Thursday, 31 December 2009


He was drunk. He had a fistful of my hair and there was murder in his eyes. I would have been a skinny sixteen or seventeen and I had just seen him punch my mother in the face.

He drew back his fist...

He was never Daddy, only Dad. There were no hugs and kisses (apart from one clumsy drunken buss on the cheek one New Year) and he didn't dandle us on his knee as babies – indeed, for all that he was a bit handy with his fists as a young man – he hardly ever touched any of his three daughters. My brother wasn't so lucky though and, as it turned out, neither was my mother.

It was 1979 and they were just dragging tiredly on the spent fag-end of their marriage – twenty-five years of it. She had wanted her freedom for years but there were the kids to think about. He went to work, came home, read the paper and went to the pub. He was about as disengaged from family life as a man can be, living in the same house as his own wife and kids.

But then he got the idea that she was interested in some other bloke and that's when the fighting started. You see, although he wasn't that bothered about his family, he could not – would not - have anybody think him a fool or a cuckold.

He hadn't hit her for years – oh, he had done it a fair bit in those first years of their marriage, to teach her a few things, you know. Then his duodenal ulcers kept him off the drink for years and things settled down into a fairly safe if rather loveless routine.

Then the doctors fixed his ulcers, which meant he could start drinking heavily again.

And so here we were.

Seeing him lash out at my mother, I had grabbed his arm – a real tiger-by-the-tail move – and pulled him away.

"Get upstairs and mind your own bloody business!" he roared.

But I wouldn't, even though by now, he was dragging me by the hair towards the hall door.

His fist was drawn back. This was it. I was going to get it now for sure.

So I did the only thing I could think of and, to this day I don't know what made me do it.

I drew back my own skinny fist and looked him in the eye, all terrified defiance.

I could almost hear the terrible grinding noise as the cogs in his head failed to mesh properly and his thoughts crashed to a dead stop. This was not what was meant to be happening

We looked at each other for just a moment – father and daughter. You could say that it was the only time we ever really saw eye to eye.

He lowered his fist and let go of my hair. "Think you're a bloody tough guy now, do you?" he muttered.

"No!" I shouted, breathless with adrenaline. "But I'm not standing here, letting you hit Mum."

Wordlessly, furiously, he pushed past me and stamped upstairs to bed.

Looking back on it now, it's almost laughable to think that I stood up to him like that. What was I thinking? One blow of his fist and that would have been that. He wasn't a big man but he was strong and fit. My mother's eye was black for days after.

Perhaps even in his drunken state, he realised the whole situation was ludicrous and that's why he stomped away. We never ever spoke of it and he's been dead years now so I guess I'll never get his take on it.

So why am I posting this now?

Honestly, I don't know. Maybe to get it out of my system for good and all, who knows? All I can say is that this story has been an insistent pushing at the back of my eyes today and so here I am tapping away at the keyboard.

Sorry if this is all a bit heavy – Lord knows, this blog is usually full of trivial froth. Anyway, better out than in, as they say.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Stop that Go-Kart!!

The Lord High Eejit has invited us for a one-off Santa's Poetry Go-Kart Ride.

I thought I'd brain two turkeys with one stone and do mine as a Poetry in Shops as well.  I ended up putting it in a quiet corner of Waterstones Bookshop, having bottled it completely in Marks & Sparks and Tescos.

The carol-singers are getting closer.
Their Away in an off-key Manger
Is heading towards my door
Like some yuletide smart-bomb,
Inevitable and jolly deadly.
Ho, ho, ho.

It'll be kids – it always is, these days.
And they'll be wanting money for their
Half-hearted, half-learned efforts.
A sort of festive mugging, I suppose.
If the light's off, they'll think I'm out.
Ho, ho, ho.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Saturday Wordzzle 93

Each week, Raven gives us a set of 15 words - 5 for the mini, 10 for the 10-worder or all 15 for the mega challenge. The idea is to create a passage which includes the words

These were tough words this week - I had to resort to having somebody do a crossword to get rid of some of them.  Worst one was All My Children.

You can go to Raven's Nest for the original rules of the game and some excellent advice.

