Loneliness – Week 34 of the 52 week short story challenge


Dear Diary

I am writing this because my new counsellor has suggested that putting my thoughts on paper would help me with my anger issues.

Anger issues.

That’s what the judge called them anyway. My counsellor says that I got off quite lightly as most people who cause that level of criminal damage will get a prison sentence – even if it is only suspended – and some kind of community service.

My counsellor wants me to start from the point where my issues first emerged. So here goes.

I wasn’t very happy at school. Things weren’t too bad when we all wore uniform and were supposed to look the same.

Except I never did.

Being ginger was bad enough, being overweight and ginger was worse but being unfashionable, overweight and ginger meant that I was the butt of jokes from my fellow pupils and even some of the teachers.

Sixth form was a nightmare. Having always felt comfortable in my uniform, I turned up every day in a suit, smart shirt and tie. I stood out from the Goths. the Emos, the lumberjack shirts and skinny jeans. I was the best-dressed pupil in the school and put most of the scruffy teachers to shame.

My counsellor says that I might have felt less awkward if I’d had siblings to talk to – or even a father – but there has always only been me, my mum and my grandma. They like the way I dress.

I wanted to go onto university – Cambridge or Oxford – and to study politics, philosophy and economics like so many of my  political heroes did. I didn’t do well in my ‘A’ levels though; I was thrown out of the debating club for losing my temper with someone who just would NOT accept my opinions.

Things went downhill steadily after that and the principal told me that I would have to leave the course because of my anger issues.

The situation made me feel low and alone. Why couldn’t people ever see things from my point of view? Even when I shouted at them to get their attention?

My GP signed me off with social anxiety and suggested that I take up some hobbies to try and help me relate to other people. She gave me a list of local groups – one of which was a political group that I liked the look of.

It took a great deal of courage to attend that meeting but the people were very welcoming. Most of them were older than me – middle-aged and pinning their hopes on a party leader who was also middle-aged.

I threw myself into the group. I walked the streets putting leaflets through door; after the first couple of occasions I got into arguments with passersby who wouldn’t agree with my opinions.  I was encouraged to stay behind at headquarters and put leaflets into envelopes after that so that other people could deliver them safely.

A red-letter day approached. Our leader was visiting the branch and I would get the opportunity to meet him – perhaps even get my photograph taken with him. I was so excited and my mum and grandma clubbed together to buy me a new suit, a crisp white shirt and red tie. They said I looked the business and the leader couldn’t fail to be impressed with me.

I met the leader. I had my photograph taken with him. I tried to tell him my ideas on policy and how he should take me on as a member of his campaign team so that I could advise him. He wasn’t mean to me but he didn’t really treat me with the respect I know I deserve. He shook my hand, wished me luck and then moved on to the next group of people who were waiting to meet him.

I felt gutted. This man was my hero and he completely failed to see my potential.

The only bright spot in that day was the commiseration I received from a couple of other people who also felt they had been slighted by the leader. They were closer to my age, they took me out for a drink after the meeting and told me that there was a splinter group forming that would be supporting a different candidate for the leadership.

They made their candidate sound like the only person who could save the party. He was young; a family man who had policies that I liked the look of. My new friends told me that I would be a valued member of the new group and that this was the way of the future.

They collected me for the next meeting. No one had ever done that before. I’d always  had to make my own way to the meetings and back. My new friends introduced me to other new and important friends who let me have my picture taken with them. I already had a Facebook page and had even ventured onto Twitter but now I was being shown how to use social media to support and promote our rightful leader during the election process.

I put the pictures on my Facebook page. Now other people could see how important I was and what a valued member of the party I had become. My mum and grandma were very impressed and told all their friends and our family about it.

With other members of my new team, I attended political rallies. I met our prospective leader, and he made me feel very special. He gave me an important role. I was to get myself a seat near the front of the room at each rally and cheer my head off whenever he spoke. I took it upon myself to boo and jeer when the man I used to respect was speaking. I glared at his supporters and if I was challenged I told them that they didn’t know what they were talking about.

The opportunity of a lifetime arose when I was asked to be part of an interview for a news special on TV. They said that there would be three young people – one for the old leader and two of us for the new leader (to be). We would be asked to give our opinions about why we thought our candidate would make the best leader.

This was my glittering prize.

