Friends

23 September 2018

SOAP


Do you throw away the last of tablet soap? I have friends younger than me who wouldn’t dream of continuing to lather a small piece. I suppose I was brought up in an age when every bit saved meant more money in the purse. It doesn’t apply to me anymore but I do still continue to abide by the old saying ‘waste not, want not’. Old habits die hard.

I have great fun with tablet soap. When it starts to get a bit thin I get a new bar and promptly ‘stick’ the old to the new. It looks funny if one bar is coloured and the new one plain white or vice versa. After that, whenever I use the soap I can see the wearing thin process of the older soap.

I can hear you all saying ‘play nice’!

21 September 2018

Life's Pot


Keep life’s pot filled
with love and dreams,
sweet memories, visions,
wonderful schemes.

Cram in the fantasies,
gossamer fine,
keep them safe in your heart
‘til the end of time


19 September 2018

PHONES, LOVE 'EM OR HATE 'EM

Didn’t I recently post something about phones?! Well, here I am again. This time the mobile seemed to have died completely and no amount of coaxing or fiddling produced results. It was dead as a dodo, no picture to greet me, nothing. Totally blank screen.

Of course, I panicked initially because I couldn’t send a text to neighbour, the neighbour who awaits notice that I didn’t die in the night. I had to remedy that situation by a quick visit to show her I was still alive. After which, using the landline, I booked a taxi to take me to the phone shop.

‘Oh dear,’ said the assistant in the shop, ‘What have you done?’

I had done nothing and told him so in no uncertain terms. The phone had just died. No warning, nothing.

The guy took the phone, shook it, and said ‘It looks like you need a new phone.’

I had only bought this phone eighteen months ago so I wasn’t best pleased by his remark, especially as the contract still had a couple of years to run which, if cancelled, would cost me a few hundred pounds!!!!!  He talked about a new phone and then dropped my phone on the floor. Guess what!?!? The b….. thing worked. And to think I was mentally calculating the cost of a new phone.

So now I know what to do if it happens again…. chuck the perishing phone on the floor.

One thing I did learn was never to switch off the phone. Apparently switching off is a no-no. Never heard that before. It reminds me of when the TV broke down and the guy said I should never totally switch it off.

Wondering what is going on with our gadgets!

16 September 2018

HUGS



HUGS
by 
DEAN WALLERY


It's wondrous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you're blue
A hug can say, "I love you so,"
Or, "Gee, I hate to see you go."
A hug is "Welcome back again."
And "Great to see you, where've you been?"
A hug can soothe a small child's pain
And bring a rainbow after rain.
The hug, there's just no doubt about it;
We scarcely could survive without it!
A hug delights and warms and charms;
It must be why God gave us arms
Hugs are great for fathers and mothers,
Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers;
And chances are your favourite aunts
love them more than potted plants.
Kittens crave them, puppies love them;
Heads of states are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier
And make your travel so much merrier.
No need to fret about your store of them,
The more you give, the more there are of them.
So stretch those arms without delay
And give someone a hug today!

13 September 2018

FRUSTRATION REIGNED



Years ago, my house was more like a set of offices, plus kitchen, bedroom and lounge. Honestly! Joe had his office and I had mine, plus mine also served as a work room in the days when craft work and writing went alongside my Women’s Institute duties. You can see that both of us needed a phone, plus one for leisure times when work was finished. The third phone stayed in the lounge and then moved to the bedroom when we got tired. How complicated some people can be!!

Anyway:

When household phones play up beyond repair there is nothing to do but replace them. Let me say here and now that the chore of setting them up was MINE. Joe would have nothing to do with it. Years ago, we thought a three-phone set was best for the two of us, because of our commitments it made sense to have phones near at all times. That was our excuse and we stuck to it - for many years. Now, though, they are no longer necessary. Surely, I thought, one phone is enough for one person. What really made me change was the fact that after a short time talking to someone on the phone everything went faint and even though my callers raised their voices it didn’t help. It’s almost like someone is saying ‘come on, it’s time to shut-up’.

Now that I am the sole phone user it seemed a waste of space to have three phones all of which contained information and phone numbers that had to be repeated when updating every phone. Too much hard graft for little me, so I treated myself to a one phone package from Amazon.

It came the next day, a service that really can’t be beaten.

I couldn’t wait to test it out.

