson exclaimed one night at dinner. 'For the journey henceforth will be far less pleasurable.' He was right. Sharing cabins aboard a fast packet to New Zealand held no comparison to the luxurious staterooms we had enjoyed before. When we reached Wellington, we took rooms in a pleasant hotel, simple but amenable. Alefson introduced us to our ship, and its captain. Captain Alex was a Scotsman, terse and serious, but one who inspired confidence. His steamboat, the 'Venturer' looked purposeful and had armoured bows. He informed us that he had visited the ice fields many times and we should be safe in his hands. I believed him. It took us weeks to reach Antarctica, only stopping at Cape Adair on the way. But eventually we gazed out on the snowy expanse with vast mountains rising in the distance. An unknown land, where only a few had ventured. Antarctica was an experience. It was not at all as I expected, which was severe chill, as our weatherproof clothing served to defend our body heat for most of the time. At first, we stayed with the ship, venturing out each day to take samples deep from the ice and poring over our microscopes to detect any sign of life. Then Alefson announced we had to move further inland, close to the mountain range and camp there in order to examine a curious feature he had found on a previous expedition and not been able to investigate. We did so, with the help of some of the crew and the dogs and the sleighs that had been shipped aboard the Venturer. With the camp set up, the crew left us, vowing to return in fourteen days. They left with us ample provisions, and more importantly, our microscopes and other equipment that had been packed carefully for the journey. Alefson was meticulous, not a thing was left to chance. He and Rembourne shared one tent, while Dante and I shared the other. I found Dante pleasant and good-humoured, one who I divined knew more about our science than he admitted. Once, I taxed him with it. 'Why do you reject academic study? You have a sharp mind and a good understanding. You could do well.' 'Look at me,' he said, flexing his muscular arms and pushing out his torso. 'How could this body sit gloomily in a study with no sun or air, no place to stride, to run? It would be a living death for me.' This being said with a great grin, no criticism of his choice was appropriate. I never asked again, but bore in mind that here was a thinker, not just a muscleman to help and protect us. Perhaps Alefson's choices were wiser than I first imagined. * The feature that Alefson had found was a curious outcropping which could not be explained by formation of ice and snow. He explained that there must be rock projecting upwards, close to the surface, the tip of a rocky ridge. 'It is here we might find original traces of life. I consulted a geologist friend and found that this type of rock is likely to contain many fissures and cavities. The temperature lower down, if still cold, will be well above freezing, which means liquid water and possibly life could exist here.' While we were close enough to explore the ice-free mountain range, a previous expedition had found it barren, scoured by winds and too dry for life, Alefson explained. These buried rocks could be different. There is no doubt we were excited. We sat in Alefson's tent until the early hours, our conversation buzzing with conjecture, until he announced it was time to sleep as the next day we would need all our energies. * Indeed we did. Excavating snow and ice to reach the rock was taxing. Dante did most of the hard work, but it is fair to say that we all pitched in to lend a hand. 'One more day,' Alefson announced. 'The rock is very close to the surface here, and I've tested it with the probe. By the end of tomorrow it should be uncovered.' And it was. At the sight of the crystalline grey sedimentary rock we whooped with joy. But it took another few days to fully clear an area large enough for us to descend onto its surface. We could have done with more Dantes, I thought. * Our exploration of the rock now went on apace. By the third day, we had found fissures filled with water at quite a depth. We repaired to our tents and scrutinised each sample as Dante brought them up, dropping a weighted container on a long cord into each one. So far, we had found nothing. Dante had been uncovering more of the rock, revealing curious formations and folds, and some large voids. One in particular attracted his interest and he began clearing snow and ice from it. After several hours, we heard a cry. 'Come here, come and see what lies here.' There was a tone of urgency in his voice which had us hurrying. We reached the excavation, and stopped in amazement. Dante had uncovered what appeared to be the mouth of a cave. Alefson was excited. He urged Dante on, heedless of the effort needed. Dante responded, but even he, the epitome of manly fitness, had to take a rest. Thus it was I who finally uncovered the secret. I was examining what we now recognised as a cave, gazing at the wall of snow deeper in the cavity, and idly pushed at it, not expecting anything but resistance. To my surprise, a great chunk of snow fell back into a void behind, revealing a dark, snow-free, passage with a breath of curious warm dampness. * The opening led to a warren of caves, large and small, with passages between high enough to walk through, although headroom was sometimes limited. The passages had obviously been carved by running water at some stage in its distant history, as the sides and floor were relatively smooth, with only outcroppings of small, harder stones like pebbles interrupting the grey rock. 'I wish we had a geologist with us,' Alefson said, and surprisingly, Dante spoke up. 'I know a little,' he said, and went on to account for the formation of the network of caves and the rock, which had once been a sea-bed. The man was full of surprises, and as I had divined earlier, had more to him than physical prowess. Given the history and formation of the area, we were confident of finding water, pools. This would be at lower levels, and by the light of our torches, we each took one of the several downward paths, marking our passage on the rock wall with chalk so we could find our way back. Rembourne had said he would rather not search the caves on account of his claustrophobia, so the three of us continued while he returned to camp. The network of caves was a maze, it seemed to go on forever. Each time we broke off to return to the camp and rest, it took more and more time, and also more time to return the next day to the point where we had broken off. There were difficulties, some of the passages were a tight squeeze, and woe betide anyone with Rembourne's problem attempting exploration of this phenomenon. We were about to give up hope as we entered our eighth day. I was halfway down to the point where I had reached the day before when, faintly, I heard a distant shout, what sounded like a triumphal yell, and obviously Dante's from its tone. I scrambled back along the passages, heedless of bumps and bruises on the outcroppings to the point where Dante's allotted route had diverged from ours. Alefson was there before me. 'Come on,' he said. 'He has found something.' After about half an hour's stumbling progress, shouting hoarsely, we heard Dante's voice, not far away. 'Just here, just here.' And round the next bend an incredible sight met our eyes. The caves opened up into a vast vault, the ceiling high above. And wonder of wonders, below was an enormous lake! * We rushed forward and reached the edge of the lake. The still, dark, waters glinted in the torchlight, not a ripple to be seen. 'We need more light,' Alefson said. 'We will bring the lamp tomorrow.' We had brought a large oil lamp which had been little use so far. Now it would come into its own. Although we were reluctant to leave, we made our way back to the surface and the camp and, while we ate, briefed Rembourne on our find. 'Tomorrow you must take many samples at different depths,' he told us. 'I only wish I could accompany you, but I know I should only be a hindrance with my handicap. I'm sorry.' We assured him that we understood, and went to our beds thinking only of the next day. * 'There is life here,' Alefson cried, hunched over his microscope. He was observing the samples we had collected from the surface and near surface of the lake. We had known it as soon as we were able to view the cloudy water in bright light. It contained a myriad of hitherto unknown animalcules. Alefson was in his element, completely engrossed in the new finds. We decided that the next day we would drop sample bottles to lower levels. We had tried to measure the depth of the lake, but found we did not have a line long enough to reach the bottom - it must have been over a hundred feet deep. To our joy, the samples from lower down showed signs of life visible to the naked eye. No microscope was needed, except for fine observation of the various tiny animals that swam in the soupy water. We spent happy hours examining and cataloguing the creatures and preserving them to take back with us, on microscope slides, or with the larger ones, in small jars of formalin. We determined to try to obtain samples from the very depths, where even larger creatures might lurk. To do so, we searched for every line, cord and rope in the camp, and assembled a great length, far greater than anything we had used that far. The next day we plunged a large sample jar into the lake, and after many fruitless tries, eventually found what appeared to be an embryonic fish in our trap. It was at least an inch long, with clearly defined features. The next day brought more, some several inches long, and in addition some kind of transparent crustacean. It was hard work hauling the line up, and each time we did not know what would appear. So many times there was nothing, but when we did find something, we were elated. It was on the next day that it happened. Something I shall always remember and treasure ... and regret bitterly. I'd confided in Alefson that I had had some strange changes of mood as we had dropped the sample jar in our latest hunt. For no reason at all, I suddenly became curious. Of course, naturally I was curious about what we were finding and might find, but this was far and away much greater, overwhelming. I'd shaken it off, but it had resonated with me until we left the cave, when I immediately found myself returning to normal. I felt I should warn Alefson in case I was suffering delusions that might jeopardise the expedition. To my surprise, he looked thoughtful. 'I felt the same. The exact same feeling as you describe.' I was both shocked and amazed, and Alefson confessed he was too. 'There must be a cause for this, some gas or emanation from the rocks or the water affecting our senses.' Dante, when quizzed, admitted no such feelings. It was a mystery. As we plunged our sample jars yet again into the lake, we became aware of a glow, far beneath. A feeling of discomfort passed through me, then curiosity again, then great excitement. I glanced at Alefson. 'Yes, I feel it too,' he said, divining my unspoken question. The glow grew steadily stronger, and after a time, we realised something was rising from the depths, something glowing ... and vast. The feeling of excitement, and welcome, grew to the exclusion of all other emotions. 'It's a creature,' Dante cried. 'Some kind of creature.' We could make out a shining bulk, slowly growing closer. The details were indistinct, but it was spherical. At first its surface seemed rough, but as the creature rose, it resolved itself into distinct glowing branches surrounding an inner sphere. 'It's like a damned great snowflake,' Dante gasped, forgetting for a moment his manners. And it was. As it broke the surface, we perceived a complicated branched structure, transparent and glowing, which could have been pseudopods. At their centre was a mass, its features indistinct because of the flickering light radiating from its surface . Our feeling of curiosity and welcome strengthened so much I could almost hear the words which would have been used to ask the question. I later discovered Alefson had felt it too. I tried to answer by speaking. 'We are natives of this world, called humans. We are scientists seeking new forms of life. Who are you?' Dante looked bemused. A mental image formed that was incomprehensible to me. Here was a new life form, clearly intelligent, a truly beautiful sight. God knows how it had developed and for how long it had inhabited this underground pool. I found a way of communicating with the creature. It reacted to my spoken words, perhaps projected by my thoughts, and I received its thoughts in my mind. It was very basic, and we could indulge in no complex discussion. And there were many thought-images I could not grasp, especially when it referred to itself. But despite these limitations, I divined a personality, and respect for the creature grew as we communicated. I would go so far as to say I believe we developed some kind of friendship, fully based on goodwill and trust. * 'We must learn more of this creature's structure,' Rembourne said, leaning forward. 'What kind of life is it? What cells is it based on? How does it function?' 'That is hard to tell. We can't snip a piece off a living creature to test it.' Alefson shook his head. 'But we can investigate without harming it, and I have the very equipment to do that.' I am sure we were all surprised. Rembourne pulled out the two large boxes he had insisted on bringing and placed them between us. Flinging open the lids, he revealed apparatus unknown to any of us. One box, the smaller, had a panel bearing electrical switches and a knob with a dial marked with various numbers. Beside that was a meter, with a large pointer and a dial marked one to ten. In the other box were various pieces of equipment, electrical wires and plugs, a horn-shaped instrument, and a black perforated box mounted on springs in a frame. Supplemented by two light tripods, this puzzling collection of technical devices were like nothing I had ever seen. Rembourne seemed excited. 'I wish to God I could get down there with you. But you will have to operate this equipment on my behalf. Don't worry, it is relatively simple, and any of you can master it in no time.'He reached into the box, pointing to the horn. 'This is a loudspeaker, it projects sound waves.' Moving to the black box in a frame, he said, 'And this is a microphone, which collects the reflected sound and measures its strength.' Of course, we were all familiar with the telephone, and understood the purpose of the devices. 'But what about the box with the dial?' Alefson asked. 'Ah, that is the key to my investigations. It is an electrical device, with its own accumulator, that generates frequencies which feed into the loudspeaker at high volume. And the meter measures the responses.' 'But what can that tell us?' I was truly puzzled. 'The pitch of the sound waves is higher than the human ear can hear. It is in a range tuned to absorption by living cells. By making a series of readings across the range of tones, I can deduce some idea of the substance of this creature, and how its cells may be constructed.' He grinned, an unusual expression for Rembourne. 'I knew this equipment would be useful.' * Thus the next day, having been briefed on the detailed operation of the equipment and the methodology we must employ in making the readings, we set off, Dante carrying the heavy generator box, and Alefson and I carrying the other between us. Once again, the creature rose to meet us, and a welcoming feeling of goodwill filled my head. I spoke words of greeting in return. We set up the equipment. The creature was curious, slightly cautious I felt. I said it should not worry, our tests would not harm it, explaining its function, and its thoughts became relaxed. We turned on the generator and lined up the equipment on the tripods as Rembourne had instructed. The horn was pointed at the heart of the glowing mass, as was the microphone. At first, Dante set the generator tones with little incident, while I recorded the measurements of the reflected sound at each point. I was pleased to see a pattern in the levels, which rose and fell across the different tones. Surely Rembourne would have something to work with here? But as the tones climbed higher, according to the dial markings, I began to sense a feeling of discomfort. There was nothing particular I could identify from the creature, but a vague feeling of something changing, not being normal. I instructed Dante to carry out the final readings quickly, as if the creature was being distressed by the sound, it was better over soon. Oh how I rue that decision. How I regret not taking the creature's discomfort seriously. But it had no suspicions either. It trusted us. Never was a trust so badly misplaced. As Dante set one particular tone, something happened. My head filled with an overwhelming scream of pain. I saw Alefson fall to the ground clutching his head, and Dante look on with confusion. As I watched, the glowing fronds developed thousands of tiny cracks and pieces tumbled off into the water. I cried out, 'Turn off the accursed machine, Dante' and he did so. But it was too late. As we watched in horror, the glowing core at the heart of the giant creature began to dim. In my head one faint thought flickered - a mixture of terror, pain and questioning. Then all light left it and it disintegrated, sinking into the depths, and the presence was gone. Gone forever. After a while, in utmost sorrow, we pitched the damned machine into the lake, and stumbled back to the surface and the camp. We hardly spoke, except to tell Rembourne what had happened. 'God!' he said. 'It must have been entirely crystalline, and by chance the equipment hit on the very frequency to resonate the crystal structure to destruction. Why did I not consider that?' Rembourne seemed more affected than the rest of us. That night he developed a fever, and began continually blaming himself, crying out, 'Why didn't I ...?' It was two days before the crew returned to accompany us back to the ship. We spent our time carrying all our samples down to the cave and throwing them in the lake. No trace of our discoveries would ever be found. 'The snows will cover the cave entrance next season,' Alefson said. It is unlikely anyone else will find the cave or its contents.' How difficult for a scientist to hide discoveries. From that day on, Alefson was a different man. The spark had gone out of him, he was no longer our leader. Even Dante was quiet, his usual good humour flown. Before the crew arrived, we made a solemn vow to say nothing of the sorry matter, the tragedy, the betrayal. And we all kept to that vow. * Now, over forty years later, with all of them gone and myself about to quit this life, it is proper to leave a testimony for others to read; to tell of the beauty we destroyed and the wonderful chance that was lost to communicate with another form of intelligence. What other man has suffered so much from guilt that he can never speak about? Until now, in this letter attached to my will, to be read when it will not matter any more and I can be at rest. But most of all, in memory of a friend whose name I never knew. .
Archived comments for Crystalline
bluepootle on 16-03-2015
Crystalline
I really like the formal tone here, the solemnity, and the reveal of the creature isn't a let-down in the face of such an elegant build-up. It's a fascinating construction, and I also like the fact that nothing is (for me) overexplained. You also never tell us why the narrator might die soon, and I think that works. It highlights how much of this experience remains unknown. Very strong, with the form and meaning coming together so well.

Some tiny things:

I found it jarring that you translated, in a way, the 'language' of the creature into phrases ('Who are you?' etc) I felt less might be more here, by simply suggesting that communication was taking place on a deep level rather than through conscious projection of thoughts. But that might just be me.

You've got a lot of 'deep' and 'depths' all clubbed together at one point. It drew attention to itself.

PS. Animalcules is a brilliant word. I'd never come across it before and was about to flag it as some sort of typo, but then I looked it up. I love it.

Author's Reply:
You are right on both points. Thankyou. I'll edit.

When I was a teenager, I went through lots of phases of interest in science. Starting with chemistry and slowly drifting into physics, and practically electronics. Somewhere in between I fancied microscopy and studied it to death before moving on (never had a microscope, but could give you chapter and verse on preparing slides) that's where animalcules comes from - I too love interesting words and slung it in deliberately (and tried not to repeat it too much).

Thanks πŸ™‚

TheBigBadG on 16-03-2015
Crystalline
Yup, good stuff here. That enthusiasm you were feeling appears to be the satisfaction of getting a good one. Love it when that happens. The formality and academic tone, as Blue said, is neat here, offsetting the guilt and shame. I like the sense of isolation and strangeness during the whole sequence in and around the cave as well.

The structure is probably my favourite thing though, the way it resonates (sorry, couldn't resist) with his jealously of Dante's physicality and his regret at the results of his academic endeavour. The fact he ends up hiding in some college (I'd suggest Clare if you want to name it - tucked away, reclusive, would make a nice hiding place because only Catabrians really know about it) having travelled literally to the ends of the Earth. Fruitful setup, nicely done.

Couple of particular suggestions:
* There were maybe one or two repetitions I'd merge. The double mention of claustrophobia for instance.
* Exclamation marks - Ok, personal thing of mine, but I hate them more with every passing year. I think your words are good enough without the !

Also, one morsel for thought on a more macro-cosmic scale. I do think the introduction is a bit unbalanced at the moment largely because it's written as a letter/document. The epistolary framing is a good idea, and suits the tone very well, but maybe put something more at the end? The classic gothic - Dracula, Frankenstein etc - structure frames both ends with letters (or letters within letters), for instance. I wonder if you could move bits of the intro to the end so it gets into the story more quickly, and close with a sign-off reflection on his bleak state of mind despite living in a beautiful place, perhaps?

Anyway, good stuff like I say.

Author's Reply:
Thanks.

I was aware of the repetition and did not think it too serious, but no harm in changing it. I guess.

Exclamations: In modern writing I agree with you, but come now! I only used one! To be serious, don't you think it suits the writing style of the time that I have employed? (together with the circumlocutory language) They did use them liberally back then!

Thanks for the excellent suggestion on the ending. Will do! πŸ™‚

Rab on 16-03-2015
Crystalline
An excellent take on the prompt (I kept waiting for a glass model to turn up!), and I like the slightly archaic, formal tone. The unwitting destruction of the crystal creature is a good metaphor for our need to know and own everything, too.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. I've written a few stories in a 'Victorian' formal tone (although this one is slightly later) and I feel very comfortable with it. I think it shows, as I got good reactions for all of them.

OldPeculier on 16-03-2015
Crystalline
Very good stuff. I liked the formal language, especially with the hint of boyish enthusiasm about the trip and your traveling companions.

I think there was a little too much given away in the first section. You talk about the beauty that has been destroyed which sort of gives the game away for the rest of the story. That line might be better at the end maybe.

Either way, I think its a very readable tale and a good interpretation of the prompt.

Author's Reply:
I wondered how much to give away. 'Beauty' is pretty general, but of course, it resonates once the creature is described - it has to be beautiful. Will think seriously about it and edit. Good comment.

TheBigBadG on 16-03-2015
Crystalline
You're right, you did only use one and I may have simply demonstrated my own irrational distastes. But irrational or no, they're mine! *ahem* I just find there's something unsubtle about them, brash even. 'Wonder of wonders' was ample emphasis for me.

Author's Reply:
I said I agreed for current writing. You are a man of today, not a post-Victorian! πŸ™‚

pommer on 17-03-2015
Crystalline
What a fantastic story of a journey of exploration into the unknown.I really enjoyed reading it and I could feel the atmosphere throughout.I loved the description of the participants and the various stages of the journey especially the discovery of the lake and finally the being that appeared to be residing there, and the attempt of communicating.I also felt the sense of loss of a friend and the regret. A wonderful story well told.I also appreciated the use of formal language. Congratulations. Peter.

Author's Reply:
Thank you. Your remarks are very much appreciated. Nice to know you 'got it' πŸ™‚ JohnG

Mikeverdi on 19-03-2015
Crystalline
Sorry to be late. As I read this excellent story I was reminded of books I've read by Rider Haggart, Conan Doyle etc.. similar in writing style. I love the way you adopted the style and made it yours. I was a little thrown by the language transfer,the words seemed a little out of kilter; but I guess how else could it communicate. John I really liked this story, one of your best for me.
Mike
ps and well worth the Nib.
Mike


Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. I did feel this was a cut above even before I put fingers to keyboard - I mentioned on the prose challenge forum that it was the first time for a while I felt really enthused about my writing. (autobiog is not the same). I am very comfortable with this style. Have you ever read 'The talent of Julia cramphorne'? if you liked this you'll love that - and it's spicy! πŸ™‚ Find it at :

http://ukauthors.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=11943

sweetwater on 19-03-2015
Crystalline
I really enjoyed reading this, I found the more old fashioned storytelling drew me in, and it was very easy to get totally caught up in the unfolding tale. The ending was almost heartbreaking, man always manages to destroy whatever he touches. Sue x

Author's Reply:
Sue. Thank you so much. You will see from my other replies that I think I got my mojo back, at least for now. It's thanks to people like you lot, I'm encouraged and enthused. So many thanks again
JohnG


Autumn Poem 2 (posted on: 09-03-15)
Bit of an experiment --- not sure it comes off ....

Autumn Poem 2 Rustling through the silver night in glassy gown with hinted frown the lady of the season peers with knowing eyes and keeps her ears attuned to the accustomed fears, the harvest home, the salty tears of those who come home empty-handed, lost, bereft, with nothing landed in their homestead's bare retention, no assurance, intervention only from the wealth of all, a little food into their hall might keep them safe through winter's thrall and then a budding soft spring flower, caught before the closing hour bears them up at sun's first rising – warmth and beauty so surprising. But then again, when summer's past, autumn will return at last. .
Archived comments for Autumn Poem 2
Mikeverdi on 09-03-2015
Autumn Poem 2
I really like the words,it hangs together well. There are changes I would make on as personnel level... But that's just me. One thing I would change is the lay out. In saying this I enjoyed it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks. I'm not sure how I would change the layout, the only way I can see is to split the lines to provide more end-line rhymes. But I deliberately chose to avoid that layout because I wanted to run it all together in a rush.

sweetwater on 11-03-2015
Autumn Poem 2
Read this twice, the second time was after I read your reply to Mike about reading it in a rush, so that's what I did and enjoyed it even more, I found it absolutely captivating. Sue.x

Author's Reply:
Thank you so much. And appreciate the hottie

pommer on 11-03-2015
Autumn Poem 2
I enjoyed reading your experiment. I liked it. Even the lay out was to me a novelty. Had to read it twice,well done. Peter.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for reading and commenting. Your words are appreciated.


Paralysed! Part 3 (conclusion) (posted on: 09-03-15)
Something happens that changes my life again.

To read Part 1 CLICK HERE Paralysed! Part 3 At times I had dark thoughts, I have to be frank. Once I found a box of very strong pain killing drugs they used to stop my leg pains. The drugs had fallen out of my lockup cupboard. I managed to pick them up with my handy pickup stick, and I hid them at the back of my cupboard. But I doubt I would ever have used them, I'm too optimistic. Or just stubborn. Part of the depression I experienced at the time was because I was coming off the morphine as I healed, and reality was biting. In particular, when I went home for Sunday lunch, the room seemed so small with the wheelchair in it and I thought it would be impossible to live like that. But they were the dark days. There were bright spots in my hospital stay. One of the nurses brought her daughter in. She was about nine. I'm good with kids, especially little girls, who I find more open and mature than boys. And they like me. So when her mother brought her in, the girl used to gravitate to my bedside and chatter away. We'd talk about all sorts of things, and she cheered me up. I gave her a copy of my illustrated story 'The Golden Knight' that I'd printed off for my nephews and nieces. Amazingly, just a year or two ago, now 18 or so, she emailed me out of the blue. She'd found the story when clearing out her bedroom, and wanted to say thanks to me and how much it had meant to her at the time. Nice. * It was three o'clock in the morning. I had been paralysed for two months. I was lying in bed, awake, and had a peculiar feeling. I was imagining I could move my left kneecap (that windows box was fading in and out of grey). 'I was dreaming' I told myself, but I became more convinced as somehow there was a thing in my head called 'kneecap' and I could swear there was a reaction when I tried to do something with it (sorry, that's the best way I can describe it). I got out the little torch I used to check the clock on the wall at night, and reached down and balanced a small card on the blanket over my knee. I watched it as I did whatever it was I could now do. It tilted! I did it again, it tilted again. I couldn't believe it. I was excited and restless and couldn't wait to tell the doctors. They called it my 'flicker' and told me not to get too excited. But gradually, over days, it became stronger, and I was sure other parts of my legs were coming back, but I couldn't detect significant movement. We were doing the medicine ball exercise. The physio said to the helper, 'stop holding him' as yet again I returned the ball without falling over. My score went up from the previous 3-4 to 15 or more out of twenty. 'Er, I think my legs have come back a bit,' I said. The physios were great. They pounced upon the situation and started working as hard as they could to develop the recovering movement. Gradually, over time, I was able to move my legs very slightly. I found when transferring from the wheel chair, I could use my legs as pivots, just to hold me up as I moved. There was no strength in them as the muscles had atrophied and it was just bone under the skin, so I could do little more than that. I discovered why old folks get bedsores. The bones of my backside pressing on the skin were painful at times as I sat. * After around 12 weeks in the hospital, I was pronounced medically fit, and left in my wheelchair for the rehabilitation unit. It was a different world. They had been fully briefed by my physios and took me in for assessment. I transferred to a bed. They said, 'roll over onto your front'. Then they said, 'Get up on all fours'. I was gobsmacked. Did they think they were Jesus doing a miracle? But I tried - and I could! I could not believe it. My wife was there, and I'll always remember her face. Surprise, joy, and perhaps a little relief? And this was the first day! I was excited. What next? On the second day came the big one. They parked my wheelchair at the end of two parallel handrails and said, 'Pull yourself up.' I did, with difficulty, and teetered there taking most of my weight on my arms. 'Get your feet straight and let some weight onto them,' they told me. With difficulty, and some random, weak shuffling, I got my feet under me. By that time, I'd relaxed anyway as it was getting too tiring to hold myself up. I realised I was standing. I felt the roughness of my socks under the soles of my feet, I felt my legs supporting me. And I have to admit, I cried. I don't think I'll ever have such a feeling again. I can still feel it now, remembering, and my eyes begin to water as I do. Over the next days, I was able to take shuffling steps - I walked. Clinging to parallel bars, yes, but I did. One day I let go of the bars, turned round in a circle, and grabbed them again. They shouted at me. 'Never do that again!' I thought, why not? But later they got me walking without the bars, just a step at a time with them holding me in case I fell. And once or twice I nearly did. But my legs were getting stronger. They forced me to use them, to do the exercises to strengthen them. * The first few days, I was messing the bed still. Then the incontinence nurse visited me. 'What are you taking?' I told her the laxatives the hospital had prescribed. 'For god's sake,' she said, 'stop taking the docusate, you shouldn't be taking that much laxative.' She was quite peeved. I stopped, and within a few days I was visiting the toilet almost normally. I did have more accidents subsequently, but that's what they now were, and the situation improved every day. So here I was, after a week in the rehab centre and I was (sort of) walking and (sort of) continent. Who'd have ever thought it? * They didn't expect too much from my legs and I was still in a wheelchair. The few faltering steps I could manage weren't enough to get about with. But they moved me onto crutches for short distances and I started to use them a lot within the unit. We could prepare our own breakfast in the kitchen - make toast, a cup of tea etc. The kitchen was narrow with surfaces each side. I could arrive, park my crutches, and move up and down using the surfaces for support. One day I had a cup of tea and a plate with toast on. I looked at my crutches. Obviously, I couldn't use them and carry my breakfast the 10 feet to the table. So I walked. Nurses ran up and grabbed me. 'Don't ever do that again!' they scolded. I thought, why not? * It's amazing what you unconsciously learn as a child. My body had forgotten everything. For instance, I had to be taught how to get up out of a chair. Sounds simple, but unless you have the technique, you can't get up. Basically you have to bring your centre of gravity forward and fling yourself upwards in hope with one thrust. It works. Try to do it slowly, you can't. I had to develop muscles to keep balance. These are the muscles that skiers use. You put one foot in front of the other and keep balanced. At first, I found it difficult, I would fall to one side or the other before I stepped out and recovered. The people there were experts, and even taught me how to walk properly again. It's not simple, but I did it. Later, I took great pleasure in pushing the wheelchair in through the doors myself to return it. No longer needed! * Two months after leaving the rehab centre, I was sitting on the top of a stepladder rewiring the fusebox of our house in France, as we had had a lightning strike on the overhead power cables – not unusual. I suddenly realised how far I'd come and what it meant for my life. I was almost back to normal, just that the fused vertebrae meant I did not find it easy to bend forward slightly, such as over a sink or vacuuming, for any length of time (an ache would build up). Shame! πŸ™‚ Otherwise I was normal again and have remained so. * Postscript I have always been an independent soul, controlling most things. In hospital I could do nothing. My wife had to manage all the bills, day to day stuff and repairs. She did. I'm embarrassed to say I also learned a new respect for my kids. You kind of take kids for granted, you love them but you don't see them as people, just your kids. Looking at them from my hospital bed and talking to them seriously maybe for the first time, I discovered two fine people, honest, dutiful, thoughtful, caring. I was ashamed, and one great benefit from my experiences is from that time I have more respect for them as individuals, our relationship is closer and we spend more time together. Magic. And the considerable kindness of friends and family, and the nursing staff was heart-warming. After I'd come home, I wrote a poem and sent it to the hospital ward I'd been on as a thankyou. The sister said she put it up on the notice board, and the nurses especially appreciated it. I'd once asked a nurse, 'Why do you do this?' and she answered, 'Because of the ones that get better.' I was pleased (for them) that I was now numbered amongst the successes. Here's the poem. I'm sure after hearing of my experiences you will understand the significance. A Confident Fart For months in hospital I'd lain, A victim of intrusive pain I could not stand to leave the bed Or sit upon a pan instead. I had to void my noxious motions On a pad, where literal oceans Of flooding filth would fill my world The nurse was summoned… Thankyou, girl! Sometimes a passing doc would say 'You're constipated.' – I'd say 'Yay!' – Some respite from the stealthy tide That flowed unbidden from inside. And then the bastard doc would state: 'It's Picolax for him!' –Too late! My respite soon would be no more As bubbling foment 'gan to roar. Then, resting in another place I found, at last, a welcome grace Clean of pants both night and day A toilet where I'd make my way. Now home, still careful of my state Unwilling to offend my mate As I step slowly on the stair Something strange has filled the air Despite the trials and tribulations Confidential evaluations, The final proof of Nature's art – One drawn-out, CLEAN, and splendid fart! Thanks for reading .... .
Archived comments for Paralysed! Part 3 (conclusion)
Mikeverdi on 09-03-2015
Paralysed! Part 3 (conclusion)
A true tale of hope triumphing over adversity John. I salute you for your effort, both in recovery, and in writing this account. So pleased it turned out okay for you all.

I well remember the 'confident fart' period after one of my operations HaHa!

Mike

Author's Reply:
I told you it would be okay. I guess I was very lucky . My spinal cord was compressed but not damaged. I think the guys at Stanmore knew this (they'd seen it in the flesh of course) but no one wanted to raise false hopes, so they didn't tell me, apart from one hint in a conversation. I'm sure the medical records would have mentioned it as a possibility. These days, of course, I get copies of all the letters that the consultants send my GP etc about my present condition.


sweetwater on 11-03-2015
Paralysed! Part 3 (conclusion)
So glad everything returned to its correct order in the end, as before I was hooked from start to finish. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. I'm very low at the moment so your kind of words have cheered me up.


Sonnet 1 (posted on: 06-03-15)
A discussion about a sonnet here reminded me of the only sonnet I have ever written πŸ™‚

There are now many types of sonnet. This is a traditional Shakespearian sonnet. The aim is to build up a scenario in the first 12 lines, and for the last lines to deliver a witty punch line, based on the build-up. I was only motivated to write this as a response to one of the lively poetry challenges and discussion we used to have on the site at the time. Sonnet 1 When I hear sonnets flowing from their lips Oftimes I praise them though I see their flaws For no more reason than politeness strips The truth for those who might give me applause Thus, falsely praising, do I get my way Praise in return comes flooding to my wealth The self-same words that once they heard me say Lave me in warmth and greatly suit my health But have I rendered right my stratagem? Yes, praise is always soothing to the breast. The close-drawn circle formed 'twixt me and them Can only by such means remain impress'd. Therefore our tempers are assuaged, replete While poetry is tempered by deceit. .
Archived comments for Sonnet 1
sweetwater on 08-03-2015
Sonnet 1
Very much enjoyed reading this, slight mishap beginning of line 8 maybe should it have read 'leave'? You are making a point that I have often wondered about when on open sites people praise something that is really un praiseworthy, it's nice for the writer but it's empty in its value. Sue.

Author's Reply:
No, it's 'lave' it's an English verb originally from the Latin, basic meaning is 'wash'- hence lavish, lavatory. In French, laver.

I wasn't trying to make a particular point in this, merely desperate to find something to hook a sonnet on (and get decent last lines). As I indicated, it was written a while ago, and this topic was being discussed in the poetry forum, so it was fresh in my mind at the time.

There are different forms now, all called sonnets (I blame Americans) much like most Haikus are not. But language and poetry develop, of course. I like the Shakespearian sonnet for the punch line. A lot of what Shakespeare wrote is recited in reverential tones, but if you look closely, his words are full of humour, innuendo and jokes. That's how he kept the common folk (his audience) entertained.

ps: more on lave. and associated meaning is bathe or coat - you might lave a roasting joint with its juices, 'she laved him with kisses' has been used, etc, so that's where the praise comes in.
It's not by any means in common use today, but undoubtedly was in Shakespeare's time.


Paralysed! Part 2 (posted on: 06-03-15)
I face life in a wheelchair, wearing a nappy ...

To read Part 1 CLICK HERE Paralysed! Part 2 Incontinence was the worst part by far. Being in a wheelchair was manageable, but blarting my guts out randomly wasn't. I later met people who controlled it with blockers and laxatives, but ... The hospital was in the town centre, so later on, I started going out for lunch with friends and family. But in the middle of a meal, my bowels sometimes would let go. Fortunately I had a kind of nappy, and thick trousers, but my wife said, 'I could see your face change'. Unpleasant, sitting in shit while you eat. They constantly referred to my wife as my 'carer'. I protested every time. I promised her that by hook or by crook, she would not have to wipe my bottom. She would have done it, but I know she would have hated it and therefore so would I. So I planned designs of mirrors and machines to deal with it (remember I was still drugged to the eyeballs for a time). Lying in filth at night, it sometimes took an hour or more for a nurse to come. The problem was to clean me, they rolled me to one side, then the other to replace the sheet. This of course, got my bowels moving, so several times as the nurse walked away and I was clean and fresh ... blart! On those occasions, I'm afraid I decided to put up with it and didn't call again for a couple of hours as I really didn't think it was fair to the nurses. * Although I could not move my legs, I could feel them. Because I was lying in one position, not moving, things got really sore - my heels hurt like hell, I had to used rolled blankets under my shins to raise them off the sheet. But the worst pain was in my legs. If I hadn't actually experienced true agonising pain, I'd call it agonising. I used to wake up each morning and my legs felt cold ... and the pain! I used to wake up crying. Because of this I was allowed oral morphine whenever I wanted it. If I asked, they had to give me some immediately. It took two nurses, one monitoring the other, to go off and fetch the small syringe which was squirted down the back of my throat. It brought instant relief. This usually happened about 6 o'clock in the morning when I woke. One morning I woke late. The same pain was there, but the tea lady had just appeared and I had a cup of hot tea. It stopped the pain! Never mind bloody morphine I thought (I never liked taking drugs) - all I need is a good hot cuppa. The next morning I woke at 6. I asked the nurse for a cup of tea. The machine was in a small room next to our end of the ward. 'Oh, the trolley will be here in a moment' she said with a smile and waltzed off. Two hours later ..... Nurses would not bring tea. That was beneath them. (it's all changed now as I found in 2012). In the day, fellow patients who could walk would go and fetch me some from the machine, but it was that morning tea I needed, and generally no one was about at 6. So I got my wife to bring in a small thermos, and last thing at night asked the nurses to fill it with hot water from the machine. They did this (god knows why this was somehow different). Each morning I would make my own tea and drink it gratefully as the pain ebbed away. After about a week, the sister noticed I'd stopped asking for morphine and suddenly the nurses began to ask me if I wanted a cup of tea as soon as I woke up. After a while, they gave me a very powerful drug which was used for people with phantom limbs. This stopped the pain. * I found it was important to keep cheerful. Of course at times I felt down and despairing, just wanting to hide under the blankets. If I had a visitor, a feedback loop was set up. I noticed it first with my son. I was feeling miserable, and he reacted by being miserable too. I reacted to him by feeling more miserable ... So in my own interests I realised I had to always be jolly and bright with visitors. It was strange, they reacted by being cheerful in return and somehow this genuinely made me feel more cheerful. Crazy! * It's hard to describe being paralysed, unable to move a limb, in this case, both legs. In the past I've compared it with those little tick boxes in windows. 'See if you can move your legs,' the doctor would say. It meant nothing. There was nothing in my head that connected with those words. If they said 'roll over' I did. But legs? No. In terms of the windows parallel, the tick boxes marked 'legs' were greyed out. Not only that, but really there were no boxes titled 'legs'. There are significant effects on your body if you are lying down for a long time with your legs on a level, even for a week or two. I found out just how it had affected me when they brought a table which would tilt up. I was moved onto it and strapped in, and they gradually wound it upright. At about 45 degrees they had to stop as I nearly blacked out as the blood left my head. It took quite a few repetitions of the exercise over many days, timed on each occasion, before I was able to remain upright comfortably without raised legs. * The physiotherapists were great. They helped me build up my upper body strength so eventually I could lift my whole body on my arms and swing it across onto a 'banana board' - a curved board that I worked my way across in small swings from the wheelchair to a bed or a seat, or a car seat. My son once timed me at 20 seconds wheelchair to car. I was good! Think about your body. Essentially, It's a great big heavy sausage with a few bits sticking out of it - head, arms, legs. Try to balance a sausage on one end, unsupported. You can't. Normally, people use the muscles in their legs to stabilise their body when sitting or walking, tiny movement keeping the balance, thigh muscles locking the position. I had no such control. It is possible, with lots of practice, to shift your body weight and use your arms to balance the sausage, and that's what they were teaching me. Side to side toppling you could prevent by putting your arms down to stabilise, forward or back, there was no such means. I used to sit upright, unsupported, with someone behind to grab me if I began to topple, and they'd throw a medicine ball which I had to catch and throw back. I had to learn not to fall over. We'd do twenty throws each session, and I was improving! Maybe 3 or 4 times I got it back without having to be grabbed. The physios arranged, once I was fully fit medically, that I would go to a special rehabilitation unit nearby. This would be three weeks learning how to live in a wheelchair. They had an accessible kitchen etc, for practice. I looked forward to learning how to deal with this new phase in my life. To read next part - Click Here
Archived comments for Paralysed! Part 2
Mikeverdi on 06-03-2015
Paralysed! Part 2
I have nothing to compare this with. Cancer, for me isn't like this...yet. I have looked at the guys and girls in wheel chairs playing sports, trying to imagine what it would be like. The shit bit I get, after my last opp it was like this for a bit, and I still have piss pads if I go out drinking... or for any length of time. You wrote once of my honesty...and here you are. I want to say I'm enjoying this read, somehow that doesn't sound right. The writing is first class, more documentary than story (if you get my meaning). It is by any account a terrific account of an appalling time in your, and your families, life.
I look forwards to better times for you.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Never fear Michael. Wait until part 3 before you are concerned πŸ™‚

Writing this, ten years on, is not as difficult as I thought. Perhaps I'm just insensitive, but I was mostly quite cheerful in the face of the pain and worry, strangely enough. I even made jokes like 'at least I won't have to buy any more shoes'.

sweetwater on 08-03-2015
Paralysed! Part 2
I like a great many I suspect, was totally unaware of all that is associated with being paralysed, I just imagined you can't move the legs, no idea of the pain or other problems which make life so unpleasant for the sufferer. A very well written piece that keeps one wanting to read even more, always hoping for a happy ending though. Sue.

Author's Reply:
thankyou for your concern. I can only point you at part 3, the concluding episode, as I did Mike. πŸ™‚


Paralysed! Part 1 (posted on: 02-03-15)
A terrible, terrible time in my life.

Thanks go to Mike Verdi for showing me that warts and all autobiographies can be interesting. Paralysed! Part 1 It was December 13th 2004. I'm starting to write this ten years to the day, the date when I was paralysed for life (according to the doctors), but it'll take some time ... * I had been having twinges in my back for months, and coming back from France for Christmas, it was seizing up badly. I spent Sunday 12th December in bed, and was attended by a doctor who told me to keep moving. That made it worse. Four o'clock Monday. I went to the en-suite toilet. When I got up, my legs collapsed under me, and I lay on my side with one leg kicking randomly. I called out to my son to get an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived, they gave me as much morphine as they could. They said they could not lift me from where I was lying in the doorway, could I crawl out? I got on all fours and felt better. They heaved me up and immediately I needed to pee. My son emptied out coins from a pint mug I kept by the bed, and I relieved myself in that. Then the paramedics sat me down on the bed. Flaming agony! I can't describe the pain, it was the worst I'd ever felt. They got me in a chair thing that tilted back and the pain diminished. I felt comfortable. As they took me to the ambulance, I noticed my legs felt cold, and I couldn't move my toes. I was so drugged I didn't think much of it. But as I waited in A&E, sensation came back and I could move my feet again. Then, a doctor examined me. I was on a bed, the back tilted up. Then he decided to lay me flat – flaming agony again. This time my legs went completely dead. I screamed in pain. Later, I learned that the positions they put me in simply compressed the damaged vertebra and were not advised for this kind of spinal injury. I always wonder if I had not have been paralysed if they had realised that. * It was terrible getting me up to the ward and into a bed. Every bump, jerk, set off a muscular spasm that caused terrible pain. Later in my stay, I heard a porter mutter 'cry baby' as I was taken down for a CAT scan. The fact that the doctor stopped him halfway down to inject more morphine into me didn't convince him. But we went over a bump, and I just yelled. Even through the pain, I saw his face go white, and he was absolutely careful the rest of the journey. In a special bed, propped up, I was comfortable at least, but if I even mentioned the word 'spasm' to a doctor, my back immediately went into spasm, with the consequent pain. A peculiar effect. I had some pink champagne and Thai nibbles at Christmas with family and friends. We had a small party in my part of the ward that had six beds. We shared it with the other patients who wanted some. * 'Do you mind if we transfer you to Stanmore this evening?' It was New Year's Eve 2005. We'd planned a small party to welcome in the New Year and got the permission of the sister and my fellow patients for my guests to stay until midnight. 'Oh, why?' 'The surgeon there says he can fit you in tomorrow. They have no scheduled operations, but have to stay open for emergencies. You don't have to go.' Don't have to go? Here was a surgeon at Stanmore, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, who had received my circulated records and reportedly said, 'I'll not let this man deteriorate, I'll fix it.' Why on earth would I say no? I was destined for my spine to slowly crumble and me to curl forward otherwise, and be in constant pain. 'Why now?' 'He says if he waits for tomorrow, the ambulances won't give you any priority as it's New Year. Transfer tonight and at 8.30am tomorrow they operate.' * I met the surgeon, one of the top in the country, a Czech, and the anaesthetist, who was also a bit of a psychologist. When she left, I was happy and confident, no worries. At 8.30 the surgeon himself came and wheeled me to theatre. He said there weren't many porters around. I shook hands with the team, had an injection and the next thing I knew it was midday, and I had tubes sticking out of me. I was in an intensive care ward, two lines of beds with three nurses and no other patients. After two hours, I was allowed to have a mug of tea and marmite toast. Excellent! They were so kind, one held my hand and talked to me. I had lots of visitors, which was great. But at two in the morning, they gave me a sleeping pill to stop me talking! * This is what they did in the op. (for the squeamish, look away now): They opened my front from left hip to centre, and shovelled my bowels to one side. They collapsed my left lung. He went in, removed the damaged vertebra, and inserted a titanium cage in its place, then shovelled my guts back and sewed up my stomach. Then they turned me over (they said it was normally done in two separate operations, but as I was responding so well, they went for the second part). He screwed two titanium rods into the vertebrae above and below the cage, and into the cage to hold it all together. Then they stuck a tube in to drain the lung cavity and reinflate my lung. They'd taken blood in case I needed it – I didn't. He said I was by far the fastest recovering patient of my age. Later, a lady who had assisted in the op. said to me, 'You've never been really ill, have you?' 'Why?'I asked. 'Because you were nice and pink inside. We can tell.' * After several days of extremely competent nursing , a far cry from my local hospital (although they did their best), I was returned. The pain was gone. At least that particular pain ... 'You are paralysed for life and will never walk again.' I vaguely recalled the surgeon at Stanmore had hinted something different, but it was a blur. 'And you will be incontinent.' see what happens in the next part ... To read Part 2 - Click Here
Archived comments for Paralysed! Part 1
Mikeverdi on 02-03-2015
Paralysed! Part 1
Well.... thanks for the compliment John.

Many of us have suffered various traumatic incidence in our lives, some effecting our very existence. This is one I know nothing about...it would seem I'm about too. As I would expect it's a well written and detailed account (not too dry). Having read some of your other exploits I never expected this.

I can only imagine the horror of this time, both for you and for your family. I'm sure you are finding, as I did, living it again can be a double edged sword. Well done for this, I look forwards with trepidation to the next instalment.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. Well, despite a few more bumps in the road, things do start looking up. And yes, it is difficult to write, and I'm deliberately keeping it concise and as factual as possible. It was starting it that was a problem (you see I started over 6 weeks ago)but I'm working on part 2 now and it is getting easier. At the same time I'm writing about some more of my exploits in a lighter vein which counterbalances any emotion. And to be truthful, there are also happy memories involved - how kind people are, caring, and my family ...

sweetwater on 03-03-2015
Paralysed! Part 1
I read this with horror, mainly due to the dreadfully careless way you were handled by the paramedics, having watched far too many medical documentaries and been made so aware of the appropriate course of action and care for any back pain, it's made me wonder as you do, if they could have made your problem far worse. I don't normally read prose, but having read Mike's and got so caught up in his story I decided to read yours too, so glad I did as I was not disappointed. I am now awaiting the next part. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Well , I thought long and hard about that as I lay in hospital. What you have to realise is that what happened to me is very rare, and the circumstances would not indicate the same handling as , say, a road accident victim. Neither the paramedics nor the A&E doctor would have seen it before. And you have to offset those errors against the fact that I was fixed by one of the best surgeons in the country and given 5-star treatment by physios and nursing staff (as you will see). God bless the NHS.


Epic (posted on: 23-02-15)
Yeh, a real old fashioned epic poem. Be afraid!

Epic Out from the west the black horsemen are riding Out of the sun with their harsh voices chiding Shining hooves crashing and capes all a-flying Weaving the warp and the weft of the dying Out of the storm cloud a host of dark rangers Helms flash in light with a sword-glint of danger Horse's legs flailing and hooves tipped with silver Crossing with ease the fast-foaming white river One with an eye like a pool of bright water Ready for fighting and come for the slaughter Fixes on me and then speeds on forever Never again will I see this, no never! Cold in the rain as I shiver and tremor Thundering hooves shake the earth with their clamour The host passes on with their banners a-waving We few stand forlorn, we are not fit for saving * Wave crashes down in the fit of the water Wave crashes down on both me and my daughter, Spitting and struggling, I cling to the raft-logs Crying and calling, I cling to the raft-logs Now she is gone and the water is lashing Foaming and sucking, the water is crashing Pity my life as I cling on so lonely My daughter is gone and I had her, her only. Blinking. The water is sluicing and sinking, Ebbing away from the village. I'm thinking Already of how my life runs from this day: Nothing to die for; no more to say.
Archived comments for Epic
Mikeverdi on 23-02-2015
Epic
Love the first part John, shades of Game of Thrones. The second part I'm not so keen on. I expect you have a reason for it's seeming difference... but it doesn't fit for me.
Mike

Author's Reply:
For me, the two parts are indeed separate, but intended to be connected,one event following the other.

Imagine this as two separate poems. Would either have anywhere near the same impact and story as the pairing?

Mikeverdi on 23-02-2015
Epic
Errr...yes, they would for me. As I said, I don't think the second part works. I think it's far too jumbled. It is only my opinion, but you are writing in a style I am acquainted with so I feel I can comment. I know that you are intending the events to be happening as part of the same story, I get that. I just think the second part is less effectively written; you could do better.
Mike

Author's Reply:
I'm usually very open to comments I think. However, for once I'll have to disagree. The second part is a different style - it has to be. I can't imagine the closing sentiments being effective if the first style were continued. There is a change of mood. If you like, it's the 'storm before the calm' . Frantic action/calm reflection, which I intended to contain many parallels.

Yes, perhaps I'm too wedded to my original concept. But hey! Now and again I'll indulge myself. I have noticed this poem splits readers in opinion, as you illustrate.

sweetwater on 24-02-2015
Epic
I can see where you are going with this two part poem, I agree the second was very different from the first, but I think it needs to be, as it's a different concept but also very much connected. I loved the words you used and the flowing rhyme in the first, very exciting to read. The second I found very powerful in it's sadness. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Yep, you got it,as ever. πŸ™‚ thank you so much.

Bozzz on 24-02-2015
Epic
John, in the first part there is a sense of word-crowding here, a struggle in hastening to reach the end of each line. I realise you are intending to convey the scenes, but IMHO the crowding does seem to override the poetic impact. Haste in composing too?
Just my thoughts...David

Author's Reply:
It's the rhythm.

Sorry you don't like it. This is not new, and has been turned over in the past.

The main dissenting comment chimes with the what Mike said.


Aliens (posted on: 23-02-15)
Immigration .... For last week's prose challenge.

Aliens The government said they were asylum seekers, persecuted in their home country. But they sure as hell weren't treated like ordinary asylum seekers. They were all put in one small neighbourhood of our town that the government took over. A lot of folks resented that, not just the families that were moved. Sure they were given better houses than the ones they left, but that don't compensate for being forced to leave your home, your neighbours. They had their own shops, and some kind of social centre which used to be a garage - could have been some crazy kind of church but who knows? I don't know if they had religion, but if so, it wasn't like any I'd ever seen. They spoke their own language and didn't mix much. And there were a lot of strangers around who didn't talk a lot and drove shiny black cars. Nobody would tell us what was going on, though we bombarded the government with complaints. Even the mayor didn't know what was going on - I've known Jack Eversley for years, he wasn't lying. They weren't like us. I don't know what country they came from but it sure must be a weird place. I mean, they looked a bit like us, but they were not really like us. Things like their eyes, just different, kinda seeing through you. One thing I'll say, they could speak good English, the few times anybody had a conversation with them. But if you got close, they made the hairs on your neck stand up, made you tense and wound up. Everyone said so. We protested. Some wanted to drive them out, and there were a few incidents. The strangers stepped in pretty quick if they were around, to head off trouble. Those involved on our side got carted off to jail, no excuses. What were they doing here? We didn't want them. Folks should fit in, be part of the community. Those people never would, there was something odd about them, like you could never be friendly with a rattlesnake. And they took advantage. They worked all the hours god sent, so after a while some of the businesses gave them jobs. Jobs are scarce here, they should have gone to us. Good men got fired. Bill Carter at the garage ended up with only them and the foreman - what a job that must have been, with them all day - and paid them peanuts. Apparently they were a whizz with machinery. It's the only garage in town, so if you wanted your truck fixed ... . Although some folks took to driving 40 miles to Blainesville in protest. Any construction, they seemed to take over. God knows what they lived on, there were families with kids, born after they arrived. Weird little kids. It's lucky they opened their own school. I'd hate to have had them mixing with proper kids. They were ruining our town. Folks were moving out - families that had been there since settler days. It was pure hell. When they first came, they tried to make friends. They organised some talks about their homeland, and a concert in the big garage they'd made into some kind of meeting place, or as I said, a church. It was crazy -they kinda danced around waving their arms and trailing bits of cloth. And the music was like nothing I've ever heard . The singing was sorta whiney and out of tune, with weird instruments for backing. The only thing I ever heard a bit like it was Chinese music and those Arabs calling out of their mosques. A few folks walked out, and I didn't blame them, but our community is pretty polite and sat it out. When we left a few of them stood at the door and shook our hands, like church. It was pretty horrible, difficult to touch them, but as I say, we are naturally polite. I went home and scrubbed my hands. As far as I know no-one ever went back and they stopped inviting us. Things came to a head when Jeb and a bunch of hotheads set a fire and killed a family. After that they were all moved out. It was never reported by the news channels. Jeb ended up on death row. I'm sorry for those kids, but someone needed to show they were not wanted, and Jeb did us a favour. We're almost back to normal now. I hear they went to a larger town up North somewhere. Abe stopped off at a diner and they were there, serving. He asked for the owner and said he wouldn't be served by them. He told us, 'would you believe it, he said sure they were different and a bit weird, but people got on ok with them when they got used to them. He said they were helping in the community a lot.' Sooner those folks than us. They must be crazy. Some say it was because of the scales, but it wasn't just that. They just weren't like us, not like good Christian folks at all. We're generally pretty tolerant, we even have some blacks here. But we don't need strangers like that.
Archived comments for Aliens
Mikeverdi on 23-02-2015
Aliens
Good one John, It would make a great start to a longer piece. There have been many TV series about this, they have a big following. The race card is played well. With the names I guess it was set in the USA, any particular reason?
Mike

Author's Reply:
Just that the 'good ol boy' attitudes seem to fit in the southern states, given the record of persecution of black people. I don't think Bradford would have worked so well.


bluepootle on 23-02-2015
Aliens
I think the voice is sustained well and I like the reveal of the scales in the last para, although that certainly wasn't a surprise, given the title. It reminded me of the film District 9 (which isn't a bad thing). A good set up to something, perhaps - I think Mike is right and it might make a good longer piece if you gave some breadth to the narrator, but short and sweet as it is.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Yes, this is pretty short. It says only what it has to, and maybe more elaboration and interest would satisfy more. I was pushed for time ... πŸ™‚

I'm trying to resolve to write longer stories rather than (increasingly) shorter ones.

OldPeculier on 23-02-2015
Aliens
I like the fact that it is short. Its like a brief monologue that you might get from a small town guy as he filled up your car with petrol (gas). About all that he would tell a stranger.

I also like the suggestion that it is the town that had the problem not the aliens, This is something you touched on in another story if I remember correctly.

Good use of American style conversational language, which can be difficult to get sounding authentic.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou ...

sirat on 23-02-2015
Aliens
Yes, well written and held my attention. I think the voice was very well sustained.

You tend to pick me up on plausibility, and I did wonder if even the most red-neck American could imagine that people with scales were just some kind of exotic foreigners. It might work better if the speaker took it for granted that the reader/listener knew who it was he was talking about, and that they weren't of this world. Your ending with its revelation wouldn't be affected.

I also toyed with the idea of a happier ending. The 'message' of the story might be improved if they had actually managed to resolve their differences and the two groups were now living quite happily alongside one another. A kind of enlightened liberal 'under the skin we're all the same' message. But now I'm rewriting your story for you - an occupational hazard on this forum.

Author's Reply:
I think you have made two fair points.

The 'scales' thing hung in the balance throughout the writing, and I was aware it might be a too crude giveaway at the end. But (without trying to defend or justify my position, which is pointless) I personally felt the contrast with 'alien' and 'Alien' worth showing. But I may be wrong. πŸ™‚

The second point is, I feel unrealistic given (sadly) human nature, certainly with this town. I believe it's half shown by the reaction of a 'northern town' to them (once again contrasting with the attitude to black people)

Thankyou.


Collective Hysteria (posted on: 06-02-15)
A bit of fun. A controversial view of the 'rivalry' between prose and poetry ... πŸ™‚

Collective Hysteria Poets There's nothing so cliquey as poets, The Belgians of the written word You really can't trust them an inch, though. Give 'em nouns and they'll all take a verb! 'Oh lovely!' and 'So finely crafted.' They say to their friends every time To others they simply drip acid Or cock a wee snook at a rhyme. Has a 'meat and two veg' prosey writer Ever sneered or complained to a mate? No, they are the 'Yorkshire' contingent They're tough and they're stolid and straight. So if I were to conjure a smidgeon Of quite irrepressible thought: Perhaps it's an 'honesty' of prosies And a bloomin' 'conspiracy' of poets? A. Prose Writer Prose Writers Have you ever thought how a prose writer Can hardly remember his name While plodding along with his verbiage Much of it looking the same? The words thud like mud on the pages They're solid and workmanlike, yes But where's all the thunder and lightning, The art and the beauty and yes … Where is the spirit that's striving To uplift the soul and the wit? Where is the bright, shining wisdom? – A bit of description. That's it! If I were to give my opinion (I'm happy to warm to the theme), Perhaps a 'morass' of prose writers And poets? – Why they're a 'supreme'. A. Poet .
Archived comments for Collective Hysteria
sweetwater on 06-02-2015
Collective Hysteria
I really enjoyed all the to and fro of opinions in this ' us and them ' poem, I loved the ' thud of mud' line. I'll always come down on the side of poets though. πŸ™‚ Sue.

Author's Reply:
I wouldn't expect anything different. Vive la difference!

Bozzz on 07-02-2015
Collective Hysteria
Well Griff, we know where our hearts lie. Very witty poem much enjoyed....David

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. πŸ™‚

Mikeverdi on 08-02-2015
Collective Hysteria
HaHaHa! As a writer of both,I'm stuck in the middle. I love each when done well...and this is. Well worth the Nib.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. This is , of course, a popular topic with 'poets' - strangely not with prose writers.


Soul Saver by Posy (posted on: 06-02-15)
Save your soul? At what price?

Soul Saver Sometimes in danger, I admit – my soul has fluttered close to searing fire. The flames of evil, malice, sin, could singe my wings before I came home safe. And you, with honeyed words that lip-drip, coo, cajole, seduce me – you catch my soul on golden thread, nets woven to cocoon and wrap. I do concede I am now safe, Hid from harm, under your care, your guard: My soul can never flee, no longer free: trapped in your jar.
Archived comments for Soul Saver by Posy
stormwolf on 07-02-2015
Soul Saver by Posy
Hi Griff
This short poem speaks volumes albeit perhaps fictionary. The first stanza lays out the temptation.
The second the safety and reasoning as to why one may choose to deny the first.

The flames of evil, malice, sin,
could singe my wings
However, it is a situation not without compromise at some cost and manipulated by a cunning person who takes advantage of the obvious worry in the first.

The spider works her web ...

seduce me – you catch my soul
on golden thread, nets woven
to cocoon and wrap.

Then the comparative safety and potential suffocation from the jar.
Rather be a free spirit myself than all that malarkey!

well done.
Alison x



Author's Reply:
A good analysis, BTW I saw the speaker as male, and the victim as female. Hope you liked 'lip drip'

Thanks for reading and commenting.


Footsteps by Posy (posted on: 30-01-15)
Bit of drama going on here ......

Footsteps by Posy We turn towards those other hills, The bare-backed man and I To make our way in solitude To take for once a winding route Beneath a winding sky In these far lands we are alone, My bare-backed man and I Kept warm at night in caves of stone No mind to chance the might of Rome Far from that place we lie We are not tempted to return Despite a warming hearth For down that road our death awaits And trying to escape our fates We press towards the North No foot will trace our path this morn Nor either other days The bare-backed man and I, forlorn From our beginnings neatly torn 'Released,' he often says A soul is empty once it's lost All hope and youth and joy Upon the tempest it is tossed In dreadful torment often crossed As pain and grief alloy We better live like this than die - Some life is yet to reap But time draws on through curving ways And ever nearer loom the days When we will have to sleep .
Archived comments for Footsteps by Posy
sweetwater on 01-02-2015
Footsteps by Posy
I love this, the flow and rhythm were absolutly right, and although I may not have understood all of the meaning the whole poem fascinated me. The last verse was beautifully written, I love Posy's works. Sue x

Author's Reply:
Thankyou so much. This is one of my own favourites largely because I was pleased with the rhythm. But it does not seem to appeal to popular taste. I'm glad that at least one person recognises that. πŸ™‚

Very appreciative of your comments. G


Two and a half short poems (posted on: 30-01-15)
bites ....

Bangor, Maine The winds of autumn swirl the leaves again, And I am where I wish to be, In Bangor, Maine. In salt-log shack by shimmering sea, A lobster fills a plate and then fills me. Positioning It's funny how a search for peace can lead to war, That asking for some closure can open a new door, That sitting on a fence can make an island of your own. (The trouble with that island is, you'll always be alone.) Verbal Diarrhoea Verbal diarrhoea – A word in your rear? .
Archived comments for Two and a half short poems
Mikeverdi on 30-01-2015
Two and a half short poems
I don't always get..or enjoy your poetry; preferring your prose. I liked these though. 'Positioning' I think is excellent.
Mike

Author's Reply:
It's all about variety, Mike. I try everything. Keeps the old brain agile.

Bozzz on 31-01-2015
Two and a half short poems
Very good natured verse, enjoyed....David.
But why did the medics go to such trouble to spell "dire rear" in that ridiculous way. But then gods do despise men.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. Just some 'light bites'

sweetwater on 31-01-2015
Two and a half short poems
Someone very, very special to me lives near Bangor in Maine, Camden actually, so I very much enjoyed your beautiful snapshot poem, it truly is a lovely place. The second poem I enjoyed because of the rhyme and rhythm which I always like, and the third made me smile. So a very pleasing collection. πŸ™‚ Sue.


Author's Reply:
Yep, we went to new England in autumn, and that was me in the shack with a big paper bib on tackling the crustacean. Memorable visit.

Thanks for the hottie!


In Smoke by Posy (posted on: 19-01-15)
Another sweet poem from Posy

In Smoke by Posy In smoke My dearest lover sings Our life, his hopes, my fears. He rises, Leaving me below, Alone and dress'd in tears. Clasped in my hands His last request, The rose that I have borne From that first inkling of distress Until this deathly morn. I hold it now in anger dark Oppressed by what has been For he is taken, borne aloft This day in Skibbereen.
Archived comments for In Smoke by Posy
Mikeverdi on 19-01-2015
In Smoke by Posy
I like this John, I would like to know more about them; is it a real thing... can I look up Skibbereen and find my answers?
Mike

Author's Reply:
Well, Skibbereen is in Ireland. The rest is just Posy.

Do you see why I write under a different name for her stuff? I'm not assuming people do, but I just feel like a different personality when I'm the gentle little woman from Fife who lives with her mother. πŸ™‚

ValDohren on 19-01-2015
In Smoke by Posy
Short and poignantly sweet. - loved it !
Val

Author's Reply:
Thanks. I would have guessed it was your kind of thing.

sweetwater on 20-01-2015
In Smoke by Posy
Posy is a very talented poet, this is so lovely. πŸ™‚ Sue.

Author's Reply:
She is, I wish e-griff could write as well:-)

Bozzz on 20-01-2015
In Smoke by Posy
Echoes of the troubles seen in this poem - of course 'taken' can mean many things, but having been brought up amid republican songs, that was my first thought. Well composed John le posy....regards, David

Author's Reply:
No, no. You are too clever and think too much πŸ™‚

It's simply what it says. Posy is a simple little woman.

But writing 'my lover died and was cremated/it was a funeral I really hated' wouldn't be so charming, would it?

But on second thoughts, I'm flattered (er posy is) that you detected extra resonances in it that presumably make it richer for you and may be others - why not? That is good.


An Englyn (posted on: 19-01-15)
Apparently, an old Welsh form

The novelist Robertson Davies once said that englyns were an old enthusiasm of his. He said that the form was derived by the Welsh from the inscriptions on Roman tombs in Wales. According to him, englyns must have four lines, the first one having ten syllables, then six, then the last two having seven syllables each. In the first line there must be a break after the seventh, eighth, or ninth syllable, and the rhyme with the second line comes at this break; but the tenth syllable of the first line must either rhyme or be in assonance with the middle of the second line. The last two lines must rhyme with the first rhyme in the first line, but the third or fourth line must rhyme on a weak syllable. So here are my efforts: Creative Disappointment The pen flies past at my behest -- my words taste weird, absurd. The rest, At their best a palimpsest, And far from being brightest. The Word 'Cock' RSPB, I see, amok --- oh man! Decide to ban 'the cock' Small wonder I rock with shock Event? Anent, it's bollocks.
Archived comments for An Englyn

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Ryaneering (posted on: 12-01-15)
Flying into Stansted for a special occasion. This is a 'Burmese Climbing Rhyme' , a form so-called because of a changing pattern of rhyming. See if you can work it out πŸ™‚

Ryaneering I'm Ryaneering in, this eve as London weaves beneath. So believe! My way, I can say that this day is complete. We'll later eat. Ain't Thai great? Champagne too. Would not you enjoy? Whoo-hoo! A very special day. Phone as I walk. There's no squawk, just message talk: 'Meet outside' Then the ride home. I bide my time. To you I'm wishing, In rhyme: Happy Birthday!
Archived comments for Ryaneering
Mikeverdi on 12-01-2015
Ryaneering
You know I'm never going top understand that...to me it just doesn't rhyme πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
Well, it's not conventional of course,but it does have a rhyming pattern which creates an unusual form with an interesting character of its own. It wouldn't be my favourite form, but variety is the spice of life, and you learn more about poetry generally by such experimentation.

sweetwater on 12-01-2015
Ryaneering
I had fun reading this, and to me the rhyme was obvious even if it wasn't in the conventional order. Would like to see more of these as I enjoyed ' picking out ' where the rhyme was hidden. πŸ™‚ Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for your interest. Apparently Asian poetry uses internal rhyme, this being an example. I enjoyed composing it.

Andrea on 12-01-2015
Ryaneering
Rather clever, actually πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Yep, in some ways more sophisticated than simple end-line rhyming.

red-dragon on 15-01-2015
Ryaneering
Very e-griff

Author's Reply:
You mean it's amazingly clever or it's very hard to follow πŸ™‚

Thank you for reading and commenting


Green Magic (posted on: 05-01-15)
A very short verse ...

Green Magic In woody boughs and willow canes the green blood flows and drives the life of shoots and leaves in different ways. There's mystery and likewise threat within their springing growth: the lashing bramble, weedy root and tangling vine invade to creep within the dark of night. Red-blooded life must wary be, for mingling green and red can lead to tragedy.
Archived comments for Green Magic
sweetwater on 05-01-2015
Green Magic
Really liked this, could see a tangle of wild green, invading and clambering over everything, fighting for space. Quite a dark poem, but it fascinated me.

Author's Reply:
Thank you. As you can see, I like to try different styles, some more successful than others. This was inspired by our French garden, which is under constant attack from vegetation.

ValDohren on 06-01-2015
Green Magic
Your garden is not a place in which to linger, it would seem. Food for the imagination here.
Val


Author's Reply:
Not really, it's lovely. Saves my sanity.

So long as I can keep those brambles at bay! πŸ™‚

ifyouplease on 07-01-2015
Green Magic
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-it-comes-to-photosynthesis-plants-perform-quantum-computation/

so you we think we know plants? i think there is a horror movie with a plant, b movie, old movie.

Author's Reply:
Hmm. I'm very sceptical about 'quantum' stuff. It's a fashion, just as everything got called 'digital' a while ago. And in that article,the parallel quoted is very weak indeed.

Plants, like humans, are vastly complicated, and we may never understand the detail.

But we can chop them back!

ifyouplease on 07-01-2015
Green Magic
it may well be a fashion as you say.

Author's Reply:


Castaway (posted on: 02-01-15)
One of mine. Self-explanatory, je crois ....

Castaway Upon a sudden morning, as wind and rain blow free, I find myself, a sullen man, beside a sullen sea. Out on the far horizon I see no thing to spy, The blank and vacant skyline casts all my hopes awry. And in the bitter sunlight that plays upon the sand, the curve of the great bayside eclipses either hand Behind me lies the mountain, Before me, bleak and bare, the ocean wide that brought me here returns my vacant stare.
Archived comments for Castaway
Nemo on 04-01-2015
Castaway
Interesting - how does a castaway manage to get this poem to his readers? He has pen and paper and puts the poem in a bottle? Or he kept his laptop dry and, before the battery ran out, he typed and posted this lament? Secondly, we wonder if this an allegorical piece. Man, essentially alone in the universe, contemplafes the ocean wbere the life passed down the generations to him came from? I like the fact this poem can be read this way but find the jaunty rhythm a little light-hearted for the castaway's state of mind. Line 11 perhaps needs the 'great' dropping to maintain this rhythm. It is not clear how the bay manages to eclipse either or even each hand and I am thinking 'hand' is there to rhyme with 'sand.' Worth reading though, ce matin, je crois.





Gerald.







Author's Reply:
If you pronounce bayside as baySIDE, then the unstressed great disturbs the rhythm. But if I did write it that way, without the great, I'd have to alter earlier in the line to make it fit. It is obviously better to find words with no ambiguous pronunciation, however,I would agree the line ending stresses are not 'perfect' verse to verse, but I would expect the reader to follow the general rhythm established , which means pronouncing it BAYside.



of course, hand rhymes with sand,but it has a definite purpose and meaning. There is a mountain behind him. On each side (either hand), the land curves round obstructing his view. Only seaward, through the mouth of the bay, has he an unobstructed view. This is to describe his position, and emphasise the focus on the ocean, ready for the final lines which express his desire to leave. However I would agree this might be better expressed for some.



Thanks for the comment.

Nemo on 04-01-2015
Castaway
'Great' follows two unstressed syllables and therefore it is difficult to read it as unstressed before the stressed first syllable of 'bayside.' (An odd word and the tyranny of rhyme.) While I can grapple to understand what is being eclipsed, unfortunately the reader is primarily bound to think the castaway's hands are being eclipsed. 'Is eclipsed on either hand' would convey the meaning more clearly.

C'est ce que je pense.

Author's Reply:
I don't understand why you appear to think 'the' should be unstressed (at least I think that's what you mean). Apart from multi-syllable words set by fixed internal pronunciation, stresses are determined by context and juxtaposition, so 'the' can be stressed or unstressed depending on context. In the line you refer to it can only be stressed of course.

In poems, the metre is defined in the opening lines. These inform the reader how to read the poem, they set the pattern. The pattern in this poem is very regular, and the line you question follows that rhythm correctly.

Your reading of 'hand' is too limited and literal. The meaning of 'either hand' is clearly not directly referring to hands themselves, but to sides (eg left hand side). It's a perfectly valid use, and I don't think people will confuse the term (although I'm happy to hear additional views on it).

It is the curve that eclipses the sides. Your line has a different meaning. The curve is not eclipsed (by what? makes no sense).

The first judge of any poem is the ear. Only if the ear tells you there is something wrong would you use analysis, and only to find out how to make a glitch right. Analysing a poem 'cold' can be deceptive.