The day came and I my friends took me to the studiom. I sat around a small table with another lad and a girl while the cameras rolled. The girl spoke first – she didn’t say a lot but I agreed with what she said. The other lad was to speak next and then me.

I felt like I was going to burst. I knew that my mum, my grandma and all their friends would be watching. This was my moment.

The other lad spoke. He was calm and relaxed. He smiled. His words were reasonable.

They made my blood boil.

My turn.

‘You’re talking rubbish!’ I said. ‘Everyone hates your candidate so he’s going to lose.’

There was silence.

My carefully composed statement had vanished. My face was red with embarrassment and anger.

I looked over to my friends. They had vanished.

The girl who had been in the interview with me gave me a dirty look and walked off. The other lad laughed and said ‘Is that the best argument you can come up with? Pathetic. Just like the bloke you are supporting.’

It’s a good job he moved fast because I wanted to hit him so much.

There was no sign of my friends when I came out of the studio. I had to go and draw the last of my benefits money out of the bank in order to get a train home.

Mum and grandma were very kind. They said my new suit looked very smart and that the other two young people looked very scruffy by comparison.

I tried to get in touch with my new friends but there was no response to my calls or texts.

Then I got the letter. It was delivered by hand but I wasn’t quick enough to see who put it through my letterbox.

I was told that the interview had been embarrassing for the party and that I had let them all down by my stupid and aggressive response. They asked me not to come to any more meetings and that my membership would be suspended because I had brought the party into disrepute by my actions.

I went to my room to calm down. I looked on Facebook and Twitter but all I could see were people laughing at me. I was alone.

A plan hatched in my head. I had some money tucked away in my sock drawer. The money was spent on spray paint. Blue spray paint.

I went down to the party headquarters. It was Saturday night and there was no one there. I sprayed paint over all the windows that I could reach. I left the cans in a heap by the front door, went home and went to bed.

The police came the next morning and arrested me. My fingerprints were taken and matched up with those on the cans. I wore a hoodie but forgot my gloves. There was CCTV footage of me buying the paint in the hardware store, and the pub opposite the headquarters had more footage of me spraying the windows.

There weren’t many people in court that day; mum came but grandma wasn’t well. My guilty plea made the process much quicker. There were cameras and reporters outside the court but my solicitor had advised me not to say anything in case I lost my temper again.

I think that I might feel a bit better now I’ve written this down. My mum says I am a good boy but I’m in my twenties now and I need to grow up.

But how?

Dear Diary.

At least I have you now and I am not so alone.


A Curse – Week 33 of the 52 week short story challenge

Angelika had no memory of the event. Members of her family had told her about the incident over the years and it had been embroidered with numerous opinions until it formed the basis on which they all lived their lives.

She was only a baby at the time. Lying in a Silver Cross pram; decked out in pink and white ruffles that matched the festoons of her own christening outfit. Her mother, father and three brothers were taking her to the church; walking through the streets, proudly showing off the new baby to neighbours who came out to watch or to join in the procession because they had been invited to the ceremony too.

It was to be a grand affair. A baby girl after three boys and her mother was in seventh heaven. A baby girl to dress in lace and loveliness after several years of mending blue and boisterous. After the christening the guests were walking across the graveyard to the church hall for refreshments. Money was tight so any hard-drinking would be done in the local pub by the men, once the women and children had gone home for the evening.

Unlike her older brothers, Angelika was quiet throughout the ceremony. Her big blue eyes fixed on the priest’s face as he anointed her with the holy water, then she smiled and in response he kissed her forehead gently. Her parents smiled at each other. This was a gesture that the priest saved only for the most blessed of babies and the congregation heaved a collective sigh of relief at this good omen.

The celebration party was a great success; there were plates of cakes, pastries and sandwiches made that morning by those in attendance. A special christening cake had been made by Angelika’s aunt and it was surrounded by a pile of pink-wrapped presents containing silver rattles, mugs, bangles and more frilled dresses.

The men folk, fairly sober despite some smuggled bottles of beer, were jolly and tolerant of the children who were running around the hall, sliding on their knees and eating far too many of the lurid pink-iced cupcakes.

The older members of the family – and congregation – sent those with children back to their homes so that they could clear up the hall in peace, and indulge in some gossip about the outfits worn by the younger women. Angelika’s mother gathered her boys together and with the pram loaded down with cake and presents, they set off for home.