The Mini (deals of the week, Nobel Peace Prize, sleep deprived, cauliflower, practice)

I'm feeling a little sleep-deprived. I had to get up really early to catch the train up here, and being out of work for so long means I'm out of practice at getting my sorry ass out of bed of a morning. This little town is amazing, though, so pretty. There's a single high street with a few shops and none of them are chain-stores. The Grocer's shop even has a hand-lettered sign advertising cauliflower among the deals of the week – and no barcodes anywhere! It's like stepping back in time thirty years. The local paper is a breath of fresh air as well: no stories about robberies, murders, economic doom and gloom – in fact, the only international piece in it was a bit about President Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize. I think I'll have a quiet night in the hotel tonight and then tomorrow I'll take a wander out to Gerrard's Folly – it's some old stone tower that some rich Victorian with more money than sense built back in the day. I don't know why my anonymous benefactor gave me this holiday, but now I'm here, I'm glad he or she did.

The 10-worder (woe is me, mythology, avarice, windy, pathetic, paper towels, water, all my children, books)

New to Harold's story? The summary is here

India took a sip of water to wash down the last of her doughnut. Othello had grumpily fetched a box for them from a nearby store – anything to quiet Prada's rumbling stomach. For someone so image-conscious, she can certainly eat, thought India, watching Prada fussily wiping her hands with one of the frustratingly inadequate paper towels from the doughnut shop. In the front seat, even Mercury had resorted to doing a crossword by torchlight to pass the time. They had been here for hours - or so it felt.

"Woe is me, 4 letters." Mercury sighed.

"Alas," replied Othello, staring through the window at a deserted and windy street.

"Did Opal say when this guy was going to show up?" asked Prada.

"Nope." replied Mercury firmly, "What's another word for greed, beginning with 'a'?"

"Avarice," Othello could not keep the boredom from his voice. Like all of them, he just wanted to get in there and deal with the demon they had followed here, once and for all. Having to wait was maddening.

"Doesn't fit,"

Othello glanced over at Mercury's paper, "Spaghetti ends in an 'i' not an 'e'." he grunted.

"Oh yeah, thanks." Mercury's pen scratched the paper.

Outside in the street, nothing was still doing its best to happen.


The armoured figure facing Harold was like something come to life from one of those old mythology books. It topped Harold's six feet by a good head, and was broad of shoulder and narrow of hip. Its flowing golden hair framed a bronzed face of such surpassing beauty that, if it had smiled, it would have lit up the whole alleyway.

It was not smiling, however.

"You!" cried Harold in disbelief and not a little trepidation.

"They told me that one of the First Order was roaming around on Earth," said the armoured figure, "Imagine my surprise when they said it was you." He took a step closer and in so doing, brought the flaming tip of his sword close enough to make the front of Harold's jacket begin to smoke a little. "Do you not remember me warning you what would happen if our paths ever crossed again?" The perfect grey eyes were ablaze with anger.

"Of course I do," answered Harold, his voice calmer than he felt.

"And yet you still come up here to the world of men to make mischief."

"That's not what I'm doing here, Baruthiel," Harold protested.

"Oh?" the angel (for such it was) raised a perfect eyebrow, "So you got Lolita LaChaise to sign away her soul for her own good then, did you?" Even dripping sarcasm, the voice was lovely. "You are truly pathetic!"

Harold had no answer: he had indeed ensnared that young actress with a promise of a major part in All My Children, but that was before – and she had been drunk at the time, so even the best of the Basement's lawyers (and there were plenty to choose from) would probably not be able to get the Contract to stick. The Contract had to be signed knowingly and willingly. Harold doubted that would cut any ice with Baruthiel the Reckoner, though, and prepared himself for a swift and painful trip back home. It was a pity really, things were just getting interesting.

"I would love to deal with you as you deserve, Fallen," continued the angel, "but fortunately for you, there are more important matters at hand. I assume all this amateurish skulking in alleys is your way of investigating the disappearances?"

Harold was stung by the angel's scathing tone and, with the threat of imminent Dismissal having receded, somewhat irritated by his holier-than-thou (though technically quite true) manner.