Close Relations (posted on: 29-12-14)
As a change from my poetry, here's a short story. It's about immigrants!

Close Relations I swung my body to one side as the teenagers sped past, whooping and calling insults. I resisted the urge to sideswipe them and walked on. I knew that if I succumbed the consequences would be bad for our people and headlines like: 'our children at risk from these brutes' would result. Entering the supermarket, I tucked my tail into my backstrap as required. As usual, products suitable for our diet were overpriced and choice was poor. When we first arrived some of us had tried to set up our own specialised store, but we couldn't get planning permission. Apparently there was 'already adequate provision in the vicinity for all races, and antisocial discrimination was to be avoided'. I always recalled that phrase as I passed the Asian shop on the Parade. I queued at our till. The aisle was wider, but always crowded and slow. In the past, I'd tried to approach other, empty, tills, but had been directed back with cold politeness. Making my way home, I walked along the seafront. I like the sea. Sometimes I bathe, enjoying the freedom of snaking through the water at high speed, crashing up into the free air and turning and weaving before diving back. It is the only place we are allowed to fly. But I can no longer experience the thrill of high atmosphere; the dark blue sky; arcing through the thin air in glorious movement. The tag on my ankle sees to that. 'Watch it, scaly!' A boy on roller skates sped past. I wondered how Miramar had fared today. She had been a doctor in our own country and the generous government had given her grants to re-qualify here, but no-one would employ her. I walked past the Parade. The shopkeeper stood in the doorway. 'Good day, sir.' His hands opened in welcome, his white teeth gleamed in a smile and his dark, liquid eyes glistened. 'Good day to you.' It was unusual for strangers to address me. Many worthy hominids felt it their duty. While I welcomed the intention, the hollowness of the conversation that followed was usually embarrassing. 'Please, sir, won't you come in?' I was surprised. I had tried to enter the shop before and found it jammed with racks and display stands. But this time he waved me in, beckoning, so I followed. The front part of the shop had been cleared. I could move with ease. He led me to the far wall, where there was a wide display of food suitable for our diet, all at reasonable prices. Miramar would be pleased. The shopkeeper stood next to me, grinning. 'You like this food?' 'Very much, but…' 'You will tell your friends, others?' 'But why? People don't …' This was the first time I had allowed myself to speak openly. 'We came here for refuge. We are very grateful, we don't complain, but are treated as second-class citizens. Why would you want to do this? Is it the money?' He did not seem offended. He smiled and hesitantly touched my arm. 'No, it is not for money, my friend, it is for you, to thank you.' 'What for?' He gestured to a doorway. Several children and two women stood, smiling at me and nodding. 'For being here. We know what it is like; we know what it is to be treated badly.' 'You too?' I had caught references to discrimination amongst the hominids themselves, but had seen little evidence. 'Others of your kind treat you badly?' 'Not now.' The smiling man shook his head. 'Not any more. Not since you came.'
Archived comments for Close Relations
pommer on 29-12-2014
Close Relations
This takes me back in time.Remembering what it can be like. Well demonstrated my friend.One can experience a feeling of paranoia, when one is a stranger who is not wanted by everyone. (I once was a legal illegal immigrant).Peter.

Author's Reply:
Thank you for reading and commenting. Glad you survived it all. πŸ™‚

Mikeverdi on 29-12-2014
Close Relations
Good stuff, I'm sure that's been more of a reality than we would like to think.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Yep. Better the devil you know?


Heart (posted on: 26-12-14)
Some people may imagine I only write rhyming, rhythmic poetry, always 'correct' Here's one that isn't ... inspired by an interview with a woman, using some of her words, certainly her story

'When your child dies,' the woman said, 'you feel it should be me You cannot smile Or be at peace And one day you climb a mountain in fresh air, slowly plodding under grey clouds mind a-swirl, thinking of her at every idle moment Then clouds split open Sun shines through upon your face and in your mind the clouds part too and happiness, at last, touches your heart again'
Archived comments for Heart

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Loving by Posy (posted on: 26-12-14)
Another Posy poem! I do use rhythm in this, but not regular, it alters to reflect the meaning ... enjoy

Loving by Posy Through a small crack in a summer's day, a chill breeze flows And down the hill and through my door it sweeps across the cold, hard floor and finds me. In the cool house I window-watch As sunshine crackles toasting wheat and birds repose, grown numb with heat, and fail to sing. You lie above. The day proceeds with creak and groan, the rasp of breath and only when the dusk has come can I let air into my lung. And when the seasons turn again You will be gone.
Archived comments for Loving by Posy
Mikeverdi on 27-12-2014
Loving by Posy
This is really good, a pity that the timing of your post could mean that it will suffer from lack of attention. I will push the promote button as I think its great.

If I may suggest...there isn't a need for the first 'And' in the first verse, it makes three; and that's one too many.
Clearly only my opinion.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Interesting point.

There's only one 'and' in each verse, and each one is correctly used. For me, abbreviating it would create separate sentences which would break the flow of the words. It also would not be true to the style of the poem.

Mikeverdi on 27-12-2014
Loving by Posy
John, at the risk of sounding pedantic please read your 1st verse. The word 'and' appears three times,twice in line three and again in the last line. I have said that I like it and have promoted it, whether or not you agree with my comment the word is repeated three times. My ability to use grammar may well be suspect but my eye sight is not. As always the writer has the last word, but as I have found in my search for improvement... The writer is not always right.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Oh, fair enough, you are correct. Too much of a hurry I guess.

However, my opinion remains, simply taking out 'ands' for the sake of it would mean a lot of word revisions and change the flow of the poem. It would end up a different poem. This poem actually had a lot of debate when it first appeared and I was grateful for several suggestions for improvement, which indeed helped. The one unresolved question was about the singular 'lung', but for me that works poetically.

sweetwater on 28-12-2014
Loving by Posy
I really enjoyed this,it felt very 'real' if that makes any sense. Summer sunshine tinged with sadness and loss. Sue x

Author's Reply:
Thank you. Appreciate your comment.


Elinor by Posy (posted on: 22-12-14)
I used to use an alias (not secret). She was a poet called 'Posy'. The reason was for some of my poems I seemed to adopt a different mind set. Posy was a wee Scottish girl who lived with her mum. This poem was published in the magazine 'Horror Express' Hope you enjoy. πŸ™‚

Elinor by Posy Flying, with her dark hair streaming, Elinor, her pale face gleaming In the moonlight plummets down To lie broken on the ground. In the morning lifeless eyes, Open to the brightening skies. Hidden in the brush and bramble, Elinor's body in the tangle. Her soul has fled the blackening flesh And each day winds its fearful mesh Through her body, in decay, Fresh corruption makes its way. That night, it moves and then it stands, Rising up with outstretched hands, Tattered flesh and broken bone Gently seeking their way home. In the castle, dark and dour, Elinor's body mounts the tower To the room where Ranulf's sleeping, Where before, that maid lay weeping. Through the castle, strong men hear Fearsome music, fell and weir. From Sir Ranulf's tower comes screaming - Desperate! Frantic! – are they dreaming? Ranulf lies in foul, black foment, Body wracked in deadly torment, Stricken face with bulging eyes, Horror paints his sad demise. While below the tower's height, Wonderful in that dark night, Lustrous silver flowers bloom, Marking now Elinor's tomb.
Archived comments for Elinor by Posy
Mikeverdi on 22-12-2014
Elinor by Posy
I like this John, good stuff mate.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thank you. The posy persona was close to my heart.

I'd be interested to know if you find her different to me as e-griff.

Mikeverdi on 22-12-2014
Elinor by Posy
Its not the same as most of your work, maybe a little looser around the edges. You and I are very different in the way we approach writing. Here it was as if you were trying to let go. Style and format rule your work ( the dots and dashes) its the engineer in you. Sometimes when I read you I want to change or take out words just to break down the structure; its what makes you good, but I feel it also restricts you. When you critique others that have a different approach... it can appear as petty. I would like to read more from this side of you. I was not so keen on the 'death poetry'.

Mike

Author's Reply:
Interesting. But I think if you were edited by me, you'd appreciate that 'pettiness' is applied selectively. My main job is convince authors about how people will read their work, not what they think. Many readers will be readers who are pedantic. Do you want to piss them off?
This is an entirely pragmatic decision, not personal taste.

My sole aim is presention of author's work in the best way for all readers.

In over 10 year, I've edited some books with non standard punctuation, because it was appropriate *

Writing with mistakes is not good. People do it, and I enjoy it. But it would always be better if they got it right.


* UKA book, Wigan is wonderful, great book. And last year, book with masses of Caribbean (non standard English) for indigo.

All my authors, but one or two, have said at the end of the process we'd improved the book. I haven't kept count but it's over fifty novels and poetry collections. It's not about me, it's about their work and pride. I try to help.

sweetwater on 23-12-2014
Elinor by Posy
Loved it, beautifully scary. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thank you. This was originally longer, but when I sent it for publication I had to fit it on a page. The resulting cropping and thinking through what needed to be said, eliminating 'nice-to-haves' sharpened and definitely improved it. I see on this site some potentially fine poems that are ruined by lack of pruning, and I remind myself to keep that in mind for my own.


I'd Like to Die in Spring (posted on: 22-12-14)
WARNING! Another poem about dying. (Don't worry, I've only written two :-))

I'd Like to Die in Spring I'd like to die in spring when summer's in the air, and birds are on the wing and new life everywhere. … to die with dignity in calm and gentle grace, completeness in my soul and warm sun on my face. I'd like to die alone, with beauty all around, my head held in the air, my feet firm on the ground, while sitting on a chair in a garden in the south, and savouring the taste of cherries in my mouth. The path that I have trod will end before the year. I'd like to die in spring with no regret or fear.
Archived comments for I'd Like to Die in Spring
Andrea on 22-12-2014
Id Like to Die in Spring
Yes, that sounds nice πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Aah, if only we could choose when the time came. For me, if I had the choice, it would be my garden in France, not a maisonette in Hemel Hempstead or a hospital. Which is what the poem is about (my garden, and my cherries, before the birds take most of them)

pommer on 22-12-2014
Id Like to Die in Spring
What a lovely thought. I had never thought in which season I would like to go.Must give it some thought. Peter.

Author's Reply:
Thank you. Appreciate your reading and commenting.

Mikeverdi on 22-12-2014
Id Like to Die in Spring
Not too soon I hope πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Here's hoping! 😊

sweetwater on 23-12-2014
Id Like to Die in Spring
I think we should have the "final choice" rather than waiting in fear of what fate has planned for us. To die when and where we wish would be the height of civilised society I feel. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thanks,sue. You will gather I'm looking through my back catalogue so expect more. Some are non-rhyming, non-rhythmic (which might please Mike a bit)
We used to have quite lively debates on poetry and challenges, so expect some englyns, ekphrastic poetry, Burmese climbing rhymes and all sorts of forms.

ifyouplease on 25-12-2014
Id Like to Die in Spring
nice

Author's Reply:
Thanks, and merry Christmas! I only had an old artisus mail address, and it bounced.

Bozzz on 25-12-2014
Id Like to Die in Spring
Hi John, well I wish you what you wish yourself - it should be every man's right. But being a trifle older than your goodself I have been through all these thoughts and decided not to die after all. Makes life less stressful. Nice poem my friend. Best wishes my friend - David.

Author's Reply:
Well, I hope you manage it. I won't πŸ™‚


Assam (posted on: 19-12-14)
This is not necessarily about Assam. It's a title I gave to a group of poems. But it may be .... You like rhythm? This has it. I'm a great fan of rhythm.

I remember a place where the people are brown And the sky is as blue as a dream Where you walk on the strand in the bright golden sand And the lie of the land is green Wild rhythms abound to the lilt of the sound And the clashing and ringing of chimes The blowing of pipes and the beating of drums Form the subtle delight of their rhymes When you sit in the shade 'neath the shelter they've made And your hands tap along to the sway Of processions that pass through the soft- waving grass That lines either side of the way The bright colours gleam with a freshly-turned sheen And the air's filled with scentings of lime Then the pounding of feet on the dirt of the street Brings a deft realignment of time … It's a long way from then to where I sit now In a cold, hard, wet concrete design Beneath the blank towers with no sign of flowers In the grey and the rain and the grime
Archived comments for Assam
Bozzz on 20-12-2014
Assam
Hi John, Very good descriptive work with rhyming. One minor point re perfect rhythm, suggest "And the air carries scentings of lime" will run smoother, though . 'air's filled' is OK. But where are the punctuation marks? Regards, David

Author's Reply:
Thanks for your comments.

There's a lot of debate about punctuation in poetry. I find full punctuation in small poems can make them over heavy, but every poet makes their own decision. As long as it's consistent throughout the poem it's OK. Line ends are natural breaks which can replace commas where appropriate, and full stops can be deduced by the text around them. The use of capitals for first letter of a line is also debated.

On the metre, 's' disappears, and 'filled' can be read as one unstressed syllable. 'carries' marginally less so, but not enough to matter in this case and would be just as good. So it comes down to individual choice.

sweetwater on 20-12-2014
Assam
Oh gosh, didn't this just jog along beautifully, lovely words and superb imagery, for me this poem is perfection. It reminded me of some of the "older" types of poems I grew up with, which were crafted, rather than the more jerky difficult to read "modern" ones. Your words sing together to create this poem. Sue.

Author's Reply:
Thank you so much for your kind, and may I say perceptive, comments. I hope that doesn't sound big headed. I'm very strict about rhythm, some say pedantic. You can give interest by breaking rhythm etc, but for a poem like this, it's got to be regular and spot on. I don't always get it right as authors often do not see their own work as clearly as a third party does, but with this one, I was particularly pleased with the result. You know how you write poems, and now and again say 'wow, that's a good one'. Well this is one of those (I won't show you the others!:-)).

Not everybody 'hears' metre. I compare it with a lack of musical ear. But clearly you do, and I'm pleased that you appreciated it. Thank you.

ValDohren on 21-12-2014
Assam
As you are probably aware, I am also much into metre and rhythm. I like poems that flow and this does beautifully. Great stuff.
Val

Author's Reply:
Indeed. Thank you for your appreciation, I'm grateful.


Two poems about houses (posted on: 15-12-14)
I wrote a poem about a house on a bleak hilltop and p[osted it. Someone challenged me to write one about a modern house, so I whipped up the second poem πŸ™‚ enjoy!

Inevitability North wind rapping at my door Hammering at the shutters Whirling, whistling through the floor As the chimney stutters Blowing from the fiery hearth Windows at a rattle, Hearth and home or wind and weather Which will win this battle? Battle's over; house stands firm But nothing is forever It relaxes term on term To the wind and weather In the end, who'll win the day? Enemy implacid. Mother Nature makes her way, Mordant. Killing. Acid. Con Temporary Well-fitted doors, soft-creaking floors Radiators cracking, Pitter-pat of window rain Light as angel's tapping. Dry and still the stagnant air, 'Gladed' saturation. Giant screen, the cornered troll, Illuminates the nation. Sat outside, the family car Four by four or normal On the drive where guests arrive Never, never formal. Peace and calm. Tranquillity, Cosseted salvation. Only broken by the beat – A thumping adumbration Shrieking voices, clacking heels Music – loud, insistent Penetrating through the walls Thickness non-existent.
Archived comments for Two poems about houses

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Old Harry (revised version) (posted on: 12-12-14)
A repost. Following some critical (and accurate) comments, I've revised this story and re-present it. The original was withdrawn early on (but you can still read the comments if you wish under the original submission title date 5th Dec) For the prose challenge. Prompt: a Tom Waits performance.

Old Harry (revised) I called him 'Old Harry'. That's what I thought I heard someone call him. I'd moved to the city on a temporary transfer for a year, and taken an apartment downtown. The area had many bars and restaurants, quite lively, and I enjoyed it. Work was demanding, different, but it was a new experience. It was certainly a lot better than Dayton, Ohio. I'd tried a few bars. After leaving the office, I'd sit in a corner with my laptop, catching up on strands of work, browsing and e-mailing before returning to the apartment. It was kind of relaxing even when it was work. I gravitated to a place called 'Harry's Bar' that was accommodating and never too full, so I wasn't disturbed by, nor did I disturb others as I sat in a corner tapping away. Now and then the barman would come along and refresh my beer. I became a regular. One of the fixtures was the piano player. I assumed he was the owner, Harry, because he seemed to be indulging himself, playing quietly, not looking up, except when he glanced up to seek his glass of bourbon. The bottle stood nearby. When he sang, his voice was harsh and cracked and sometimes descended into a mumble. For months I ignored him, fading his music into the background as I concentrated. One night, however, I had to sit nearer the piano as, unusually, there was a party in, filling my corner. I had little to do on my laptop, so I just sat back in the familiar surrounding and enjoyed my beer. Then Harry started playing. Close up, I realised there was more behind that cracked voice than I'd imagined, and the mumbled words made more sense: telling stories, histories, maybe about his own life or others. It was quite poetic, and for the first time I took notice of him, realising there was talent lurking there that I'd missed that far. Over a few months, I learned to appreciate Harry all the more. I'd been sitting close to the piano, and actually earned a few nods from him as I sat down each night. I listened closely, and he knew it. It was strange to discover something special in the man crouched over the piano keys. There were others like me, I noticed, sitting round the bar, paying attention. He had an audience of sorts. Finally, one night, I went up to the bar and asked the barman, 'Old Harry, what's his history?' He looked puzzled. 'Ain't no Harry here.' 'I heard someone call him that, thought he was the owner,' I said, nodding to the piano. 'He's not your normal piano player.' 'Oh, you mean Howie?' 'Is that his name?' 'Yep. He just rolls in nights and I supply bourbon. Not everyone likes him, but I remember him.' 'Remember him?' 'Yeh, maybe you're too young, but there was a time everyone knew Howie Allbright.' 'Howie Albright? Of course I know him! Big star, great entertainer. Surely that's not him?' I said, jabbing my thumb towards the piano. 'Sure is. The great Howie Allbright.' Maybe that explained the occasional flashes of clarity and the power of the gaze that sometimes met me while I listened. It certainly explained the talent lurking behind that unremarkable exterior. 'But what happened? Do you know?' 'He don't say much, but I guess it all came crashing down because of the booze. Wives, money, fame, big shows. It all seems to have melted away.' 'And the voice, that great voice?' 'It's the bourbon. But you know, in some ways he's still got it. Sometimes you can tell, just stops me in my tracks at times when I hear him.' I thanked the man and returned to my seat. Howie was looking at me, perhaps he'd seen my thumb jab when I was speaking to the barman. In any case, it was the first time he'd paid me attention that way. * I'd go in most nights he was there, appreciating his playing and singing now I'd got used to the delivery. He was good at times, but you had to listen for it. To most he must have appeared to be a drunken bum mumbling in the corner. I decided to speak to him. I was intensely curious but I didn't want to upset him too much discussing how he'd fallen on hard times. I was sure it must be a sensitive subject. So I started lightly. A few 'evening's, the odd request: songs I'd heard him play before. He'd grunt, and now and then say something fairly meaningless. But he seemed friendly enough in his own way. So one night I plucked up courage. 'Howie,' I said. I'd never used his name before and he looked up quickly. 'The barman told me,' I explained. 'Is it okay to call you that? I'm Jim.' I held out my hand. He seemed reluctant at first, but shook it. 'Will you come over and sit with me, I'd like to hear your story if you're okay with that?' He seemed transfixed, silent and still for a while and then, with a shake of his head, said, 'Sure, why not? 'Bout time I told someone and you're the first person who ever asked. Some of them, like the barman, know but they never ask direct. Makes a change.' We walked over to my table and sat down. 'Whadda you wanna know?' 'Anything. Your life, your fame, your ups and downs.' He told me. At length. How he was discovered, his successes, the fortunes he was paid, the women, the wives, fast cars, world trips, shows all over the world, name in lights on Broadway. It was sure impressive. 'And now?' I asked. 'Now?' He looked away from me, as if into a far distance. 'Now I got about enough dough, a place to live. I get by. Best part is coming here and playing. And the bourbon, of course,' he said, grinning and taking a slug. 'But don't you regret it? You had it all, and threw it away.' 'Threw it away?' It was the first time I saw him animated, upset. His head raised, and I caught the power in that gaze, the blaze of his personality shining through. I rocked back in my chair, afraid he might strike me. But he didn't, he laughed. The barman looked amazed, lots of people were staring at us now. Howie's voice, rich and strong, rang out. His tone was angry. 'I sure as hell didn't have it all, I had worry, pain and disappointment. Faithless wives, cheating managers, people wantin' me to do stuff all the time. I had jack all. Money in the bank and fancy hotels aren't life, ain't no joy there. I was unhappy, pure miserable, comprenez? Early days I was playing for me, then it became like one of them hamster wheels: singing the same songs over and over when I wanted to write new ones; agents hassling me for the next hit when I had nothin' to say. I wasn't the driving force like when I started, I was a cog in a machine that was driving me. I couldn't get off that wheel easy. Had to jump.' 'You mean it was deliberate? Crashing your career as you did? The booze?' 'I still have a fondness for it.' He smiled at his glass. He seemed calmer. 'I tried to take me a break; the shits wouldn't let me. They quoted contract clauses, penalties ... ''sorry,'' they said, ''can't break contract dates, TV shows, recordings, guest appearances''. They didn't care about me. I was just a goddam meal ticket. If I said I was tired, or ill, they acted all solicitous and brought in doctors who gave me pills and shots until I was perky as a flea. When I began to really sound off they brought in the suits: penalty clauses; I'd have to pay; I'd lose everything. First off I was scared but after a while began to care less. Booze was the answer. They tried to stop supplies, puttin' a guard to watch me, sendin' me to dry out in one of them fancy clinics. But there was always someone, even the guard, open to a wad of cash in return for a bottle of hooch. No way could they stop me once I'd decided. So, after a time, they gave up on me, found a new meal ticket. I was free.' 'But now, how do you feel now?' He sat back, calm and smiling. 'Life's just great,' he said. 'I don't have one care in the world. I do exactly what I want. I come here sometimes; sometimes I don't. I don't have to. I play what I want. I don't have to do nothing new, or keep repeating the old. I'm writin' when I want and when I have things to say. And I have a regular audience. Includes you.' 'Yeh, I'd noticed.' 'So I got everything I'd ever want. Life is good. I may not look happy, but I don't think I ever did. Not that kind of guy.' How wrong he was. I remembered the opening of his show when I was a kid. I'd be sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV, and the sequence was like the old Gene Kelly film, where his face gets bigger and bigger until it fills the screen. It was a smiling, joyful face, it made you happy, anticipating the next hour of entertainment; good entertainment: songs, dancing, playing piano, hilarious conversations with guests, and the serious ones that tugged at your heartstrings. Grandpa and Grandma loved him, Pop laughed and clapped. Ma just went silent and gazed with a faraway expression on her face, and even my teenage sister kept quiet, although she never expressed any approval. I shook my head. I didn't know what to say, but I thanked him. 'Naw, thank you,' he said. 'I'm glad I finally told someone, got it off my chest. I owe you, brother.' And he went over to the bar and got a glass off the barman, picked up his bottle on the way and poured me a glass. I noticed his was still pretty full. He raised it up and I followed. 'Here's to a wonderful life, Jim. Hope yours turns out as good.' We clinked glasses and drank. After a couple more, he returned to the piano and I left. The barman stopped me on the way. 'What was all that about? Never seen him like that, what did you say?' 'Oh nothing.' I laughed. 'Just a friendly chat. About life.' As I wandered back to the apartment, I was thinking. It was great to hear Howie's story, and he really did seem to have found peace and independence in his life. But I had troubles of my own. Some of the sales techniques here were rather pushy. My boss back home would never countenance them. But maybe the folks of Dayton were a little more touchy and old fashioned than those in the city. Surely city folks were used to attempts to rip them off and could deal with it? I was doing a presentation in a few days. My chance to shine. But I'd have to go with some ideas I really didn't like. If I didn't, others would, and bang would go my chance to deliver what the big boss wanted. I wasn't sure. I knew if I refused, I'd be packed off back to Dayton at the first opportunity. My boss would understand, but that would be that, permanently sidelined, no hope of making the big bucks. I could do what was required, of course, but how would I feel? And I'd have to keep doing it, coming up with sharp scams to lure the customers, rather than trying to give honest value. In Dayton, I knew many of the customers, I liked them. I felt I was doing something good. I couldn't work out why, suddenly, I had so many doubts. Perhaps I'd think differently in the morning.
Archived comments for Old Harry (revised version)
bluepootle on 17-12-2014
Old Harry (revised version)
Sorry it took me so long to get back to this. I'm glad I did, though. I think the voice of Howie is much improved, as is that final section in which the narrator's own problems are reflected through the lens of his experience in a more subtle manner. Good edit.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the push. I dropped off on the language originally, not paying attention, but your suggestion for the end was valuable.


With Eyes Whose Panes ... (posted on: 12-12-14)
just a short poem, inspired by the opening line .. Bit poncy I'm afraid.

With eyes whose panes obscure a curtained depth of shadows hid in secret lampless rooms, I see a growing resonance of death: the dust, decay, and quiet of the tomb. The silent, prowling panther of the night is threading through the sunbeams' golden bars. My eyes engage the swiftly-fading light to wrest it from the hidden, sullen stars. In desperation, fearing worse than life, My resolution strengthens its control. I sniff the air. But, slicing like a knife, A damp, dead stillness enters in my soul.
Archived comments for With Eyes Whose Panes ...
ifyouplease on 12-12-2014
With Eyes Whose Panes ...
wow, another poem that deals with death, good poem - the air seems to be quite significant mentioned in both of them. interesting.

Author's Reply:
Perhaps air is important to us?
Appreciate your comment.

ifyouplease on 12-12-2014
With Eyes Whose Panes ...
you use the element differently - the air of the other poem is hopeful, optimistic, energizing, here the element makes the reader alert, suspicious even, it is a stale air the smell of death's terror. i think there is a deeper meaning hidden in the way air has been used, perhaps psychoanalytical. (closed my facebook account sorry i hate that place won't return)

Author's Reply:
Oh, I shall miss you. Always appreciated your posts.

ifyouplease on 12-12-2014
With Eyes Whose Panes ...
thank you
facebook can become something like a second online nature - i cannot control this nature.

it's odd by the way that i also posted a poem about death (prosetry) wanted to tell you just : SHOULD NOT (sniff this air)

Author's Reply:


The Closing of the Year (posted on: 12-12-14)
Reflective poem ... PS. I've had responses from some lovely, caring people who expressed concern at this poem. May I reassure all that the scenario is a result of imagination not reality.

The Closing of the Year I will not see the closing of the year, Nor walk upon the land when winter comes. Snow will not bathe me in its chilly light, As I march onward to a fateful drum. A kitchen with cool flinted walls and stove, The Tuscan warmth of tiles that coat the floor, My table bare and scrubbed to whitened board With sunlight streaming through the open door. The air that wafts in, green and blossom-laved, Fills lungs and heart with hope to drive out fear. And in this summer kitchen where I sit, I will not see the closing of the year.
Archived comments for The Closing of the Year
ifyouplease on 12-12-2014
The Closing of the Year
well written poem, a bit macabre. i read somewhere that November December and January are death's favorite months so to speak, 50 % of humans allegedly die some time from Sept to Jan most in Dec.

Author's Reply:
Thank you, cutie! πŸ™‚

Bozzz on 12-12-2014
The Closing of the Year
The certainty of the writer about imminent death suggests a military situation in a foreign land - no honey still for tea wished for? Pentameter with occasional pause to confirm good beat - but it is there with second reading. Well-drawn pictures give impression of cold winter. Good poem, John....Yours aye David







Author's Reply:
In my mind, just a bloke with ill-health contemplating his fate.

Thanks for your comment. I am pedantic about rhythm πŸ™‚ so many seem to have a 'tin ear'.

pommer on 12-12-2014
The Closing of the Year
A sad pleasure to read. However, do not give up my friend,there is always hope. I experienced the feeling five years ago when first diagnosed with a Lymphoma. I was devastated, but,I am still here.I never gave up hope.All the very best John, Yours Peter.

Author's Reply:
Bless you for caring, but I'm pleased to say this wasn't a 'from the heart' poem. Yes, I had some health problems, they caused me to imagine what it would be like to face a final situation if they had been worse. Thankfully I'm not the depressive kind anyway.


Old Harry (now removed for editing - comments remain) (posted on: 05-12-14)
For the prose challenge. Prompt: a Tom Waits song.

I've removed this as it didn't come up to scratch (see comments) will rewrite and maybe re-present.
Archived comments for Old Harry (now removed for editing - comments remain)
bluepootle on 05-12-2014
Old Harry
It's quite a quiet, self-reflective piece, and I like the way you ended it, although I wonder if you could make it even more subtle, and reflect on the setting as he walks home instead of spelling out how he feels. You know, a bit of mirroring through the description or something.

Howie is a great character.

I'm not sure all the dialogue works. At times it feels quite formal and very sober, with phrases such as 'incessant demands', but writing this voice well is a real challenge, I think - I wouldn't like to take it on. Still, I think it works as a story and, weirdly, it did make me feel a bit Christmassy.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. You are right about the dialogue. I can do better. Will edit

sirat on 05-12-2014
Old Harry
I like this one a lot. It genuinely gives me pause for thought. Why do I write stories?

Why do people write in general, or write songs and sing them? Why am I nagging Lily Brooke and Rick Hayter to do something about their respective careers when they're perfectly happy doing what they're doing now?

As Aliya says it could probably be polished up a bit technically, but reading it I forgot about the technicalities and just started listening to what old Howie had to say, and I think that's a pretty high accolade for a short story.

Author's Reply:
Thank you David. I appreciate it.

Mikeverdi on 05-12-2014
Old Harry
It is a good story but Aliya has it right, the dialogue is out of kilter with the voice. You are writing about an American drunk singer, but when he talks...it's as English as me πŸ™‚ He would never use as many words. Its a great story and you should go back and prune it. I still like it, but good... could be great; and you're better than this.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Yep. I lost the voice in trying to get the ideas down. See reply to aliya

Rab on 05-12-2014
Old Harry
I agree with the comments above. I liked the story, thought it was a good take on the prompt, but I couldn't really hear a Tom Waits type character saying these middle paragraphs in that way; perhaps there was too much of a difference between the shambling drunk who sits at the table slumped over his glass.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Fairly unanimous input, and spot on.


My Life 2.3 : My Last Stand (posted on: 28-11-14)
Having erections all over the country's getting a bit tiring, so I change jobs...

My Life 2.3 My Last Stand (1979) We had a project to develop some more new aerials for oil rig communications. We had to take existing designs and scale them for a different radio frequency. This was not just a question of overall scale, but changing the relative dimensions of the hundred foot high wire cage that was our creation. It was 'bi-conical' – in three-D it was like an irregular diamond shape twirled round on its tip. So we had a series of wires attached to the top and the bottom of a mast, pulled out part-way down by wires fixed a long way out to make a cage. We had to put them up on Shetland. So the testing of the prototype………. Was at Ilfracombe! In the summer! We took a couple of hours to test and analyse each configuration of the aerial. While we did that, the gang went down the beach for a swim. When we'd got the results, we calculated the next change in dimension. When the gang got back, they had to climb the mast, let down the wires, cut them to a new length, and re-rig the new configuration. So it was our turn to go down the beach. And so on for a week … necessary work, but enjoyable all the same. So, in the restaurant at the harbour in Ilfracombe, we sat. My companion wiped his knife on his napkin. At the end of the room, a man sat on a high desk. The Proprietor. Within minutes, he appeared. 'Is there anything wrong with your cutlery, Sir?' My companion said 'Oh, sorry, it's an old army habit, no reason!' Was the man convinced? Maybe. He retreated, at any rate. A few weeks later, when we had to do some more testing, in the same restaurant my wife and I ate a lovely, freshly-cooked four-pound lobster, with some delicious Muscadet (little did I know that it would become our 'local' wine twenty years later). I still remember that lobster. We picked it from the tank, we saw it fresh and steaming, then presented at the table, split, on a bed of ice. Ilfracombe was also the site of the infamous 'Eskimo' incident, at which my wife was definitely NOT present. * see below This is a true story, folks….. ' a romantic ode worthy of Keats *' - Hemel Hempstead Post. I watched her there, across the room In that small bar in Ilfracombe. 'My Eskimo' I called her then. And I've no cause to think again, Though thirty years have passed me by I still see her in my mind's eye. How fine her Mongol features looked Shy smiles and glances, I was hooked! I fell in love with her that night, Across a bar, a lovely sight. Oh how I love them all to bits Those small, dark women with nice tits! * Arthur L. Keats of Leighton Buzzard. * We had a station on the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately, it was falling into the sea. Slowly, but inevitably. We had a new site up on the clifftop that probably would buy us another few hundred years, but we didn't want to move the existing masts unless we had to. So I decided the best way to check was to measure the tension in the stay wires. Sure, they went up and down with the temperature, but any slip would show up differentially, that is the stay blocks on the downslope would move first, and the increase in tension would be noticeable. So unfortunately, every couple of months, I had to go on a day trip to the Isle of Wight to measure the tension and record it faithfully for the records. In the school hols, I took my family and left them at the beach for a few hours before I rejoined them. The lads at the station were not allowed to do the measuring – they were radio operators, they sat at consoles and chatted to their pals on the ships – most had been ship's radio operators, who'd 'come ashore'. They were a great crowd, always joking, friendly. * I was having an idyllic time. Then one day the big boss called me in. 'Why don't you try for accelerated promotion?' He said. Promotion was slow at the time, and there was a backlog of worthy candidates waiting for jobs. It seems they'd decided to fast-track people who were coming up behind the jam and those caught in it. I'd never been ambitious. I had a great job, with no one on my back. My boss was my mate. I had everything ticking like a clock. But perhaps I did need a change. 'Okay' I agreed. I got it. I'd had a long discussion with my wife and we'd agreed that although it would probably mean a drop in real income if I wasn't travelling, and also for me it meant the boredom of travelling into London every day, it would probably pay off in the long term. So I found myself a job. I went to see the bloke, we agreed. He offered it to me. The business said 'no!' Apparently fast-track candidates were 'assigned'. They were not allowed to find their own jobs. They told me the job they wanted me to do – a desk job in a totally boring department. I found out from the people there that they had trouble filling this job because no-one wanted to do it. Ridiculous! I thought. Without being conceited, to me it seemed crazy to pick the so-called 'best of the bunch' and stick 'em in crap jobs that no-one else wanted. So I told 'em to stuff it. OK, I'll wait, I said, for normal promotion, then I'll choose my own job, thankyou. Meanwhile my own bosses and the bloke who offered me the job went to work. After three months I got a letter. It had a long rigmarole about how I had to be assigned, how I could not choose my own job. Then at the very end, one sentence told me I had been officially 'assigned' to the job I wanted! It taught me about bureaucracy. So I said farewell to my erections, and started a brand-new life…but in this one, I didn't just drive my family on holiday all over the UK, all expenses paid, I took them to the Black Forest in Germany, and eventually, to Finland! (hee-hee).in Helsinki I signed our first contract for cellular phones. * Before I left, I took the new guy up to Skye to show him what we did. We flew to Glasgow, picked up a car, and drove north. We stopped by the sea. It was April. The sun was hot, the sky was blue, a breeze fluttered. Taking in the fantastic view, he asked me. 'Is this work?' 'Oh yes' I told him, 'it can be hard at times!' In truth, there were times on Shetland, trekking through a couple of feet of snow in a blizzard in special protective clothing, or on a Scottish hillside with rain running down my neck, soaking me to the skin, that is wasn't so pleasant. Unsocial hours, driving 500 miles at a stretch to get to an appointment at a radio station when the weather broke -- not everyone would want to do that. But I haven't spoken about that, because I want my readers to be jealous. πŸ™‚
Archived comments for My Life 2.3 : My Last Stand
Mikeverdi on 28-11-2014
My Life 2.3 : My Last Stand
With regards to your last word...I am πŸ™‚ More great stories John, enjoying them very much.
Small typo: 'that is wasn't so pleasant' should be 'it' I think.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, I'll fix.


My Life 2.2 : More Erections! (posted on: 24-11-14)
I continue to stick things up ....

My Life 2.2 More Erections! (1975) We were back in Sumburgh, years after we had first gone there. The airport building was now enormous, with dozens of oil rig workers filing through the restaurant and big 'copters taking off full of them. The same two ladies worked there as when we first went but now, instead of a small counter and a back room there were big glass cabinets, long stainless steel counter, heating lights, white uniforms and smart modern surroundings. We get to the till. 'Yes, dear.' 'Er, Ocean.. er..' 'Spray?' she suggested kindly. I nodded. She ticked the book she had. They knew our faces. Everyone else there was getting fed on the oil rig accounts, so why not us? I stayed near Sumburgh once. The local guy said he was buying some sheep for his freezer. All around grazed sheep on the short grass. 'They look nice.' I said. 'Heavens!' He looked at me in amazement. I wouldn't buy them here – I go up the north of the island.' 'Why?' 'Far too polluted here...' I looked at the clear blue sky, felt the fresh breeze which always blew across Sumburgh from the Atlantic. 'Er, yes, I suppose so.' I replied. He nodded sagely. * But my job was not one long holiday, oh no. Sometimes I had to work… We were at the Hotel on Islay (pronounced Eye-La – short 'a'). It was a lovely place – they sent me very nice Christmas cards for years after – there was a golf course, luxurious rooms. True, the bathwater was always brown from the peat, but that was part of the charm. We were testing different whiskies in the bar. At that time, there were eighteen distilleries on Islay - I think about half have closed now. Anyway, I was merrily tasting this Lagavullin, which I thought was amazing (it's now quite popular I see – peat in a glass). Then this bloke came in. 'Hello,' he says, 'where are you from?' He's a nice chap, name of Tim. We have a few whiskies, chat a bit and eventually he gets up and says goodnight. 'Oh,' he says, 'would you like to visit a distillery?' We nod vigorously. 'Give them a map, will you.' He asks the barman, who nods. 'See you around ten? Ask for me.' We nod vigorously again. 'He works there then, does he?' We ask. The barman looks at us as he hands us a map, with the location of the Bowmore distillery. 'Works there? That's Young Master Tim…' We smile. 'They own it and most of the others..' We were impressed. '…and this hotel.' Next morning we were there, on time, and had a great tour. We were conducted by a man who introduced himself as the Manager. At the end of the tour, we were led into a grand wood-panelled room overlooking the harbour at Bowmore. There was a blazing fire in the grate and sumptuous leather chairs. 'Young Master Tim' came forward, hand outstretched. You know how you get a sample when you do a tour, a little glass? We had a tray of bottles and heavy, cut-glass tumblers. Tim stayed for one drink with us, then excused himself, saying unfortunately he had to leave. We got up too, but he motioned us to sit again. 'No, stay as long as you like – I've ordered some lunch for you. Just let yourselves out, if you don't mind.' He smiled and left. Nice bloke, that Tim! We didn't finish much work that day. As I say, I had to work very hard most of the time. When I got married, I took my wife to Scotland for our honeymoon. Even then I had to work. Half a day near Newcastle, half a day near Aberdeen, across to Oban and down to Portpatrick. I even worked on my honeymoon! All I got was mileage allowance for the trip and all the hotel expenses – no extra pay! (I did book my days off in between the work – always honest, me). * On Lewis, I stayed at a hotel in Stornoway. There weren't any closer to the site at Port of Ness, where the gang were staying in lodgings. It was the northernmost tip of Lewis, and a 40-minute drive up the road from our hotel. Halfway up was the only place you could get a drink. It was called a 'hotel'. With your drink you were given a plate with a manky sandwich on it, edges curling, hard. First time, I said, 'er, no thanks…' and my colleague elbowed me in the ribs. 'Take it' he commanded. The sandwiches sat on the table as we had a pint or two, then as we left, we put them back on the bar with a nod. For the next drinker. Lewis is the haunt of the 'wee frees' – the Free Church of Scotland. Very hot on drink and the Sabbath. The gang told me they had to wear suits when they left for work on Sunday so no one knew they were working. There was no drinking. Port of Ness is a tiny place, not more than a few rows of houses. Up the road was a small round stone building, the 'bothie'. Apparently (the gang told me) you went there at night and drank. You threw money into a bowl in the middle to pay for it. Men came staggering home at all hours. But it was OK. They told me that one man had told the landlady where he had been and was unceremoniously ejected from the digs – no one else there would take him either. But it was OK if you didn't mention it. Of course everybody knew, but so long as you didn't SAY anything about it … But this was the same landlady who, when it was late in the evening and learning we had to go back to Stornoway to get food, bustled us into her kitchen and fed us rabbit stew in abundance, refusing any payment. A good, Christian woman. * At the 'Rendez-Vous Restaurant' in Wick, they had a French chef. For a moderate sum you got a great slab of Scottish prime steak. You could have Steak Mexico (red and green pepper sauce), Pepper Steak, Steak, Steak Diane… you get the picture. The vegetables were always carrots and peas – mixed, obviously from a tin – translated into the local accent 'carrtsanpeas?' as young Deidre Dunnet hefted the dish at the side of the table. Dunnet head is on the north-east point of Scotland, and 'Dunnet' is prevalent as a surname there. I liked Wick. It had a kinda charm. It also had my second favourite landlady of all time, Mrs Tait. In Henrietta St. I lived like a king! When we left the restaurant, been in the pub and tramped back up to her house, I knew, waiting on the table would be a pot of tea keeping warm, and a plate of banana sandwiches. She knew I loved them. She was the kind of landlady who would sew your button back on if she found a shirt lying around with a missing one. I've always been quite 'cheeky' (in a nice way) and motherly women were quite fond of me when I was young. (Not ones my own bloody age!!! People's mothers, dogs and kids, they loved me. Full stop.). At Wick, I was able to build some fancy aerials for some oil industry communication, not just stick up the old masts. I pored over textbooks, designed it all myself, and had them built. They worked fine! Phew! They were quite different from the previous ones – cheaper, easier to tune and more efficient. I have been absolutely amazed (and this was the first of those experiences) that an employer would let me spend thousands of pounds on some little project I invented. It was schoolboy heaven! (er, later on I spent millions πŸ™‚ ). I wasn't brought up that way – you know, like those guys who are assured, confident etc. I have maintained my sense of wonder to this day at the freedom I have been given over the years. * My first favourite landlady was Mrs Vague, of St. Just in Cornwall. I spent a lot of time down there as there was much expansion of the communications with liners like the QE2, sending signals to print the daily newspaper on board in the morning. At Mrs Vague's it was all rich Cornish accent, rich Cornish food, rich Cornish cream, and good company. Lovely. I got in the habit of driving back from there after five o'clock in the evening, when the roads were clear. Then, there was no M5, no M4, no M3. All ordinary roads. Took about eight hours. But – before I left I'd nip down and buy a load of crab meat from the local crab place – 'pound of white meat, please!' Yummm. I also must mention Mrs. Macklin of Whitley Bay and Mrs. Morgan of Mablethorpe. All grand women who mothered me! Happy Days!
Archived comments for My Life 2.2 : More Erections!
Mikeverdi on 24-11-2014
My Life 2.2 : More Erections!
Love it John...keep them coming. Never been 'North of the Wall' I think I may haver missed something πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
Scotland and the Islands are lovely, beautiful, charming places with very nice people (mainly) especially outside the lowland belt. The only place I ever was discriminated against for being English was Inverness. Unpleasant and so stupid.


My Life 2.1 - A History of My Erections (posted on: 21-11-14)
inspired by Mikeverdi's life story (read it) these are my own memories. Hope they entertain.

My Life 2.1 A History of My Erections (1970 - ) My first 'real' job involved putting up masts round the coasts of Britain for short-range maritime radio communication (fishermen, coastal shipping). The service consisted of radio stations with operators who connected the radio links to the telephone network, and also managed an emergency channel. The masts were built to a fixed design, but in each case, I was required to calculate that the particular configuration would stand up to 120mph winds and half an inch of ice. I had never had any training for that - I had to pick it all up from manuals and asking others. That suited me, as I have always learned everything, since school, by myself. The masts were slim, hundred-foot things, held up by three sets of wire stays attached to enormous concrete blocks in the ground. Apart from the mast sections, I had to order all the bolts and metalwork, and get it delivered to the site. A local gang built the thing, under the control of an engineer who was my equivalent. First I would call up the drawings of the radio station, and pencil in the foundations. Then I'd take a trip to the site and mark it out with pegs – the centre block on which the mast sat, and the three stay blocks. I'd stand at the theodolite, waving my arms, and my assistant would wander around with a height stick, knocking in pegs as we rolled out the measuring tape. I had to measure all the ground level differences as the wire stays would have to be different lengths to fit properly. This sounds pretty boring, I admit. But perhaps I should add that the sites I visited ranged from St. Just (Land's End) to Wick, the Shetlands, Orkneys, Outer Hebrides and all down the coasts each side. Yeah! Seaside towns like Ilfracombe, Niton (IOW). What fun I had! See, I HAD to go myself to make sure the mast was laid out properly, it was my responsibility. They paid top mileage rate for me to use my own car (full of theodolite, protective clothes, etc). So much so, I could buy any (old, second- hand) car I wanted, and still come out with a profit. For a couple of years I had a Rover 3.5 Saloon, then I got an MGB. And I also got days off! I would drive to Newcastle, or Ilfracombe, do my 3-4 hours work, then drive back. Sure, I arrived home at midnight, but I had the whole of the next day off. I loved it – never liked to be tied down. It was my job alone, and my boss left me to it. I decided where I went next and why. My boss just gave me a list of places to bung up the masts for the next year. We had a station near Newcastle. I'd done all the marking out, the blocks had been placed, ready for erection. One day the phone rang in my London office. 'John?' 'Yup' 'Er, we got a problem…' It turned out the Drawing Office had turned up a plan that showed the local farmer owned half the field, and there was no fence, just a couple of overgrown markers. Shit! The farmer was quite nice, but one block was on his land. 'What do I do?' I asked the gang boss. 'Explosives.' he muttered. 'Go ahead.' I signed his order. It worked well, when I went back a month later, you could not see any sign of the errant block, and they had the new ones in place. I breathed a sigh of relief. Next spring, I went up again to 'tune up' one of the masts for a different transmitter. I stood with the Station Manager. In the farmer's field the grass was even, knee height. In the middle was a great bright green patch a metre square, growth towering head height. 'Oh, its OK.' he said, 'the farmer thinks it's quite funny.' I'm glad he did, it cost a bloody fortune! But it's also why you should never bury a body in a field. We had to 'tune up' masts to the frequency of the transmitter. It took four blokes a day or so, as they did it 'by ear' – a twiddle here, a twiddle there. This annoyed me – one: it seemed wasteful and lengthy, two: I couldn't go off on my own and do it, which pinned me down. Then I found this machine. It cost a bit. Someone else had bought it for some special job and didn't understand it, but I loved it! They let me pinch it. After that, my assistant and I tuned the masts up in an hour or so, me gazing at my screen inside the station, and he, on the walkie-talkie, moving connections on a big copper coil in a box at the foot of the mast. It was like the 'Golden Shot' 'Up a bit.' 'Clear!' (his being close disturbed the tuning) 'Down a bit' 'Clear!' 'Up a bit' 'Left a bit' 'Bingo! Pack up, we're done!' When the transmitter boys came along a week later, they just plugged in and off they went. Truth is, I was just lazy. I hate hanging around, waiting for other people to piss about. * The bad thing was, I went out in all weathers. I stood for five hours on a hilltop on the main island of Shetland. In that time, we had bright sunshine, rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog… all the time I watched the sun process across the smoked eyepiece of my theodolite, stopwatch in hand, calling out bearings and marking the time. Because it was winter, the sun was low, so I needed masses of readings to get a reliable bearing. Then I trekked down to Lerwick library. 'Got a copy of Burdwood's Tables?' 'Sure.' Captain Burdwood produced a book of tables that allow you to work out the bearing by the declination of the sun (how high it is) on a certain date, a certain time, viewed from a certain latitude. But first! You need to know the 'hour angle' of the sun, which fixes the base of the calculation. You ring up the Duty Officer at the Royal Observatory and he tells you. That's his job. Haven't done it for nearly thirty years now – 'twas fun! * They were building some big antennas for the oil rigs. The contractors were set, and ready to pour concrete – millions of pounds of contract were rolling. They were sixty foot 'billboard' antennas – great sheets of curved metal in the sky. The theory was, you pointed it where the oil rigs were and blasted a signal. They were too far away over the curve of the earth, so the signal shot over their heads, but a bit scattered down from the sky and they could communicate. BUT, if you were off the horizontal bearing, you were buggered. 'John?' It wasn't my department. But I had become the 'Burdwood-meister' 'Will you just go up and do an independent check on the bearing? I'll buy you a pint.' Anyway, so I say to this contractor's bloke. 'Five degrees EAST?' I'd calculated and re-calculated. I had some bad news. He'd done it from a map, from local landmarks. I'd done it from the sun – less accurate, but: 'Sorry mate. I get about five degrees WEST' Months later, after they'd re-aligned the antennas, they poured the concrete. I got quite a lot more than a pint in thanks. * The northernmost island of the Shetlands is called Unst. On it is a lighthouse called 'Muckle Flugga' – means 'Big Rock'. There is also an RAF base called 'Saxa Vord'. We put up a few masts there. It was the 70's. The oil boom had started. I used to get on a plane at Heathrow, a Viscount – twin propeller airliner – later by jet. Up to Aberdeen (Viscounts still flew from there even later) and to Sumburgh, on the southern tip of Zetland, the main Island of the Shetlands. Here, in a tiny terminal, we had some lunch, chatting to the two kindly ladies who served the food, then at 13.00, we joined the flight to Unst. We stood on a scale with our bags, then got in the plane – an eight-seater Britton-Norman Islander. When it was windy (it was always windy at Sumburgh), two men held the wings as we taxied out and turned into it to take off. The pilot and I had a joke. He said 'Stop banging your head on my roof.' I said 'Fly properly.' We stayed in the Officer's Mess. My assistant stayed in the Sergeant's Mess. The Officer's Mess was a bit dull (Except when me and the WingCo broke into the kitchen at 3 o'clock in the morning of the longest day to make coffee). We had to be invited to the Sergeant's Mess, but when we were, we could get bacon butties with our drink in the lively bar, or (better still) black pudding and raw onion ones. Yummm. The sea there, when you fly over, is like the Caribbean. Clear, turquoise water, white sand, bays, little islands. Only difference is the temperature. Memories….
Archived comments for My Life 2.1 - A History of My Erections
Mikeverdi on 21-11-2014
My Life 2.1 - A History of My Erections
Wow! I have never heard of that before, I shall look at masts in a new way in future. You don't say what they were for, radio masts I assume. The technical stuff is way over my head but what a job! I would love to have visited all those places... and then you shove off all over the world πŸ™‚ Double Wow HaHa!

Thanks for the read (and your kind words)

Mike

That's better John, you'll get the hang of it when you've been writing for a bit longer. πŸ™‚ LOL

Author's Reply:
That's a good point (what were they for?) I've amended the start to explain. Thanks.


Dreams (posted on: 07-11-14)
For the poetry challenge. Using three specified lines:start, Middle, and last (bolded in text) Do dreams ever come true?

Dreams The old man smiled as the helicopter swooped low over the chimney pots. It had been a long time but now he could take his revenge. He had the control box and there was a missile on a nearby rooftop. He was waiting, waiting until the 'copter reached the optimum position. He was not going to waste this chance by being overhasty. There was a sudden pain in his head, but he shook it off. Poor old man, he thought, am I getting too old for this? No. He dismissed the idea. This was for his family, his wife and children. He would never let them down, never. He looked around. Every detail was clear: the rooftop, the shelter protecting him from infra-red detection. The missile was similarly protected, he'd been told. He did not know who had done it; he had no knowledge of any others. Twenty years ago they had approached him, communicating with him by anonymous notes left in public places. They had told him to let them know when he got to England, to wait and watch for certain personal advertisements in particular papers each first Friday of the month. He'd done it for all that time until word came and he'd telephoned a number. Then he was given instructions, told the code for the rooftop door, and given the control box by a stranger in a crowded pub, who left what appeared to be a paperback with him. The control box was in the hollowed-out interior. He was told to dispose of it immediately after he'd used it by hurling it over the parapet of the roof so its origins could not be detected in the wreckage. The time was coming closer. The pain in his head was increasing, but he could still concentrate on the job in hand. He thought of his wife and family, innocents killed by the bombs. They would pay! Now it was near. He stared up at the black helicopter with the two accompanying ones either side. His fingers were ready on the control, ready to press the button. As the helicopter came directly over the building where the missile waited, Jahmir's fingers rested on the button, feeling its smooth surface, the sharp edge of the side. He pressed, and felt it move with a satisfying click. At first he thought it was not working. He rammed the button in as far as it would go. It seemed an eternity before there was a roar and something leapt into the air nearby. A black shape, glimpsed for an instant. * As the fireball swelled and wreckage rained down, he yelled out 'For Zaineb, for Rukia, for Kasim and Anshu!' then pitched the control over the edge. It was done. Grateful not to be seen, he made his way carefully back to the door, still under the camouflage that had been set up for him. After all, they could still be watching, some sharp-eyed security guard on the alert. He didn't care now if he was caught, but didn't want to give them the satisfaction. The more power to his cause if they could not find the culprit. It would show their weakness. In a few minutes, he was on the street, joining a growing crowd of onlookers, an innocent passer-by. 'What happened?' he asked. 'Dunno mate, helicopter came down. Some important bloke, I think.' The security forces were moving in: police, ambulance and fire services began to appear. Shaking his head as if in sorrow and angrily recalling his own that day in Dahuk, he moved on with some of the crowd who were being hustled away and told to clear the street. That evening the TV news was filled with event. 'Assassination of …'. In the privacy of his flat, he finally smiled. At last, his revenge. He spoke to his family, addressing them by name. 'Justice is done. You are avenged.' He'd bought a bottle of sparkling grape juice to toast his success. This was how they celebrated with their champagne. He would do the same. He tasted it, and victory made it sweet. He was too excited to eat a full meal, excited, elated, thinking over the afternoon again and again. He knew he would not hear from his brothers again. That was over. He had played his part, and now had to lie low. The only thing that spoiled the mood for him was the pain in his head. He wished it would ease. It was annoying, distracting. He managed a light snack, a small sandwich, and started watching the news again, skipping through the channels, picking up every detail, gleeful at every expression of sorrow. Al Jazeera was very clear, presenting the opinions the BBC would not acknowledge: a tide of feeling which had led to his actions, his triumph. It was unstoppable now. They would increase security checks, but that was self-defeating. More and more would join the crusade, pull down the tyrants and unbelievers. He had struck a mighty blow. Tired, he took some painkillers and tried to sleep, but he was kept awake by the pain, and the memories of the events, his imagination running wildly through the day's events: his revenge; his family; the crusade. His people. In the early hours, he finally found sleep, smiling gently. * The sound of the helicopters died away. 'Well done! ' 'Thank you, sir.' They gazed down at the body. Blood ran from the head. It looked for all the world like an overripe tomato, split open. An ordinary-looking man, not like a terrorist in any way. The kind of man you would take for a normal member of society. One hand was stretched out toward a small box which lay on the ground. A black box with a red button. 'Lucky we spotted the camouflage. Thank God he never got the chance to press that button.' 'I thought of trying to get him alive, but the risk was too great, I had to go for the kill shot.' 'Absolutely right. You'll get a commendation for this. You've saved far more than one man's life. These talks …' 'Yes, sir, I understand.' 'We've found the missile on the next rooftop, disabled it. 'He must have believed in something. Why would he do this? What drove him? Surely we should be finding out the causes?' 'We all believe in something, but not terrorism.' For once, she could think of nothing to say.
Archived comments for Dreams
bluepootle on 07-11-2014
Dreams
It reminds me of your last challenge story, with the destruction of the small creatures because communication is deemed impossible. Actions and consequences, exploring how we get pushed to these terrible situations: it's a really interesting subject and I like the way you approach it, in these bitesized stories with clarity that leaves room for the mind to work.

I like the detail in this one too. The instructions, the grape juice, the TV, all give it a tangible quality. Write one more on this subject and then present them as a triptych, I reckon...



Author's Reply:
Thanks. The key inspiration for this was a story I've mentioned before, Pincher Martin by William Golding. In it, a whole novel describes a wrecked sailors experiences washed up on a desert island, all the detail of how he survives, etc. The key (which my button is supposed to represent) is it starts with 'he kicked off his seaboots' At the very last para, two blokes fish a body out and say 'he didn't even have time to kick off his boots' this transforms the whole of the novel. I was trying the same thing on a much more meagre scale. 😊

Rab on 07-11-2014
Dreams
Great read, although I had to go back and read it through twice to get it. Only thing is the second prompt, which to me didn't ring particularly true. It doesn't take away from the story, though, which is compelling

Author's Reply:
I agree about the middle prompt.

OldPeculier on 07-11-2014
Dreams
Great. A straight forward tale with that neat little twist at the end. Reads well to me and I can't really find any fault with it.

The tomato bit is maybe a bit forced, but then it was a bit of a tricky thing to put in any story. Interesting how three out of five used it to describe someone's head!

Author's Reply:
Thank you.

TheBigBadG on 07-11-2014
Dreams
The tone of the last couple of lines are particularly interesting here, the way they could be without irony, or spoken from bias. It's interesting how the silence at the end of the piece gives us all a more open-ended final moment. Especially given the intended target is never identified. Like Blue, I can see the thematic connection to your last piece as well, though this is a much more personal relationship with the cataclysm. Macro- to microcosmic. You probably could work a triptych in fact, interesting idea.

Outside the confines of the challenge I probably would adjust the tomato line as well. It's a bit flippant against the serious tone. The one thing I would ask though, is about your martyr drinking alcohol - something about that didn't ring true for me. If he's willing to risk his life for his beliefs I didn't see that he'd then give them over for the celebration. Unless he's less devout and more angry? In which case maybe bring that detail a bit more to the fore.

Author's Reply:
He didn't drink alcohol.

TheBigBadG on 07-11-2014
Dreams
Fair enough, my misread. I don't really associate sparkling grape juice with celebrations, so that's probably just me bringing my preconceptions to the fore.

Author's Reply:
I recently had an author who rejected my critique saying 'if people read it the wrong way, it's their fault, not mine.' appalling. So it's my job as an author to make the grape juice thing clear if it confuses even a few. πŸ™‚

Hope it's clearer now.

TheBigBadG on 10-11-2014
Dreams
Yes, I think that is more effective this way in fact. You've made it a nod to the gulfs in experience and culture that underpin the entire conflict. It's a small change but it rounds his character out a bit more, neat.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 10-11-2014
Dreams
I am completely aware that I have a prejudice against this kind of story, which I see as very plot-led and hence un-involving, but that's my problem and not yours. It all hangs together well, and the dying dream is a good device for what you want to do.

On a technicality similar to the alcohol debate, I don't think a Jehadist is going to talk about being on a 'crusade'. Remember the ill-feeling that the use of that word stirred up when George W used it to refer to his 'war on terror'?

Author's Reply:
I understand what you mean, but to an extent, the story is driven by the prompt. I can't see really how it can't be plot led with a start such as that given, and I don't mind that anyway as you know. Variety is the spice of life.

hmm I'll think about crusade. after all he is using it to himself, it could be seen as a sarcastic reference. If he were speaking to others, perhaps being said with a sneer would indicate that.

Mikeverdi on 13-11-2014
Dreams
I no nothing about the forum challenge, I just read stories; and I liked this one John.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks! πŸ™‚


My Life 1.2.1 : Wales! Who needs it? (posted on: 27-10-14)
Call me the Anne Robinson of UKA, but….. I decided to write about my University 'career’. (Doesn’t 'career’ mean to slide, out of control?) This is slightly different from my previous posts on Japan and Russia. No 'interesting' places, just some 'interesting' characters ...

My Life 1.2.1: Wales! Who needs it? I was brought up in Liverpool. Wales was a place across the Mersey, reached by dark green Crosville buses (as opposed to our light green ones) which set off from the Birkenhead ferry terminal, after the shortest Mersey ferry crossing dropped us. Here in this foreign land 'over the water' as we used to say, they sold Vimto and had a different brand of 'pop'. Our brand in Liverpool was 'Moorhouses' which had a drawing of a grinning black boy with a lemon squashed on his head on the label. I remember when they first introduced 'raspberryade', but our favourite was 'cream soda' – it was green. We also loved the lemonade (not the white lemonade but the yellow lemonade, you understand) and Tizer! Ymmm! Plus Sasparilla and Dandelion and Burdock (when they weren't being delivered by the Lancashire Botanical Brewery lorry in gallon stone jars, like the ginger beer). We used to get on a dark green bus at Birkenhead and go to 'Loggerheads' – god knows where it was, but it was fun! We went on holiday to a place near Mold – staying in a cottage. I remember the slate floors, and the tame sheep that came in if you left the door open and the old tram in the front garden. Moel-y-Crio – that was it! Anyway, this is not about the Land of my Fathers as such. It's about the mentality of the real Welsh welsh. Prepare, O youngsters, to be amazed beyond your wits……. I went to University in Wales. Not the nice, ordinary part (Cardiff, Swansea – where they are sort of Welsh, but English really). Thank god not Bangor (which was probably worse) but Aberystwyth – a seaside town that seduced and betrayed me. It was great - I love the sea! At Aber I once lived in a seafront hotel that vibrated each time a wave hit. It was built on a Victorian artificial embankment which blocked the original mouth of the river Ystwyth and diverted it into the harbour. I lay in bed, feeling each wave strike. When there was a storm the front windows were all shuttered, and we had to go in at the back –you had to wait between waves, as they crashed down over the roof into the yard behind each time in a drenching shower. It was part of a long seafront terrace about five stories high – we once went into one of the rooms in the eaves, and opened the tiny window – bam! Spray fountained into the room. After the storm, the road outside was covered in boulders, some sizeable. I once saw a family walking by the rail of the promenade – not a real storm but a high, choppy sea. The sea sort of 'slopped' and for an instant they were a foot deep in seawater, then it drained away as quickly as it had appeared. They looked down, amazed, and then the kids started to yell. I loved it – the power! Anyway, what I want to tell you about in all this verbiage, apart from the Sunday-night drives across icy mountain roads just to get a drink at the Cross Foxes in Rhyader (outside Ceredigion (Cardiganshire), and 'wet' on Sunday unlike Aber where all the pubs were closed), and the Penguin cafι, and the fact there were no traffic lights in the town, and …… but I digress. My story today is of injustice, prejudice and small-town Welsh bitterness and self-righteousness. My first 'digs' were at Mrs Davies' in St. Michael's place, opposite the Castle ruins, where there was a war memorial – a bronze figure of a winged lady, nicely patina'd but whose tits were regularly polished to highlight them. My next 'digs' were in the local pub. That's when I became a 'suspect' to the authorities! Before moving into a room above the pub, I had been a regular there, and naturally remained so. My evenings were spent at the 'Angel Inn' imbibing, playing guitar, banjo, and singing uproariously. My tankard (actually an original 'Guinness' glass mug from Ireland, and which miraculously survived) hung from the ceiling of the bar. I was known, a regular, and a resident. Enter the University authorities, by letter:- ''It has come to our attention……… taken lodgings above licensed premises……. as you have to pass through a six foot corridor of the licensed premises to reach the staircase to your room, it is forbidden!'' ''Er, but I'm a regular there anyway.'' ''It is against regulations – you cannot stay there!'' Who told 'em? Some busybody. A welsh busybody, I have no doubt. I moved. I lived in a dump. The pub had been great, the landlord and his family were friends, they looked after me, we sat and chatted. Now I was in a dump, cardboard walls, slug-filled kitchen, dying landlady, cat called 'Shitty' (sounded like) which ran up the chimney and a fellow inmate who left sweaty, stinking rugby clothes in the sideboard and false tooth on mantelpiece. (He got a first in Classics! Can you believe it?) Cracked toilet seat - full stop. That year, I got thrown out. Let's not go into it, eh? It was more a 'failed to return'. In the interim year, I got lessons from my old maths teacher, and succeeded in resuming my academic 'career' again the year after, in the meantime working at the John Moores centre (Littlewood's catalogues) and being a 'Temporary Unqualified Teacher' at a Catholic School in Scotland Road. So I was back. I'm in the hotel, pounded by waves. I meet the love of my life. You know the one who just …….. The one! (Totally unsuited, but we realise all that later). So I immediately contract glandular fever – not just a short sore throat, but the works. Nice young, smart doctor. Lost my records. Six weeks later – ''I'm still being sick every morning and my throat hurts terribly, doctor. I'm tired all the time, no energy, I get breathless walking.'' ''Have you been here before?'' ''Yes, six weeks ago when it started.'' ''No record of that, still, let's have a look……'' I found out he'd told the University he didn't know anything about me being ill for the six weeks before that, so they got shirty at some missed morning lectures. My girl friend insisted I move to her place as I was, by now flat out, not eating and gasping for breath despite the medication. She had to hold me up as I staggered slowly along the back road, step by step. Her flatmates were kind, they didn't object. For several days I lay, not eating anything, gagging at the merest smell of food, existing on Lucozade. She called my parents, and the doctor. ''You have glandular fever. It's serious. I advise you to go home.'' The doctor smiles. At the weekend, my dad and my brother arrived at my girl-friend's flat. I was able to stagger to the car, wrapped in blankets, to be driven home. At Christmas, my girl friend visited me. I was apparently better and it was great. (However, a year later I woke up one day and say ''Hey, I feel better. This is the first morning I haven't been sick.'' And I was. (better)) Then I got a letter. It said: ''You were found staying in a woman's lodgings. This is against the regulations, you must face a tribunal.'' Who told 'em? Guess – the doctor – the Welsh doctor - what a bunch of wankers! When I got back next term, I was hauled up in front of a body of people, headed by the Vice-Principal. They fined me, and my girl friend. They didn't ask about my work, my progress…… I told them I would pay her fine as well. At the campus on the hill, a scrap of paper blew across my ankle. I grabbed it. It said ''The student Griffiths has been found to…. Have any of you any additional information.'' It was about me! Unbelievable! *note: this is all true, I promise! By now I felt like public enemy number one. As I queued to pay my fine at the Vice-Principal's office, with about ten others, he was on a phone in the corner of the outer office. ''I think we should find out more about this ''Griffiths's'' girlfriend, there may be more…..'' I couldn't believe it. What was this man about? Vice-Principal of a University, big stuff to do, and he was pursuing my girlfriend, whose only 'crime' was to look after a sick bloke. I went over to him, tapped him on his gowned shoulder, and said. ''Excuse me, but you are talking about me in front of all these people.'' I said it loudly enough so all my fellow students stared at him. (I wonder what they'd been fined for? Probably 'being English' or 'staring lewdly at Mary Thomas's tits' (which at least fifty per cent of us did) ). He rushed back in his office without an apology. He was Welsh. Sod it! I thought. The next day, I moved in with my girl friend. I never had any hassle again for the rest of the year. Life, huh? I loved the place - but some of the people! I know many other people have interesting lives, I'm sure mine is a lot less interesting than many, and I'm not complaining about the injustice – I am more fascinated by the mentality of some of the people I met. John F. Griffiths, BSc. Physics (Honours) UCW Aberystwyth (not completed).
Archived comments for My Life 1.2.1 : Wales! Who needs it?
Mikeverdi on 28-10-2014
My Life 1.2.1 : Wales! Who needs it?
I found this 'very interesting'. I love reading this sort of stuff; means I'm weird I expect. You have missed a word in para five line three: It ...part.
Any more you want to post I will read πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike. Glitch fixed.
This is probably the most interesting personal thing that happened to me, unlike your own amazingly colourful life, mine was largely predictable and dull, although I have a few claims to fame I should probably be less bashful about. I may add a few pieces in that vein, but I really don't want to seem boastful. Everyone has triumphs and tragedies in their lives, which they hold dear. Why should they want to hear mine? But when I read your accounts, it's clear that people do (I do). So you may have given me some inspiration to reveal myself a bit more, something I don't usually do.
(from Tokyo)


My Life 5.5 - Moscow Frights! (Final Russian episode) (posted on: 17-10-14)
Attacked by gypsies. Tanks on the lawn. The 'tart's supermarket'

My Life 5.5 Moscow Frights I've had some frights in Moscow! In early 1993 I and two companions, a Norwegian and a Swede, were walking back from the hotel where we had heard the Minister announce the short list of bidders, which, thankfully, included the consortium that had hired me as bid director. I did not have a top coat but it wasn't all that cold that afternoon. I was dressed in business suit that made me quite conspicuous as we walked away from the hotel and across Red Square past St. Basil's, which never failed to fill me with wonder. The cobbles of the square were rutted, presumably by the parades of tanks that had passed over them. I was in a good mood and the day was fine as we three came to the red stone building at the entrance to the square and turned right towards the Metropole Hotel. It wasn't far up the street, which was thronged with people – old women selling stuff, army officers, overcoated Muscovites hurrying along. The three of us were walking abreast, and Tom and Nils were engaged in conversation. A boy walked across my path, causing me to slow a little, and Tom and Nils were slightly ahead of me. Another child walked in front of me, and I had to swerve to avoid her. Without realising it, I found myself some steps behind my companions, and the crowd seemed thicker, somehow. I managed to hurry after them but again, a boy walked diagonally across my path - from the other side, this time. It took me a moment, then I saw it was the same boy. I began to realise what was happening as my path was blocked by a woman holding a baby, apparently begging. Some children came from the side and surrounded me. They were polite, smiling. My companions were walking away, up the street. I felt the touch of hands at my sides, and the back of my trousers. I held a hand to my wallet, inside my jacket, and the other to my money in my back trouser pocket, I began to turn round rapidly, so they didn't have a chance. They started to tug at my sleeves, trying to hold my arms, pulling down on my jacket. I started to call out to my companions, way up the street now. Then I thought, no! I'm not having this! There is streak of obstinacy in me which one day might get me killed, but that's just the way I am – not brave, maybe just stupid! I decided these thieves wouldn't get anything from me. It wouldn't have been much, and inconvenience at most for me – I had a hundred dollars or so in my pocket, not a fortune. I turned the shout, and my rage, on the people surrounding me. When I shout, I shout loud! People around stopped to stare. The kids took a step back. The scene seemed to freeze, but no-one was touching me now. What to do? I decided ... I advanced on the woman with the baby, raising my fist to her, shouting in her face as loud as I could, I began to move quickly towards her. One step forward, and they were gone – racing off down the street, disappearing in the crowds, the women, a whole bunch of kids of all ages. My companions had only just started to turn back toward me to look; it was as if it were in slow-motion. I suppose it was my fault, I was fair game, exposed as I was. I was lucky there weren't any knives. I felt dirty. I went back to the hotel and soaked in a hot bath, changed my clothes. That night it snowed. I had to go out with the others, in my suit. But the Bolshoi was only just round the corner, and I still remember my first sight of it and the glittering chandeliers in the tall windows as the snowflakes swirled. * I have said before that for years I did not realise that the 'Finland Station' in St. Petersburg (Russian revolution) was exactly, literally, that. The station you went to for a train to Finland. The other stations are likewise named. But the Russian word for station is Voxal , for instance the Kievsky Voxal in Moscow, which serves the Ukraine. The story behind this word is intriguing. The word is actually the Russian version of Vauxhall. When Russian railway engineers visited England in Victorian times, they were shown the latest railway station, a new design, with covering roof, facilities and an organised space for the platforms, passengers, loading etc ... Yes, at Vauxhall in London. So when they returned, all Russian stations became known as Voxals, and are to this day. * It was September, 1993. I was working for a big US company. I had toured parts of Russia, drawing up recommendations for their business in certain areas. I had just completed my final report, a massive tome with technical, market and financial analysis of a dozen different areas, from the Volga basin, across Siberia to the Russian Far East and Kamchatka. We had been hearing on the news for some time that some kind of problem was happening at the back of the White House, the Russian parliament. A crowd of deputies had gathered. At the time, we were staying in the Aerostar, which was on the north-west outskirts of the inner city. We were in the bar, having a drink. Peter, an Australian I had brought in to do some market analysis, was staring at the TV. "John, this is important!" he said. I knew he couldn't speak Russian, but I glanced at the TV. Boris Yeltsin was rambling on, looking serious. "I know it's important!" insisted Pete. "Ask the bartender." It turned out tanks were being moved into the city. "They will pass us, just here," the barman said, waving an arm at the tree-lined streets beyond the windows. That night I slept fitfully, woken up by the metallic rattle of what I believed to be a machine gun, but which I realised must have been just a loose tram-track. Nothing much happened. Peter and the others went home – I stayed to finish the report and tidy up our operations, which had taken over part of the offices of my client during our project. The office was in a giant glass-fronted building, just along the Moscow River from the White House, the Russian Parliament building. The office was in a complex of International Conference centre, hotel and offices. Behind were apartments, where several of the Moscow-based US guys lived in company-rented accommodation. As we sat eating lunch cooked by the office's personal cook - fried chicken legs with lovely herb-salad - we would look down the north bank of the bend in the river to the White House. The office was glass from floor to ceiling on the outer face of the building. As we entered in the morning, we were screened by men in suits. My Russian colleague told me it was to prevent prostitutes entering. One of my team, an attractive New Yorker, was mortified when she was questioned closely as she tried to enter on her own. It was strange, because there was a coffee shop in the hotel, where it was well known, and obvious, that 'biznessmen' and plenty of hookers, hung out. They didn't bother you, but you couldn't fail to notice them. I suspect that the security guards were keeping out 'unauthorised' girls only. * So, one morning I get in a cab. "Mezhdunarodnya," I say, and the guy drives merrily off. He takes a short cut. It is a small road. There is a puddle, stretching all the way across – burst pipe? Blocked drain? This guy does not take chances. As he cannot see what is in the puddle, he takes to the pavement, driving carefully between the street lamps and the buildings, halting for pedestrians, until he regains the dry road a bit further on. Turning onto the main street, which I now recognise, there is a big layby, in which a petrol tanker is parked. Cars are queuing up as a man wields a hosepipe and nozzle connected to the back of the tanker, and pockets the cash as each car is filled. Just another Friday morning in Moscow! My cab has stopped. My driver is confused. Someone has closed the road. I know where we are, just a short walk along the Moscow River to the office. I shall walk! I pay him off and step out. Only then do I register the orange-painted tankers blocking the steps down to the river walk, the razor wire and the soldier with the gun. Shit! I eye up the river. I could walk up the other bank, and cross back near the office, walking back past the dollar supermarket where the smart blondes teeter on their high heels with their trolleys loaded with western goods, and men in chauffeur's uniforms with dark glasses wait outside while boys wash their BMW's and Mercs with buckets of water from the river. Yes! Good plan! Just walk back past the Casino boat and I'd be there! I set off across the bridge. On the far bank is the Ukraine hotel, a monstrous towering palace – one of Stalin's creations, much like the 'Palace of Culture' in Warsaw – a gift to the Polish people (who were not at all grateful). There are seven 'Stalin' towers in Moscow, you can look out and see them dotted about the skyline. When I get there, I realise that, in the gardens between the hotel and the river, are three tanks - real live tanks, with blokes in and around them with guns, and guns, big guns! I also register cars driving up and down with TV cameras hanging out the windows. Ahah! I look at the daunting stretch of unknown territory between me and the bridge that led back over to the 'tart's supermarket' and decide to take a cab. * An hour later, I got to the office, ten minutes walk from the place I had been dropped. I finished the report. I'd booked the afternoon flight back to London, so I decided my client would stand me lunch, on expenses. I went to the Boyarsky Zal, a fabulous painted room in the Metropole Hotel. The head waiter had a moustache which was curled around and around and waxed. He served me. I had caviar, with all the trimmings, and a glass of iced vodka, just that, nothing fancy or substantial, just quality. The head waiter nodded in approval and his cheeks swelled as he smiled. Cost sixty dollars ( a lot at that time). Lovely. I went home, safe and sound, job done. Three days later, the tanks shelled the White House. My pals in the office had to hide in the company apartments for a day or two, because soldiers suspected there were snipers on top of the office building, a few pot shots had come through the floor-to-ceiling glass. What I really missed about Moscow was Number Four, Mirsky Prospekt. This was an anonymous building, with only a brass plate outside on the door. You knocked and a man let you in. Inside were three levels of beautiful wooden beams and floors, full of Japanese people eating and authentic, fresh Japanese food flown in daily – Sashimi, tempura, hot sake – my favourites! Best thing in Moscow! Apart from the caviar, maybe…… (1993) To read My Life 5.1 St Pete, Poland and German reunification day: Click Here To read My Life 5.2 - Russia the Far East (watching for the chinese, potato island, airport frights) : Click Here To readMy Life 5.3 Petropavslosk-Kamchatsii (crab, purple raincoats, nuclear subs, live volcanoes) Click Here To read My Life 5.4 Villa by the Volga (My thousand dollar sock, my villa, and when would I die) Click Here
Archived comments for My Life 5.5 - Moscow Frights! (Final Russian episode)
Mikeverdi on 17-10-2014
My Life 5.5 - Moscow Frights! (Final Russian episode)
Brilliant chapter, I like the way you are writing this John. Exciting times to be there. Letters from the front line.
Mike

Author's Reply:


My Life 5.4 Russia - Samara and Togliatti - the Volga basin (posted on: 13-10-14)
Stalin's bunker. The thousand dollar sock. Lada tax. When will I die?