Angelika slept.

It was as they were walking down the High Street that they passed an old lady dressed in black. Angelika chose that moment to wake up and sneeze.

‘Să te binecuvânteze copilul.’ said the old lady.

Angelika’s mother shrieked, crossed herself and hurried on down the street the boys who, confused by her behaviour, scurried after her. The old lady stared after them and shook her head in bewilderment before going on her way.

By the time they arrived home, the children’s mother was almost hysterical and the usually placid Angelika was wailing in sympathy. Kindly neighbours helped them into the house and put the kettle on.

They listened to Angelika’s mother’s tale of having been cursed on the way home by an old gypsy woman. As one they crossed themselves and looked heavenwards for help. One of the older boys was sent to fetch the men folk back from the pub. Some of them came home, others roamed the streets looking for the old woman but she was long gone and safe.

Things seemed to go wrong for the family from that moment on. Angelika’s sunny temperament disappeared, replaced by a child who no longer tolerated the pink frills and embroidered frocks. She tore them and dropped her food on them and by the time she was walking, her mother had to resort to putting her in her brother’s hand-me-downs – which she never damaged or soiled. Her golden curls had to be cropped after she became entangled in a thorn-bush, a thorn-bush that her older brothers were wise enough to avoid.

Every time Angelika deviated from what was expected of a ‘girl’, the tale of the gypsy’s curse was resurrected, repeated and embellished.

Angelika didn’t feel cursed. Well, only when she was forced into clothes she felt uncomfortable in or had choices made for her that she didn’t like. She proved to be a force too powerful for her superstitious parents, and by the time she became a teenager, Angelika was pretty much given a free rein.

She knew that she could take advantage of the situation – and sometimes she did – but as well as being blessed with big blue eyes she also had quick wits and intelligence that left most of her extended family way behind.

Exams came and were passed with ease. With the backing of her teachers, she informed her parents that she intended to go to university. No one argued with her, although it stretched the family finances to the limit. and they would have been much happier marrying her off to one of the men who had been boys at her christening.

Now that she was old enough to understand the curse – and the situation surrounding it –  she demanded that someone tell her exactly what was said. Her oldest brother, refusing to repeat the words, wrote down what he thought the old woman had uttered.

University was a revelation for Angelika. She met people who were not bound by superstition and old wives tales.    No that she was away from her family and with access to computers and books, there was something she needed to find out. What did ‘Să te binecuvânteze copilul’ really mean?

The library provided the answer. Angelika learned about the concept of ‘sympathetic magic’ and how it creates in the believer a self-fulfilling prophesy. Someone grows up thinking they are ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ because they are told that.

On her first visit home from university she assembled her family in the kitchen and held up a card with the words of the curse on it. Her mother shrieked and crossed herself. The older members of the family looked heavenwards.

Angelika turned the card over and showed the words she had written there.

‘Bless you my child’.


At Sea – Week 32 of the 52 week short story challenge


It was the first Tuesday of the month and just after eight o’clock in the evening, so the venue had to be Simon’s Wine Bar, because that was where Jo, Lea and I met up. We had been meeting here since the wine bar opened three years ago, and before that we had frequented a number of different bars and restaurants on a reasonably regular basis – holidays, childbirth and objecting partners excepted.

We had been friends from schooldays; Joanna, Leanne and Georgina, shortened to Jo, Lea and Gina over the years. We met for the first time, when standing in serried ranks in the school assembly hall, we were sent to our allotted form tutor and marched off to the classroom that was to be our base for the next five years.

Situated in the older part of the school, parquet flooring, dark wooden cupboards with sliding doors and piles of dust in the deepest recesses. We didn’t realise it at the time but we had been lucky enough to acquire Mr Beck as our form tutor. Out of all the first form tutors, he was undoubtedly the most human and easy-going.

At the time there were only four male teachers in our girls-only school; lovely Mr G who taught chemistry and was considered too scatty to have a form to look after, Mr Beck who taught physics and technical drawing, and the two religious education teachers; the Rev and the Perv. They only worked part-time and it was always a relief to walk into the classroom and find that the Rev was on duty. He at least was a real vicar whereas the Perv was a Methodist pastor who liked to massage the shoulders of girls that were too afraid of him to object.

