26 November 2019


Still clad in stripy blue pyjamas and heavy dressing gown, Philip Abbott stood at the sink washing breakfast things. Outside, raindrops sprayed the window, driven by squally winds, to match his   mood. Except for the clatter of plates, the ticking clock, and the thrumming of the fridge-freezer, the room was still. Pam had gone back to bed, claiming to have a migraine. As he stacked plates on the draining board, Phil’s mind raced through their rare night of passion. Pam was like dynamite. Once her touch paper ignited, she went at sex as if she was running out of future. The experience had left him thoroughly enervated. And unhappy.
The last plate stacked in the drainer, Phil wrung out the dishcloth and draped it over the mixer tap. Leaning his belly against the sink, he stared trance-like through the net-draped window, totally oblivious to the antics of two very wet fox cubs trying and failing to drink from the garden pond. Had Pam told him the truth, he wondered when questioning her unintelligible, frenzied cry? Without exception she cried out when roused, usually repeatedly uttering his name whilst scraping her nails down his back, but in the early hours he could have sworn the name she called was Jerry. Jerry? It had stopped him in his tracks. Coming as it did mid-copulation it doused his verve and ultimate ejaculation.
Overcome by surging grief, Phil had a mental image of his wife’s boss, Jeremy Ifield: a maddeningly handsome face with prominent eyebrows, arched in perpetual bewilderment above sharp eyes that blazed vitriolic scorn. The hewn cheekbones and fashionably styled grey-streaked dark hair were more like an all-American movie star. At first meeting he seemed like a nice guy but longer acquaintance revealed a superficial personality.
With a heavy heart, Phil pushed away from the sink and balanced on one of the tall kitchen stools. His mind darted from one incident of Pam’s unpunctuality to another, all of them assigned to pressure of work. Her work. Her excuses. Excuses he had no reason to doubt until a few hours ago.
He had challenged her. It transpired that he had mistaken Pam’s utterance for ‘hurry’. So why did he feel encumbered by sickening qualms? If she was having an affair with Ifield … Violently shaking his head, Phil tried to oust the notion, insisting that Pam’s persistent absence was valid, that her breathless diction was easily distorted. If it wasn’t, he would surely kill her. Or him. In a short space of time he had learned to hate Jeremy Ifield with all the passion of a practised killer.
Yet, he told himself, it took two to make a deal. Ifield was a free man who had nothing to lose by seducing Pam. But, she had a man of her own, a husband, a legal lover, one who had given her everything her heart desired. Seemed she wanted more. Didn’t she realise that Phil could provide her with more … much more than she bargained for?

It was cold in the kitchen, the sort of damp cold that seeps into the soul. Phil started to dry the crocks and put them away. Only one knife remained; the sharp one used to slice bacon. Catching the light from the window, the shiny blade almost beckoned. Slowly and quite deliberately Phil picked it up. Watched as dribbles of water rolled from blade to handle. It crossed his mind that a wet knife might lose its edge. Carefully, almost lovingly, he wiped away the remaining drops and rubbed the blade dry. Pam hated to see smears on cutlery. Well, she wouldn’t see any on this knife ever again.

18 November 2019

A rerun of 2l21


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.

15 November 2019

A few more thoughts.....

1. Have been forced to change computer repair man. The other one says he will come out but doesn’t show up. That’s no good to me! Printer has taken a turn for the worst. New expert booked for same day visit.

2. New expert knew straight away what the problem was. He stayed long enough to adjust a few things so now I know who to call when things go wrong again. Above printer fine… I was using the wrong number ink! No wonder the other guy doesn’t show up - it was him that put the wrong number ink in my machine !!!!!!!!!

3. Fireworks not too bad this year, I wonder how many folk just couldn’t be bothered.

4. Fed the birds early this morning. They were queuing early and I felt sorry for them on such a chilly day.

5. Did I tell you that a lady is paid to keep me company twice a week. I had gone through a bad patch of silent loneliness which has eased through her companionship. Comes to something when I have to pay someone to visit but it has been worth it. Actually, she doesn’t get the money, it goes to the firm she works for.

