Friends

29 February 2012

A word in your ear...

One of my blogging friends has been warned by Google that if she needs more space for pictures she has to pay a price. Now she, like me, thought the whole thing was free of charge so it came as shock when she received this information. In our email communication I mentioned that I used Picasa when I wanted to do a collage or similar and for some reason (it’s amazing how conversations fade) I looked on Picasa to check how many pictures I had on there. I haven’t looked in for a long, long time so imagine my surprise when I saw pictures on there that hadn’t been on the blog or used for a collage (or similar). In fact my folders went back a number of years and I certainly hadn’t put them there.

One interesting and scary thing I discovered on Picasa was a scanned document that had been uploaded without my permission. I reckon because it was scanned it was assumed to be a picture. It wasn’t needed for blogging; it wasn’t needed for anything other than for the person I scanned it for. The scan just happened still to be on my computer. Well the old computer has gone and I shall be very cautious about what stays on it in future.

Have you ever wondered how much these organisations know about you and how easily they can access your computer and take what they like? All I can say is: beware of how much you leave on your machine for Google/Picasa to use.

Well, I now have a new computer. My old beloved and comfortable XP has gone and I’m stuck with Windows 7. I’m pretty sure it will take me forever to understand it and with the amount of work I have to do on the new gadget I’m dreading the next few weeks. Thank goodness I use a lot of computer commands instead of having to search for ways of doing things.

The old computer (bless!) inherited a vicious virus, one of those that eats files and folders. My writing folder (full of files) and another important one (full of files) simply disappeared. Naturally, I panicked. A quick and tearful trip was made to our local computer expert who could only strip the machine and try to retrieve all my missing stories etc. I was in a right state by this time ... tearful, even. And that’s how I came to be the new owner of a Toshiba plus Windows 7.

One more thing. A Question: do you know if there is to be no more email notification of comments left on blogs? I notice that many suddenly don't include the facility, although some still do. Sometimes I like to see responses to certain comments and now it necessitates revisiting blogs just for that.

Finally, I say thank you to new followers. I did visit your blogs and left a comment but the word verification beat me so they didn't appear. Nonetheless, I hope you will visit me again.

27 February 2012

Trust Not The Vow ... Chapter 19


Rachel's intention to sit down with her husband and thrash over the matter of him and Terry and force him into admitting his homosexuality, was not to be, for Gary was given a job in Perth and he departed without a word of regret or an offering of consolation. In fact, he seemed glad to go and took his angling equipment in case he got the opportunity to fish.

During the week, Rachel fretted continuously about the hopelessness of her plight; she could not eat, or sleep, or concentrate on her work. In the end she took time off, disregarding Cynthia's warning that she would be worse off at home.

She spent a lot of time walking with Rex, visiting the old haunts where she played as a kid, remembering the good times she had with Sally-Anne and the boys who lived nearby. Normal boys, she thought, yet how would she have known? In the evenings she relaxed, with the whisky bottle beside her, Rex curled up at her feet. A couple of times she called home and had a natter with her Dad, but because of his own problems with her mother's increasing psychic condition she did not tell him about Gary. He would worry if he knew and probably knock hell out of him when they met. She did not want to cause any bloodshed.

THROUGH an alcoholic haze, she thought she heard the doorbell, but Rex continued to snore and she did not stir. Instead she picked up the half empty whisky bottle from the floor and poured a generous helping into the tumbler that was perilously perched on the arm of the chair. Some of the spirit splashed onto the wooden arm; indifferently, she licked her index finger to wipe it off. The noise came again, distant, as though someone was calling at the house next door. This time Rex rumbled softly, before shattering the calm with atrocious howling.

Unsteadily, Rachel went to the door.

Cynthia didn't bat an eyelid when Rex bounded out, his tail wagging in the excitement of the occasion. ‘In,’ she ordered, pointing through the door. Then she saw Rachel. ‘Blimey, you look ghastly. Have you been drinking?’

‘Yup,’ said Rachel, leading the way to the living room.