Needless to say, he never laid a hand on me, Jo or Lea; according to our other friends we exuded an air of arrogance and rebellion. Whilst some teachers did their best to split us up we always managed to be sitting together for the next lesson like three magnets. This only changed when we had to make choices about the future and select our options for the final two years of school. Lea was artistic and creative, so art, pottery and needlework were easy options for her. Jo was the scientist, and whilst she had been known to connect up the Van Der Graaf generator to the classroom door and shock her less observant classmates – or student teachers – she was Mr Beck’s favourite and could do no wrong in his eyes.

I was used to the teachers looking at me in a funny way. My brain and I had the capacity to stun when sufficiently motivated  but I was always a rebel in my own lunchtime. No cissie uniform for me; I stalked the halls in jeans and Doctor Martins, daring any foolish teacher to reprimand me. It’s hard to be a rebel when there is no challenge though. I was the writer, the historian and psychologist. I was one of the first students to tackle the social psychology course and it was partly due to my high marks that the course – together with philosophy and sociology – was added to our curriculum.

Jo and I stayed on for sixth form but Lea went off to study hairdressing and beauty techniques. Her mother ran a couple of salons across the city and it was a given that Lea would step into her mother’s shoes one day. Had she been as much of a rebel as me, she might have objected but she was always the most compliant of us – and the most elegant and well-groomed. When her classmates were suffering from greasy hair and adolescent acne, Lea, having access to an endless range of beauty products and being blessed with clear skin, sailed through her school days with unnatural poise.

Jo went on to medical school and became a GP. I chose a university up in that London and lived a Bohemian lifestyle that resulted in me being left with two small children, a heap of debts, a pile of half-written novels and a deep spiritual wound inflicted by my poet lover who went off to the US to find himself. Fortunately my parents welcomed me and their grandsons home and I managed to scrape a living for the three of us by writing articles for women’s magazines and promising myself that I would finish my novels one day. By the time my boys were in their mid-teens, I had bought us a tiny terraced house laughingly described as an ‘artisan dwelling’, Lea was still single but had expanded the beauty salon chain and Jo had married a police sergeant and given birth to twins very shortly after. Family planning was never her thing – but then it hadn’t been mine either.

The three of us kept in touch throughout the years and once we were all back living in the same city, the monthly meetings began in earnest. As befitting her role, Lea remained elegant and beautiful, I had streaks of grey at my hairline – a  consequence of being disorganised and leading a life bedevilled by constantly having to unearth football boots, chemistry books and clean clothes from the  dark caves where my boys could be found, so that they wouldn’t get into trouble at school. They still got into trouble for their rebellious attitudes and a refusal to conform but I knew who to blame for that. Jo’s face was etched with worry lines even before the twins turned up; I commiserated with her over the posset stains on her shoulders and the fact that none of her pre-pregnancy clothes fitted anymore.

It was Tuesday and the three of us were sitting at our favourite table with a bottle of red wine breathing and three glasses ready. It was a few minutes before Jo and I put our own worries and thoughts aside in order to notice that something was wrong with Lea.

She poured out the wine and took an unusually inelegant gulp before squaring her shoulders and taking a deep breath.

‘I have a problem, girls.’

Jo and I looked at each other, mentally assessing which one of us would ask the question. Under the table we did rock, paper, scissors. I usually beat Jo by wrapping her rock with paper but on this occasion she pulled a sneaky scissor trick and so it was me that put on the sympathetic face and asked. ‘What’s up Lea? How can we help?’

Jo kicked me under the table.

Lea put down her glass. ‘I think I’m in love.’

Double relief for Jo and myself. We started to smile and formulate congratulations but something in Lea’s face stopped us.

My turn to ask the questions again.

‘Who with? Do we know them – him – her?’ I hedged my bets. Lea bristled.

‘Him of course! No you don’t know him. He’s offered me a job too.’

Jo and I did a double take.

‘But you have all the salons. You don’t need a job. What kind of job?’

Lea looked at me pityingly. ‘I have good managers in all my salons. I need a change. I’m SO bored.’

‘What kind of a job?’ Jo echoed my questions. ‘Who is he?’