My Life 5.4 Samara and Togliatti June 1993 Samara lies in the Volga basin, near the confluence of the Samara and Volga rivers, on a bend in the giant river. It used to be called Kubyschev, after a revolutionary leader. We pulled up at a modern, white, two-story building. Although clearly not a house, there were no markings or signs. It was tucked back between two streets of older buildings. ''It was the house for visiting Party members,'' Vlad told me. It wasn't plush, so it obviously wasn't for Senior Party members, just the middle-ranking ones I guess. But it was clean and comparatively 'unworn' which was unusual in Russia. On Sunday, we did a tour of the town. We had been to several places for meetings, transported by our hosts, but this time we went by ourselves, even though one 'guide' came with us to assist. In Russia, many drivers would stop for you if you waved your arm. It wasn't a hitchhiker's 'thumbs' signal, it was a straight arm lifting from the side, waved gently up and down like the old 'slowing down' hand signal. What then happened was that a driver stopped, you jointly decided if he could drop you where you wanted to go (if not too far out of his way) and how much you were going to pay him. Of course, it was cheaper than a taxi, but the main reason for doing it was that there weren't many taxis. We strolled in the central square. There was a fine theatre. ''Under here is Stalin's bunker.'' Vlad said. ''What?'' I was surprised. ''There is a big underground complex under the city. It was to be for the government if they had to leave Moscow in World War two.'' We spent some time learning about the history, including the sad news, according to our guide, that the local beer had dropped in quality following a takeover of the brewery by a group of 'biznessmen'. We decided to test it, just in case it had begun to improve again. We entered a small park. The sun shone. Flowers bloomed, birds sang. There were neat pathways, flower beds, green grass. Generally, the Russians don't seem to think cutting grass is the thing to do and they let it grow. In the park next to the office in Moscow, you could see old women picking through the grass for bundles of herbs that grew wild there. However, in this park the grass had been cut. Numerous benches were scattered around, and old people sat in the sun, chatting. It was lovely. At about four o'clock, we got a taxi back. We had split into two groups. Our guide was with the others and just Tom and Vlad were with me. It was such a nice day and we decided to walk from the main road, especially as we realised we did not even know the specific address to give the driver, only the nearby restaurant where we had had lunch. The taxi driver asked Vlad something. Hearing the reply, he shook his head. ''What did he say?'' I asked. ''Oh!'' Vlad replied. ''He just asked why we foreigners were travelling around without any 'locals'. He said it was 'unwise'.'' Great, I thought, becoming nervous. I suddenly became very aware of my sock. Bob had left a couple of days before and deemed me ''master of the stash'', so here I was wandering about the streets of a Russian City with a thousand dollars in a plastic envelope shoved down my sock. You had to carry cash in Russia, and you didn't leave it about anywhere, such as a hotel room. You didn't show it to anyone, so you didn't put it in the hotel safe. On second thoughts, it would have been wiser to spread some round everybody, but I don't think Bob trusted anyone. If he left it with me, the supposed 'leader' of the team, he couldn't be blamed if it got lost. (Believe me, Americans can be even worse than the British at internal politics in business!) So here was I with my thousand-dollar leg. I limped. I had strolled all around the town with no worries, now I was looking round warily. Vlad and I were dressed inconspicuously and casually, but the quality of our clothes was probably a giveaway. But Tom, another American, had dressed for tourism. He had gleaming white trainers and short white socks, branded open neck shirt, a big technicoloured belt pouch and worst of all, white shorts! We stood out a mile. I felt exposed, hunted, as I limped the grey streets. We couldn't find the place! We didn't know its name, or the streets it was behind. We had been sure we could walk straight back to it but now it all looked the same. Great blocks of buildings, giant downspouts ending four feet above the pavement, occasionally a grey phone box on a wall, often wrecked - it was all the same, like the background in a computer game. After walking round the block four times, we were desperate. A couple came along, pushing a child in a pushchair. Vlad approached them. After a short conversation, he smiled. ''Yes!'' he said triumphantly. ''He says he helped build it!'' The couple took us to the door of our lodgings - it was not that far away. Now Tom's belt came into its own. Unzipping the pouch, he pulled out some chocolate bars, handing them to the delighted couple and the child to show our thanks. We waved goodbye. Later, as the sun was still warm, I went out on my own and sat in a small park nearby, people-watching. When I visit new places, I always do this. You learn an awful lot about people generally by just watching what they do. Sometimes it's very surprising. In Europe I actually found Germans to be the 'strangest' people in terms of behaviour, definitely stranger than the Russians. I sat in the Park, thinking of our sightseeing tour that day. It was funny, but Samara, a City of well over a million people, somehow felt like a small town by the Volga. One of the main industries in Samara at the time was aerospace. We visited a Company that made aircraft. Russian airframes were respected for good design and quality - their engines were not so well regarded. So there was a big trade in westerners buying small Russian aircraft, and fitting western engines. This company made new aircraft, mostly for Arabs. They showed us photos and plans of the interiors. They were luxurious. Some had a dozen beds in a separate compartment for the wives. The company was doing well. Our host in Samara was Oleg, the Head Man of the business that was our potential partner. His 'Deputy' was introduced, whose role was unclear. The other main character was Andre, Oleg's Operations Manager, who made all the arrangements for us and drove us around in his car, which had a telephone, with the others following with his second-in-command. He was very proud of the telephone, shouting into it as we drove along. Oleg was a nice guy who seemed reasonable and genuine. But he did hold a powerful position. In his office, on the wall was a 'secret map' showing all the communication (road, rail, telephone etc) in the whole area. Samara was the centre. ''You would never have been allowed to see that in the old days,'' he said, smiling, and gave me a small copy. His Deputy smiled a lot and always wore dark glasses. Sometimes he came to meetings, sometimes he didn't. Andre, our nemesis, definitely did not like foreigners, made sure we knew he was not impressed by us and disbelieved almost everything we said, always suspecting a trick. In other words - a typical engineer. (I recognise the type, having been one myself in my youth). Samara had a tradition of dealing with the West long before the Soviet break-up. The area was never closed to foreigners. Their eyes were on the world beyond the Soviet Empire. The local saying was that the east bank of the Volga was Russian, where Samara sat, and the west bank was in the West. Apart from the mighty Volga River, Samara has a good road connection to Moscow (a two lane concrete highway) and an efficient railway. The airport was about an hour's drive north. Another hour's drive north-west from the airport was Togliatti, a city of well over half a million people. The two cities together made a formidable centre for industry and business. The present Togliatti was founded in 1964, and was a special economic area – a Soviet experiment. Instead of the old Soviet traditional managers, ( many alcoholic and supported by deputies in both senses of the word), young, dynamic entrepreneurial people were selected and sent to Togliatti. The whole focus was international. There were at least two major car factories in the area (Lada and the VAZ group) and several International Banks. It was, and still is among the areas with the highest average standard of living in Russia. We had arranged for some of us to visit the City. Our hosts lined up two very nice cars. One was a big Russian limo. The second was a smart, new, Japanese car with black windows. I travelled in the first with Oleg, Andre, and Elvira, my translator. The others went in the second, which turned out to be the Oleg's deputy's car. We met the Deputy Mayor, sitting under a picture of Lenin in his office. He took us to lunch at a holiday centre outside the town, which had been built for city employees. It was by the Volga, and had its own pool as well. After a pleasant lunch, with vodka, brandy, champagne and speeches (you have to down the whole glass after each toast, and there are many), we waved farewell. ''You will come with me!'' The Deputy 'requested' firmly. Motioning to Elvira, he led us to the car with the black windows, and we sped away. He told me pleasantly how he 'knew magic' and could see things. ''Oh yes?'' I smiled. ''You have an excellent aura, very strong, very good.'' Elvira translated. I looked at her. She seemed neither surprised, nor perturbed. ''Would you like to know when you will die?'' he asked me. ''Er, no thanks, I'd rather it was surprise.'' He laughed. ''We shall be friends!'' Elvira nodded encouragingly as she translated. Apparently this was good news. ''Do not worry,'' he said mysteriously. I did. We passed over a bridge on the junction of the Samara River and the Volga. As I looked down, I could see dozens of sizeable boats tied up. All was still – no activity. Later, when my 'friend' said, ''We have some problems.'' I replied, ''Yes, I know. Has the river transport system collapsed completely?'' As soon as this was translated, he came back, quick as a flash. ''How did you know that?'' I explained to him what I had seen. ''Oh.'' He seemed to relax. ''Very perceptive.'' He motioned to the driver, and the car stopped on a rise overlooking the Volga. ''Come with me.'' My new friend requested firmly. He led me to the edge of a steep drop. Elvira was smiling, looking around happily. Perhaps it was the vodka? Had I said the wrong thing? ''Look,'' my 'friend' said, pointing. Across the Volga was a row of hills, rising high. ''These are the Jiguli hills. The Pearl of Russia,'' Elvira added. ''This is where the raw materials for the factories come from.'' My friend put his arm round me. I tensed. ''When we do business together, you will have a Villa there. I shall make sure.'' Elvira looked positively encouraging, nodding while she translated. ''Thankyou!'' Was all I could manage to say. We returned to the car. * I was told that many Russians travelled to Samara to collect their new Ladas, partially to ensure they got what they ordered. On every highway in Russia, the traffic police had big gates they could swing across and block the road. There were always crowds of anonymous men hanging round these areas. I was told that they stopped every proud new Lada owner driving away from the city for payment of a local 'tax' on his purchase. I did like that road though. It was a source of one of my more obscure jokes, which I still love. About the only signpost I saw on it was massive. It showed the road curving slightly to the left, marked 'Moscow' and a turn off to the right marked Ufa (capital of the Bashkirian Republic, to the East of Samara). At the junction, I saw the road curve off over a high bridge. ''Ah!'' I said. ''A bridge t'Ufa!'' Even the Americans didn't get the joke. Soon after, we were nearly killed when a lump of concrete appeared on the lane we were travelling in, just as we were speeding past some giant trucks. A short detour onto the central reservation, a few seconds going sideways, dirt flying in clouds behind us and we were off again, pace never slowing. Russians always told me they were great drivers and proved it by driving as fast as possible, given half a chance. The airport was fun! There was a terminal – fifties-style, I guess (many things in Soviet Russia seemed to have stopped in the fifties). Stained plywood, black and chrome, black leatherette seats, spindly tubular furniture, all grimy – and all very familiar by now. But it did have an International departure gate – swish! However, we foreigners had to go to a building on the outskirts of the airport area, sitting in a sea of tall, Russian lawn, waist high. And we had to go to the third floor to get our tickets stamped and get a boarding pass. Then we drove back to the terminal and amazingly, walked aboard our flight. It was an hour or two to Moscow and we only had one small problem on the way. Before we had boarded, Vlad volunteered to get us some lunch. I surreptitiously pulled a few dollars from my sock for him. As we sat on the plane, we devoured some very nice smoked fish, plump and juicy. We had all taken a piece from the big slab of fish. About half an hour into the flight, Vlad reached into the locker and pulled out a clear plastic bag. We took one look, then stared at him accusingly. We discovered that he had bought some hot roast chicken, and some ice cream. He'd put them in the same bag. Although he claimed vanilla-flavoured chicken was excellent, the rest of us decided the fish was sufficient. We were anticipating one of 'those' landings again, so it was wiser to be careful, we guessed. I had seen another, different, part of Russia. 'Interesting' is a useful word. (June 1993) To read My Life 5.1 St Pete, Poland and German reunification day: Click Here To read My Life 5.2 - Russia the Far East (watching for the chinese, potato island, airport frights) : Click Here To read My Life 5.3 Petropavslosk-Kamchatsii (crab, purple raincoats, nuclear subs, live volcanoes) Click Here
Archived comments for My Life 5.4 Russia - Samara and Togliatti - the Volga basin
Mikeverdi on 14-10-2014
My Life 5.4 Russia - Samara and Togliatti - the Volga basin
Another look at your varied travels John, I was pleased to see more humour in this episode. Such amazing places. As I said before, my travels have always been to hot places; I think the climate makes people the way they are. I would find it hard to be happy under grey sky's and cold snow for long.
Thanks for another enjoyable read.
Mike

Author's Reply:
thanks Mike.

The weather wasn't that bad . remember I was there in spring. plenty of sunshine, quite warm in fact. Not grey at all.


My Life 5.3 - Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii (posted on: 10-10-14)
I continue my Far East travels in Russia, but Further East .. Live volcanoes in a row. Crab. My speeches. Purple raincoats.

5.3 Petropavlovsk – Kamchatskii May 1993 We stood in the airport at Khabarovsk. Looking at a map of the area. I was surprised to see that we were closer to the North Island of Japan than we were to Vladivostok. We were about to catch a flight to Petropavlovsk, on the southernmost tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula, almost due east from where we were. Life was calmer here than Moscow and more organised, possibly because our potential business partners were travelling with us. ''Of the hundred volcanoes on the peninsula, more than twenty are live,'' Yuri told me. It was a couple of hours over the sea of Okhotsk. After a nice, leisurely flight we touched down at the most amazing airport I have ever seen. Don't get me wrong, it was a one-story airport terminal and one runway on a flat plain. But on the edge of the plain was a row of snow-capped volcanoes, stretching away. Stepping from the plane, I can still remember the crisp air in my lungs, the clean, blue sky, and those towering volcanoes. It was spring, the ground was clear of snow and the first flowers about to appear. Here, our partners had a small bus to transport us. We drove into town. Petropavlovsk looked like pictures of those old industrial fishing ports, with buildings and warehouses piling up to the waterside. Everything was businesslike, practical and utilitarian. It is here that all those crab are landed - pick up a tin of 'King crab' in the supermarket and read where it comes from. On the harbour side, with a beautiful backdrop of snowy volcanoes, was the Lenin statue, the one with his right arm outstretched, as if calling people on, and his coat flying. Very impressive! All the vehicles were high off the ground, with big wheels. The snow had gone now, but it was still overcoat weather – fresh! As I descended in front of our Hotel, Yuri told me that this was the first year it had been open to 'tourists', i.e. foreigners. It wasn't bad, by Russian standards, so presumably it had previously been reserved for Party officials and Navy officers. As I gazed from the window, one thing struck me. There were people scurrying about, crossing the square in front of the hotel. All the women wore raincoats. All the raincoats were identical – a nice shade of purple! My eyes rose from the square, up and into the distance - wow! There was a nice feel in the air. Yuri's number two asked us, ''You want crab?'' Several of us nodded enthusiastically. He looked slightly apologetic. ''You will have to give me twenty dollars,'' he said. ''Sorry!'' Bob dipped into his company's petty cash stash. The five days we were there, we dined very well and at every meal there was crab, great stringy lumps of flesh many inches long and fresh off the boat each day. At one point we had a banquet with the town dignitaries, where I had to give the traditional ''this is the best place on earth, you are the most wonderful friends a man could have and I am deliriously happy'' speech. All 30 of us had crab, along with much other tasty stuff, including caviar. The best for me was coming down to breakfast every morning and having bacon and eggs…… with crab! We reckoned it was pretty good value overall. We stood on a hill overlooking the harbour as an enormous black shape moved on the surface of the bay, leaving an arc of white wake behind it. It was a nuclear submarine. This was an eastern submarine base for the Russian Navy and the reason why the town had been closed to foreigners until recently. Then I spotted a curious ship. It was covered in cars. They seemed to be piled up on the deck. Yuri explained. ''In Japan, they have a very stringent test after three years, so it is easier for the Japanese to buy a new car - these are the old ones.'' ''Are they cheap?'' I asked. Yuri grinned. ''Yes, very cheap, of course.'' This explained all the relatively new right-hand drive Japanese cars that filled the streets. ''It is the captain's perk,'' Yuri told me. 'Perks' seemed to be all the rage in the new Russia. A 'partner' in another area seemed to have attained the wherewithal to help fund a joint venture when the central government collapsed and an oil tanker leaving Vladivostok was diverted, or so I was told. ''Would you like to have bath?'' Yuri asked. The cheek of it! I thought. ''A visit to the hot baths?'' he continued. Oh! ''Yes, that would be nice.'' That evening, we all set out in the bus. We arrived at a dilapidated building in the middle of some woods, with a big wire fence round it. The facilities were minimal, but there was an enormous steaming pool, with rusty pipes around the sides and valves you could turn on. These valves released streams of sulphurous bubbles underwater and jets of even hotter water. It was great, much like the baths I'd been to in Japan, but far more functional. The establishment obviously had some kind of medical function, as the elderly women attendants who brought us the threadbare towels wore white nurse's uniforms. After a refreshing bath, we staggered out, dried and dressed. Yuri's two pals were in the woods, collecting herbs. They came back and mixed them in a big pot with chunks of pork, and some kind of oily sauce. Then they brought out some long swords, which they spiked the chunks on. A fire had been lit and they roasted the pork over the burning logs, glowing and covered in grey ash. There was a canteen where we sat down. Vodka and champagne appeared, salads and cold meat, vegetables, pickles, treats. No crab here. After some time, the barbecued chunks of meat appeared and we ate them as well. Delicious shashlik! I looked at the champagne bottles. Only the best for these guys! Russian champagne was delicious and cheap. Wherever it came from, it had the same label, a standardised product. But if you knew, were a 'cognoscenti', you looked at the label on the neck. Uniquely this label had a different, tiny, picture of grapes on it. Nothing you would normally notice. But this meant it came from Georgia - and this was reputed to be the best champagne in Russia. Next day we went to Elizovo, a town on the other side of the airport, to meet the Mayor. He was a nice chap. It was a nice town - relaxed, broad main street, low buildings. He explained that they were hoping to open the area to tourists for skiing. (Check the web, it's there!). Also, it appeared that the Japanese were very keen to buy black glass, a volcanic sand which they used to make fibre optic cables of the highest quality, in Japan. The Mayor told me the Japanese would not place a manufacturing plant locally to benefit the area, despite his pleas, and offers of land and support. However, there was a plant which made bottles, which they shipped all over the world. Unfortunately, some global bottle sizes were changing and they had no money to change the machinery, so their market was falling. Such was life in post – curtain Russia. When we left, several other flights had been cancelled. However, our plane appeared to be waiting when we were delivered to the 'Executive Departure Lounge' - a new portable building away from the main terminal. There we were served champagne and vodka, and I bought a very nice necklace for my wife. Yuri and his colleagues took a bottle of champagne and all signed the label with their best wishes, and presented it to me. I eventually drank it after I had got back home to England, remembering them, the very nice Far East, and those volcanoes. I also toasted my Client, who actually paid me to travel to interesting places like Kamchatka. We were in invited to board our plane, which involved a walk across the tarmac. I was taking in my last sight of the volcanoes. I really loved them! The anxious voice of the stewardess rang out. ''Hurry please!'' Wondering what the panic was about, I looked round. From the main terminal building, a rabble of people was charging towards the plane, some carrying big boxes with Japanese TV's. By the time we got to the steps, the three stewardesses were having a job holding the first arrivals back. They shouted to us to hurry – Russian women always shout very loudly when harassed. Funny, but the men don't. We scrambled up the steps and were shown to our seats while they held the tide at the bottom of the steps - then the rest came on board. On the nine-hour flight due west, back to Moscow, we were served two forgettable meals. One was a chicken breast with a little gravy and a slice of black bread, all in a plastic box. Oh, and water in a plastic cup. No paper in the toilets. On board were animals - a giant dog, with his master who was an army officer, and also a puppy, which ran up and down the aisle occasionally with a little boy chasing him. But everyone was chatty and friendly, coming up and asking who we were and what we were doing, including the little boy, quite different from Moscow Russians. At a point in the flight approaching Moscow, Bob got up to take some photos of us. There was a bit of discussion. When I asked about it, Vlad told me that some people were saying it was not allowed. Others said it was OK these days. He said that he thought it was because we might accidentally take a photo of something secret through the aircraft window. (I had the same experience on the Petersburg subway when I went there for 'White Nights' – but that's another story – and it was underground!). There was little difference between Soviet Military Pilots and Civilian ones. Their flying was not 'passenger-friendly'. As soon as Domodedovo hove into view, the Pilot banked to the left (we all gripped the armrests); rapidly dropped down sideways (we all rose up against our seatbelts); levelled out (we all were pressed down in our seats); straightened up (we all leaned to one side) then dropped her down with a thump (our teeth slammed together); applied full brakes, swerved off the runway, bounced rapidly to the parking spot, pulled on the handbrake and turned off the engine. I swear he was out of that plane before we were. Must have had a hot date! So I was back in Moscow. I was going home that weekend but would return in ten days, while the team made a visit to Nizhniy Novgorod without me. ''What's the next trip I've booked in on?'' I asked Bob. He consulted his schedule. ''Samara.'' He said ''Third city in Russia, also called Kubyschev. It's on the Volga.'' ''Right, let's get to the office and get all the reports sorted out then.'' I said, looking forward to my next little excursion in this unknown, surprising, land. Sometimes it was frightening. But that didn't keep me away. To read My Life 5.1 - St Pete, Poland and German reunification day: Click Here To read My Life 5.2 - Russia the Far East (watching for the chinese, potato island, airport frights) : Click Here To read My Life 5.4 Villa by the Volga (My thousand dollar sock, my villa, and when would I die) Click Here
Archived comments for My Life 5.3 - Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii
Mikeverdi on 10-10-2014
My Life 5.3 - Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii
This was so easy to read, well laid out and great conversation. One of your best for me John. Still not sure I would want to go to these places... but I love reading your account of them πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike.


Wings (posted on: 10-10-14)
Immigration and how to deal with it? Does dirt defile those that touch it? A story for the Prose Challenge. .

IMG]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u215/JohnG38/wings.jpg[/IMG] [URL=http://s169.photobucket.com/user/JohnG38/media/wings.jpg.html][IMG]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u215/JohnG38/wings.jpg[/IMG][/URL] The man glided silently above the ridge of the hills. In the distance, a cloud appeared. In no time he was surrounded by a swarm of small creatures fluttering around him, circling. At first he was amused. Then the first stab of pain hit him. Then another. First his leg was bleeding, then more creatures were biting, tearing at his flesh. He could not see. He tried to fly out of the swarm, but the creatures were blocking his wings, and he was falling ... * Nasar stood alone in the council chamber, deep in thought. What was wrong with the younger ones? The People had lived in peace for hundreds of years, at peace with other species and others of the People. Now there seemed to be a reversion to Old World thinking among them, all because of a new species that had recently settled close to the Nest. The door burst open and Aaran hurried in. Before he could speak, Nasar barked out, greatly displeasured, 'Aaran, you are in the Nest, furl yourself!' How these youngsters forgot tradition! Aaran gulped and pulled his wings tight to his body, as Nest law demanded. 'I apologise, Nasar, but I have some important news.' 'Not the hrwyl again? I've told you before, they are harmless animals. Leave them alone.' 'Yes, the hrwyl. You do not seem to understand. The world is not as perfect as you imagine.' Nasar's eyes narrowed. 'The Old World passed because of thoughts such as yours: species against species; People against People. It is a horror we will not revisit. It changed us all. But fortunately, we now live in peace, comfortably, in harmony with others. You know that. Why do you ignore the teachings you grew up with?' 'Because it is not that simple. Since the hrwyl nested close by ...' 'They have coexisted in peace with us.' ' ... they have become aggressive. Their nest grows larger, their swarms cast wider and wider. Today they were clustered around Velip.' 'Our crops?' 'Yes, they were carrying off grain from our fields.' 'But they are simple animals, scavengers, they won't take much and they are welcome. We have plenty.' 'Their numbers grow each moon, they are multiplying. Soon they will be a threat to our supplies.' Nasar laughed. 'You imagine too much. If what you say is true, a few passes from the field tenders should scare them away, it always does.' 'Not now. That is what I am trying to tell you. They are bolder. They have no fear. We may fly close to them but they know we do not harm them, so many of them now ignore us.' Nasar said nothing. 'But what is worse, they have attacked one of us.' 'Now you do make me laugh!' Nasar grinned. 'Small, weak creatures like the hrwyl attacking one of the People. Physically, it's inconceivable.' 'They go in packs. Today they surrounded Doren in a vast cloud.' 'That wouldn't hurt him - they have no talons, and their wings are small and weak.' 'They bite.' 'What?' 'I said they bite. They have a mouthful of sharp teeth.' 'But even so, how much damage could they cause? Minimal.' 'Tell that to Doren. He's in the infirmary with multiple wounds. Let's just hope they are not infected. If I hadn't come along and beaten them off, I don't know what might have happened.' 'And this is your news?' 'Yes.' Nasar paused a while, pacing up and down, eyes half closed. Then he turned. 'You are right to tell me this. I apologise for being so dismissive, but it is hard to believe. We have to think.' 'What do we do? As you said, we live in peace, by common consent. But when one species decides to go against that, by intent, or instinct, where do we stand?' 'The hrwyl came here, as I understand it, from the Southern Continent. How do species behave there? Are there People?' 'Not that we know of. The Southern Continent bore the brunt of the Great Catastrophe. Only smaller species survive there.' 'And now some have come to us. Are they intelligent?' 'Not by our standards. They signal by grunts and howls, they don't have speech. But they can be cunning.' 'Why have they suddenly begun to attack us?' 'Perhaps they see our peaceful nature as a weakness. Among themselves they are quite vicious, often fighting with each other.' 'Each other?' Nasar shook his head. 'Then I suppose we must do something.' * A swarm of hrwyl clustered over the Velip grain stores. From behind the hills, a line of People rose up, carrying something aloft. A net. For once, the hrwyl seemed to fear something, this unfamilar object. It wasn't long before a group were trapped in the net, bundled up and borne back to the Nest. * Nasar stared at the chattering, unruly group of small creatures. He'd never seen one up close before. Unlike the People, they were covered in very fine hair, with distinctive patterns. They had short legs, and abbreviated wings, almost stumps. But the mouth! He could see the teeth. How wrong he had been to scorn Aaran's account. They could hurt, and certainly had damaged Doren. He could not risk this going further. 'They seem remarkably docile,' Nasar said. 'Not like the aggressive beasts you spoke of.' 'I agree,' Aaran said. 'Something happened once they were in the net. They found they could not escape. At first they had been hurling themselves at the net, trying to bite through it, or bite one of the carriers. Then after a while, they seemed to just give up. Now they are like this.' Nasar noticed one well-muscled hrwyl was staring fixedly at Aaran. He heard a low growl, rising in volume. 'Watch him, Aaran!' he yelled as the hrwyl began to move forward. Then a strange thing happened. The hrwyl's companions surrounded him, pulling him down, grunting, touching, whining. The aggressive hrwyl quietened, dropped his head, and sat back quietly. 'They can communicate, Aaran. But what happened here? Let us leave before there is any more upset. We must find out more about these creatures.' * The Council members sat around the long table. Aaran had been seated at the end. 'Now Aaran,' Nasar said, 'Please tell the Council everything you told me and then about what has just happened.' * There was a buzz of conversation, and worried frowns on faces as the nature of the problem was revealed. 'What shall we do?' A grizzled grey-wing asked. Nasar recalled he had been a champion flyer in his youth, won all the plaudits. Now his eyes darted from side to side and his tongue licked out as he spoke. 'We need to know more about the hrwyl. What Old World creatures are they descended from Chief Scientist Baron?' 'As far as I can tell, given the skeletal proportions, the markings, and especially the teeth, a pack animal called a "hyena".' 'And what does that imply?' 'It explains the behaviour of the prisoners, and also the aggressive behaviour before that.' 'How?' 'Pack animals have very rigid hierarchical structures. He who barks loudest is the boss. The rest are happiest when they know who is in charge, who is more powerful, and they accept that gratefully.' 'Except for the ones that challenge,' a younger Council member chimed in. 'Yes, but they are the exception. And they are generally contained by their fellows who keep them in line. That one you met today is probably a future challenger.' 'So why are not the rest docile?' 'Because you have not demonstrated any dominance. The ones in the net know you can beat them. The rest have no idea. They simply see some big creatures who are not at all aggressive, who allow invasion of their food supplies, who have not, until today fought back when attacked. Easy meat as they used to say.' The remark would pass over most Council member's heads, thought Nasar. They had no idea what it might mean, 'We should use the weapons,' Aaran said. 'No, never!' Nasar insisted. 'Just enough to frighten them, show them our power.' 'It's not our power, it's the power of the Old World, the power that caused the Great Catastrophe. It must never be used again.' 'Then why do we have it?' 'To safeguard, to keep away from others. The only way to destroy it is to use it, and we will not do that.' Several of the younger members shook their heads. 'Baron has recommended we release the prisoners back to their nest, and they will inform their fellows just as they informed the aggressive one.' 'But they know our secrets, they have seen our nest, they know our weaknesses,' Aaran protested. 'But they won't act on that.' 'Who says? We can't risk it. We need a show of force, something to put them in their place.' Nasar's head was spinning. What had brought this on? Where had this anger come from? They had always lived in peace, why should they not continue to do so? He put the question to the younger Council members. It was Aaran who spoke. 'Yes, we will live in peace, but only after we remove this threat. Look, it's a one-off. We just do it this once, then resume our peaceful ways. We must scare the hell out of the hrwyl.' 'And if some are injured?' 'So be it. Doren was injured.' Nasar could not believe his ears. The Council argued well into the night. * The next morning, eight flyers rose up from behind a hill close to the hrwyl nest, carrying a large metal cylinder. Surrounding them hovered ranks of the People. Hrwyl issued from their nest in clouds, milling in confusion. 'Surely this is enough?' Nasar asked breathlessly, straining to keep his aging frame steady with the others. 'No, we decided it had to be a severe lesson - the hrwyl must never forget.' 'But we have no idea what this weapon will do.' 'We have studied it. We have a fair idea.' * Minutes later, a line of fire arced out towards the hrwyl nest. For a moment there was silence, then the world erupted in flame. Many of the People tumbled from the sky, only recovering at the last minute, nursing singed wings. Nasar looked on in horror. Even the others gaped at the sight. The hrwyl nest was no more. A strange-shaped cloud rose above the spot where it had been, now a blackened crater. Dead and dying hrwyl lay around. 'The children, the families!' Nasar cried. 'They are creatures like us - we have no right, no right ... ' * The mood in the Council Chamber was sombre. The Council members were mostly silent. Nasar spoke up. 'So, what do we do now?' 'Go back to normal,' Aaron said. 'Yes, the results were terrible, not as we imagined, but we've fixed the problem. Now everything is the same as it was. We go back to normal.' Into Nasar's mind, for some reason, popped the name 'Pandora'. and the japanese connection? - this story was inspired by Studio Ghibli's film 'Howl's Moving Castle'
Archived comments for Wings
bluepootle on 10-10-2014
Wings
It's a very direct piece, focused on the message, and quite blunt in tone. I found myself drawn into their situation and their debate, and you left room for the reader to bring their own ideas about the issue.

It's missing a speech mark, and there's an extraneous section break - it could do with a tidy up. There's a lot of use of 'then' in the first para in particular. I think my problem with it is that it could use more characterisation. The characters are just mouthpieces for the points of view, really - young vs old, experience vs passion - I got the feeling you just wanted to get the argument out there and anything else (that could have given a subtlety to the piece) didn't get explored. It made its point very well (although the Pandora/Hyena links felt as if they sat uneasily within it, for me) but it seems to me it does the absolute minimum to achieve that.

Still, it creates a world in few words, and makes me think. Maybe I'm just picky today.

Author's Reply:
I understand your comments. Apart from a few dips, this is a fairly utilitarian 'telly' story without great depth. It's a one trick pony based on the 'pandora' idea. But when you have something in your head, you have to let it out. πŸ˜‰

I didn't have long to go over this as I only wrote it on Tuesday and yesterday drove back 500miles from France.

Rab on 10-10-2014
Wings
A really good story, although I agree with Blue that the main characters could do with a bit more fleshing out. I also think that the partial reveal about the hrwl being descended from hyenas was unnecessary; perhaps they could simply be a new, unknown, threat?

Minor niggles, though: I enjoyed the story and the world it conjured up.

Author's Reply:
well, the hyenas bit was to put them on the trail to analyse the hrwyl behaviour, which led them into their actions, thanks to the younger council members. There also was a parallel drawn with the aggressive 'challenger' hrwyl, pack animal behaviour, and the younger council members for something to make the reader think about human behaviour and how much 'pack' we have in us πŸ™‚

TheBigBadG on 10-10-2014
Wings
I got hints of Beneath the Planet of the Apes myself. Those who didn't know about the history that was obliterated by their forebears are condemned to repeat it. As Blue says, it is straight down the line. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing but perhaps you could shift the dialogue to be more about the underlying principles of the conflict? The nature of the hrwyl aggression is more interesting than the specifics of how they attack. The moment in the net with the leader being dragged down, for instance. The lack of communication between two peoples at war, the potential for reconciliation which then gets lost, the combined fear and arrogance of your flying men - all of that is the meat here. In fact, as I think about it I'd look at the second section first. Maybe give a bit less detail about the hrwyl there and leave it to our imagination more. Fewer details would then make it more about the men's fears of the hrwyl and set you up for a nice reveal once they've been netted? Hopefully that would serve the hollow declaration of peace at the end a bit better as well - the hrwyl only cast as monsters because it's written by the men perhaps.

Anyway, that's really specific isn't it. Sorry, I did the same thing to everyone this time. Press day at work, my mind can only do LASER right now. Hopefully it's all of some use as a reaction.

G

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Maybe it was not clear, but the hrwyl are animals. So the task is getting rid of varmints rather than fighting other intelligent beings, who you can communicate with.

sirat on 13-10-2014
Wings
This reminded me of why I largely abandoned the science fiction world. It tends to be a very plot-driven genre where characters only exist as mouthpieces for ideas and plot-lines, and hence you don't really become involved. I know it isn't always like that but it tends to be the dominant mode.

For me, this story was a detailed exposition of events which added up to an anti-war anti-violence parable. I approve of the sentiments but does it really work as a story? I think we need at least one character with whom we can identify and for whom we can feel sympathy. Maybe if we stayed with Doren's point of view a bit longer and he was to have a philosophical crisis, knowing that he should report what had happened but also realising that he risked re-opening Pandora's box if he did. It would mean re-jigging the story quite a lot, but might give it a bit more emotional power and leverage.

The other thing is just to make it less obvious that it's pure exposition. For example lines like,'But fortunately, we now live in peace, comfortably, in harmony with others. You know that' are a bit too obviously directed at the reader. The back story needs to emerge a bit less obtrusively from what's going on in the present.

I agree that the hyena connection is unnecessary, as is the information about pack behaviour. It's the mood of the piece and the anxiety surrounding the use of the ancient weapons that needs to be the focus. Not the technicalities.

I hope this is some use.

Author's Reply:
I'm surprised at the negative tone of your comment. If you look at my replies to others, you will see I fully realise the limitations of the form/style I adopted. And, no, the story is not about 'peace' - that's incidental. It's about the Pandora question (a theme in many old SF stories I admit). And the Hyena background is the contrast to the younger council member's behaviour (re: the aggressive hrwyl 'challenger').(again, see responses to others) Maybe I was not clear enough.



This style is what it is. I probably share your views on its unsophisticated approach, but maybe that's because I'm a world-weary, I've read it all person. Old fogeys like you and I have to realise there are new generations who haven't read such stuff yet, are not bored with it, and are happy with the direct, 'telly' approach. I know I was (and still am when reading 50's SF). Horses for courses (and catholic tastes).



I also point out that your own characteristic style is 'tell through dialogue' - no, not as direct as your quote of mine (maybe), but not that much different in principle. That's because there is no other way to write stories in such a style. It's a given. And it's legitimate, and can work.



best JohnG

OldPeculier on 15-10-2014
Wings
I think it is what it is. A good story. Well, I liked it anyway.

Author's Reply:
Yes. That's all it is. Nothing fancy. πŸ˜‰


My Life 5.2 - Russia The Far East (posted on: 06-10-14)
Watching for the Chinese. Airport fun and danger. Shouty women! Potato Island.

My Life 5.2 The Far East (1993) As I walked down the street, I smelt the blossom on the breeze and saw the sunlight glinting on the leaves. There was a market, and I strolled through the people who were busy haggling. I was wearing a business suit, and the sun was warm on my back. People smiled and nodded and I smiled back. I had been in the Far East for four days now. Relatively new Japanese cars lined the streets, outnumbering the Ladas. It was a lovely day. When I got back to the hotel, I found the cleaning lady had washed my shirts. They had no way of drying them, so I hung them in my bathroom, and gave her a dollar. The hotel was all black-painted wood, much like one I had stayed at in Salo, Finland, years before when visiting Nokia mobile. I found it was built by the same company. It wasn't bad. I did get a blue stain on my jumper from sitting outside on a rainbow-painted bench. The paint hadn't dried, just formed blisters over the winter that burst when you leaned on them, but at least they'd tried. There was a bar and a disco in the basement of the hotel. We went in there for a drink on Friday night. Young women came up and asked us (the men) to dance, and we all got talking. It turned out they were prostitutes. They were also schoolteachers. They weren't necessarily looking for 'business'. It turned out they were desperate to talk to someone from the West, something new to relieve the boredom. They spoke excellent English, and like many Russians, were very well educated. On the top floor was a quite passable Japanese restaurant. In the main restaurant they had no milk and a suspect kind of fruit juice. But the Japanese restaurant was much better and they said supplies were flown in daily. And Japanese people ate there. The best hotel in town was said to be the Japanese residential hotel, filled with Japanese businessmen. The next most populous among the visitors to the town were the Chinese. I was told they used to bunk three to a room in the cheapest hotels to save money. When we'd arrived at the airport, there had been a dozen airplanes, engine covers on, lined up in a row. They were short of fuel, apparently. ***** We were three days late arriving. We'd originally tried to leave Moscow on Thursday evening, all seven of us. We had tickets, we'd booked. Domodedovo airport was only for internal travel, or more correctly at this time, the former Soviet Union. Consequently, facilities were nothing like the International airport, Sheremetyevo II. We foreigners had a separate entrance, quite nice, check in etc, then we descended some steps which simply led down directly onto the airport concrete. Across the expanse a bus was parked, with a driver sitting in it. Vladimir, the Russian member of our party, sighed and asked someone to produce a dollar. He waved the note and the bus started up immediately and collected us. We were deposited at a waiting room for 'International travellers' – i.e. foreigners. An Air Mongolia plane taxied by, a row of strange Mongolian faces peering out of the windows. Our plane was not coming, they told us. But there might be another flight leaving later and we could wait if we wanted. I was told later that Moscow-based Aeroflot was blocking landing permission to some of the Regional Aeroflots (Aeroflot had split up into separate operations), so it could fill its own flights. We went to get something to eat. We walked across the airfield and into the passenger lounge. 'Watch yourself,' Vlad advised us. 'What do you mean?' I asked. 'Look,' he said, 'there are Chechens and Georgians here, just be careful.' Having no idea just how we were supposed to be 'careful,' we walked through crowds of people in a vast hall, their belongings piled high. Perhaps to avoid theft, they carried them on board, piling them against the emergency doors – TV's, microwaves, etc. In trepidation, we walked through the hall, looking left and right, trying to be inconspicuous. All we got were a few disinterested glances. We reached the restaurant in safety. We sat down at a table. Looking around, we could see several people eating, enjoying what seemed to be reasonable food. Bob, an American, signalled to a waitress. She was angry. 'Closed!' she yelled. 'This table closed.' Bob asked which tables were 'open'. Her mouth opened again. 'All,' she yelled. 'All closed!' Vlad sighed and nodded to Bob. Bob pulled out a dollar and placed it on the table. The waitress disappeared, returning quickly with cutlery and napkins which she laid out on the table. Pocketing the dollar, she said 'Now, what would you like to eat?' We got back to the desk in the international traveller's lounge. Actually it was a table, placed part-way across the corridor which led to the departure gate. At the table sat two formidable middle-aged women in cardigans, shuffling tickets and talking on the phone. Bob argued with them. Yes, there was a flight leaving that evening. Yes, we might get on, we would have to wait and see. People arrived, and were allowed past. We stood there. Vlad pulled Bob to one side and began to talk to him earnestly. I heard Bob say 'OK, you try then.' Vlad took the tickets, and leaned over the desk, smiling at the two ladies. His eyes twinkled, he muttered words to them that got them smiling like young girls, almost giggling. He made a proposal. They nodded, then looked a little downcast. They spoke to him in a kindly, but definite tone. 'What's up? Any luck?' I asked him. 'Well, yes and no,' he replied. 'Yes, they said they would have let us on before if we had given them a small present - about ten dollars probably,' he added. 'But no, it really is too late now – they checked.' 'Why didn't they take the money and then tell you after?' I was curious. Vlad looked shocked. 'That would be dishonest,' he said. 'They are not thieves.' We got taxis back to our Moscow hotel. It was after midnight, so this involved finding a 'fixer' in the airport, and us riding in an airport bus which went out through a security gate into a sidestreet, where we were dumped. We stood, seven of us, including two young women, with our suitcases around us on the pavement, under a dim streetlight. People moved in the darkness across the street in the bushes. After a nervous wait, our two taxis turned up, warm and welcomed. When you find yourself in danger, you know it, but often you don't know you are getting there until it's too late. On Saturday, we had an uneventful check-in and the same performance with the airport bus. The plane was on time, we were told, and we went through the gate. The seven of us were led across the concrete where a number of planes were parked. Crocodiles of people followed stern officials who often shouted at them and waved tickets around in the air. We got on to a plane full of people. The front two rows were empty, and we were ushered into them. Vlad chose to sit further back as he had a 'Rouble' ticket. I was settling down for the seven hour flight. There are few places where you can fly for seven hours due east and still land in the same country. Then I became aware of a commotion behind me, and the stewardess bustled past. Voices were raised in the cockpit. Vlad slipped into the seat next to me. 'What is it?' I asked him. 'Well, I just said to the guy next to me, ''So, you're going to Khabarovsk?'' and he said, ''no, we're going to Magadan.'' So I called the stewardess.' After about twenty minutes, everyone but us got off the plane. I thought 'Oh no! They'll never fly this to Khabarovsk with just us aboard.' But another half-hour later a different two hundred people scrambled onto the plane. Two hours later, we finally took off. ***** Khabarovsk is the transport and communications administrative centre for the Far East. It sits on the Amur River flowing out of China, and it is on the 'corner' where the trans-Siberian Railway turns south for Vladivostok, skirting the Chinese border thirty miles away. The town flows down a hillside to the broad river. On the east bank is a promenade, with flower beds and whitewashed ice-cream kiosk, looking like those old English seaside resorts. I strolled there one weekend, watching the parents with children running up and down, out for a Sunday walk. There is a large, flat island just offshore. I could see a flat raft-like boat making its way against the current. I walked back to meet it. It was crammed with people, all standing, packed together, shoulder to shoulder. When it landed, they streamed off. Every single one of them had a basket on their back and carried a large bag in each hand. I leaned forward. Potatoes! The bags and baskets were full of potatoes. The people streamed off up the three main roads that ran up the hillside in different directions. One evening, Vlad and I walked by the river. There was a small stone tower, and a light was burning inside. We peered in. A cheery workman looked up. Vlad spoke to him, and he invited us in. As we sat and drank tea, gazing out at the broad river as the sun finally disappeared, he told us he was renovating the tower, which had been a watchtower to spot any Chinese invasion coming down the river. We looked hard, but couldn't see anything untoward. Probably all tucked up three to a room in the hotels I thought. (1993) To read My Life 5.1 St Pete, Poland and German reunification day: Click Here To read My Life 5.3 Petropavslosk-Kamchatsii (crab, purple raincoats, nuclear subs, live volcanoes) Click Here Click Here
Archived comments for My Life 5.2 - Russia The Far East
Mikeverdi on 06-10-2014
My Life 5.2 - Russia The Far East
I have a question John, what the hell were you doing in these places, your story reads like something from a novel about the fall of a country or city, like you were trying to escape! Another fascinating look inside a world I have no comprehension of.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Blimey. Perhaps Aliya's right, I should collect these and put in a narration to put them in context. At the moment they are snapshots with not too much 'me' (I hope!) in.

How far do I go back? I worked for 25 years as BT salaryman. I left with a golden voluntary redundancy package when they downsized and reformed (the kind of jobs I revelled in were the ones cut when they went back to being a straight telephone company). At first, I started looking for another salaried job. But when my pals in Swedish Telecom heard I was leaving (only two weeks before I actually did - I was screwing more out the deal πŸ™‚ ) they hired me to run a bid for a cellular licence in St Petersburg (I'd previously worked with them for BT in a consortium for Poland). That was successful. I then decided to look around for other projects as an independent, and went to see the head of european projects for US West, one of the ex-Bell telcos. They had bid unsuccessfully in St Petersburg, and knew of me. They hired me to conduct a survey of 10 opportunities in Russia where they had potential partners, recruiting a small team, some of their guys (esp financial of course) and some of mine, who I subcontracted (marketing, russian-speaking) . This was all new to me by the way ... very strange. So, we did it. The team I put together did all 10, I just dipped in to check how it was going in the Far East, Volga basin etc.
So at the end I produced a large report with political, economic,market prospects, technical design costs and financial predictions, based on local statistics etc (the statistics in Moscow wre all false, as the Regions lied because they were taxed on the outcomes. They were quite happy then to tell us the truth) This they used as the basis of their investment strategy in Russia. It was impossible to predict absolute figures at the time, so I ranked the opportunities in order of relative financial return in different growth scenarios, so they could pick the best ones first, see how it went, then assess the next lot when they got a little real experience ..

There you go. Is that enough? sorry you asked now? πŸ™‚

woodbine on 06-10-2014
My Life 5.2 - Russia The Far East
I think you could make an excellent novel or screenplay using this material. As it stands there are too many facts and not enough of a story. Try imagining yourself as John Le Carre and sift out best stuff that will show how Putin's Russia came into being or how East Germany got swallowed up by West Germany. I was rewatching Lives of Others recently about how the Stasi knew everything about everyone and that was the best film that has come out of Germany for twenty years. You have terrific material here so why not get cracking?
John

Author's Reply:
Yes, as I said to Mike, these are snapshots (of events). I'm genuinely filled with wonder at some of the places I visited and situations I experienced. I am a xenophile, so associate closely with any culture I drop into.

The original thought on these was to write autobiographical snippets with less 'me' than normal and more interest for the reader (who cares how many A levels I got?) I don't know if Mike is typical (I hope so!) but there is obviously interest in the context and background (eg. Why were you there?).

I do always advise autobiography writers to dramatise their accounts as a story, rather than a dull recital of (quite often) mundane events with little interest for others. I'm not sure I could take these as far as fiction, though. I think they might actually lose some impact. At the moment, all this is true, unembellished, not exaggerated, and I think that adds value. But I shall ponder. There are certainly many more episodes I could recite. However, the few where I'm really 'clever' and achieve things I felt were less well received (perhaps seen as bragging). Thanks for the support. πŸ˜‰ JohnG

Mikeverdi on 07-10-2014
My Life 5.2 - Russia The Far East
It would seem I was not alone in thinking there was a book waiting to happen, although I agree with John about injecting a bit more of yourself into the text. Looking at your last reply, you have enough to fill two books HaHa!
Mike

Author's Reply:


Gobbets (posted on: 06-10-14)
.... apocalyptic ....

Gobbets Gobbets of angels follow you on wings of blood And cherubim rain down upon the darkened plain As distant glory moves in the night sky And looking up, you see a face of God.
Archived comments for Gobbets

No comments archives found!
Nile (posted on: 06-10-14)
Lost times ...

Nile The boat that plied from ancient Thebes to Crete has long-since ceased its trade And while silk-sailed feluccas flap their wings like butterflies, No longer does the Nile discharge its riches to a waiting world While Cleopatra watches, graved in walls of stone, Bright Rameses so proudly stands Attends his time to come again But there's no sun-king here, no magic, And the priests – those liars, cheats! – have left this wasteland to its dust
Archived comments for Nile
Mikeverdi on 06-10-2014
Nile
Nice one John, like it a lot. A coincidence maybe, I'm reading the latest Wilbur Smith in the Egypt trilogy all about this time:)
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Many years ago we went on a Nile cruise. Really great experience, and of course I absorbed all the info about the temples, goings on, taxation corruption and decline of the Egyptian Empire.

Studying classics at school, I knew the name 'Thebes' very well, but didn't realise until I arrived there that it was Luxor. It was a magic trip which we won't forget.

Mikeverdi on 06-10-2014
Nile
Thought you may have been there, Lesley and I flew up to Luxor from Sharm, did the valley and the temples; a truly wonderful experience. I found the mobs of people trying to sell you junk a bit much, Lelsey was quite scared at times; just not used to it.
Mike

Author's Reply:

CVaughan on 08-10-2014
Nile
I like the evocation a sort of potted history of some Egyptian staples; learned a new word to me for those evocative sail boats
cheers Frank.

Author's Reply:
All the scenes along the nile were like those Bible illustrations. No coincidence, as at that time the nile was being 'discovered' by Europeans. A lot of it has not changed.

Savvi on 08-10-2014
Nile
I like a poem that gives some extra knowledge to the reader and this one delivers, I also enjoyed the subtlety of the internal rhymes Crete, ceased and priests, cheats in particular, Nice one John

Author's Reply:
I was pleased with this one, it has the feel (maybe not by conscious intent) of a 'good' poem. Wish I could write more with the same character.


My Life 5.1 . St Pete, Poland and reunification. (posted on: 03-10-14)
First visit to Petersburg. Toilets. German reunification day,Poland just after the curtain.

My Life 5.1 St Petersburg, Germany and Poland On my first visit to Russia, we flew from Helsinki into Petersburg. At the time, you had to say how long you were staying – it was difficult to stay an extra night as it could mean trouble. As the Aeroflot flight landed, all the backs of the empty seats slammed down as the airplane braked. Walking down the street in St. Petersburg through the iced snow, the first thing I noticed was that the gutter downspouts ended about waist height, and were about 8 inches in diameter. I made a note not to walk here in a thaw! One of the main problems was that the two 'sides' in our consortium, the Finnish leader and the Russians, could never trust each other. It was like seeing two people with a force-field between them, hands inches apart, wanting to shake hands, logically knowing they wanted a deal, but emotionally freezing at the critical moment. Behind the Finns were the Swedes, who did not want to get involved in 'trouble', and the Norwegians, who given a chance would have 'had a go' at them! My single virtue was I was English. I was trusted by my guys, and the representative from the Russian side was a kind, gentle, man, first jumpy and aggressive with the Finn, but who listened to me and saw logic. We immediately became pals. Later, and after we'd won the deal, at a big dinner in St Petersburg, he gave a lavish speech, praising me to the skies. ''When 'Djhon' walked in the door,'' he wavered, hanging on to his glass, ''I knew everything would be alright!'' Praise indeed. Except his alcoholic boss tried to kiss me (on the lips – they do that!). Russians are lavish with vodka and champagne, and after that, with praise. I had to get up in turn and tell them that these were the happiest days of my life and now, all my dreams were fulfilled. They loved it as they slumped in their seats. But I did genuinely like and respect them. And my friend became MD of the joint company – I met him a few years later while on another project. Drinking tea in our partner's head office, the girl who brought it was introduced to us. We all smiled and nodded. ''Katya used to be the KGB agent here,'' one of them said. She smiled and bobbed her head. We smiled. Toilets! Oh god! Filthy, some stumps of pipes hammered closed. No paper, ever. (It reminded me of a visit to Prague, the 'International Conference Centre' a massive place, lovely, quite plush, good media facilities. NO paper in the bogs!) We did OK, good meeting. We crammed into a high-wheeled van with bench seats to get to the airport. The Finnish guy had bought some beer from a pavement merchant, and we toasted the embryo deal as I looked forward to Helsinki and the comfort of the SAS Royal. *************** I had been in Bonn on German reunification day. My German colleague and I wandered the streets, beer glasses in hand, amongst the crowds. (I still have the glass). We could not get into the square, where a choir was singing the European anthem. At midnight, massive fireworks fell from the sky. And the bells! – They did not ring. My colleague told me that the City Council had had a big debate about whether they were allowed legally to ring the bells or not. There was no precedent, and as they were not sure what to do, they decided not to, in case it was illegal. Unlike Britain, where if the law doesn't say you can't, you can, in Germany the law tells you what you can do. If it doesn't specifically say you can, then don't. ''What would you do in England?'' my German colleague asked. ''Rung the bloody bells!'' I said. He nodded thoughtfully. Sadly, in later years I saw many instances of Germans treating their 'new brothers' the 'Osters' in a way which indicated clearly that they saw them as second-class citizens. ***** My first visit to the former Soviet Empire was to Poland. We were cooperating with the Swedes and my counterpart, Bo, said ''You must come to Warsaw!'' I had no visa, but it was rumoured you could buy one on arrival. Poles are mad entrepreneurs – more in common with the French than the slower, Germanic, Hungarians and Czechs. We flew in from Sweden. I was prepared to be turned away. But no, a burly uniformed officer, obviously unaccustomed to 'customer service' was treating us with kid gloves, like a big bruiser handling delicate china. Yes, I could get a visa here, but it would cost me money. After some discussion, I handed over one US dollar. Back came a visa stamp, and a great handful of tattered zloty notes (change). Three years later, the visa cost fourteen dollars. In the taxi, we had to multiply the meter by ten, or twenty, or something. It was nothing. We talked to the driver. ''What's the main difference now?'' we asked. The taxi driver chuckled. ''The police are very polite,'' he said. In Warsaw, the pavements were lined with wooden supports, holding up a roof of planks. This was because the facades of the buildings were crumbling, and stone was falling on the pavement below. Sections of the underpasses were blocked off because they were unstable. The liveliest shop on the block was a bookshop – crammed! People pushing in and scrambling for books. Money changers stood on the corners, wanting dollars. The first time I arrived, the airport was an old grey, concrete building, through which we walked with soldiers on guard. Outside was a triangle of mud, the car park. Signs on stalks declared notices in Russian, in red. In later years, there was a slightly more modern building. Suddenly, they had an 'executive lounge'. Two lovely, smart young girls would take your coat, get you a drink. When the phone rang, they both giggled and tried to get each other to pick it up, like schoolgirls. That was an early period of naivety and delight with new things and a new life. They 'got wise' pretty quick and not more than five years later, I was sitting in a sleek modern international airport building and with a massive car park. .     The main railway station in the centre of Warsaw was underground – a wise precaution in the winter. It was impressive. Great trains slid into the platforms. I peeked in a window. Plush, comfortable seats, each seat back with the Coat of Arms of the Polish Railways embroidered in it. Eat your heart out, British rail travellers. I wanted to see the countryside, so we took a taxi for the day. The taxi driver was a university professor, who also had a cleaning job. He pointed out his house to us – a fine old building near the centre of Warsaw, standing out from the modern construction. We drove to Radom, 100 miles south. It was interesting to see a small town, and we were the only foreigners. We stood out uncomfortably in business suits. We stopped and bought an ice-cream, our taxi driver helping. As opposed to the locals, who were getting one ball of ice-cream, we got three, piled high! It was embarrassing. I tried to eat it quickly, to get rid of it. I thought of dropping it in the gutter, but felt I could not waste it conspicuously like that. It was freezing. I didn't enjoy it at all. On the way back, passing through the acid-rained forests with bare tops, we stopped at a place to eat. It was like a dance hall. As in much of the Soviet Union, everything seemed to have stopped in the fifties. It was all plywood, with varnish flaking off and black stains where damp had got in. The food was some kind of meat stew, with instant mash potatoes and some canned mixed vegetables. It cost almost nothing. But we each had a nice beer with it. Talking of plywood, I used to fly Aeroflot First Class. The stewardesses were prettier and the food and wine were better. But when I folded my seat table down, it was plywood, with two little wings on chrome hinges to extend the width, like a schoolboy would make in woodwork – and! the varnish was flaking – and! there were dark water stains under the edges. I knew civilisation had arrived when in the early nineties, I got to my room in the Marriot in Warsaw, looked out and saw a gigantic IKEA sign, just down from the station, where there had previously been disused factories. Looking down, I was used to seeing a familiar office building, apparently with snazzy modern bronzed windows. Close by, a factory chimney had billowed out yellow smoke. By 1995, the factory had gone. The windows were not bronzed, they were just ordinary windows, now clean. (1989-95) To read My Life 5.2 - Russia the Far East (watching for the chinese, potato island, airport frights) : Click Here To read My Life 5.3 Petropavslosk-Kamchatsii (crab, purple raincoats, nuclear subs, live volcanoes) Click Here To read My Life 5.4 Villa by the Volga (My thousand dollar sock, my villa, and when would I die) Click Here
Archived comments for My Life 5.1 . St Pete, Poland and reunification.
Mikeverdi on 03-10-2014
My Life 5.1 . St Pete, Poland and reunification.
Another intriguing chapter from you life John, this time I'm not sure I envy you πŸ™‚ Thanks for continuing to post these little windows.
Mike

Author's Reply:
THanks Mike. Having even one follower is worth its weight in gold! πŸ™‚

More to come.

Mikeverdi on 03-10-2014
My Life 5.1 . St Pete, Poland and reunification.
It's weird the way comments have dropped off, you've been on the site a while John, has this happened before? I love to read stuff on here, such a varied mix. I will admit I can only comment on work I think I understand...so that limits me πŸ™‚ HaHa!
Mike


Author's Reply:
I've been around since 2002. I sometimes look in my back passages, and indeed the comments then were more involved and helpful than today. We have many more poets now, and more people who it seems, aren't so interested in the techniques involved.

My satisfaction comes from writers who I see sucking in crit and improving week by week.

Moan, moan ... 'twas ever thus, I'm afraid.

Aliya reckons I should put some of my 'my lifes' together in a collection. There's not that many, but I can write more, as it seems my life has been quite eventful. Going back to Japan again end of october, visiting old haunts. Taking all family to show them what I got up to in the 80's, and why I love the place. (Hmm, I haven't written about taking the Hitachi express to Mito City, or the completely full jumbo from Osaka to Tokyo in the morning and only the 3 of us with luggage)

Lots to say I suppose. New project. Yes, I think so. And I can connect the ones I've got already without watering down. Ho hum ..

thanks for the 'poke' -- JohnG


Dallas and the Ranch (posted on: 29-09-14)
My strange experiences ..... the ranch, an uzi, salsa, the Alamo, and flying in a private plane to the Mexican border.

My Life 4.3 : Dallas (1985) A favourite flight for me was the Thai Air flight from Tokyo to Dallas. All the attendants had unpronounceable names and looked gorgeous until you got up close. But the aircraft were very elegant, and club class spacious. Dallas was fun! I used to go there a lot. Gunning the big car down the six lane highway out of central Dallas, with country music playing on the radio as the sun went down, was heaven. The CEO of the company we were dealing with, Pete, had a six-seater plane. He was always trying to log air miles, so at 10 o'clock at night he'd suggest, ''Why don't we go over to Fort Worth?'' Fort Worth was the other half of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and it wasn't too hard to drive, but no – we had to fly. All I can remember was the number of swimming pools I could see from the air. Another time we went down to 'San Antone'. Tex-mex by the river (best salsa I ever tasted) and the Alamo. This really showed me what private flying in the States is all about. We landed and taxied to a sign saying 'air hotel'. We went in the doors from the aircraft parking stands, checked the plane in at the reception desk for fuelling and walked out the doors opposite into a taxi to go into town. People fly in, stay at the hotel, and fly on the next morning. The trip I liked the most was when we went to Pete's wife's family ranch, close to the Mexican border. It was great. We had to pick up an English NEC man, Tony, who came in from Japan on the Thai flight. After we landed at Dallas-Fort Worth, they held a Jumbo up so we could cross the runway. Ever looked up from a six-seater plane at a Jumbo? Pete told me you had to watch out for the 'wash' from the big planes. If they were taking off or landing at the same time, it could flip a small plane over. Fortunately, we managed OK. We parked and a minibus picked us up. We went off to meet the flight, using the little robot trains that ride around all the different gates automatically, crossing over like a little roller-coaster ride. When we collected Tony and came back, the parking fee and the minibus came to a grand total of $11. After a few hours flying, we touched down at the small town airstrip, near to the ranch. We tied the wings down and jumped into the pickup that had been left for us with the keys in. First we went to the Dairy Queen for a coffee and snack. The two girls behind the counter burst into giggles every time Tony or I spoke – it was the English accent. Next, off to the store to stock up. ''Wanna do some shooting?'' Pete invited. We agreed, so we shovelled some packs of shotgun cartridges and some 9mm ammunition off the open shelves. A boy in a green apron carried our brown paper bags and deposited them in the back of the pickup. The ranch house was on top of cliffs overlooking a whole area of flat land which stretched to the horizon. There was a river down below. Along the top of the cliffs were old Indian encampments. If you scraped around in the soil, there were arrowheads galore and ashes from the fires. We had a deck that cantilevered out over the drop, from which Pete lobbed clay pigeons while we shot at them. The ranch had some three-wheeled trail bikes that Tony and I rode. Pete took the jeep, with high back seat, roll bar and lights for 'huntin' varmints' at night. I had a pistol slung round my waist, taking potshots at rabbits and snakes. The cardinal rule was always point the gun down. Whereas we could pop off shotguns to our hearts content, a bullet could travel quite a distance. If it hit one of the cattle, you were in big, big, trouble! We got down to the river on a winding rock path. Halfway down I skittered off the track on the loose shale and hit a cactus. I was lucky. I looked down at my leg. Only one spine stuck out. I pulled the skin, and the spine stayed put. I felt a pain in my leg like toothache. Fortunately, I pulled it out of the bone. The river had a rock shelf to one side, where the water was only about four inches deep, while the rest was quite deep. You could lie in the river to cool off – it was hot. And Pete's 'peach bombers' froze your brain. I still have a picture of Tony 'walking on water' – he was on the shelf, with my head sticking above the water level at his feet. The 9mm ammunition was for the Uzi pistol. We had to fire that at the range so the bullets ended up in the earth bank. Once was enough for me - the bullets tore the target in two. Next morning, I was grateful for a bit of advice from Pete. I tapped my shoes before putting them on, just as he had told me, and a scorpion fell out. On the flight back from the ranch, we stopped to refuel at a small airstrip. Have you seen those American road films? There were two old guys in blue overalls, check shirts, long peaked baseball caps and big bushy beards. They were sitting on an old sofa on a veranda outside the wooden shack with the big store window in front. A sign swung rustily above the door. Spookily familiar. It must have been this trip when Tony was hit by the flying bug. (No, I mean…). After we had picked him up at Dallas, as we approached the plane, his eyes glazed over. ''Mind if I sit in the front, John?'' he muttered absently. Next, he was asking Pete any number of questions, then he was trying the controls, then he flew us along for about an hour under Pete's direction. I think he flew most of the way back, except for take-offs and landings. I didn't hear from Tony for a while after that trip. One day the phone rang. The familiar drawl at the end of the phone announced Pete. ''Hi, John! Thought we'd give you a call. Guess where we are and who's with me? He and Tony were at the ranch again, with their wives. Tony had been over in the States, got his flying licence, and this time had done all the flying down from Dallas himself. ''Bastards!'' was all I could say down the phone as they chuckled, knowing what I would have given to be there with them. Still, I learnt how to put salsa on my scrambled eggs at breakfast, a tasty memory of those four days on the ranch.
Archived comments for Dallas and the Ranch
Mikeverdi on 29-09-2014
Dallas and the Ranch
Loved it! Never been across the pond to the Americas, you make it sound as if I missed something πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
Well, there are so many things to miss, you can only expect to do a few. I count myself lucky to have been able to experience what I have, with happy memories, though many have done more of course.

Many thanks for your loyal following and kind comments. How do you feel about Russia, early 90's?

Mikeverdi on 30-09-2014
Dallas and the Ranch
Hello again John, I always enjoy your travel posts. The Med has always been my playground (plus a few visits to other Island groups) Like you I feel lucky to have been and seen the places I have visited, more than this the people I have made friends with. Russia???? never been so bring it on!
Mike
ps. the site is in the doldrums at the moment, lack of posts and comments.

Author's Reply:

woodbine on 30-09-2014
Dallas and the Ranch
America isn't like any other country. It is so self contained that if it isn't on the news it never happened, so they are very insular and inward looking. But there is so much to see that you can understand why it happens. Thanks for a very interesting post. Isn't it wonderful to travel at somebody else's expense?
John

Author's Reply:


My Life 4.7: Christmas - and I'm stuck in Tokyo (posted on: 19-09-14)
Marooned with no flights! Secrets of the Japanese, and streets filled with kids.