'I won't stay long, Curtis said he'd pick me up on his way home.' Cynthia went straight to the whisky bottle, which had fallen on its side in the commotion and spilled its contents onto the sheepskin rug. ‘Your rug looks a bit bedraggled to say the least. Got a floor cloth?’

‘I'll do it in the morning.’

‘You can't leave it like that, it'll get filthy.’

Reluctantly, Rachel fetched some cloths and together they rubbed the tangled fleece until it was almost dry. Because of the similarity in colour between the spirit and the skin, Cynthia reckoned there would be no stain.

Cynthia made coffee for them both, while Rachel sat on the high stool to watch. Regarding her quizzically, Cynthia asked if she had eaten, and looked extremely doubtful when Rachel told her she had. Settling on the twin stool, Cynthia said. ‘I've just seen your Mum.’

‘Where was that?’

‘By that awful empty house. The one everyone thinks is haunted.’

‘Haunted?’

‘Didn't you know?’

Rachel shook her head. ‘Was she going in or coming out?’

Deep furrows appeared between Cynthia's brows. ‘Why would she do either? Is she thinking of buying it?’

Rachel felt quite sober as the significance of Cynthia's question sank in. ‘Did you say it was empty?’

Blowing on her coffee, Cynthia replied, ‘It's been empty for ages. Ever since the old woman died.’

‘I thought ....’ Rachel paused, trying to collect her thoughts.

‘Thought what?’

‘I thought there was a companion or something.’

‘Not to my knowledge.’

So where was Amy and her new friend going if not to that house? And why should she lie?

Unaware of Rachel's turmoil, Cynthia rambled on about the signs of haunting in the house, odd shadowy lights in upstairs windows, strange rattling sounds coupled with groans and sighs.

Thoroughly mixed up and needing to assimilate the information privately, Rachel pushed for a change of subject, asking about work, and the boss.

‘That's one of the reasons I came tonight, to tell you he's leaving.’

Rachel's face lit up. ‘Honestly?’

‘Thought you'd be pleased. I didn't think he'd last. He's too ambitious for that job. I gather management have got a replacement already.’

‘Well, let's hope he's more understanding of female staff.’

‘You look better now, Rachel,’ observed Cynthia. ‘You looked dreadful when I arrived. Have you heard from Gary yet.’

‘Don't be daft. He's probably holed up with a replacement lover.’

‘You'll have to face him soon.’

Rachel was prevented from replying by Curtis ringing the doorbell and Rex launching into a second fit of hysterical barking. The arrival drew the evening to a close and with even more to think about it was with relief that Rachel waved them off.

(to be continued)

Apology

Sorry there is no Monday Mirth today, I don't feel in a merry mood without my computer. Still a new one is being set up today by my computer expert so maybe I will be back to normal soon. Went visiting blogs earlier and could leave comments of a sort. Unforunately not on yours, Ron, Disqus would not allow me to post a comment ... doesn't recognise me without my IT hat on! Disqus allowed me to type something before clamming up on me, wasn't that unkind? Bye for now.

25 February 2012

Sunday Scene, Rome plus PC problem

Computer problems, which I will explain at a later date, prevent me from blogging properly. Suffice to say that some important folders have gone missing from the laptop ... Suspected virus. However, I had already prepared this Sunday scene so hopefully the post can still go ahead. I will be back as soon as possible but I will be able to visit you using the iPad. Hope you are all enjoying the weekend.


24 February 2012

23 February 2012

Blogging


Recently I read an article about blogging in which it was stated that it should not be classed as a daily occupation. The man who wrote it claimed that those who blog daily should ‘get a life’. That’s funny, because I thought I had one. You can see that I take this personally which is daft considering the author of the comment is unknown to me, but it made me feel angry that people feel qualified to dictate what others should or should not do. I am my own boss, I can do what I like. No-one is forced to read my blog although I am pleased that many do.

Yes, I post something every day. It might be something I’ve written, a picture, or a video. I have a lot of written work that hasn’t appeared on the blog and there’s a lot that has. I’m a writer, I do stuff, so why not. After all, it’s MY blog. What’s more, I enjoy it. As much as anything I like the preparation and the satisfaction of seeing something I wrote appear on line.