I emptied the box, laid the various bits and pieces on the table and began to assemble my new phone. Only….

First I couldn’t read the small print on the instruction sheet
Next I couldn’t understand what bits I did read
Next I nearly threw the lot in the bin.
My temper emerged and I almost threw the damn thing across the room.

I had worked out that the base of the phone had to be charged but 16 hours seemed to bit long for a charging job. However, it had to be done. Holding the charger in one hand and the phone base in the other, I searched for a place to plug one to the other, without success.

When Joe was here I was the technician, carpet fitter, decorator of sorts, secretary, housekeeper and cook, in other words I could turn my hand to most things. But not this time. I searched and searched and searched some more for a place to plug charger to phone base until I reached a stage of screaming and slamming and cursing. Even Charlie the cat kept out of my way.

When feeling calmer I put all the parts back in their box, picked up the phone and sent a plea by text to next door neighbours who agreed to come in the following day and sort things out. It was lucky I hadn’t chucked the new phone in the bin!

Oh to be back in capability state, which state I entered once the ‘girls’ came round the next day. Without hesitation one of the girls plugged the thing into the charger, into a hole so tiny I couldn’t see it. Thanks to her it is now charged up and running. Oh how I wish I could go back a few years and be as clever as them.

I don’t like it though. The ring tone is like something repeatedly hitting a tin can, and trying to read the names is like deciphering a foreign code. I am used to reading proper print but what was entered in the phone was in fancy letters reminiscent of some fancy print on Christmas cards.

Back to the mobile, then. That's one piece of equipment I can use blindfolded. What to do with the other phone is a matter for future thought! Meanwhile, if folks ring the land line I just have to tell them I can't stay long. 

09 September 2018

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.


Was he trying to escape his wife's accusations
or prove her wrong?

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. A 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 up with him. 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.


06 September 2018

GIVING UP THE WEED


I was once a smoker and forgive me if I brag about ceasing that awful habit. Yes, I gave up and was proud of it. That was in 1988, 27 November to be exact, although I didn't make a note of the actual time!! 

Actually, I was a heavy smoker, much to Joe’s disgust and eventually mine. Although he smoked an occasional cigar he was dead against cigarette smoking, even though he once had a liking for cigarettes. He thought that switching to cigars meant he smoked less… that was his argument and he stuck to it. But this isn’t about him, it’s about me.

I smoked for years, ignoring all arguments about the cessation of same. I would argue that it was my lungs that suffered. Cocky? Oh yes, definitely. The dispute continued for a very long time.

Joe worked away a lot so he missed some of the smoke! One time he was away for a few days and during that time I started to suffer pains in the head. This was when I began to take notice of the smoking because every time I coughed I got the pain in the head. Joe was away about a week so he didn’t know about the cough. In defiance I decided not to tell him. But the pain got worse. There was nothing else I could do but avoid smoking. It was such a relief to be pain-free that I vowed to go a full week without a ciggy.

When Joe returned I decided to avoid mentioning the head pain, and at the same time to keep on avoiding cigarettes. After about eight days he suddenly realised the rooms were smoke free. Naturally, he queried it, but all I said was that I had given up the awful weed.

I never did find out what caused the pain in the head but oh the pleasure I got when each day was pain free as well as smoke free. That was 1988 and I never smoked again.

Wasn’t I a good girl?

I hear reports on TV and radio about the perils of smoking and wonder why people don’t just give up. It can be done, it just takes determination, but as long as people say “I can’t” they have no chance of giving up. 

03 September 2018

2121 - a repeat

(A public domain picture from http://www.clker.com)


2121
My name is Dorothea. I did have a surname but it was forgotten long ago. In this place people are known by their forename. It seems like only yesterday since I came here. Reflecting back to those dreary rain filled days when the sun rarely shone I acknowledge that to go back would be a catastrophe, yet that is what my family did. They thought returning to live on war-torn Planet Earth would be an exciting adventure. Not me, I’m happy with the adventures I get here.

Space travel has its advantages. If it wasn’t for winning the pools and booking a trip in the space ferry I would never have discovered this tranquil place where age is no longer a worry and termination nothing more than a distant dream.