My Life 4.7 : Christmas – and I'm stuck in Tokyo! Christmas 1985 Here I was in Tokyo, a week before Christmas. More than that, five days before my birthday. I had finished my business, and was waiting for a seat on a flight home. ''Fully booked!'' they told me. I wandered into downtown Tokyo – the Ginza. The big stores were all celebrating Christmas; they were, unusually, full of small children. As you entered, two girls in pink uniforms bowed deeply. At the foot of the escalator, more pink girls wiped the handrail with a cloth as it sped by, and bowed. Outside, there was much laughter along the streets, some of which were closed off so the crowds of pedestrians could walk easily. Inside, in the children's departments, it was pandemonium - and not just from the children. The Japanese have a simple sense of humour. Once, in a station, a huge crowd was giggling and laughing at mechanical frilled lizards that were scuttling across an enormous model landscape. In the department store, a fascinated crowd surrounded a display. I sidled up. The toilet bowl had a Perspex cover. As I watched, a stainless steel probe slowly emerged from the back, moving horizontally. It stopped, and a jet of water suddenly shot up, drumming against the Perspex. Howls of appreciation! I had seen a similar toilet at the NEC factory in Yokohama. As I sat on it I saw that a small paper notice on the back of the door was stained with water. I puzzled why. When I'd finished, I noticed that as well as the temperature controls for the heated seat, there were other buttons. I pressed one, and a fan whirred, blowing warm air round and out of the bowl. I stood up quick. Hmm! I pressed another button, and a small stainless steel probe emerged. Fascinated, I stood there as a jet of water shot past me, across the cubicle and hit the paper notice spot on. I wasn't the first it seemed. Later I dared try it properly, sitting down. It worked quite well. * The first time I walked alone in Tokyo, I came to one of the famous pedestrian crossings near Ginza. It was a large crossroads, with wide crossings marked across the mouth of each of the four roads, and a further two crossing diagonally over the centre, corner to corner. Lining up, waiting for the traffic to stop, I was shoulder to shoulder with other people, rows of others lined up behind us. I gazed at the wall of people on the other side. It was impossible! Yet when the signal came, each small army walked toward the other, like pikemen in an ancient war. I paced myself with the rest – I didn't know what would happen. The two fronts closed on each other, closer, closer. And then it was over, we were passing through each other like ghosts. It was simple. I did not try to think, just walked steadily, in unison with my companions (for now they were my battle-hardened allies). Glancing around, I saw the same thing happening on all the other crossings. This is one of the true secrets of being Japanese – the skill of not bumping into each other. In the ever-crowded pedestrian areas, the only people who ever collided with me, or stalled in front of me wondering which side to pass, were westerners. This skill is tied to the other Japanese core behaviour – keep moving! No Japanese ever stopped in front of me to think of something, pull up their sock or to gaze in some window. They obeyed strict traffic rules, pulling out of the traffic to one side, finding a niche, or turning down an empty side street to do whatever they wanted to. This is a true skill. As a westerner, if you stopped in a public place – a station, say, within a short time, an English-speaker would pop up at your elbow and endeavour to help you - even conducting you to the ticket office, translating for you and helping you with the change, leading you to the platform. I once decided to find my own way to a seaside town I had glimpsed from the bullet train. I found it on the map. The suburban train lines had very few 'Roman' signs, so I had to learn the ideograms for my destination, and follow signs on the trains and platforms, changing trains at one point. My main concentration was avoiding being helped. I did not achieve that in Tokyo, but managed to keep moving and not look at a map too obviously for the rest of the journey. I was probably also helped by the lack of English speakers outside the city. I finally got to the beach. It was a long walk. On the way back, I saw a bus stop. While trying to puzzle out the destinations on a small notice (I was looking for the sign for 'station') a bus screeched to a halt. The driver motioned me on. I tried to say I didn't know where I was going, holding my hands out and shrugging. He just motioned me in more emphatically. There was no one else on the bus, which drove straight to the station and stopped. The driver turned round and looked at me. I got off. I offered him some money, but he just shrugged and smiled. I smiled. We never spoke. He knew where I was going. I was a ''gaijin'' in a seaside town– where else would I be going? * So here I was in the basement of one of the large department stores. I loved it here. Two basement floors of food! The women behind the counters called out as if in a market place. Things were being baked and cooked freshly for sale. I never tired of tasting samples offered by the nodding, smiling women in their white aprons and caps. One spotted me as I passed and called directly to me. The crowd around her smiled and giggled. She thought she had me. I went over. She was pushing jellyfish through a cutter, turning it into spaghetti-like strings. She put some in a small bowl, sprinkled it with soy, and offered it, a cheeky grin on her face. I suppose she thought I'd refuse. I took the dish, to polite gasps, and slurped up some of the jellyfish with the help of the chopsticks she handed me. The crowd went silent. I wiped my mouth, smiled and said ''Oishii'' in my best accent. (It means:- Delicious!). The crowd laughed, and a few clapped. The woman and I smiled at each other, and I went on my way. Of course, she hadn't guessed I'd had it before (it's a bit like crunchy spaghetti). When I got back to my hotel, I found I had a flight. Great! It meant going back via Hong Kong, which lengthened the journey, but as the only seat my Company could find from there was first-class on Cathay Pacific, I didn't mind too much. Much as I loved Japan, it was nice to be going home. But I knew I'd be back. 4.4 In Tokyo, Buying (live prawn): Click Here 4.5 Hotels in Japan (stream across the carpet) : Click Here 4.6 Oishii is a Japanese word (dangerous cooking methods): Click Here
Archived comments for My Life 4.7: Christmas - and I'm stuck in Tokyo

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My life 4.6 - Oishii! A japanese word. (posted on: 15-09-14)
Osaka speciality, speaking japanese, great food!

My Life 4.6 - Oishii! Oishii is a Japanese word. It's always good in business to learn a little of the local language. I once learnt Finnish counting (uksi, kaksi, kolme, nelya, viisi etc.and I always wanted to order 'kaksi taksi'). In the Nokia factory I surprised an executive by telling him they'd just asked him to call extension number so-and-so on the loudspeaker system. Kudos! That is what it was about. In Japan, the Japanese executives were so sure that English people could not understand Japanese they would conduct private discussions in front of you during contract negotiations. They asked permission very politely. I always agreed enthusiastically. I found as a negotiator that I was a good intuitive reader of motivation, mood and meaning. In Japan, my few words helped a bit, but the 'inscrutable' Japanese are nothing of the sort. I gazed on blandly as the factory man argued with the marketing man, and the boss chimed in. Given I knew the topic they were discussing - price, or a requested feature on the products – and given that most technical and marketing words are of English origin, often with an 'o' on the end, I could often follow the argument and the 'yes' or 'no' indications from the different parties. Once the discussion was resumed in English, I would stay away from the disputed point, and gradually work my way back to a position using what I understood to be their own preferences selectively. From their perspective, I began to offer a point of view on the price or product that they found familiar, so they might inevitably accept it. Very nebulous, but sometimes it worked. ''Oishii!'' The lady in the Kimono said, as we sat on the floor in one of the oldest wooden houses in Osaka. She was stirring the stew with a chopstick. The stew was contained in a parchment, supported in a tripod, bulging down like a big bag, directly over a naked flame. ''She has to be very careful with the chopstick'' our host declared. I believed him. They had a special barbecue style in Osaka. We sat in a restaurant high up overlooking Osaka Bay, where they were building the artificial islands for the airport. Here we had the 'Genghis Khan' So-called after a Mongolian shield, it was a round convex iron plate, heated from underneath. It had ridges running radially, and around the edge was a moat of water. As the succulent meat fizzed, the fat ran away into the water. Very healthy. And so tasty! It was just one version of the barbecue which in its various forms is common in restaurants in Japan. In the underground mall near Akasaka, four floors down, close to a waterfall, I would often sit with a colleague, dumping small pieces of meat on the hot plate, dipping them in sauce and consuming them. There we had big paper bibs, as the fat really did spit. The most sophisticated version of this was probably the stone. A large stone (you would need two hands to pick it up) was placed in front of you, sitting on an iron cradle. It was hot! Small pieces of juicy Kobe beef (tiny veins of fat ran through the meat – it was rumoured they massaged the cattle with beer.) were provided. You laid these on the surface of the stone with a hiss, turned them over, dipped and ate. After the steak on the stone, we would have Snow Crab legs. With segments about eight inches long, as thick than my thumb, the shell was sliced diagonally so you could snap them open and pull out the succulent, stringy white meat. I was once presented with a tray of tiny crabs, about ½ an inch to 1 inch across. They had been baked whole, and were sprinkled with salt. They were an appetiser. Under the guidance of my hosts, I popped one in my mouth. ''You must crunch all the shell – don't leave any large pieces,'' they told me. I did so. Oishii! I remember my first meal in Tokyo, which followed the Hong Kong visit where I'd had my first sight of live prawns. We sat at a counter, a white-garbed chef standing in front of us. There was a stainless steel hot plate in front of him. (This was what the downmarket 'Beni Hana' chain copied). The chef cooked garlic, presenting us with tiny slivers of the roasted bulb. It was delicious. Then came the prawns! You can't escape the prawns in Japan. These were striped grey monsters, eight inches long. They were lying in a bowl of rice wine, covered to prevent them jumping out. The chef pressed each one on to the hotplate, first one side and then the other. The prawn was still by now, pink on each side, but still grey down the back. The chef took a copper dome, poured a small cup of water onto the plate, and slammed the dome down over the prawns. A short time later he removed it, a cloud of prawn-smelling steam rising, the prawns now glowing pink all over. A short-snick snack of the chef's knives, and the shelled prawn lay on my plate. Oishii! One thing I really liked in Osaka was the motorway above the river. The Japanese are nothing if not practical, and as I gazed from my room at the Sheraton I could see the road, built on a row of single pillars rising from the river. It was like those old Sci-Fi Illustrations of the 50's. At about the 4th floor level of two glass office blocks, a feeder road emerged from the slim gap and joined the river motorway. It just looked fantastic! Mind you, just as impressive was Tokyo with three and four levels of roads, with occasional ramps up and down so you could change levels to get the turnoffs which spun away between buildings, or ramps which plunged into tunnels. My taxi driver once missed the turn to my hotel in Tokyo. The road plunged into a tunnel and emerged the other side of the Imperial Palace. It took an hour to get back. ''Oishii!'' I often said, even in Tokyo. It means 'delicious'. It was – and I miss it! (1983-86) to read 4.4 In Tokyo, Buying: Click Here to read 4.5 Hotels in Japan : Click Here To read 4.7 Christmas, and I'm Stuck in Tokyo (raw jellyfish snack) Click Here
Archived comments for My life 4.6 - Oishii! A japanese word.
Mikeverdi on 15-09-2014
My life 4.6 - Oishii! A japanese word.
Truly entertaining John, I love travel tales.
Mike
ps The prawns 'was' still by now?

Author's Reply:
ahah! thanks will fix.

One more japan episode on Friday.


My life 4.5: Hotels in Japan (posted on: 12-09-14)
A stream of water flowed across the carpet .....

My life 4.5 Hotels in Japan The second hotel I stayed at in Japan was in Osaka. The hotel had a rock wall, behind glass, with water falling down it. It then filled a stream which snaked across the enormous foyer, a stream in the peach-coloured carpet you had to step over The first place I stayed was the New Otani in Tokyo. Walking through the New Otani was like walking through a small city. Used in an old James Bond film, I first stayed in the older, triangular block with the enormous revolving restaurant on top. From this I saw the three black helicopters as the US President was carried to the Guest House, just across the park. Later years it was Charles and Di in the Guest House. Parts of the old Imperial Gardens made up the Hotel Garden. Electronic birds shrilled along the paths as you made your way to the traditional tea room or the steak house in the grounds. It was the only place I have seen waiters running across the knee-deep carpets delivering room service – running! In the Hotel, there were 27 restaurants. My favourite was the Tempura restaurant. Classic - Japanese wood, simplicity. I would sit at the counter. The Tempura chef (10 years training) would deliver delicacies in order, fresh and piping hot. His chopsticks would deliver a perfect battered prawn to my dish, then vegetables, then other delicacies. The shell of the prawn, carefully detached from the flesh in front of my eyes using only two sharp knives, one in each hand, was crushed and cooked in the hot oil. Every tiny leg and antenna intact, it crunched like a shrimpy crisp in my mouth – delightful! I used to love the persimmon at the end of the meal, just to round it off. Nearly as good as the green tea ice-cream! I preferred the new tower – a 40-floor white tri-lobal construction, looking like plastic from the outside. The rooms were larger, odd shaped, curved, but with magnificent views of the city. And the journey time was shorter. You could come in the back entrance, with its supermarket and shops, on foot from the subway, take the lift six floors up to the hotel and the base of the tower. Getting in the front was a mission, unless you arrived in a limo or a taxi. Arriving was a performance. I once went there with a new boss. Despite briefing from me, he committed cardinal sins – he tried to help unload the taxi. Basically I had to abandon him, and for the rest of the trip, that particular company spoke mostly to me, not to him. Always polite of course, but slightly 'distant'. The secret was, always assume! Get out of the taxi, walk to the hotel entrance – don't pause. Someone opened the door, you did not hesitate. You did not look back. Someone collected your luggage (how could you doubt it?). You arrived at reception, to check in. Somewhere behind you a bell-boy or bell-girl stood with your luggage. As you checked in, they came forward, took your room key and led you to your room. From the reception to the Tower took at least 10-15 minutes, passing arcades of shops, restaurants etc. The same manner had to be assumed all the time. If you were a guest, you went first, you just went forward, assuming everything was taken care of, and it was. I had trouble with some of my big bosses who tried to be 'polite' in the English sense, saying 'you first'. It only lost face. And by the way – I loved it! Once we stayed in Yokohama. In the lift was a carpet - each day it was changed. The wording on the mat said 'Happy Monday', 'Happy Tuesday' etc. If you entered the foyer, and moved toward the lift, any passing employee would run forward, usher you into the lift, take you up to your floor, bow and wish you well as you left, and then go back down. A colleague left early. He told me later: ''A little girl from the hotel took my suitcase, held an umbrella over my head, took me to the nearby station, helped my buy a ticket, put me on the train, and waved goodbye as the train pulled out.'' Amazing – but Japan! In the basement of the hotel was a bar. When the girls brought your drink, they knelt on the carpet at your feet, mixing it for you on the low table, wishing you to enjoy it. I LOVED it! In a bar we were entertained by bar girls. We had been presented with a range of sushi-like snacks. Suddenly, one of the girls leaned over to me and said ''Your prawn is calling to me'' I was taken aback. Then I realised. ''Take it'' I said, gesturing to the large prawn on its rice bed. ''I cannot! We are not allowed to eat. The mama-san says so'' I conspired with the girls, leaning over, speaking with my colleague, hiding them from the mama-san's view while they scoffed the food. They were nice people, stuck in a bar in shorts, trying to entertain foreign businessmen. At least I gave them some food. Once I was in a nightclub. An attractive woman was singing. ''She's a he,'' someone whispered, just as the subject made a determined dash towards me. She/He was restrained by the management. I guess it's the beard. (1984) note: when I went back nearly 30 years later in 2013, arriving at the hotel was just the same. To read 4.4 In Tokyo, Buying (eating a live prawn) : Click Here To read 4.6 Oishii is a Japanese word (dangerous cooking in Osaka) : Click Here To read 4.7 Christmas, and I'm Stuck in Tokyo (raw jellyfish snack) Click Here
Archived comments for My life 4.5: Hotels in Japan
Mikeverdi on 12-09-2014
My life 4.5: Hotels in Japan
I love it! what were you doing there...what was your job?
why have you placed the second hotel at the front instead of the first hotel; a bit odd? I have never travelled to the far east, only the Indian Ocean Islands. I have always found Japan and it's people fascinating. Keep it coming please πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
For three years, at BT, I was responsible for the first cellular mobiles - buying, stocking and distributing to dealers. It was such fun! As a boy from a terrace house in Liverpool it was a schoolboy dream telling NEC, Mitsubishi, Hitachi what I wanted changed etc for exclusive UK models (marketing policy at the time - early days). I used to go to japan twice a year for about 3 weeks each time. Good god! They paid me to do it! Unbelievable. πŸ™‚

The second hotel is very short story - just the stream, an intro. The New Otani was special, and still is. Going back again in October. Magic.


My Life 4.4: In Tokyo, buying (posted on: 08-09-14)
this is all true. of course I portray myself as a genius saint, but what else would you have me do? I hope the surroundings are interesting, at least. More is on my website: www.e-griff.com 'my life' - Dallas, Japan, Russia, Getting thrown out of a welsh university (best thing that happened).

My life – part 4.4 (1985) In Tokyo, Buying He thrust his sweating palm against mine. It did not seem so hot in this air-conditioned hotel, but this guy always seemed to be nervous and sweating. I shook it, then surreptitiously wiped my hand on my trousers. He was the 'leg man' for a big Japanese manufacturer. I was in Tokyo, buying. He had to entertain me, or they would lose face. I had to agree to be entertained, or they would loose face. So I agreed. After the obligatory taxi ride (30 minutes to cover a 10 minute walk), we arrived at the restaurant. Brightly lit, it was Chinese. Fine, I thought. I loved Japanese food, but had been in Tokyo for two weeks now, and a change was welcome. ***** My first exposure to true Chinese food had been a trip via Hong Kong. It was 'snake soup' season. I later learned that the flavour was chicken, as were half the small lumps of meat. The rest was snake, chewy and tasteless. We had a lobster. It arrived on a bed of dry ice, steaming mist. In its eyes were two tiny neon bulbs, shining red. Presentation tasteless, but the flesh was fresh and good. Then the waiter placed a covered bowl on the table, filled with prawns in some kind of liquid. As I was finishing my lobster, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. One of the prawns had jumped! Surely this was a mistake. My stomach turned over. It was no mistake. The prawns were jumping, rattling the glass lid on the bowl as they twisted and turned. The waiter explained they were in rice wine, to numb them. He took them and tossed them in a hot wok, delivering them to our plates, fresh and steaming. We travelled on to Japan, little dark-haired schoolgirls in white socks serving us wonderful food on the Cathay Pacific flight. ***** So here I was, many trips later, still trying something new in Japan. This time, they didn't cook it. A big, juicy prawn, a whole mouthful in itself, once again pacified in rice wine arrived on a plate. The main shell had been removed, leaving its legs, tail and head intact. The sweating man explained : ''You pull off the head and legs, dip it in the sauce and then ….eat it. '' It was simple. Here was a simple decision. I looked at him, He smiled at me. ''OK'' I agreed, and did it. It was pulsing as it entered my mouth, and as I chewed on it, it moved. But it was delicious. After more delicacies (all less challenging to the western palate than my live prawn), I drank my fragrant tea and sat back. ''Thank you so much, '' I gushed. ''That was a new experience, and excellent!'' The sweating man swelled with pride. I knew it would go in the report. I knew how this game was played. ''Would you like to go somewhere and relax?'' ''Why, yes,'' I replied, glancing at my watch. It was still early. I was naοve. The taxi took us to a bar. ''A drink?'' the sweating man invited, mopping his brow. ''Fine,'' I replied, taking a beer and wondering why we were sitting in a small bar in a back street. But I enjoyed it as it was a new side of Tokyo for me. Clean, neat, perfect service, it was undoubtedly downmarket. The sweating man consulted his watch. ''We are early,'' he explained ''What for?'' I enquired, innocently. ''The girls are very clean,'' he assured me. I don't know to this day what deterred me. I would like to think it was my moral integrity. My wife, my children? Being in some place with lovely Japanese girls and this sweating man? It was the word 'clean' that jarred, to be honest - and the 'early'. It reminded me I was in a queue. Was I so desperate I wanted that? I had seen colleagues on foreign trips just go crazy, away from home. For me it made no difference, home or away. Was I undersexed? Who knows? Perhaps I was just picky. Perhaps I thought there should be a relationship? The sweating man was looking at me. ''Sorry,'' I said – ''No. But thank you.'' As the sweating man started to panic (perhaps it was his fear of my meeting with his boss the next day, or his disappointment, if he was getting the company to pay for 'entertainment' which included himself.), I explained:- ''It is not my custom. I apologise that I misunderstood. I can accept meals and drinks, but nothing else. After all I may be buying from you.'' I was whisked back in the taxi. The sweating man persuaded me to let him buy me a drink in the hotel as he continued to apologise. Next morning, the phone rang. ''We have changed the arrangements, '' a voice announced. I complied. It was face! Instead of meeting the Head of Marketing of the Company at a branch office, I was welcomed at the Main Headquarters by the General Manager. The ancient President, wheeled in to greet me in his wheelchair, sang my praises. The price went down, the specification increased and we did an excellent deal. I praised the sweating man briefly, to get him off the hook, but they didn't send him again. To read 4.5 Hotels in Japan (stream of water across lobby): Click Here To read 4.6 Oishii is a Japanese word (dangerous cooking in Osaka) : Click Here To read 4.7 Christmas, and I'm Stuck in Tokyo (raw jellyfish snack) Click Here
Archived comments for My Life 4.4: In Tokyo, buying
Mikeverdi on 08-09-2014
My Life: In Tokyo, buying
Excellent... you may be a pain at times, but I love your writing HaHa! It was a good story well told, I could have done with para breaks to offset the time zones (China/Japan) but may just be me. I could read more of this ...please.
Mike

Author's Reply:

Thanks mike. I wrote these years ago, but took my cue from your autobiography.

there will be more.

are you sure your pain isn't psychosomatic? πŸ™‚

have put in separators as requested.

Slovitt on 08-09-2014
My Life: In Tokyo, buying
john: entertaining. well written. "lose" instead of "loose."
almost gave up with the live prawn, but my in-laws in china have decided i don't like anything but lobsters and prawns and so i make whole meals out of them, and then some fruit.
live is not to my taste, but if you're going to eat them i guess there's little difference. swep

Author's Reply:
Thanks (lose) I have a bad habit of doing that.

Raw prawns are also good in sashimi.

pommer on 10-09-2014
My Life: In Tokyo, buying
A great story,enjoyed reading it, but I was glad not to have to eat those culinary specialties.Frog legs and snails would be my limit.We have an old saying in Pomerania:"Was der Bauer nicht kennt das isst er Nicht." Loosely translated:"What the farmer doesn't know, he doesn't eat.Be lucky, Peter.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, It was fine. Don't think I could take a nest of baby mice or live monkey brain though πŸ™‚

Off to Japan again end of october. Love the place.


Out of Place (posted on: 09-06-14)
For Prose Challenge Situation given as theme. The main challenge is to avoid 'tell' .

Out of Place The tin banged down on the counter in front of her. She looked at the shelf that the shopkeeper had taken it from. 'Why do you charge me more than the shelf price?' 'That's for regulars.' 'But I'm a regular.' 'Club members. We run a club.' 'So, can I join?' 'Not here long enough.' 'But I've been shopping here every week for a month.' 'Takes a year.' * She left the corner shop, glancing up and down the street, then headed for home with her shopping. Only an old man and a hurrying woman were going in different directions. As she passed the old woman, the woman spat. It landed in the gutter. * As she was preparing the tea, the door clicked and her daughter came into the kitchen. 'What's wrong?' 'Oh, some of them at school got onto me again.' 'This has to stop. I'll go up to that school.' 'No, Mum, don't, it'll only make things worse.' * They were watching TV together. Why do I have to wear these clothes, Mum, that's the main problem, I'm different from the others and they don't understand.' 'Because I won't have you in that heathen dress. You are a respectable girl.' * Her daughter came down the stairs. 'Why are you spending so long collecting your books? Why do you always go upstairs first when you come home as well?' 'What is that?' she said, looking at the dress. 'The girls are talking to me now, Mum. I changed it a bit at first, but one of their mums made this for me. The girls like it, they say I'm trying to fit in. They thought I was all stuck up.' 'Take it off. Wear another, proper dress. Then give it to me and I'll throw it away. Heathen nonsense. You should be ashamed.' * There was a knock at the door. A young man stood there, swaying. ' Go back where you came from. We don't want your kind here.' She shut the door in his face. * At the supermarket, prices were good, and she only paid the shelf price. The checkout girl even smiled at her. * A bearded man stood at the door. 'Excuse me for bothering you, Madam, but may I have a word …?' 'Excellent tea, thank you.' The man leaned forward, fixing her with a gaze. 'You see, you are causing trouble here.' 'What trouble? We are respectable people, my daughter and I.' 'I'm sure, I'm sure.' The man held up his hand. 'I have no doubt where you come from you are a very acceptable member of the community.' He dipped his head slightly. ' But here …' he continued, '… you are not fitting in. You are different, your customs are different, your dress is different. People notice that most.' 'But … ' 'I know you have tried to fit in, your daughter especially gained some popularity and found friends when she dressed a little like us for a while, it showed she was willing to fit in, just a little bit. We're not asking you to change anything except small things like that. By the way, why did she change her dress back?' 'I would not allow it' 'Perhaps you could reconsider. It's such a small sacrifice for such a large result.' 'So what do you want me to do then, dress like you, change my religion?' 'The first, just a bit. The second, not at all. We are a very tolerant community.' 'But if we dress like you, it's not normal, not respectable for us.' 'Maybe not you, but your daughter? The young are sometimes wiser than we.' 'No, I can't. If we are not accepted, we will leave.' After the man had gone, she sat for a long time. * 'We're leaving. I've put the house on the market. This was a big mistake.' ' But Mum, it's great here I have friends now, and the place is much better than that flat we had.' 'We will be with our own people. That is better for us. You will learn proper ways.' 'Mum, I'd never do that. I have my faith, same as you. What do a few clothes matter?' 'Hold your tongue. Go to your room. I don't like these foreigners.' 'But we were all born here.' 'You heard me.' * Mother and daughter sat in their new flat. 'This is better.' 'It's not, Mum. People here aren't very friendly, school is horrible.' 'But we are with our own people.' 'I don't care. I was becoming happy where we were. I found people were kind if I tried to fit in.' 'No. That Vicar was wrong. It would never have worked. We will be happier with our own people.'
Archived comments for Out of Place
bluepootle on 09-06-2014
Out of Place
It's a very weird read. The format makes it as rigid and as uncompromising as the mother; there's absolutely no give in it. I think the mother could do with a name, particularly since you've got a daughter as well, so there's a 'she/her' confusion. Or maybe make it a son, and I think that might make the issue of dress more intriguing. Rather than wearing a dress to fit in, it could be a different article of clothing.

It's interesting. It's not what I would call a successful piece of writing because there's not really enough there to get your teeth into, but I think as an experiment it has provided something, if only to demonstrate how the form of the work can mirror and enhance the characterisation.

Author's Reply:

sirat on 09-06-2014
Out of Place
I think I liked it more than Aliya. The odd format gave it a 'foreignness' that fitted the theme. It wasn't so much the format that didn't work for me as the dialogue itself. It was all a bit stilted and too direct, the vicar in particular. I think he would have been a lot less outspoken, hinting at things, feeling his way, being polite and charming. Even the shopkeeper seemed more overtly prejudiced than I would have expected, especially to a good cash customer. Usually it's a bit more subtle. There was also very little feeling in the way the mother and daughter spoke to each other. It had the feel of a bad play-reading about it. Although the narrator wasn't in 'tell' mode, the characters seemed to be.



I think it was an interesting experiment and I liked the narrator's refusal to comment on characters' inner thoughts or facial expressions or interpret in any way. I think it kind of works in something of this length but I don't think I would want to read a whole novel in this style.

Author's Reply:
See below

e-griff on 09-06-2014
Out of Place
You're both right.

It's an interesting lesson. I compare it with seasoning in food. You don't need too much, but having some is vital.

Her role just falls apart with no tell to glue it together.

I didn't use names as inevitably it would have given the denouement away. πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:

TheBigBadG on 11-06-2014
Out of Place
I think I'm more in line with Blue on this one, I'm afraid. For me the thing that keeps me outside the piece are the section breaks. I get why you've got them all but I suspect that with this kind of exercise, where you've got a limited toolset, the focus should be more on ensuring narration flows. As it is it felt like it would make a good script for a trailer or treatment.

That said, I do take Blue's point about form reflecting character. For me that would be the angle to pursue with this particular story, were you to pursue it. Given you don't 'fess up the specifics of which minority religion they belong to it becomes about the mother in conflict with the world - so more observations of the world around her, perhaps?

Author's Reply:
Thanks. This is more of an exercise than a story, so as I said above, if I were to rewrite it would be different as you indicate.

I think aliya made the best of a bad job (challenge) using a style that suited the no tell very successfully. But it would never carry off a story properl (fully) . But while the consequences may have been apparent to others, I learned a good lesson. (sure, it may have been obvious)

OldPeculier on 11-06-2014
Out of Place
Now, I really liked the format. It was short and sharp like machine gun fire. I think it suited the show only style.





My dislike was that it didnt seem to go anywhere. They came, they didnt fit in so they left. If the last paragraph saw the mother sitting on her own in the new flat, maybe talking to herself then I would have felt some kind of conclusion I think.



I also couldnt help but think about Royston Vasey in the first bit, but that is no bad thing.

Author's Reply:
Wow! Well done. You're probably the only one. πŸ™‚

No, not bad at all! (Royston vasey) πŸ™‚

Actually, there was a twist at the end, but it obviously didn't come across to you.

ifyouplease on 12-06-2014
Out of Place
YES! GOOD STORY.

Author's Reply:
Dear Nic, you are very kind 😂

Skytrucker on 17-06-2014
Out of Place
I thought that it was a well constructed piece of work with a twist in the tail. I can see that, once again, I am going to be slightly at odds with the writing police. In my opinion if a story holds my interest, it is good. I get bored very easily and Mr The E-Griff has never bored me. Ever.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Allen. Great to hear from you after so long. Hope you stay for a while. You'll probably find things have changed a lot. But there are still some old - timers around.


Frivolity (posted on: 23-05-14)
Poem for weekly challenge, prompt 'Frivolous' It didn't win! (shock, horror)

Frivolity In Occidon, where all is calm, And silence like a soothing balm Spreads softly through the golden street Where sense and logic often meet There comes a wave of laughter, joy And spirits meld in soft alloy The residents, with faces grim Reject the singing summer hymn Revert to ways that steer their lives In firm prediction, men and wives Abandon youth and laughter gay Frivolity has lost the day.
Archived comments for Frivolity
Mikeverdi on 23-05-2014
Frivolity
Not a place I would like to spend time Griff, well constructed poem though πŸ™‚
Mike

Author's Reply:
No, not a nice place. This is my second 'Occidon' poem. There is a third.

pommer on 23-05-2014
Frivolity
A good poem. Been in a place like that once, Hated it. Be lucky Peter.

Author's Reply:
Thank you

Savvi on 24-05-2014
Frivolity
I enjoyed this one egriff, well crafted subtle end rhymes and a steady meter. Worthy of a shared egg I would say. Best Keith

Author's Reply:
Kind of you, but I'm not complaining πŸ™‚

sweetwater on 24-05-2014
Frivolity
I really enjoyed reading this, flowed along beautifully, liked the wording, and it said a lot. Sue X.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou


Bonnet (posted on: 12-05-14)
Won the weekly challenge a couple of weeks ago. Worth showing here I thought. πŸ™‚

Bonnet Beribboned in scarlet and ringed with soft flowers, She wears her new bonnet through those joyful hours. She dances with Jason, and Harry and Jack, And evening will find her alone, on her back. Her face is suffused and purple - too late! She's teased one last time, now this is her fate. Maybe Harry, or Jack, or Jason it seems, One of them's now put an end to her dreams. She lies like a flower crushed under a shoe Sprawled on her back with her bonnet askew Ribbons all damp and stained with dark earth Her life now is over, and what was it worth?
Archived comments for Bonnet
Kipper on 12-05-2014
Bonnet
A poem where the merry rhythm and satisfying rhyming competes with a somber moral, difficult though it may be to determine quite what that is.

That the girl has got her comeuppance on the one hand, or a boy has lost control on the other.

Interesting. Perhaps had we known the nature of the challenge the uncertainty would be lessened.

Michael

Author's Reply:
The weekly challenge works on one prompt. In this case, 'bonnet'. That simple.

Thanks for comments. πŸ™‚

Bozzz on 13-05-2014
Bonnet
Hi John, dancing in a bonnet dates the poem in one sense, but the male behaviour updates it - a strange mix. I like the rhythm and rhyming - very good. The descriptive lines to me seem a touch bland for the subject matter - a serious tragedy almost as if in a newspaper report. Just a thought...David

Author's Reply:
I always find it interesting to see the views of others. As here, I find interpretations I hadn't thought of.

I don't really understand the 'male behaviour' comment. Surely jealousy and murder are as old as the human race?

I'd concede the 'blandness' but excuse myself on the basis of the shortness of the piece, and its stance as something like a newspaper heading. I'm not sure I could add more substance in its present form, or that it's necessarily desirable. This is a kind of 'read all about it' report.

Thanks for an interesting comment. πŸ™‚


Team (posted on: 12-05-14)
For the Prose Challenge: 'Teams', two POV's.

Team It's hard running a team. Old man Argold had been good in his day, but things had changed. I had to take things in hand. It was difficult, and I know he felt cheated when I took over as team owner, but it had to be done. I did keep his name, out of respect. We're now number two in the league. I want to be number one. I have spent five years of my life raising the team up from the lower echelons – I don't take prisoners and have to be ruthless. This is not about friendship or fun, it's deadly serious. I'm not that happy with Andy. I brought him in because I could see I could develop him into a good player, but I don't trust him an inch. He seems so agreeable, falsely so. A brilliant shot from Andy put us one ahead in the closing minutes of the match last week. He was a hero to the rest. I smiled and clapped my arm around him and joined in the congratulations, but my teeth were gritted. * Emery is a great captain. He invited me to join his team, Argold's Rainbows, one of the top teams. I couldn't believe it. He really inspires me. Anyone else would feel sore when the new guy stole their thunder, but Emery isn't like that. Team is all, winning is all, and that's how he likes it. It doesn't matter who gets the points, it's a team effort and we all win. I get a lot of praise from the girls. But Emery doesn't seem to mind. He's such a great guy. I guess it's because I'm new. They're an enthusiastic bunch. Nelly, who is always so supportive, treats me like a son. Some of the younger ones are clearly a little bit hopeful, but none are my cup of tea. I love my Sarah. Last week was so great! I put in a shot, thanks to Emery's build up, which won the day. It was all down to him, he's so generous to give me the breaks. I didn't know where my life was going until I joined the team. I'd had a troubled youth, dabbled in drugs, booze, and some petty pilfering. Although I love my parents, they are not really a good influence. Mom is hooked on daytime TV and snacking, Pop likes a drop or two when he's not doing the few handyman jobs that keep us going. I don't have any sisters or brothers. But now I have a life, a goal – something I'm good at. It's changed me. Every week I practice hard for the weekend, and then it's all so good. Working with the team – Joe, Billy, Ralfie and the rest. Feeling part of a group, wanted, and respected. They're so nice to me, especially Emery. And after the match, we have a great time relaxing. I feel I belong. * Nelly and the others love him. I get less attention these days – and I'm the captain, the team owner. I deserve the loyalty, the respect. Sometimes it gets too much, seeing him there, smiling in the group. Not that they are not respectful to me, admiring, loyal I would say. But now I'm sharing it. How does that happen? Personality I guess. But how could I know the punk I brought in and nurtured would have such an effect? I recognised he could be a good player, and I needed him, but I imagined him as a self-effacing, quiet member of the team. Now he's blossomed, the life and soul of the group as we wind down post game. I'm torn between the need to win and the need to defend my position, I don't want to become another Ray Argold. * I'm going to college! Yes, my life is looking up, and all because of the team. Nelly and Joe Reznick got their heads together and fixed me up after we'd had a heart to heart one week. Nelly's like a Mom to me. They are such good souls. I'll get a qualification, a proper job. I'm determined. Now I know I can succeed at something, I will. I'd never been good at anything in my life before, but playing with the team brought out something natural, easy for me. At first it was hard to understand why they were so pleased, congratulating me. I couldn't see how I was doing anything special. But out there playing, I began to realise it didn't come as easy to most. Yes, there are some great players out there, obviously some better than me. But I can hold my own with them, I really can. This is a new thing in my life. Tonight's the big night. Finals. We made it through the ranks again. But that was expected. They had a really good player, Frank Pilcher, who helped get them to number two last year. He and Emery were apparently a great team. I hope I can be as good. Frank defected to Dixie's Dodgers, last year's champions, and the team we'll meet in the final. The others said Emery was really cut up about it. That must have been just before he spotted me and brought me in. I owe it to him to do my level best. We have to win for Emery. * It's no good. Even if we do win, the victory will be Andy's, not mine. At least Frank kept his place. He used to complain I didn't give him the breaks, said that was why he left. Big-headed sod. He would have been nothing without me. I'm the strength, the leader. 'To the victor the spoils!' as my father used to say. Andy seemed okay at first, you know, humble I guess, quiet, backing me up and doing as he was told. Then he started making a few of his own decisions, initiatives, bypassing me. Yes, we won, we were more successful, and that's where my problem lies. I want to win, but I don't like how we are doing it. Now sometimes he gives me tips, direction. Me! I've been playing since he was in diapers. I keep a smiley face for the sake of the team, but I really don't like it. Anyway, tonight is it. We have to win, and Andy is an integral part of that, curse him. I'm beginning to hate his puppy dog stare, instant agreement, enthusiasm. It can't be real. And it's got me worried. He's far cleverer than he seems. * Jesus! We won! We won the championship! It was so close. We were to and fro, to and fro, each side taking the advantage then loosing it. It was the hardest match I'd ever played, and the team were great: Joe excelled himself; Billy was awesome; Ralfie was just a revelation. It was Emery, Emery who made it all happen, bringing us together, enthusing us, encouraging when we were down, generous in praise when we were up. I fancy myself as a good player now, but I'll never have Emery's skill as a captain. It takes something more than knowledge and skill, it takes warmth, humanity, the ability to understand people, to draw out the best in them. I just don't know how he does it. And even at the end, his generosity to me, the new guy, showed through, a sacrifice I don't think I could ever make. Dixie's had us evens right up until the last minute, and it was Emery set up the winning shot. The last seconds were ticking away. We were clear. It was as if time stood still, a frozen scene. I waited for him to complete it, he deserved the glory. But incredibly he signalled to me, so I dived in front of him and shot. We scored just before the final bell. What a guy! * That shit! I knew I was right. I'd set up a winning shot. I would be a hero again. I would regain the attention and respect he had robbed me of. I was ready, and signalled to him to stay back. But he just dived in and took it off me. I can't take this. Yes, we won, but I didn't. I have choices now – win with Andy, or try to find someone else for next year. What if the same thing happens? Youngsters are getting more and more selfish these days. Things aren't what they used to be. I have to make up my mind. * It was quite a shock. What Emery decided. Why I'll never know. I thought we were doing well, getting on well, I thought the team had reached a peak and he'd be pleased. He said he was pleased, but the emotions on his face confused me. He looked angry. Why? Then he told me. He told the team. They were all totally surprised, shocked. Voices were raised, questions asked. By the time Emery went to collect the trophy, we were in uproar. The news spread quickly among the other teams. Frank, from Dixie's, took me to one side and said they'd be glad to have me. He'd always seemed like a nice guy, not at all like Emery had said about him . I was dazed, but I needed to take my chance. Emery had been more than positive, and I knew he would not change his mind. I had to look after number one. But bless them, Nelly and the girls asked if they could support me at Dixie's. Frank smiled. 'Of course,' he told them. 'Water under the bridge now.' What that meant I didn't know. The good news is they found room for Joe and Bill to get regular airings, and Ralfie's on the reserve bench with every hope of getting a chance to show what he can do. It's the least we deserve. I don't understand Emery. How could he make such a decision? And he seems to have changed completely – he looks old and bitter, the smile gone, that joy and encouragement drained out of him. I'll never understand. Just like that. Closing down the team just as we won the trophy. Who would have ever dreamed of it?
Archived comments for Team
bluepootle on 12-05-2014
Team
At first I couldn't follow the voices, and on first read-through spent a lot of time trying to get my head around the team members. Once I'd worked out that we're dealing with a double-header I found myself intrigued by the relationship and the miscommunication, and the hints that this is a pattern.

I'm torn between saying that some way of signalling the POV would work or suggesting that it's fine as it is because the work the reader puts into this piece pays dividends. I enjoyed it all the more because it was a puzzle that I solved.

Doesn't change the fact that I had to be prepared to put the work in, though.

Author's Reply:
yes, I was pondering this point last night and waiting to see the reaction. Obviously, I can't judge as I know, of course. I'll see if I can clarify it.

sirat on 12-05-2014
Team
I have a blind spot where football is concerned, talk of the subject wafts past me and leaves no trace, but I liked this story. It's really a double character study, about people's motivations and how they communicate, and the different worlds you see depending on whose eyes you're looking through. The only detail I wondered about was whether Emery could in fact wind up the team if everybody else involved wanted it to continue. I didn't understand why it wasn't a straightforward change of leadership with somebody else taking over. But you know a lot more about such things than I do. I was also a bit uneasy about the second last paragraph where the character analysis becomes maybe a bit too explicit. It's 'tell' over 'show' even though it's one of the characters doing the telling. I think you just about get away with it but it might be better if you could do it less directly. Apart from those small details, very good.

I think you missed a couple of minor proof reading things:

I brought him in him
I guess is because I’m new
Th had a really good player

Author's Reply:
All good points. I'll attend to them.

Proof? Yeah, a tablet is not ideal for checking. Thanks.

Football? What makes you think that?

OldPeculier on 12-05-2014
Team
It took two reads for me to get the hang of it but that is not bad thing. All the information is there when you know what you are looking for.

This idea of different people having different perspectives about a common event is something I find fascinating and I think you pulled it off well.

Most enjoyable.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. I am going to try and make it clearer, as suggested.

Kipper on 12-05-2014
Team
Stories from two points are view don't usually flow so well I find, often requiring more from the reader than they are prepared for. Nevertheless, in this story of misunderstandings and poor communications it is hard to see how it could be done differently to advantage, and I think it worked for you.
I did like the way that you gave a different spin from the two voices, showing how they perceived each other, both seeing each event through their gradually diverging perspective until the gap between them was too wide to bridge. But that neither of them knew what was in the mind of the other was key. That was very well done.
I was however a little disappointed with the ending which I felt seemed unlikely, and not in keeping with an otherwise good story.
Michael


Author's Reply:
Mmm . I'm surprised. I'll explain what I was thinking, which obviously didn't work for you. We see emery getting more and more stressed, upset by the situation. The choice seems to be ditch Andy or accept he will take control off him, neither of which is good. As they just achieved his goal, he decides to quit the whole thing - a third alternative which I assumed would be a surprise. He sheds his impossible problem and also 'pays back' the others by taking his ball home with him'.

Of course, if you don't get that from the story, there's no point in explaining it externally. I do this only to explain my intention. How could I make it work better? Thought it would be an unexpected twist.

TheBigBadG on 13-05-2014
Team
As for initial reactions, I think it's a fine piece. It's all about Emery's turn from positive and inspiring leader to a bitter old man and the voices are both really tangible as people. It depends on Andy's naivety, which he seems to have an abundance of, but that's no problem. I did find myself wondering what level they were playing at though. It seems a bit ambiguous as to whether it's local five-a-side or something semi-pro for instance. I wanted to know what was at stake because it would tell me more about what kind of man Emery is. Like was there really lots at stake or was it literally all about his ego?

Taking the comments in the forum into account I'm guessing there was less disambiguation of the two PoVs in earlier versions? I think it's pretty clear now, given you name Emery in the first sentence of the second section, seems clear-cut to me. There were a couple of points in Andy's sections where I felt overcome with names but given they weren't important I mainly stopped worrying about all of them. Fine, but I had to double check when you revealed Nelly was a woman, for instance.

As for Sirat's points re the penultimate paragraph, I take the point but as a consideration I'd be wary of introducing too much chopping and changing. I personally find back-and-forth short para structure more distracting than anything unless it's around dialogue. Could be a matter of taste though, that one.

Pendantry! Typos for you: 'I guess is because I’m new.' and 'I sacrifice I don’t think I could ever make'. Tablets are evil to type on. I'd also edit, 'I could see I could develop him' to something more like 'I could see how to develop him'.


Author's Reply:
Okay, thanks. πŸ™‚

I really don't understand your comment on Nelly. It's a female name!

And surely it doesn't matter what league, or even what sport, which I don't specify. Point is only it's important to them. πŸ™‚

TheBigBadG on 13-05-2014
Team
You just caught me on my way out of my inbox. It WAS a female name. Then the 1990s happened.

Author's Reply:


Heartache (posted on: 18-04-14)
In a world that has changed suddenly .. For Prose Challenge

Heartache The aftershocks of the disaster still resonate. In fact, unless something is done, they will resonate forever and change all our lives. There's thousands working on it, hundreds of thousands the world over, but as yet, no one has a solution. It's not safe to go out at night. For one thing, all the street lighting is haywire. For another, it's dangerous. But if you want certain things, it's the only time you can get them, under cover of the dark. You just have to be careful who you meet. The government has done quite well. The army keep control, nonetheless it's not like it used to be. The faηade of civilisation crumbles very quickly in circumstances like these, and the raw nature of man comes to the fore. Survival, or more. We get basic food supplies, and electricity works again now, thanks to some jury-rigging by the engineers, but it can be erratic. Broadcast radio stations are ok, but little else. The government has taken over a channel for information, with daily bulletins on the situation. Some countries abroad have had riots and killing, terrible stuff. I suppose we are lucky. The crime rate has soared, and there is danger now, but nothing like the massive civil unrest some societies are suffering.The cities are hit worst, understandably, but trains and buses run, and apart from random fuel shortages, we seem to be getting deliveries ok, unless it's just the stockpile. All over the world, engineers have had to bypass sophisticated monitoring and control systems, often reverting to older systems long since disused, or by manning controls on a twenty-four hour basis. There have been accidents. A nuclear power plant in Spain blew – I guess they were overambitious – and reports of terrible disasters are common. Of course, we don't see pictures, just hear telephone reports on the radio over crackly landlines. * I finger my chiz, slipping it into my pocket. It's useful protection, but if anyone spots you've got one, you become a target. Only for use silently without observers. The night is pitch black, but I know the way blindfold. I listen for footsteps, any sign of life other than my own. A group of feral cats race by, on some mission of their own. Other than that, nothing. So I'm surprised when I turn a corner and hear the hiss of spray paint. I crouch, peering toward the sound. I can make out the flicker of a torch. What is this guy doing? I can just make out the words, in red paint on the pristine white wall of an upmarket house. 'Up the revolution!' it says. What curious priorities people have when time are tough. Revolution against who? If he means the individuals who caused this, I agree, but the whole world is after them. In the old days it would have been easy as pie to trace them, but now? No records, no trails, nothing. I don't think the guy is any threat, but nevertheless, I detour round the area. Eventually, I reach the back door of the shop and tap lightly. Brian is an old pal, we were in the army together, bosom buddies. He is a godsend now. 'Come in, come in.' He hurries to a table. 'Drink?' Somehow he gets whisky. I don't ask where. His shop is regularly checked by the police, but he has a hidden storeroom where he stashes his 'exchanges'. We spend an hour or so chatting, then I say I must get back. He goes into the storeroom and comes out with two parcels. 'I saved you some sausages.' What a man! I can just taste the fatty meat already. Meat is short, we are basically given cereals. 'And the decoy.' He hands me the second parcel. I tuck the sausages into the hidden pocket in the back of my pants. My long coat hides any sign of them. I carry the second parcel. Halfway back, a punk steps out of an alley. He has a blade. 'Whatcha got, Grandad?' He sniffs the air. 'Meat?' His face takes on a hungry look, menacing. I could chiz him now and no one would see, but too many unexplained deaths aren't good for the neighbourhood. 'Take it!' I say, 'Take it.' and throw it at him as I run off. He doesn't follow me, he's scrabbling around on the floor picking up the parcel, which has split open. He can't see it now, but it's all fat and gristle. Still, he can make a stew out of it. I reach home, a bit out of breath. I should stop these nightly outings – but the thought of that meat overtakes everything. I must be careful when I cook that the neighbours don't get a whiff of the sizzling sausages. I force myself to wait, putting them aside until tomorrow. I know where I can promote some real potatoes, not the floury mess we are given to mix up. It's been six months since the net collapsed. Hackers found a raging bug which slowly ate everything, like that flesh-eating bug back in the noughties. Governments and their operating arms had isolated and secure systems, but not all of them were immune. It only took one operator to fancy a game online, and the bug was in, waiting until the April 1st date. Now things have to be done by telephone, and mail, manpower. Everyone has a job. There's little pay and little to spend it on. Everything is frozen, you can't buy or sell houses. All transactions are cash. Banks have our money, they say they have records of our money safe and secure, but can't reach them until ....Until. Whenever. If. * I've eaten my sausages, delicious. Looking out of the window, I see the evening flock of starlings heading for the insect clouds. Nothing has changed for them. Maybe there's a lesson there for us. .
Archived comments for Heartache
sirat on 18-04-2014
Heartache
Interesting. The parallels with E. M. Forster's The Machine Stops are very obvious, the main differences being that your machine is one that currently exists and people aren't living in underground cells. In my opinion stories like this work best if you avoid explaining things too much and just present the day-to-day life of a person inside that society. Let the background emerge naturally, don't have the story teller make it so obvious that he's talking to people in a different time or place who are outsiders to the world he lives in. It's really just the old 'tell' vs 'show' distinction. I think this would be a lot better if there was a central character that we could care about and identify with a bit more. the central character here adopts the narrator role to such an extent that he's difficult to believe in as an actual person.

Again, sorry if I'm sounding negative, and I know this was written very quickly when you had just recovered from a nasty bug, but I would see it more as a first draft than a finished story. You've got a picture of a crippled post-Internet world in your head, disintegrating like a drug-dependent individual who has been forced to go cold turkey. Now you need to come up with an involving story that can happen against that back-drop.

Author's Reply:
Well, David, you have accurately analysed the story, and it's exactly what I intended. It's quite a short snapshot about the situation, the character deliberately low-key.
If I were to develop it, I wouldn't change it, but use it as a first chapter. In the second, or extended part of the story I would have room to develop the character and a specific situation. It could be developed into a novel that way I guess.
I don't think you should take my 'hurry' as a cause of omission or failure to realise possibilities. The story has been developed in my head for two weeks. The only result of hurry would be technical inaccuracies in the writing, not intent.

bluepootle on 18-04-2014
Heartache
I think David has summed up my own thoughts on this. Having said that, I do like your opening section. For a piece of flash, it really grabs you by the scruff of the neck with that description of a global happening. The second section really doesn't give us anything to hold on to, though. There's not enough character or event to balance with that first section. I like the older man trying to survive as an angle; could he be recording the first section? I suppose I'm thinking of Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape as a starting point here. I think you need to give the focus to your character, and then it'll begin to work.

Author's Reply:
See reply to David. This was deliberately not about the character. It might best be seen as a beginning rather than a complete story. A vignette.
It owes a bit to many post-apocalyptic stories, and in particular 'Make Room, Make Room'

Mikeverdi on 18-04-2014
Heartache
God you lot are fussy buggers, I liked it; if you want to make it a story I'll read it.
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike πŸ˜‰

TheBigBadG on 18-04-2014
Heartache
Yes Mike, we are massively fussy buggers really. One of the reasons I hold them all so dearly in my pedantic heart.

The story though, I think it's been said really, it's a vignette leading on to something than anything. Not to say it doesn't have it's own development and process, but it does leave you wanting a bit more. As for it being in your head for a couple of weeks, can I guess the word Heartbleed might lead us to an exact date? Just sticking it out there...

Couple of points for the edit, 'There’s thousands working on it' should be 'There're' and you can lose a few instances of quite and basically, and their moderating kin.

However, all that aside lots of good stuff here, you definitely hooked me. There are some effective and economical lines and it's certainly evocative of the setting very quickly. Most of all I want to know why he's so unconcerned about the very real dangers around him, I think. Whatever the chiz is exactly, he strikes me as the kind of man who doesn't need it to be dangerous himself.


Author's Reply:
Well, it's the bloke talking, and that's how people speak, including basically etc. If it were narration, I would agree with you.

The story might go on to describe how his wife abandoned him as a No-hoper when his job collapsed and she returned to the p protection of his father in law, an influential man already gathering a tribe around him. Contrasting the coexistence of civilisation in the present day with the raw human Survival demands and changes in society. Full of material there. Then maybe how he manages and triumphs, his wife offers to come back, but he's grown and changed under pressure and has none of it, after mooning about her early on. Enough?

QBall on 18-04-2014
Heartache
I suppose this grabbed me because I have just entered my own 'end-of-the-world' tale - The Ultimate Cataclysm.
I think you have the beginning of an excellent story about survival in a disastrous situation.
Well done.


Author's Reply:
Thanks, appreciate it. Have I the energy to write the rest?

Rab on 22-04-2014
Heartache
I'm with Mike on this. Liked the story very much and would like to see something come out of it.

To add my own slight (very slight) carp, I'm not entirely sure if such cataclysmic changes would come about from the loss of our current systems, but it would be fun to explore. Would we be back in a kind of 1940s world? Could we go back? A future prose challenge perhaps?

Author's Reply:
Ah well, I fall back on the old author's ploy 'it's just one possible scenario'

But I think we've so quickly slipped into doing everything on the Internet, it would be a cataclysm. Yes, we would recover, but the world would not be the same.


A Quiet Night (posted on: 28-03-14)
For the Prose Challenge

done in a bit of a rush A Quiet Night Six o'clock. It was about time for the rush. 'Goodnight, goodnight,' people called out to each other as they passed through the foyer. Most had left at five, but there were quite a few who stayed later. By seven, the foyer was empty. Now who was left? There was Mr Johnson on the fourth floor, he always stayed late. And about half a dozen others. It's amazing what they can do these days. I have a bank of detectors which show up people's presence. They had drawn the line at cameras but I had motion detectors. So I knew which offices still had people in them. I could also tell if there was more than one person in an office. I glanced at my bank of indicators again. Yes, about half a dozen. Eight o'clock. Time for Mrs Babbage to leave. You could set your clock by her. She was Head of Personnel – they call it human resources these days. She seemed to work all the hours god sent: first in in the morning, not quite the last, but quite late out at night. It wasn't long before I heard her heels tap-tapping along the corridor and into the foyer. She turned to me and said, 'Good night.' I wished her a safe trip home. The other late stayers usually came in late in the morning. One of them told me he liked to get his paperwork finished when everyone else had gone home and it was peaceful and quiet. The others? I was not so sure. I could see that in Mr Johnson's office there were two people. There were often two people in Mr Johnson's office at this time of night. I checked Miss Carlisle's office – it was empty. Those two! It was inevitable that someday someone would find out, Johnson's wife would find out and then the fur would fly. Our organisation was not the kind of place where secrets could be kept, and there were already rumours. Of course I knew, but I would never tell. John Richardson appeared, clutching his briefcase and doing up his coat. 'How are the kids Mr. Richardson?' I called. He turned to me and gave me a rundown on the latest situation with them. He liked to talk about his children. I noticed he never talked about his wife, only his children. After a while he glanced at his watch then hurried off, waving goodbye. It was quiet now. Four people left in the building. I looked at the clock. Getting on for nine-thirty. I suspected that Johnson and Carlisle had finished their business by now – perhaps. Some people would find my job boring, but I don't find it so. Although these days with the motion detectors I don't have to do any rounds, I still do. Perhaps out of habit, perhaps just to get the exercise, perhaps just to avoid boredom. I knew no one would be leaving in the next half hour – that wasn't normal for any of them, so I set the lock on the front doors and started on my stroll. I carefully avoided making any noise as I passed Johnson's office.. In the general office, everything was tidy, everything was in its place. The new manager was really hot on tidiness and it showed. Desks were clear, file boxes stacked neatly on top of the filing cabinets. Excellent. I remembered the mess that there had been under the previous manager. Passing the canteen, I paused to test the door and peer through the glass window to make sure everything was intact. Sure enough the shutters were down, chairs were neatly stacked, everything was fine. On the second floor I came across Mr Cartwright at the photocopier. 'Evening Mr Cartwright,' I said. He turned to me. 'Evening,' he replied. 'Working late again?' I asked him. He looked worried. 'Guess I've got to keep up with things with this new boss.' The new manager seemed an amiable enough character but I guessed he was pretty hard on his staff. I glanced at my watch. It was about time to get back to the front door. 'Leaving soon Mr Cartwright?' I asked. 'Yes just finishing now. Off in a minute.' 'Okay, I'd better get down make sure you can be released from the building and get on your way home.' I smiled at him. Back at my desk I checked the movement sensors again. The general office was now clear. Cartwright would arrive shortly to be let out. I checked outside to make there were no loiterers and released the locks. A couple of minutes later, he hurried out of the door, giving me a quick wave, pulling his coat collar up against the cold. A draught swept around me. You'd think they would do something about that, I thought. It was most unpleasant. It must be bad for the receptionist sitting in the daytime in a flimsy dress. They'd talked about fixing a porch with double doors but they hadn't got round to it yet. I wasn't too bad in my uniform, it kept me pretty warm – sometimes too warm in the summer but I couldn't let standards relax, and I always had it buttoned up and was spick and span like I had been in the army. They had been great times. With all my mates. Working together. Companions having fun working hard, facing danger. Afghanistan was difficult at times, especially for me, an infantryman. Entering some village where you weren't sure if there was a gunman waiting in the next doorway was nerve-wracking and although it only happened occasionally, it was a thought uppermost in our minds. That and the IUD's. I'd lost a few good mates to them. Dave, Doug, Andy, and good old Will. All gone in an instant. One moment driving along then bang! No warning and no hope. They talked about better vehicle armour but we never seemed to get any. And the light Landrovers we had weren't up to the job. It was difficult. All those foreign guys in foreign dress. It was hard to tell who were friends and who enemies – if indeed we had any friends. You had to be suspicious of everybody. In Bastion we had native bus drivers and workers. The camp was massive. There were sections for different nationalities: the Americans, the French and Dutch. In a way it was fun. We could go and eat different nationalities' food. A bus ran up and down the camp it was so big, nearly two miles long. But it was the sand that irked you – the sand was like a fine dust that got everywhere, like moon dust, you just couldn't escape it. And the heat was punishing. But they were good days with good mates and I regretted very much what had happened that meant I had to leave. The bomb hadn't injured me directly, but I was no longer A1 and was given a medical discharge. The army was generous and unlike some ex-soldiers, I didn't yearn for the past, even though I thought about it with fondness, and sometimes I did miss it tremendously. I considered different options, but my disability made it difficult for any active roles such as the police. Being a security officer here where security was fairly light I was acceptable and my skills had overcome my handicap to some extent. But why should I complain? I was being paid a good whack for a job which didn't demand much. I sat in a warm building. Well, apart from the odd draft. Very little happened. We did have closed circuit TV cameras on the outside of the building, and we had occasional rowdies pass by but no one ever took much interest in our building. A few cars parked in the car park now and then – up to something but not affecting me, so it was a quiet life. Ten oclock. Surely Johnson and Miss Carlisle must be off home now? They usually left separately. It was not long before she waved a cheery 'goodnight' and hurried out through the doors. Ten minutes later, Johnson appeared, smiling. 'Working late again, Mr. Johnson?' I asked. I could see he muttered something in reply. 'Pardon?' He turned to face me. 'Yes, report finished, now to go home and relax.' 'Good for you, Mr. Johnson. Have a nice rest of the evening.' It was very late. It was unusual for anyone to stay this late, but there was one office still showing an inhabitant. Mr. Greely. I didn't know Greely at all. We said 'hello' and 'goodbye' in the morning and evening but he never stopped for a chat. I didn't even know what he did. He seemed to have had some title like 'coordinator' but I had no idea what he coordinated. I knew he was there but he wasn't moving about the office. I decided to go and check I locked the front doors and went up to the third floor and knocked on Greely's door. I knocked again and called, then went in. He was slumped at his desk head down on the surface. I thought he might be ill, but as I took his wrist to check his pulse his eyes fluttered open and he looked up at me. He sat up suddenly. 'What time is it?' ' Half past ten.' 'Oh damn!' he said. 'I fell asleep. I was supposed to be back home by nine. What can I do?' 'First thing is to call your wife, Mr. Greeley. She must be worried.' 'You're right,' he said, turning away and reaching for the telephone. Then he turned back to me. 'Thank you very much for waking me. I could have been here all night.' 'Not at all. Just glad to see you're okay. See you back downstairs in a moment.' 'Yes,' he said and turned back again to the telephone. ''Night, Mr Greely,' I said as he left. 'Goodnight and thanks again.' The rest of the night was quiet. I stayed alert, checking the outside cameras every so often and testing the alarm systems using the sound meter while I had the opportunity as no one was going to be panicking when the bells began to ring. After I had entered the results in the log, I relaxed a bit and brewed myself another pot of tea and sat down to read the latest book I'd got. It was a very interesting science fiction novel. I've always liked science fiction, lots of imagination, something to take you out of yourself. Some of the ideas were marvellous. At six my replacement arrived. I went through the log and the latest security code details that I'd reset the night before. Pulling on my overcoat, I headed into the chilly morning towards my car. It had been a very quiet night. I was doing OK, I felt, managing well. Very well for someone who was deaf.
Archived comments for A Quiet Night
Nomenklatura on 28-03-2014
A Quiet Night
Yes, I liked this. Some great touches, like not giving any idea of what the company does. Super twist which I should have seen coming, but didn't.

You've an 'i' missing from minutes 'A couple of mnutes later, he hurried out of the door'

The new manager seemed an amiable enough character but I think he was pretty hard on his staff. Should that 'think' be 'thought'?

Great story, well told.
Ewan



Author's Reply:
Thanks, all observations spot on. πŸ˜‰

I also spotted one major error which has now been removed! (he heard laughter).

bluepootle on 28-03-2014
A Quiet Night
You captured the office environment well and I liked your narrator, with that sense of distance from them all yet real affection for their comings and goings. Nicely paced, with the change to the reminiscences about the past. Enjoyable.

Author's Reply:
Thank you. I was that bloke who came in late and stayed late to get paperwork done in peace. πŸ˜‰

(but never a Johnson!)

sirat on 28-03-2014
A Quiet Night
I feel I should be honest and say that for me the night was a bit too quiet. I was waiting for a hook of some kind that I felt never came. This was just an ordinary night, where we learned a bit about each character but not enough to become very involved. I didn't see the deafness twist coming, but if I am to be totally honest I have to ask why it mattered. Would it have made a difference if his handicap had been of some other kind?

I'm not usually so negative, but I think the 'slice of life' story, while perfectly legitimate and loved by many, just isn't a form that appeals to me. So please feel free to ignore all my comments!

I noticed a few incorrect or redundant words:

It was about to time for the rush.
They had been a great times.
although it only happen occasionally

Author's Reply:
Fair enough. I recognise what you are saying. πŸ˜‰

I'll correct the mistypes.

Mikeverdi on 28-03-2014
A Quiet Night
I enjoyed it, cant go along with Sirat on it being 'too quite' ... it's in the title; and anyway every night would have been quite for him. I know that didn't come out till later, but that must have been the point. As to other niggles... I think you know I wouldn't have noticed them anyway πŸ™‚ I say again I enjoyed it Mr Gruff.
Mike

Author's Reply:
.... And that's what counts!

Thank you, you are very kind.

Savvi on 28-03-2014
A Quiet Night
I enjoyed it, I also enjoyed the characters and the subject the quite came across really well and the whole read was smooth and easy to follow. I think it was enough to make the reader ponder his disability but I guess if you wanted to try more you could work an angle with the two in the room and him not hearing or something of that nature. Thanks Keith


Author's Reply:
Thank you. Appreciated. I'm never sure how some stories will turn out for the reader. Nice to know this one worked.

TheBigBadG on 01-04-2014
A Quiet Night
The direct approach to the prompt, eh? Atypical for the group perhaps, good work on keeping me on my toes. I personally don't have any problems with nothing happening - it was in the challenge, title and telling after all. I didn't see the reveal coming either because I was too involved in going through the building with him, which is of course the point. For me it works as a gentle cross-section of office life, in fact.

As pointers on improvement - offered with a nod to the caveat that you didn't get lots of time for reflection - it does need an edit. You've got some repeated words and phrases (around 'back at my desk I checked...' and 'They had been great times for instance') most notable with, 'someday someone would find out, Johnson’s wife would find out'. Nothing criminal but it is in need of a nip and tuck.

The thing that did stand out for me was the telling of his discharge, however. It felt like a bit of an information-dump. What would you have said to me if I'd put it in one of mine for instance? o:o) I also wasn't sure about ending on the punchline. The reveal and idea is completely fine but I guess I felt like it was turned into a gag by closing on the joke when it's more about the people here. So maybe keep it but close with your narrator instead?

But specific details aside, it works for me. It does need another visit, no doubt whereupon you'll end up tinkering in all sorts of ways, but it sounds like you already know that. So I'd say, come back to it, tidy up the details, iron out the exposition and you're away.

Author's Reply:
All that is fair enough, thank you. I did write this in a hurry, and didn't go over it critically, but that's no excuse. I'll probably tidy it a bit, but my heart's not really in this one. I referred to David's story as being somewhat formulaic and mechanical, and at the time recognised the same could be said of mine.

Okay, I came back and changed the end. I wasn't keen on the change of scene anyway - a bit too obvious. Thanks.


The Tyranny of Gravity (posted on: 28-02-14)
For the prose workshop. A monologue.

The Tyranny of Gravity I have long considered Gravity to be the most pernicious of the natural forces. He is a most subtle and insidious elemental, one who trains us from an early age to bind us to his will. As children, we are defended from his clutching fingers, carried and cosseted by parents and nursemaids. Thus we are not exposed to his violent and sometimes damaging attentions. However, growing up, the skinned knees and scratched hands persuade us of his power and we succumb meekly, subservient to his whims. Indeed, the first tottering steps a toddler takes are invariably followed by a fall. There can be no child on earth who has stood for the first time and not subsequently, I would say inevitably, fallen under his grasp. Such is the power and presence of Gravity and such is the indisputable evidence of his implacable will to establish mastery. Thus we grow to youth cowed by an intrusive presence. Then we have our one chance. As young men and women, brave and bold, we may defy him! This is the most dangerous time for Gravity. A child can be predicted and controlled. However, a young person, free of spirit and ready to try anything, is an unpredictable source of challenge. Young people leap from heights; they climb; they scale walls and cliffs; they scramble up and down gullies and paths. And thus it is at this stage in our lives that Gravity unleashes his most dreadful punishments. Youngsters are regularly killed and lie smashed and broken at the foot of buildings or on mountains. Some, damaged for life, crippled, become living reminders of Gravity's power, subduing others who might be tempted likewise to defy him. As we grow older, we decline from that peak of challenge and Gravity relaxes his hold, punishing us less. We don't fall as often, stumble or injure ourselves so seriously. This is because we are more careful, more obedient to his will. We have become his good and faithful subjects. The damage of old age is not precipitated directly. Gravity does not wreak his venom on old people especially. He has other tricks up his sleeve – subtle, insidious. By means of the grinding years of servitude to this monster, our bodies and bones become worn and brittle. He shaves our strength away, year by year, minutely attacking our frame, penetrating our core. So, without effort, he claims many of us in a final victory, smiling as he collects a crumpled body from the foot of the stairs, or from a hospital bed where we have lain, unmoving, following a simple fall in the street. But we cannot escape him! Our feet are stuck to the ground. We can raise them from it only by sacrificing another part of our anatomy. We can sit, stand on our heads, but he always has a part of us trapped, fixed down. Over the years, man has made challenges to Gravity's dominance. He can fly in the sky with his machinery, or simply glide on lightweight wings. He defies Gravity! That is what people say. But Gravity is vengeful and persistent. He drags airplanes to the ground, down into mountains. He pulls men back to earth in the cruellest way possible, tumbling them into power lines, smashing them into rock, flaying them with trees. By such examples he warns us, keeps us in check. Gravity is a tyrant. Like all tyrants, he exists only by grace of the complicity of his victims. Let us withdraw our support for his regime, and throw him off! His continuing existence, his power, is based on our belief. Once we stop believing, his power will fade. I ask you to aid me. I urge every free-thinking person to join me in defying him. Not by acts, but by withholding belief. Disbelieve Gravity and he will fail. Pry his fingers, one by one, from their grip on our lives and eventually he will have to let us slip. Imagine that world! Free, we will float and dip on the breeze, our bodies will stay straight and tall for life, in a world of freedom, not one of slavery. Should we take this step, there might well be consequences. For instance, water would float in globules, to be plucked from the air and drunk, or used for washing. It would be everywhere. There would be no deserts but unless we have waterproof rooms we could drown in our sleep. We would have to make water shields and have regular 'water forecasts' as exceptionally large globules (maybe the size of a country) could be dangerous. And most would be salt. Some would be quite unpleasant. There would be no rain, no fresh water falling from the sky. Many plants would die. In this, and other aspects, the world would become unpredictable, our lives potentially under threat. But the human race is nothing if not adaptable, brave and clever. We have the capacity, my friends, my fellow sufferers, to change our lives by throwing off this tyrant. We now have a choice. What is better, my friends – to live bravely in dangerous freedom, or cower in safe slavery?
Archived comments for The Tyranny of Gravity
Nomenklatura on 28-02-2014
The Tyranny of Gravity
Hmm... I think this is how Arthur Dent learned how to fly.
Liked this voice, a pompous proselytiser, I could almost hear him trying to persuade me to believe in something else completely unbelievable, God, for example.
I liked the logical (!) argument of his case, the perfectly reasonable tone of his preposterous ideas.
regards
Ewan

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. It is a pity people won't take up the call - too many cowards! πŸ™‚

bluepootle on 28-02-2014
The Tyranny of Gravity
Weirdly, I've been thinking a lot about Newton lately. Does great invention come from an unwillingness to accept? Quick, everyone, let's stick pins in our eyes.

You've got a few repetitions: two uses of 'obedient' close together, but nothing too jarring.

Author's Reply:
Ok, thanks. I took out some screamers (this was from 2003).

Rupe on 28-02-2014
The Tyranny of Gravity
An enjoyable read & I particularly liked the way in which gravity is given a gender, which consolidated the sense of the narrator as an infallible Victorian gentleman scientist.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
ah, he could only be a he of course ....

thanks.

ifyouplease on 01-03-2014
The Tyranny of Gravity
i remember this one i think it's edited repost right? it is a very complex subject i guess the magnetic field of earth needs gravity right? i may be wrong, but if gravity is the main or one of the main reasons or aftermaths of something that keeps the magnetic field we need its existence.

Author's Reply:
Ah, you ask a question even Einstein could not answer. As yet, there is no connection established betwen gravity and magnetism ...

tnakyou for commenting.

Rab on 01-03-2014
The Tyranny of Gravity
Interesting...nice idea to have someone proselytise on something so fundamental, and propose defying it. Is it the next phase of yogic flying perhaps?

Author's Reply:
yogic flying? that would be entirely illogical! tut tut.

thanks for commenting

TheBigBadG on 03-03-2014
The Tyranny of Gravity
Yes, definitely Mr Arthur Dent Esquire, a very British rebellion. One has to wonder if it is a successful rebellion. He comes across as a touch contrarian to me - a fervent adherent to the principles of gravity as I am myself - but that perhaps makes him a bit more charming. A trace of Emperor Norton in him, maybe?