I recently ran an experiment, leaving a couple or three days without posting and, you know what, I felt kind of lost. I did pay my usual blog visits, which was great, but the buzz of posting something I created or arranged was missing.

Blogging kicked off years ago when people stopped writing journals and turned to blogging. What’s the difference? Isn’t it like writing a diary, only more elaborate? And does it matter if seven posts are made in a week instead of one? Either way, who does it affect … the writer or the reader?

22 February 2012

Plantsbrook Park

Because it's a wet and dismal day I thought I would show some of last year's early spring pictures taken at Plantsbrook Local Nature Reserve. The area where I live has a number of beautiful parks and the locals take advantage of them all. I don't go so much since I stopped being a dog walker.

Plantsbrook is situated in a suburban housing area with extensive parkland nearby. A large proportion of the habitat is open water. The site lies on the Plantsbrook wildlife corridor and was developed in 1983 for people to experience and enjoy wildlife in an urban setting. It was declared a Local Nature Reserve 1991.


The Reserve comprises of a number of pools, surrounded by fringes of woodland, wetlands and a wildflower meadow, making it an oasis for its wildlife. There is something of interest to be seen at all times of the year. Visitors are able to walk the entire site along well surfaced paths and boardwalks.











20 February 2012

Trust Not The Vow ... Chapter 18


Rachel crouched under the sepia coloured umbrella that Gary had found on one of his jaunts. It was a ridiculous colour for rainy weather; a brighter hue might have succeeded in lifting her forlorn morale. She transferred the carrier of tinned dog food to the hand holding her handbag and knocked on her parents' front door, glumly regretting the decision not to go straight home.

It was the concept of the empty hours waiting for Gary that had steered her up Tewkesbury Road, craving company and a hoped-for invitation to tea. However, since there was no reply, it looked as if she was destined to eat a solitary sandwich in her own home. She went round the back, in case her knocks hadn't been heard. Pushing open the gate, she gritted her teeth in anticipation of the agonising creak as it swung inwards. Surprisingly, the grating noise had vanished. ‘Not before time,’ she muttered, supposing her father had at long last oiled the hinges.

Closing the gate behind her, she noticed a strip of light beneath the closed curtains and stepped across the blue brick yard to rap on the door. Getting no response, not even to her second knock, she concluded the light had been left on by mistake. She went away, not sure if she was pleased or sad to be going home.

THE MYSTERY HOUSE looked even more neglected in the rain. Water gushed from a broken section of guttering hanging at an angle from the edge of the roof; it descended like Niagara Falls, almost obscuring the largest window. How anyone could live in such a place was beyond Rachel's comprehension. She hurried by, foolishly hiding behind the umbrella lest she be captured by lost souls and hauled inside.

She kept going until safely on her own front path where she could breathe normally and chuckle at her childish lunacy. Pushing a shoot of winter jasmine out of the way she ducked into the porch, propped the gamp against the meter box, and felt in her pocket for the key. There was a squeal of brakes as a car turned into the road. It was Gary, home earlier than expected.

Inevitably, her heart leaped at the sight of his grinning face as he drew near. She waited, watching him secure the windows of his beloved Volkswagen before climbing out and locking the door. He ran lithely up the path, showing no sign of tiredness after his long journey.

Inside, Rachel peeled off her raincoat and hung it in the kitchen to dry, while Gary poured sherry into the best glasses. ‘It's a bit early for drinking,’ she said, accepting the glass he offered.

Gary dropped into a chair. ‘I'm whacked. It's a long haul in the wagon this weather.’

‘How was Terry?’

‘Fine.’

‘He rang this morning.’

Gary's head shot up.

Rachel gave him the gist of Terry's call, emphasising the fact that he might be gone for a while. ‘I'm surprised he didn't tell you,’ she added, feeling an odd sense of justice as she waited for his reply.

‘He didn't stay up north. He came home early on account of his job.’