Young Quamlo was my salvation. He originated from the place where I had landed and where I now live, a place called Sol Vellow which is on the coast of Swentiva. I’d never heard of either until I encountered him on a rocky haven at the foot of Jungos Mount and he gave me a brief history of the place. That was at a time when I longed for the green fields I’d read about in my early years. Because of that the rocks were disappointing. It was my first experience of such terrain; I always imagined it to be tough on feet and heart but there was a surprising softness about the walkways and an agreeable ambience that seemed to wash over me like soothing dew. The humid air seemed permanently scented but since there are few flowers I have yet to discover the cause.

I refer to Quamlo as young but when I listened to his tales I realised he must be at least a hundred. The place, he said, was magical; youthful looks lasted for the rest of one’s natural life … however long that was. I used to laugh at the phrase eternal life, until I arrived here. Quamlo was quick to put me right. ‘It is not to be laughed at, Dorothea. Eternal life is something to be grateful for. Only souls filled with wickedness need have fear.’
Quamlo is an Independent, a term given to free spirits, although his feet are firmly on the ground at all times. He instructs the androids kindly but firmly to ensure his wishes are carried out with the minimum of fuss. I found that remarkable. When the cooling system failed he only had to raise a finger for Enrico to steer his great metal frame into the yard to get it fixed.

My house is built in rock. On Planet Earth it would be known as a cave. It consists of six equal sized compartments, or rooms, if you prefer, in circular design. The kitchen is in the middle with five windows, each one picking up light from the adjoining rooms. Next to that is the feast room, the pool room, and three rooms designated as accommodation for guests, a bedroom for me and Quamlo, and a room designed specifically for gaming activities. The guest room is seldom used but it is always kept in pristine condition for visiting Nationals, they rarely give much notice and Quamlo believes in taking no chances.

The house once belonged to Umulo, once recognised as the Great Ruler of Swentiva until he was assassinated. The perpetrator of the monstrous crime was put to death in a painful manner.

It was about a year after the death that Quamlo approached me on the subject of us living together. He had been Umulo’s man, they had done everything together and the sudden loneliness did not sit well on his well shaped shoulders. I thought about it for a long time, weighed up all the consequences, taking into account the advancing years and the certain loss of youthful features. Since I was not born here I sensed that eternal life might not be mine. This belief, though, was kept from Quamlo lest it should arouse his wrath. Selfishly I decided that the prospect of living with him had its merits. Physically he was well endowed, his small stature complemented my lack of height, and I have evidence to verify the fact that he is a good provider. I want for nothing.

Over the years I grew stronger, more in control, able to give my own commands. I learned to stand up to the new Great Ruler so that his heavy handed behaviour meant little or nothing. Best of all I was able to protect the women who would otherwise have succumbed to his brutal ways. He thought nothing of shaving their heads if they dared to outwit him or cutting off fingers and toes for greater sins, betrayal being one of them. The Great Ruler possessed enough charm to lure the younger women to a marriage bed, but once there they were subjected to the most atrocious behaviour.

Whilst Quamlo worried about it there was little he could do to save the women from their fate if they fell for the false appeal. He was at a disadvantage because of his size. In height he merely reached the Great Ruler’s hip. So at Quamlo’s behest, I became established on the council as Director of Women and Children. Consequently my battles with the Great Ruler were numerous. The fact that women turned to me for help immediately placed them as betrayers so I arranged a secret meeting place where they could not be seen discussing their affairs with me.

The location was on the far side of Jungos Mount, in a long forgotten cavern that had been occupied and then deserted by nomads. The entrance was almost concealed by unruly undergrowth; indeed I only discovered it when I tripped on a sturdy tree root. Qualmo agreed that it was a good place for the women to go if they needed help.

Confident that my plan would be kept secret I arranged secret sessions at the cavern.

There were many meetings with women who felt powerless to stand up to the Great Leader. One of them, Heliona, a rather handsome girl, tall and willow thin, was one of those to consult with us. Apart from a young son, she had no family and she was having a hard time brushing off the Great Ruler’s advances. She had already lost two fingers, both on the right hand, and she feared that more pain would be inflicted unless she succumbed to his evil desires. Her son was unable to help since on the nights she was sent for he was shackled to the wall of their home.

After great discussion, amidst tears and tantrums and nowhere near finding a solution I suggested a consultation with the Wise Woman.