Author's Reply:
Oh, far more sensible than Arthur Dent, I think. πŸ™‚

thanks

CVaughan on 03-03-2014
The Tyranny of Gravity
I thought this conceit worked well a thoroughly worked through but naturally fallacious argument. Reminded me of Homer Simpson's continual "doh" railing at gravity when he drops stuff. Good write

Frank

Author's Reply:
A perfectly logical argument! *huffs*

thanks for reading


God's Will? (posted on: 24-01-14)
A cheeky (provocative) poem about religion. Do not be offended by my opinions, they are only that. πŸ™‚ A bit Ogden Nashy, and dashed off rather than crafted ...

God's Will? God save us from the Islamite Who creeps up to our bed at night And whispers 'Jesus Christ is shite' And well may mean it. (1) The Christian from the Southern State An avid source of spite and hate Who preys upon his blackened neighbour Calling out to Christ the saviour. (2) Israeli Jews, the 'persecuted', Now persecute the folks they looted Of their land and pride and fate, Peace before it is too late! (3) Agnostics, Atheists and such Have no hang-ups – well, not much Any violence on their part Is merely nationalistic art. 1 The Koran reveres Jesus as a great prophet, and accepts the teachings of the Torah and the Bible. 2 No excuse for this throwback to slavery, which had its day but built America. 3 Yes, the Israelis have ample cause to fear the Arab countries surrounding them, but they have no excuse for the active persecution of Palestinians, whose land was, and is still being, stolen for Israel. Amen.
Archived comments for God's Will?
Mikeverdi on 24-01-2014
Gods Will?
Don't know why you stopped at that, there are a few more you could have tilted at...Ha Ha! Excellent stuff. Mike

Author's Reply:
I just did the Semitics. Don't know enough about the others πŸ™‚

ValDohren on 24-01-2014
Gods Will?
Amen from me too !! Well written.
Val πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Thank you

Bozzz on 25-01-2014
Gods Will?
Some things are better left unsaid - because they can incite angry response and expose personal ignorance, bigotry and intolerance - among many other more unfortunate human traits. Bozzz

Author's Reply:
Ah me.... A true Muslim, a true Christian, a true jew (the vast majority in each case) would never do these things

Andrea on 25-01-2014
Gods Will?
Amen to all that - good stuff πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
Yes

pommer on 06-03-2014
Gods Will?
Well said and true, Peter

Author's Reply:


On the Stair (posted on: 17-01-14)
For the prose workshop.

I'm afraid this is somewhat hurried and not that polished (and it's short). I desperately wanted to get back in the swing of the challenge, so see this as a toe in the water. I took the cue of something nasty on the stair .... On the stair … He stopped dead at the foot of the stairs. It was a leg. A leg that appeared to emerge from the wall near the top step. Simmonds blinked. It must be an illusion. He mounted the stairs, keeping his distance, and peered at the thing. It wasn't a human leg. It wasn't a monster's leg. It was a thin, non-threatening leg with a knee joint and a three-toed foot splayed out on the next step to the top. It was green. It wasn't moving. He felt bold enough to get closer. It was scaly. Where it emerged from the wall, the surface of the wall seemed blurry. He carefully stepped around the leg, and gingerly went into his bedroom. There was nothing there. The wall surface opposite the emergence was plain and untroubled. * The pin was long and sharp. Simmonds carefully pressed it under a scale and, with a flash of courage, jabbed. He jumped back hurriedly as the leg moved. Just slightly, it shifted position, leaving him more room to get past it. Then it was still again. * 'Do you think it will work, Vicar?' 'Have faith my son. Christ will purge you of this abomination.' The Vicar was robed, and held a bible, and a sprinkler of holy water. 'Stand back.' The Vicar went into his procedure. * The builder hacked away at the plaster of the wall. This was making a mess. Simmonds pulled the dust sheet over an exposed patch of carpet. The dust would get everywhere. 'Here it is. Look.' Within the cavity between the two walls, the leg started. It started in a small blue, fuzzy cloud. Simmonds peered at it. 'Never seen anything like that.' The builder shook his head. 'Weird.' For a few moments both men stared at the apparition. 'Do you want me to do anything more?' Simmonds considered. 'No I don't think so. Thanks.' 'Well let me know when you get rid of it and I'll come back and make good.' * 'Stupid kid!' Frankar shook his head. 'He has to learn, dear. Give him a chance.' 'Chance? He's had his chance. He's had several chances. All his class have mastered basic agility, and there sits our son, stuck in the bezmodrome again. And it's only set to level three. Level three! I can't believe it.' 'Go and let him free, Frankar. Don't make the boy suffer. It's not his fault.' 'Whose fault is it? My nest are all top-agility champions, and yours aren't too bad either. Where did the boy get this handicap?' It doesn't matter. Just get him out. He's been there for an hour, surely that's enough punishment? Frankar paused a while, staring out of the window. * 'So we've no idea what it is?' 'No.' Simmonds shook his head. 'I've tried everything.' 'And you really want me saw it off?' 'What else can I do?' 'But … It's alive.' 'Just bloody do it!' Simmonds' face was red, his fists clenched. 'I've had enough. It's been there for a week. Cut it off.' The blade touched the scales and sliced through. * 'Did you see that?' Frankar shouted. 'Look!' 'What are you on about now? Oh! He' s free. See? He can do it when he tries.' 'When he tries? By Zarpon, he just leapt nearly twice his body length. That's a class one standard. The boy's been fooling us.' Frankel beamed. 'My boy,' he muttered. 'Well, I hope you're happy. For Zarpon's sake, can you leave him alone now? Frankar smiled. His head was full of plans. The boy could be a champion! He could … * 'What happened?' Simmonds peered at the wall. A tiny speck of greenish fluid stained the step. 'It just went. Bang! Just like that. Disappeared.' 'Well.... Good.' * 'This time I've set it to level one, son. You can do it! Let's go!' * Simmonds stared at the legs. They were thin, green legs that emerged from his front door and filled the hall Simmonds groaned.
Archived comments for On the Stair
bluepootle on 17-01-2014
On the Stair
Ah, this is short and sweet. Love the sharp sentences and the quick cuts, so we don't have time to tire of the concept. It's almost like a poem, really, particularly in the shape of it. And I love the proud parents, and builder.

Fun and fast. Top.



Author's Reply:
Than you, see below

Rupe on 17-01-2014
On the Stair
Not polished my arse! to paraphrase that character from the Royle Family. It's so polished, you can see your face in it - even if the polishing was done unconsciously. Very sharp, spare and nicely sui generis. Good stuff.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Must be unconscious!

See below

TheBigBadG on 17-01-2014
On the Stair
Got to say I agree with the above. It's punchy and the clipped telling helps keep the pace up which is always crucial in comic pieces like this. Bonus points for leaving all the macguffins unexplained too, so all we can see of them are legs poking out of a hole.

I'd say it was more a storyboard for a short film than a poem incidentally, I could really see this as a 5 minute skit kind of thing.

Author's Reply:
Yes, see below.

Rab on 17-01-2014
On the Stair
I also think this is pretty polished, and a great idea. One question though - did the leg get cut off or did the young ...whatever... take it back himself?

Author's Reply:
Ah, that's for you to decide.

e-griff on 17-01-2014
On the Stair
I wrote the start of this in a notebook. It had been going round in my head for days in the form I used- it was a leg,. It was..... It was...

Later, I thought through the plot, and wrote bullet points down - pin - vicar - open wall, etc etc. I think this accounts for overall form. I finished it yesterday, and the saw/agility were late additions. It was originally going to end at him being stuck, but I felt it needed a 'result' and more interest. πŸ˜‰

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 19-01-2014
On the Stair
Enjoyed this one, I was a bit disconcerted by all of the 'it's' at the start, I wouldn't normally expect that; as is often the case with me....I was wrong LOL Great piece Mr Gruff!
ps. I was hoping to hear some stuff about you're travels, prose...under the travel section maybe?
Mike

Author's Reply:
Thank you.

You mean my japan/australasia trip? I've written very little recently. Just trying to get myself in harness with this and a couple of poems. My trip was great, but I've no real inspiration to make it more than a travelogue. Perhaps some of my past life travels would have more entertainment value. I shall take a look for something suitable as compensation . πŸ˜‰

sirat on 08-02-2014
On the Stair
As Griff knows, neighbouring realities interfering with one another is an old sci fi standard. This example is short, succinct and fun. I don't think it needs any reworking, it's fine as it is IMO.

Author's Reply:
Well, Guv, you got me bang to rights!

Thanks for the second half though. I agree.



The Meet (posted on: 20-09-13)
For the Prose Challenge. An event that goes wrong. Those of you who think you have been protrayed are obviously mistaken. All characters are compleltely fictional!

The Meet Cliff slipped the McLaren through the traffic of the north circular. His thoughts were on the meet – a meeting of members of the Great British Writer's internet site. This was his chance to shine. He was rehearsing his reading over and over as he drove. Leaving the sleek machine, incongruous in the stained concrete of the multi-storey, he strode down the high street, looking neither right nor left. He knew where he was going, he knew where his destiny lay. Fame was within his grasp at last. His Guccis trod silently on the pavement as the finely-tooled leather holdall he carried swung from his shoulder. He wasn't sure what would be available for the interval, but Hammond had packed a small picnic of foie gras and smoked salmon sandwiches with some lobster and crab salad. Also of course a half bottle of Cristal, nestling in its cooling jacket. That would see him through. This was his destiny, his big chance. This was what he'd been training for for many years. He had honed his skills writing and now, for the first time, had a chance to demonstrate both his talent and his presentation skills. The 'Book Nook' was brightly lit, welcoming, with chairs neatly arranged in rows. Cliff glanced at his watch. Six o'clock. Good timing. A distinguished-looking chap was placing the chairs in place. 'Corny?' Cliff ventured a guess. 'Yes, who are you?' The man gave a dismissive gesture. 'I'm sorry, lot to do. They're all in the pub. It's just round the corner. Come back at seven!' Cliff recalled the instructions, 'meet in the pub' . He coloured slightly and felt rather stupid. Mumbling apologies, he turned and headed round the corner to the 'Duck and Dongle'. * At first he could not distinguish his fellow writers from the general pub crowd, but gradually he began to pick them out of the gloom. 'Alice?' he asked a petite redhead sitting in a corner. 'I'm Cliff.' 'Oh,' she said, 'you're not at all what I expected – and that's unusual,' she added hurriedly. Her eyes took on a misty look. 'I'm going to read later, you know.' 'Yes, I believe you are.' 'You believe? Really, you believe?' 'Yes, I believe so.' Alice raised her eyes heavenward and raised a finger, then lowered her gaze and said softly, 'Then I was right.' Just then, a burly figure stumbled through the door. Dressed in a striped T-shirt and wearing a beret, he sported a string of onions around his neck. That must be 'Frenchie', thought Cliff. Passing into the crowd, Cliff spotted the familiar form of 'ratty', who he'd met before. He was talking to a lady with a small sheep on a lead. He'd met her before, too. It was 'Taff'. After greetings and polite conversation, Cliff moved on as the sheep was getting interested in his hand-tailored kid leather jacket. The evening started with a bang. Corny gave a spirited performance that had everyone riveted. Cliff was sure he could do better, he would shine! Others came and went, but things perked up a bit when Frenchie stepped forward. Wrapped up in an imaginative tale of workers in an independent Scotland tipping containers into the Clyde in protest at the tax on Mars bars crossing the border, he had the audience spellbound. Then ratty, in a soft Irish brogue, told a complex tale of conscience, nuns, a doctor, a kangaroo and a young boy with a crystal set. Most people were puzzled, but felt that at least they should pretend to understand. The evening went downhill a bit when 'pished' recited fourteen of his 'amusing' limericks, most of which were incomprehensible. The audience started chattering and Corny had to appeal for silence. Luckily, a couple more interesting readings lifted the first part before the interval. But it got worse again when 'bloodblister' recited a poem that consisted of a single swear word repeated over and over again. Overall though, Cliff thought, time seemed to have flown by. His fears of being bored had been dispelled. The last reading finished to applause. 'Back to the Duck and Dongle,' cried out 'small chappie', who appeared to have had a t-shirt tattooed on his chest for the occasion. Cliff decided to stay at the Nook and partake of his snack. He laid out his food on a handy table, spreading the white cloth Hammond had included. As he was sipping his Cristal and nibbling the smoked salmon, Cliff became aware of someone at his elbow. 'I've always admired you.' Cliff swelled with pride. 'I'm Violet.' She was quite attractive, and not that old. Things were looking up. 'I love your work.' Cliff nodded. He still hadn't replied. 'You know, we have so much in common, we must be soul mates.' Cliff tried desperately to remember some of Violet's work. All he could recall were the smouldering love poems that seemed to have no conclusion. They started in the middle and then didn't finish, just stopped. What was the latest? Ah, he had it: 'Thrust'. 'I particularly enjoyed Thrust,' he said. Violet stepped back. 'You're English!' 'Yes, what did you expect?' 'You're not 'Swop' then?' 'eh?' Violet disappeared as quickly as she had come. Cliff abandoned his sandwiches and headed for the pub. He needed something strong, Dutch courage for his performance – and what a performance it would be! In the Duck and Dongle, small chappie was running around shouting, 'I'm a granddad', much to the amusement of the group of hip-hop junkie beef boys who had been calling him that all evening. * This was it! His turn. Cliff stepped up to the front at Corny's signal. People were still staggering in from the pub, bloodblister was throwing up in the corner, and the level of chatter was high. Cliff knew what to do. He'd been trained by John Humphrys no less. He knew that if he lowered his voice, people would naturally quieten in order to hear him. Once they heard his words of course, they would still, sit in rapt attention, and soak up his triumphant performance. He knew that. Cliff closed his eyes, oblivious to everything but his vaunting talent, and began to speak. He didn't hear the cry of 'speak up' from the back as he recited a delicate love poem. Next, a harsh, driving poem and a humorous poem, both delivered in immaculately researched accents. A serious love poem followed, and he rounded off with a sensitive story about a woman who exploded. He finished. He paused, awaiting the tumultuous applause and the mass approbation that he knew would follow. Cliff opened his eyes. People sat, chatting, faces turned away. Others were reading kindles or thumbing their smartphones. A faint smattering of applause came from Bloodblister at the back, who was swaying alarmingly in his seat. Someone grabbed his arm. 'Get off,' said Corny, 'Alice is on now.' A storm of applause greeted Alice, and complete silence reigned as she began to read her magnum opus, 'Prediction'. Cliff was stunned, desolate. Why hadn't this bunch recognised his talent? As he left, no one noticed. As he tooled the McLaren through the traffic and onto the M1 towards his fourteen-bedroomed country mansion, he knew what loneliness was. Later, he sat with a fine brandy, thoughts going round and round in his head, and a feeling of deep despair. I know, he thought, photography! He busied himself on his tablet, ordering the best camera and equipment for his new hobby. Stuff writing, he thought. It's a mug's game. They're all plebs.
Archived comments for The Meet
Rupe on 20-09-2013
The Meet
I rather enjoyed this. I've never been to such an event, but often wondered what they're like - and suspect that your (strictly fictional, of course) take on the subject hits one or two nails on the head.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Thanks, rupe. Not at all 'fine writing' as the challenge normally expects, but a bit of fun, I think.

OldPeculier on 20-09-2013
The Meet
I always wondered what went on at these things. Now I know.

I found this great fun, well told with some great images.

My favorite line; '.....a sensitive story about a woman who exploded.'

Nothing profound or deep about this. But to my mind that is what story telling should be all about; just good entertainment.


Author's Reply:
thanks very much. entertainment was what I was after. (even schoolboy humour)

you will see (on the video) me reading this self-same story! πŸ™‚ watch and wonder.

mageorge on 20-09-2013
The Meet
Now I'm convinced you're talking about me πŸ™‚

I've seen videos of the UKA meets, they are very good. I'm hoping to get to one of them, one day.

Very entertaining read, e-griff.

Regards,
Mark.

Author's Reply:
thankyou. there was a bit of serendipity in the challenge topic and the event ...

bluepootle on 20-09-2013
The Meet
Ah, you made me laugh. I might steal your idea about the doctor, the nuns, the kangaroo and the crystal set. Sounds like my kind of story.

Author's Reply:
yes, I agree πŸ™‚

Nomenklatura on 20-09-2013
The Meet
Now those of us unable to attend can imagine ourselves as having done so!



Mind you, you'd better wear some armour when you DO go.



Jolly funny.

As I said, it's funny. I'm sure you'll be quite safe!

Author's Reply:
I think we all have a sense of humour, and I doubt anyone would take this seriously. πŸ™‚

Weefatfella on 20-09-2013
The Meet

 photo d9eba94f-5e64-4ade-9e4f-8954649e6cbd_zps2c629ae3.jpg

Fat Chappie Indeed.
Loved the elbow nudge, of, A storm of applause.
Great mood Griff, great write enjoyed tremendously.
Fat Chappie.

Author's Reply:
Hee hee! thanks

Corin on 20-09-2013
The Meet
Excellent lampooning Griff, very amusing - you will have to read this. I’ll try and get it fitted in, print it out.

BTW I prefer Quorny:-)

Dave

Author's Reply:
I just picked the nearest word to the name, or some association (like small chappie) I should think the other david might well object to being called ratty (if I had - of course it's totally fictional so I didn't)

I didn't think of reading it, but I see what you mean. I'll time it.

stormwolf on 20-09-2013
The Meet
Well Griff,

At the risk of inflating your ego any further and putting you in harm's way, I have to say I laughed out loud at that. I am so glad they are all fictitious! πŸ˜‰

I feared I may be 'Alice' until my eagle eyes on re-reading spotted the adjective "petite" in description. I breathed a sign of relief I can tell you.



Well done old chap.



Alison x

Author's Reply:
well I'm glad you are reassured by 'petite' *titters into hand*

TheBigBadG on 20-09-2013
The Meet
Nice and enjoyable even if I couldn't place all of the entirely fictitious characters. Glad to hear the theme suited as well, honestly this didn't occur to me as a possible outcome when I set it. More fool me...

G

Author's Reply:
thanks

franciman on 20-09-2013
The Meet
I think you rushed this in an effort to get it finished prior to the Meet. The one thing I must mention is the plethora of adverbs you use. Not the fastidious EGriff of old then?
Please don't confuse me with a real person,
I am a fellow figment, and a Frankish figment in fact!
cheers,


Author's Reply:
Probably. So? I said it wasn't fine writing πŸ™‚ don't you think lots of adverbs suit the style? It's not good to be too rigid. (er .....)

Savvi on 21-09-2013
The Meet
A fun take on the topic, this helps set the mood for the coming events. Very enjoyable. S

Author's Reply:
thanks. πŸ™‚

franciman on 23-09-2013
The Meet
Hi John,
You ask for comment and critique and post it on the Prose Challenge; yet you treat my critique with a very off-hand contempt. I'm left to wonder why?
And no John, you didn't say up front it was written in 'schoolboy style'. It might have helped me to place it if you had.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Jim, as you have already sent me this complaint by PM and I replied and tried to explain the nature of this story, I see little point in repeating that here. If you don't get it, you don't get it, and that's regrettable. I think most people did, though.

JohnG

Algy on 26-09-2013
The Meet
As a newly joined member of UKA, reading your story was like reading Hansard after a session in Parliament. Is it possible that such dialogue and subsequent events were as described, or could possibly occur, or had the author been given(or used) poetic licence? I sincerely hope it was the latter!!

Algy

Author's Reply:
I couldn't possibly comment πŸ™‚

Algy on 26-09-2013
The Meet
As a newly joined member of UKA, reading your story was like reading Hansard after a session in Parliament. Is it possible that such dialogue and subsequent events were as described, or could possibly occur, or had the author been given(or used) poetic licence? I sincerely hope it was the latter!!

Algy

Author's Reply:


Truckerson 2! The Day of the Rooster. Part1: Drafted! (posted on: 09-08-13)
Second part of my book. Anyone reading these please at least give a short OK comment so I can see it's worth posting. πŸ™‚ would appreciate it. Much later now, Truckerson saves the world!

The Day of the Rooster. Part1: Drafted! Air Vice-Marshall Sir Barry Truckerson settled into his first-class seat on the 747 with a feeling of well-being. He was off! The damn Yanks had requested a volunteer for a space flight, and suggested his name. At first, the RAF was bemused. Approaching fifty, Truckerson was no longer in the prime of youth. Regular marching had kept him pretty fit, though, and the medicos had done all the tests and eventually pronounced him A-1. But it was highly unusual for a man of his rank to be involved in operational duties. The Air Marshall had shaken his head. ''Are you sure, Trux? You don't have to go, you know, it sounds a bit dicey.'' ''I don't mind, Sir, but why me?'' ''Oh!'' The Air Marshall shuffled the papers in the file before him. ''Someone high up asked for you personally. She's President Ford's Special Advisor. Her name's here somewhere….. yes, here it is. Simpson.'' ''Simps!'' Truckerson's eyes shone. ''I beg your pardon?'' ''It's okay Sir, I knew her in the war. Fine woman.'' Glancing at the gleam in Truckerson's eye, the Air Marshall chuckled. ''I bet!'' He knew Truckerson's reputation well. Truckerson smiled amiably. * The flight was going smoothly. Part way through, a blushing stewardess approached. ''Er, Mr Truckerson, Sir?'' Truckerson took in her trim figure, her angelic face and shiny dark hair with pleasure. His eyes glazed slightly and his breath stilled for a moment. Then his handsome head rose and his eyes met hers. ''Yes?'' The girl blushed even more. ''The pilot invites you to visit the cockpit, Sir. That is if you wish.'' The poor girl was nervous. Truckerson beamed. ''I should be delighted! Lead on, girlie, lead on!'' he exclaimed with anticipation, making sure to follow her at a distance. A delighted Truckerson squeezed himself into the right-hand seat vacated by the awestruck co-pilot, who took the jump seat behind. Beaming, dark eyes flashing, he took in the array of dials, knobs and switches with obvious enjoyment. The pilot began to respectfully explain the functions of the various controls, until Truckerson interrupted him. ''Mind if I have a go, son?'' The pilot started to say that such a thing was impossible, but Truckerson's words had been more of a statement than a question. His eyes stared into the horizon and his ears were deaf as his hands fell on the joystick and felt for the throttle controls. For a moment, the pilot froze, unbelieving. That was his mistake. The big jet lurched upwards, tilted, then fell back sickeningly. ''Touchy, isn't she?'' Was all Truckerson could say. The pilot's hands grabbed for his controls, but Truckerson fixed him with an eagle eye. ''Leave this to me laddie!'' he barked, oblivious to the falling aircraft, the screaming passengers and the goggle-eyed co-pilot yelling. With consummate ease, Truckerson took the controls. It mattered not that he had no idea what some of them were for. As the pilot surreptitiously corrected his errors, Truckerson brought the stricken craft back to level cruising and safety. ''That was fun!'' Truckerson exclaimed, meaning every word. The passengers on the plane applauded as Truckerson emerged from the cockpit door. They had heard everything. Truckerson had accidentally flipped the announcement switch as he wrestled with the controls of the airliner. They'd had a blow-by-blow account of the in-flight drama as Truckerson had given the pilot a running commentary to ''teach him a few wrinkles'' and they all knew that this fellow had saved their lives. The pilot wiped his brow. ''What the hell happened?'' he demanded of his co-pilot. ''He saved us.'' The co-pilot said admiringly. The pilot felt his sense of reality slipping, then thought of his pension and decided to shut up. * The jumbo touched down in Washington with a squeal of tyres, puffs of smoke wreathing their contact with the black tarmac. Truckerson was raring to go! He'd had a good rest after the in-flight incident, sleeping the sleep of the righteous, a boyish grin on his broad face. His stewardess had gazed fondly down on his noble visage, covering him with a blanket as he slipped into slumber. As he left the aircraft, he gave each of them a kiss on the cheek. As they giggled and blushed, he thanked the Lord once again for his 'girlies'. It was little things like them that made life worth living. The Press were waiting in force, and Truckerson spent a happy half-hour relating his version of events before being whisked off to the White House. In the Oval office, Gerald Ford greeted Truckerson amiably. ''So? Everything okay? Hear you had a little trouble on the way over.'' ''Nothing I couldn't handle Mr. President.'' Truckerson grinned modestly. ''Well done, man. Like a coffee?'' ''Er, I'd prefer tea, Sir.'' ''Oh, OK!'' the President motioned to an aide, who scuttled off. They went into a side room. Three people sat, waiting. One was a very striking woman, who looked very familiar. In fact they were all familiar. ''Okay! Mr. Truckerson, this is General Van Dooren….'' ''Dick!'' ''Trux.'' Special Advisor Simpson…'' ''Simps!'' ''Trux!'' The President looked bemused, took the gum out of his mouth and seemed to focus again. ''Er, and this is the Head of our Space research programme, Professor Von Braun …'' ''Werner!'' ''Truckerzen!'' President Ford shook his head. ''Well, Mr Truckerson, you seem to know everyone here, perhaps we should just get on with the business – General?'' ''Excuse me, Mr President,'' Truckerson interrupted him. ''Why don't you call me 'Trux'?'' ''Okay, fella, you got it. Ford turned to Van Dooren. Well, General, you better tell Trux here what we are planning.'' General Van Dooren stepped up to a big screen that dropped from the ceiling. On it was a blurred picture of something. ''Looks like a big snowball - must be a ''Comet''!'' Truckerson grinned, looking around at the others. ''Exactly! You have it in one!'' Van Dooren exclaimed. Gerald Ford looked amazed, popping some chewing gum in his mouth, then hurriedly removing it before asking ''Er, how did you guess that, Trux?'' Truckerson looked coy. ''Instinct, I guess!'' he declared. General Van Dooren tapped his nose. ''Like a fox, this Truckerson!'' Simps looked fondly at Truckerson. ''I told you Sir,'' she said quietly to Ford. ''He's our guy!'' Truckerson thought it would be wise at that point not to tell them he'd mistaken the picture for an advertisement for a certain English ice-cream dessert. After all, why spoil a good impression? In no time the briefing was under way. President Ford chewed with a vacant look on his face as Van Dooren continued in great detail. Truckerson admired all the books around the room. Simps gazed at Truckerson, remembering the past, and Von Braun clenched his fists, thinking of what this ''Truckerzen'' had done to his dream. What is this special mission? Why can't the President chew gum and do other things as well? What does Simps plan for Truckerson? And why is nice Professor Von Braun so upset? Understand more in Part 2: Watt's Next
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When did you last ...? (ekphrastic poem) (posted on: 29-07-13)
For the Poetry challenge. I provided my own picture. This is a repost of a poem written for a poetry challenge in 2007

[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u215/JohnG38/lastseefather.jpg[/img] 'And when did you last see your father?' 1878 William Frederick Yeames (1835 - 1918) http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/lastseefather/thepainting.asp When did you last ...? The child alone is stood before Inquisitors – his father's foe His mother anxious for his fate While soldiers in the background go They're sprawled around, this roundhead crew Come here to plunder, take their fill But keen enough, the questioner Leans calm to bend him to his will Will he speak true or will he lie? His father found, or honour lost? His innocence is compromised By love and fear. What is the cost? In all our lives we face a test We take a stance and make the play Honour can murder innocence We all decide as best we may
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Colley Farnon (posted on: 26-07-13)
For sirat's Prose Challenge. A man doubts his sanity. (now edited slightly for those who didn't 'get it' - but only slightly as 50pc of commenters did.)

Colley Farnon I was sure it was him. We sat at opposite ends of the restaurant, one of the best in town, but with a tendency towards too much nouvelle, nouvelle cuisine. I didn't really appreciate the smears of nameless sauces that usually decorated the plates, nor the lack of any substantial fresh vegetables. But the tastes were heavenly, and today, the duck with gooseberry was to die for. He glanced towards me. I tried to catch his eye, but his glance moved on without a flicker of recognition. I stared. People are usually aware when you stare at them, but he seemed oblivious, turning back to his dining companion, a silver-haired man of undoubted wealth. It shone from him, as it does with wealthy people: the clothes, coiffeur, general appearance, manners. I didn't want to interrupt what must be an important and private lunch. His face was different. That was the first glimmer of doubt that hit me. He didn't look like Colley at all. What made me think ... ? I watched his body language, gestures, the twist of his shoulders, the quirk at the side of his mouth. They were the same, the same as my Colley. He'd disappeared from my life after Oxford. I'd arrived two years later than him, and we went around together in his final year. The last time we met, he'd said he'd got a job with the Foreign Office, a 'plum job' as he put it. The next day, he was gone, no forwarding address, no trace. I hadn't seen him since, until today. But what about his face? Had he had some kind of accident? It was flawless, but not quite right, as if he had some kind of mild paralysis. But he was still Colley, I knew that. I was bullied at school, at first, until Colley became my protector. An older boy, he let it be known that anyone hassling me would have to deal with him, and even in the lower years, he was a force to be reckoned with: eloquent, clever, fit and not afraid to engage if he thought wrong was being done. He was a champion for us younger boys, and of course, later, when he was a prefect, everything got much better for us. I suppose I had a crush on him – no, no matter what you read about public schools, not that kind of physical relationship. Just one of admiration. I copied his hairstyle and mannerisms, and vied with others to run errands for him. I wasn't the only one. He was someone who you aspire to be, someone you want to admire you, praise you, even simply acknowledge you. And he took me under his wing. He was kind to me. I lived being Colley Farnon, he was my ideal. I knew every gesture, every nuance of his voice. Kindness. That's what he had. I was once hauled up on a serious charge of stealing from another boy. He told me not to worry, he knew me well enough to know it couldn't be me. He spoke to the Headmaster. I was exonerated, and eventually the culprit was found. He was believed and respected by the masters. They could see what I saw in him, a perfect human being. And there he was, in this restaurant. It rather spoiled the rest of my meal, wondering how he hadn't recognised me. Or maybe he had, but didn't want to acknowledge me. That would be worse. I settled my bill, and waited, drinking water. Eventually, both men rose, shook hands over the table, and the silver-haired gentleman left. He took his time, finishing his brandy. He never looked in my direction. Never. I didn't want to confront him in the dining room. It might not be Colley, despite my firm belief. He might have some reason to wish to remain inconspicuous. He might be a spy, I thought, an agent. I chuckled. My Colley could never be that: dishonest, devious. * I'm following him. I catch him in the street outside. 'Colley! Colley Farnon!' He turns from the door of a large black car that has just slid to a halt. 'I beg your pardon?' 'Colley, it's me, Jason. Don't you remember?' His face has a look of puzzlement. 'My name is David, David Percival.' 'But I know you Colley, I know you. Your face has changed, but everything else is the same,your mannerisms. What happened after Oxford? Did you join the Foreign Office as you said? You disappeared.' He seems to relax. 'Well, your friend Culley may well have, but I'm a Cambridge man, and I am a director of Universal Trade, a large conglomerate. ' I begin to wonder. 'But Colley ... ' ' Look, old man, you've made a mistake. If I was this Culley fellow, I'd say so. I'd have recognised you when you were staring at me in the restaurant, wouldn't I? Don't think I didn't notice. I find it's best to ignore such behaviour, I get followed by journalists a lot. ' 'But ... you are so similar in every way.' 'Dear fellow, it's the laws of chance. You say I don't even look like your friend. My mannerisms may be similar, but that must be coincidence. I think you're an honest chap, but you've simply made a mistake.' 'If you say so, Colley. But I don't believe you. I have contacts. I'm going to find out why.' I don't know what makes me say it. I have no 'contacts', no way of finding the truth. His smile slips a little and a flash of some emotion crosses his face, but only for an instant. Then once again he is sweetness and light, his face calm, relaxed, smiling. He shakes his head slightly. 'You must do what you feel is right. But I assure you, your search will be fruitless.' There is nothing more I can say. I leave him, walking off down the street. At the corner, I glance back. He hasn't got into the car. He's staring after me. His face is expressionless and he's talking quickly into his phone. It must be his work. I hope he can sort out his problem soon.
Archived comments for Colley Farnon
sirat on 26-07-2013
Colley Farnon
It's a perfectly respectable piece of writing, flows well, kept my attention, and the shift from past to present tense was well handled – so I feel a bit churlish in saying that I was waiting for something more. It seemed to build up to some kind of climax or revalation that didn't come. When we get to the end it really does seem to be just a case of mistaken identity. Or maybe I missed some clue that would have shown me why Colley was pretending to be (or had actually changed into) somebody else.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of open-endedness, but I'm not sure that was what we got here. A conclusion did seem to emerge. It wasn't Colley. Maybe some small extra element would complete the story. What about if the narrator turns out to be obsessed with finding Colley. Fifty metres down the street he thinks he's spotted him again, giving out a parking ticket. Something a bit preposterous or surreal. Or maybe his phone rings and the man says: 'Yes, I am Colley, and if you ever mention it again I'll have to have you killed." Just some kind of additional element to intrigue the reader. Otherwise, no complaints.

Author's Reply:
Why would I write a story with no conclusion?

It's very hard to know how much to say to let the reader use their brain but not hand it to them on a plate. I tested this on my wife and she got it.

I won't comment any more, but I'll edit it just a little.

Your comment is quite funny. I'll tell you why latrr.

bluepootle on 26-07-2013
Colley Farnon
I liked the change from past to present, and the reminiscences of the past are very well done.

I think maybe I've missed something, some subtle clue, as to whether this man is Colley or not. I wanted something more. Am I missing it or is it meant to be simply a case of mistaken identity?

Author's Reply:
See response to David's comment

Nomenklatura on 26-07-2013
Colley Farnon
Universal Trade? Almost Bond's Universal Import Export... A clue? Perhaps not.
I think I've got it anyway, but I won't say here in case you want to spell it out yourself later.

I liked it by the way.


Author's Reply:
thankyou I will edit it

SirClip on 26-07-2013
Colley Farnon
I liked this, it was an easy read and as said previously, I thought the transition to present tense was well done.

I get the punch line and I know you don't always need to spoon feed the reader but I think a little more could be made of it. Maybe rather than shouting into his phone, Colley and his driver/bodyguard could be calmly watching the narrator leave from behind their sun glasses, talking into their phones in true secret agent style!

But as it stands, I thought it was great.

Author's Reply:
I'll put in a few clues and key words. thanks.

two hits, two misses.

e-griff on 26-07-2013
Colley Farnon
okay, I've edited this a little for those who didn't 'get it'. I really don't want to go any further or it will be a flat giveaway. I'll have to accept that some just won't see it. (except David actually did, but clearly didn't know it - that's what I meant by 'funny' πŸ™‚ )

Author's Reply:

SirClip on 26-07-2013
Colley Farnon
That is cool. The smile slipping for an instant is just enough.

Author's Reply:
thanks - I also though 'eliminate' would be more of a clue.

TheBigBadG on 02-08-2013
Colley Farnon
Well now it's been edited I don't know if I'm observant or if you cleared it all up but I figured it was Colley. Lots of clues there, the deliberate mistake with the name, the phone call, the smile and the cagey reply that wasn't quite a 'you'll find out you're wrong'. All there.

Neatly told though, as recognised above. No particular niggles or complaints with the writing - are you getting back into your stride, perhaps?

Author's Reply:
Oops! Sorry for late reply;-)

Thanks for the comment. I quite enjoyed writing this, and am grateful for the inputs which have improved it greatly.

Must try harder!


Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 10: Cock a Doodle Doo (posted on: 26-07-13)
Sorry for the delay! Here is the final chapter of book 1. plus an epilogue (which reveals a lot!) As Part 10 begins, Truckerson returns from his triumphal Russian visit. To read from the beginning CLICK HERE

Flight of the Chickens – Part 10: Cock a Doodle Doo! Truckerson got back to the base, bottles of Vodka and champagne clinking in his bag. Stalin had tried to give him a crate of caviar, but he didn't like the stuff. Boggles and Flanker popped round, but he didn't let them stay long, especially as all they seemed to care about was Russians kissing each other. He specifically had not attempted to embrace either one of them. They did that 'eyebrow-raising' thing that he so hated, and tittered – tittered! He also noticed Boggles ponged a bit – of scent. He went to bed early, thinking that all his recent experience had made him grow up a lot. Perhaps Flanker and Boggles really weren't his sort of pals at all. He fell asleep, involuntarily thinking of Wirrals. He wondered where she was now. ***** ''What?'' The piercing accent cut through the static on the secure line. ''He's what?'' ''Ma'am, he is now a Hero of the Soviet Union. He is a public figure in Russia. Consequently, he's about to be promoted again.'' ''Who gives a …'' The communication was interrupted by the buzz of the scrambler doing something technical. ''Ma'am, I strongly advise you to consider ceasing to persecute this man.'' He held the telephone receiver away from his ear. ''Because Ma'am, I have just been forced to hand in my resignation. Truckerson has powerful friends.'' He held the telephone receiver away from his ear again. ''No, Ma'am I cannot tell you why. But I am told they have some information about you that you would not wish to be divulged. What? No, you can't do that. They don't appear to have one any more. Your husband's grandad? Oh yes, probably. But Ma'am, can I tell them you will forget this Truckerson?'' Eventually, the Royal Party conceded. ***** Wing Commander Truckerson looked up as the black leather-clad figure entered the room. It was a woman. Hurriedly, he stood up. ''Captain Simpson reporting, Sir!'' Truckerson's mouth was open. ''You're a woman,'' he stuttered. ''Observant, sir,'' she drawled. ''Oh, sorry, old girl, no offence.'' ''Hey, less of the old girl, sir'' Truckerson was startled by her voice and her manners. He had heard these Americans were loud and casual, but this was something of a shock. ''Sit down, Captain. Please relax.'' ''Don't mind if I do. Mind if I light up Sir? By the way, you can call me 'Simps' if you like. If that's OK here.'' '' Yes. Er, Simps. You can call me Trux, in private that is.'' ''Gee, thanks, Trux.'' Simps drew out a cigar, clicked her zippo, and began puffing away. Gripping the stogie between her teeth, she relaxed in her chair, spreading her long, leather-clad legs and unbuttoning her coat. ''So! What do you do guys do for fun around here?'' Truckerson grinned inanely and moved forward. He was going to enjoy having this woman around. What happens in the rest of Truckerson's War? Does he enjoy good relations with the Americans? Does he go back for Joe's parade? Has the Royal Lady really given up? All this and more, possibly. ****** And just in case it isn't:- Epilogue This was it! As he sat in the jump seat of Concorde, Retired Marshall of the Royal Air Force, Sir Barry ''Trux'' Truckerson leaned over to his son, sitting in the pilot's seat of this monstrous bird. ''How's it feel, son?'' ''Great Dad! I like to feel in control, master of the machine and all that. Not that I haven't done it often before.'' He looked wistful. ''But I think it's time I handed over to someone else now, Dad, don't you?'' Truckerson looked round. A queue of fathers and sons waited patiently. ''OK son. Let's go then.'' Joe Truckerson got up thankfully, running his fingers through his ginger hair, cornflower blue eyes twinkling. Sitting in the pilot seat of Concorde wasn't really high on the list of pastimes for a forty-year old Quantity Surveyor, but he brought his Dad up to Duxford every year just for this. It pleased the Old Man. ***** That evening, Truckerson laid down his pen. He had enjoyed his trip with Joe. And now the first book of his memoirs was finished. His life in all its glory, Part 1. This would surprise a few of his chums. He thought of them fondly, well except for Boggles and bloody Flanker - talk about working a flanker. And the 'Old Man'. He smiled to himself – what a fine fellow! And the other 'Old Man'! He smiled quirkily. Never could understand Bingo, he thought, shaking his head. Geordie was now a lawyer. He'd never seen Maggie again, well not until Geordie's wedding, that is - what a laugh! He and Geoff had had some funny boating experiences, but for some reason Geoff would never go up in a plane with him. He'd never seen that nurse Sabrina again, but that other blonde, Andy – Wow! They'd had some good times. After the war she'd opened a Boarding House in Amsterdam, or at least that's what he thought she'd said. She'd sent him a postcard years later, of her by a canal. She still looked a fine woman. Truckerson's mind raced on - Old Joe! – what a chum - all that marching! Pity about the …. And that funny little moustache man .. He still didn't believe what they'd said about who he was. And Simps. He smiled fondly. And that trip to into space when he saved the earth from a comet - that was just completely incredible. What a bloody life I've led, he thought. You couldn't write a story like mine if you tried. He took the manuscript in his hands, weighing it fondly, remembering. A woman entered the room. Faded now, her hair still bore a reddish tinge. From the lined but still lovely face, two startling cornflower blue eyes gazed at him kindly. She's still a handsome woman, he thought. ''Fancy a beer, dear? One of those Australian ones you like.'' Truckerson's dark eyes twinkled mischievously in his face. ''Are you sure it's Australian? You caught me like that before.'' ''Yes, me and Hitler both, you silly old man!'' They both began to laugh. What fun they'd had. ''I'll ask Flecks to bring you that beer, and see how she's getting on with dinner.'' ''Yes, good old Flecks, she's a treasure,'' Truckerson said absently. ''Pity about my Camel.'' He added, out of the blue. ''You did get to fly it eventually.'' The woman gently tousled what remained of his silver hair. ''Yes, but not in anger. I never got to knock down any Jerries.'' Truckerson stopped himself. ''Sorry, dear.'' ''That's OK. You did knock down something though, if you remember?'' ''The chimney of that bloody nunnery!'' Truckerson guffawed. ''Thank God her ladyship never found out.'' ''Still, turned out all right, eh, Squadron Leader?'' Truckerson looked up fondly at his wife. ''You can call me Trux.'' End of book 1 © John F Griffiths 2003 Footnote: War is not funny, and people die. In my research for this story, I came across some quite startling things. The Sopwith Camel was a difficult aircraft to fly, and feared by young pilots. Because of the mass of the single rotary engine going round, it would flip very easily. Many pilots were killed on take-off, as the right wing caught the ground. Of all the pilots killed in Camels in WW1, more than twenty per cent (yes) were caused by this kind of accident – so for every three or four pilots killed by the enemy, another one died trying to take off or land. This 'instability' was also an advantage in the right hands. Instability is now built into modern fighters, so they can execute sudden manoeuvres, but they are computer-controlled. With an experienced pilot the Camel (as the saying went) would 'turn round and bite'. It could execute a turn in the air very quickly in one direction, catching a pursuing aircraft off guard. Many pilots also died in WW2 in collisions and accidents, not in warfare. One such was Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Born in Shanghai in 1922, his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen. He went to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941. On December 11, 1941 his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years of age, crashed to his death. His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire. He was also a poet. His poem illustrates the joy of flying and maybe why the real 'Truckersons' did it:- High Flight Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there, I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air. Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark, or even eagle flew - And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand and touched the face of God. John Gillespie Magee, Jr. END
Archived comments for Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 10: Cock a Doodle Doo
neotom on 07-08-2013
Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 10: Cock a Doodle Doo
Good effort, Griff. I'm not quite sure what the reader age for this material is? Obviously there're a lot of minor typos/punctuation errors (possibly caused by a rush re-type...or whatever). Some sharp dialogue with interesting characters introduced. Your enthusiasm for humour shines through.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Tom, nice to hear from you. Yes, this was from the original uka posts, with a once over, rather than the edited version that went into the the book.

Readers? Schoolboys of all ages (although I did get an entirely independent positive review on amazon from lady)

It was reviewed in 'Gold Dust' favourably, (and notable for having two epilogues) the second part of the book I am wondering whether to post or not, as there are few comments it's hard to tell if I have any regular readers whereas ten years ago people were much more communicative and it had a 'following'. I thought of asking, but maybe that's a bit presumptive. If only two or three follow it it's worth it. I note it apparently gets about 20 reads each time, and some of those must be genuine. Anyhow, enough! Again thanks for you comments. We need more, good or bad.

neotom on 07-08-2013
Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 10: Cock a Doodle Doo
e-griff,

I test my books on school children by using the school librarians to promote a test book (or set of books). All the librarian asks the child when they bring the book back is:

Did you read it?
Cover to cover?
How long did it take you to read it?
Any good?

The librarian also keeps data on whether the pupil asks for more from that author (other than the ones in the library from me).

The pupil has no idea the book is a test book.

I make sure the book has never appeared in any form on the Internet.

The results of the school librarian can be used as part of an approach to an agent in the first instance. And if you have an agent they give the writer confidence in his work and motivation to the agent.

The book has to be approved by the school first, and this means contacting the Headteacher and Head of the English department.

It's time consuming, but you get the truth about the readability and value of the book. It's one type of acid test provided you get a swarm of readers taking out the book on a word of mouth principle.

It helps if you also produce lesson plans based on exerpts of the books.

I've done it about 3 times.

Author's Reply:
A lot of copies were bought by libraries and remaindered after 5years. I've bought a few for a couple of quid on amazon, still some available, for redistributing to friends;-


Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 9: Little Red Rooster (posted on: 19-07-13)
As Bumper Part 9 begins, Truckerson visits Russia to get his medal, and meets some writers. Stalin’s moustache wiggled as he oompah’d martial music through his closed lips. Truckerson looked on approvingly……….

To read from the beginning CLICK HERE Flight of the Chickens – Part 9: Little Red Rooster Stalin's moustache wiggled as he oompah'd martial music through his closed lips. Truckerson looked on approvingly. ''Bloody Good, Joe! Wish I could do that!'' ''Trookersen, follow me, do zis with lips.'' Truckerson studied Stalin's curled lower lip. ''Oh I see. That's fantastic! Did you invent it yourself?'' ''Da!'' The deep voice boomed out. ''I call it the Stalin tuck. But you keep it to yourself, eh, Trookersen?'' ''Call me Trux. In private of course,'' Truckersen said. ''Right, Troox. Let's go.'' They spent a blissful afternoon marching up and down the corridors of the palace, swinging their arms and bumping into things, oompahing in unison. As they sat, exhausted, chuckling, Truckerson sighed happily. ''You know, Russia is great.'' ''Da!'' ''No, I mean they told me all kinds of rubbish about it back home. Murder and Communism…'' Stalin waved his hand deprecatingly. ''But it's really a very nice place,'' Truckerson continued, ''and you have your priorities right.'' ''Da!'' Stalin smiled broadly. ''Would you like tea, Troox?'' ''Tea! I'd murder for a cuppa,'' Truckerson said happily. ''Ah! A man after my own heart,'' Stalin said, roaring with laughter, and clapping his hands for tea. Truckerson laughed along with him. ''Trookersen.'' Stalin leaned forward. ''We shall be good friends.'' Truckerson beamed. He loved being friends. But should it be pals or chums? Hm! He decided, wisely, to wait and see. ***** The last few days had been interesting. Truckerson had arrived on schedule for some routine publicity. It wasn't all that exciting. Although the Russians were good fun, and he was well looked after, everything was a bit grey and depressing. He was presented to Joseph Stalin, who was only supposed to pin the Friendship Medal on him. However, as Stalin kissed him, he detected that Truckerson (who had his eyes screwed shut for the event) was humming along to the music. Not only that, but his barely restrained foot stomping indicated that here was a fellow marcher. Stalin invited him back to the Kremlin and they got on like a house on fire. Having heard his story about the Australians, Stalin immediately proclaimed him to be hero, and arranged for him to stay longer, as his personal guest. He had been fκted. He was called the ''British Bulldog'' and the ''Brave Britisher''. Olgas, Natashas and Svyetys of all sizes queued up to pay tribute to him. And as well as the 'Friendship Medal' he got a proper one as well. ***** ''Can you not stay until May?'' Joseph asked pleadingly. ''We have big parade. Big, very Big!'' ''Yes, I get the picture.'' Truckerson laughed as Stalin's arms waved everywhere. The man was larger than life. Much like me, thought Truckerson. ''Troox!'' Stalin was insistent. ''We have all tanks, army! Marching, marching. You could stand next to me.'' Truckerson was touched. That would really be an honour. ''I have to return home,'' Truckerson said seriously. ''I have to help to beat Hitler and his bloody crew once and for all.'' His eyes took on a glazed look and he stared into an imagined distance. Stalin began humming and oompahing away gently behind Truckerson's words. ''I have to ensure that our skies our safe and our children protected. I have to make Britain a Land Fit for Heroes to Live In!'' he ended with a bellow. ''And you! You, Trookersen, are one of the heroes!'' Stalin had tears in his eyes now and was waving his arms, oompahing in between his words. He threatened to embrace Truckerson again, so Truckersen changed the subject. ''Someone told me that Rasputin had a son.'' Stalin quietened immediately. ''Who?'' he asked, very slowly. ''Dunno!'' Truckerson's amiable countenance broke into a grin. ''Some Svyety or Betty!'' Stalin grinned again. He guffawed. ''Svyety or Betty! You are fine, amusing, fellow, Troox, a fine fellow!'' Then he was thoughtful. ''Da! There is a son, Ivan, sometimes called 'Papirosa'. He is strange fellow. You shall see, Trookersen. We shall have big dinner before you leave. He will sit next to you. I promise it.'' Then Stalin's face changed. ''You know someone does not like you.'' Truckerson was shocked. ''What?'' he asked. ''Someone tries to make trouble for you. Make you drunk, fall over, bad publicity.'' ''I do that a lot.'' ''Ha! Trookersen! Funny!'' Stalin laughed. ''Anyway, I fix them,'' he said tapping the side of his nose. ''They leave you alone now.'' ''Thanks, Joe! Any idea who?'' ''I not say. Just say we don't have same problem here these days.'' He winked. Truckerson laughed heartily, pretending to understand. He did not really like the serious Stalin. He much preferred the jolly, marching chum. ''You should relax more, Joe.'' ''Relax! Yes – Relax! That is a wise suggestion from my friend Troox! Wise and true!'' He looked thoughtful. Perhaps Zhukov could do more? Stalin nodded his head violently. ''You will come back for my big parade?'' he appealed. ''Da!'' Truckerson shouted, ''Da!'' He screwed his eyes shut and started humming as Joseph Stalin unerringly homed in for definitely an embrace, and probably a big, sloppy kiss. Russkis, he thought bravely, humming as hard as he could. ***** ''How do you do?'' Truckerson smiled at the long-haired chap who sat next to him at the table. ''It will all end in tears!'' the man replied. ''Well, that's nice!'' Truckerson liked to look on the bright side. ''Never mind Ivan.'' Sitting next to the chap was a diminutive blonde lady, dressed all in black. ''He's just an old grouch.'' She introduced herself, smiling. ''I am his Tyetooshka – his Auntie. My name is Parenika, you may call me Auntie.'' ''Thankyou, Auntie.'' Truckerson was pleased to find someone who spoke excellent English. ''Do you know that I am the son of the famous Rasputin?'' The chap declared, beady eye fixing Truckerson in its glare, clawed hand clutching his sleeve. Before he could reply, Ivan continued. ''I see things! I see things!'' ''Hush, Papirosa! He does you know.'' Added Auntie Parenika, turning back to Truckerson. Truckerson nodded amiably. ''I'm sure you do,'' he agreed. ''What do you do, Auntie?'' ''Oh, I write stories for children.'' ''Very nice!'' Truckerson was genuinely interested. ''And I run a club for children who write stories.'' ''I thought you wrote the stories.'' ''I do.'' ''But you said the children write the…'' Before Truckerson's intellectual machinery could complete its painful process, Ivan cried out. ''I write poems, great poems!'' Auntie Parenika smiled tolerantly and nodded. ''What about?'' Truckerson asked. ''About, about?'' Ivan was very excited. ''Death, death! He comes and talks to me! I go up and down the stair and never reach the top! I am sure.'' ''Er, very philosophical.'' Truckerson smiled. He hoped it was a safe word to use. ''Ah, Sir, you understand.'' Ivan seemed elated. ''He does indeed, Ivan. I think he does.'' The woman nodded again, fiercely. Truckerson could only nod back. He turned towards Stalin, but unfortunately he was deep in conversation. Thankfully, they then began to eat. It was strange. The table was covered with cold meats, salad, fish, olives, all kinds of stuff. In silver ice-buckets were bottles of champagne and vodka. Apparently you drank both, in turns, Truckerson noticed. What was this black, globby stuff? ''Caviar! Delicious! Eat with butter!'' Truckerson tried it. ''You have to drink wodka each time with it!'' Auntie Parenika advised. Truckerson thought it was worth it, for the wodka. ''You are going to die!'' Ivan said. Truckerson was taken aback. ''What?'' ''You will die, I foretell it!'' ''Oh! Er, thanks.'' Truckerson could think of nothing else to say. Auntie Parenika was smiling and shaking her head. Truckerson ate another morsel of caviar, then held his glass out for a refill of iced vodka. Another toast! Champagne! The toasts got more extravagant all the time. Stalin looked over at Truckerson and stood, glass raised. ''My very best chum,'' he intoned. ''This man, the Lion of the British soul, this harbinger of destiny, who counts Hitler's pathetic claims as flies dancing on his gorgeous nose.'' A toast! Everyone raised their champagne glasses. Auntie Parenika leaned over. ''In Russia, you must reply,'' she advised. ''Now!'' Truckerson shot to his feet, swaying slightly. He heard Ivan mutter. ''It will be terrible, this foreigner will be terrible!'' ''Ahem!'' Truckerson cleared his throat. Everyone went silent. The audience divided into various factions: • People who honestly wished to hear the words of the brave British flyer. • People who honestly wished to hear the words of the brave British flyer, tempered by Political Correctness. • People who only wished to hear political correctness, just in case. and • People who would cheer anything said by someone approved by the authorities. • People who would cheer anything to do with Stalin. • People who would cheer anything. Truckerson qualified on several counts. ''I love Russia!'' (cheers) ''I love my friend Joseph!'' (big cheers) ''I think this is the best place on earth!'' (bigger cheers) ''I have been welcomed by lovely people!'' (some cheers) ''I love everyone!'' (cheers) ''These are the best days of my life!'' (cheers) ''Here's to Victory over the Jerries!'' (enormous cheers) Everyone cheered. Many rushed forward to embrace and kiss him, watching to make sure Stalin saw them. As Truckerson hummed, with screwed-up eyes, Ivan exclaimed. ''You are lucky, they have good mood.'' Stalin came over to clap Truckerson on the back. ''My good friend! My good friend Troox! How you like Ivan here? Has he been warning you? He loves to warn. Sometimes he is indeed right! What did he say – you would die?'' Truckerson nodded. ''Hah!'' Stalin laughed mightily. ''Always he say that! Always! And of course he is right – you WILL die. I will die.'' Stalin made an expansive gesture. People ducked. ''ALL people will die! Is true!'' ''Doesn't bother me!'' Truckerson grinned. Stalin clapped Truckerson on the back. ''Ho! Very wise man. My friend Trookersen very wise man!'' he announced. People around started muttering the phrase to each other. It rustled round the room like an autumn breeze on leaves. ''Look!'' Ivan started shouting now, voice shrill. ''We never beat those Germans! They are more powerful. They have better troops, they…'' His rant was silenced as Auntie Parenika stuffed a chicken leg in his mouth. She then led Ivan away, saying goodbye to Truckerson. ''Is always same!'' Stalin grinned. ''Is always same – Damn Rasputins!'' After another hour, they were served a plate of hot food. Truckerson was confused, but tucked in heartily. ''I like Russia!'' He beamed at those around him. In the next episode: Truckerson's Uncle Joe is protecting him. Air Marshall Dicky Dick is helping him. Luck seems to be on his side. What could go wrong? All this and more in Part 10, the final episode of this book, with an epilogue. To read next episode - Click Here © John F Griffiths 2003
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Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 8: Flown the Coop! (posted on: 15-07-13)
As Part 8 begins, Truckerson has become a Hero, and the Battle of Britain is about to begin.

To read from the beginning CLICK HERE Flight of the Chickens – Part 8: Flown the Coop! Pilot Officer Wirrals slipped silently into the Senior Officer's Quarters. Looking nervously about, she went along the corridor, examining the names on the doors. At one, she stopped. ''Squadron Leader Truckerson'' the sign read. She opened the door. At the desk in the outer room, she spotted the red file. She flipped it open and read through it hastily. Then she stuffed it down the front of her jumper and turned to go, pulling her coat round her. Just then, the door opened. It was Truckerson. ''Hello, old girl!'' Truckerson was pleased to see her. ''Er, what are you doing here?'' Blimey, she's grown a bit, he thought. ''Just looking for you.'' Truckerson noticed she looked flushed. ''Apparently I was kidnapped,'' he declared. ''By who?'' ''The Aussis who talk like you.'' ''Vat do you mean?'' ''Seems they're Jerries. You should watch out. Looks like Aussies sound like Jerries! I'd be careful if I were you. I was telling this intelligence officer all about them and how they sounded like you when you get angry.'' ''Listen, I haf to leave!'' Truckerson looked crestfallen. ''I would like to see you again.'' As Wirrals said this, she knew it was true. It was a blinding revelation. This big lummox had found a place in her heart. Yes, he was dumb, predictable, a man's man. But isn't that what every woman wanted? She realised now that she certainly did, never mind what Flecks tried to tell her. ''Can we meet again? When all this is over?'' ''Yes, old girl, I'd love that. But where are you going?'' ''I can't say! I can't! But I'll find you – I know you will be a big noise in this war. Whatever happens, I'll find you.'' ''Thanks old girl, I'll wait for you.'' Truckerson pushed the unworthy thought of Maggie aside. Their lips met in one blissful kiss and then Wirrals was gone. Truckerson floated to bed, dreaming all night of cornflower blue eyes and red hair, tossing and tossing in a restless world of love. Next morning, Wirrals and Flecks had disappeared. And despite searching, Truckerson could not find the report that had been sent to him about them. A practical man, Truckerson decided to get on with his life, and his war. Unfortunately, he then discovered that Maggie had disappeared too. ***** Himmler entered the Fόhrer's office. ''Haff you decided, Sir?'' ''Vas he troosful ?'' ''Mit all zose drugs, Sir, yes, abzolutely. He could only be troosful.'' ''Zen ve haff zere battle plan!'' ''Yes, ve do!'' Hitler smiled. It was a frightening sight. He glowed. He gloated! ''Zo! Ve base all the Luftwaffe's plans on zis, Mein Fόhrer?'' ''Ja! Ja!'' Hitler began to march up and down, shouting, raising his arm, and oompahing as loud as he could. ''Ve vill Vin!'' then he started singing. Wir sind die Meister! Wir sind die Meister! Wir sind die Meister…… der Welt!'' * Himmler softly closed the door. * Note: Very few people realize that Hitler was not only a poet, but a skilled songwriter, well ahead of his time. ***** ***** It was November 1940, The Battle of Britain was over. Hitler was hopping mad! ''Kesselring! Vat did you do?'' ''Everzing as you telt me Mien Fόhrer. But it vas all wrong!'' Kesselring complained. Hitler was having no truck with this. He jerked his thumb, and Himmler's SS men took him away. ''Bloody hell!'' Hitler complained. ''Ve had everyzing! But Kesselring blew it!'' Hitler contemplated his defeat in the air over Britain. Trukerzen. He mused. Trukerzen. Kφnnte es sein? He would never know. It was the beginning of the end for Hitler. And as the tide turned over Britain's skies, Truckerson's fortunes improved. ***** ''Congratulations, Truckerson!'' Air Marshall Sir Richard ''Dicky'' Dick smiled. Truckerson swelled with pride. ''Thank you Sir!'' Truckerson drew himself up to his full height. The Air Marshall looked admiringly at him. ''Oh, and congratulations to you as well, Sir. Well deserved!'' ''Er, thank you Truckerson.'' The Air Marshall absently stroked the stripes on his arm. Truckerson had been parading with Dicky and his men. ''How did you get on at the Palace?'' Truckerson's face beamed, taking on a dreamy expression. ''It was great! Everyone was so nice. Mind you,'' he added, ''I had to bite my lip when Her Maj pinned the gong on me!'' ''Why?'' Dicky looked curious. ''Well, She sort of stuck the pin straight into me, drew blood.'' ''I suppose She's not used to it. Just standing in for Him, you know.'' ''Hmmm! Probably. Almost seemed deliberate, to me.'' ''Nonsense, Truckerson, how could that be? Come on, man, let's march!'' They marched. ***** ''Sir, the Russkies want someone to pin a medal on. For publicity, you know. Friendship medal and all that, nothing fancy. What should I say?'' ''Tell them I have just the man!'' Air Chief Marshall Sir Dygby-Thynne smiled. ''Just the man.'' Retiring to his private office, he picked up the special telephone. ''Her Majesty, please. No, Her ears only….'' He waited. ''Ma'am?'' He held the receiver away from his ear. ''Yes, Ma'am. I have a cunning plan. Concerning Truckerson. Thank you Ma'am. Well, it's like this….'' ***** Dicky Dick beamed at Truckerson over his G&T. ''Fancy going to Russia, Trux?'' ''Russia? Bloody cold!'' ''Not in the Summer, Trux, it's fine now. Anyway, you'll be well looked after, an honoured guest.'' ''What's this all about?'' Truckerson looked suspicious. ''It's a publicity thing, Trux. Joe Stalin's taken power now, and he wants to strengthen bonds with the Allies.'' ''I thought they were pals with the Jerries?'' ''Keep up Trux!'' Dicky chuckled. ''Too busy fighting your own war to keep an eye on the big play? Still that's what you're good at.'' Dicky Dick punched him on the arm playfully, but none too gently. Truckerson instinctively wanted to 'clap' him back, but restrained himself in time. Wouldn't do, he thought. ''OK'' Truckerson said. ''I'm game! When do I go?'' In case you missed the Battle of Britain - We won! Hooray! In the next episode, Truckerson visits Russia. What is he 'game' for? Will nice Mr. Stalin approve of him? What is the Royal 'Game Plan'? All this and more in the next 'bumper' issue - Part 9 To read next episode - Click Here © John F Griffiths 2003
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Let Me Take Your Hand (posted on: 15-07-13)
For Stormwolf's Poetry Challenge. Not new, but the soppiest poem I've written. I read this at my daughter's wedding in 2011.

Let Me Take Your Hand Let me take your hand And it will lie In mine, beneath a wintering sky Where we will walk. Show me your smile, And it will warm me through The days that pass Without you. Lend me your eyes, So I too may see The world through love When all is sad. Teach me with your mouth So I may learn to speak Words of comfort, Thoughts of joy. Give me your heart And I will treasure and protect it From harm All the days of our lives. © John F Griffiths 2003
Archived comments for Let Me Take Your Hand
karen123 on 15-07-2013
Let Me Take Your Hand
A beautiful poem to read at your daughters wedding -

Author's Reply:
Thank you, Karen.

stormwolf on 15-07-2013
Let Me Take Your Hand
Hi Griff,
I liked this one first time round. Took it into favs actually. Shows a side to you that is not always apparent! πŸ˜‰
I think it's a bit long for the challenge TBH.
I think my entry is a bit wordy too.
Anyway, lovely.
Aliason x

Author's Reply:
Long?

What is length? How short is short?

πŸ™‚

Best, johng

Mikeverdi on 15-07-2013
Let Me Take Your Hand
Well Well Mr. Gruff, so there is another side to you πŸ™‚ I hope she was justly proud; as you must have been. Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike πŸ™‚

franciman on 15-07-2013
Let Me Take Your Hand
I was captivated by this John. Yes a little long for the challenge; but very well constructed.
I know it was probably written to be read aloud, but for me there is a stumble at:
And it will lie
In mine,
Would it not scan better:
And it will lie in mine,?
Just my thoughts, but maybe you could take a look at the need for the break.
cheers,
Jim


Author's Reply:
Thank you for your comment.

ChairmanWow on 16-07-2013
Let Me Take Your Hand
If you can't get soppy at your daughter's wedding, when can you? Enjoyed this.

Author's Reply:
They asked me to read 'something'. This was really the only candidate.

Thank you for your kind remarks.

Savvi on 17-07-2013
Let Me Take Your Hand
Very soppy and heart felt a great choice for such an occasion. S

Author's Reply:
thanks. I think it's ok

deadpoet on 18-07-2013
Let Me Take Your Hand
I'd say it is soppy too but what don't you do and feel for your children and this was a special day so you are forgiven. No critique available. DP

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. Remember I wrote it 8 years before. When they asked me to read 'one of my poems', it was the only candidate.

Gee on 20-07-2013
Let Me Take Your Hand
Oh, but this is truly beautiful. It shows your talent that you can write something as sweet and true as this and then do something as different as Truckerson.

Author's Reply:
Thank you. Appreciate the insight.


Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 7: Cooped Up (posted on: 12-07-13)
As Part 7 begins, Truckerson has been kidnapped!

To read from the beginning CLICK HERE Flight of the Chickens – Part 7: Cooped Up! Heinrich Himmler saluted. ''Mein Fόhrer!'' The moustachioed little man looked up from his big desk. Himmler continued. ''Ve haff Trukerzen!'' ''Gut, gut!'' Hitler stood up and walked up and down. Turning , he fixed a beady eye on Himmler. Truckerson, was brought into the room, supported by two SS guards, and accompanied by a nurse. He was placed in a chair. ''Is he ready?'' Himmler asked the good-looking blonde nurse. ''Ja, Sir. He iz prepared now. He vill only speak the truth!'' She turned, syringe in her hand. ''Nurse Umber! You will stay to tend to zis man. Make sure he is telling ze truth, and prepare the knockout for ven ve have finished.'' ***** Truckerson moaned, coming round from his drug-induced stupor. ''Okay, Trukerzen, welcome.'' Truckerson shook his head blearily. ''What happened?'' ''Ach, mein dear freund!'' Hitler smiled engagingly. Truckerson saw the little man with the dark moustache. ''Hello!'' He said as cheerily as he could, under the circumstances. ''My Australian friend! What are you doing here?'' ''Here? Where is that, Trukerzen?'' ''Blighty! England!'' ''Oh yes, Trukerzen, England, yes. I came here to see you. Zis is my friend Heinrich.'' ''Hello old chap! Heinrich? Isn't that a Jerry name?'' Truckerson looked quizzical. ''No, no, Trukerzen.'' Himmler was improvising. Hitler looked at him hard. ''I am Australian, too, mein alt cobbler!'' Hitler looked impressed. ''Oh that's okay then.'' Truckerson beamed. Their accents were really a little like Wirral's', so it must be true. ''Any more of that drink, mate, I need to clear my head.'' He looked at Hitler. Hitler turned to Nurse Umber. ''Sabrina.'' He leered. ''Vould you be zo kind?'' ''Zankyou,'' he said as the blonde poured three glasses of Schnapps. ''Now, just tell Heinrich here, your alt cobbler, what you haf told to me before. We want to hammer zese er.. Nazi schwines!'' Himmler made a mental note of the Fόhrer's comment for the future, just in case. After Truckerson had given them a blow-by-blow account of his own version of the British battle plan, Hitler ordered some pictures to be taken of them together. Then he made a sign to Himmler, who passed Truckerson the last of the Schnapps, heavily doped. ''Cheers!'' Truckerson downed it in one. Very soon he was asleep. ''You know vot to do!'' Hitler commanded. ''Mein Fόhrer!'' Himmler saluted and left, two guards dragging Truckerson behind him and Nurse Umber following. Truckerson came round briefly. He wondered if he was dreaming as the blonde nurse spoke to him and pushed something into his pocket. ''Take this,'' she said. ''They will try to blackmail you in the future. Tell your CO what happened.'' ''I say old girl, who are you?'' ''I'm on your side, but I'm stuck in this god-forsaken country. They'll take you back home soon. You won't remember anything much.'' ''I'll remember you, Sabrina.'' Even in the direst straits, the Truckerson charm shone through. The blonde kissed his cheek as he began to slip into sleep. ''Sweet dreams, Mr. Truckerson.'' ''Call me Tr……..'' ***** ''But what happened?'' The cut-glass accent screaming from the telephone receiver pierced the still of the Whitehall Office. ''Ma'am, someone kidnapped him.'' ''But it's not fair! I wanted to kidnap him. I wanted to frighten him, punish him!'' ''Yes ma'am.'' ''Who did it?'' ''Most likely the Jerries ma'am.'' ''Oh! Serve the little sod right, then!'' The telephone slammed down. ''Yes, ma'am.'' Air Chief Marshall Sir Dygby-Thynne shook his head. ***** Truckerson woke up with the most tremendous hangover. Only one thing can cure this, he thought. First a good breakfast and pints of tea, then a burst in my Sopwith! He bounced up in good spirits, and presented himself at the mess. ''Sir!'' The steward looked at him, amazed. ''What is it?'' Truckerson checked his flies, his tie, then the rest of his uniform. ''You've been kidnapped, Sir!'' ''Have I indeed?'' Truckerson's eyes roved around the room exaggeratedly, as if searching for a hidden enemy. He looked under a table, peered suspiciously under a tray lying on the table. His face returned to the unfortunate Steward's, peering deep into his eyes. He whispered in a conspiratorial manner. ''Then I probably need a proper breakfast, don't I, man?'' ''Sir!'' The Steward made his escape, as Truckerson sat and demanded a pot of tea. After a hearty breakfast, he was making his way across the runway to the small hangar where his Camel waited when a junior officer ran towards him. He panted to a halt, saluted and declared; ''Sir! Officer Commanding asks you to report, immediate!'' ''Blow!'' Truckerson's shoulders hunched, his lip drooped and his eyes took on a hangdog look. Sullenly, he headed towards Bingo's office. ***** ''You've been gone two days!'' The Old Man shouted. Truckerson looked amazed. ''Have I?'' ''Where were you?'' ''Er. I remember going to the flicks with Maggie. Good one! There were these two chaps, in the desert, and this bally great … '' ''Never mind that, Truckerson, this is very important. What happened next?'' ''Er.'' Truckerson considered, licking his lips and rolling his eyes. ''Aha!'' He brightened. ''They escaped.'' ''Who?'' The Old Man looked really shirty now, Truckerson thought. ''The two blokes of course! From the bally great …'' A new voice spoke up. Truckerson had nodded to the Old Man's two visitor's, taking an especial interest in the good-looking blonde. Pity her nose was a little long, he thought idly. ''Squadron Leader Truckerson! That's enough! From now on, your future depends on answering questions. Only the questions I ask. Understood?'' Crikey, thought Truckerson, this must be serious! Matey here is well brassed off – and well brassed up! He'd noticed the rings on the officer's sleeve as he had stood up and stepped forward. Bugger! Truckerson was good on sleeves but lousy on epaulettes. Why had the bloke stayed quiet until now? A chap deserved some warning when an Air Vice Marshall dropped in. ''Sah! Yes Sah! Truckerson pulled himself up straight, clicked his heels and did his most imposing salute; granite jaw thrust forward, dark, keen eyes on the imaginary horizon. The Air Vice Marshal was impressed, despite himself. The blonde's eyes grew a trifle wistful. ''You like marching, Squadron Leader?'' His tone became quite friendly, and the Old Man looked surprised. ''Asolutely, Sir!'' ''Good! I can see why a chap like you would do well.'' He looked Truckerson up and down and walked round him. ''You must come to one of my parades sometime.'' ''Now, you must think very carefully, your future depends on it. Understand, son?'' The Air Vice Martial smiled, noting Truckerson's ''ready to march'' feet. ''Relax, old man,'' he said in a kindly tone. The blonde was smiling now as well. The Old Man's jaw dropped. Although he himself was immune to the power of Truckerson, it appeared that the World was not. ''I am Air Vice Marshall Dick. You may call me Dicky for short, in private, of course'' Truckerson nodded. The Air Vice Marshall continued. ''This is Commander Hine. She is a specialist in drugs and interrogation methods.'' Truckerson stiffened slightly. ''Relax, Squadron Leader.'' A husky voice, tinged with an accent, spoke. ''Are you Welsh?'' Truckerson asked. The blonde laughed, a husky contralto that made Truckerson's heart flip over. ''No, Squadron Leader, I am from Holland. I fled when der filthy Nazis invaded.'' ''Oh! Must be nice – all that sun I mean! Call me Trux,'' he added. The Air Vice Marshall ''Dicky'' Dick nodded approval. ''Den you mus' call me Andy.'' After a brief examination, Andy asked. ''So you think you told dese men, dese 'Australians' our battle plans?'' ''Yes Andy.'' Truckerson looked puzzled. ''I think so. It could have been a dream.'' Dicky Dick chipped in. ''I doubt it. Sounds like you were drugged.'' Andy nodded in confirmation. Dick went on. ''This is very serious Truckerson.'' Glancing accusingly at the Old Man, he added, ''How did you know our plans? You don't have access to that kind of information, do you?'' ''No, Sir,'' Truckerson admitted. ''I used my imagination and military skill.'' ''Then tell me exactly what you think you would have told them,'' said the Air Vice Marshall, looking perplexed. Truckerson told him, in great detail, at length. In the process they moved to the table, and tea was provided. Truckerson was slightly disappointed it was not the same stuff his Australian friend had poured. ''So, that's all of it then?'' the Air Vice Marshall asked. ''That's it! The whole shebang!'' Truckerson was expecting a problem now. Perhaps he should have checked the Aussi's credentials after all. He waited. The Old Man sighed. Dick looked at ''Andy'' Hine, who nodded, grinning broadly. ''Brilliant!'' The Air Vice Marshall turned to the Old Man. ''This man deserves a medal!'' The Old Man bowed his head wearily, not noticing the sharp look from the Air Vice-Marshall. ''Er, I've got a picture of the men, Sir!'' Truckerson pulled out the snap that he'd found in his pocket that morning and handed it to him. The Air Vice Marshall was stunned! His eyes seemed to expand. He was silent for some time. Then he stood and came round the table to Truckerson and shook his hand. Truckerson blushed. He stood up. He was unsure of what was happening. Then Andy kissed him on the cheek, right in front of everyone! The Air Vice Marshall hugged him! As Truckerson hummed, eyes closed, Dicky Dick said, in hushed tones. ''Sir, you are a hero, a hero indeed. You shall hear more from me!'' ''On your parade, Sir?'' ''You will stand next to me!'' The Air Vice Marshall hurried out, the hint of a tear in his eye. Commander Hine embraced him, and pressed a small card into his hand before leaving. Truckerson looked down at it. A telephone number! ''What in God's name?'' The Old Man exclaimed. He looked dreadful, Truckersen thought. ''Bingo, what's wrong?'' ''Truckerson, just get out!'' Truckerson left. What a fuss! He still did not understand why they'd been so pleased that he'd told the Aussies all about the British battle plan. After all, he prided himself on his grasp of Military Strategy and the plans were obvious to someone with his skill. But they had seemed to think it had been a good idea. Best keep quiet, he advised himself, wisely. In the next episode: The Battle of Britain! Find out who wins! All this and more in Part 8 To read next episode - Click Here © John F Griffiths 2003
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Midsummer Magic (posted on: 05-07-13)
A story in 250 words, from the weekly challenge. Midsummer.