So, it was all above board and Rachel had no reason to fret. Nevertheless, she felt deflated, deprived of the row she had worked towards all day. Feeling distinctly ruffled, she began the preparations for tea.

SHE STOOD AT THE BEDSIDE, her body concealed by a large white towel, her head swathed in another. She was contemplating the mark on Gary's neck, squeamishly picturing her husband in the arms of his lover, and that lover's teeth sinking into his flesh. She had felt edgy all evening, suspecting something major was wrong.

And now she knew what it was.

Professing to be too tired to watch television Gary had gone to bed early, leaving her to her knitting, silently fuming. The saga about Terry had continued to disturb her. Someone was lying, she was certain, but who, and why? Eventually, she had abandoned the tedious work and gone upstairs to bathe.

Eric was right, then, and Rachel now had proof though what she would do with it was another matter. Peeling off the towels, she dressed in the warm pyjamas and left the room, unable to think straight yet experiencing a tingle of relief.

Rex struggled to his feet as she passed his bed and followed her down the stairs. ‘I wish you wouldn't follow me everywhere,’ she groused, as she sat on the living room couch. Rex wagged his tail and happily brushed against her legs, then raised his head to lick her face. That did it. His consummate affection made her cry, forcing her finally to give way to her sorrow. While her body heaved with great racking sobs, she pleaded with God to help her through the mess that was her marriage. Folding her arms around the dog, she rocked to and fro, moaning in her misery, until there were no more tears to shed and her brain once more began to function.

Nothing had changed.

The thought crept in even as she queried what course to take. Nothing had changed, except that Gary now sported a livid love bite on his neck. Curiously, she speculated about that, conjuring up visions of men making love. What was the real cause of Terry's premature return? Was he really going away? And who was the prevaricator, Terry or Gary?

Much later, fatigued by surging, unanswered questions, she went upstairs and climbed wearily into bed, pulling her share of the duvet to her side. As she drifted into sleep, she promised herself she would tell Gary what she knew; maybe then he would feel inclined to talk about it.

(to be continued)

16 February 2012

Blonde Mountain (repeat)


Bowie Greene watched the small smooth-skinned creature slither behind the rock formation like a furtive whisper. Despite the arid conditions, the area was strikingly fertile. Low-lying gorse edged the rough mountain paths, rising almost to touch the self-seeded wild flowers spilling from crevices. Still hunkered after checking his boot laces, Bowie surveyed the cloud-free July sky, a fusion of blues streaked with the white vapour trails of military jets. Like an abstract painting. He sniffed the air and inhaled the minty freshness of his surroundings before springing to his feet. Hitching his rifle he plodded on, determined to overcome his fear.

The stony path zigzagged upwards for a hundred yards before changing its gradient. Running his hand around his neck to wipe away a gathering of sweat, Bowie braced himself for the ascent. He’d done this trek a thousand times. Knew every undulation, boulder, blade of grass. Long ago, when youth and health went hand in hand, he’d even done it blindfolded for a bet. But in all these years he’d never made it to the top. No climber ever had. It was known locally as a mountain because of the climbing involved, incredibly steep in parts. From the ground the apex looked as if someone had given it a blonde wig. No-one had yet discovered what was up there to give it that appearance.

Gripping an arching slab, Bowie swung his body to a higher level. The rock was more angular, jutting cruelly towards his shin. His breathing quickened as he tried to dispel a straight-jacket sense of unease. He had reached the spot where once he’d taken ill. The fear of what can happen on Blonde Mountain still haunted him. Remembering Bernadette’s taunt, he pressed on. Driving his boots hard into the ground, he mustered every ounce of willpower and forced himself to pass the man-sized column of rock known to regular climbers as Ugly. The precise site of the heart attack.

It was a Wednesday when it happened, Bernadette’s birthday. He was hurrying. On that occasion he’d been content just to climb, leaving behind his ambition. He reasoned that he could do it and take the commissioned photographs in plenty of time … and would have if the weather had stayed calm.