The Wise Woman was known as Mylha but hardly anyone used her name. She was a genius. Single handed she prepared potent and effective remedies for sickness and disease, healing lotions for the blistered feet of wretches who were forced to toil on stony ground, and aphrodisiacs for the Great Ruler. The latter were said to be concocted from thistle juice and frog spawn flown in from Planet Earth. Mylha kept a serpent in her stony yard. She kept it for protection and that I could understand for who would dare to cross a serpent?

The plan was to remove the Great Leader by fair means or foul, with Quamlo’s help and that of the Wise Woman. Ordinarily I am not vindictive or even malicious but the plight of the women, and especially Heliona, was serious enough to take drastic action.

We met often in the cavern, which was considered a safe place. On those occasions ideas were submitted on how best to dispose of the Great Ruler. After many weeks of hard deliberation it was eventually agreed that only his demise could save the women of Sol Vellow. My idea was to use the serpent but Mylha disagreed. She decided that a tainted aphrodisiac would be a good idea. Since the pilot of the space craft was a relative she would have no difficulty getting the required items to mix into her brew, the brew that formed the basis of the formula.

Together, Quamlo and I spent many hours devising a plan. We would invite the Great Leader and numerous other guests to dine with us to celebrate the legalisation of our union. We had lived together long enough to know that we were well suited so an exchange of rings at this time seemed not only appropriate but it provided an excuse for a feast.

The Great Leader would be guest of honour, and the women would act as hand maidens to his entourage. Mylha, the Wise Woman, would also sit at the feast table as the Chief Overseer was entitled to do.

The preparations took two months. Much effort was put into polishing the gold vessels which had once been in Umulo’s possession. It was thought they originated from Planet Earth but no-one was entirely sure. It was too long ago. As well as cleaning the house and making it pleasant for our guests, Mylha created a fashionable atmosphere to the main room.

Many ornaments were placed in strategic places. On a small marble bench she laid out trays of highly perfumed flower petals, the secret of where she acquired them a closely kept secret. In the centre of the table, opposite the place where the Great Leader would sit, she deposited a wooden carving of a bowing serf which she considered to be highly appropriate. She draped the ceiling with strings of colourful lights, the sight of which evoked an elusive memory. Familiar, yet unknown.

The room took on such a distinctive appearance I could barely recall what it was like before Mylha took over. She delighted in filling every space, a gap to her was unthinkable. And there was one, an opening right between two ornamental shelves. Spotting it, the Wise Woman cried in horror. ‘It is a bad omen,’ she cried. 'It cannot be allowed. A vacant space leaves room for hostile intrusions.' That was how she came to change her mind about bringing the serpent to the gathering. The basket in which it lived would be ideal for filling the gap.

On the day itself Mylha’s serpent was brought in. Its basket was tall with a tight fitting lid so that daylight and prying eyes were excluded. In its place between the shelves, behind the Great Leader’s chair, it looked exactly right though I did not care to think of the consequences should one of the serfs bump into it. Mylha laid a small pipe alongside, explaining that it was the pipe with which she would charm the snake.

Taking me to one side, she explained her change of mind. The potion she had so carefully prepared was not up to standard. A particular item had not arrived in the consignment from Planet Earth which meant that without it the other ingredients would not ferment. It was not clear to me since I do not possess the power of witches. However, seeing my growing agitation that our plan would be ruined she quickly assured me that the serpent would, in the end, play its part.

Since Mylha often states that she doesn’t expect to live long it crossed my mind that this might be the last occasion she charmed her pet from his basket. I remembered Quamlo’s theory that only souls filled with wickedness need have fear. It must mean that the Wise Woman and I should feel some apprehension for the malice in our hearts concerning the Great Leader.

I discussed the matter with Quamlo but he, whilst understanding my state of mind, persuaded me that we were merely punishing the Great Leader for his cruelty to women. He added that to allow him to continue brutalising, torturing and raping the womenfolk would make us as evil as the man himself.

The ceremony of union was conducted by Junson, a young man of 50 years and the son of Heliona. Junson was dressed in loose, white clothes with an ornate sword hanging from his waist. The sword was a symbol of union, although I was unable to make the connection. He didn’t have to do much except to read lines from an old book, but the placing of hands was important so Quamlo kept an eagle eye on that part of the rite. Quamlo and I stood side by side and every time I turned towards him I could see his surreptitious gestures. It made me smile with affection. At the end of the reading Quamlo and I were declared truly bound in legal confluence.

