Monday, November 5, 2018


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Although this is a fictitious work, it is none-the-less born of endless questions and listening in to 'grown-up' conversations when I was a child ... so here it is, the truth of sacrifice.


"As a soldier did I want to go to war?  No, of course I bloody didn't!  Who wants to go and have some bugger take pot shots at you. Heh!  It bloody hurts getting shot, believe me it do.  And if you gets shot bad, well, then the dying is bad, I've seen it, seen things no man should see.  Worst is gas, and the burning.

Did I want to risk  making a widow out of my old Dutch? (colloquial for a wife) Nah, widows don't fare well, not when they'd half a dozen kids hanging round her skirts, besides which she weren't that pretty either ... but she was my old Dutch and I loved her.

My kids?  Little buggers that they were, always in trouble, always up to mischief.  But they needs a Dad, who doesn't need a Dad?  Dad's teach you right from wrong, Dad's teach how to get the fun out of life...well mine did.  Lots of kids around here grew up without their Dad, some hadn't even had a chance to make memories with their Dad.  Sad that, proper sad.  And the Mother's.  Would wave all, yes all, their sons off to war, that would be their last memory of them, them marching proudly, arms around each others shoulders, off to a war they couldn't understand, vowing to Ma they would watch out for each other...Ghosts even then.

I didn't know the why of the war.  What did I care who, in some foreign country, invaded some other foreign country?  Some foreign Duke got what?  It weren't even one of our own Dukes.  But them politicians, with their words, firing you up, making you feel it was your duty.  And yes, it did feel like we was duty bound, even though we weren't quite sure why.  Duty bound, until we got there.  Some muddy field with open air burrows, (trenches) and barbed wire as far as the eye could see ... and corpses, men and horses, all swollen and about to burst.  The mud, the stench, the mould ... yes the bloody mould ... not like what grows on the outside privy wall, but grows on your skin, on your bloody skin.  The only duty we felt then was not to foul our trousers.

Heroes they called us, made it all seem so romantic and brave, like in some film or play. Well we didn't feel like bloody heroes, and it weren't no film, it was real life.  They didn't treat our wives and kids like their man was a hero.  Rationing there was...HUH!  All that meant is that the likes of us went without so the likes of them (upper class) could carry on eating their foiled grass!  (fois gras).  You know I had to go get my Dutch and kids out of the work house?  It was the only place they would've survived in.  The only place my little 'uns could be seen by a doctor.  No NHS.  A shilling just for the quack (doctor) to put his nose round the door back then, most of them never even had a pot to piss in. (colloquial for extreme poverty)

To be sure, if we didn't end up maimed or dead we had it better in some ways than those left back home.

But it dawned on us, the enemy was having it just as rough as we was, as eager to win as we was, and if we didn't win then it would be they with their jack-boots tramping up our streets, jack-boots under our tables, jack-boots by our beds, them with our wives, with our daughters.  Suddenly we had a duty, suddenly we had a reason.  It never mattered we knew naught of the cause of it all, we just knew that the sacrifice to keep our loved ones safe was well worth it in the end.

Not many of us left now that came back from that hellish war, fewer each year.  I march every year, lay down my wreath, and remember....Remember my mates, my brothers, my uncles, but I only remember their sacrifice once a year, I have other memories, they had other memories, they were more than just bloody Great War heroes, they were sons, and husbands, and nephews, and uncles.  They had lives before the war, and it was those lives before the war that they lost, never to be fulfilled, that was their sacrifice."

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Only Constant

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THE HERE AND NOW  (How it All Started, & We Didn't See It
                                                            Until it was Pointed Out)                 


IN A FEW YEARS TIME (How Mankind Battled Against a Mounting Tide of
Pollution & Apathy)

Bryony gave a deep sad sigh and looked up at her husband Cliff.  There was a trace of a tear
in his eye too. His jaw was set, which meant he was not only sad, but frustratedly angry too.
“We worked so hard yesterday,” he growled.
Bryony patted his arm,“I know love, I know, all we can do is our best, what more can we do?”
Bryony knew the answer before Cliff muttered it,
“It’s no good some of us trying, we ALL have to try, this isn’t even our problem!”
Saying it wasn’t their problem made Bryony angry, so a little sharper than she had intended,
she answered her husband.
“Of course it’s our problem, maybe we didn’t cause it, but we’ve been landed with it, so it’s
OUR problem.”
Her last few words ended in a hacking cough.  The medic she had finally managed to locate
assured her that it was not a virus, but bacterial.  The medic seemed almost cheerful as he
informed her that she would either get better...or she wouldn’t.  The era of antibiotics was over,
it had become too expensive to produce a product that simply didn’t work.  Her beautiful
babies would be alive if they had.