Midsummer Magic Glancing back at the ridge, Grof raised his sword, which glistened in the bright moonlight, then sheathed it with a sigh of satisfaction. The worst was over, the danger gone. Despite Witch Alison's predictions, he had come safely through and now, just a short way ahead in the open land of the valley, lay the city, and his destiny. No hiding places here. He had expected an ambush back in the mountains. That last pass would have been an ideal spot for an enemy, and he had negotiated it with utmost care. But there was no soul, living or otherwise, in sight and none he had sensed on his journey. Now the old queen had abdicated, accession to the throne of Brittay this midsummer would confirm his power, and he would be safe forever from Alison and her crew. Within a few hours, he would be established in a new life. His former life had been hard. His treatment at the hands of the barbarians, the siege of Nandrador, and the circumstances of his escape from its destruction, would haunt him forever. But soon he would right those wrongs and wreak revenge on the wrongdoers. And he would enjoy it. Grof stepped forward with a new vigour, expectant, his gaze fixed on the shining city. Not far behind him, towering silent and silver in the moonlight, the great wolf hastened its pace, coming closer with every step and gathering its powerful muscles, ready for the final spring.
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Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 6: Home to Roost? (posted on: 05-07-13)
As Part 6 begins, Something suspicious is afoot. Truckerson is back home and has a pet project, finds a new girl friend, and gets a surprise!

To read from the beginning Click Here Flight of the Chickens – Part 6: Home to Roost? The Old Man picked the telephone and dialled. There was a ring tone, then, at the other end, someone lifted the receiver. ''Hello! I got your message. What do you want me to do?'' ''Bingo old chap! Glad to hear from you! Now listen….'' The Old Man listened, head bowed. ***** Truckerson chewed grimly on the end of his cigar as Geordie tightened the last bolt on the propeller boss. "That should just aboot do it" Geordie proclaimed as he stepped back to admire his work. With quite a bit of help from Geordie and his pals, Truckerson had just completed the restoration of a World War One Sopwith Camel. "The bally Nazis won't know what's hit him, once I get this baby in the air." Truckerson said. ''But there's just one more thing to make it complete. It needs a figurehead, a mascot. Hell! A red-headed bird with big tits would be just the thing.'' Truckerson, tongue curled over top lip, set about carefully painted a selectively exaggerated likeness of Wirrals on the side of the fuselage. He stepped back and considered his handiwork. ''I'm not sure Pilot Officer Wirrals will appreciate that, Sir!'' ''Can't see why not,'' Truckerson said with a puzzled frown. ''Anyway, well done, Geordie. Thanks very much for all the help.'' Geordie smiled. ''Er, have yoo told the Old Man about this, Sir?'' ''No, it'll be a nice surprise, won't it? After all, we need all the aircraft we can get for the big push. There aren't enough to go round, see, Geordie. That's why he won't let me go up there. So, now I've got my own.'' He looked triumphant, dark eyes sparkling. You couldn't fault the Squadron leader on enthusiasm, Geordie admitted. ''You're not plannin' te fly this in reel combat, Sir?'' Geordie was amazed. ''Why not?'' ''It's an old plane sir, it cannot compete.'' Truckerson tapped his nose. ''Ahah! Geordie, that's where you're wrong! With my style of flying, I'll run rings round the damn Jerry.'' Geordie could not doubt that. ''I'll Immelman them out of the sky!'' Truckerson bellowed. ''Can't wait to feel that castor oil soaking through my left shoulder.'' Clapping Geordie round the arm, Truckerson said, ''Let's have lunch! I've got to do a Canteen check today, so we can eat together. Come on.'' ***** ''Welcome back, Sir.'' The young canteen lady winked at Truckerson. She was dark-haired and dark-eyed, with a wild look about her. ''Oh, hello, er…'' He could not remember this girl's name, which was unusual. ''I'm new, Sir! Welcome back. I've heard all about you,'' she said, giggling. Truckerson detected an accent. Having been caught by David Sarti's involved pedigree, he knew this time where to plump his choice. ''You're Irish, then?'' Maggie giggled. ''How did you guess?'' Truckerson preened. He'd got it right! It must be his new international persona. He was cosmopolitan now. ''Actually, I'm Welsh,'' she added. ''But I just wondered how you guessed, see?'' ''What's your name?'' ''Pie, Sir?'' Maggie piled his plate with steak and kidney pie. ''Actually, it's Maggie, Sir.'' ''Perhaps we could talk about this later, my dear.'' ''Oooh! P'raps we could, Sir!'' Maggie said, with a twinkle in her eye. ''I gorran evenin' off. Shall we go to the flicks?'' Truckerson was taken aback, but this Maggie was a cuddly-looking girl, with a cheeky grin and an evil laugh. ''Yes, old girl. See you later, then.'' ''Lookin' forward to it, Sir.'' ''Er, call me Squadron Leader, in private, of course.'' He moved on. ''Of course, Sir.'' Maggie gave him one lingering look, then turned her attention to the plate of the next man in line, which was Geordie. She dobbed a small amount of pie in the middle of his plate and stared him straight in the eye. ''That's ya lot, matey. There is a war on you know. Gerron down the line.'' Geordie felt a flutter round his heart. That Truckerson, he had all the luck. This little welsh girl had cast a spell over him. He had always felt close to the Welsh, and wished he could get even closer to some of them. He moved disconsolately on down the line. Maggie glanced at him, but she had other fish to fry. ***** Maggie pulled her brown trench coat around her and signalled to the waiting car. They'd had a drink after the film and Truckerson was 'paying a visit' while Maggie waited outside the Pub. The sleek, black car pulled up beside her. Truckerson emerged through the doors of the Pub, grinning broadly. He was in an expansive mood. ''Ah! Dear Maggie. What fine company you are.'' The brief glimpse of cornflower blue eyes and red hair that crossed his mind did not deter him. ''What shall we do now?'' ''Er, someone's sent this car for you!'' Truckerson preened. ''That's nice! Do you want to get in first?'' ''I think it might be more fun if I sat on your lap, don't you, Squadron Leader?'' Maggie simpered, fluttering her lashes. ''Oh! Right then.'' Truckerson dived into the car with an agility which was surprising for one of his bulk. The door slammed, the car drove off at high speed. Maggie smiled, and walked off to catch the bus back to the base. She did not notice a second black car waiting a little further up the road. ***** ''You're quite sure?'' The Old Man insisted. ''Yes, Sir.'' Maggie nodded. He sighed. ''I suppose I should say ''Well Done'', Robb, but I don't feel good about this.'' ''It had to be done, Sir! He won't be hurt, just shaken up a bit. It'll keep her ladyship quiet.'' Maggie smiled. ''I'll be off tomorrow then, back to HQ!'' ''Yes, yes, Well Done.'' The Old Man turned away, looking older somehow. Margaret Robb had one regret. That nice boy, Geordie. She could really go for someone like that – she'd always wanted a knight in shining armour. But duty came first. She could not be feckless and compromise her position as an intelligence officer. After all this was over, she promised herself, and she'd started her legal studies at Newcastle, there'd be time for things like that. The telephone rang. The Old Man picked it up. ''Yes, yes.'' He motioned Maggie to stay, while listening intently. ''I'm sorry about that, but we couldn't have … Yes. Yes, I understand.'' The Old Man put the phone down. ''What's wrong, Sir?'' Maggie was concerned. He looked dreadful. ''There were two cars, Robb. The one that took him wasn't ours.'' Maggie was distraught. ''I did my best, Sir!'' ''Calm down, Robb, they are not blaming us. This was a carefully-planned operation at the highest level. They were Jerries. Tinker thinks they were sent personally by Hitler himself.'' Maggie was astounded. What could Hitler want with Truckerson? ''I never liked this, Robb, deceiving Truckerson like that. Bally poor show! Now look what's happened.'' ***** In Truckerson's office, the red file sat, unopened. In a small hangar on the other side of the runway the Sopwith sat, gleaming. The image of a red-headed girl with cornflower blue eyes smiled from the plane's fuselage. Some distance away, a red-headed girl with cornflower blue eyes's smile turned to amazement as her roommate broke the news. ''Shit!'' Wirrals said, slamming her fist down on the table. ''Bloody damn and bugger!''* *Note: This is the bad language you were warned about. In the next episode: Truckerson meets Hitler again, also TWO very nice blondes. All this and more in Part 7 © John F Griffiths 2003
Archived comments for Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 6: Home to Roost?
Savvi on 08-07-2013
Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens – Part 6: Home to Roost?
Keep em coming Griff all good stuff and very entertaining. S

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Missed the post on Sunday cos I went to a barbie then had to pack up to come back to France. (excuse!)

Next part on Fri. Only ten parts to this first part. Second one is where he walks on a comet. It's on Amazon. Three of the four comments are from site members, but one is independent!


Truckerson - Flight of the Chickens Part 5: Too many Cocks! (posted on: 01-07-13)
Truckerson is in the Nazi HQ with a funny little man with a black moustache, drinking schnapps.

As Part 5 begins, Truckerson is chatting with a funny little foreign bloke with a black moustache. He also meets a sailor, and tries something he's never done before. To read from the beginning CLICK HERE Flight of the Chickens – Part 5: Too Many Cocks! They'd been chatting for several hours now. Hitler was fascinated. ''Zo, tell me again Sqvadron Leader, just how ze airforce is preparing to get those nasty Germans.'' ''Well!'' Truckerson's eyes gleamed and he smacked his lips with glee. ''We've got a real surprise for Johnny Nazi.'' ''Oh! Oh really! That zounds like, er, fun. Do go on. Another Schnapps?'' Hitler poured. ''The least we can do is drink the bastard's booze!'' Truckerson declared. ''Yez indeed, my friend, my, er, good buddy.'' Truckerson thought this chap had a funny accent for an Aussie, which is what he'd said he was, Truckerson was sure. They had been letting all sorts in there recently, he had heard, and it did sound a bit like Wirrals'. Truckerson had worked out that he and the little chap were stuck in some German bigwig's office, and he should wait until dark before leaving. ***** It was late. The little chap had passed out. Truckerson was made of sterner stuff. Sod him, Truckerson thought belligerently, I'm off! He peered carefully out of the door, along the corridor. All was quiet. This was strange. He heard the faint buzz of voices and followed the sound. There were large double doors at the end of the corridor and a slot of yellow light betrayed it was ajar. Truckerson placed a beefy cheek against the door and peered in. He nearly cried out, he had such a shock. There were his little chickens, all sitting at desks with German officers and talking earnestly. The officers were taking notes, grinning, and his girlies were laughing and smiling. Gosh, he was proud of them. Those Germans were well and truly fooled. His mission had been success and his girlies were safe. That was all he needed to know Truckerson stumbled off towards the back door. There was nobody about, but he looked in dismay at the floodlit walls and the guards. Unhappily, the schnapps was now catching up with him and he decided to take a rest in the back of a large truck parked in the yard of the fortress. Those guards on the walls would not see him here. Back in the large room, one of the girls was talking to an officer. ''They never suspected a thing, Hans. They let us walk off with all their secrets.'' ''I can't believe that, Helga my dear. It must have been difficult for you.'' Helga's eyes twinkled. ''Well, we all have to make sacrifices, Hans.'' ***** Bright and early next morning, the laundry van trundled out of the gate of Nazi Headquarters. The yawning guards made a cursory inspection, but only saw the usual bulky bundles in the back. As the van stopped to let a military convoy pass, a figure rolled out of the rear of the truck and dropped to the ground. Hastily regaining his feet, Truckerson lurched off down a side street. Almost immediately, a car screeched to a halt next to him, the door was flung open and a strong hand hauled him in. In a moment the car was off, careering down the side streets then disappearing into the traffic. ''But I want to have a look around,'' Truckerson was insisting. ''Good God, man!'' The burly chap with the dark beard exclaimed. ''You can't speak the lingo, and you're in bally RAF uniform! How long do you think you'd last?'' ''I can be subtle!'' Truckerson said, like a disappointed child. ''I can fit in! I have a natural talent. Besides, I've never been abroad. Like to take in the sights, try the beer and so on.'' ''I didn't pilot my sub through the German nets and hide it in the river to let you wander about here and get caught.'' Truckerson looked at the man with new respect. ''You're a Captain?'' The man nodded. Truckerson had never met a Navy Captain. He made him tell him all about his sailing exploits and adventures. ''So much mud!'' Truckerson said admiringly. Truckerson's new pal rapidly turned into a ''chum'' once Truckerson found out he was a Lord. ''What luck! What's your name, mate? You seem to know mine already.'' ''It's Geoffrey, Geoffrey Waggoner – I'm also Lord Themm, but seldom use the title. You can call me Geoff.'' ''Well, it's nice to meet you mate! Call me Trux, in private of course. And thanks for all that business with the sub.'' ''I thought I just said.'' Geoff looked puzzled. ''I DIDN'T pilot my sub through the German nets….'' Truckerson silenced him with a wave of the hand. This Geoff was a funny cove. ''So where are we going?'' He asked. ''You, mate, are going home, toot sweet!'' ***** There was a drone in the sky and soon the Miles Messenger touched down. Truckerson wondered why they hadn't sent a Lysander, but then realised with glee that this aircraft had a co-pilot's seat. ''Quick, Trux!'' Geoff shoved him forward. Truckerson shambled forward, grabbing the door almost before the plane was completely halted. He heaved himself up into the cockpit, taking the co-pilot's seat and giving the young pilot a thumbs-up. Donning his flying helmet, Truckerson called a greeting. ''Never been in a Messenger before! Mind if I try it?'' ''Sir! It's not really advisable, I've…'' But Truckerson was not to be stopped. If he decided to fly a plane, he flew it. Captain Geoffrey Waggoner's mouth dropped open as the small aircraft seemed to fling itself sideways into the sky, side-slip like a racing car on an oily bend, then shoot off in no particular direction. ''Guess that'll confuse the Jerries!'' He chuckled. ''That Trux!'' he added admiringly. ***** Back in the Nazi HQ, a small, moustachioed man sat behind his big desk. His head hurt, his vision was blurred. Where was that stranger? Himmel! He could not remember much of what the Englander had said, but he knew it was important. He pressed a bell push. ''Heil Hitler!'' ''Yes, yes. Heinrich, ver is the man Trukerzen?'' ''Who, Mein Fuhrer?'' Heinrich Himmler looked puzzled. ''Trukerzen, Trukerzen! Der Englander fly-pilot!'' ''I am sorry, I don't know of him!'' ''Find him! Find him and bring him to me!'' Hitler dismissed the SS Chief with a wave of his hand. ''And get Eva to bring me a seltzer!'' he called after him. Himmler was puzzled by Hitler's command. Who was this mysterious Trukerzen? When he had asked his staff, one of them, Hauptsturmfuehrer Hans Blicks had admitted he had heard the name from his girlfriend, Helga, one of the spies newly arrived from England in his successful 'Huhnhaus' exercise. She had given him all the details of this ''Trux'' as she called him privately. ''You von't hurt him?'' she'd added. ''He is very sweet.'' Hans looked suspicious. ''Nein, nein!'' Himmler assured her, trustworthy as ever. Himmler had decided to be very careful with this Trukerzen. He was portrayed as a fool who could not see that the girls were spies. But had this Trukerzen played a clever game? He had been here. And escaped! The man must be a genius. How could he trust the information the girls had given? It must be a double-bluff. Himmler decided that this man had indeed played him for a fool, and set to work. In the next episode: Will Himmler find Truckerson? Does he meet Hitler again? And Truckerson has a ''Special Project''. Will it fly? All this and more in Part 6 © John F Griffiths 2003
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Midsummer Rant (posted on: 01-07-13)
Written for the weakly challenge

Midsummer Rant if brevity's the soul of wit I'll not go with this 'midsummer' shit it's cold, what's more it's wet as buggery we're all exposed to nature's thuggery next year I will be off to Spain to get out of this bloody rain
Archived comments for Midsummer Rant
deadpoet on 01-07-2013
Midsummer Rant
mind if I join you? Nice..

Author's Reply:
Thank you!

Mikeverdi on 02-07-2013
Midsummer Rant
Like it! Mike

Author's Reply:
Thanks Mike

amman on 02-07-2013
Midsummer Rant
Short, sharp and to the point. You should buy a house over there; I hear they're going cheap at the moment!
Cheers.

Author's Reply:
Got one in France already. Spain is too bare and too hot for us.

Thanks for reading and commenting


Truckerson. The Flight of the Chickens Part 4 (posted on: 28-06-13)
As Part 4 begins, Truckerson is marooned in wartime Germany.

To read from the beginning CLICK HERE The Flight of the Chickens – Part 4: Stuffed! Squadron Leader Truckerson walked across a field in Germany, swinging his arms and oompahing, leaving a trail of flattened crops in his wake. As he approached the highway a passing vehicle screeched to a halt. ''Truckerson! Here!'' a voice commanded. He was caught in the glare of a powerful lamp. Next thing he knew, two shadowy figures had grabbed him and hustled him into the back. He was driven off at high speed. ***** Pilot Officer Wirrals faced the ''Old Man''. ''Well, girlie?'' Wirrals looked suitably chastened. ''Er, Sir, Squadron Leader Truckerson appears to have left the aircraft without informing us and has been left behind in Germany. We can only hope the others take care of him.'' ''Hmm. We can only hope that the Germans can take care of themselves.'' With this mysterious remark, the Old Man dismissed Wirrals, asking her to make a full report of the incident. The Old Man sat, considering the situation. He had to try to find poor old Trux, despite his inclination to leave him wherever he had ended up. He had to. He would make a start in the morning. ***** ''What happened?'' Wirral's roommate ''Flecks'' looked concerned. ''He must have got off the plane. It wasn't planned.'' ''Are you sure?'' ''Yes, don't get any ideas. This doesn't actually help us, you know.'' ''Why not?'' ''Don't be stupid! With Truckerson here, I can find out everything and do with him what I want. There's nobody else I can get any joy with at all. Geordie only seems to want to talk about Wales, and Boggles and Flanker, well, you know.'' ''I do indeed,'' said Flecks with a sigh. ''What has happened to that report you heard him talk about?'' Wirrals frowned. ''I don't know. I am worried. There were some bigwigs here the other day, closeted with the Old Man. I couldn't find out anything about them.'' ''We'd better be careful, then.'' ''Hmm!'' Wirrals considered. ''I think so.'' ''But at least we got all the girls out.'' Flecks grinned. ''We did indeed! That will knock these Englander's hopes for six!'' ''Bottoms up!'' They toasted their victory. The red file sat in Truckerson's In-tray. ***** Truckerson had been taken to an isolated house. Only one of his captors remained with him. A fire flickered cheerily in the grate. ''I say! What's going on?'' Truckerson protested. The shadowy figure spoke. ''Help yourself to some food, Squadron Leader, you've had a lucky escape.'' Truckerson spluttered. Escape! He looked round the stone walls of the room and the bolted door, then at the food. Truckerson's priorities were simple. ''Thwo,'' he asked, ''hwhatth thyor mame? Hwhwoo are hwyoo?'' Crumbs of bread and morsels of cheese tumbled from his lips as he crammed more food into his mouth. ''Slow down, Squadron Leader, we have plenty of time. My name is Goya Verdi. I am, by birth, Italian, by inclination I'm on your side.'' ''Hwyore a thwoman!'' Truckerson munched. ''Observant, Squadron Leader,'' The cool voice replied, sounding rather amused. He found this woman a charming and educated person. They got quite pally. She was probably a bit long in the tooth for anything else, Truckerson observed wryly. He learned she was a writer. ''Fantasy? You mean princesses and dragons and stuff? Can't say it appeals to me at all old girl.'' Truckerson liked adventure and stories about flying. He also liked stories about marching and shouting, but sadly there weren't many of them. ''I've got some shouting in my stories.'' Truckerson brightened. ''Tell me some!'' He spent one of the most pleasant evenings of his life, sitting by the fire, sipping wine, and listening to quite interesting stories about knights and dragons. ''Clang! The magic sword struck Eustace's helm. Crash! He thrust his shield into the Brown Knight's face as his dragon looked on anxiously...'' Truckerson felt he could listen to this all night as Goya's lilting voice soothed him. Eventually he was tucked comfortably into a bed. He fell asleep dreaming of the knights and dragons of Goya's stories. He'd particularly liked one of the characters, Sir Kevin. They had a lot in common, he thought. Curious, that! In his dreams, he saved a red-headed princess with cornflower blue eyes from peril, again and again, enjoying his reward every time. ***** ''Iwve got to goth there.'' Truckerson was having breakfast. ''Where, Trux?'' Truckerson had invited Goya to call him ''Trux'' in private. ''Wherthe my girthlees hafth gone.'' ''SS Headquarters? The Nazi's fortress? You must be joking!'' Truckerson wiped his mouth. Mmm! He liked this German food. Substantial. Bit like me! He chuckled. ''No, I mean it old girl. Get me in there!'' Goya considered him closely. ''Getting you IN is not the problem, Trux.'' ***** ''Have you got his name yet?'' A cut-glass accent penetrated the tapestries and rich ornamentation of the room. Outside, on the verdant, rolling terrain, gardeners toiled and guards patrolled. Air Chief Marshall Sir Dygby-Thynne quailed. ''Ma'am, I have it here. He proffered a silver-edged card, which the butler accepted onto his silver tray, and bore a full ten feet to the waiting lady. A jewelled lorgnette rose, the card was lifted from the tray and held in the gloved hand. The card bore a name and key details of the individual's career. ''My nuns!'' The Royal Lady was the patron of a nunnery in southern England. ''I'm afraid so, ma'am.'' The Air Chief Marshall was pinned by a withering stare. ''Ma'am, he was on a Top Secret mission.'' There was a silence. The lady nodded sharply to the butler. ''You are dismissed, Sir.'' The butler indicated the door. Alone in the room, the Royal Lady considered the card again. ''Truckerson, eh? I'll make damn sure to fix your wagon, matey!'' She was a keen fan of westerns. ***** Truckerson stumbled into the room, only just avoiding sprawling on the floor. Goya had got him inside the Nazi HQ in a laundry van. Truckerson had wandered the corridors for an hour or so now, dodging the odd servant or cleaner, and wondering where everyone was. He'd leaned on this imposing looking door, which had turned out to be partly open. Hence the unexpected entrance. ''Gott in Himmel! Wer sind Sie? ''What's that, old chap?'' Truckerson asked. Behind the desk was a small man with a black moustache. Truckerson realised this man was probably a General or something. Although he was a little squirt, his uniform was very impressive, but being an RAF man, Truckerson knew nothing about the insignia used by other forces. And this one looked as though it could be foreign. The little chap seemed very excited! He was pointing and jabbering away in some foreign lingo. ''Weggehen! Schnell gehen!'' Truckerson decided to employ some of his language skills. ''Keep calm-o!'' he bellowed. ''Me friend, comprende?'' The little man looked frightened now, backing away from the imposing figure of Truckerson, who was grinning and coming closer, making what he thought were appropriate ''foreign'' hand gestures. The chair caught the little man behind his knees and he was forced to sit down. ''That's better!'' Truckerson nodded violently and grinned more. His victim shrank back in his chair, shivering. Then Hitler remembered he could speak English. ''Zo! Vat is your name, Tommy?'' ''No, it isn't!'' Truckerson said, scornfully. In the next episode: How does Truckerson get out of this one? Who is this interesting foreign chap? Will the shadowy ''Goya'' ever write that book? Why is Royalty so interested in our Hero? At last, 'Flecks' has spoken! Do we know more about her? And what about that report – will the girls be completely exposed? All this and more in Part 5 To read next episode - Click Here © John F Griffiths 2003
Archived comments for Truckerson. The Flight of the Chickens Part 4
TheBigBadG on 28-06-2013
Truckerson. The Flight of the Chickens Part 4
Just catching up. Being new enough that I didn't witness Trux the first time round you could say it's me maiden flight. It's very silly isn't it. πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
What? It's all true!


Flight of the Chickens – Part 3: The Chickens Have Landed! (posted on: 21-06-13)
As Part 3 begins, Truckerson flies into wartime Germany with his flock.

To read from the beginning CLICK HERE Flight of the Chickens – Part 3: The Chickens Have Landed! The heady thrum of the twin engines vibrated Truckerson's backside and made his pulse race. This was the life! This is what it was all about! Sitting at the controls of the big bird, Truckerson was happy as a lark, chortling with glee, bouncing up and down in his seat, clutching his joystick in both hands. Beside him sat the trim figure of Pilot Officer Wirrals. ''Sir!'' Wirrals had to shout again. ''Sir!'' Truckerson turned. Wirrals tapped the side of her flying helmet meaningfully . Truckerson looked annoyed, then fumbled with the comms plug and pulled the mike to his mouth. ''Well, what is it?'' he snapped. ''Sorry to interrupt, Sir, but we're ready to roll. ''Oh, let's get off then. You do the fiddly stuff, I'll take her up.'' Pilot Officer Wirrals dutifully radioed for clearance using coded words, meanwhile doing some final checks on the instruments. Finally she gave a thumbs-up to the impatient Truckerson. Truckerson hadn't been able to do much flying lately, so he was anxious to be up and away. The big plane swerved wildly onto the main runway, gave a grunt, seemed to draw itself up as the props roared up to a frenzy, then catapulted itself forwards at a rate of knots. Just as it seemed it would shake itself to pieces with the bumping and banging of the undercarriage and juddering sideways jumps, it unstuck itself from the ground and scrambled greedily into the welcoming sky. ''Just listen to that!'' Truckerson shouted, as the drilling bray of the engines sustained their wild note. ''Perfect!'' He beamed, eyes focused on the far horizon as if in a dream. In the back, the shaking girls and the two Security Officers looked around, as if disbelieving their continued existence. ''Some take-off that, Sir!'' Geordie commented. ***** 'Geordie' Welsh had joined the team a week earlier as flight engineer for this special mission. Truckerson had immediately spotted his accent and dubbed him 'Scotty'. When Geordie had protested, the Squadron leader had declared,''Geordie is a name used in cheap Hollywood films. Scotty is a good English name, and that's what I shall call you. OK old chap?'' Truckerson clapped Geordie on the arm, quite hard. He often did this with his juniors and even fellow officers if they tried to contradict him. He'd then marched off, humming, leaving some of Welsh's fellow engineers to explain the phenomenon that was Truckerson to the puzzled man. ''OK, OK!'' he'd said eventually. ''But why did he just walk through the bloody daffodils?'' ''He's happy!'' the Flight Sergeant said. ''Why else?'' Geordie decided to live with the anomaly that was Barry Truckerson, and had adapted successfully. So much so that Truckerson had confided in Boggles that he felt that 'Scotty' was almost a pal. A lower-class one of course, and not a chum, but still….. Boggles had behaved quite curiously in Truckerson's eyes. First, he'd given a high-pitched giggle, then nudged him in the ribs, then winked. ''I say, what's up?'' Truckerson was startled by this behaviour, but just then Flanker had walked round the corner tra-la-la'ing. He'd stopped dead, and they'd both raised their eyebrows at each other. Truckerson wished they would not do that, it made him feel uncomfortable. He'd bought Geordie a pint. The lad drank the most appalling brown stuff, poured from bottle with a blue star on the label. ''Call me Trux, lad. In private of course.'' ''Oh, thanks Sir, er, ah mean , Trux.'' ''There, that wasn't so hard, was it, Scotty lad?'' Truckerson clapped Geordie on the arm, causing him to spill his drink. Oblivious, he carried on. ''So, what'll you do when this crazy war's over?'' Truckerson was being pleasant now, a rather uncomfortable experience for the object of his attention. But Geordie rallied well. ''Ah'd surely like tah become a lawyer, like. That's why ah joined the Air Force so ah'll be able te afford the trainin', like.'' ''Training?'' Truckerson had caught the word amongst the other noises that had fallen upon his ears. ''Why ay, man! Ye hafta have the trainin'. I'll be gannin to the Yooniversity an'all.'' ''University? Do they let chaps like you go there? I say, how modern.'' Truckerson beamed in genuine pleasure. ''Me? Of coorse, man. An' ah get a grant from the Air Force when ah'm demobbed.'' ''Well that'll be jolly, Scotty, whatever it is you're going to study!'' Although he did not really know what a 'grant' was, Truckerson was pleased. ''Now, did I tell you about me and Everest? She's from up your way – Leicester, I think. Well, she was….'' Truckerson's story went on, but Geordie was a strong character. He might need support from this officer, and he knew the value of making the right friends. Truth was, Truckerson saw Geordie in a fatherly way. Perhaps I'm getting broody? he thought as he lay, ready for sleep. Truckerson settle down? Pshaw! He grinned. But thoughts of cornflower blue eyes and red hair rose unbidden to his mind and lingered as he lay tossing in his sleep through the lonely night. ***** ''Level out, Sir!'' Wirrals was shouting at him and pointing to the altimeter. He'd been daydreaming. ''I love going up!'' he thought. That's what he liked most, apart from parades and marching. Still, enough was too much, as his old granny always said. Slamming the throttles back, Truckerson inadvertently threw the plane into a dive. Wirrals moved her hand forward instinctively, but Truckerson gave her a warning glance. While the plane plunged, he waited. Wirrals withdrew. ''Better!'' he commented. ''There's only one pilot on this plane, girlie!'' With a leisurely smile, he pushed the throttles forward and raised the nose to climb again. In the back lay a tumbled heap of girls and the Security Officers, who had incautiously unstrapped after take off. Below, on an exposed minor road in the South of England, a large Rolls-Royce with no number plates had stopped, its front wheel in a ditch. A lace-covered arm ending in a white glove extended from a rear window and shook its fist at the sky as a female voice vowed revenge. ***** The plane bumped and tossed as Squadron Leader Truckerson expertly guided it at very low level. The RAF were on decoy duty, sending bombers and fighter squadrons in a pattern to draw off attention from the low-flying bird. Wirrals was keeping Truckerson on the correct path, sometimes by flattery, sometimes in sheer panic, but they were managing. ''How're the engines, Scotty?'' Truckerson called back, turning his head. Wirrals dug him in the ribs as a church tower inconveniently placed itself in the middle of the windshield. ''Ok, ok, old girl! You're bally nervous!'' Truckerson wished he'd got a male co-pilot. It was unnerving to have this twitchy Aussi bint next to him. As soon as he'd thought this, he was filled with remorse. This one was different. But only slightly. He became aware that Scotty was replying to his question. ''Engines fine sir, oil pressure, temperatures, all optimum. You've got a good crate here, Sir!'' ''Hah!'' Truckerson exclaimed. ''I knew it! All that fuss from the mechanics and there's nothing wrong with the engines at all!'' He sat back with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. ***** Somewhere outside the air defences surrounding Berlin, which were currently concentrating on some activity on the other side of the city, a dark shape descended from the skies, seemingly floating in the air. It drifted slowly down, accurately and unerringly towards its target. Shortly before it hit the water of the reservoir however, the engines burst into a roar and it lifted just enough to clear the outer wall and travel on to the field where the British secret service agents waited. It bounced down, taxiing to a halt, engines winding down to a slow purr. In the cockpit, Truckerson was incandescent. ''The next time you try that, girlie, you're on a fizzer!'' He turned to Wirrals, face suffused with righteous anger. She batted her eyelashes at him. ''Sir? I thought you ordered me to take her up!'' Truckerson was momentarily taken aback. ''Why Ay, Sir!'' Geordie chimed in from the back. ''Ah distinctly heard you order the lass, er sorry ma'am, Pilot Officer Wirrals, te take 'er up, like!'' Wirrals threw Geordie a grateful glance, unnoticed by Truckerson. Truckerson was confused. Did I? he wondered. Just then one of the Security Officers burst in to the cockpit. ''Let's get moving, Sir! We haven't got all night!'' The Game was on! ***** His girls were crowding into the bus. Truckerson was proud of them. They even looked German: blonde plaits, tall, fine figures. Truckerson smiled as they giggled and waved to him. He was sorry to see them go. They had given him so much pleasure. His heart went with them. So much so, he jumped from the plane and ran towards the bus to say goodbye. He was heedless of the sound of the engines revving up, and the aircraft beginning to move. ''My girlies!'' he thought. ''My lovely girlies!'' Pilot Officer Wirrals took the plane up and away. ''Go back and check the doors, Geordie, there's a bit of drag I can't account for. Oh! And check the Squadron Leader is OK. Last time I saw him he was heading for the toilet, he may have a problem.'' After a few minutes, Geordie returned. Wirrals was hunched over the joystick, wending her way over valley and hill, and the occasional church spire. ''He's not there, ma'am!'' ''What?'' ''He's not on the plane, ma'am! Not at all.'' Wirrals frowned. ''Oh dear! But we can't turn back now. Agreed?'' Geordie considered. ''Yes, ma'am! I agree, we have no choice. Let's hope someone takes care of the Squadron Leader!'' ''Yes indeed, Geordie, yes indeed!'' ***** Barry Truckerson, alone in a field outside the enemy city of Berlin, looked at the sky and the diminishing shape of his aircraft, then looked back at the tail lights of the bus with 'his girls' disappearing in the darkness. He sighed. There were a few things to sort out. Humming martially, he set off across the field towards the lights on the nearby highway, swinging his arms and tramping across the intervening crop. He spoke no German, he was dressed in RAF kit, and he had no bloody idea where he was. Still, Barry ''Trux'' Truckerson had hope and unlimited faith in his own abilities. Would he not win through? ''Pity I didn't get a chance to read that report.'' Truckerson thought idly. In the next episode: How does Wirrals explain the loss of Truckerson? How does our 'Trux' survive in enemy territory and what are the 'chickens' up to? When will he get the Royal Backlash? What was in 'that report'? Will Geordie go to University and become a lawyer? And what does Adolph Hitler do when he finds 'somebody' in his private office? All this and more in Part 4 © John F Griffiths 2003
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After the Wedding (posted on: 17-06-13)
For the Poetry Workshop Challenge. (continuation of a fairy tale).

After the wedding Oh who will treat me with respect? – and who will cheer me when I'm vexed? – who'll laugh with me because I'm glad? – I made you well when you felt bad Who will awake me when I doze? – yes, who will wipe my runny nose? Who'll tickle me when I am shy? Each one of them, he wiped his eye. * Who'll bring us lovely pie for tea, and cook and clean and mend? And keep us all so happy Just like our loving friend? We all rejoice at her good luck. She'll have a happy life. With fine and noble husband now That she's become a wife. But we remember happy days and wish it still were true. Without you, O you lovely maid, we don't know what we'll do. With that, all seven heads turn round, they sadly march away. To go back to a lonely house, a lonely life, they say. For what are jewels and silver when the day is nearly through? Compared with friendship, warmth and love – I'll vote for that, won't you?
Archived comments for After the Wedding
franciman on 17-06-2013
After the Wedding
Hi John,
A nursery rhyme, and a very good one at that. My only real complaint is the last line of the first stanza I find really clunky.
Might I suggest: Each one of them, then wiped his eye.?
The long lines in the last stanza don't work for me, being a sudden change in form. Maybe you didn't intend the two lines to join in this manner? That aside I really enjoyed the jingling quality in this verse.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Thanks. The poem is in two parts, hence the asterisk, and the last verse layout is deliberate. It actually makes no difference to the rhythm or reading of the poem in this case as it's all continuous in that verse.

franciman on 17-06-2013
After the Wedding
But why is it deliberate John? The fact that the work is in two parts has no bearing on the last stanza. The fact remains that I, the reader, find the change in form disrupts the flow. No?
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Er, it's deliberate because I did it deliberately πŸ™‚

You probably read visually. Some do. If it were prose, I'd try to please all readers. But poetry? That's individual and my conceit.

It's just a rhyme. Hopefully an interesting one.

Slovitt on 17-06-2013
After the Wedding
john: and so echoes of eliot and prufrock. as had been said, good poets steal. a good piece. swep

Author's Reply:
Thanks! Your comments go deeper than I deserve πŸ™‚

Savvi on 17-06-2013
After the Wedding
Poor little chaps, no one to cook and clean for them πŸ™‚
I enjoyed the read, I was ok with the changes on the second time round but Jim is right about that last line S1 it needs a tweak other than that a fun read with an ending befitting of old Walt himself. S

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Will ponder πŸ™‚

amman on 18-06-2013
After the Wedding
Clever, interesting take on the reactions of the seven dwarfs. I particularly like the way you introduce them, individually, in the first verse. I can see where you're coming from with the final verse but, personally, I would split the first 3 lines into 6 lines to maintain the consistency of the previous two.
Very enjoyable take on the old tale.
Regards.

Author's Reply:
Thank you. Appreciate praise, and will consider final remark

John G

karen123 on 20-06-2013
After the Wedding
Poor dwarfs - how did they get on before Snow White? l also like how you named without naming each dwarf at the beginning - it was cleverly done.

Author's Reply:
Thanks, karen. πŸ™‚


The Flight of the Chickens – Part 2: Preparing the Bird! (posted on: 17-06-13)
More Truckerson ... As Part 2 begins, Truckerson has a secret mission (No, not Wirrals!) and he meets a curious Irish teacher of German.

To read from the beginning CLICK HERE Flight of the Chickens – Part 2: Preparing the Bird! Foden looked at Truckerson in amazement. "Why, that's a very good idea, Squadron Leader!" Truckerson preened, looking smug. "Well!" He looked down. "I hope it helps." After he had gone Foden shook his head slowly. "Teach them to speak German, " he muttered. "Amazing!" He picked up the phone to arrange it. * "So you're the German teacher?" Truckerson took in the short dapper man with the funny accent. "Yes Sorr, your honour!" The man nodded and winked. "Moi name's Sarti." He held out his hand. Truckerson shook it vigorously and introduced himself while trying to place the accent and the name. "You're Scottish!" Truckerson was proud of his knowledge of indigenous people. "No, Sorr! Oim oirish! But of course, we all came from the Mediterranean originally. Well, moi father came from there quite recently, as it happens, hence the name." Truckerson was out of his depth now. Who had started this conversation? Had he finished? All Truckerson wanted to do now was escape. "Er, carry on then, Mr, er, Sarti, and good luck!" What a noice fella, Sarti thought as Truckerson's bulky figure hurried off down the corridor. He's quite a well-rounded character, really. Although he hated to admit this, David Sarti was a fair man at heart. * Truckerson started the evening in a good mood. His girls had proved absolutely brilliant at German! They'd seemed to pick it up in no time, sometimes even correcting Mr Sarti. When he'd congratulated them, they'd giggled shyly. This made him feel quite fatherly, but he'd managed to avoid this temptation, so when Flanker and Boggles came round they had quite an uproarious time in his den, as he recounted his exploits. Sometimes he felt it was strange that his chums never seemed to have any conquests of their own. But he had plenty to go around, and he liked to talk about them. They were settled in for the evening, chortling merrily, when Flanker spoilt the whole mood. "How about the Australian bint, then Trux. Any joy?" Truckerson was immediately plunged into a black mood, recalling his recent brush with Pilot Officer Wirrals. * "Pilot Officer Wirrals!" Truckerson looked in amazement into those cornflower blue eyes. Her hair was tidily tucked into her cap. Since the day she had struck him, neither had said a word about it. They had communicated normally, but Truckerson did not treat her like the other girls. He told himself that this was because she was a pilot, and the others were just ACW's, but even Truckerson found it hard to fool himself. He had felt she was avoiding him, but now she'd just walked into his office. She smiled. Truckerson's heart pounded. "What's the plan, Sir?" Her voice was mellow. "Oh, er, it's still top secret at the moment, old girl." Wirrals raised a finely-shaped eyebrow, her lips pursed in a small mouι of disappointment, and her eyes turned their full beam on the hapless Squadron Leader. "Oh, well." Truckerson melted. "I don't suppose it will hurt - you are going to be my co-pilot on the mission after all." Wirrals sat down, pulling her chair close to the desk. Truckerson could smell Chanel, and his eyes were busy as she leaned forward to get a better view at the map spread on the desk between them. Truckerson felt dizzy with her scent. As they studied the map, heads close together, he was aware of a stirring, a need, a desire! Shakily, he carried on. "So we're going to land here." He pointed to a spot on the map. Wirrals face took on a puzzled frown. "Don't you mean here?" she asked, pointing to another location. Truckerson was puzzled; he checked the draft orders again. "Oh yes, you're right!" He gazed at her in admiration. "How did you know that?" His question was innocent, but he felt sure he'd caught a 'look' in her eye. She doesn't like to correct me, he thought, she admires me too much! He was sure he was right. Truckerson was often sure he was right. "Er, that first location is a reservoir. Unlikely we'd land there, unless we're taking a seaplane, Sir!" Truckerson guffawed. "Ha! Well, Old girl, you caught me there!" "Do go on, Sir!" Wirrals cajoled. Truckerson was in an excellent mood now. "Call me Trux!" he said. "In private, of course." "Well, Trux, thank you. Please continue." "Oh! Oh yes! Well, once we've landed…" Truckerson continued to explain the mission; the ground transport that awaited them; the lodgings with friendly landlords. Then, the master stroke! "One by one, the girls will go to the Nazi Headquarters and get jobs there." "Mmm." Wirrals looked doubtful. "How do you know they'll get the jobs?" Truckerson looked up, frankly amazed. "Because they are lovely girls, they'd do anything for anyone, they dress well, and they are always on time! These girls have worked in all the top Whitehall offices, they know all there is to know about how to run a war, how things tick" "Well." Wirrals looked closely at him, very closely. Truckerson swelled with pride, reddening slightly. "I guess that'll do it, then." Wirrals began to rise. "Thank you, Sir!" She saluted. "Er," Truckerson, for once in his life, was lost for words. This girl was different. Not like the others at all. He wanted to… He sought for the thought. Ah that was it! He wanted to cherish her, he decided. He felt all gooey inside. He looked up. She had gone! He'd missed his chance. "Damn!" Squadron Leader Truckerson slammed his fist on his desk, upsetting his mug of tea, which was cold now anyway. * As the weeks went by, preparation for the mission continued. Truckerson himself took charge of the aircraft they would use, forcing the mechanics to take things apart and rebuild them if the slightest flaw became apparent. "Sir!" A weary mechanic saluted. "It should be fine now!" Truckerson looked at the dishevelled figure, who was just finishing a 24-hr shift. "Are you sure?" Truckerson would not let his sympathy for the man override the necessity for perfection. He strode over to the plane, jumped into the open side door, and inspected a small panel in the floor. He undid the catch and began to lift the flap, head to one side. Everyone fell silent. As Truckerson continued, there was the tiniest squeak, the smallest hint of a noise. Truckerson froze. His majestic head turned to the mechanic, a doleful expression on his face. The mechanic made the mistake of protesting. "But Sir! That hatch is only opened for greasing every hundred flying hours. Shouldn't we be checking the engines?" Truckerson was irate. He jumped out of the hatch and called the Flight Sergeant. "Flight! Before he goes off duty, I want this man to strip and clean all the panels and hatches on this damn crate until they slide like an oiled cat! (Truckerson's imagery, alone amongst his many talents was sometimes quite imaginative). The Flight Sergeant began to open his mouth, but one look at Truckerson's face convinced him to hold his tongue. "After that, he's off the project!" The mechanic began to plead. Truckerson's lip curled with disdain. He turned on his heel and strode off. "Engines indeed." He muttered darkly. ***** The Old Man sat back in his chair. "OK, Trux, how's it going?" Truckerson was as excited as a dog with two tails. "It's looking good, Bingo! Very good! We had a spot of trouble with the inspection panels…" "Yes, I heard about that. Don't you think the mechanics should take a look at the engines?" Truckerson looked surprised. "That's what the Flight said, too. They tried to give me some flannel about the engines. Look Bingo, I've never had a problem with an engine, its just seat adjusters and inspection panels that go wrong, and I want this mission to be perfect." The Old Man gave a sigh. "Don't you think there's a reason for that, Trux. The engines I mean? Let them play with the engines, eh? It'll keep 'em happy." "Oh!" The light dawned in Truckerson's head. He had begun to feel a little 'down' at the Old man's remarks, but now he understood Bingo's wise words. "I see! It's a morale thing! Let them play with the engines, and they'll grease those hatches in better spirits. Wise words, Bingo old chap!" Truckerson's handsome face took on a thoughtful look. "There's a lot more to being a Squadron Leader than I thought." He mused. "I still have a few lessons to learn." "Glad you understand, Trux." The Old Man sighed again. * Squadron Leader "Trux" Truckerson strode confidently to his quarters. He had learnt a lot today, he thought. This mission was going to be a winner! He would see to that. He began to hum martial music, swinging his arms. Eyes closed, he tramped off through the flower bed, in a world of his own, scattering the daffs. Pilot Officer Wirrals was temporarily forgotten. Little did he know that waiting in his office was a confidential report which had the potential to change the course of history! In the next episode: The mission may be delayed by the imminent Battle of Britain. We shall see! But it sounds like our Hero has everything in his grasp - except the elusive Wirrals, of course! To read next episode - Click Here © John F Griffiths 2003
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TRUCKERSON - The Flight of the Chickens Chapter 1 (posted on: 14-06-13)
The original Truckerson! Following the Prose Workshop Challenge new snippet, Spotted Dick, here it is in all its glory. I'll be posting all ten episodes for those who care, every posting day. .

Health Warning: Here you will find traces of sexism, jingoism, racism (mild) but no bad language. Please bear with me, as by the end of the series, all will be balanced out and all commeuppances comeupped! You may find some familiar UKA figures lurking here, starting with 'Barry Truckerson', a WW2 pilot. The Flight of the Chickens – Part 1 - Ruffled Feathers The 'Old Man' sat behind his desk ''Sah!'' Flight Lieutenant Barry 'Trux' Truckerson entered the office and made an exaggerated salute, clicking his heels together. He was not a slim man, but he was tall, with a commanding air and a handsome face. The Old Man sighed. ''Sit, Truckerson! This is not a formal thing.'' ''Sah!'' The Old Man winced. Truckerson sat. ''Truckerson, I have some good news for you.'' Truckerson beamed. ''You have been promoted.'' The Old Man looked resigned. ''God knows why. It was probably that or a court martial, after the attack on the nunnery.'' ''Sah!'' Truckerson smiled. He remembered fondly buzzing the old kite over the targeted building as half-dressed nuns ran wildly about. A highly successful mission! The Old Man would have his little joke, though. ''Well, they want you to command a new special force to kick Johnny Hun where it hurts.'' ''Sah!'' Truckerson beamed again, dark eyes dancing gleefully in his broad face. The Old Man handed over the papers. ''You ship out in the morning,'' he said. They both stood up and saluted. ''Good Luck, Squadron Leader Truckerson. I hear you're getting a crack team. I'm sure you'll give the enemy Hell!'' Crack team, eh? Truckerson grinned. That sounded like something special. * Squadron Leader Truckerson squared his granite jaw and faced his men. They were all ladies, he noted. Good! A secret smile played across his beefy lips. Truckerson was a man's man. He had been a 'boy's boy' at boarding school, but had never been a man's woman. When given sufficient incentive, he could be a woman's man for a while. There was a commotion in the room. Girls were chattering and nudging each other. They were all dressed in blue skirts, with white blouses and hair neatly tucked into their caps. ''Settle down, girlies.'' Truckerson's calm voice quelled the fluttering crowd. His boyish face crinkled in concern, dark eyes blinking. ''Now!'' His words rang strongly in the arched lecture room. ''We have a crisis!'' The ladies twittered and clutched each other. ''Now, now, ladies. No need for alarm.'' His fatherly, yet commanding voice stilled his audience and tugged at their hearts. Truckerson looked serious. His steely gaze roved the room, pinning each under its questioning stare. Each woman felt singled out, as though she was going to be plucked from the crowd. Plucked! They dreamt dreamily. The mug was held on high. ''I need a cuppa!'' His handsome face split in a dazzling grin. The effect was instantaneous. A scuttling crowd fought to get to the canteen first, pushing, shoving, hair pulling. Cries of ''I say'', ''well I never'', ''yes you did!'', ''you, you ….naughty thing!'' followed them as they disappeared along the passageway in a clucking flock. Truckerson grinned cheekily. It might not be good for discipline, but it was good for his morale. Then he noticed a lone figure standing at the back. He walked forward. ''I say, who's that?'' There was one of his ladies left. He peered closer. It was the Australian bint who'd come over on loan. ''Wirrals?'' ''Sir!'' ''Come here, girlie!'' The slim figure moved towards Truckerson. He reached out and took her arm. He just had time to catch a whiff of Chanel, glimpse a pair of startling cornflower blue eyes and a tress of flaming red hair flying free, before a whistling fist caught him on the side of the head and knocked him to his knees. ''Getcha hands off me!'' she snarled. This was some woman, Truckerson thought ruefully from the floor. Could he tame this vixen? He'd tamed many before and had no doubt he could do so again. What a specimen! Great for the 'trophy wall' in his den. He could already imagine his pals, 'Flanker' and 'Boggles' chortling with glee as he described his conquest! He remembered the last one, ACW Everest – how they had chortled about her! Pals! He thought, bestest thing a man can have. But first things first, Truckerson decided, let's get Johnny Adolph sorted! * The 'Old Man' was briefing him. (Author's note: This is in fact, a different 'Old Man' from his last 'Old Man', but I'm afraid that's the way it goes in the Air Force). ''Truckerson!'' Truckerson beamed. ''Sah!'' ''I've given you a crack team!'' ''Sah!'' ''Look, Truckerson, can't you just converse normally, we're not on parade now.'' ''Sah! Yes Sah! Well OK, Bingo, if you say so.'' The Old Man breathed a sigh of relief. Truckerson was a good man (or so his curiously amended record seemed to say), but very enthusiastic when it came to saluting, parading and shouting. At the last march-past, Truckerson had all but taken over. A dominant figure of a man, the chaps had all started to follow him, and he started barking out his own orders. As his eyes were closed, the marching column tended to weave about a bit. But it had been a fine sight until the 'lake' incident! ''Look Trux, what you've got to do is get your girls into Berlin, into the Jerry HQ, and into positions of responsibility. That should sink the damn Nazis!'' ''But I'm just a flyer, sir. I just buzz about a bit and knock hell out of anything I see.'' The Old Man thought of the nunnery. ''Yes, well, Trux. We reviewed every available officer, and ended up with your name. In fact the AVM himself said, ''If anyone should go, it should be this chap.'' Truckerson swelled with pride. His eyes shone. ''Well, Bingo, I've licked most of them into shape, there's only one little problem.'' ''That Australian bint?'' ''Spot on!'' ''Well, we could pull her out if it helps you.'' Truckerson's heart leapt in trepidation. What is this? he thought. I'm going soppy! But hurriedly he responded. ''Well, Bingo, I never shirked a challenge. She'll be a hard nut to crack, but I'd like to tackle her.'' ''Good man! That's the spirit! Never let a woman get the better of you, eh?'' ''Exactly, sir. But I'd like a bit more gen on the flatmate.'' ''Ah!'' The Old Man tapped his nose. ''Bit of the old….'' ''Don't know, sir.'' Truckerson spoke abruptly. ''Just like to find out.'' Wondering what had come over him, Truckerson bade farewell to the old man and returned to training his flock. Suddenly he came to a dead halt, eyes shining. He'd had an idea! – Perhaps the plan would work better if the girls spoke German? Have to ask old Fodders. Bugger me! Innovative thought! He preened, congratulating himself. I'm full of it! he thought. Barry 'Trux' Truckerson slept well that night. He dreamed of cornflower blue eyes and red hair while tossing gently in his sleep. To be continued……. In the next episode: 'Wirrals' looks like quite a challenge for our hero! However, Truckerson has to abandon the chase for a couple of weeks while he wins the Battle of Britain, and beards Hitler in his den! Nonetheless, he is back on the case pretty quickly. But who is Wirrals' mysterious flatmate (and very close buddy) 'Flecks' who seems so opposed to him? All will be revealed………………..in part 2. To read next episode - Click Here © John F Griffiths 2003 *
Archived comments for TRUCKERSON - The Flight of the Chickens Chapter 1

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Spotted Dick (posted on: 03-06-13)
A story for the Prose Workshop Challenge. Back to my roots ... πŸ™‚

Spotted Dick The giant aircraft carrier stood off an uninhabited stretch of the west coast of Scotland. Various stealth techniques ensured it was invisible to radar, and regular patrols had been diverted to other areas. * The Chinook appeared over the fold of a Scottish hill. Very soon, a second followed. Their target was a vast stone house, built like a fortress, with gravel drives and ornate gardens all around. In front of the house, notable among the other cars, was a vintage Aston Martin. As the second Chinook landed a number of men sprang from it and fanned out. Three black Apaches hovered overhead. After a pause, the door of the first Chinook opened and a tall, distinguished-looking figure emerged, stepping down onto the red carpet. * 'Jimmy!' The booming voice rang out down the corridor. A lean, poised, but elderly figure turned, and recognition lit his face. 'My god! My god! Truckerson! Is it really you? I haven't seen you since we ... .' Ex- Air Marshall Sir Barry Truckerson raised a finger to his lips. 'Not here, Jimmy, walls have ears old boy, even here.' He gave an enormous wink. Bond could hardly believe it. He stood for a moment examining the upright stance, the clear gaze, the alertness of the man. Christ, he must be in his nineties, but you wouldn't know it. Truckerson clapped an arm around Bond's shoulders. 'You and I are due for a turn round the garden.' 'Fine, I need a walk.' Truckerson stepped back, then his face approached Bond's. This had often made lesser men quail, but Bond was made of sterner stuff. Still, he waited in trepidation. 'Walk? Walk? You mean ''march'' Jimmy, ''march''.' A martial oompah sound escaped Truckerson's still beefy lips. 'Come on, I'll fill you in on why Dick is here.' 'Dick?' 'The President, man. Don't you know him?' 'Not as well as you do, it seems.' Bond grinned. 'Well, we were very close when ... .' Truckerson broke off, eyes darting from side to side. 'Garden!' he barked. * The Head Gardener looked on with puzzlement at his prize daffodil beds. It was a small miracle that he'd been able to grow them in this climate. Now, flattened trails criss-crossed them. But he couldn't complain, not about the gents who were congregating here. He held top security clearance. * In a quiet corner of the garden, Truckerson was explaining the situation to Bond. 'Holt's at it again. This time it's helium.' 'So the president wants us to ... .' 'Yes.' 'And he feels that the threat comes from ... .' 'Yes.' 'And somehow we have to ... .' 'Yes.' ' ... without involving him or the US.' 'Exactly! Well done, Jimmy.' Bond's mind went back to the last time he and Truckerson had met and the march in St. James's Park. Happy days! Although Holt himself had slipped their net, they had freed the world's supply of Lethronium. Bond hated being called 'Jimmy' but this man could do no wrong: the Battle of Britain, the comet, and that other thing ... Not to mention Saddam. What a man! * Truckerson had briefed Bond thoroughly. Glancing at his watch, he declared, 'Time for lunch.' With a look of anticipation, his tongue licking his lips, he added, 'We're having it with Dick. I hope I don't have to talk too much, I'm hungry. Must be the air. ' Truckerson drew in deep breaths of the clear Scottish air, and grinned. 'Ironic, really.' * The President's conversation was mainly directed at Bond, testing him on his understanding of the mission. At one end of the table, Truckerson was forking grouse and crispy roast potatoes into his mouth. A grin spread across his face as he chewed, and a small dribble of gravy graced his chin. The President smiled at him indulgently and turned back to Bond. 'I can sees Trux has briefed you well. And you think ... .' 'Well, we'll have a go, and the possibility of success is high,' said Bond carefully. The President's brow furrowed. From the end of the table there was a clang as Truckerson's knife and fork dropped. Clearing his mouth of its burden, Truckerson sputtered. 'Dick, we'll bloody well do it! Don't you worry.' He glared at Bond. The President's face cleared. 'Thanks, Trux. I knew you'd come through.' 'Well, I owe you guys a lot. I really enjoyed walking on that comet.' 'I'm supposed to stay neutral, but you really stuck it to the Army.' 'They deserved it.' 'Yes they did.' 'Whatever became of Nielsen?' 'A changed man, they told me. Distinguished career, well-loved by all accounts.' 'Good. I did some good then.' 'You did a lot of good. That other thing, when you ....' Truckerson raised his finger to his lips and his eyes darted around the room. He was probably the only person who could get away with shushing the Presiedent. 'Oh, er, yes,' the President stuttered. 'Mum's the word, old boy.' Truckerson wished yanks wouldn't do that, try to speak what they believed was 'English lingo'. Truckerson recalled a film where some American chap's completely appalling attempts had ruined the film for him. But hold on! Truckerson's eyes glazed over and his jaws stilled. Floating down on an umbrella. That was it! As he elaborated the plan in his mind, Truckerson resumed eating, signalling for seconds as he chewed. The President faced Bond and nodded towards Truckerson. 'Looks like he's on the trail of something.' Bond took in the vacant gaze and the ever moving jaw. 'That Trux,' he said. 'That Trux indeed,' echoed the President. * The choppers had left in the afternoon and Bond was giving Truckerson a lift in the Aston. As they sped south, Truckerson told Bond of his plan. 'Good god, Trux, that sounds well-nigh impossible. I'm not a young man any more.' A worried frown crossed Bond's face as he expertly negotiated a procession of lorries on the twisting highland road. 'Steady on!' Truckerson's right hand clutched the dashboard. He'd never liked cars. 'Don't forget I'll be with you, Jimmy.' A grin flashed across the beefy Truckerson face. 'All the way.' Bond felt a surge of relief. Reassured, he relaxed, dropping the Aston a gear and screeching round a hairpin bend. Truckerson clutched the dashboard with both hands. * Three weeks later, the two men sat in Bond's club, a backgammon board between them. Truckerson had trounced Bond yet again. 'I don't like these foreign games,' Truckerson muttered. 'Give me a good honest English game like draughts anyday.' Bond decided not to inform him of the origin of draughts, instead changing the subject. ' Well, Trux, we did it.' 'We did indeed, Jimmy.' The Truckerson visage beamed, dark eyes rolling. ' Dick's little problem is solved. Something of a rollercoaster ride.' 'Literally,' Bond said, recalling the struggle at the funfair. 'And thanks for the iron maiden thing, Trux. Once again, I owe you my life. And we finally got Holt ... .' The Truckerson finger was raised to the Truckerson lips. 'Not here, Jimmy.' 'But he's dead.' 'Yes, we hope so, but still, walls have ears. Now how about a march?' Bond rose and followed the still sprightly figure as a beaming Truckerson, oompahing gently, headed for St James's Park and the daffodil beds. Truckerson first appeared on this site in 2002, shorlly after it was founded. In 20 weekly episodes, a story was told which eventually was compiled into a book, and published. It sold some hundreds of copies, half, for some reason, going to libraries. Many of those copies are now available on amazon second-hand at giveway prices. Worth a punt for those who don't know him. 'Truckerson'
Archived comments for Spotted Dick
bluepootle on 03-06-2013
Spotted Dick
Nice to see Truckerson and Jimmy Bond catching up there. And you got all five items in there. And they even made sense in their context. Light and fun, and Truckerson was ebullient. I enjoyed it.

You've got some missing speech marks and it could do with a general tidy-up.




Author's Reply:
Thank you! All those quote marks. How did that happen?

Was there any 'tidying up' apart from them?

SirClip on 03-06-2013
Spotted Dick
I really enjoyed this. I am not familiar with Truckerson but I got a mental picture staight away despite this. I liked the way the mission was discussed without actually saying anything. It didnt need to be.

I could argue that the first scene could be cut out since it does not add anything to the story but then it did introduce both an aircraft carrier and the red carpet so I guess it is excused.

I shall have to delve into the archives for more Truckerson.

Author's Reply:
Good! He's worth it even if I say it myself.

The first part is, of course, the start of the mission, with the President undertaking a secret visit. And it was also for the repetition of the helicopters, a little quirk writing Truckerson induces in me.

Thank you.

Amended the first part.

Rupe on 03-06-2013
Spotted Dick
The narrative has an effective brevity about it - it moves along fast & reinforces the sense of military efficiency that lies behind the piece. I particularly like this section of truncated speech:

"Holt’s at it again. This time it’s helium.’

β€˜So the president wants us to ... .’

β€˜Yes.’

β€˜And he feels that the threat comes from ... .’

β€˜Yes.’

β€˜And somehow we have to ... .’

β€˜Yes.’

β€˜ ... without involving him or the US.’

β€˜Exactly! Well done, Jimmy.’"

I tend to agree with SirClip that the opening scene on the aircraft carrier is superfluous - but it serves its purpose in allowing you to get all five items in.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Thanks.

When I thought of the story, it started with the carrier. At the time, I did not know where the rest of the story would go, so it's not an addition.

Amended the first part.

bluepootle on 03-06-2013
Spotted Dick
This bit needs clearing up:

β€˜Jimmy!’ The booming voice rang out down the corridor. A lean, poised, but elderly figure turned, and recognition lit his face. β€˜My god! My god! Truckerson! Is it really you? I haven’t seen you since we ... .’

Should there be a para break after 'his face'? I got lost in who was speaking.


Author's Reply:
Oops!

Fixed

Thanks

sirat on 03-06-2013
Spotted Dick



Another subtle invitation fron Griff to invest in this fine work, and I urge you to do so.
I agree that the first section adds little and is there to satisfy the requirements of the challenge, but it's a witty and enjoyable piece that has all the freshness and relevance of Rocky 14 or Friday the 13th Part 23. Devotees of the original will love it. The rest of us... might enjoy it too.

Author's Reply:
You got me bang to rights, guv!

Actually, I think Trux is out there in electronic form, but I forgot which site has it.

The original story is no longer available here, but there are a few teasers/samples lying around, I don't think the Saddam story is here either, but of course that is also inhabited by characters from 'The Wizard's Disc', a Larry Niven blessed steal, with characters I pinched from others on this site .

Amended the first part now

TheBigBadG on 04-06-2013
Spotted Dick
Yep, lots of fun. He reminds me a little bit of Tom Strong if he'd been in the Bullingdon Club. The parallels to the last Bond film are good too, indeed I'd much rather have seen this version. You saved half an hour of tardy nonsense with the banter there. Bond as an increasingly browbeaten character has a lot of potential too.

A couple of things I noted to tidy up:
  • Near the start, maybe specify it's another Chinook when you say 'As the second one landed.' As it is it sounds a bit like a second Aston just landed. Which sounds plausible given the piece, admittedly.

  • 'He held top security clearance', should be they as it refers to the gents not the President.

I didn't see anything else, but it is early and I'm not dressed yet. Too much information?

Author's Reply:
Good point on the Chinook

The security clearance refers to the head gardener. I'll check that it's not confusing

Thank you.

shadow on 08-06-2013
Spotted Dick
Great to see Truckerson is still going strong - I was afraid he might have dropped off his perch. But when are you going to reveal his role in the demise of that Al Qaida fella?

Author's Reply:
And nice to see you around, Miss Verdi, especially as you feature in the book. πŸ™‚

You know, that is a very good idea.... *hmms*


Greyland (posted on: 20-05-13)
For the poetry workshop challenge. I have so many I could pick (:-)) but this is short and evocative, and I sorta like it.

Greyland Ice lying on the lake, And frost upon the bough Snow-smitten heathen land! There's little here enow Crake sounding on the air The picking's poor they call Our stone-enmounded hof Will not see joy in hall Invected icy ground Step-slipping our foray And each new hidden place Engrails our current prey Note: 'enow' is a poetic form of enough. 'hof' means family farm in German/Scandinavian and 'shrine' in Iceland. It is used here loosely to denote a settlement. 'invected' and 'engrailed' are words from heraldry, invected being a pattern of semicircular concave ruts (the difficult surface of the icy ground), while engrailed refers to a repetitive pattern of what look like small pots (ie places of concealment) - or grails. Hope that helps.
Archived comments for Greyland
franciman on 20-05-2013
Greyland
Hi John,
Your piece has an old Anglo Saxon feel to it. It took me to a cold, bare place - so evocative in that regard. From half way through, I became confused as to the message, due to not understanding the words you use. Overall I enjoyed your poem, though I feel it lost its way toward the end.
cheers,
Jim

Author's Reply:
I think the original of this had footnotes explaining enow, invected and engrails. Certainly if the meaning of the last two is obscure, it would indeed render the last verse less than apposite. I will try to find and add the notes for others. Thankyou for reading .

Shywolf on 21-05-2013
Greyland
Yes, footnotes would be most welcome, unless you want the reader to puzzle out the meanings based on context alone. Personally, I'm all for making new words, or using old words in brave new ways. They add an element of the exotic to a poem, which in this case, fits the theme of a different time and place perfectly.

Shy

(PS - the other reason I like making new words is you get to play god by defining them as you like.)

Author's Reply:
Thankyou. I appreciate the comments. In fact the three words are genuine, if obscure, as I've now explained. I did choose them to fit the poem.

Slovitt on 21-05-2013
Greyland
John: i started by going to the on-line dictionary for "hof", "invected", and "engrails", and now i see you've provided help. an odd rhythmic piece with muscular lines that read aloud have some punch. you have created a "greyland", (i agree with jim, there's an anglo-saxon feel to it all), cold, and hard. so probably the world was most of centuries past. an engaging short poem. swep

Author's Reply:
Thank you

karen123 on 21-05-2013
Greyland
I have learnt some new words which is always a joy. Thanks for your poem it was very enjoyable to read

Author's Reply:
Thanks

Savvi on 21-05-2013
Greyland
The images are bleak and stark with hints of warmth, I had to use your look up guide but other than that a very enjoyable read, thanks Savvi.

Author's Reply:
Welcome.

stormwolf on 21-05-2013
Greyland
I must be bloody brilliant! πŸ˜‰ I knew the words already *boasts*
I thought it was descriptive with added richness by the use of the old words. To me they gave the impression that the person speaking was very old and wise.

Snow-smitten heathen land!
There’s little here enow

You've been to Nairn then? The brevity of the lines added emphases as did the perfect title.
Alison x

Author's Reply:
Hah hah!

Well, I always knew the Scots were a wise and educated race.

Thank you.


The Challenge (posted on: 10-05-13)
Story for the Prose Workshop Challenge. Short, but I couldn't hink of whatto write (ahem).

The Challenge He looked at the pictures again, for what must have been the twentieth time. Nothing. Two of them were essentially abstract patterns, one was , frankly, very frightening. It touched something in his innermost fears, something deep in his mind – a gigantic figure covered in some hideous growth, reaching out. He didn't want to explore what it might trigger in his mind. Only one picture attracted him, interested him. But where was the story? A deserted house half-filled with sand – perhaps the history leading up to it, as it certainly had no future. Bur what? How could he create something different, new, from what after all was an old, old story? Science fiction? Yes, that would get him out of this hole. But it always did, it was too easy. The others would sneer. He hadn't written anything for a year, since he'd been ill, except for a true account of a hospital stay where the chap in the next bed had died. But that wasn't creative in any way, merely an account. Thinking about his recent attempts, half-finished, he seemed to have regressed, forgotten the techniques he'd so often preached to others . Now the others preached at him: 'Not up to your normal standard', ' You haven't quite ...'. He'd found a story of his in a magazine, published many years back. He read through it, wincing at the technical errors. And the 'screamers'! Completely amateur mistakes. Was he any better now, he wondered. Was it writer's block? He thought that was where you had idea, you sat down and nothing came out. He didn't have any ideas. Nothing. And why bother when his writing obviously was so poor now? At least according to the others. What could he do? The 'others' was a clique of experienced writers. They'd been kind in the past, but not now. He had the impression he was included on sufferance. This was his chance. Over the last months, he'd failed and failed again to produce anything for their challenges. This time he really wanted to get serious and come up with something worth reading, something worthy of their attention. Something to show he was as good as them. He was, of course he was! He had more potential in his little finger than any of them. While they mouthed polite words, he could detect the scorn, the pity, behind them. It was part of their plan. They wanted him to fail. They'd be PM'ing each other, sniggering. But he was strong, determined now. He would rise above it. He'd show them. But still, what could he write about? It would have to be next time. He'd have more time to prepare. He'd show them. Next time he'd really show them. Yes, next time ... (sorry this is probably more a skeleton, rather than being fleshed out as it should be, into a slow build. But I've had a hectic week and my intentions weren't fulfilled) G
Archived comments for The Challenge
TheBigBadG on 10-05-2013
The Challenge
You're going to break my heart, Mr G. First off, I'll take on board the point about pictures needing people, or some kind of device in them if I use them again to set the challenge. I was hoping people would latch onto settings or some such but, as we've noted, you're not the only one who found this a head-scratcher.