6. Supermarket gave me 3 tubs of creamed potato mash which I didn’t ask for or want. Am asking all the neighbours if they want some!!

7. Complained to the firm who sent the potato mash and they refunded the money.

8. As I type the sunshine is blinding. Pity there’s no warmth in it.

9. My knowledge of mechanical things is leaving me. Is this normal when old age creeps in?

10. Finally….. ok, I’ll call it THE END and sign off.

07 November 2019

A Blend of Families

'Why are you cleaning the taps with your toothbrush, Grandma?' The child sat at a pine table, busily pouring water into tiny cups, her small hands awkwardly tilting the plastic jug. She wore an apron covered with bears and pots of honey and one of her blonde ringlets was caught in the strap. Her granny stood at the sink scouring the taps. At least I presume she was scouring the taps, I could only see the top half of her slight frame from where I stood, hidden by a burgeoning wisteria, outside the open leaded window.

'Because it's the only small brush I've got,' Jane Goodman said. 'I've no use for it any more.' She beamed at the youngster and I thought what a shame it was that the smile would soon be wiped clean away. When I was ready, that is. There was no rush. Nothing would be gained by rushing.

'My toothbrush is smaller than yours, Grandma.'
'I know, pet.'
'You can use mine if you want to.'
'S'all right, petal, I can manage with this one.'

Maintaining my position behind the wisteria, I continued to gaze into that comfortable kitchen, relishing the aroma of roasting meat, so inviting to a hungry man. Eleven o'clock and I was ravenous. I moved a low-growing blue raceme from my ear and tried to work out how old the child was.

The Goodman family moved to the village around the time my Sammy was born, twenty-five years ago. He courted Belinda, the child's mother, from fifteen to twenty-three, when that vixen Michelle turned his senseless head. Against my advice he married her - and Belinda bounced into an unsuitable marriage of her own. So the little girl would be three. I looked again at young Bethie. It was like looking at a portrait of Sam when he was a nipper, 'cept he never had no ringlets.

I gazed at the yellow envelope in my hand and wondered how Jane would take the news. Would she rant about Sammy's shortcomings like she did when he was a kid? It was too late for recriminations but I bet she'd have a go. Never did like my lad, she didn't. Leastways, that was the impression I got.

Pushing her blue sleeves up her arms, Jane Goodman walked to the stove and opened the oven door. The meat sizzled louder than ever and the juices ran amok in my mouth. Bethie leaned sideways on her chair and peered around her Gran's back. She licked her lips. Perhaps she hadn't had breakfast, same as me. But Jane wouldn't allow that. For all her faults, she wouldn't neglect her daughter's child. My granddaughter, and I never knew until the letter came from Spain. The envelope burned into my palm. Safe in the knowledge that I couldn't be seen I withdrew the letter and skimmed through Sammy's words, though they should have been imprinted on my brain the amount of times I'd read them.

"This may come as a surprise, Dad, but I have linked up with Belinda again. We met by chance last week, though Belinda puts it down to fate. And guess what I've discovered. Young Bethie is my daughter - your granddaughter. You always wanted a granddaughter, didn't you, Dad? I can't describe my joy. Marrying Michelle was an idiot thing to do but it's not too late to make amends. That's why Belinda and I have decided to get wed when I've settled my divorce. You always had a soft spot for her so I know you'll be happy. I'm not so sure about Mrs G. She doesn't know I'm Bethie's father. I wondered if you would break the news and pave the way for us. Just fancy, in a week's time I'll be seeing my daughter. I can't believe it. See you then, Love Sam".

So tomorrow they would be home. No longer could I put off apprising Jane Goodman of the facts. I slid the letter into my back pocket and buttoned my coat so as to look respectable, hastily plucking dog hairs from the sleeve. I wished I'd worn my brown jacket instead of the blue which only now struck me as looking the worse for wear. Too long ago I had a wife who took care of things like that. Far above, a lark sang and I gazed upwards for a minute or two, then, taking a deep breath, I left the sanctuary of the wisteria and advanced along the narrow path to the door. Goodness only knew what I was going to say.