Cliff placed his arm around her shoulders and drew her away from the depressing sight,
“Aww love, I’m going to put in for one of those respirator hoods and safety suits when we
reach HQ, they surely must have produced enough now.”

With her body still being racked by her coughing she shook her head and held a hand up in
denial of what he had said, when she had eventually regained her breathing she gasped,
“It’s not outside so much that’s the problem, it’s our house, it’s so damp, it…..” the coughing
started again.  She knew what the coughing really was, but didn’t want to give voice to it.
Many old buildings had just been allowed to collapse into rubble...the air they all breathed
was thick with asbestos.

Cliff hurried her along. Providing what was left of the road had not sunk into pothole ruin, they
should reach HQ, where it was not damp, within the hour. The Volunteers for Roads had long
been disbanded, they knew they had been fighting a losing battle.

He cast a last disgusted look at the river bank of the mighty Humber, for as far as could be
seen there was flotsam, (it was hard to believe that not twenty-four  hours earlier they had
piled most of it in skips, he strongly suspected that the skips were in turn taken out to the
North Sea and dumped, just for it all to wash up again next high tide).  The debris consisted
mainly of plastic, discharged off old garbage trawls over the years, landfill sites were over full,
mainly with plastic that had been ‘recycled’. The plastic would never degrade and unless
humankind learned to do without it’s beloved product the problem would grow and grow.  It
had already had a devastating effect on marine life, the stench of rotting fish and marine
mammals interspersed with the garbage was testament to that.

Bryony trembled under his arm, and his temper seethed again.  She was wrong, it wasn’t their
problem, not solely.  They were Volunteers, their particular squad being River Shoreline
Clearance. There were few enough of them in any Squad. The forming of the Volunteer
Squads had exasperated the problem leading to most of the population to disregard the need
for solving their own waste and mess,  they had deluded themselves into believing that
someone else (The Volunteers) would deal with it, after all, surely that was their job.  They
tried so hard to deal with it all, the leaky outdated sewerage systems, the air pollution from
cheap solid fuel powered industry (God Bless America for importing that one),the flood
defences, factory farming and the land surface pollution it caused. The rarity of fully trained
medics had caused a new Volunteer Squad to be formed, their sole directive was to keep tabs
on anyone trained medically, and to try to assign apprentices to them….the list of people
begging for a medic in their ‘hood was endless.  Now there were rumours of constructing an
underground bunker system for living in, resigning the Planet to it’s unsolvable pollution, the
surface only being good for heavy industry.

A soft damp splatter on his hand brought Cliff's attention back to his spouse...blood, she had
coughed up blood.


BEFORE THE DOME (When the Surface of our Planet Became an Object
of Curiosity, & other Solutions for Human Life were

Myrtle stared down at the churning waves.  She couldn’t help but wonder if anyone had tried
to walk across to the far bank of the Humber.  Ok, she understood that it probably wasn’t
possible, in fact it probably never had been possible. She had seen a photo in the Cellar City
Museum, a fascinating photo, of boats making their way along the Humber to the North Sea...
The caption on the photo simply read “Fishing Trawlers. 1997.”  That would have been, Myrtle
quickly did the sums on her fingers, seventy years ago. For the life of her she couldn't
understand why anyone would risk their life hunting fish! She had eaten fish once, as a
special treat for a birthday, it was horrible. Uncle had said it was the most expensive, prime
farmed, and genetically modified fish to be had, it made no difference, she still found it