And so the reception began. The Great Leader took charge of proceedings by inducing the guests to partake of wine and make merry with each other. Having such freedom was rare so the men took him at his word. The few women who did not join them sat around as if they were waiting for something to happen. Passive, silent and fearful.

Eventually the Great Leader moved among them, tweaking ears and pulling hair. One woman was pulled to her feet so that he could kiss her, another was forced to accept his caress, and yet another was taken by him to the games room. Her cries could be heard from where Quamlo and I were sitting. That was when Mylha decided to act.

She moved back to the banqueting table, picked up the Great Leader’s goblet and filled it with an intoxicating substance. Upon his return from the games room the man was invited to return to his place and enjoy the substance the Wise Woman held out to him. Quamlo and I moved to sit nearer and I saw that as he tipped the goblet back so the serpent’s head emerged from his basket. Mylha played a tuneless air to encourage the serpent to rise forth and attach itself to the man’s back. The Great Leader knew nothing about it until the creature slithered up his back and bit his neck. With one drawn-out scream his flailing body fell onto the table.

Death was quick. And there was much rejoicing. My guilt is hard to bear, more especially since Mylha died at the same time. She was right about not living long and it was her own serpent that killed her. Once it tasted blood there was no stopping it. The creature was slain by Junson’s single blade.

‘So be it,’ whispered Quamlo, as he led me away.

For several days the memory of that awful time when Umulo was killed was uppermost in my mind. The punishment was execution and I couldn’t help but wonder if the Wise Woman’s death was her punishment for the present crime. If that was the case, shouldn’t I and others have been punished given that we planned the killing.

It was a tragedy all round but because of it the women now have the freedom Quamlo wanted them to have, to speak their minds, to say No when they want to, and finally to enjoy their lives on Sol Vellow. The Great Leader’s shadow is no more and my mind is finally at rest. It had to be. For the sake of mankind.

Since that time the population has grown, we have new babies, and new families. Quamlo is our leader and although he got there by foul means the people have accepted him. He is kind hearted but firm. People live by his rules and are grateful. Heliona and I are good friends. We often visit the cave where Mylha’s body was placed. We go there to pray and to offer our thanks for the risks she took on behalf of womenfolk.

31 August 2018

GONE FOR NOT FORGOTTEN!


The recently mentioned cotoneaster has gone! My new gardener (Pete) and his young mate laboured over it for quite a while, drilling, cutting, sweating and swearing. I could understand the swearing as I watched the operation.

What I had called a gentle shrub had turned into a monster. The hitherto unseen ‘stalks’ were a circumference of twelve inches (yes, we measured it) which had to be drilled to get the mini tree sized shrub out of the ground. The remaining stumps had to be left where they were.

They emerged triumphant after an hour drilling the twisted and gnarled overgrown trunk. I call it a trunk for want of another name. Pete then had to saw it all into pieces in order to transport them to the garden rubbish bin from where they would be collected by council workers.

Eventually the entire strip opened up to a previously intended flower bed, stones, bricks and all. The cotoneaster had been in situ since before we moved into the bungalow because it was well established then. Add on thirty years and you get the drift of the its age. Going by the height and spread when we moved in I would put it at around forty years.

I should have got rid of it sooner but, never mind, the job is done. The soil in the ‘flower bed’ is healthy enough to plant some flowers which I will definitely try to produce. I am not going to buy much, just take specimens from the rest of the garden.

So now I can see the whole of the garden from the window and am thrilled. 

29 August 2018

SPECIAL BOOKMARKS


Both Joe and I loved bookmarks and I still do. I had a fad at one time to collect as many bookmarks as I could. Usually on holiday where it was likely we would find different sorts. And, oh boy, did we get a collection. 

I have all sorts, embroidered ones and lace edged beauties, comic, and serious, and some with a motto picked up at fairs or exhibitions, usually relating to companies who had exhibitions on site. On one of our outings we paid a visit to a church that had a delightful stall full of gifts. I spotted some bookmarks with names on and there they were, one for Joseph and one for Valerie. Of course, I just had to have them. 

Joe used his but not as avidly as me. I still have them and will never throw them away. They have our details on the borders which are/were uncannily true for both of us.