He remembered shrugging off the discomfort in his arm, concentrating his mind on his wife. She had been fraught for weeks over the shop; it was only fair to give her more of his time. He and Jamie had planned to take her out to dinner. Going up Blonde Mountain had been a mistake given the circumstances, but he wasn’t to know that at the time. When the pain worsened he had stopped near Dixon’s Dike to swallow a couple of painkillers and then advanced towards Ugly.

The final blow came shortly afterwards, half way to Ugly, wedged in a crevice where he’d paused to adjust his thinking. Should he go back or carry on? How much more would Bernadette take of his wild craving to reach the summit? The kick came right at that point. Knocked him sideways. He’d fallen 200 yards, crashing against the rock face, bouncing, until he landed on a ledge. And blacked out.

The rescue team found him. Surgeons saved his leg and treated his heart condition. They said he was a lucky man. Bowie knew he was, he was grateful, yet still the zenith of Blonde Mountain claimed his attention. Like most climbers he wouldn’t rest until he achieved his goal. So many times he had almost made it; so many times he’d failed.

Bernadette was furious over his insane desire to try again, her criticism wordy and threatening. She spoke of divorce if he didn’t start to see sense. You’re too old, she said. It’s time you packed it in. She was generous, criticising him instead of using selfish reasons. Bowie knew she had plenty of those, fear being the main one, loneliness another.

Bowie feared losing Bernadette but pigheadedness overruled all emotion. Now he wondered what had possessed him to come up here. To escape his wife’s accusations or to prove her wrong? Ever since the outburst a week ago, when she fiercely charged him with having no spunk, his morale had been crushed. The only remedy had been to climb, to prove that he was still good at it. Bernadette thought the deal with the magazine was the main incentive but to Bowie the second photographic commission was merely an excuse. He would climb into the clouds to achieve personal fulfillment.

The route now was straightforward. Bowie had reached a plateau that enabled him to rest. He leaned against rock and looked out. He could see the village, a simple speck on a map of green fields. Unstrapping his back pack he removed the rifle and maneuvered the pack so that he could reach the camera and binoculars. As he did so he felt tingling in his stomach. Nerves! Suddenly alert, he twisted on his heel, aiming the rifle as he spun round. He stared at the rock. Nothing there, yet he could have sworn he heard stealthy shuffling.

Unexpectedly nervous, sensing something was close by, he tightened his grip on the gun. Shivered, yet there was sweat on his face. Slowly, he turned. Saw the dog. It was like no dog Bowie had ever seen. Huge head, long body, stumpy tail. Unusual colouring; an indeterminate shade that reminded Bowie of wallpaper paste. Round his neck was a black band of dark fur that resembled a collar. Even as Bowie watched the creature disappeared, seeming to slither rather than run round the rock formation. Bowie lowered the rifle, wondering if this was the fabled animal climbers talked about. It was always referred to in local pubs as the Blonde dog. Some said it was the keeper of the mountain. Bowie had laughed at the idiocy of such a theory. However, if what he witnessed was not a familiar four-legged breed of domesticated pet then the whole episode must have been a mirage. An hallucination!

After taking a batch of photographs, Bowie repacked the equipment, adjusted the climbing ropes, and moved on. An unexpected gloominess had settled upon him, a cloud formation that he didn’t like obliterated the sun. He once told Jamie that when clouds came the rock face lost its friendliness. His son had laughed, unable to understand that rock could be friendly. He moved slowly, hesitantly, remembering the weather change he’d experienced before. That almost fatal day! Ahead he saw something glide round a rock. An impression rather than a sighting but he knew it was the creature he had seen before. Probably didn’t like the wind that was getting up.

When it came the rain was like a deluge, stinging Bowie’s face, the sharpness causing him to close his eyes. He struggled to adjust his helmet, pull the side flaps over his ears, returned the goggles to his eyes. He hated both. It killed the freedom of a climb but he recognized the merit in taking safety precautions. He wasn’t a fair weather climber. It would take the hand of God to stop him climbing in a storm.