The pain in the gut was acute. Nerves probably, but I didn't give in to it. Instead I rapped the door. I heard Jane say, 'Who on earth can that be.' She sounded a touch irritated and so would I be if people came calling when my dinner was waiting. The door opened and the widow stood there, drying her hands on a green towel, her greying hair scraped back off her face. There was a smear of grease on her cheek. Her expression was severe until it registered who was visiting, cap in hand and wincing with cramps.

'Good gracious. Desmond Bowers, as I stand here breathing.' Bethie clutched her Gran's skirt and peeped shyly at me. Seeing those deep blue eyes brought a lump to my throat. She was like Sam but she had Belinda's nose, turned up and cute. Jane relaxed and took Bethie's hand. 'Come in, Desmond. How are you keeping? And Sam ... how is he?' Her voice wavered as she spoke.

I thought, She's as nervous as me.

Jane drew me into her kitchen and closed the door behind me. She indicated a chair. 'Sit down, Desmond. Can I get you something? Bethie and I were about to have dinner. You're quite welcome to join us. As I remember you were partial to a slice or two of roast beef.'

I mulled the offer over but rejected it, stating that I didn't mind coming back when their meal was done.

Jane laughed. 'Don't be silly. I can tell you're dying to sample my Yorkshire pudding.'

'Has the man got a toothbrush, Grandma?'

Jane ruffled Bethie's hair. 'I imagine he's left it at home, petal.' Then she addressed me. 'We wouldn't mind having company. Gets a shade humdrum with just each other to talk to.'

I looked at the topside and the crisp potatoes on the willow-pattern plate. Wisps of steam rose from a dish of buttered sprouts. The smell was pure heaven. I said, 'You might regret the invitation when you hear what I've come to say.'

'I suspect not,' said Jane, 'but we'll worry about that when you've had your fill.'

The matter which had brought me to Jane's door was finally raised when Bethie took her afternoon nap, but to my astonishment it was Jane who raised it. 'So, Belinda and Sam have at last sorted themselves out.'

I was bewildered. 'How did you know?'

She took a yellow envelope from the dresser. 'I received this a week ago. You can read it if you like.'

I declined. It didn't do to read other people's mail. 'Did you know...'

'About Bethie?' Jane lifted a framed photograph of her granddaughter lying in a crib. 'I guessed. Even as a baby she looked like Sam, same features and colouring. I didn't question. I knew the truth would emerge in its own time. I was right, Desmond, and I can't tell you how pleased I am.'

'I always wanted a granddaughter,' I said.

She placed the frame on a small table. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. 'And I wanted a decent son-in-law,' she said. 'A proper family.'

I took her hand in my calloused one. How could I have been so wrong about this woman. We'd got what we dreamed of, her and me. Sam and Belinda too. But Bethie most of all. What a day she'd had if she did but know. Gained a Dad and a Grandad in one fell swoop.' I glanced at the baby picture on the table. The kitchen window was reflected in the glass, framing the tiny face. A frame within a frame. Inside or out the sheets, what the hell. This mite had allied two families, blended them together by the consequence of birth. I looked at Jane Goodman. 'Her family's complete,' I said, 'and so are ours.'

04 November 2019

More this and that....

1. Why the bin men leave my bin half way down the road is a mystery to me. Their head office issued the instruction that they were to be returned from whence they came which to the men means half way down the road.

2. As a child I was always told to ‘act your age’. I gave up trying a few years ago.

3. Charlie the cat has developed a liking for the new ‘soups’ now made specially for cats.

4. Laptop died on me but came alive when an expert repair man came. What a fool I felt when he switched on and found nothing wrong. He didn’t charge me for wasting his time.

5. Wondering what it would be like to go on a hike! Hiking was something we all did but age is now a preventative for such pleasures.

6. After three/four years living with me Charlie is still nervous of sudden moves and new people.

7. Molly Maid still does my housework. The ladies do the heavier work and I do the rest. Fortunately, they don’t leave much for me to tackle.

8. How time flies. In case you forgot, it will soon be Christmas.

9. Cottage pie for lunch today, I love it so much I could eat it every day.

10. Had a man in the house the other day. Well, someone has to repair things when they go wrong.