Joe's (Joseph) read like this: 
Derivation from 'Yosef'' meaning 'addition to family
Origin: Hebrew
Strength: Has the temperament to reach his goals
Physical: He is a larger than life individual
Character: Intelligent
Emotional: A devoted family man

Mine:
Derivation from 'valere' meaning strong and healthy
Origin: Latin
Strength: A down to earth lady, you know where you stand
Physical: She always believes in her abilities
Character: open
Emotional: Will always forgive and forget

Is it any wonder we never threw these bookmarks away? Daft as it sounds, if I was having a bad day I would pick up my latest read, not because of the book, but for the reassurance of my bookmark. 

25 August 2018

THE ANNIVERSARY

I wrote the following story after witnessing an elderly lady gazing through her window, every day. She inspired me to write something.

The Anniversary


The mud-splattered wagon trundled away, closely followed by what appeared to be a clapped out JCB. The final operation in the building of my neighbour’s new wing was done. Flicking a faded yellow duster over the sill, I tried to envisage my house free of brick dust and the stink of wet cement. I watched the wagon until it was out of sight, willing it never to darken our street again. There were enough new buildings to take the entire Warwickshire population.

Across the road in the maisonettes an old chap wedged open his door. He did this when the Meals on Wheels woman was due and sure enough there she was, driving up Silhill Street with her Thursday fare. A robust woman, never without a hat, with a matronly chest that reached its destination minutes before the rest of her body. Seeing her reminded me that my faculties were on the blink, that one day she might be plying me with slender rations in foil dishes. The time might well come but I wasn’t prepared to admit it to the likes of her. She would turn up her snooty nose and gloat on account of the telling off I gave her the other week. I told her she needn’t think she could boss me into giving in. I said until I got the telegram from the Queen I wouldn’t be savouring any of her wares.

I tweaked the curtain to view the houses so long obscured by vans and diggers and mountainous heaps of bricks. Old Nelly and her friend Jess were attempting to reverse their car up the narrow drive and making a right meal of it. I couldn’t understand why they found such poor car control amusing but I envied their camaraderie. I had done ever since my Clive passed on.

Screwing the duster into a ball to retain the dust I turned away from the window, but hearing the honk of a horn twisted back again to see John Carrington getting out of his red Jaguar and making a fist at two scruffy urchins playing ball in his drive. Cheeky beggars pulled faces at him as they ran off. As soon as they were out of sight he retrieved the wheelchair from the back of the car, waving to me before easing Nancy from the passenger seat. She waved as John transported her into the house. They had been on an excursion to Blackpool. When I heard they were going, I appealed to the Almighty to keep them safe. Satisfied that once again he’d done a thorough job, I sent him my appreciation.

I first met the Carringtons, one wet, wintry day, in the supermarket coffee shop. Several years ago now. We shared a table. John manoeuvred the wheelchair so that his wife faced me. A woman of ample proportions wrapped in a blue wool coat the identical colour of her laughing eyes. She tutted as she pulled a wayward ringlet, irritated by its bounciness. That was Nancy, my prospective neighbour.

They called me Lizbet instead of Elizabeth, the name I was blessed with. It rolled off Nancy’s tongue like syrup off a spoon. I loved it. It made me feel special. God himself knows how I needed someone like her to latch on to…. her presence in my life went a long way to removing some of the loneliness.

I visited her every day when they moved in. My intention was to help her cope with the disabling arthritis but she was strong enough to handle her disability without my assistance. Nevertheless, she was happy for me to see to her hair. Whenever I brushed those dark locks I would remember the first time I saw her tug that obstinate curl and recall the words John had uttered in the coffee shop as he covered her hand with his: ‘I only promised to love her until she was sixty.’ I remember Nancy’s beaming face when she demanded that when the time came he would grant a ten year extension, and John’s choked reply, ‘You got it, lady.’

Finally withdrawing from the reverie, I noticed that John and Nancy’s door was closed. Normally I gave them the thumbs up before they disappeared into the house but I’d been so taken with reminiscing I missed the opportunity. I silently begged them not to take umbrage.

A cloudburst of loneliness washed my soul as I returned to the kitchen. The fire that had blazed before I began my prying window vigil had reduced to almost nothing. Seizing the poker, I stoked the dying embers until flames reawakened then threw on more coal nuts. I counselled myself not to be silly but it didn’t work and I rounded on poor Clive when I saw him grinning from his wooden picture frame on the dresser. It’s all your fault,’ I grumbled, ‘leaving me here alone.’