Adjusting the inlet valve on her Breather, Myrtle sighed.  She would have loved to have seen
The Humber as it once was, with boats and fish.  Uncle said the Dome would be completed
soon and they could all get inside, safe and sound.  No more risking infected lungs, no more
worrying about being flooded out, no more stench of rotting flesh, household garbage,
and poo.  She remembered there being animals, once, it was a vague memory of thin pathetic
creatures viewed through bars or reinforced glass, their bodies denuded of any fur or feather,
open weeping sores.  It made her feel sad, but Uncle said they just couldn’t afford to make
Safetysuits for animals. He had also gone on to say that she wasn’t to worry, specimens had
been collected, slaughtered, and stuffed before they had become sick.  She would soon be
able to see them properly exhibited in all their former glory in the Dome. Myrtle supposed
that was something to look forward to.

It was time to go back to the Cellar Living System she called home, the warning beep on her
suit’s timer was sounding urgent now.  

She cast a last look at the churning waves of plastic, sewerage, corpses, and diverse
rubbish caused by just being human and thought it would have been nice to be able walk to
the other bank.


IN THE DOME (Many Centuries in the Future, Life Outside a Dome was Impossible,
but Humans adapt, they always adapt)

The older children screamed with excitement and tore around the family home pod,
“Zoo, zoo,zoo!” They yelled at the top of their lungs.
“Zoo, zoo, zoo!” echoed the youngest, a year old girl, her chubby legs waddling overtime to
keep up with her siblings.

Olive grasped her current pod-mate’s shoulder, rocking with laughter.  Fallan was the sire of
the yearling female, and unusually, was very attentive of the child.  It had been his idea to take
them all for a visit to the City Dome’s Zoo.

Crispin, the eldest of the two boys, who’s sire was unknown being the result of experimental
communalsex, ran up to his Mother and grasped the front of her long pod smock, his excited
exertions left him gasping,
“Can we touch ‘em, can we Olive, please, pleeeeeease can we touch them?”
Olive shook her head, laughing back at her eldest offspring,
“No Crisp, no...touching is not allowed.”
Crispin’s face took on a sulky expression, he pouted and furrowed his brows before whining,
“But why Olive, why, why why?”
It became a chant quickly taken up by his next born sibling Fern.  An ugly female child, Olive
was still undecided whether to keep her or have her ‘placed’, Fern’s next mental assessment
would be the decider.  Fern’s existence was the only regret Olive had ever had about
lackadaisical research that led to her taking her youngest brother as a pod mate.

Olive raised her hands in submission to the children’s clamouring, even the infant was joining
in now.
“Hush, hush,” she said, “If you will just hush I will tell you.”
Surprisingly there was instant silence.
“Right then,”  Olive took up her tutorial stance,
“If everyone was to touch the exhibits then they wouldn't last very long would they?  They
would fall to pieces, all the stitching would come undone and the stuffing would fall out, and
that would be a sad thing, don’t you think?

Crispin pouted and nodded in agreement, but his frown let his dam know that he wasn’t
pleased about it.  Fern’s eyes widened and a trace of saliva coated her rose-bud smiling lips,
“Cool!” She said in delight, “Can we touch ‘em and watch the stuffing come out?”  
Olive decided that this brat’s assessment was long overdue.

Fallan smiled up at her as they strode through the Dome’s main causeway on their way to the
“Do you think they were once real living, breathing
animals?”  he asked.
“Don’t be silly!” Snapped Olive back at him.  He was becoming a bore, Olive had already had
her eye on a decent sort who worked in water purification as her next pod-mate, she just had
to investigate his lineage, she didn’t fancy risking another Fern being born to clutter up her pod.

Fallan decided she was probably right, it was just another myth, like the one that human males
were once  taller and stronger than their females. Although he had never believed the one
about them living outside the Dome, now that was too far fetched.

Within the Dome the supremacy of womankind, long fought for millenniums since, reigned

Outside the Dome the skeletons of long dead creatures were slowly fossilising with the
passage of time.  

The plastic dessert was still there, undulating above a river that would never be seen again.
The plastic would always be there, never ending, non-degrading, the only constant.