The dog reappeared and stayed in front of him. His coat was like a beacon in the growing murk. Bowie made no attempt to catch him up. The short distance between them was somehow comforting as if the dog was measuring the route in stages. At the end of this section Bowie would climb again. The thought made him feel exhilarated. At one point the animal paused, turned his head to look at Bowie, and snarled. A deep rumbling sound that echoed against the rock.

‘It’s okay, Blonde,’ said Bowie, thinking it was up to him to soothe the dog’s trepidation. The dog trotted forward. Bowie wondered why he had called him Blonde since he wasn’t convinced that climbers’ tales had any foundation. The dog seemed stronger somehow, his carriage more assured. Dominant! It struck Bowie that the dog thought he’d taken over.

The weather worsened. Rain sliced through the air, the wind driving it full force. Bowie was unsure of his footing. His boots slid instead of holding him firm and his hands were icy cold. There were better gloves in his pack but he had no time to get them out. The dog, though still ahead, stood perfectly still as if on guard. ‘What shall I do, Blonde,’ asked Bowie, moving tentatively along the narrow ledge towards the dog. He wasn’t quite prepared to fight his way down. The dog lay down in Bowie’s path, preventing another move forward. He looked at Bowie with unflinching eyes that were like small fires. Daring him to move! Bits of rock shifted beneath Bowie’s boots, tumbled off the ledge into the whirling space that an hour ago had been so tranquil. Behind the dog a boulder became dislodged and hurtled towards home base. It was as well he’d stopped at that point. Bowie began to feel scared, hoping his heart would hold out if conditions deteriorated even more.

The dog eased himself onto all fours, growled twice, inclining his great head as if indicating that Bowie should follow.

Bowie did. He inched after the animal, exercising caution as he circumnavigated a rocky projection. His feet felt heavy. He could barely feel his hands. He longed for a cigarette and remembered what it was that made him pack up. It was a Wednesday, Bernadette’s birthday.

Rounding the projection, he suddenly stopped. In front of him was the huge mouth of a cave. The dog sat at one side of the entrance like a guard dog. Ignoring the attacking rain, Bowie stood openmouthed and stared. In all the years he’d climbed the mountain he had never before seen a cave. The dog walked in a little way, stopped, looked at Bowie as if urging him to follow.

It was a typical cave, small and dry, enough room for Bowie to lie down if required. Initials and messages were scratched on the grimy walls. Bowie squatted on the floor and shrugged off his pack. A message near where he laid the gun was ‘next time will bring medal for the damn dog.’ Bowie looked at the animal for inspiration about why he needed a medal. The animal’s long body filled the width of the entrance as he lay there looking out at the teeming rain, head on one side, an ear raised like he was listening for something. Bowie called him, tried to make friends. The dog resisted all sound, stayed still as a statue, listening and looking out.

The noise of the rock fall was colossal, vibrations so fierce Bowie thought the whole mountain was collapsing. He dug his heels into the ground, tensed his body against the cave wall, too scared to think about anything except how the hell he was going to survive. He prayed like he’d never prayed before, wishing he’d heeded Bernadette’s advice. He didn’t know if he’d even see her again. The tears were hot in his eyes, sobs rose, bursting wretchedly from him, adding weight to alarm. If only he’d stayed home where he belonged.

The dog nudged his head under Bowie’s arm. Seeking comfort? Oh my god, thought Bowie, the dog needs saving as well. Moving his head up to Bowie’s face, the animal licked his cheek. Bowie threw his arms around his neck and hugged him hard. ‘It’s okay, buddy,’ he whispered. ‘I’ll save you.’

They sat there, man and dog, waiting for conditions to steady. The rain was abating and Bowie could have sworn he saw a flash of light on the rock. He was afraid to look outside, afraid at what he might see. Blonde began to fidget, rose leisurely and went to the entrance. Looked out, turned back and barked at Bowie. As he crawled to join him, Bowie could have sworn there was a smile on his face.