Lea took another gulp and another deep breath. ‘His name is Daryl. He is the entertainments manager on the Ocean Princess and he has asked me if I want to take on the beauty salon concession. It means signing up for a year and although the money isn’t wonderful, it would mean that I get to visit Florida, Italy, Spain – the itinerary is vast. The chance to get a real tan, evenings off, dinner at the Captain’s table, what more could a girl want?’

‘But, you’ve never been abroad Lea. Do you even have a passport?’

‘I know. I’ve always been too busy. I want to do something else with my life. You and Jo, you have children, Jo has a husband. I need a change. Can you sign my passport form Jo?’

‘Daryl? How did you meet him?’ I was a little miffed that she hadn’t asked me to sign her form but then I wasn’t really that much of an upstanding member of the community really.

Lea looked a little guilty. ‘I caught him trying to poach my staff.  He was a bit embarrassed and took me out to lunch to apologise. We got talking and well … you know.’ She finished lamely.

‘How old is he?’ Jo had the bit between her teeth now and the inquisitorial GP in her took over.

Lea blushed. ‘Twenty-five.’ she muttered.

‘That’s ten years younger than you. He’s a toy boy!’ I knocked back my wine and emptied the rest of the bottle into our glasses.

‘Are you really in love with him Lea or is it just the idea of sailing off into the sunset?’ Jo was still in her professional guise.

Lea looked at her watch. ‘I asked him to come and meet you. He’ll be here at nine o’clock.’

This was sacrosanct. Tuesdays were for the three of us. No exceptions. Ever.

I ordered another bottle of red and we didn’t bother to let this one breathe. I was the wordsmith and mine failed me for the moment. Jo concentrated on scratching a patch of posset she had discovered on her leggings. Lea was silent.

‘When will you go?’ I said eventually.

‘I haven’t signed any contracts yet but the next sailing is from Southampton at the end of the month and they need to have a manager in place before they sail. I think I want to do this girls, but I need your help. I trust you more than anyone else and if you think – well – if he isn’t the right one for me…’

This was a new element to our friendship. Lea had always been very choosy about men and neither Jo or I had ever sought an opinion on our partners – although I often wished I had.

Daryl arrived exactly at nine o’clock. He was handsome – in a theatrical way – he had good dress sense, an immaculate hair style and a tan that hadn’t come from a machine. He was charming, attentive and nothing like any man Jo and I had ever met before. He didn’t exactly sweep us off our feet but we could understand how he had captured Lea’s heart. The wine and the shock made us both dull and sleepy. Lea sparkled in Daryl’s presence.

Lea and Daryl went on to a club. Jo and I went home to our families in a taxi; we both felt old and boring.

By the end of the month Lea had sorted out her salons, signed up for a twelve month concession on a cruise liner and organised both her work and social wardrobes. Daryl continued to be the love of her life and though we cried on our last evening together, Jo and I wished them both well.

Lea was a great success as the manager of the beauty salon.

Daryl turned out to be less of a success; they had only been at sea for three days when Lea discovered him snogging one of the dancers backstage. He protested that he was just comforting her because she was homesick but the dancer told a different tale and within a few hours Lea had testimony from a parade of young girls who had fallen prey to Daryl’s charms.

He was offloaded in disgrace at Fort Lauderdale after breaking a few more hearts, by which time Lea had come to the attention of an aging but handsome millionaire who had signed up for a cruise to take his mind off the death of his wife. He signed up for another cruise when that one ended and carried on cruising until Lea finally agreed to terminate her contract and sign up to being his wife.

Lea sends us letters from her homes in the US. She never forgets our birthdays or those of the children. We think that she is happy. We hope that she is. We try to meet up on Tuesdays Jo and I, but it isn’t the same. Now it’s us that are at sea.




A Small Political Intervention – Week 31 of the 52 week short story challenge


I’ve always liked people who have a twinkle in their eyes. A wry smile rather than an ear-splitting guffaw. A sense that there is more going on behind those eyes than you might think.

I’ve already written about my renewed interest in political matters (Week 29 ‘To Thine Own Self Be True‘) but recent developments require a small updating.

I am officially a registered supporter of the Labour party – having forked out my 25 quids and refrained from using threats, bad language or failing to support the aims and objectives of the Labour party.