Our Children and our Children's Children will come to see the pollution of Planet Earth as the norm.  Is that what we want for them?  Is that the inheritance we leave them?  Do we really want them to adapt to the filth we are now creating?  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Letter To A Daughter


My Darling Child,

What can this 'ol Mother tell you? Remember the past, cry if you must, but keep the
laughter to the fore. The past you remember belongs to you and none other, who else
is there to keep these precious moments of your life alive but you?

The future, ah the future, those will 'o the wisp of occurrences that, despite all your
planning, scheming, hoping, and praying will still play out as some unseen Deity, or
even Fate, will dictate. So, one might think is there any point in trying to plan a
future. Should one shrug one's shoulders and leave it all in the laps of the Gods, or even
to chance, that's where, after all, our path through life seems to be decided anyway,
doesn't it? No! Never, because to do that would be tantamount to handing over our very
existence to the vagaries of circumstance.

We have to try our best, we have to do our best, we have to be our best in whatever
undertaking we endeavour to do. How else can we count our successes, how else can
we learn by the mistakes we make? How else can we improve that which goes into
making us better people, worthy people, loved and respected people?

Life will still see the bread land jam side down, but your attitude to these misfortunes is
what will see you through in the long run. So, the choice will always be yours, take
credit for your achievements when they are deserved, but never try to lay the blame of
woes at another's feet.

Remember, the cause of your misfortunes may just well be because you have spread
the jam on the wrong side of the bread!

I am, as always,
Your Loving Mother

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Spirit of Christmas

The two women sat in the cafe.  The parcels and bags containing their latest Christmas Pressy purchases pushed safely under the table by their feet.
“Ooo, I needed that,” one of the women, called Angie, said, taking a sip of her coffee and replacing the cup on the table.
“Are you sure you didn’t want a cake, they are gorgeous,” replied her friend Helen, taking another bite from the cream horn she was delicately holding in a napkin.
“Mmm, I am tempted, but, no, I’ll be putting on enough lard over Christmas without starting early,” replied Angie, with a smile.  She went on, “Have you got everything you need?  I think I’m just about done, everyone on my list has been ticked off.”
“Yup,” answered Helen, “But it’s so hard to know when to stop, you walk around the shops and see something one of the kiddy-winks would absolutely love, and there goes another hundred quid … I just hope the little buggers appreciate it all!”
Angie burst out laughing, “I know what you mean, my Grand kids think I’m a Money Cow, there for the milking, they’ve no idea of the spirit of Christmas at all!”
It was Helen’s turn to laugh and nod in agreement as she picked the last few crumbs of the flakey pastry off of her plate with her finger.
“The Spirit of Christmas is about the giving, I keep telling my lot that, and what do they give me, bloody bath salts … every bloody year, bath salts!”
Angie chuckled once more, “With me it’s bedroom slippers, I’ve a wardrobe full!”

The women chatted and laughed on for another ten minutes or so, Helen looked at her wristwatch and declared,
“Blooming heck!  Look at the time, if we don’t get a move on we’ll be getting a parking fine, come on,”
The women gathered up their bags and parcels and bustled out of the cafe.

Sat on the pavement was a girl.  She sat crossed legged on a filthy sleeping bag.  There wasn’t much about the girl that wasn’t filthy.  From her tousled hair which might have been blonde, to her stained and torn parka, held together by an old and rusty diaper pin.  Her grubby threadbare skinny jeans gave witness to just how skinny the rest of the girl was as they were loose around her legs.  Her sockless feet were crammed into a pair of too small for her, once white, trainers, the soles worn, the uppers ripped.  To one side of her was a backpack containing everything she owned.  In front of her was a plastic bowl and a cardboard sign, which read,
“Homeless and Hungry, please help me.”

Angie nearly tripped on the bowl,  “Oh for God’s sake!”  She exclaimed.
Helen caught her friend’s arm to steady her, while giving the girl, who hadn’t even flinched, a black and disgusted look.
“Shouldn’t be allowed,” said Helen, “Flaming druggies!”  
“No, I agree Helen, especially at this time of the year, spoils it for everyone seeing dirty dregs like her, sat around on the streets begging, it’s disgusting!”   And to the girl she shouted, “Go get a job, earn yourself a living and stop sponging off people.”