"What's it to the Penthouse if there are a few less Fallen?" he retorted, "I would have thought you'd be pleased."

"Oh, we would be," Baruthiel assured him, "Except that some of the Loyal have also disappeared."

Even Teatime, who had been uncharacteristically still and silent up to this point, gasped.

So angels were disappearing too!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas is...

My Dad giving my Mum a tenner for a Christmas present and, when she started to talk about all the things she was going to buy herself, saying that she should steady on and remember that she had to buy the Christmas dinner out of it.

Getting up at 2 am Christmas morning, creeping downstairs to play with our presents (no wrapping paper in those days) and my little sister waking up our irate parents by playing with her noisy new toy telephone.

Mum’s Christmas cake!

Feeling (ever so slightly) guilty because I did not give my brother a present. I had actually got one all wrapped up under the tree – a Mars bar – and a few days before the Big Day, he had upset me in some way and I had, with due ceremony, unwrapped his present and eaten it in front of him.

My Grandma’s present of a rag doll she had made herself, complete with all the clothes.

My Dad losing patience with any “bloody junk” that required assembly or batteries.

Getting a watch! An actual working watch of my own! Well, “working” until my brother played with it and over wound it.

Knitted things!

Not getting an Action Man of my own. I had to put up with my brother’s old one with the taped-up legs that didn’t bend at the knee.

Selection Boxes!!!!

My sister giving me an advent calendar – for the cat!

My Mum having really bad flu, but still managing to do all the shopping, wrapping, cards and whatnot – and, on the day, making Christmas dinner for 6 people

Buying yet another jumper for Dad because he is a man with no hobbies or interests… and finding them in his wardrobe after his death - still in the packaging.

Visiting my hubs in hospital on Christmas Day and being glad that he was alive.

Family trivial Pursuit

And finally….

Not having done a thing towards getting ready for this year. I mean, come on, it’s not like it’s a surprise or anything! Get a grip!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Now, where did THAT come from?

Last week, I wrote a song - the first complete one I've managed in ages.  Hooray, for me, then.  There's a sort of catch, though: it's just about the most depressing thing I've ever written. I have no idea why I wrote it, except that it's winter maybe, and my worklife has changed completely and I miss my old friends or something.  I'll try and record it and post it.  I'm quite happy.  I am.  Honest.

Below Bones

I close my eyes
The bubbles rise
And go whirling into black.
The ecstasy
Is filling me
And I am never coming back.

I filled my pockets full of stones
And now I'm sinking below bones.
As if the universe would care
If I am, or am not, there.

The silence here
Makes it so clear
The light above is fading out.
I'm sinking down,
Feels good to drown
All I ever cared about.

The water's cold
But it will hold
The only answer I can see.
The light goes out
So does the doubt
This is the best, the best for me.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Saturday Wordzzle 92

Each week, Raven gives us a set of 15 words - 5 for the mini, 10 for the 10-worder or all 15 for the mega challenge. The idea is to create a passage which includes all the words

The words weren't too bad this week – I had to research the "Yes, Virginia" one though, it's not something we have over here in goold old Blighty.

You can go to Raven's Nest for the original rules of the game and some excellent advice.

The Mini (tomatoes, turtles, basement apartment, circumference, make my day)

I have just received a call from Mr Merryman. The young man came into his office yesterday to ask about the free vacation and has accepted it with some alacrity, it seems. It would certainly make my day if someone were to offer me a free vacation away from this dump of a basement apartment which is damp enough for turtles to live in. If it were hot, I could at least grow tomatoes, but it's always freezing cold here. There's no chance of moving away now though: as a blind person, it's taken me a long time to learn to navigate around the local streets. Ok, so it's only an area with a circumference (or do I mean radius?) of about half a mile, but I don't have the energy to start again somewhere else. Besides, all my savings have gone on paying for a trip to save a complete stranger from the man with the salt-and-pepper beard!

The 10-worder (sugar, mortgage, logical, roller skates, outlandish, Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, cumberbund, unexpected, photo album, scarecrow)

New to Harold's story? The summary is here

An obsequious waiter in a cumberbund brought the bill. Harold looked at it and gave a low whistle.