Twitter has become a bit of an obsession and I am sure that I retweet far more than I should but I haven’t had any rude comments – so far.  I follow quite a few comedians and writers, organisations dedicated to preserving wildlife, the Green party (I promised the  young Master of Science and all things Green that I would – although I don’t follow him on principle in case I see something that a mother shouldn’t.) I also follow my wonderful cousin Ali Sparkes who writes brilliant children’s books and my friend Mark who runs a business cleaning ovens, houses and offices.

The number of people I follow – and who follow me – has increased threefold in the last couple of weeks. The bulk of my Twitter acquaintance has come about because of Jeremy Corbyn. I have also discovered the joys of muting and blocking – the Twitter equivalents of Pacman – and a satisfying way of getting rid of Twitterers who are rude, threatening or trying desperately to get other people into trouble.

As a new Labour party member, I took it upon myself to find out who the MPs were, who they represented, those that were brave enough to sign up for Twitter, and what kind of tweets they put on.

My conclusions are:

  • some Labour MPs are exceptionally hard-working and use their Twitter accounts to publicise events and good works in their constituency areas. They don’t put negative tweets on. You can learn about them as people and MPs from what they write.
  • some Labour MPs use their Twitter accounts as a weapon to disrespect other members of their own party  – and other Twitterers. They moan about bullying and abuse but are quick to make threats, abusive comments and tell HUGE great porkie pies in order to whip their supporters up into a frenzy. You can learn about them as people and MPs from what they write.

I do my best not to retweet stuff with lots of bad language; I know that tempers run high and there are times when a good swear helps but not in writing and not in a place where it can be used against you.

Fellow Twitterers that resort to personal insults get blocked (after I’ve had a sneaky peek at their profiles). Someone had a look at mine and commented that I wasn’t worth bothering with – phew!

Apologies to the nice chaps out there but most of the really aggressive and abusive Twitterers do seem to be ‘ bully boys’ of a certain age who have little else to do but make nasty comments and cause trouble. Block!

I like Jeremy Corbyn because he doesn’t do nasty. Even when faced with the most biased interviewer or Cruella de May herself, he remains calm, reasonable and polite.  People complain that he doesn’t defend himself in PMQs but this is merely because he doesn’t have to stoop to the personal insults, cackling and hectoring of Cameron, May and their supporters. The silly Labour boys and girls who join in with juvenile and disruptive behaviour fail to understand that they are making themselves look stupid. Who wants to elect an MP who behaves like a spoilt child and a bully?

I certainly don’t.

The trouble is, we have become so used to politicians being arrogant, rude, insulting, lying, claiming ‘honours’ for friends, and being totally out of touch with their constituents, that when an honest man appears, a man who doesn’t wear Savile Row suits, uses public transport or rides his bike, AND is a vegetarian, we don’t know what to do.

We don’t believe him.

Politicians are not allowed to be honest and trustworthy. They are supposed to have deep dark secrets concerning the source of their wealth, their illicit affairs and their unsavoury habits. We have been overtaken by career and hereditary politicians who are looking for fame, glory and power. Especially power.


Enough now.

There are good politicians out there. People who have gone into politics because they want to make changes for the good. Because they want to help disabled people, disenfranchised youth, immigrants, people living below the poverty line – anyone who needs them really.

People like Jo Cox MP.

She may not have agreed with everything the leader of her party did and said, but she would not have sworn at him, accused him of persecuting her or threatened violence to him. She tried to achieve change through positive words and actions. Other MPs would do well to look back on her works and learn from them.

Aggression, violence, lies and threats solve nothing. Using them to try to harm Jeremy Corbyn is pointless; he shrugs off such behaviour like the impotent drops of poison that they are. We give people the power to hurt us and somehow, Jeremy has has the skill of diminishing that power – wherever it comes from.

I shall continue to Tweet and Retweet. I don’t know if Jeremy will win the leadership election – I really hope he does and that the Labour party pulls itself together and upholds the aims and the objectives that it so keen for the rest of us to uphold. I hope that the silly boys and girls on the back benches stop squabbling,  work for their constituents and support their leader as they should – he was democratically elected after all and the Labour party embraces democracy – doesn’t it?

The Referendum has already caused hurt and harm throughout the land – and I don’t care what the Brexiteers say – they had no idea of the devastation that a Leave vote would cause for all of us.

Now is the time for the Labour party to unify behind their leader, not indulge in petty fights and name-calling. Time to earn trust and expect nothing more than respect for good works.

It is a time to be honest, to understand the meaning of integrity.