Looking out, seeing the blue sky Bowie would never have guessed he’d been caught in such a violent storm. Still on his knees he moved further out, saw the damage done to his beloved mountain. His elation quickly disappeared when he saw that the whole of the route he had taken had gone. Not a ledge was left to walk on. ‘What do I do now, Buddy?’

The dog wagged his short tail, moved to join Bowie outside. He barked once and trotted off to the right. Came back, looked at Bowie, barked again, and trotted off. To the right.

Realising he should follow, Bowie went back for his pack and rifle, then stepped out to join the waiting dog. They were on a well worn trail with just enough width for a single person to walk, hitherto unseen by Bowie who thought he knew everything about the mountain. He followed the dog. The downhill walk was easy, patches of soaked grass already steaming in the sun. Occasionally the animal turned to check that Bowie was still there. Bowie kept checking the way they’d come, seeing the split in the mountain where the rocks had come loose, knowing that he could have been killed. Silently he thanked the Lord for giving him another chance of life.

As he trudged behind Blonde, Bowie remembered the etchings on the wall of the cave, and the one that read: next time will bring medal for the damn dog. The damn dog that had saved Bowie’s life and probably the lives of many others. He wondered how he’d never heard of the animal’s lifesaving activities before. And what was that he’d said: that only the hand of God would stop him climbing in a storm.

‘Hey, Buddy,’ ‘he called. ‘You’re not God are you?

But the animal had vanished, seemingly into thin air.

15 February 2012

Unsolicited phone calls


You were called at **** we do not have the caller's number to return the call.

Those words haunt me and the calls are driving me nuts. For years hubs and I followed a route that stopped unsolicited callers but that seemed to die a death. We are now paying for a service that blocks a caller AFTER he’s rung by inserting a special code. This means that he can never ring again. But we can’t stop people calling from overseas; this procedure doesn’t work for them and according to BT there is nothing they can do about it.

We never answer the phone around the six o’clock mark (evening) because it is invariably a foreign voice trying to sell something or maybe to talk about our computers. They ring at other times, of course. Today there was a ‘do not have the caller's number’ at 8.15am. I guess it’s a case of ‘if they won’t answer in the evening, we’ll get them in the morning’. We’ve got to the stage where we’d rather not answer the phone at all. Isn’t that awful? We’re now working on the theory that if someone rings and we don’t answer they will leave a message. Most times this works but there are folk out there who don’t like speaking to an answering service so they ring again, and again.

I suppose I should be grateful to the callers who operate an automatic dialing system because the majority of those don’t even speak when you answer. That was what happened at 8.15 this morning. Grrr!

You would think, wouldn’t you, that in a decade of advanced technology something could be done to protect our privacy. I have visions that at some future date even supermarkets will offer phone numbers and email addresses for sale. It all makes phone and voicemail hacking so much easier when there are no rules about selling data. Nothing is sacred anymore.

This is a worldwide problem, so why can’t the people of the world rise up and threaten those who seem reluctant to stop it?

Wordless...


13 February 2012

Trust Not The Vow ... Chapter 17


The telephone peals eventually penetrated Rachel's sleep. For a moment she could not identify the sound, until she pushed the duvet away from her ears and sat up in bed. Seeing daylight outlining the window drapes, she promptly glanced at the clock. It was after ten. She moved rapidly, slinging her robe around her shoulders and sprinting like a startled rabbit towards the door.

The chiming persisted and as she galloped bare foot down the stairs she wondered why the caller didn't ring off and try again later. As she put out a hand to lift the receiver, the ringing stopped. ‘Damn it!’ she exclaimed, but there wasn't time for an inquest into who it might have been. Yanking up the bulk of her robe, she raced to the kitchen and seized the kettle. There was no time to eat but no matter how late she was she couldn't set foot outside the house without a drink.

Everything was done in a hurry. Expressing regret for the lack of walking time, she fed Rex and sent him into the garden for pickle duty. She swallowed a mug of tea in one go, choked on a chocolate biscuit, and telephoned Cynthia before her mouth was totally free of crumbs.