The girl still hadn’t moved or replied.  She knew there was no point, so she kept her head bowed.  Besides which she was used to this onslaught of verbal attack.  If she remained silent the women would move on and leave her be.  

But they were wrong, she wasn't a drug addict, she was just sixteen years old,  frightened, and alone.
She was homeless because what was once her home had become a place of torture and fear.  After her Mam had died she had been left in the care of her Step Da, a brute of a man who neglected her basic needs of food and clothes, then when she was on the cusp of becoming a young teenageer, he decided it was time she ‘paid her way.’   

The Social had finally come to her rescue and had found her a new home, she had been fed into the Foster Care System. The Social, overworked and under pressure, once satisfied that she was now ‘safe,’ moved on to other urgent child abuse cases ….. And the girl found history repeating itself, her Foster Father fed and clothed her, was always kind, he never shouted at her, or gave her a wallop, but for a price, the price being that she kept still and quiet, both before, during, and after he had crept into her room.  So she had became a runaway and sought life on the streets.

She had thought that because it was Christmas people would be more caring, more giving, wasn’t that what Christmas was about?  All she wanted was enough to buy a basic beef burger, perhaps chips, but a burger would do.  

A shadow was hovering over her, not the women, they had moved on, grumbling and complaining loudly.  The girl looked up.  His hair and beard were black and in an uncombed, unwashed state.  His long coat was torn and ragged.  His boots were worn and laced up, one with string and the other with what looked like a strip of plastic from a bag.  His trousers had holes where his boney knees stuck out.

The girl reached forward and grabbed her bowl, there wasn’t much in it, but she wasn’t about it let it go to another street beggar on the lookout for easy money.  She gave him a defiant stare.  The look he gave back wasn’t one of greed, or lust, or disgust, nor was it one of pity, she knew those looks so very well.  
“Don’t want yer money girl, but you can’t stay here, they’ve gone to get a copper, you’ve got to move on before they get here.” The ragged man said.
The girl looked up at him, “Thank you”, she whispered.

“Well, said the man, “If we don’t look out for each other, who would?  There’s a soup kitchen tonight, after all the shops is shut,  hide up out of this cold wind until then, you’ll get something hot in your belly at least…..there’s a padre there too, talk to him if you want, he might know of a refuge, you’re a bit young to be living on the streets.”  He gave her directions on how to get to the soup kitchen and walked off, his tattered coat flapping in the wind.

The girl didn’t know what the future would hold for her, she tried not to think about it, getting through one day at a time was enough.  But, at that moment she felt a little better about life in general, the man hadn’t offered material help, but he had shown honest and unconditional concern, and told her where she could get a hot meal and maybe a place of safety…..not much to some, but it was The Spirit of Christmas to the girl.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

First Assignment

                    Image result for spies

Gregor took a deep breath and entered the park. His first assignment was hidden beneath his fur coat, an envelope, plain and brown and ominous. He, of course, had no idea what the envelope contained, it wasn’t his business to know. His business was to hand it over to the man who would give the correct coded message in response to his own.
Slowly, letting his breath out, he looked around.....ah, this would be easier than he anticipated. A man, the man, was standing by the fountain, just where he was supposed to be. He was wearing a brindle bearskin coat with a fox fur hat, the flaps of which were firmly tied beneath his chin. His woollen worsted trousers were tucked into sealskin boots. His hands were bare, rare indeed for a Russian Winter, but in one hand he held a pair of white fox mittens along with, and this was the clincher that he had the right man, a single red rose.
Gregor sidled up to him, without looking directly at him and seemingly joining him in admiring the sculpture at the centre of the fountain, he said out of the corner of his mouth, 
“You can cut all the flowers, but it won’t stop Spring from coming.”

The man jerked his head around to look Gregor directly in the face, anger blazed from his eyes as he snarled, “I cut one bloody flower, for my girl, not that it’s any of your business, now piss off!”
That was not at all anything like the coded response he had been told to expect.
Gregor sighed, there was another fountain further along, perhaps he would have better luck there.


Although this is a fictitious work, it is none-the-less born of endless questions and listening in to 'grown-up' conversation...