Secondly I hope they don't sneer at sic-fi, for admittedly selfish reasons. If you're coming back into writing after a break though, maybe the familiar is a good place to start?

Thirdly, on the theme, it's something here everyone can relate to and writing through it is as good a solution as I can think of. It's one for writers, of course, but equally one we can all realte to on a pretty personal level as a result. We've all had fallow patches, and shared in some of the more insecure thoughts you air. Your paranoid side is wrong though. I don't take any of it on sufferance from anyone, never have. I think David expressed it most clearly in the forums recently but we ultimately compete against ourselves, not each other.

So welcome back, it's really nice to see you up there at the top of the feed too. Feels like it's been a long time coming. See you in my piece for some sneering, right?

G

Author's Reply:
Don't take me literally. This is a technique I use occasionally. Pick some tiny things, with connections to your readers, and blow them up. A thread of truth wrapped in hysteria πŸ˜‰

Please don’t take the pictures to heart. It was just a good prompt to hang the story around.

SirClip on 10-05-2013
The Challenge
A neat side-step!

I hope it was meant to be taken 'tongue in cheek'. I certainly took it that way. Very good.

Author's Reply:
Of course. Older hands will recognise the style.

bluepootle on 10-05-2013
The Challenge
I can't really be very objective about this, which is interesting. It touches a nerve in me, about why we set these challenges and what we're meant to be getting out of them. So, leaving that aside -

The writing is clean and clear, the detached ironic style in full swing. Good to see you using that style again. Look, not objective again. Pants.

Author's Reply:
Thanks. I wonder what it is that upsets you. Too close to the truth? ;-). We all must have unworthy thoughts when we are low. I do.

Nomenklatura on 10-05-2013
The Challenge
I was going to be very flippant and post a comment along the lines of 'I was going to comment, but I couldn't think whatto say.'

However, this is too good to be so facile. You have described a situation that resonates with many people and you've done it well. I have often mocked people who treat writing as therapy, or people who write about 'the block'. I confess I don't do it so much now, since a particularly dry patch left me quite depressed.

So, clever, well written and -yes- brave (those PMs!): subjective though my reaction may be, I applaud your piece.
regards
Ewan

Author's Reply:
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

ruadh on 10-05-2013
The Challenge
Nicely done Mr G! I've not written anything new for a long, long time, and I keep checking the challenges hoping one of them will spur me on. I plumped for the sand house but didn't get far.



Author's Reply:
Thanks for your kind words. πŸ˜‰

sirat on 11-05-2013
The Challenge
Snap out of it, man!
No, that wasn't very sympathetic, was it?
I had the same problems this time, couldn't come up with anything that I would want other people to see. All I came up with was an excuse, designed mainly to satisfy me. We had 104 short story submissions for the coming edition of Gold Dust, and every one of them gets a personal comment/critique. That's our promise, and it doesn't half take some doing. Now I'm down to the final fifteen. When it's that time again everything else tends to get driven out of my mind.
Please rate this excuse on a scale of 1 - 10.

Author's Reply:
See my reply to Rupe

Rupe on 11-05-2013
The Challenge
I have to admit, some of the PMs were vicious, just vicious. Only kidding...

I gathered from various bits and pieces I picked up in the UKA forums (after a long break from UKA) that you've had a bit of a rough time lately. Good to hear you're on the mend. I imagine it's only to be expected that getting back into the swing of writing may take some time, but sometimes a break from scribbling, even if forced upon you against your will, can be a good thing - you'll probably find yourself writing some really good stuff before too long. In the meantime, this sort of exercise is a good way to start building up momentum.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Some people seem to regard this as a personal account. It's not, it's fiction. Yes I've used a lot of colour from my own experience, but I certainly don't think or feel like my poor character :-).

So take it at face value - it's a story, that's all.


Your Turn (posted on: 01-04-13)
For the Poetry workshop challenge. A quick dash...

Your Turn You were the one You made your choice I'm not averse to solitude. And see...? The world still turns. You were the one The one who wanted something else. And now you have it To yourself.
Archived comments for Your Turn
Savvi on 02-04-2013
Your Turn
A quick dash that captures everything that needs to be said, who's the fool now summed up very well. Much enjoyed S

Author's Reply:
Thank you. πŸ˜‰


Seasonal (posted on: 01-03-13)
For the poetry workshop challenge. This is an older one of mine.

Belling peal of Easter's greeting Song of birds, However fleeting. Heralding the coming season Warming days and scenting nights. In the sunlight, cow-shapes looming Pass the wood where Flowers blooming Fill the air with sweet profusion Colours blend in sighting eye. 'Cross the mere the wild ducks gather Now at dusk The wild palaver Fills the night with lovesome sound Chorusing the songs.
Archived comments for Seasonal
chant_z on 02-03-2013
Seasonal
Very fine piece. As for me I learned a couple of new words here :). It flows on very nicely to me and the last 3 lines are very good with the "chorusing" etc.

Author's Reply:
Wow! Praise indeed from someone like yourself!

Thankyou very much.

I have to admit my poetry is erratic, but sometimes, with the muse upon me, I do feel I've got one 'just right'. This was such a one.

Savvi on 03-03-2013
Seasonal
Very much enjoyed, you show us some great sights, really like the opening line. S

Author's Reply:
Thank you. Much appreciated.


Rain Coat (posted on: 28-01-13)
For the Poetry Challenge - a haiku

Rain Coat (a Haiku) Leaves are coated wet: Time for rains to come again. Growing life for trees.
Archived comments for Rain Coat
bo_duke99 on 28-01-2013
Rain Coat
love it

Author's Reply:
Why thankyou!

Red-Poppies on 28-01-2013
Rain Coat
Enjoyed short and sweet.

Author's Reply:
Quite unlike me.

Thanks

ifyouplease on 28-01-2013
Rain Coat
simple. probably good haiku.

egriff asks probably?
my reply:
i cannot "judge" i don't know much about haiku. so i'm almost guessing it's good, simple and good.

Author's Reply:
Probably?

CVaughan on 28-01-2013
Rain Coat
I liked the dual take of the rain's impact in human and natural terms. Good haiku IMVHO.

Author's Reply:
You got it!

Thank you

Miel on 28-01-2013
Rain Coat
A neat haiku

Author's Reply:
As I said above, quite unlike me...

butters on 28-01-2013
Rain Coat
ok, griff, you have your 5-7-5, a seasonal reference with the 'time for rains to come again', and that last line which confuses me a little.

you capture a moment with the first line, but with the second it feels as if the leaves are still waiting for the rain, and your last line is throwing me off-balance.

the cut is at the end of L1, right? you've been reading up more on haiku so i'm bowing to your superior knowledge - but where's the aha! moment where you tie in two very different images with the third line? should a ku have a title? it's something I learned was a no-no. [alright, i'm yanking your chain a wee bit here, griff - it was titled as per challenge so don't you be chuckin' things at me now :p )

the 'moment' caught with the first line feels, then, stretched out by what follows. could be I'm seing this all wrong πŸ™

I'm only asking to try and understand this difficult form better, so looking to you for some answers here πŸ˜€

Author's Reply:
I don't think an 'aha' moment is part of the traditional definition, I guess it's a recent embellishment. I do include a contrasting point of view...

Savvi on 28-01-2013
Rain Coat
You have it all, the cut is a little to on the nose for me but still a very tight Haiku nicley done.

Author's Reply:
Thanks

franciman on 29-01-2013
Rain Coat
Guess I'm not into Haiku.
At the point that you have to say in the title it's Haiku I have to ask why Haiku?
The Japanese masters take a single esoteric happening and turn it into the ascetic fall of a cherry blossom. So what?
If it is in answer to a rigid form of poetry, then why bother with poetry, why not a mathematical formulae?
The one thing I will agree with is that the arguement should be debated in a poetry workshop. Sorry,
Jim

Author's Reply:
Why haiku? Why not? Same reason we write sonnets etc, testing ourselves against established verse forms to flex the poetic muscle....

You will find the discussion on the discuss /review forum.

G


franciman on 29-01-2013
Rain Coat
Hi John,
I apologise for my last comment. It was rude and unwarranted. The fact that I was having a bad day is no excuse. I do not see the attraction in the form but that should not stand in the way of honest and balanced comment.
Sorry
Jim


Author's Reply:
No problem - I'm used to it πŸ˜‰

Seriously though, it is a valid question...


The Man in the Next Bed (posted on: 28-01-13)
For the prose workshop challenge. 'Observations from a hospital bed'

(edited 12.00 and 1400 Monday and finally 10 feb) The Man in the Next Bed He was larger than life. Sitting up high in the bed as they wheeled it in, he looked around him, giving no sign of acknowledgement to the rest of us. It was normal for arriving patients to be greeted with a 'hello' and to respond. He took no notice. I saw a look in his eye I couldn't place. I'd seen it before, but couldn't put my finger on it. We were in the Cardiac Care Unit. On this ward, we were subject to twenty-four monitoring. It was where patients waiting for a 'procedure' were kept, and where they recovered afterwards. 'Procedure' could mean many things – from a quick insertion of a stent to a replacement heart valve. The stent people were in one day, done the next and out the following day. I was amazed at the speed, and the relatively minor effect apparent with such patients. The man spoke to the nurses in a peremptory way, once calling for them to bring him a cup of tea when they were attending to other patients. He seemed oblivious to other people's feelings. He began to get on my nerves. He was in the next bed to me – in the corner. Later, he sat in a chair on my side of his bed. He pushed his table right up to my bed so I couldn't close my curtains and ate grapes. He exchanged no pleasantries, never looked at me even though he was just feet away. I've said he was peremptory with the nurses. All except one. It seemed he liked her. He spoke to her politely and in a soft tone. That evening, his family came to visit. He was charm itself, and you could tell they loved him. It puzzled me. What could explain this split personality? The next day, I heard him say to his favourite nurse, 'I'm going to die'. She pooh-poohed him and set about cheering him up, telling him his problem would be solved and there was nothing to worry about. That evening, as she left by the doors on the far side of the ward, I heard him say, 'Please don't go' in an uncharacteristically quiet tone. She could not possibly have heard him. I was quietly reading my book when the duty nurse came around the corner of the six-bed bay, stopped, and then ran towards his bed, shouting, 'Don't get out of bed!' The side curtains of my bed were drawn so I couldn't see what he was up to. Another nurse ran up and told the first nurse to get the crash trolley, which was stationed on the ward. I could hear them doing something and an alarm was going off. The nurse closed all our curtains and in what seemed like seconds a stream of people came running. I could see their feet passing by under my curtain. There must have been about seven or eight of them. I recognised the sound of electric shock activity, then the inevitable ... 'Are we agreed?' They all left, leaving me beside him with only a curtain between us. Ten minutes later, a nurse came past on the way to his bed and I asked what was going on. 'Just cleaning him up,' she said. * In only another twenty minutes, his family arrived. His wife and two sons. One son swore, shouted and raged, while the wife was calm – I could hear her speaking to both of them soothingly. More family arrived and there was more crying. They didn't take the body away until two o'clock in the morning, some five hours later. The curtains at the foot of my bed were now slightly open and I saw the black trolley with the cover passing by. The next day, some patients left and new ones arrived. One was put in the man's bed. They didn't broadcast the news about him, and I had to tell his favourite nurse myself when she came on duty and asked me where he was. I think she was fond of him. Sad? Yes. I was torn. I didn't like him, but felt guilty because he had died. I could have tried harder, talked to him, smiled ... perhaps if he had been relaxed and more comfortable whatever happened wouldn't have happened. Was I in any way responsible for his fate? Even in the tiniest way ... ? Then my mind went back to his arrival. I remembered the look in his eyes. It wasn't superiority, disdain, selfishness, I realised. It was fear.
Archived comments for The Man in the Next Bed
TheBigBadG on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
On technicalities first of all, I'd be inclined to lose the inverted commas around the final 'favourite', it makes it insincere as it is which doesn't seem fair. Also, there are a few cases where sentences would work better without early commas, like 'That evening, his family came to visit, including the children.'

That aside, the short sentences and clipped, occasionally perfunctory, tone suit the piece really well. There's that Chekovian sense that it's all happening off-stage, that the narrator is adjacent to tragedy more than part of it. The other man's larger than life front playing against that inevitable (I assume?) sense of culpability for witnessing, even obliquely, death and its aftermath works as a comment on mortality and perceptions of it. Ultimately, it all comes down to the unknowable and how we handle, it doesn't it.

Author's Reply:
Fair enough on quotes.

Commas? I guess I'm 'classical' where they are concerned. But I'll take a look.

Thanks for reading, and good comments.

franciman on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
I liked the premise behind this story. The voice is authentic in that the narrator is not au fait with the functioning of such a unit. It adds to the fear factor and so to the moral of the story. Because it is faction, I think you have fallen into the trap of providing accurate description. There is no real need to place the bed, to put times and durations to the collection of the body. I think I recognise this from a recent challenge, the opening certainly?

I found this sentence grated on me, the reader, on a number of counts:

When she went off duty that evening, I heard him, in an uncharacteristically quiet tone, say very quietly under his breath, β€˜Please don’t go’. She did not hear him.

Overall a good story but not written with your usual skill, nor your eye for detail.

Author's Reply:
The only excuse I can cling to is that I had left it (for the third time) to the last minute and then was running a temperature. But I had to post it this time.

I'm not sure what the story would be without the details . It would be very bare. They are intended to build up appreciation of the scene and the man.

I understand what you mean by 'trap' but that would only apply if I'd put everything 'true' in, regardless of the needs of the story. What I've included is certainly true, but I would say selected only as a conscious writing judgement.

This IS all completely true, barely dramatised, with some hindsight in the narration.

I can't see at all what you mean about that sentence. It's the second step of two (first being 'going to die') that take us from the' look' to the fear. In fact, it's the only clear pointer in the story to the denouement, so, for me, necessary. Perhaps you could explain what 'grates' and why.

Thanks for reading and commenting

bluepootle on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
The straightforward approach of the narration gives this an edge of realism that makes it quite a powerful piece.

If it was me I would chop the reference to the Vicar of Dibley which makes me think it's going to be more light-hearted than it is. There's some good details, like the eating of the grapes. Maybe I would have liked a bit more of these details of annoyance as a build-up but really it's a very compact and effective piece as it is. Good last line.

Author's Reply:
Fair enough (vicar)

Thanks

ifyouplease on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
realism! liked it. hi Griffy! would you like a surrealistic version of your story with abstract elements? *rubs hands*

Author's Reply:
Eh? You know me - I'm pedestrian... πŸ˜‰

franciman on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Hi John,
To explain:

When she went off duty that evening, I heard him, in an uncharacteristically quiet tone, say very quietly under his breath, β€˜Please don’t go’. She did not hear him.

When she went off duty, I heard him say very quietly, β€˜Please don’t go’. I don't know if she heard him.

The original is padded. That evening is unnecessary and either quietly, or under his breath, not both. The quiet tone was not uncharacteristic for the nurse; nor in reality for you? She did not hear him seems a godlike assertion and an assumption on your part. But it is the punctuation and phrasing that grate the most. It is at best inelegant and is uncharacteristic for you. In your editorial hat, you would have a field day with this John. C'mon!

Author's Reply:
Fair enough on the all-knowing - lazy writing!

I would say that the commas are all correct in the classical sense although there seem a lot. Modern writing tends to drop commas where they don't add to comprehension. Here though, I would say if I left any out, it would make the meaning less clear. However one would have to balance that against those readers who have an aversion to them.

I'm currently editing a book where the author uses such classical punctuation. Although I have taken out a few commas, I left most as the style is part of the 'voice' of the author, which an editor should not trespass on. Similarly with your other point about floriferous writing. It's a style. It's voice. There are no hard and fast rules that you shouldn't do it (or should :-))

In context, 'uncharacteristically', I would have thought, is clearly my (as the patient/narrator) opinion. I can see your point on 'quiet' and 'under his breath', but I'll have to consider whether it this is useful reinforcement or pointless repetition.

Thankyou for your comments. Most useful.

Will edit a bit

Andrea on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
I liked it. I do agree with Jim, though, re some of the (imo) extraneous commas. A nice slice of (hospital) life, though.

Author's Reply:
see replies above ...

ifyouplease on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
pedestrian! canoe your stories! join the adventurous surrealistic mind! waterfall ahead!

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Sorry, it was actually BBG I was agreeing with (although I do agree with Jim to some extent as well). For example, in this sentence (as BBG said):

'That evening, his family came to visit, including the children.' I do think the sentence would flow better if the first comma was left out.

Just my opinion.

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
okay, fair enough. The sentence Jim commented on was correctly punctuated. However, as I said ... so I have recast it.

Author's Reply:

Mikeverdi on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Just to say I enjoyed the read, having spent time in hospital myself I recognised the scene a little too well. I don't feel qualified to critique as my work is always under the cosh! but safe to say it was great IMO. Mike

Author's Reply:
Thank you. Appreciated.

butters on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
a most human voice, with human responses to input under difficult circumstances - no-one wants to be in a hospital bed waiting to discover what their particular 'procedure' might be. well, not unless they've been waiting a long time and want it over with.

I digress.

for me, the little things add to the scene - I had no issue with the bed-placement or other details. I think you've managed to make this a) easily readable, b) a story from a pov we can buy into without much difficulty as it's all too easy to place ourselves in the narrator's position, and c) interesting!

my only issues lay with certain punctuation in three phrases - some of which have already been addressed but here're my two-pennies' worth:

That evening, his family came to visit, including some children.

I'd agree with dropping the first comma. I can hear the smaller pause after 'evening' without needing the comma, whereas the second is required to denote the slightly longer pause.

The nurse closed all our curtains, and in what seemed like seconds, a stream of people came running

Here I don't believe the comma before 'and' works as it stands because that creates a clause of what comes after 'curtains' and before 'a' ... if you need that first comma, then you also need one after 'and' for it to read correctly, imho.

It wasn’t superiority, disdain, selfishness, I realised.

perhaps 'or selfishness, I realised.'?

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Ok, commaphobics,

Will have another go at it

Author's Reply:

expat on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
I'd recognise the opening as a griff-voice if this was an anonymous submission. Not a criticism, just an observation.:-)
Commas aside (I'm an old-school punk-tualist as well), I thought the writing was a little stiff in places but I'm sure it would have been smoother without time constraints.
A good effort and believable because it was true (I've seen similar behaviour first-hand) and it made me wonder how I'd behave in the same circumstances.

Author's Reply:

Savvi on 28-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
You capture the feel of the day ward extremely well, I enjoyed the whole piece but mostly the detail, I agree with some of the crit but I,m afraid to say its not something I would of picked up, I was totally engaged by the read. Savvi

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the comment.

Glad you enjoyed it

ValDohren on 29-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
What a lot of fuss over a few commas !! I found the content of the story to be very touching and true to life, and was captivated to its conclusion. IMO there is far too much nit-picking going on and not enough concentration on the actual storyline. But I am no expert and not in a position to criticize anyone's work other than to point out the odd spelling error - 'spelling' was always my strong point at school! For me, it is a good write and a good read.

Val

Author's Reply:

niece on 29-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Loved this write, John...the curtain seemed to be so important here just like the invisible ones we put up in our lives...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
Interesting viewpoint...

teifii on 29-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Rings very true. I like the inclusion of details. In a hospital ward they are mostly all there is to comment on and they make the author seem plausible
on punctuation --
The nurse closed all our curtains, and in what seemed like seconds, a stream of people came running.
This really needs neither comma. If one loses the phrase the sentence makes no sense, so either neither comma or put first comma after 'and'. Then the clause reads as a non-defining clause.

Author's Reply:

e-griff on 29-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Can people please stop talking about commas. Perhaps Val Doren has a point.

Regardless of that, I have said above I will have another go, regarding the commas. Let's wait for that, eh?

Author's Reply:

Andrea on 29-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Now about those commas...:)

Author's Reply:
God save us all... πŸ˜‰

Kazzmoss on 29-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
I just loved this, it was simply told with one subject, the man in the next bed. There weren't any answers as such, just the way you finished it. So touching. They say fear can be misinterpreted.

Author's Reply:
thankyou. much appreciated

chrisk on 30-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
I liked this, especially the last sentence. However, knowing you,I am surprised that you never made the effort to talk to him.

Author's Reply:
It's a good question (I'll ignore the inference). Thinking about it, I think that you don't just begin to speak to someone out of the blue. First you kind of get permission by looking at them and they acknowledge you. I remember I did try a few times but he didn't meet my gaze or looked straight through me.

chrisk on 30-01-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Well, it's a good story JohnG. It moved me.

Author's Reply:
Thanks

e-griff on 10-02-2013
The Man in the Next Bed
Piece now edited and de-comma'd insofar as I think it justified.

Thanks all for your comments. πŸ™‚

Thanks whoever nommed it!

Author's Reply:


Shards (posted on: 20-08-12)
late entry for the Friday Prose Workshop Challenge ...

'And from the South will come the hordes of the unshrivened. And in that time the world will face a choice. For there will be amongst them a mighty leader, whose purpose may be good or evil, which no one can yet know.' Agular the Prophet, year 7 of the Fifth Age.
Shards
The darkness was with him. Glancing around, he could discern no light, no movement. Yet he knew himself to be surrounded and accompanied by thousands of them: the lesser beings. Under his control. It would be soon. The Northern Continent was ahead. A land of warmth, plenty and wealth. He stifled a stab of anger. Banished as a child for his parents' beliefs, he had grown up on the Southern Continent, a land of ice and snow, scarce game and few crops which survived. They flew with the night, his powers granting them the speed of the sun as it travelled over the Earth. Flew in great flocks, bodies transported through the air. The still, silent air, with only a hint of their passing in a barely discernible rush. Time enough. He had waited so long for this day. He could wait longer. It had taken him years to develop his talent to this level, but now he was ready. * His people were no more than slaves, prevented from developing their own technology or any aspect of their lives beyond the mining activity demanded by the Northerners, who landed their ships and strode ashore, commanding, demanding supplies of the various minerals abundant on the Southern Continent. In return, they supplied foodstuffs, vegetables. It could have been a beneficial trade relationship, but the manner of operation was barbarous. The Northerners had weapons, and did not hesitate to kill. Sometimes the foodstuffs were deficient, or spoiled, but that made no difference. * He was close enough for scrying. He was anxious to see into the minds of these hated enemies, to see for himself the evil and arrogance that he was about to destroy. Slowly, cloudily, souls were revealed, seen in his mind like pieces of a mirror, each reflecting something different. Yes! Here were the cruel sea-captains and their arrogant masters who ruled the land. Fit for destruction, fit for oblivion. He looked closer. Something puzzled him. Behind the obvious, the evil, were a sea of souls, faces, beliefs, intentions. These were the people of the Northern Continent. The true people. Over hours, he discerned the truth. They were not evil. They had no bad intentions. But they believed his people to be devils. They saw themselves as righteous, fair and seemed to live with good intentions. His people were evil, violent, not to be trusted. The Rulers protected the Northerners from them. He saw that they recognised the cruelty of the sea-captains and crews but regarded them as a necessary evil to defend against an implacable enemy. How could they believe this? He cast his scrying on his own companions again. Hatred, violence. But he reached further, further back to the ordinary people of his continent. There they were, tens of thousands of souls, ordinary people with good intentions, wanting to life their lives in peace. In his scrying, they became tangled and mixed with the Northerners, spinning and spinning around, indistinguishable one from the other. A great realisation came upon him. The underlings were his sea-captains. He was no better than the rulers of the Northern Continent. For hours, as they drifted northwards, filled with the power to destroy, irresistible, he pondered. The shards of the scrying mirrors tumbled and twisted around him like a million sparkling stars. Until he had his answer. And made his decision.
Archived comments for Shards
sirat on 20-08-2012
Shards
I thought I had the parable concession around here.

It all works, I think, and it's pretty clear what the lesson is. I liked the ending, I thought you stopped at the right point. For such a low number of words, I thought it accomplished a lot. Nice one.

Author's Reply:
thanks David. I appreciate your comment very much. This was written in haste at a time when I was not well, but I concentrated.

TheBigBadG on 20-08-2012
Shards
First off, there's a rogue apostrophe in the parents' beliefs.

It has the feel of a prologue to something, perhaps? Certainly works by being pithy and the moral comes through well, as David says. It at once raises questions but also sets itself up against a familiar enough situation that you can frame it yourself.

...and welcome back!

Author's Reply:
thank you. apostrophe corrected (although i could argue it was only his dad who was bolshie)

It was a fruitful idea I had, and just about managed to execute before being consigned to hospital (where I remain, but not for long!)

Texasgreg on 21-08-2012
Shards
Aye! I really enjoyed the story and moral both...hoping for more?
Photobucket.
Greg πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
thanks. i know you like morals.

bluepootle on 31-08-2012
Shards
Very accomplished snapshot of a moral issue. I like the setting very much.

Author's Reply:
yes, its your kinda thing in a way (but nearer the serious end of your spectrum rather than the 'way out')

thankyou.

e-griff on 02-09-2012
Shards
sorry folks, been incommunicado. just caught up with your kind comments on this piece and replied.

Author's Reply:

Texasgreg on 03-09-2012
Shards
Aye, John. I have much to make up for, IMO. Was not being patronizing at all about your story. I see it as a fresh approach to age old issues.

Still love it!

Greg πŸ™‚


Author's Reply:

Weefatfella on 14-01-2013
Shards
Photobucket

I enjoyed this, as Popeye said, could be the nucleus for a fantasy novel.
The moral is clear.
An old Scots adage ' look in afore yie look oot' Thanks for sharing.
Weefatfella

Author's Reply:
thanks! πŸ™‚ and nice to see you back ...


The Promised Land (posted on: 11-06-12)
I'm posting this as a tribute to Ray Bradbury, as the story owes much to his style. originally written for a prose workshop challenge many months ago ,,,

Set in Chicago in the 30's The Promised Land The sky was steel dark, and the drab streets charcoal grey and black. I walked the wet sidewalk and shivered in the piercing wind which so often blew through the Chicago streets. It was a poor neighbourhood but my tenants were honest people who paid on time. I was lucky. The odd one or two had problems but, given the depression, I couldn't be that harsh with them and they did their best. I passed the Simonsens' fish store. They were a fine old couple, obviously devoted, but I wondered how long their creaky limbs could keep them going as she shifted boxes of ice and he gutted fish on the counter with a cheery word for all and the odd extra piece for the poorest folk. People in the street would smile, greet each other, but as they walked on, their faces became set and downcast. I'd collected most of the rents when I turned the corner of the block where I was the proud owner of a vacant lot. Whether anyone would have the money to build on it in these times was a good question. But I was in for a shock. The lot wasn't vacant. A giant edifice that looked like one of those old wooden forts from the Wild West, covered in coloured lights, filled the space. Lights flashed, things glittered and spun. I hadn't seen such a sight for years. 'And can I help you sir?' A tall, scarecrow-like figure loomed over me, clad in black robes and wearing a wide-brimmed black hat, his face covered with a mask, eyes invisible black holes. 'This is my lot.' What the hell was this guy up to? 'Ah, Thomson!' the man exclaimed. 'We've been trying to find you.' Find me? 'What do you mean?' 'Why, to pay you rent my dear sir, what else? Forgive our sudden intrusion, we move quickly. Here ….' With the flick of his white-gloved hand in the air, a piece of paper appeared which he held out towards me. It was a check. I took it and stared. 'Do not worry sir. That comes from our moving fund account, well provisioned. Your bank will cash it immediately, I promise.' He snatched it from my hand, shook it once, and it seemed to change into a yellow glinting solid. 'See,' said the man, biting it firmly, 'solid gold.' He waved his hand again and the check was back in my hand, once again a piece of paper. Whatever kind of show this was, this man was good! 'Besides,' he said, 'drop in each Friday evening and we shall pay you that same amount each week in good old simoleans. We don't take advantage of people. A month or so should do it – do visit us and see our show. Free to you!' With that, he disappeared through a curtain and was gone. In some confusion, I glanced down at the check for the first time. It was for ten times what the rent was worth. I went straight to the bank. They made a phone call, and cashed the check right off. 'How come?' I asked. 'They are a special client. There's a code on the cheque.' I left without further questions, and thought no more about it, except to thank my luck. * The Mayor phoned me a week or so later. 'Thomson. What's this funfair place you've built? What's going on? You don't have a permit.' I knew the Scarecrow man had a permit, I'd seen it when I collected the rent, but I let that go as the Mayor continued. 'There's some funny reports – people disappearin' and all ….' 'At the funfair?' 'Yes, so they say. Might be just silly stories. Maybe take a look myself. Sort it out.' * Over the next week or so, I realised I was missing quite a few familiar faces on the street. The Simonsens' store was boarded up. When I asked, folks had their own list of people who had gone, god knows where. And I started getting envelopes dropped in – my tenant's rent, notes saying they were leaving, and their keys. I checked some of the addresses and some still had furniture left inside. At the second hand store, I found Louie outside a shop crammed with furniture. 'Yes, I had to stop taking any more furniture, shame. Real cheap it was. But nobody's buying.' Every day, the streets became emptier. I phoned the Mayor, but they told me he'd gone on a long vacation. I went round and confronted the Scarecrow. 'Come in,' he said, 'see for yourself.' He led me past a queue of people and handed me a token. 'It's a return token,' he said. 'Just take a look and come back and let me know how you feel about it.' I went ahead down a dark corridor. Passing through a doorway, I emerged into bright light. What a scene! A sun-filled place, warm, with verdant grass, trees and people strolling in brightly coloured clothes. In the distance, I could see small neat houses clustered in pleasant groups. I recognised some of the people and nodded to them. Then I saw the Simonsens, rosy-cheeked and limber. Old Mr Simonsen strode up to me and shook my hand. 'Come to join us, Mr Thomson? Good choice.' His wife hurried up, lips full and red, skin clear and soft-looking. I couldn't believe it. 'Keep your eyes off her, Thomson, she's all mine!' He grinned. Further on, I came across a man catching fish on a river bank. He was doing rather well judging by the basket beside him. 'Hi, Thomson.' It was the Mayor. 'These are for the Simonsens.' He tapped the basket. I looked around a bit more, then decided it was time to retreat. I couldn't quite take it in. I went back through the doorway and fled. * I'd already decided when I went round to collect the rent a few days later. The lights were off, most of the magical edifice had gone, the remainder was being loaded onto a wagon by a workman. 'Boss said to give you this,' he said, handing me a thick envelope. 'Bonus,' he said, noticing my gaze. 'We did well here.' 'Where are they going to?' 'Dunno yet. Boss picks. Heading out west. Boss'll telegraph us when he finds somewhere. Once I get this set up again, I'll be off home and another crew will come out.' 'Home?' 'You saw it. Boss tells me you wanted to stay back here. Can't understand why anyone would want that.' 'But … ' 'We need all the good people we can get. Lots of space to fill.' 'But why didn't he tell me?' 'Ah, no, it's up to you. You gotta choose yourself and ask us. We don't kidnap folks.' He chuckled. * I wound down the window of the car. 'Hey buddy! Seen a funfair round here anyplace? Lights, shaped like a big old fort.' The tall guy scratched his head. 'Well, there's the carny, comes round every year … but that ain't no fort.' I thanked him and drove on. They had to be somewhere. I'd surely find them.
Archived comments for The Promised Land
ruadh on 11-06-2012
The Promised Land
I think many might follow given the present times. I haven't read this one before John, enjoyed it.

Author's Reply:
worth airing again then --- thanks!

CVaughan on 13-06-2012
The Promised Land

Of course someone beat me to the deserved Bradbury tribute as it were, naturally on a writing site on the loss of a great author, even though a revival, the "carny" aspect a thumbprint of Ray's I recognise. "Something wicked This Way Comes" an early read of mine as a sci-fi fan. I well see the nod to his fiction style.
Mine's to be a poem, The Illustrated Man, I recently just started, now I better crack on and finish it.
Your story well carried off I'd say. Convincingly portraying time and place for another era and locale not experienced by the writer is a difficulty I could not fault due to my own lack of knowledge, allowing for conversions cheque to check, permit for licence, Mayor for Ministry, carny for fair, "boss" and "folks" accurate transpositions, for it could be set in a British city I think. So I got the appropriate feel and oh yes the suitable name of the Simonsens. The wife's bloom BTW minded me of Cocoon, the sci-fi film.
Mea culpa for rarely hitting on fiction subs, but the Bradbury reference stood out on this one. Fine work IMVHO. Frank


Author's Reply:
thankyou, indeed πŸ™‚

niece on 14-06-2012
The Promised Land
Enjoyed reading this, John...

Regds,
niece

Author's Reply:
gracias, O niece! πŸ™‚


The Brief (posted on: 25-05-12)
Story for the Prose Workshop Challenge - at last! completed one on time πŸ™‚

this has been edited slightly (on 26th May) following the comments below - specifically to try and diminish the hints that seemed to give away the ending. Of course it may still do so. The Brief The first step was difficult. Could he leave the safety of the comforting enclosure and move out into the open air under the threatening sky above? He had convinced himself it would be worth it, but the reality was challenging. He lifted his foot over the raised threshold and set it on the wet surface beyond the door. The enclosure at the top of the stairs was bare: plain walls, the smell of damp and neglect. He'd come up here on his own -- come up here from the brightly lit, colourful hall below. Luckily no one had seen him. Gradually the noise had receded as he climbed, reaching this final stair with the battered wooden door at the top. It had creaked open part way, and he'd had to lean on it heavily before it crashed open, banging loudly on the wall outside. The outside was endless. On his left flank, a sloping wall of grey slate. On the right, stone balustrades encrusted with blackened moss and the pollution of the city. At first he could not raise his eyes above the parapet. With a great effort, he boldly took a look. Shock! He was high up. There was nothing to enclose him. Beyond the parapet was empty space, stretching away. Buildings, a whole cityscape lay before him. He pressed back against the door, squeezing his eyes shut. He felt sick. For the umpteenth time that morning he questioned his actions, his motivation. But he hadn't come this far for nothing. Opening his eyes again, he raised them to look along the line of the parapet and the path he must tread, unprotected, unenclosed. It was there! Just as he had suspected. Still there, untouched by man or beast. Untouched by the elements, or so it seemed. His grandfather had planned well. It took him all his mental strength to move away from the comforting wall with its sheltering door, its inviting, dark protection. As he moved out, a gust of wind caught him. He had read about wind, knew what it was, but the physical presence surprised and frightened him. As the pressure built up on one side of him and the strong current of air pushed him towards the parapet, he fell sideways onto the slate, his fingers slipping in the damp shiny surface. It would blow him over that chasm, it was so strong. For a while, he lay on the sloping slate, sobbing, wondering if he could get back to the welcoming door and the sanctuary beyond. But he remembered Grainger's words. 'Your grandfather wanted you to be ready in case things changed, he wanted you to rise above the others. He remembered a time when all people walked in the open air. He thought that if the climate changed once more, they would again.' He gasped. All people? He knew there were people who worked outside, maintaining the fabric of the city. He knew there were some in the country, outside the protective farming domes, who still lived a traditional life. But they were specially selected and trained. City people could never do that. How could he? 'Your grandfather promised a reward if you can accomplish this task. Something to change your life.' His grandfather had been a rich man, whose riches were tied up in a trust that Grainger administered. He'd never been given any details of the fortune. * He decided to crawl. The fierce wind buffeting the roof was threatening. It howled now and made bumping noises, very deep and worrying. Lowering himself to his hands and knees, regardless of the wet patches on his trousers and the rough, dirty surface of the walkway, he began to make his way slowly forward, his eyes on the briefcase. * 'You're an idiot!' Mareille's voice came shrilly from the kitchen. 'The Old Man never gave you anything and never will even now he's dead. He was always scornful of you, mocking you.' 'Grainger said I'd get a reward ...' 'What? That if you go up in the open air on a roof and endanger your life you'll get a case full of money?' 'Well, he said a ''reward''. I'm going to do it Marielle.' Marielle came into the lounge and looked him in the eye. 'You are too,' she said. 'Then you're a bigger fool than I thought.' The next day, he had gone to Grainger's office for instructions. It had seemed simple. But the reality ... * He was about halfway when a massive gust caught him and filled his jacket, throwing him towards the parapet. The stonework here was different, the gaps between the pillars wider, and he was terrified. He flung his arms around a pillar and clung to it, sobbing piteously, afraid to go forward, afraid to go back. He wondered if Grainger had someone on standby, someone watching out for him, to rescue him. But no help came. He was soaked through now, cramp aching his stiff arms which would not release their grip. In the end he had to. He slumped down, back against the pillar, wondering what to do. * He was cold, wet and now hungry. He glanced at his watch. An hour since he'd started. He looked down the walkway. The case still sat there. He thought that the wind must have dropped. Its fierce noises were now gentle soughing amidst the pillars and stone decoration of the roof. He felt small tugs at his sleeves, but nothing more. Resolutely, he moved onto all fours and gingerly resumed his task. * He was three-quarters of the way. He could see the case clearly, the black leather, the gold clasps. The combination lock. * 'Nine, nine, nine,' Grainger said. 'Your grandfather had a sense of humour.' He smiled. 'And the reward?' 'Within the case.' * Why couldn't the Old Man have just left it to him? Why all this fuss? This performance? Looking up, he saw he was close now, very close. He wondered if there would be a cheque or a banker's draft in there – or plain money? No, probably not big enough. But it was a large case, larger than a standard case – what they used to call a 'Pilot's Case' for some reason. What if it were gold? That would be a lot of money. But he couldn't lift it. Panic gripped him. What if he couldn't lift it? He'd have to come back, with a trolley or something – he'd have to do this all over again. The thought sickened him. Carefully, he approached the case. It was wet. He wiped the rain off as best he could and studied the top. The code wheels were set at random. One by one, he aligned them: nine (click) nine (click) nine (click), and tried the first clasp. It flew open, startling him. His heart pumping in his chest, he set the other code wheels and pressed the other clip, then folded back the top half of the lid and peered in. Nothing! He raged. He felt totally let down, betrayed. What kind of fool had he been? He forgot his fear so much that he stood up, heedless of the wind, and kicked the case over. The case tipped on its side, and the other half of the lid flipped open. An envelope fell forward and a gust of wind caught it, lifting it up towards the parapet. That was it. Damn! It was there. What a fool he was. Carelessly, he sprang forward and grabbed the envelope, then found himself hanging over the parapet, looking down. He nearly let go of the envelope. He nearly fainted. He was sick. He staggered back, primal fear flooding his body, falling backwards, his head colliding with the edge of the slates, stunning him. He came round a short while later, still clutching the envelope. It took him some moments to realise where he was, and for the fear to come back. Then curiosity overcame him. He tore at the envelope, and extracted a piece of paper. It was a handwritten note. Congratulations, boy. I knew you could do it. You'll not be afraid of the outside again after this, will you? That is your reward. You have something many do not – and in the future you may well need it. Grandad. He was angry; blazing anger filled him. How dare he! How dare he do all this for some pathetic game! Heedless, he stood and began to run back along the walkway, clutching the note, to go and confront Grainger.
Archived comments for The Brief
sirat on 25-05-2012
The Brief
This would probably qualify as science fiction, and because of that I found myself applying slightly different criteria when reading and assessing it. Character and motivation in this kind of story seem less important than plot and setting. The ending, and whether it can be predicted, also seems important. 'Show' and 'tell' still matter though, and I did worry about Grainger's remembered words filling-in so much of the background. I think it might have been more elegant to let us work out what was happening for ourselves to a greater extent. It wasn't all that complicated. Another example – why not let the protagonist see the farm domes in the distance and start thinking about the way outdoor life was lived rather than the narrtator telling us directly: 'He knew there were people who worked outside...' etc.

As to the setting, it hovered a bit between the present and the fairly-near future. It was a society that still used cheques (we've almost stopped that even now), where gold was still valued, and where the numbers 999 presumably still meant something (again, that's almost gone too). Envelopes, and ordinary paper money still seemed to exist also. For these reasons I wasn't entiurely transported into the protagonist's world, but I know I'm being a bit picky here.

On the bigger point, I'm afraid I did see what was coming fairly accurately, but I thought the tension was well maintained and the story was involving. My only real criticism is that I thought a lot of the background we could have worked out for ourselves without being told.

Author's Reply:
you may be right. Although this is written in the third person, essentially all the action takes place in the character's head, so the action is interspersed with his thoughts (domes, outside etc) similarly, the flashbacks to Grainger are his recollection of them. All the thoughts and recollections take place as he makes his way to the case. I don't quite see how anyone could work out why he was doing what he was doing without an explanation at some point - indeed, it's the point of the story.

on detail (cheque, etc) I think you may be looking for too much current reality. There is nothing to say that his world is ours, whether in the future or some alternate - it is just a 'world' that has what it has, where things happen as they happen. It's not made to fit any template, the reader can interpret it as they wish.

Thanks for the comments πŸ™‚

bluepootle on 25-05-2012
The Brief
I enjoyed the story and I thought you circumvented some element of the guesswork of the reader by having the envelope fly up out of the case rather than cutting immediately to it being empty. It did occur to me that it would be empty at about the half-way point, so the envelope caught my attention once more.

I liked the way you interspersed the action with dialogue to fill in the back story. It was well-spaced, but I do wonder if you missed a trick there by not using those dialogues as a window into life in the city. Some description of it, the artificial, enclosed nature of it, would make his terror on the roof seem much more real to us.

I quite like your Shock! moment. Such a powerful word But I felt you undermined it a bit by then describing the character as 'shocked' again a few paras on. If you're going to use such a strong word in that manner, I think you have to stick to your guns and use it just the once.



Author's Reply:
you are quite right about 'shocked' - I hadn't noticed it. Thankyou.

I'm not sure I need to embroider the 'enclosed' nature of his world unless it is a longer story, but I am still also thinking about David's comment and wondering if I could bring in the domes etc a bit less baldly .. πŸ™‚

TheBigBadG on 25-05-2012
The Brief
First off - good to have you back in the challenge. It gives me longer to come up with an idea for my turn for one thing. ;op

With this though, I'm with David in that I saw the end coming which took some of the spin off it for me. That said though, I didn't have a problem with the 999, cheques et al. It may be a broken future but there's no obligation for it to be our future.

That said I think you missed some of the potential to develop the world with more subtlety. We get a lot about the physical challenge of getting to the suitcase but little of the wonderment at exactly what is outside, and as a result why people don't go out there anymore. His confusion at how wind felt worked on this front, because it makes you wonder and deduce.

An example of what I mean is this line, 'He was three-quarters of the way. He could see the case clearly, the black leather, the gold clasps. The combination lock.' Blue's right in that it helps with the pacing but it doesn't do a lot else, whereas with some observations on the landscape you can hint at a lot. (It's actually something I think Blue did really well this time as well, incidentally.) I assume they're living in buildings and underground by the way, or has he spent his entire life to date in the church?

Personal favourite bit are the (click)s though - there are some good sensory moments in this, which help you get up on the roof with him.

Author's Reply:
I think my view was coloured by putting myself in his shoes, and no, he wouldn't look out at the landscape ... first, he was crawling behing a balustrade, second, he'd done that when he first emerged and it had scared the hell out of him, so my image was of a man riven with fear, crawling along, keeping his head down and trying not to think of where he was. Perhaps that did not come across as strongly as it should have?

may I ask what set you onto 'seeing the end coming'? - the main thing I can see is Mireille's words about a previous event, or less so, Grainger's attitude. If they were altered, would you still guess?

TheBigBadG on 25-05-2012
The Brief
It was probably the great reward and 'something that will change your life', yes. That and Grainger talking about his grandfather wanting him to 'rise above' (I like the play there btw). That said, I've read a fair amount of sci-fi in my time and it's a classic theme - an individual leaving the ruins of the old and confronting the new wilderness - so it may just be that I'm picking up on that.

I think the fear did come across strongly - I get vertigo myself so I was entirely on board with that. I get it going up spiral staircases, inside or outside, for instance, so I actually put his reactions down to the shock more than a phobia. That's just me though! I suppose I was left wondering about the world more than the narrator. Like what kind of world he knows and how'd they'd react to someone venturing outside. Is it forbidden for instance, or just not considered good sense? The more I think about it, it feels like an introduction instead of a complete story, it's leading up to things that aren't resolved within it. Not necessarily a bad thing, but what happens when he talks to Grainger...?

Author's Reply:


Kafka Station (posted on: 11-05-12)
belated entry for prose workshop challenge. Nothing special, just a plain ol' story ... πŸ™‚

Kafka Station With a massive explosion of displaced air, the undogged personnel access port door flew open and smashed my body across the loading bay. A black wall slid into place in the docking port, grinding its way into full occupation. My first thought was that I'd never seen a black cargo capsule; Ramspec, our company, used only silver and red in the company logo. My second thought was the realisation that I could have been seriously injured. Gingerly I got to my feet. 'What the hell are you playing at, Abraham?' I yelled. 'An unexpected arrival, Grace. Did it disturb you?' The AI's calm voice made me even madder. 'You could have killed me, you fool. How did your programming allow that?' Abraham was often playful and quite engaging, and over the past months we'd had some interesting banter, quite unusual for an AI. But this was serious. 'It didn't, Grace. The container registered with the correct codes and identified itself, but docked immediately I gave the preliminary approval. It has a fault with its programming.' 'Damn near fatal for me,' I snarled. 'I would regret that, Grace.' 'You sure would Abraham. For a start, you'd be wiped. You were lucky I wasn't seriously hurt.' It was the law. Didn't matter where the fault lay, if an AI let a human be seriously injured or die, they were wiped. 'Take no chances' was the motto of the Board of Robotics. Abraham was lucky? What was I saying? I was lucky! My mind sharpened on what Abraham had just said. 'What did it identify itself as?' 'Ramspec module KR/616/44/ZEM ...' 'Enough! The numbers meant nothing. 'It's not a Ramspec module.' I peered through the opening with the half-wrecked door and made out some weird symbols but no Ramspec logo or familiar coding pads. 'Abraham, it's black, it doesn't have the logo or the codes.' 'On the contrary, it has given all the correct responses, apart from the glitch.' 'Can't you see it?' 'I'm not programmed to assess appearance, Grace. Electronic codes are failsafe and reliable: proof for operation. I shall begin unloading soon. I shall also send our techs in to correct the docking sequence glitch.' I had a bad feeling. Something here was screwy. 'Abraham, wait! I order you to wait. We need to check with the Despatch Base that all is okay. And I'd like someone to tell me why it's black.' 'Identification is part of the procedure, Grace. Already completed.' 'How do you know? How do you know who you were talking to?' 'I was communicating with Ramspec Despatch Base 3322. Security handshakes were exchanged. This is a priority cargo and cannot be delayed.' 'Who says?' 'It does.' Of course it did. I knew the routines as well as anyone. 'Cargo manifest?' 'Withheld.' 'What does that mean?' 'It's a valid category and given Base approval.' The Base again. Abraham knew the rules, but he didn't know the courtesies. That category would immediately have generated a message to the Depot Commander. Me. From a human. I checked all my messages. Zilch on any special cargo, and nothing in the chat. I told Abraham. His reply stopped me in my tracks. 'That's just human chatter. All my checks confirm everything is okay. Your friend probably forgot.' My friend? Forgot? He was talking about regular protocol from a Despatch Base Controller to a Depot Commander. Not something to forget. It got worse. Every argument I gave was rejected on the grounds that, according to Abraham, the formal procedures were satisfied and no matter what I thought, his duty was to proceed. I couldn't let it happen. Something was definitely wrong, I knew it. I needed time to prove it though. Abraham needed concrete information to act. I'd have to invoke Article 67/235, the Base Commander's friend. Abraham took it on the chin. 'Very well, Commander, I will instigate full systems integrity checks as specified. This will occupy exactly four standard hours. At the end of that time, assuming the checks are positive, I will unload the capsule as intended.' Good! I'd bought some time. But he wasn't finished. 'I have to inform you, Commander, that I have sent a communication advising Ramspec Central that I am preparing to implement 'Rogue Commander' status should you block operational progress in any further way'. He added, 'Your motivation is clear to me'. 'Whaaa….' His words hit me in the gut. While I was quite prepared to justify my doubts, such an action would inevitably mean he would be wiped, even if he were proved right. I often thought the Company would love to be able to wipe feisty Depot Commanders, but luckily all they could do was can them. 'Abraham, you know what that would mean? For you I mean?' 'Yes.' I swear a note of superiority entered his tone, which was impossible. 'But I have to carry out my duty as programmed.' 'But I've told you …' 'I have no such counter indications. Humans often behave emotionally and must be protected from themselves.' I dropped it quick. This was bad. Something was very wrong, not just with the capsule, but with Abraham. No AI should be harbouring such thoughts. Four hours gave me enough time. Abraham had his 'Rogue Commander' option. It was installed after a Depot Commander had imagined all cargo capsules were invading aliens. Luckily he was subdued before he could do much harm. While he recovered from the chemical imbalance which had caused it, the 'Rogue Commander' failsafe programme for the AI was wisely brought in. But in turn, there had always been a route for Commanders concerned about their AIs, a completely independent private comms channel that Abraham could not access. First thing, I got onto Despatch Base 3322. 'Hello? Base Controller?' There was a pause. Then an unfamiliar voice replied. 'Hello.' This was rather brief, I felt. 'Commander Grace Twohammers here, Docking Depot N6653.' 'Yes.' He did not identify himself. What the hell? 'You sent us a capsule. It is black with no company logo or standard identification. Why?' There was a pause. 'Sorry, I don't comprehend. All security checks have been completed.' 'Yeh, but why is it black with no markings?' 'That is immaterial. All security checks have been completed.' That settled it. 'Right, I guess we'll just unload it then, thanks.' 'Yes.' A man of few words. Or was it a man? Clearly not. I was straight onto Ramspec Central Security with a priority call. I outlined the situation and told them of my suspicions. They put me on hold. Two hours passed. I'd been afraid of contacting Central. Anything untoward might rebound on me. Eventually the comms opened up: 'Commander Twohammers, you were right to be suspicious. Despatch Base 3322's private channel is incommunicado, and no, we certainly have no cargo capsules that are black with no codes marked. I have instructed your AI to reject your capsule into the nearest sun immediately on the highest priority basis. We have located a similar capsule at another depot where there is currently a special security team available. They will investigate it. I'll let you know what happens.' I heard the 'woosh' as the capsule left. At least Abraham was following Company orders if not mine. * Central downgraded Abraham's capabilities, so he required my consent for every significant action. This was taxing for me, but the worst thing was his voice. It was flat, expressionless, robotic. I missed Abraham, but I knew it was necessary. They told me the capsules had been full of nanobots, part of a rather inept attempt to invade us via our transport system. The AI at the depot where the other one had arrived had followed the instincts of his Depot Commander and called up for help while sealing the loading dock. What was it with Abraham? It was months before I knew. A security team arrived and turned the place over. They found a loose shield plate close to Abraham's CPU. Radiation had been leaking in and steadily screwing up his programmes. Perhaps that's what humans were all about when it came down to it? We had no shielding. Anyway, they removed him and replaced him. Ben is charming, on the ball. He's not as quirky and as much fun as Abraham. Maybe that's for the good, but at least Abraham was interesting. They also added appearance checks to the capsule-acceptance criteria for the AIs company-wide. Live and learn.
Archived comments for Kafka Station
TheBigBadG on 11-05-2012
Kafka Station
Well first off, nice play on Ash. It's hard not to associate that name with less auspicious behaviour, given certain precedents, so it left me guessing. Admittedly, consciously trying to think ahead, but also uncertain.

It's a good little story though, one that could really be spun out into realms of uncertainty, as with any of Kafka's frankly worrying creations. It's all that uncertainty that revolves around whether it's Ash or Grace who's right about the box. Same thing when he contacts the despatch base, and all the conversations in fact. Not the least because there's only one real person speaking in all of it.

It's one off those concerns that never really goes away for me - both as a story-teller and a person - about how much the systems we have serve us or bind us. It's all tied up in that little para, 'It got worse. Every argument I gave was rejected on the grounds that, according to Ash, the formal procedures were satisfied and no matter what I thought, his duty was to proceed.' That's The Trial happening right there.

Were I to be picky, I'd perhaps remove the reference to the broken ribs unless it gets picked up on again. As it is Grace breaks a couple of ribs and then later on seems to have forgotten all about it which detracts from the story. it seems a bit unlikely that Ash wouldn't check things for physical appearance as well; there's a lot of programming power there, and it wouldn't take long to do.

George

Author's Reply:
Thanks. Did I get Ash from somewhere? I wrote it with xxxx in first, and then thought Ash sounded good. If it is a known characterthen it is subconcious. Should I change it?

I think you are right about the ribs. Many thanks for that.

TheBigBadG on 11-05-2012
Kafka Station
Damnit! Guess where the < /em> should have gone.

Author's Reply:

bluepootle on 11-05-2012
Kafka Station
I like this. A bit of large-scale business paranoia in space always goes down a treat. But it has got Alien (the film) stamped all over it, particularly with the AI being called Ash. Not that it's a bad thing. I think it augments the suspicious feeling of it.

I wish it had built to some sort of final conversation/confrontation between Grace and Ash after the cargo is jettisoned. It seemed to peter out a bit, as a story. But I did enjoy it.

Author's Reply:
thanks. I checked and found the Ash/alien connection.

this wasn't related to alien and I can't see how it really can be seen as such. the balance is between the AI mentality and human and the unlikely misinterpretations between them because of that. Ash (who is basically a cargo-handler) may well have had visual feeds etc for some purposes, but why would he need to see the capsules and any markings? Strictly, it isn't necessary, as if all is well (and programmers often programme on the assumption that things will work as they expect, not how they will work when they don't)

I agree about the end and your suggestion appeals. Also from the above, it would be helpful I think to give a wider picture of the station, which would put Ash's position into perspective.

I did want to avoid the telly: 'It had been fifty years since Williamson and Warburg had identified infra space links and developed the abilty to move cargo through them . They could only transport inert material, and the arrival and departures were disruptive to local space, so the transport bases had to be off-planet ....Ramspec now had a network of .... orbiting a planet, and dropping capsules down on a space elevator after receipt ....

etc. Might change Ash then ... to avoid confusion.


The Scottish Complaint (posted on: 02-04-12)
culled from a wee man in Whaligoe.

The Scottish Complaint There's tae mony bliddy poems. Why can't the buggers write prose? Instead of a story we get wee rhymes. Go stick 'em up yer nose! Whit's wrang wi a guid adventure or sci-fi if you are a buff? Naebody wants poncey wordplay. It's a' jist a shitload o' guff. So stick a' yer flouers an' yer lovin' in a place where the sun don't shine, then go read a damn guid story -- preferably one o' mine. Amos Mangold Ngambo McDonegall, yisterday.
Archived comments for The Scottish Complaint
Andrea on 02-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
Blimey, when I read the title I thought you'd contracted some ghastly illness peculiar to Bonnie Scotland!

It rhymes too well for a McDonalds πŸ™‚

An apt little ditty - I've twatted you (but don't get too excited, I twat everything)

Author's Reply:
What? like Portnoy's Complaint?

I shall henceforth call you 'The Great Twat'

Thank you.

ChairmanWow on 02-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
Now i know why there's no money in poetry. It's been years no body told me. What's it got to do with Scotland? Like the rhymes.

Ralph

Author's Reply:
Ach, awa' wi' ye! Yer jist a furriner, after a'. As bad as the bliddy english.

ps. My son went to Arizona on helicopter training with the army. He hired a convertible and drove to the Grand Canyon, and went shooting with some old geezer in the desert. He enjoyed it tremendously.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

OH thanks for the nom, Mr Wow!!!! While I hardly think this is worthy of the golden annals of UKA literature, they say its the thought that counts ... G

Nomenklatura on 02-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
Och, I dinnae credit ye're gettin' right intae
Scoatlan's maist famous Poet!

Thon wan aboot thae bridge is fair Brullyant!

I enjoyed this one.

Author's Reply:
maybe because it's simple, brutish and lacks art or elegance?

*lies back on chaise-longue and, after accepting a crystal cup of the finest champagne, dismisses the flunkey with a wave of his white-gloved hand.*

Nomenklatura on 03-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
Oh I am sorry, I was admiring your poem as an example of something written deliberately badly, which is quite a bit harder to do than unintentionally.

McGonagall makes me laugh too, although his poetry is unintentionally bad. How strange we all are!

I hope your gout is not too painful. I presume you must be past the age for any more strenuous activity than lounging on that most decadent piece of furniture.

Author's Reply:

royrodel on 03-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
culled from a wee man

O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That’s sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

Author's Reply:
tell your friend not to give up the day job, Roy baby. It's all rather predictable and repetitive, I'm afraid. My prediction is your friend will never really make any impact in the world of poetry .... sadly, as parts of it have some promise. His spelling needs improving as well.

royrodel on 03-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
I would
tell my friend not to give up the day job
but he's been dead along time
and this 2 bit Scotsman has inspired everybody and the God denying
but hey,
it's you that's complaining

Author's Reply:
que? πŸ™‚


Bradene on 04-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
Don't really know what to say about this, Cheeky sod! very clever, nib deserved. Valx

Author's Reply:
thanks, val ... πŸ™‚

teifii on 06-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
Excellent but a bit of a strain on my poor brain that doesn't do Scots. Perhaps reading you in Scots might be a way in. Real Scots is just too much - unless one is Scottish, I suppose.

Author's Reply:
Is Scots really real? Is it a language or a dialect? Interesting point. While, obviously, the Gallic is a true language related to Irish and Welsh, the so-called 'Doric' 'language' sounds tae me awfy like mispronounced english with scandinavian dialect words thrown in (Many, when you really get intae it) still, as wee Rabbie demosntrates, it can have a mellifluous turn of its own.

amman on 07-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
I missed this last time around. Very clever and funny ta boot.

Author's Reply:
och, awa wi ye !

thanks! G

Inchrory on 15-04-2012
The Scottish Complaint
Hi e-griff,
Well, that other wee man of Scot’s poetry often used the Lallan that mixture of Scots and English.

Which in turn meant that he became the world’s second most published poet after Shakespeare?
Not that there is anything wrong with dialects, what would a Liverpudlian be, without a bit o’ youz de Mersee Scouse to see him by.

Moreover, as we, all know that other great poet of Scottish ill fame, our beloved Wullie Topaz has a following that most of today’s poets would give up their back teeth and their Woolworth’s Biro to see their work misspelt in concrete.

I think Robbie Burns sums it up quite nicely, with his wee poem aboot thae indiscreet Anoplura:

To a Louse

Ha! whare ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely
Owre gauze and lace,
Tho faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested. shunn'd by saunt an sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her -
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggars hauffet squattle:
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi ither kindred, jumping cattle;
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there! ye're out o sight,
Below the fatt'rils, snug an tight,
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right,
Till ye've got on it -
The vera tapmost, tow'rin height
O Miss's bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an grey as onie grozet:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie you sic a hearty dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum!
I wad na been surpris'd to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
On's wyliecoat:
But Miss's fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do't?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head.
An set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin!
Thae winks an finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin!

O wad some Power the gift tae gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'e us,
An ev'n devotion!

Robert Burns.

Inchrory.


Author's Reply:
och, it'll niver fly!

zenbuddhist on 09-05-2012
The Scottish Complaint
aye yer right griffy naebody wants tae dip theit wee toe in the bath of heavenly story these days....shame really ahm back

Author's Reply:

zenbuddhist on 09-05-2012
The Scottish Complaint
and dae ye wantae ken somefin else ahve been a member fur nigh on 10 year....aye ten year ya c...s see that giffy thats restraint...nae swearin ony mair ye fu...ooops aye geeze a comment make an auld guy feel better


Author's Reply:
I do admire your restraint. Are those real brass buckles on the leather straps? πŸ™‚


Krystal (posted on: 23-03-12)
A 'side-plot' story culled from the cutting room floor after Sirat made me cut my first 'big' story from 10,000 words to 2,000 (The Golden Knight) . These characters also go on to another epic of mine 'The Wizard's Disc' ... *sighs* (with special reference to the last few lines).

Krystal Izaaar lay on a crystal couch in the topmost room of the tallest tower of the crystal castle. The castle rose entire from the sea on a fluted crystal pedestal. The sea was grey and choppy, white-flecked. Along the horizon to the west, a thin line of purple ran, and upwards the sky changed from azure blue to indigo as each day progressed. The castle was entirely transparent, as if carved from one piece of crystal, with a faint blue tint. Inside, refracted and reflected light brought images of people moving, ducted and distorted, prismatic, coloured. The walls seemed to consist of snippets of moving bodies, things glimpsed. From the sky to the North, a necklace of coruscating coloured lights shone. This added continual sparkling bursts of colour to the already confusing images throughout the castle. Was it time? Izaaar thought. Not that time had the same meaning here, but it was as well to stick to some pseudo-schedule or one could become confused. The realm lay in an alter-plane. His black leather-clad figure, dark hair pulled back in a small ponytail, was tall and radiated confidence and strength. The handsome face was placid and controlled. Was this his real body? It didn't matter. His personality – his being, his wierheit, could transfer between various persona, the avatars. Far awier on another plane, a hidden cave lay in some high mountains. Inside, piled high, were gold, jewels and trinkets - a dragon's hoard. On top of the heap of gold coins lay one of Izaaar's avatars, apparently sleeping peacefully. Forty feet long from head to tail, the green and black dragon curled its muscular body in a circle. Its long head rested on its forelimbs, and its soft, crimson-fringed velvet wings were furled around its scaly trunk. Its nostrils were rimed with gold, and a silver ring dangled from one fan-shaped ear. Izaaar stepped from his chamber into the adjoining bedchamber. Pausing only to command a blank avatar to tend to his body and prepare for his return, he sank onto the bed and transplaned himself elsewier. The dragon stirred and its eyes opened. Izaaar had the same eyes: green, penetrating, with tiny golden sparkles. He tested the body, stretching it. It was hungry – but he would not eat until after flight. Izaaar wove the magic words which opened the cave, and emerged blinking into the bright daylight. An interesting alter-plane, he thought, looking around at the blue sky, white clouds, snow-capped mountains, and the burning orb high above. Fire! Fire and Ice - his touchstones! Flinging himself forward and opening his wings, he kicked off with his mighty back legs and launched himself into the sky. This was the life. The cool air slipped past his long body, his vast wings beating slowly high above the earth. The landscape slipped by beneath as he gained height. At the castle, things were in uproar. 'He's coming!' Someone on watch in a high tower had spied Izaaar rising from the mountains. A network of mirror-towers had conveyed the warning. There was pandemonium. The Princess's handmaids were arranging her decoratively. The Princess Miramar was bored. 'Let's get this over with!' she said. She'd had quite a thrill when Izaaar's demand had eventually arrived. At first her father was very upset, but she had actually persuaded him that Sir Kevin was capable of battling a dragon. For the last few days, they'd been thick as thieves. Her father was so pleased he was going to get a son at last! 'Oh, come on Izaaar! Hurry up!' she whispered impatiently. High in the sky, a small dot showed against the sun. 'Hurry up, Sir Kevin! He's here.' Sir Kevin rode out. His armour gleamed, his weapons gleamed. Miramar had a moment of doubt. He really looked the part. High in the sky, the black dot grew larger, and people began to fall silent. Izaaar had first contacted Miramar on one of his jaunts through wierspace. These enabled him to travel freely without needing avatars to house his personality. It strictly limited what he could do physically, but he had full contact with individuals. He had seen Miramar as a clear, shining light in the firmaverse, and immediately they had begun a courtship. He had invited her many times to transplane with him in her own body to the plane wier he lived, but she had insisted on this roundabout plan so as to justify leaving to her father. How she had worked this out was unclear to Izaar, as women were a mystery to him. Izaaar had reached terminal velocity. The wind screamed past his ears as he fell. His body was stretched flat with his wings wrapped tightly around it. By flicks of his tail, and a slight shifting of balance, he was on target for the tiny speck of green within the stone walls directly ahead and below him. By now, Sir Kevin was beginning to regret his boldness, but generations of breeding showed as he straightened his back and raised his head. Izaaar appeared to the watchers to be about the size of a man's fist now, growing ominously. Shrieks and yells rose from the crowd. One moment he was a black, growing shape in the sky, the next Izaaar arrived. At the last moment, his head went back, his tail down and his wings unfolded with a deafening 'plop!' He came to a halt directly in front of Sir Kevin, with one rear claw directly between the horse's forelegs. Towering forty feet high, with a similar wingspan, he blotted out the light. There was a moment of silence, then a violent, blasting tornado whirled around the keep. People were blown backwards, and stalls tumbled over. The afterblast died to the sound of broken pots tinkling and liquids pouring from split barrels. Sir Kevin sat, pinned in place by the weight of his armour. The dragon's mouth opened. From the rows of ivory white needles, a long red tongue slid out. A sigh rose from the crowd. 'I HAVE COME!' The resonant voice rang out, shivering and shaking the very walls of the castle. Mothers hid their children under their cloaks and shrunk from his sight. 'WHO AMONG YOU WILL CHALLENGE ME?' Izaaar demanded. Stung into action, Sir Kevin readied his lance and called 'Have at you, foul beast!' Izaaar bent his head down to Sir Kevin, who sat dumbstruck. He delicately pursed his lips, and blew a jet of flame from his mouth, projecting Sir Kevin into a crumpled, blackened heap at the foot of the castle wall. Izaaar raised himself up. 'I take it no one minds if I take the Princess now?' asked Izaaar politely. About time, thought Miramar. 'Just get me off this tree' she called to Izaaar. The crowd had found Sir Kevin a blanket, and he became quite the centre of attention for his bravery. Someone sang a song called 'At the Dragon's Mouth' which told how he cleverly made the dragon blow fire at him. He was happy enough, especially as although Princess Miramar's father was distressed at losing her, he had decided to adopt Sir Kevin as his heir anyway. 'Just got to drop off here' said Izaaar. 'But it's late Izaaar, I just want to get to our new home' Was that the faintest hint of a whine in her perfect voice? 'Gotta be done, Hun!' He swooped down on the big farm he'd spotted on the way to the castle. 'Stay here, dear!' Izaaar instructed, before she could query him again. Coasting over the fields, he crisped a few cows and ate them, then flew over the lake and hoovered water up. There! That would keep this body going for a while, until he needed it again. Now for his promise to the farmer! A dragon's metabolism can work very fast. Piles of steaming dung dropped in a vast heap. 'Bless you, Sir!' the farmer called as Izaaar flew off with Princess Miramar. This dragon's dung was worth far more than a few cows! Izaaar took Miramar back to the cave. Miramar was fascinated by the treasure, and made a careful note of where the secret lair was located. She was a smart girl, and you never knew when things like that could be useful. They had transplaned to the crystal castle, and Izaaar, now in his hunky normal form, ushered her into the chamber, high above the icy sea. In the distance, a crystal whale sparked prismatic light as its tail lifted and then splashed down in the water. The whole scene was astounding. 'Can't we get some blinds in here, Izzy? Izaaar began to wonder if he'd done the right thing.
Archived comments for Krystal

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Noblesse Oblige (posted on: 19-03-12)
belated entry for Prose Workshop Challenge (sorry)

Noblesse Oblige Garland sat back in his armchair. As a junior minister in Carvallo's government, he was entitled to a rather plush, if small, office in Whitehall and he was enjoying every moment of it so far. The intercom buzzed. 'Sir Ranulph Dixon, Mr Garland.' 'Send him in.' Garland got up, beaming, and walked across the room as the double doors opened. 'Ranulph.' He held out his hand. 'Guy.' Garland settled Dixon into a chair opposite his and rang for coffee. 'Brandy?' he asked. 'Well …' Dixon looked at his watch. 'I have finished my business for the day, and if it's the …' 'forty-five …' Garland smiled. After they had sipped their small cups of Blue Mountain, Garland settled back with his brandy glass and raised it in a toast. 'So, to what do I owe this pleasure? You asked to see me specially.' Dixon leaned forward, placing his own glass on the low table that sat between them. His face was serious. 'I'm sorry, Guy.' He hesitated. 'But I have something I must tell you .' 'Tell me what? We have no secrets, surely? Go ahead.' Garland waved his brandy glass in a sweeping gesture. 'It's about Lydia.' Garland leaned forward. 'Lady Lydia? Your niece?' 'Yes, er, Lady Lydia.' 'What about her?' Garland's eyes narrowed, and now he put his own glass down. This was an unexpected topic of conversation. Dixon's lowered eyes and expression gave him the feeling that he would not like what he was about to hear. 'Spit it out man.' Dixon's expression hardened. 'Very well then,' he said, 'Not to put too fine a point on it, the lady intends to go to the media.' 'What?' 'She says she needs the money.' Dixon's expression remained innocent. 'Well, I can't help but recall your apparent fondness for each other during the weekend you stayed with us when your wife was abroad. And there are these …' Photographs? What was the man up to? Garland felt less warmth toward him now – there was something more. Then he realised the implications. Damn! If this came out, he was finished. In today's prudish climate, Carvallo could not dare to promote him, or even keep him on. 'I'd be prepared to pay …' 'On your income? With your expenses? Your wife does not come cheap.' Penny certainly did not. She had been a great catch, career-wise, and status wise, cementing his presence in the ranks of the freeborn. But what right had this man …. Garland forced himself to hold back a reaction. 'Could you not ... take care of her?' For the first time, Garland detected the falseness of Dixon's smile. He'd not noticed it before, or maybe Dixon had not wished to let the facade slip before. In either case, it seemed to morph into the predatory smile of a shark. 'Well ….' Dixon looked at his fingernails. 'My own position is likely to be far less robust than it was, given the new Bill on taxation.' This was it. Garland sucked the implications in and considered them. After a pause, he said carefully, 'And is there any way of … improving … your position, as it were. Any way you can suggest?' Dixon smiled again. 'Section four, clause two-seven. Here is my suggestion.' From an inside pocket, he withdrew a folded paper with some text on. He placed it on the table, and pushed it across towards Garland. Garland did not pick the paper up. He knew what was on it. Wording that would presumably create the loophole that Dixon wished to trade on in his business. 'But won't it be obvious?' 'No, it's been very carefully worded by experts. If you handle it correctly with your civil servants, they will see it as an improvement. After all, you were a successful lawyer and are known to have a sharp legal mind. I also have back-up.' 'What?' Dixon laughed. 'Experts who could make you believe black was white, who can be fished out of the woodwork should the matter ever come up for debate. But I am confident it won't. Don't forget my future rides on this, I'd not knowingly risk it.' 'You've done this before?' 'What a strange question.' Dixon looked at him sharply. 'I don't think that concerns you.' 'Then all this, your apparent friendship, the Lady Lydia, all part of a plan? Because I'm responsible for the Bill?' Dixon smiled. This time a gentle smile, the one Garland knew. 'I like you,' he said. 'I genuinely do. That was not play acting.' The smile faded. 'But business is business, as I'm sure you yourself know. I'll bet you haven't got where you are without doing something similar.' Garland rose and went over to the intercom. 'Mr Dixon is leaving now,' he said. Scooping up the paper, he stood face to face with Dixon, who had risen from his chair. Very deliberately and slowly, he said, 'I shall consider the matter.' Dixon said nothing in reply, but as he passed through the double doors, escorted by the secretary, Garland heard the words 'one week' trail back to him. * Garland's brain was whirling. He ordered that he should not be disturbed, and sat to consider the situation. Instinctively, he was disinclined to give in to Dixon's demands because, like all blackmail, one surrender simply opened the door to the next. But Dixon seemed too big a fish to fight, a member one of the oldest freeborn families and probably very well protected. He needed another mind, a trusted mind. Garland dialled a number and spoke softly into the telephone. 'Duncan. I need your help. Now.' * 'Right. He's an old-family freeborn, you're a nouveau. What smells here?' Garland looked at his brother, uncomprehending. 'Dixon is a freeborn of the highest rank. He is honourable.' Duncan laughed. 'Honourable, like that Carvallo creature?' Garland rose. 'That's enough! I didn't bring you here to …' 'What? Tell you the truth?' Duncan held out a hand. 'Sit down, let me explain.' Garland acquiesced. Duncan leaned forward. 'Look. I know you better than anyone. You are the smartest lawyer around, you mince other people's protestations with your logic. But you have a flaw.' 'What?' 'You're a snob. You think the freeborn are perfect, cannot be deceitful, hurtful, that the world is like you imagined at school, becoming one of them, being granted freeborn status – making it! It was never like that at school – jealousy, envy, greed, control. How did you never notice that?' 'I never did.' 'You were lucky. I guess you had nothing to interest them, nothing to challenge, and your intellect frightened them – they wanted you onside.' Garland rose. 'What the hell is all this about? What does it have to do with my problem?' 'It IS your problem. You walked into this, you are still walking blind into it.' Duncan paused. 'What makes you think any of this story is true?' 'What?' Garland sputtered the words. Duncan leaned forward. 'Here is an old-family freeborn, the most privileged class in our society, telling you this and that. Why would you believe the man?' 'He went to my school, he is freeborn!' 'By your own account, he is a blackmailer and a false friend. He has proved it. What would the Supreme Council say if you bared the truth?' 'I could not tell, it is not honourable.' 'But you asked me to help you explore the assumptions Dixon has made. By your own account, as a sharp observer of character and the parvenu, he has you bang to rights. He got you. He knew you would believe him. To be honest, I think he is pretty desperate.' 'But he said it was a small inconvenience he'd like corrected …' 'Of course he bloody did! I'm betting there's far more to this than meets the eye. The new Bill traps several unwholesome practices. I'm betting he's up to his neck and facing ruin. He would not go out on a limb like this if not.' 'I didn't …' 'I know. You're an innocent. But now, apply that brain logically – forget he's old family freeborn, forget you are touting for elevation. Just analyse and decide. I can't tell you what to do, only help, as you asked. ' Garland sat back, suddenly quiet. Thoughts were flashing through his mind, new ideas blossoming. He relaxed. 'Duncan. Again, I owe you more than I can say. Give me a half hour and we'll meet at the Dorchester Grill. Let's relax.' And, in response to Ducan's puzzled expression: 'Look, I got it, okay?' * 'You were right.' Garland said. 'It's not true. Lynda is not a freeborn, she is only a plebite, not even a gentlewoman. He brought her in to hook me.' 'So, in your world, that's okay?' 'Of course. It doesn't count. Deceiving a freeborn woman would be disgrace though.' 'But what about Penny?' 'Why should she care? I have not made a freeborn associations, merely ...' 'Had your way with a sweet child.' Garland bridled. ' No! A procured, lower class female, purporting to be freeborn.' 'Does that make your actions worthy? If you truly believed she was freeborn, you are as guilty as Dixon says you are.' 'But she was not.' 'And such is politics, brother, I now realise. Farewell.' As Duncan left, Garland had a moment of regret. His brother was indeed a pure and honest soul. Still, despite his own naivety he was intent on improving his ideas. First, the crushing of Dixon, next, the slow crawl up the hierarchy to Carvallo and the top echelons of the freeborn. He would make it.
Archived comments for Noblesse Oblige
bluepootle on 19-03-2012
Noblesse Oblige
I like the way you've intermingled some interesting ideas here, with the freeborn and the way that plays into the strict prudish climate of the government. I think the dialogue's very good too, and easy to follow. The tone is right.