"I think that waiter should double as a mortgage advisor, these prices are crazy – they've even charged for the sugar in my coffee!" he said, aghast, "Good thing Ray gave me some money or I'd be washing dishes for a month!"

"Indeed," agreed Teatime, "And the fruit salad wasn't as fresh as it ought to have been. Still, time we were off, old bean, work to be done and all that. Make sure you don't leave a tip, that'll teach them."

"No tip?" cried Harold in mock horror, "Is there no end to your evil schemes?"

"None whatsoever," replied Teatime without a trace of humour.

The two made their way out of the Nirvana Cafe and into the gathering gloom of the evening city streets.

- 0 - 0 - 0 -

India felt as awkward and outlandish as a scarecrow on roller skates in her makeup, wig and heels. A picture in this get-up would definitely not be one for the photo album. She glanced at her watch: 20:34. How much longer would they have to wait?

"Target's on Fletcher Street, where that jazz club was," said Mercury, watching the GPS display. "Wonder why it's gone back there? It said it had nothing to do with the fire, yet here it is all the same."

"Well, we used to suspect that Baron Samedi was a demon, didn't we?" said Prada, "Maybe that's why."

"We never managed to get any proof, though," replied Mercury, "and now the Baron's vanished, so I guess we'll never know."

"Bit like the wild goose chase we were on before this." Othello chimed in, "Agent Domino swore there was a demon working in that soup kitchen, ensnaring down-and-outs, but when we got there, nothing."

"Well, I wouldn't be sorry if all the demons just disappeared. Good riddance!" declared Prada.

India was intrigued: when Demons managed to get to earth, they never left voluntarily, so had to be Dismissed. So far as she knew, only OGS agents had the necessary faith to do that. So if Baron Samedi and that other demon hadn't left on their own and hadn't been Dismissed....

- 0 - 0 - 0 -

Harold and Teatime were in the alley behind the club. It was the logical place to start - the front being far too public. There was a fire exit here with no lock or handle, one of those opened by a push-bar from inside. Harold did a quick survey of the area: there were no handy windows left open or inviting ventilation grilles like in the movies.

"You'll have to open the door yourself, old shoe," whispered Teatime, "You do remember how to do that kind of thing, don't you?"

"Yeah, I remember," sighed Harold, "I just haven't done it lately."

"You really ought to practise these things more," scolded Teatime, "It's like what I said about your shape-shifting. That could have been very useful – and still could be, if only you'd put some effort in."

"Ok, ok", Harold raised his hands in mock surrender, "I'll try harder. Now let me see if I can..."

He placed his hands against the door and concentrated. For a minute, nothing seemed to happen. He was about to give up when a disused circuit in his brain suddenly lit up and, yes, he could sense the push-bar. Now, just a little pull...

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!" he breathed as the lock clunked.

"Well done, old fruit!" applauded Teatime, "I had every faith in you!"

"You're a terrible liar, Teatime," laughed Harold, really pleased with himself for having got something right at last. He pulled the door open. Inside, it was pitch black but Harold could see perfectly well.

"Breaking and entering now is it?" said a deep melodious voice from behind them.

Harold whirled round so quickly at the unexpected sound that Teatime was forced to grab a handful of hair or be summarily thrown off Harold's shoulder. He chittered sharply: sometimes only monkey expletives would do.

The owner of the voice was about 10 feet away, clad in radiantly shining armour, and held a huge flaming sword pointed directly at Harold.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Saturday Wordzzle 91

Each week, Raven gives us a set of 15 words - 5 for the mini, 10 for the 10-worder or all 15 for the mega challenge. The idea is to create a passage which includes the words

You can go to Raven's Nest for the original rules of the game and some excellent advice.

The Mini (bees, crackling, wooden, staple, earful)

I don't have a computer and no reference books in my flat to help me decipher the Braille message. Luckily, the local library is not far, so I wander over there. I've walked past this little wooden building more times than I can remember but have never ventured inside until now. Inside, all is quiet, apart from the occasional crackling noise of a page being turned and the odd cough now and then. I walk past a colourful display about bees that some local schoolkids have put together and make my way to the counter. The librarian is very helpful and it's not long before, between us, we have the message deciphered. It says:

You don't know me but I have arranged for you to have a free vacation for two weeks in Yorkshire. Please go to Staple & Whitlocks Solicitors and ask for Mr Merryman, who will provide you with all the details.