After letting Rex back in, she scurried upstairs to wash and don the navy-blue dress she wore to visit her father. At that point, she allowed her thoughts to dwell on his worry over Amy, who was still attending stupid séances and who, last weekend, had stayed out all night.

Satisfied she looked okay, Rachel went downstairs and sat on the chair to put on her shoes. As she eased her feet into comfortable navy-blue flats, the telephone rang again.

‘Am I speaking to Rachel Ellison?’

The male voice was unfamiliar. Rachel's imagination ran through scenarios of death and destruction, endeavouring to decide if he was police, fire or ambulance. Her voice when she answered was barely audible; it almost disappeared when she found out who the caller was.

‘Terry, Terry Marshall. I'm ringing on the off-chance that Gary might be home.’

As far as Rachel was aware, Terry was assisting Gary with deliveries in Leeds. Not only was she shocked to hear the voice of the man she swore was having an affair with her husband, she was also confused about the whereabouts of both men. Gary had left the house on Friday morning with enough sandwiches and fruit to feed two men on the journey north. As usual, he had given verbal details of his itinerary: on Saturday, after delivering a couple of consignments, he and Terry were to meet a couple of Terry's cousins for drinks before going on to watch Leeds United, and they would stay at their house until Sunday; on Monday, today, they would travel home.

Wishing she could ask what the hell was going on, Rachel informed Terry that he might catch Gary later in the day.

‘I won't be around, Rachel - I hope you don't mind me being informal. I'm going to Brussels for the firm. It's a last minute arrangement which I can't very well refuse. I promised Gary I'd have a drink with him on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I can't go.’

‘When do you leave?’

‘My flight's in two hours.’

‘Can I tell Gary when you'll be back?’

‘It could be a month, or longer. I'm standing in for a chap who had a heart attack.’

Rachel peered at her watch, conscious that time was flying. Ben Collins would be in a state of unhinged fury. ‘I'll give Gary your message. If you'll excuse me I must fly, I'm dreadfully late for work.’

Courteously, Terry apologised for holding her up, thanked her for her time, and rang off, leaving Rachel in a real turmoil over Gary's apparently fictitious schedule.

RACHEL sprinted across the shop floor, ignoring the barbs from the blur of men behind the machines, though their utterances registered.

Alf's ‘Mornin', Rachel,’ and Bert's ‘You mean afternoon, you daft whatsit,’ were followed by an outburst from Sid, who yelled, ‘It must have been a bloody good lay, Rach, to make you so late.’

‘The gang of three'll be the death of me,’ she panted as she shot like a bullet through the office door. ‘And Sid gets cruder by the minute.’ Rachel paused at Cynthia's desk and eyed the boss's door. ‘What sort of a mood's he in?’

Speaking through a billow of smoke, Cynthia acquainted Rachel with the news that Ben Collins was driving his family to Llandudno and would be away for a whole day. ‘So that lets you off the hook.’

‘Fantastic. God, that's a relief because I really need to talk to you.’ Stripping off her raincoat, she pulled up a chair and sat facing Cynthia. With her arms folded under her chest she began her tale, reporting virtually verbatim the conversation with Terry.

Occasionally shaking her head in disbelief, Cynthia listened intently to Rachel's detailed account of her conversations with both Gary and Gary's friend. When Rachel finally halted, she commenced her interrogation. ‘Are you sure you've got it right? Did Gary specifically mention Terry's name?’

‘Yes. I told you.’

‘Specifically?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you positive they were going to Terry's relatives?’

The rapid fire questions went on, and Rachel began to have her doubts. ‘I don't know any more, Cynth. You don't think I dreamt it?’

Cynthia wiped ash from her fingers. ‘I don't know, do I, but it sounds daft to me. Why would Gary make up something so pointless?’

WAS her memory playing tricks? Had she misheard or misconstrued Gary's programme. Cynthia's examination of the facts had not helped Rachel at all. If anything, it made matters worse, for she now doubted her own rationality. There must be a logical explanation but for the life of her she couldn't sort one out. She sifted the facts, looking at the stories from all angles, but by the end of the day she was as muddled as when the day started.

(to be continued)