It may not be Jeremy Corbyn who leads Labour into a General Election in 2020; there are other MPs in the wings who are not ready to lead just yet but given time…

They are the MPs that listen and learn, that fight against discrimination and prejudice, that put themselves out to combat injustice.

No more nastiness please?





A Magical Object – Week 30 of the 52 week short story challenge


It is hidden on the lowest shelf of the display cabinet; tucked between a Peter Rabbit christening mug, a pale blue lustre-ware coffee set and a Jubilee medal. It is only hidden to prevent small hands from taking it out – although those hands are no longer small.

She knows it is there. She has known it all her life; has been privileged to hold it, to feel the weight of it in her hand and smell the leather sheath that protects it. There are others too: larger and more frightening than this replica which sits in her hand so comfortably.

During the war her father was a Marine. He could often be distracted into telling tales of his experiences but it was when he talked about the Ghurkhas that she listened intently, hanging on to every word. Often she would curl up on his lap. She was his little Chuckles and he was her hero.

Photos and memories of that time portray him as a tall man with a mop of curly hair that he controlled with Brylcream. That is how she sees him in her mind still. Carrying her from a bus trip to see his oldest sister; her blonde head tucked into his neck, feigning sleep until they got home.

He had seen it all during the war. Death and disorder. His time in Malaya sparked his admiration of the Ghurkhas. He had stood chest high in the freezing sea helping to assist his fellow soldiers onto dry land. The sadness and futility of war saddened his mind and the bitter cold affected his heart and chest, and would be the death of him one day. Having travelled, he had little or no ambition left, would not learn to drive or rise above his steady job in a supermarket warehouse.

His wife had a lust for learning; she wanted to travel, to holiday in somewhere more exotic than Hayling Island or Highcliffe. Over the years she became more dissatisfied and found excuses to stay later at work rather than come home to a man she had begun to despise.

Her parents were not well-matched. Sometimes he would shout and sometimes he would sulk; his sulks turned into a depression that could last for weeks. Her mother was the one with the fiery temper; in snapshots of time she was shaking her fist and scowling at whoever had the temerity to take her photograph, but she was warm too, and loving and always wanted the very best for her children. She  had fallen out of love with him long before she left and it was only the children that kept them together.

He gave his children legacies though. He made them hot chocolate with rum in it; sprinkled curry powder on their dinners and got them up in the middle of the night to glory in the spectacle of a thunderstorm. As a consequence, even now, his youngest daughter loves rum and thunderstorms although she got into trouble for asking for curry powder to spice up her school dinners.

Her parents split up when she was ten years old. She was Daddy’s girl and a part of her wanted to stay with him but she was the youngest, trauma touched them all and she left in the middle of the night with her mother. She chose not to see her father for another six years.

When they met up again he had changed. No longer tall, rather portly and his glossy black hair was grizzled and grey. He looked like Albert Tatlock from Coronation Street. It didn’t matter though, he was still her Dad and she was still his little Chuckles.

When she moved into a shared house, he brought her a small black kitten so that she would have reason to come home at night. Sprog. A wild and often malicious creature that liked to hide in the bottom of sleeping bags and emerge like a bullet from a gun when the occupier’s feet made contact. He would also lay in wait for the housemate who had to go through her room to get to his own. He was no match for a fluffy black cannonball with needle sharp claws.

Once a fortnight, regular as clockwork, her father would send her a postal order for three pounds. Her maintenance, it often paid for a takeaway curry or a drink or two at the Students’ Union bar. His cooking never really improved; most things were cooked to a crisp or had a strange mixture of ingredients. She visited every week for the evening and they would watch TV together; he burping gently and she sucking a tactfully concealed indigestion tablet.

He approved of the man she chose to be her husband, and lived long enough to meet and hold both his grandsons. In the same year that his youngest grandson was born he was struck down by a fatal heart attack. He went quickly. He went the way he would have wanted to go; in the middle of making tea and coffee for a group of workmen who were installing central heating in his block of flats. They gave him CPR but it was no good. The damage done by the cruel sea all those years ago finally took its toll.

Her brother had the big Ghurkha knives after their father died but he remembered her attachment to the little replica knife and this is why it sits in her display cabinet now, why she takes it out sometimes to stroke it and smell the leather sheath, and remember the man who brought it home from the war.