A Wellwisher.

How strange! Still, it can't hurt to go and see if all this is genuine – at least get some answers from this Merryman. I thank the librarian and hurry out of the library. In my haste to leave I bump into a kid in his late teens and he gives me an earful, but I don't care. This is getting interesting now.

The 10-worder (edge, haven, sunglasses, sprightly, telling, frazzled, juicy, quartet, tied, necklace)

New to Harold's story? The summary is here

Ray pulled the car over.

"Well, here we are, my Lord," he announced, somewhat unnecessarily. "And here are the things Mr Teatime asked for." He handed a carrier bag to Harold.

"Er, thanks," said the demon, "Well, it was nice meeting you and thanks for the lift."

"It was our pleasure, my Lord," said Nicole, "If you ever need us again, our number is in the phone."

Harold and Teatime got out of the car and watched for a few moments as it pulled away and disappeared into the traffic.

"Nice people," said Harold.

"Actually, old bean," Teatime corrected him, "they're not – at least by most people's standards. Now, let's find somewhere for a drink and a bite, after that long drive I'm feeling a bit frazzled, I don't mind telling you."

After the noise and bustle of the city street, Cafe Nirvana was a haven of cool and calm. In the corner, real live musicians were playing Beethoven's String Quartet No 1 in F major. While he and Teatime waited for the food and drink to arrive, Harold cocked an appreciative ear in their direction.

"The allegro in this is so joyful," he commented after a few minutes, "so sprightly, it's like a bright necklace of notes winding into your ear. You know, Ludwig has such a light touch here, compared to some of his other stuff. Why I remember - "

"Yes, yes. If you say so, old shoe," yawned Teatime, music appreciation not being one of his specialities, "Now let's have a look in Ray's goody bag."

Harold emptied the contents of the carrier bag onto the table. There was a mobile phone (a Rainbow Industries Edge-5100T, no less, with solar charger), a wallet full of money, some sunglasses and a baseball cap. Harold laughed at these last two items.

"The old disguise kit, eh?"

"Well, it pays to be circumspect, old fruit," said Teatime, "The human police are still looking for the man in the CCTV film, you know – which is you, in case you'd forgotten."

"I haven't forgotten," replied Harold, "But why don't I just talk to them and tell them I had nothing to do with the fire anyway? That way, the problem is removed altogether."

At that moment the food arrived – a nice juicy steak for Harold and a fresh fruit salad (and wedge of chocolate cake) for Teatime.

"Such naivete," sighed Teatime when the waitress had gone, "Just telling the police you weren't there won't be enough, there'll be questions and we'd be tied up for hours or days even. They might even try to take your fingerprints and we can't risk that."

This was true, for while Harold had been kitted out with a basic set of earthly credentials: Social Security number, birth certificate and driver's licence courtesy of the Black Sheep working in the SSA, IRS, DMV and so on, Harold did not have fingerprints or DNA. This was not a crime, of course, but was bound to raise questions if discovered as part of a police investigation.

"I think," said Teatime, changing the subject, "we should wait until this evening and then take a look around Baron Samedi's then. I doubt we'll find anything, but we must be thorough."

"Indeed we must," agreed Harold happily. In the meantime, there was food, drink and glorious music.

Agent Mercury's phone rang. He picked it up, listened for a short while, grunted occasional acknowledgements and then hung up. He turned to the others.

"That was Opal," he said, "Someone's coming to meet us and we're to wait for him before moving in."

There was a collective groan of frustration from the other agents: they were so close to their target, just a block away in fact, and now they had to wait, maddening!

"So, who's coming?" asked Prada.

"Someone from the Penthouse, apparently," replied Mercury.

There was a stunned silence in the car. The Penthouse only ever involved itself directly with earthly affairs in the most exceptional of circumstances – and the apprehension of one rather puny demon didn't qualify as exceptional, surely!