You've got a typo - 'And to Ducan’s puzzled expression:'

Duncan seemed a bit wasted except as a foil for ideas, but I can't see what other role he could play. I suppose I wanted there to be something more, further. A final confrontation. But it's a subtle piece and maybe that wouldn't really work. I just feel a bit unsatisfied at the end; I'm not sure why. Hmmm. It is good, though. Maybe I'm just more in the mood for violence/shouting/kabooms.

Author's Reply:
Thankyou, you are kind.

the first part was originally quite telly and explanatory, but when I wrote the second part in a cavalier, shorthand style, I saw it was good and went back and massacred a lot of worthy tell πŸ™‚ death to nerds!

also, under the influence of the wee dram, you'll note a few interesting ideas creep in - although they may have been the result of simply pondering on the scenario fo a couple of days.

the typo isn't - but if it's not clear, I should change it anyway.

It's not really one of my 'good' stories though (count 'em ladies and gents ... no put the other hand down ... count 'em).

TheBigBadG on 20-03-2012
Noblesse Oblige
There's some strong elements to this, as Blue say the dialogue flows naturally and both Dixon - nasty little toad that he is - and Garland are both entirely believable. There's something about the setting that feels like it's not contemporary, perhaps all the nobs and nobility, which fits the story well too. For me that's essential in fact, because I'm not sure people would make the distinction between adultery with a 'commoner' instead of aristocracy these days.

The problem I have is with all the talk of 'Freeborns'. It doesn't feel natural to me and pulled me out of the story a bit. This might well be how they refer to each other (being a 'commoner' one wouldn't know, what what), but for me changing that to something less particular would make it work better.

I'm with Blue in that Duncan seems to just act as a vector too. We know so little about him that it could almost be re-written so that he's deliberating on it himself. I'd perhaps lose Duncan and make it that way, or give him some more weight and identity.

Personally I'm ok with the subtlety of it all though, it suits the challenge well and politics is, after all, in the details.

Author's Reply:
well, this is obviously not our world, is it? He's in London, but society is quite different, it has somewhere along the way taken a different turn.

I need Duncan because Garland is a sharp lawyer, mind like a razor. but the premise is he's missed something and Dixon has played him for a fool as he has spotted his blind spot. It needs an outside catalyst to achieve that revelation as he can't (and hasn't) done it on his own. πŸ™‚

TheBigBadG on 20-03-2012
Noblesse Oblige
Yes, you're right of course. I'd maybe flesh Duncan out a little bit more then? All, of course, merely my opinion so I may well be the minority.

Author's Reply:


They Stole My Face -- The Purpose (posted on: 19-03-12)
by John. every clone needs a purpose in life ... (rather delayed post of final part of They Stole My Face πŸ™‚ )

maybe it helps to understand that when this was first presented (2003), many folks had joined UKA from another site where a couple of trolls used different screen names to cause mischief. The three parts of this story were posted under the different names (egriff, Frank, Earnest) and an argument (off submission) with them claiming the other was stealing their story got people steamed up as they thought it was genuine. This is the last part that wrapped up the confusion and explained the multiple screen characters on the next posting day. To read the first story in this series CLICK HERE The Purpose by John Tuesday morning. Earnest fired up his computer. He still hadn't developed any idea of what the purpose of the clone in his story draft should be. Some folks on his writing site had insisted that readers would demand why a self-replicating clone was sent to earth in the first place. Earnest wasn't so sure. Earnest logged on to the writer's site – at least he tried to. 'What the..?' He went to the member's list – Frank was still there, but his own name was missing. Bloody hell, he thought, I bet that's John's work. He turned to his e-mail – sure enough, top of the list a mail from John: URGENT. Earnest linked up to John's site. Frank was already there. He had a separate computer in his room in the flat they both shared. * John was angry. He'd been pacing his cabin for three hours, waiting for Earnest and Frank to reply. He'd thought of going downtown to see them, but had waited. He peered at the screen. At last! Earnest: what's the problem, John? Hi Frank! He sat down and began typing furiously:- John: Your stories! Earnest : What's wrong with it? Frank: Hi! John : They think you're a clone of me! Earnest: I am πŸ™‚ Frank: so am I John: they think I planned it all! And you, Frank – what were you up to? All those nice people saying hello and encouraging you, now I have to pretend it was me all the time – you made me look bad, both of you! Frank: but we agreed Earnest: we agreed our purpose in life – to be authors. Frank: you agreed as well. John: well, I suppose I did, but we all decided to do different things – I do fiction. Earnest: I do philosophy! Frank: and I am a biographer. Exasperated, John typed on gently: John : then why did we all write bits of the same story? Frank: I wrote a biography of Chris Parker. What's the problem? John: You wrote about us, sitting in a bar. About us and the farm - everything. Frank: Yes, a biography is fact. Infuriated, John hit CAPs John: BUT NOT ABOUT US! Earnest: don't get upset, John, I am sure nobody noticed Frank: well you wrote about how we were made and came to earth John: not we – I. And that was clearly fiction Frank: yes, but it was about us, just the same. Earnest: I see what you mean, John, there is a bit of a problem here. John: yes, the problem is you two Frank: I suppose you're right. John: when we finally agreed that our purpose on earth was to become authors, I didn't foresee this problem. Earnest: well, authors have pen names and so on. John: not two other people writing the same stuff. It would be okay if it was different, like we agreed. Earnest: I suppose so, but we can't – we are you. John: something has to be done Frank: sorry! It was inevitable, he thought. It just has to be done. Shame! John: never mind guys, just stop posting on the site, eh? We'll sort something out tonight. I'll come round about 5? Frank: Sure – look forward to it, John Earnest: okay πŸ™‚ John signed off and opened up the writer's site to try to repair the damage done by Frank and Earnest. * Earnest was looking forward to a good chat – he missed John. They could communicate using their universal code, but only in close proximity. Since the three of them had left Chris Parker's farm to be authors, they'd been quite successful at living in a big city. They did manual labour when they needed money. Frank and Earnest shared a flat downtown, where the neighbours assumed they were twins. John, the original biobot, had a place in the woods and lived quietly with nature. Frank and Earnest did not have speaking devices like his but they pretended to be deaf and dumb and quickly learned to write and lip-read. They got by. At exactly five, the front door buzzed. Frank opened the door. Earnest stood up to greet John. 'Nice to see you' Frank sent. 'You too,' John grinned, 'give us a hug!' This was unusual, thought Earnest, as he watched John embrace Frank. The hug went on far too long, until Earnest realised something was wrong. Earnest backed into a corner, horrified, as Frank slowly melted into John. His clothes dropped to the floor. As a replicate, Earnest was subservient to John, and found he could not resist. 'Sorry, Earnest,' sent John as he walked towards him across the small room. * John left the flat, treading carefully down the stairs. Outwardly the same size, he was nearly three times his normal weight and had strengthened his lower body accordingly. Most of the weight was water, phase-compressed, which he would bleed off slowly as moisture. Excess minerals would be expelled as a fine dust from his scalp. As John walked to the subway, he felt a burden lift. After he, Frank and Earnest, had left the farm, he continued to feel responsible for them. Now he felt relief. Across the street, a sign winked: 'Fried Chicken.' Yuck! John shuddered. He promised himself he'd never eat chicken again,. He was happy now. Then he had a recollection which stopped him in his tracks: Hadn't there been FOUR of them at the farm before they ran away?
Archived comments for They Stole My Face -- The Purpose

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The Island (posted on: 12-03-12)
A repost of a story removed from the site due to protest.

When this was first posted it was nibbed and nominated. Then a couple of folks started saying it was in bad taste, quite vociferously. I did not believe so, but removed it anyway. It was not entirely clear, but I gathered their objections were based on proximity to a real event. Now time has passed, I'm assuming people will be cool with it. The events in this story are fictional, never happened as far as we know, and I based them on a (sensible) warning from the Norwegian police at the time. The Island 'For god's sake, Liv, they told us not to.' The woman's hands were shaking, clutching the phone. The man took it out of her hands and placed it on the table. He led her to the armchair. 'Sit down,' he said. 'I will make us a hot drink. We must hope and pray. Everything is being done.' 'But Roald ....' Her complaint faded as the man disappeared into the small kitchen. She could hear the clinking of mugs, and the tap being turned on to fill the kettle. Looking across at a small table, she caught sight of the photograph and burst into convulsive sobs. Roald was there, putting his arms round his wife, holding her close. 'There, there. Please, Liv, we must be strong. Please don't be upset. We don't know what is happening yet.' 'We know, we know,' Liv shrieked. 'They just told us. Marit is there – she's there!' After she had quieted a little, he let her go. 'I'll get our drinks. You sit right here. Everything will be okay.' Liv nodded, now silent, eyes cast down. She could not wait. She was unable to wait. She had to know .... Liv picked up her handbag and hurried to the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet lid, she fumbled with the cellphone. There was a knock and Roald's voice called from behind the locked door, 'What are you doing Liv? Are you okay?' She tried to make her voice sound as normal as possible, with a hint of annoyance. 'What do think I'm doing, you silly man? Is that drink ready yet? I'll be ready for it when I get out. Won't be long ...' Her fingers flew over the buttons. She pressed the phone to her ear, tears running down her face. She could hear the ringing. * On the island, the gunman stopped, turned back towards the clump of bushes from which the jolly, jingling ringtone was coming, and raised his weapon.
Archived comments for The Island
Andrea on 12-03-2012
The Island
Oh yes, I remember now - the Norwegian massacre. Well, it does bear a remarkable similarity to (some of) what happened - I even remember reports of the kids trying to use their mobiles and parents trying to get through. Still, don't see anything wrong in a fictitious tale, even one resembling a real event - it's done all the time. As for the piece itself, not bad but a bit stilted I felt. You've done better πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
it's basically a flash so no embroidery - one trick pony!. πŸ™‚

of course it's based on the real event (as many stories are) what DIDN'T happen as far as I know was anyone getting shot because their phone rang. Some bright Norwegian policeman, forseeing such events put out a public warning to that effect (don't phone 'em)

RoyBateman on 14-03-2012
The Island
I didn't see the original, but I really can't see why anyone should object...yes, it's raw and powerful but that surely was the point, and it doesn't specifically refer to any real person actually caught up in the horror of that day. If I had to withdraw everything I've written based on real-life historical realities, it'd be a savage cull. Same as most folk, I reckon.
I can see why it was nibbed - it certainly has shock value, and I really couldn't see what on earth was going to happen to make the piece of any interest until it slapped me in the face at the last second. Very good, I'd say!

Author's Reply:
thanks, Roy. πŸ™‚ cheered me up ...


When Did You Last See Your Father? (Ekphrastic Poetry) (posted on: 09-03-12)
this was written in 2007, in response to a poetry workshop challenge by delph-ambi. It's good! why O why doesn't she set one again?

[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u215/JohnG38/lastseefather.jpg[/img] 'And when did you last see your father?' 1878 William Frederick Yeames (1835 - 1918) http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/lastseefather/thepainting.asp When did you last ...? The child alone is stood before Inquisitors – his father's foe His mother anxious for his fate While soldiers in the background go They're sprawled around, this roundhead crew Come here to plunder, take their fill But keen enough, the questioner Leans calm to bend him to his will Will he speak true or will he lie? His father found, or honour lost? His innocence is compromised By love and fear. What is the cost? In all our lives we face a test We take a stance and make the play Honour can murder innocence We all decide as best we may
Archived comments for When Did You Last See Your Father? (Ekphrastic Poetry)
Andrea on 09-03-2012
When Did You Last See Your Father? (Ekphrastic Poetry)
No idea what 'Ekphrastic Poetry' is, I'll look it up. But I remember standing before this painting for ages as a kid, it always fascinated me. Or maybe it was the waxwork tableau at Madame Tussaud's...can't remember what the kid said now.

Either way, I agree with your sentiments (last stanza).





Author's Reply:
just means the poem describes the image

this painting (see ref) is in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, so having grown up there, it was very familiar to me from school trips πŸ™‚

we don't know what he said. that's the question posed by the title ... clever painting

Andrea on 09-03-2012
When Did You Last See Your Father? (Ekphrastic Poetry)
Yes, I saw ref (Liverpool) which is why I think I must have seen it at Madame Twosods, which I frequented frequently as a kid, it being just down the road, like.

Author's Reply:

Bradene on 10-03-2012
When Did You Last See Your Father? (Ekphrastic Poetry)
Love Ekphrastic poetry, I love to write it myself. And I agree we should have another picture challenge, I used to enjoy them and find I get a lot more inspiration from them rather than just a word. This is one I remember, I'm sure. Well anyway I thought it was smashing Valx

Author's Reply:
Thanks, Val-poo . Yes, I guessed you would remember it. But hell, there's loads of new folks who've never delved into my depths (as it were) I OWE it to the world ... mwaaaahhhhhh!


They Stole My Face (posted on: 09-03-12)
'There were three of me in a bar across the street ....' here we learn the origin of the biobot, and further ... what happens when some of the replicants flee Chris Parker's farm (and the chickens) ... this is a bridge to the final denouement ... (on Monday).

PART 2 OF 'THEY STOLE MY FACE' To read the first story in this series CLICK HERE They Stole My First Line by John 'There were three of me in the bar across the street…' It began. Earnest lowered the book with a sigh. He couldn't read any more – it was that damn 'body snatchers' story in yet another guise! He turned the book over: 'Nebula Winners' it said. He dropped it on the table. Surely he could write the same guff himself? Worth a try. He sat at the keyboard and began to type. * Karsler peered at the screen. His sight was poor these days, but he got by. He fumbled with his instruments, locating the cross-hairs on the figure he was keeping center screen. 'Stand still, damn you!' This biped was moving far too quickly – must be a warm planet. 'Ahah!' Karsler paused over the button for a heartbeat then plunged it down. 'There!' He rubbed his primary hands together, grinning. He busied himself checking the quality of the scan. 'Good, good,' he muttered as the stats came in. Nearly ninety-nine percent complete already. 'Superb!' Karsler skittered off to the tanks. He set up a patch to receive the data and tapped at the keyboard, setting up the long, slow process of growing a biobot. In a few weeks, there would be a complete, functioning model of the creature he had scanned, ready for the biomatter transporter. Internally, the biobot would have no organs. Externally, it would be identical to the being. It would walk and sit. It would use its upper and lower limbs just as the creature did. Similarly, it would see, hear and feel. However, the biobot would not breathe, speak or be able to smell. To add these properties would have been far too difficult. Karsler had decided the biobot's built-in 'haze' field was enough to cover the discrepancy, as it stopped others noticing the biobot too clearly. The biobot was a complex creation. It absorbed energy and only needed moisture or occasional wetting of the skin. By far the best feature, for Karsler's purposes, was the ability to absorb living mass and use it for major repair or replication. Karsler was fairly sure the 'bot would find an animal species with suitably-balanced constituents. * Karsler faced the bot, holding the silver translator. All bots were programmed with a standard communication code and used the self-learning device to talk and understand any language. He didn't want to implant the device within the bot it as it would interfere with the replication process. 'So, you understand your task?' 'Perfectly, Scientist.' the bot replied. 'Ugly looking thing.' 'I am sorry, sir.' 'No, you're a perfect copy. It's the creature who amazes me – soft, wrinkly skin, wet openings. He's inside-out, with his skeleton inside. Nature is incredible. A less sensible design you could hardly invent.' Karsler shook his head. 'You will be entirely accepted by these creatures, you look normal to them, neutral and unremarkable. Your first task is to find suitable material for replication' 'Understood, Sir Scientist' 'And then … * 'Damn!' Earnest paused and scratched his head. What did the clone have to do? Take over the world? Start a colony to send back things? Build a portal to bring through the teeming hordes from the nest world? Interrupt a time-event to change history? As Earnest pondered, he remembered something on the TV and settled down in front of it for the evening. In the office, the computer screen glowed; sullen, abandoned. I'll think of a plot tomorrow, Earnest resolved, relaxing. ************************* They Stole My Goal by Earnest It had been a couple of years now since I had infiltrated the life of Chris Parker, a struggling farmer. I and my replicates had presented ourselves to him as innocent, well-meaning beings and together we had been quite successful. The farm was booming! Chris had money in the bank and great prospects. I produced as many workers as needed, depending on the chicken level, and this kept us buoyant in difficult times. But lately, I'd become dissatisfied. I think he's taking advantage of me, was our one thought as we retired to our barn. But why? Did we want anything? 'Nothing' was the universal answer. So why did I feel this way? Logically, I had everything we needed. What I did not have was desires – needs, for the Creator's sake – An objective, a goal, a Dream. What was our objective, our raison d'κtre? I did not know. But I would find out. * I had found that my replicates slowly developed modifications to their programs if left unchecked. This was interesting, as I was able to observe different characteristics emerging in my other selves. Unfortunately, small groups of like-minded me's would tend to band together. I had to catch them before things got out of hand, so I had a continuous program of re-absorption and replication, which restored them to my own original programming again. Naturally, this limited the total number of replicates I could maintain at any one time over a long period, although I could produce extra for emergencies. Frankly, it took it out of me. Re-absorption was not an efficient process, so I needed a good supply of chickens to keep the whole thing going. The one thing that really worried me was how far I myself was drifting away from my incomplete programming – how would I know? I had no bench marks to check against. And would it matter in any case? That was another thing to find out. TO READ THE NEXT PART - Click Here
Archived comments for They Stole My Face
AdrianLynch on 07-05-2012
They Stole My Face

I think this is a confident piece of writing and you manage to express imaginative ideas without making them over complicated. The character of Earnest comes over well. A couple of minor issues; I’m not sure if β€˜suitably-balanced’ should have a hyphen, and I think β€˜bench marks’ should be one word. I enjoyed reading this and will look out for more. Adrian.


Author's Reply:
thanks. there are three parts that need to be read in order (I have provided links) πŸ™‚


They Stole My Face (by Frank) (posted on: 27-02-12)
blimey! strange things happen .... There were three of me in the bar across the street ...

They Stole my Face There were three of me in the bar across the street. I could see them clearly in the soft yellow light. I ducked down the alley by the bank and hoped they hadn't seen me. I took a look back round the corner of the building – they were still there. There seemed to be more of them now. Luckily my truck has blacked-out windows and I'd parked off Main Street. I'd been able to get to the store last week and hoped it would be possible again. A pebble in one of my boots was a defense against them recognizing my walk. Last Tuesday, one had called after me from behind so they must be observant. Perhaps the hood would work, pulled down over my face. Limping over to the store, I kept a covert eye on the three of me in the bar. They sat, unmoving. Then one turned, but his gaze skimmed past and focused on another me emerging from the barber shop. Good! The general store was empty. No one was out back. I guessed Bill was off dozing, so I selected some groceries, bagged them, laid a fifty on the counter and left by the back door. * It started three weeks ago. Walking down Main Street, I came face to face with myself. It's funny how you know, but you do. He didn't just look like me, he was me. I turned and fled with some nonsense about 'doppelgangers' spinning in my head. I kept seeing myself about town. One time I was heading straight for me and I had to dodge me. I had just dodged me coming out of the bank when I literally bumped into myself going into the bar. He was as solid as I was. Then I saw his hand reach into his pocket. There was something bulky there. I thought it might be a gun. I'm not a violent man but I grabbed him and threw him against the wall. He slumped down on the sidewalk, his hand still in his pocket. I ran off to my truck and tore out of town on the Westville road, circling round in a big detour on the dirt roads to get back to my place. No-one else seemed to notice them. All anyone talked about was disappearing chickens. I even telephoned Doc Fry and tried to explain. He just told me to come in for a check-up. * Safe in the truck, I pulled off my hood and started her up. Just then, one of me rounded the corner. The window was down and I was sure he'd seen me. I gunned the motor and pulled away, spraying dust and grit. As I sped out of town, I had to dodge me several times. It seems they could communicate: they were stepping off the sidewalk in the path of the truck. Thankfully, I didn't hit any of them. This time I took the Bolden Road – it was a longer backhaul, but better to confuse them in case they followed. Reaching my place at dusk, I parked short of the yard and crept up to it on foot. After a quick look round, I went back for the truck, brought it in, reset the gate, unloaded the groceries then locked up the house. I was beginning to suspect that my other selves didn't drive cars, or they'd have been out here by now. I hoped it was true. Just what did they want? * Life was bad enough. I had serious problems with the farm. It was too big for me to handle alone, and hired help was getting pretty expensive. It was isolated and people didn't like the trip out. If I couldn't solve the problem I'd be broke. I let another week pass before going back to town. I took a lot of care but as I hurried back to the truck it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't seen a single one of me. In a strange way, I missed me. But I was pretty relieved all the same. At the farm I made the usual checks and brought the groceries into the kitchen. A couple of cans were missing. They must have rolled out in the cab, so I went back outside. As I emerged, they were standing in front of me, smiling. Four of them. I cursed myself – they must have been in the back of the truck under the tarp, which I could now see was loose. One held a shiny metal thing, pointed straight at me. I froze. It said, 'Fear not!' The silver thing was some kind of speaking device. 'I am not a threat to you. I have come to talk.' I looked at the four identical me's with their bland expressions and slowly relaxed. Whatever they were up to they didn't seem too threatening. At least I might find out what was going on. 'You better come in.' I nodded to the house. As I supped a beer, they sat neatly in a row on the couch. The one with the speaking machine explained that he'd found himself near the town one day. He had no memory prior to that, nor any knowledge of who he was or why he was there. Performing a detailed self-analysis on himself, he was able to establish he had built-in communication devices, but he was not receiving any signals. 'So why are there four of you?' 'Because we have reabsorbed the others so we could fit in your vehicle.' 'No, I mean why more than one?' I would have to choose my words carefully. 'After you ran away from me that time, I decided to make further copies to increase the chances of contact with you.' 'How did you make them?' 'I can replicate by absorbing certain biomass.' 'What, exactly?' I was curious. 'Chickens.' 'You are made of chickens?' I was amazed. 'I don't know what I myself was made from but yes, the others are made from chickens.' 'Why am I the only one who really notices you?' 'You can see us because I want you to, but we have a kind of field that discourages other individuals from looking at us too closely.' 'Why?' 'Presumably, because we are not fully functioning.' He nodded at the speaking device. 'This, for instance - I found it in my pocket. It learned your language and it linked to my internal short-range communication device. We all can communicate with each other as well using the same system, but I get nothing on the long-range one. Internally we are nothing like you. I am flesh, muscles and biobrain. I have visual, aural and tactile senses and that's about all. I don't breathe and can't speak normally' 'How do you eat and drink?' 'I don't. I absorb energy from many sources to keep my body functioning.' I was getting interested now. 'So why are you here, why me?' 'I have sought to talk to you because I am you.' 'Not inside.' 'That is true, my brain is entirely different.' He paused 'But I have no other hope! I was made to look like you, there must be a reason.' 'I'll have to sleep on this,' I told them. It was getting late. 'Do you need beds?' 'We're fine here if that's OK with you?' 'Yup! Er, good night, then.' I left them sitting on the couch. I had an idea I could sort something out for my selves in the morning. * Over the last two years since that night, everything's turned out just fine! We built a new house for me and a big shed for the others. The farm is booming – I even bought up Old Pearson's land when he died and doubled the size of the place. It's all grown by hand, of course. We produce mostly crops but also chickens – plenty of chickens. who are these people? Is there is more to this story? Of course there is .... but .... TO READ THE NEXT PART - Click Here
Archived comments for They Stole My Face (by Frank)
teifii on 27-02-2012
They Stole My Face
Blimey! What an imagination.

Author's Reply:
ah, thankyou (there is more to this story - see on Friday - all will be revealed)

Andrea on 27-02-2012
They Stole My Face
Brilliant title πŸ™‚ Title's should grab' as you know.

Imagine more than one Griff...aaaarrrggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Poor ol' RockyLobster had better look out after all...

Author's Reply:
wait til you meet Karsler (next part) - he has a hard shell πŸ™‚

Rocky could play him in the film ...

ruadh on 27-02-2012
They Stole My Face
This is a wee bitty weird but I'm interested in seeing where it goes. Love the title.

Author's Reply:
a 'wee bitty' weird? Blimey, where do you live? corks....

thanks for the comment ... πŸ™‚

TheBigBadG on 27-02-2012
They Stole My Face (by Frank)
So... many... questions... Is it Friday yet?

Author's Reply:
It COULD be! *smiles strangely*

bluepootle on 28-02-2012
They Stole My Face (by Frank)
This was bound to appeal to me really. Replicas made out of chickens. Yeah, it's great. Looking forward to the next bit. I like the sense of humour.

Although when the narrator says he's beginning to get interested I was taken aback. There are replicas of you all over town and you only begin to get interested when they turn up at your house and start talking turkey? Hmmm.

Author's Reply:
well, he's a cool guy ... and he'd just had the beginning of an idea ...


The Writer of Wrongs (posted on: 24-02-12)
about a troll ...

The Writer of Wrongs He sits alone at dark of night, Inside his room, beneath the bridge. Books lie tumbled all around, The silence broken by the sound As blunted fingers hunt and peck A tattoo on the keyboard. His body arching to his task, Entrapped by fate, he cannot cease, Limbs so tense, their strain increasing, Perching, rounded, pain not easing, Humpty-backed with wire-hair sprouting, Broad nose flaring, nostrils wide. Shuffling, grunting, spitting, farting, Slurping greedy from his pot, He tries so hard to catch the moon But always, somehow, only gloom Awaits him, even though sometimes A sullen brightness gleams. The puffing, groaning, giant body Foetid with the scum of years, Fidgets, anxious - twisting, turning In its eyes ambition burning Trying for some recognition. Notice me, you shits! He can write and well he knows it But mood and meaning count for all. His base soul fetters his true flight, He sits alone into the night, Inside his room beneath the bridge And huffs frustration - streaming bile. © John F Griffiths 2002/2012
Archived comments for The Writer of Wrongs
Andrea on 24-02-2012
The Writer of Wrongs
Good grief - do hope they're not all like that!

'The puffing, groaning, giant body
Foetid with the scum of years'

Good read though, enjoyed it - made me laugh (still wonder why you start each sentence with a capital though :))

Needless to say you are now a Twat...

Author's Reply:
well, it's not a literal image, it's an image reflecting his character of course ....

it's what's in the mind - the inferiority, the envy, the hurt and pain, the ugly motivations that make people like that lash out. You may understand something of that and feel sorry for them, but not excuse their actions.

thanks for the comment. πŸ™‚

ChairmanWow on 26-02-2012
The Writer of Wrongs
Yes, most writers can "relate" to this like they used to say before my time. Captures the frustration of writing which, contrary to what people think who don't write, it is more of a compulsion than a gift. great flow. this should have gotten more comments.

Ralph

Author's Reply:
thanks. I agree we are all compelled, but we each of us have different reactions to the success or otherwise of our efforts. This one's about someone turning his self-hate and insecurity against others, of course.


Duck Story (posted on: 24-02-12)
for the prose workshop challenge. plus duck! πŸ™‚

Duck Story It was that bloody duck! I'll never forget it. I was hungry, right? I just wanted a chinky: crispy duck, won-tons, the full monte. So I called this new place I'd seen advertised. The chap was real funny. When I got to give my name, his voice changed – well, a different guy came on, like I'd been switched through somewhere. 'Ah, Mister Clickhowew?' he said. 'Crickhowell, right.' 'James Arfur Clickhowew?' How did he know my full name? 'Yes.'     'Plemium cutomer?' Plemium? Oh, premium. Course I was, probably get a discount. 'Mother maiden name?' Why did they want that? 'Secon' an fiff letters of password.' What the hell? I thought a moment and told 'em my facebook one. 'Hokay. An you wan' special crispy duck – special, special duck for plemium cutomer. Special service?' He put a lot of emphasis on the words. Well, of course I wanted special – after all, I was a premium customer! I repeated what he said, and added, 'Yes please. I'm sure'. 'Hokay. An' what address you want deliver to tonight?' At last! I gave my address. * Cindy rang. 'I'm unexpectedly free. Remember you said you'd take me to that new Italian place? I'll be ready in an hour.' I went off to get ready. Just as I was about to leave, the bell rang. A serious-looking Chinese man dressed in a suit stood with a brown-paper bag in his hand. 'James Arfur Clickhowew?' What the hell was this all about? He went through the whole rigmarole of the password and everything and made me sign some document. I was itching to get out of the door and get to Cindy, so it wasn't until he left that I realised I hadn't paid him. And they hadn't asked for my card details on the phone. What was going on? But Cindy couldn't wait. * Next morning, bleary-eyed and feeling great, I sipped my coffee and eyed the bag on the kitchen table. The thought of the greasy, cold duck didn't appeal, so I dropped the bag into the trash bin before going back for my shower. I thought nothing of it. * A week later, the phone rang. I recognised the voice. They'd probably discovered I hadn't paid. 'Mister Clickhowew?' 'Yes.' 'You like duck?' 'Er, yes, very good.' I wasn't going to tell them I'd dumped it. 'Then you must pay for duck.' 'Yes. You didn't take my credit card details.' 'Mister Clickhowew, we have your details. Otherwise you would not be plemium cutomer.' 'Oh yeh.' I began to get an inkling something was wrong. 'You refused our charge.' 'No, I didn't.' 'Bank say so. You claim duck not deliver.' 'No, I didn't. Look I have my card here, I'll give you the details.' 'I tol' you we have details!' His voice raised to a shriek. I could tell he was upset. 'We check, okay?' 'Okay.' I felt it safer to agree. He began to recite my name, address ... Hang on, that wasn't my address! 'Hold on,' I said, reaching for a pen. 'Can we just check that again?' I wrote it all down: address, credit card details, password, everything. Had this guy never heard of data protection? 'But that isn't my address. You delivered to my address.' 'Mister Clickhowew, stop these games. I know you have many address. I know you order special special duck for plemium cutomer last Friday every month at seven in evening, regular, jus' like you did las' Friday.' 'Look, this is a mistake. You must have another customer with the same name. Why don't you just let me pay and that's that?' 'Not as simple, Mister Clickhowew.' 'It's a lot of fuss over fifteen pounds.' 'Fifteen pound?' His voice rose to an even higher shriek than before. 'Fifteen pound?' 'Well, how much was it then?' I had to admit I hadn't asked when I ordered. Okay, it might be a little more expensive, but hell, no need for all the dramatics. His voice changed. 'You know, Mister Clickhowew, I have great suspicions of you. You must be dealt with, I think. For one thing, special special duck for plemium cutomer cost many, many times more than what you say.' He named a figure that made my hair stand on end. 'What? For a crispy duck? That's mad.' The shriek grew shriekier. 'No, no! You know. Not jus' clispy duck. Special special thing. Did you not see?' 'Well, to tell you the truth, my girlfriend called and I went out. I binned the duck.' Oh dear! He now spoke like an old fashioned steam train puffs. I feared he was having some kind of attack. 'You ... bin ... special ... special ... duck ... for ... plemium ... cutomer? You bin?' There was silence for at least a minute. Then he said, 'Stay there, we come see you. Now.' I wasn't sure what to do. The figure he'd named was out of my reach, and clearly there was more to it, so even if I could borrow the amount, it might not get me off the hook. So I grabbed a few things and went over to Cindy's. * She wasn't at all pleased, but I smooth talked her and took her out to the 'good' restaurant. She'd wanted Chinese, but ... I found the address they'd given me on google. I could hardly believe it. The place was up in one of the most select areas in the country. I'd taken the week off work in case they traced me somehow – and I'd left my car behind for the same reason, so I took Cindy's and drove up there. The house was like a palace, bristling with security. I sat in a layby a fair way away and began eating my sandwich just as an enormous Bentley swished past me and swung in through the gateway. The man was home! * 'I'd like to see the Owner.' 'Hoppit! You a journalist?' 'No. It is in his own interest. Look, I'm just an ordinary guy, in trouble. I've found something out that would compromise his security. That's how I got here. I just want to warn him.' 'Oh, do-gooder eh? You make my heart bleed.' 'Look, if he solves his problem, it solves mine – that's all. That's all I want out of it. I can let him know of some people who are giving away his private details. I need to tell him, please.' I gave him my name. The guard's face took on that 'beyond my authority' look, and he spoke to someone. 'Wait.' After a few minutes, a well-dressed man walked down the drive to the gate. 'Hello,' he said smoothly. 'James Arthur Crickhowell, I see.' 'Yes.' 'Then indeed I can see the connection with Mr Armstrong's affairs. Unfortunate.' 'Very.' 'And you say you only want to help him?' 'Yes. But it will incidentally help me. That's my motive. No more. I can't handle it myself.' 'Can you let me know more?' 'I'll only speak to, er ... Mr Armstrong personally. The details are private and should be kept secure. But I will tell you it's about a special special crispy duck for a premium customer.' The man's face went pale. I had to admire him. Nothing else changed. 'Then follow me,' he said as smoothly as ever. 'Macintosh, tell Miranda that I have someone Mr Armstrong may wish to see. It is important.' We proceeded up the drive. The Rottweilers looked amiable. * 'Mr Crickhowell.' He had a slight transatlantic accent. 'I believe we have some, er, confusion to settle?' 'I hope we can, yes.' He was charm itself. A big, burly man but gentle in his movements. He didn't rush, he didn't question. In no time I was relaxed in a plush armchair opposite him, with a glass of fine brandy in my hand. 'Now, just tell me what is going on.' I caught a glint of steel in his eye, which shook me, but I simply told him my story. It didn't take long. 'So,' he said, topping up my glass. 'One of the identities I use for everyday business, purely for security, has brought you problems?' 'I guess. It wasn't your fault.' 'That's kind of you.' He leaned towards me. 'And they gave you all my personal data, password and codes, and told you of my ... er, regular habits in ordering?' 'Yes.' 'And you say you do not know what was in the special, special crispy duck pack?' His expression frightened me. I guessed I was seeing behind the mask. 'As I said, I binned it. I had an evening out with Cindy.' 'Cindy?' 'My girlfriend. I hope we'll get married when I can afford it.' 'How nice.' I think he meant it. 'Well,' He said eventually, after a few phone calls from another room. 'Your story seems to check out. I can't emphasise enough the need for security. And silence.' This time there was no mistaking his expression. 'No sir. The matter's over for me. I shall think no more about it.' And before he could ask, 'And I've told no-one, not even Cindy.' 'I believe you son.' He grinned. 'You know, given some of the people I deal with, it's nice to meet an honest man for once. Now, is there any way I can reward you?' 'No, it's okay. As I said from the start, I just want these Chinese guys off my back. I don't know what it's about, but they're asking me for an enormous amount of money. I just don't have it. My flat is mortgaged to the hilt.' I shook my head. 'Okay.' He rang a bell. 'Well, you have my grateful thanks. I've already dealt with our Chinese problem, by the way. You are staying at Cindy's I believe?' How did he know that? I nodded. 'Well, forgive me, but there'll be a surprise for Cindy and a nice takeaway delivered this evening.' 'Not Chinese.' He added in response to my horrified look. 'And I'll throw in a few bottles of something to make it a memorable evening. Okay?' 'Thanks very much.' 'Benton will drive you back and I'll have Cindy's car delivered soon after. After all, you've been drinking.' He paused. 'I like you, son. You've done me a favour, and I won't forget it.' * I sat in Cindy's flat, bemused. Coming back, we had taken a detour past the Chinese place. It was empty. 'To let' it said in the window. I had put a bottle of the champagne in the fridge to chill. I didn't recognise the name at all, and the labels were numbered. This one was '101'. On the sofa lay a beautifully-wrapped package. 'For Cindy' it said. Later, after Cindy came home, there was a knock at the door. Several people stood there, carrying all sorts of things. They came in, laid the table fit for a palace, and served us the most tremendous meal I'd ever had. Cindy was gobsmacked. Especially by the present. 'Do you know how much these cost?' she gasped. So, everything turned out well. I got a letter the following week saying that my mortgage had been paid off, and when Cindy and I announced we were getting married, two tickets for a luxury honeymoon arrived. I've never been tempted to order another special crispy duck, even though Cindy says she likes them.
Archived comments for Duck Story
bluepootle on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
This sped along and had a nice light touch to it. Love the special special crispy duck. Bizarre enough to really appeal to me. It's a good one! Also, I like the fact that you haven't made Mr Armstrong in any way conventionally threatening. He seems like a perfectly decent person. After all, he can pay other people to be threatening. It's a nice touch, the two of them getting along.

Good not to explain the duck either.

I think you've got a typo with 'Thi was '101''.

Author's Reply:
oops, thanks! - that last minute editing, eh?

I wasn't sure about the Chinese accent, but hell ...

tks for reading ...

bluepootle on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
It's a difficult one, the accent. People are wary of them. I think you made a great job of it, and there's nothing wrong with the writing of it, but it's a matter of personal taste. I wrote a story with a Spanish character in it once - I liked the story - but never could sell it, I think mainly because of the representation of the accent.

Author's Reply:

TheBigBadG on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
I'm with Blue here, the pace is well judged and it ticks along well. The mystery of what the duck is, along with the downright amiability of Mr Armstrong work as well. It doesn't matter what the duck is, does it, people can port their own preference of super-rich trope on to it and remain baffled, like Crickhowell. We aren't all that curious in everyday life, are we?

As for the accent - I understand the uncertainty but I think it works here because it's a comic piece. I can really picture the steam puffs moment for instance.

Also, bonus points for playing with the theme. I'm not sure who owes the other more.

Author's Reply:
Fankyou kindry, sir!

Nomenklatura on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
Yes, I enjoyed this one, pacy, comic - but with a little edge - isn't dangerous comedy the best?

Regarding the accent; I agree that you've done it well, but I am equally sure that Bluepootle's story was turned down for politically correct reasons. What I normally do, (which you did) is emphasise the syntactical and grammatical flaws and lay off any asiatic L/R confusion. An alternative is to make his English almost perfect: but that would be another, more sinister story.

The comments are bang on about not revealing the secret of the duck, although I think it's most likely the long pig, it doesn't matter what the reader thinks. As the Big Bad G says we're not so curious in real life. I think the reader is though, and we'll either use our imagination to fill in the blanks, or, if a piece is more associated with real events, we'll find out.

Anyway, I've drivelled long enough. a cracking read, that I enjoyed immensely. Armstrong is a really strong character.

Author's Reply:
well, I'm always telling people to let the reader join in and for the author NOT to tell them every little thing - so I guess here it seems to have worked ... Thanks ...

I did have an idea of what the duck is, but it's mine. and obviously (ie your interpretation) ... people have different ideas.

Andrea on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
Ooooh, 'chinky' - how un-pc! And I think 'full monte' is 'full monty'.

Having had my little whinge, I thought it all rolled along nicely. Have you been watching Tinker, Talor, Soldier, Spy? πŸ™‚

Oh, and I thought the accent was hilarious, even though that's supposed to be a writing no-no πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
thanks for reading and commenting. No, I think 'Monty' is just a mistake (the film) the term 'monte' is french used in cooking (ie beurre monte) and can refer to presentation of a dish. Before the film, I always heard it used (and written that way) to mean 'the lot' ie referring to a breakfast, but also to a costume or summat . It means 'pile' (well, comes from mountain/mount) - and there is a card game called 'monte' where they pile the cards up for instance.

Andrea on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
That may well be so (monte in cooking), but the expression, which you have used here, is 'The full monty'. It may grate. It did on me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_monty_(phrase)

Also, I suspect it comes from 'Montgomery' rather than the French 'monte'.



Author's Reply:
there were a million post-rationalised explanations when the film came out - one favourite was it was named after Monty Modlin, a larger than life breakfast radio presenter. I would agree that in the North of England it could well be spelled 'monty' as phonetically that's how it fits in english when heard. But nontheless, although swamped on Wiki by the film title, you can also find 'full monte' and my memory IS good enough to know the sources I read it in when young spelt it that way.

So they are just alternative spellings, and I prefer to stick to the original one I know. I also discount explanations relating to people called 'Monty' - that's the kind of facile explanation (except when it's true - like 'Cardigan') that always comes up. So there!

Andrea on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
Suit yerself then! No skin off my posterior.

Wonder if others will comment on said disagreement...


Author's Reply:
doubt if anyone else other than us two is daft enough to be bothered πŸ™‚

Andrea on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
Well, I did just happen to notice that BBG mentioned it on your comment on his latest sub πŸ™‚ Hah!

Author's Reply:
yes, respectfully and agreeably ...

Andrea on 24-02-2012
Duck Story
He questioned the use of 'monte' though, same as I did. And I wasn't respectful and agreeable, then??

Author's Reply:
I'm beginning to think that this is a world-wide 'monte' conspiracy. I will not bow to the dark forces working behind the scenes to change history!

ruadh on 25-02-2012
Duck Story
Brilliantly done John! I was intrigued by the duck and raced through to find out what was going on .... only to not find out πŸ™‚ The chinese man was hilarious and I could picture him on the phone clearly. Well done.

Author's Reply:
thankyou my dear! very pleased. I'm also pleased that blue and BBG managed to jolt me into writing something halfway decent again - I thought I'd lost it πŸ™

Bradene on 26-02-2012
Duck Story
I expected him to end up in a concrete overcoat (-; nicely done, enjoyed it. Valx

Author's Reply:
a distinct possibility, I guess. But Armstrong is a better class of gangster ...

thanks Val, appreciate the comment. πŸ™‚ G


Prck (posted on: 17-02-12)
an oldie, about (perhaps) the first inklings of religion .... think John Cleese meets protoplasmic blob (and loses)

Prck Dawn rose on the sullen landscape, the sun a thin yellow orb dimly perceived through thick mist and filthy clouds. The sky, a threatening metallic grey, pressed down on the flat sea and gently sloping beach, leaving little in between. Ripples shuddered the glutinous glinting surface of the sea, disturbing the browny-green scum that floated there. Tiny wavelets crashed onto the black shore, sending seething waves at least two or three inches up the beach which immediately drained away into the black sand. A tiny spot of something appeared near the shoreline, bobbing up from the depths. Over the course of the next twenty minutes it moved closer, and finally, with the help of an extra large ripple, the object was deposited on the sand, some inches from the water. He was a lime-green blob, shivering in the caustic air, shrinking from the strange, sharp sounds that filled this new place. He raised himself up on his many legs, tiny tendril-like things that bowed under his new-found weight. His minuscule body weaved and ducked in a constant battle against gravity and the washing water as he tried to spot any signs of life on the long black horizon. Eventually, just as he was about to turn back to the familiar throbbing beat of the scummy ocean, he made out a fleck of colour at the limit of his vision. He waited. As it grew closer, he could see it was a creature, about the same size as himself as far as his eyes could tell. It too, had a blob-like body and multiple feathery legs which beat rapidly in wave-like undulations which propelled it across the gritty sand. It was a rusty orange colour, topped with a small pastel blue fringe which looked something like a tam o' shanter. Within just a few short hours, it had arrived and plumped its body aggressively in front of him. 'Well.' It spoke in a deep, booming voice, or so it sounded to him. 'You dun it now.' It had an accent he could not quite place. 'Er, greetings,' Blob ventured, trying to sound non-aggressive and non-edible. 'What's your name?' The creature quivered, its colour changing to deep red, its frill now a deep blue. It was clearly suffering from some form of emotion. He had heard about this, but never seen it before. Pretty impressive! 'My name is Prck. But that's beside the point. What is your name?' 'Blob.' Prck's tone was sarcastic, although Blob did not yet have the experience to recognise that. 'I can see that, mister proto-plop! I want your personal name.' He flicked one of his larger fronds, making quite a fancy sound. From the sky, an enormous sheet like a cinema screen miles high dropped to within an inch of them, blinding Blob with its whiteness. 'Er, it's Blob 238476345gamma2374947494upsilon7847499404…' Blob paused for breath as Prck scribbled frantically on the screen, carefully entering Blob's name in full. Ten minutes later, he came to a halt. '…….7689646alpha7968678, the forty-second.' 'The forty-second?' Prck raised one questioning eye. He was back to his regular rusty-red now, fronds undulating gently. Enjoying his task, Blob guessed. Blob shrugged. 'My father was a romantic.' Prck said nothing. He produced an official stamp from somewhere beneath his fronds and pressed it next to the entry on the screen, which immediately drew up into the sky again with a 'tarantaraa' of trumpets and the twang of harps. 'That's it!' Prck exclaimed triumphantly. 'What?' Blob was puzzled, and getting very cold. There seemed to be a small hollow in the sand no more than three feet away- perhaps he could try for that? At least it would get him out of this breeze and away from these waves. He wavered unsteadily. Prck looked surprised – at least, his colour washed to a cool blue. 'You've been damned, mate!' 'What?' Prck turned green and he spoke carefully. 'You matey, have transgressed the unwritten rules of the universe.' 'What ''rules''?' Prck tapped the side of one of his olfactory organs. 'That's for me to know and you to find out. You have been damned!' 'What for?' 'For coming out of the sea without permission.' Prck spoke quickly and triumphantly. 'Is that not allowed, then?' 'No, definitely not. Serious crime. You're on The List now.' 'What list?' 'The List of Sinners. Damned for eternity. Will not be resurrected when the final trump arrives. Never. That's it, finished, done.' Prck paused. 'That's it matey. It's curtains for you. The End. Forever.' Blob didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He felt lost, alone, betrayed. All that effort to come out of the sea, the strangeness of it all, the fear, and now this – emotion! It wasn't really one of the best days of his life, he had to admit. He began to move slowly and sorrowfully towards the hollow. 'Oi! Where you off to?' Prck sidled round to block his progress. 'Over there.' Several of Blob's fronds waved hesitantly in the direction of the hollow, which was looking more appealing every five minutes. 'Get back in the sea.' 'Why?' One of Blob's ancestors had been exposed to a brief beam of solar radiation as the clouds had parted, a most unusual event. The radiation had hit his cortex, doubling or tripling his intelligence at a stroke. Blob didn't realise it yet, but he could think rings round this Prck creature if he chose. Prck staggered back in amazement. He turned pink. Questioned by a mere blob! He searched for words. 'Because you don't have a licence to be ashore, you have sinned, you are sinning.' Something clicked in Blob's mind and a tiny glimmer of thought flickered into life. 'Well,' he said gently, 'I have sinned by coming ashore, you tell me. But ''being ashore'' is not a crime is it?' Prck spluttered. 'Coming ashore without a licence…' 'But being ashore…' Blob pressed his point. Prck was red again now, fronds akimbo. 'I'll punish you!' 'How?' Blob asked. 'I'll put your name on my…' 'List?' Blob finished his words for him. He suddenly realised he was free, he could do anything. Nothing worse could happen to him now. Blob pushed past Prck. In no more than fifteen minutes he was nearly six inches away. Prck looked up at the sky and flicked a frond. A panel slid open. 'Yes, I know.' A booming, celestial voice spoke. Of course he did. Prck spoke hesitantly. 'We're going to have to…' '… change the system, yes.' Prck heard some muffled whispers… 'repentance'… 'forgiveness' … 'keep 'em on the hook.' He hoped something could be sorted out soon. He felt impotent, and for the first time in his existence, depressed. Blob crouched in the little hollow in the beach. It was better here, he thought. Already his skin had grown thicker and harder. He was adapting quickly while around him, the splinterlings, tiny pinpoints of his substance which had fissioned off, were busy bustling about in little groups. They were quite handy. They were quick, their little fronds quite stiff and stumpy – useless for swimming of course, but great for sprinting about the beach. They scattered off into the distance, later returning plump and full. They had obviously found something to feed them. All Blob had to do was re-absorb them to keep himself healthy – and growing. Prck was still a nuisance. Every so often, he would parade past, glowering, his body bright red and his frill purple. Blob could only catch some of his mutterings and even then, he could not understand the words themselves. The unrecognisable word 'redemption' featured heavily. Blob had decided to send some splinterlings back into the sea. He chose ones with more seaworthy fronds, and sent them with instructions to find his cousins and tell them about this place. He was excited, he wanted to explore, so he asked the faster splinterlings to show him where they found their sustenance. Rising on much strengthened legs, he plodded off at a fair pace, making progress at tens of feet an hour. The splinterlings soon developed a technique of buoying him up and running round underneath him like a wave, which increased his progress dramatically. He could hear Prck shouting at him across the beach. Apparently, he had now broken another 'unwritten rule'. He sighed. Damned again, he guessed. Unlike the flatness of the leaden sea and the black beach, ahead of him there suddenly appeared spiky growths, sticking up with no regard for gravity, and great fluffy mounds on the ground, like big seaweed, but brighter green. Here was a place! He wondered at the sight. It didn't seem long before the first of his cousins arrived. Using the beach hollow as a staging post which allowed them to regenerate and 'stiffen up' ready for the trek up the beach, two of them had made it to the 'new world' as he called it. Clasping fronds, they had stood back, wondering at his size and hardness. 'Wow! You're enormous! And very… hard,' they exclaimed. 'You're not so bad yourselves,' Blob said, admiring their already-developing forms. Then, as an afterthought, 'Did you meet Prck?' They looked puzzled. 'The orangy-red bloke – Mr. Angry.' 'Oh him. Apparently, we've both been damned forever, like you told us. But he did say something funny.' 'What?' One blob looked at the other. 'Do you remember?' 'Er, I think it was something about the system being under review and to regard our damning as provisional for now.' 'What does that mean?' Blob asked. They shook their heads. 'Buggered if we know,' they chorused in unison. There was a nice little colony now. Ups1 was pleased. As soon as they had understood about 'systems', having worked out what Prck kept going on about, they had gleefully adopted the concept and invented several of their own. Prck had swanned by once and told them they were 'blasphemers' as only the Almighty could 'implement Systems' as he put it. 'Bugger that,' Ups1 had replied, now towering hard-shelled over the figure of Prck, who still remained a blob. 'We're damned anyway.' Prck had muttered something about 'things pending' and 'System revisions in progress' and 'programme re-loads' before beating a hasty retreat when the splinterlings began to surround him. The first system the blobs had implemented was a naming system. Using 'letter' elements from their personal names, followed by a number based on the order of their emergence from the sea, life was now much simpler. Instead of taking ten to twenty minutes to call another blob, it was now almost instantaneous. Ups1 realised that in time, this too would be a problem, but decided to defer it. They could always do a 'system re-load'. Ups chortled, he really was picking up the jargon now - he had tasted the knowledge and now he knew the score. Prck arrived and asked for Ups1 by name, his personal name. He refused to use the new naming system. 'You are forgiven.' 'What?' Ups1 was puzzled. 'You are not damned anymore.' Prck tried to look amiable and forgiving, but Ups1 could detect his seething resentment at having to carry out this task. 'Why, what's happened?' Prck would not tell him. 'A system re-load, I bet.' Ups1 chuckled. 'Blasphemy!' Prck stepped back. 'You are not allowed to use those words, they are solely for the Almighty and his servants. You could be damned!' 'But I've just been ''undamned'',' Ups1 smirked. 'Ah, but there's a condition,' Prck said hastily, changing the subject. 'What's that?' 'You must say you are sorry – repent!' This was a new one on Ups. 'And then you will be forgiven.' 'That simple?' 'Yes, and you must promise not to sin again.' 'What if I do?' 'He'll forgive you again, provided you do certain things.' 'What things?' Prck tapped the side of his olfactory organ. 'that's for me to…..' He dodged as a large, sturdy, hard-shelled frond whipped past his ear. 'I'll let you know later.' Ups said. 'Now go.' Ups1 felt that there was a momentous decision to be made here, something that might change the course of history. He needed time to think.
Archived comments for Prck
TheBigBadG on 17-02-2012
Prck
I really enjoyed this - it's a teasingly strange and fresh play on the original sin theme. There's lots of crafty ideas here to keep your on your toes, like the revisions from authority as Ups1's imagination takes hold, the ineffectual punishment, the computational nature of God (or his cypher?), the sense that maybe the blobs are just an experiment and the frank oddness of the whole setting. I'm trying to put my finger on what it is I like so much about it: I think it's something to do with the way you buy into the suspension of disbelief of the setting that lets you then look in on it more objectively so you end up asking yourself about it all, just like Blob.

I really like the idea that we all have an implicit understanding of punishment but have to be taught redemption as well, by the way. πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
thanks. this was written around 7-8 years ago, when I relatively new to writing. I'm glad you appreciated the small nuances - they sometimes make me chuckle when I read them again (is that wrong?) in this one, I was quite proud of 'tasting the knowedge' - ie the tree, the apple.

I don't write enough funny biz these days - but wait till you see my challenge story! πŸ™‚

thanks for reading and commenting. JohnG

bluepootle on 21-02-2012
Prck
I remember this one! Always liked it. It's good to read it again.

Author's Reply:
thankyou.

Andrea on 21-02-2012
Prck
I've Twatted you πŸ™‚

Author's Reply:
should I be grateful? πŸ™‚

Andrea on 21-02-2012
Prck
You should indeed! Luigi says his readership has trebled since the introduction thereof!

Author's Reply:
well, there ya go then.

sure they are not just bots and false searches?

Andrea on 21-02-2012
Prck
Well, I expect he shoved it on his own account as well, so people will read on Twatter and click onto UKA - why would they be bots?

Author's Reply:
anything searching around for key words can hit on the item - but it doesn't mean anyone reads it

just look at the way reads for old pieces in our back passages mount up ... not real

Andrea on 21-02-2012
Prck
Yes, I know, but they're clicking from within their (or Luigi's) Twitter account, not spidering UKA.

And you can keep yer back passages to yerself!

Author's Reply:


Lost City (poem 4 of 'Five Poems') (posted on: 17-02-12)
what is says ...

Lost City This once-proud dome With faded golden filigree Inlays of subtle ivory And polished stone, Marbled and jet. This city, where a walled enclosure, punctured now By time and necessity Is passing From its usefulness Around, dependence Has sometime Flown away, to other Places with much more To give But some will live, In isolation Abandoned on this distant shore.
Archived comments for Lost City (poem 4 of 'Five Poems')
Bradene on 17-02-2012
Lost City (poem 4 of Five Poems)
Conjures up a vivid scene. i enjoyed it. Valx

Author's Reply:
tks, Valx.

Andrea on 17-02-2012
Lost City (poem 4 of Five Poems)
Me to, I really liked that first ...er...stanza (cor, listen to moi!).

All that gold 'n' ivory 'n' marble...lovely!

Author's Reply:
thankyou


Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my 'Five Poems') (posted on: 13-02-12)
what the title says

Analven Bay Flanked by the grey and jagged rock The bay is like a funnel from the wild sea Narrowing to a sandy dock, a Cluster of stone where fishermen sleep and Dream of weathered days to come And silver cargoes. Into its mouth, a steamer bound for pleasure Intent on throwing laughing colours onto The slate-grey scene. At least they'll try, but The fisherfolk know what this place is really for.
Archived comments for Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my 'Five Poems')
Bradene on 13-02-2012
Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my Five Poems)
Nice, I liked this, Googled Analven Bay but couldn't find it. Valx

Author's Reply:
Och, they're all made up, Val. Generic as it were ...

thank you very much for reading and leaving a comment

Andrea on 13-02-2012
Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my Five Poems)
Yes, nice - expect it's another one of your made-up ones, is it? A sort of generic grey bay in winter. Because of course I had to Google it too πŸ™‚

Reminds me of many a bay I've seen, especially in N Wales.

Author's Reply:
thank you for your thoughtful comment.

yes, generic bays, islands etc etc ...

think it's still a bit scottish though (well scottish Islands etc)

Andrea on 13-02-2012
Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my Five Poems)
Scottish, Welsh, Irish, what's the difference, eh?

*ducks*

Author's Reply:
ah, so you're into ducks too? (see prose workshop challenge)

Ah'm faithful and just to ma ain true land,
Ye saesnegs and cymros and Irish are banned


although I admit it COULD be Cornwall --- yes, sound a bit cornish - Analven -yes and a holiday steamer yes- cornwall --- okay?

Andrea on 13-02-2012
Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my Five Poems)
Daff's done ducks this week (see her sub)

Prose challenge too short time-wise - takes me WEEKS to write and edit a short!

Author's Reply:
no I only meant the debate about ducks on that forum ...

Ionicus on 13-02-2012
Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my Five Poems)
Very descriptive.
"Ye saesnegs and cymros and Irish are banned". This will please our Elfstone. It sounds just like her favourite habitat.


Author's Reply:

Nomenklatura on 16-02-2012
Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my Five Poems)
I liked the bucolic, lyric poetry feel of this one, and was impressed with the faint menace of the last line, which subverted the whole thing. In a good way, I mean. O Gawd, this is why I don't comment much. It's a compliment, anyway.

Author's Reply:

Nomenklatura on 16-02-2012
Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my Five Poems)
I liked the bucolic, lyric poetry feel of this one, and was impressed with the faint menace of the last line, which subverted the whole thing. In a good way, I mean. O Gawd, this is why I don't comment much. It's a compliment, anyway.

Author's Reply:

Nomenklatura on 16-02-2012
Analven Bay (Poem No3 of my Five Poems)
Ha look at that! What a dolt!

'Say something once,
Why say it again?'

Talking Heads

Author's Reply:
(fiver's in the post) thanks for boosting the auld ratings! πŸ™‚

less of a threat than a reality


The Wilshers (posted on: 13-02-12)
What is Brander getting himself into? Giving up a sure job, riches, for an ideal?

When I wrote this in early 2003, several more experienced writers berated me for using too many exclamation marks. I did remove some, but defended my use of them in the comments. I didn't read the comments until I'd re-read the story and said to myself: 'Christ! So many exclamation marks!' - Funny how things turn around . The Wilshers Ghostly shapes moved through the streets, sliding silent between shadows. Even the odd shaft of moonlight made little impact on their sleek, grey coats. Brander hurried along the stone cobbles with a vague unease. He stopped at a door. After a few urgent knocks, a light glimmered and the upstairs window creaked open. 'Brander! What the devil are you doing out at this hour? They say the hounds are abroad.' 'Then let me in, I have to talk.' As Brander slipped in the partly-open door, Carmine peered out. He slammed the door shut and drew the bolt across. 'You're a fool, Brander. There are things abroad tonight that would steal your soul.' 'Never mind that. I wouldn't care.' 'What is it - the Wilshers?' Brander nodded. 'They asked me to join them.' He looked up at Carmine, his expression intense. 'And I want to.' 'No!' Carmine slammed the lamp down on the table and grabbed his friend's hands, sitting down and pulling them across the table towards him. 'This is madness.' * A month before, Brander had been walking down the sunny street. He was happy, drinking in the sights and sounds of the bustling city: traders calling; children playing, brightly-clad women strolling together and carts rattling past about their business. He was on his way to his duties. Brander was the Keeper of the Library. In truth, he was the Assistant - but Old Gormer, who held the position, occupied the rich apartments and took the stipend, hardly did a hand's turn these days. Brander did not mind, he would inherit the position and the wealth soon enough, and have his own assistants in turn. Not that he could ever imagine abandoning the loving care of his books, as Gormer appeared to have done. Brander thought with pride of his treasures. Rich, leather-bound tomes, gold-glinting, coloured with red and green, the finest vellum pages, lovingly kept and dusted in safe surroundings, neither too damp nor too dry, too cool or too bright. Direct sunlight was never allowed in the Library. Today, Brander was going to begin to repair the binding of the Great Atlas. Some stupid navigator had been careless, splitting the spine at the top. In too much of a hurry, Brander thought. He could forgive the excitement that had driven the man, the thirst for the knowledge the book contained, but not the clumsy haste of his hands. Then he saw her. The jostling crowd swept past, but it was as if an invisible barrier kept them at a distance – a lacuna in the flow. She sat on a low wall, beneath a tree. Her long, jet hair fell over her face. She wore a black robe, sweeping in folds to her feet, where scarlet slippers peeped. All else that could be seen of her was a pale, oval face and two long, white hands. She held a flower, a white rose. Her face was upturned to the sun, which lent it a curious transparency. As Brander approached, her head turned and she gazed full at him. Everything turned grey around him. The hubbub of the crowds dimmed. All he could see was the figure lit by a shaft of sunlight, great dark eyes burning. He went to her. Her crimson mouth smiled, white teeth showing. 'Sit with me,' her deep, languorous voice commanded. All his dreams seemed to melt in that voice. It held resonances of all he loved - all his hopes and dreams. They conversed. She told him of the community she belonged to. She was entrancing. After she left, promising to return in several days, Brander looked around. He heard the bustle of the streets again, and noticed the sun high in the sky - the whole morning had passed. Brander ran off towards the library, preparing his excuses. That evening atthe Inn, he had spoken to Carmine about her. He had laughed. 'Sounds like you're smitten, my lad.' Brander shook his head. 'It's not like that,' he said. 'She is magnificent. But it is something more … the community.' 'You're not serious about these Wilshers are you?' Carmine asked. 'No, of course not.' Draining his mug, Carmine got up from the table. 'I'm going off home before it gets dark - so should you.' Brander looked around. The Inn was emptying, apart from the travellers staying there. He too, rose to leave. There was no official curfew, but people had been advised to stay in after dark. The militia said that wolves or wild dogs had been venturing into the city at night. Seven people, including a child, had been taken so far. It was worrying. 'Why can't the militia handle it?' Brander said. 'They simply say they can't find anything.' Carmine said, opening the door for them. 'What? People with throats torn out, and they can't find anything?' 'Bloody paw marks, that's all. They said they were gigantic.' 'Frightening!' Brander shuddered, 'Best be off home then.' The two men bade each other farewell and hurried off as dusk began to fall. That night there was another victim. * 'You can't go back out there!' Carmine held on to his friend's hands across the table. 'I got here alright.' 'You were lucky. Who knows what is lurking outside.' 'I'm not staying here to listen to you scorn people I respect.' Brander pulled his hands away, rose and raised his hands to the door. Far across the city, a baying howl rang out. Startled, his hand on the bolt, Brander heard a sound from the street outside. It was like a mighty shower of rain, heavy drops spattering on the cobbles, rattling the stones, a strident pattering which quickly diminished. Brander stepped back from the door. 'What in God's name…' 'Paws!' Carmine said. 'They were waiting outside!' 'God!' They sat back at the table, Carmine glancing at the door, at the bolt. Brander looked at his friend. 'Carmine,' he breathed. Carmine went to the cupboard, bringing out a bottle and glasses. He put them on the table with shaking hands. After he'd poured the spirit, he took a gulp. 'Okay, you have to stay now. But look, tell me about the Wilshers if you want to. I promise I'll listen.' Brander obliged, if only to take his mind off the events outside. Brander had met the woman again several times. Her name was Kara. She had described the life of the Wilshers - spiritual, peaceful. It sounded ideal. Brander was drawn to the ideas. The other ones he met were equally impressive - the men wise and calm, with a keenness of eye and bright intelligence that he envied. The women were as imposing as Kara, though different in character and temperament. The power that emanated from each was the same. Now she had asked him to join them. Could he aspire to that? * 'And you want to join them?' Carmine asked. 'Leave your books, leave your friends, leave your whole life?' 'You don't understand. They are so …' 'Look, I've listened Brander, I won't say what I think again, I promise. But I urge you to think about this. Don't go now, give it another week, please - that won't hurt will it?' Brander looked at his friend. Carmine was sincere. He nodded, saying nothing. * 'So!' Kara held the door wide. 'You finally decided?' Brander smiled shyly as he stood on the threshold, a small bundle of possessions on his arm. 'Then welcome indeed.' Kara motioned him inside. 'You are just in time,' she added, eying the darkening sky. She led Brander into an imposing hall. Black -gowned figures stood around. Their faces turned and they smiled at him. Brander was elated, but frightened. Everything about the Wilshers had attracted him, but he was aware there were things he did not understand, perhaps been too afraid to ask. He felt hesitant, unsure. 'Kara?' Suddenly he wanted to leave. 'Shh!' Kara placed her pale finger on his lips. It was the first time she had ever touched him. He was surprised how chill her hands were. 'We begin!' The room whirled around Brander. His body filled with cramp as his muscles tightened and changed; his bones twisted, some stretched, others compressed; his skin prickled all over and sounds became louder, clearer. A baying howl sounded close at hand and a sound like the pattering raindrops of a summer storm swirled all around him, deafening and exhilarating. John F Griffiths 2003 (2012 edit)
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Kristallnacht (posted on: 10-02-12)
for the prose workshop challenge ... stained glass window and professor of economics

Kristallnacht Great multi-coloured shards of glass are raining down from the high frame and smashing on the stone floor of the synagogue. Three people, a man, a youth and a small boy, huddle together, ducking behind the chairs as flying splinters of glass sing about their ears. Outside a crowd chants, and flickering light fills the now empty window frame as a great shout goes up: Juden Raus! 'Vater, was ist los?' the boy asks, tears running down his face. 'Speak English now, my son,' his father says. 'Go with Jacob. You must hide.' Then, to Jacob, 'You know the cupboard in the beit midrash, I showed you the other day, the hiding place behind it. Take the boy there and don't come out until dawn, whatever happens.' 'Your wife?' 'She is safe, with friends. Sadly I was too late for Simon here. You must deal with it as I told you.' 'And you, why do you not hide with us?' 'They know I am here. They are searching for me. If they don't find me they will tear the place apart, then we will all be lost.' There is a pounding at the door - shouting. 'Go! Go now!' The rabbi kisses his son before Jacob snatches him away and drags the boy towards the rear of the hall. As a tearing sound comes from the tall wooden doors and they bulge inwards, the rabbi kneels and gives prayer. * Professor Lieber stared out of the window at the bright New England spring. Various students had dropped in to wish him luck that day, and he was just beginning to realise what changes were afoot. What should I do? Simon asked himself. Now? Unexpectedly, his mind went back to that night: ach, such pain! Still so painful even after nearly seventy years. That night. What should he do? Maria was gone, he was alone. Their only daughter Hannah had married an American, a nice chap, and their son Eric was about to take up a Fullbright and go to Europe. Europe? How he hated that name. 'But they are way ahead of us, granddad. The US has stagnated while they have forged ahead. Europe is the future,' Eric had said. He could not bear it. * 'Delicious!' Simon beamed at Hannah. 'Really delicious.' He sat back, replete and happy in the circle of his family. Without thinking, he look