The rain roused me the following morning, I could hear it thumping on the garage roof and water whooshing from the down pipe onto the front slabs. It reminded me that the soak-away needed attending to. I was in the process of castigating the All-Powerful for designing such a rotten February when I heard footsteps on the path. Dragging myself from under the warm quilt, I advanced to the window and peered out. ‘Good Lord,’ I muttered. ‘It’s Postman Pat.’

The postman was holding a pink envelope. I was surprised because I had no reason to receive letters. Being childless and without relations to speak of my quota of mail had long since lapsed. Except for the bills! And there was no trash mail thanks to John arranging with the mail preference people to stop it.

Nervously, I descended the stairs to pick up the envelope, examined it front and back for evidence of the sender’s identity. The writing was sort of familiar. Slitting it open I extracted a card depicting a single scarlet rose. Curiously I looked inside. There was a photo of Nancy, John and me, taken one summer’s day in their garden. There was also an inscription......

“Ten years have elapsed since Nancy Rose and John William Carrington
adopted you as friend and comforter.
Happy Anniversary, dear Lizbet.
Please accept this invitation to share Nancy’s ten year extension.”

Can you imagine my delight?

22 August 2018

WILL SHE, WON'T SHE?

I have a book that is very old. It came into my possession when my parents died and left everything to me. I haven’t read it yet! Why? Because the print is so small … it was in those days. Several times I have taken it off the shelf fully intending to give it a go, but never got beyond the first few flimsy pages.

The book’s title is ‘London Belongs to Me’ and was written in 1945 by Norman Collins who at that time had written seven books. Today I decided to give it another go. If I only read one flimsy page at a time I might eventually get through it.

I have attempted this before and given up so I hope that now I have more time on my hands I can at least read one page per day. Only one, I hear you say! The real reason is that the eyes give up by the end of one page.

So far I have gleaned that the writing is good and includes a touch of humour.

It was Christmas. Time four-thirty on Friday 23rd December 1938. Scene set in an office where the staff members prepared to celebrate, or as the author described ‘Bethlehem now broods encouragingly over London’.

“Mr Battlebury had dropped into Scott’s for a dozen six-and-sixpenny oysters and had ordered a bottle of Hock to go with them – which is why he arrived back in Creek Lane, E.C.2., carrying his gaily tied-up parcels, a lot later and a good deal more genial than he generally arrived.’

Mr Battlebury’s staff had not gone so far afield. The typists had rushed off to the neighbouring Lyonses and Express Dairies and Kardomahs (two flight up and mind the old oak beam), and had stuffed themselves with slices of rich dark pudding or hot flaky mince pies. The male staff, of course, had made for the pubs.”

Kardomah Caf├ęs were a chain of coffee shops in England, Wales, and a few in Paris, popular from the early 1900s until the 1960s, but now almost defunct. I don’t know about you but I remember Lyons and Kardomah and the coffee drunk in both. It was at a time when coffee was banned in my family, so drinking it on the sly was like an adventure. There was a theory that coffee was bad for growing children. Hmmm! I wish my parents could see the present generation!

Back to the subject of this post……. okay it might not interest anybody else but to me it was like taking a step back in time

Wish me luck in what I consider to be a mammoth task. If I read a page a day it will all be over in 639 days!

Go on, I dare you, work that out!

19 August 2018

MY SPECIAL TIME

I truly had this special time and wrote this around 2009 




Without fail, the moment occurs. It’s been going on for years, same time, every day. Seven thirty, precisely!  I’m talking about the silence, that wonderful unbroken calm, so hushed I hold my breath for fear of creating a disturbance. Even the birds are respectful; twittering and wing flapping seemingly not allowed. Everything stops. There is no movement anywhere, even the breeze is at rest. The world outside my window is motionless. Even time seems to stand still, except that the clock proves otherwise. It doesn’t last long, maybe four or five minutes, but long enough for me to take stock and thank the Lord for giving me those few precious moments.

Specially for me? A colleague didn’t think so. When I mentioned it she thought I was quite mad… not in so many words … I could see by her pitying expression she thought I was in need of psychiatric help. Am I mad? In those few minutes, am I bordering on insanity? I think not. I believe I have been given that special time to ponder and prepare and count my blessings without the hindrance of everyday life. And I am deeply grateful!

~~~

which time is YOUR special time?