Retelling – Week 43 of the 52 week short story challenge

A retelling of the Latest Decalogue by Arthur Hugh Clough – http://www.bartleby.com/71/1423.html

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You should have one Leader, but if you have more

You’ll split the vote with three or four.

Keep no graven Edstone, there to be

Worshipped or paid for fraudulently.

Swear not at all, for each banned curse

Will only make the purging worse.

Beware the conference, if you attend

Your delegate may not be your friend.

Honour the Party, that is, all

From whom Compliance may befall.

You shall not kill, but use your knife

To stab in the front and take a life.

No other Party may ever compete

Your loyalty has to be complete.

Steal from the members, an easy feat

It takes such little skill to cheat.

Accuse who you will and let it lie

Festering in the media whilst Eagles fly.

Covet the prize that others achieve

But keep the best tricks up your sleeve.

Run up a spreadsheet to garner those who

Would ever dare to oppose you.

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Recent News – Purged – Week 35 of the 52 week short story challenge.

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‘So what are you going to wear?’

‘When?’

‘To go to your party?’

‘What party?’

‘Doh! You’ve been going on about this party for aaaages! You don’t seem to be looking forward to it much?’

‘Party? Oh. That party.’

‘YES!!! What are you wearing? Have you bought anything new?’

‘Should be red really but at the rate things are going it might be black.’

‘Boring. What kind of food will there be at this party?’

‘Hmmm. Plenty of sour grapes. Maybe a bit of humble pie. No jelly and ice cream I’m afraid’

‘Yuk. Will there be drink?’

‘Well, the main person in the party doesn’t drink – and he’s a vegetarian too.’

‘Fruit juice and dips then?’

‘Probably.’

‘You don’t sound very excited about going any more. Will there be lots of people going that you know?’

‘Yes, but not necessarily people that I want to spend time with.’

‘Why are you going then?’

‘I suppose you were going to find out eventually anyway. I’m not allowed to go to the party now.’

‘What!’

‘Not just me. Lots of people have been told that they can’t go.’

‘But you told me that you paid money to be in this party. Are they going to give you your money back?’

‘Doesn’t look like it. They’ve made a lot of money out of people like me and none of us can get our money back.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because the people in charge of the party have decided that we aren’t welcome, and that we’ve done something wrong.’

‘What did you do? Was it really bad?’

‘Not really. I shared someone else’s ideas on Twitter and unfortunately there were some words in the ideas that the people didn’t like.’

‘You shouldn’t have shared them then – not if they were bad words.’

‘Ah, but they only became bad words a couple of weeks after I had shared them. I’m not psychic – as you know. Some of the other people in the party have used much worse words than me and they are still allowed to go.’

‘That’s SO unfair!’

‘I know. At least I know why I’m not allowed to go. There are many who haven’t been given a reason.’

‘That’s even more unfair. I bet they are upset.’

‘Some of them are angry, but some, especially the older people; they are very upset, especially as they have been told that they won’t be informed of the reasons why they can’t go until the party is over.’

‘Can’t you stop them?’

‘Oh, we are trying but every time we try they make up a new rule to stop us.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Ermmm. I know. You know in football – you have to score goals to win.’

‘Everyone knows that. What’s it got to do with your boring old party?’

‘Suppose every time you went to score a goal you found that someone had moved the goal posts closer together so that it was harder to get the ball between the posts?’

‘That’s cheating!’

‘Yes.’

‘You’re always telling me that cheating is wrong.’

‘Yes.’

‘What about the man? You know, the vegetarian man who doesn’t drink booze?’

‘Oh, he hates cheating too. He really wants us to be there. He’s very cross that we are being stopped from being a part of it all.’

‘Why doesn’t he tell the nasty people off then?’

‘He doesn’t like being nasty to others. He is a very kind and honourable man.’

‘I don’t like the sound of the other people though. They are bullies. You always told me to stand up to bullies.’

‘Yes, and I have been standing up to them. There are more of us standing up to them than they realise.’

‘I don’t think I would want to go to a party with them. Can’t you start up a new party and not invite them?’

‘We could  – but the party belongs to the party members – not to the bullies who keep changing the rules to keep us out.’

‘What happens next?’

‘I’m not really sure – none of us are that sure. We have to keep trusting that good will win over evil.’

‘Like in fairy stories?’

‘Yes – but this is real.’

‘Does that mean you can’t have a happy ending?’

‘Not necessarily. We can’t give up though.’

‘I’ve got an idea.’

‘I love your ideas.’

‘Let’s have our own party. With jelly and ice cream. To cheer you up.’

‘Okay. What shall we call our party?’

‘You choose.’

‘I name this party – the Purged Party.’

‘That isn’t a very nice name.’

‘It isn’t very nice being purged.’

 

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To Thine Own Self Be True – Week 29 of the 52 week short story challenge

 

 

 

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This week’s title was actually F*** You but I thought that might be construed as being a little aggressive so I amended it a bit. This isn’t really a story as such – a bit of a rant maybe so skip on out of here if you aren’t interested in what I have to say.

I was raised in an atmosphere of mild politics. My Dad was a shop steward for the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW) when he worked for Sainsburys, and my Mum was secretary to her branch of the Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) when she worked for British Rail (before privatisation). At that time men working for BR had four free rail tickets per year and discounted tickets for themselves, their wives and families. Women working for BR only got these perks for themselves and not their families. My Mum fought for parity and my Mum won.

When the Social Democrat Party was formed, Mum was one of the first people to join because she didn’t like the way Labour was heading. After seven years the SDP merged with the Liberal party and Mum reverted to her Labour roots. She was very involved in social security tribunals and managed to overturn many unfair and arbitrary decisions made by other more ‘qualified’ panel members. She had a strong sense of justice and remained interested in politics all her life.

Her legacy to me was ‘To thine own self be true‘.

In my teens, my own dalliance with politics was more than a little mercenary. I joined the Southampton International Socialist group when I was fifteen. I was studying modern history and like so many other teenagers, thought that communism was the answer – for a very short while. SIS was quite glamorous; they were all older than me, bought me lager and lime in the pub and tried in vain to get me to stand in the precinct in town and sell ‘Socialist Worker’.

I had expressed a desire at the time to be a journalist – or a social worker.

By the time I had left school and started on ‘A’ levels, my interests had moved  dramatically, and to the NUS and the local students’ union. I participated in events and activities and by the time I was in my final year I was elected (unopposed) as Entertainments Secretary. Not that any of my events ever made much of a profit – some of them made an outstanding loss – but they were always entertaining.

I attended the Blackpool NUS conference in 1979. I met the Goodies and was present when Keith Joseph was discovered lurking up in the balcony. We stood up as one and hissed at him, refusing to go on until he left. It was all rather exciting at the time.

Politics were put on hold for a couple of years as I dallied with speech training and dramatic art, and a close encounter or two with my local pub.

A twist of fate and a couple of soda siphons led me back to social work and a job on the lowest rung of the ladder as a houseparent.

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On my first day at work, the deputy officer in charge stopped me as he was leaving.

‘I need to have a word with you – tomorrow.’

Panic!

What had I done wrong?

I barely slept that night and could cheerfully have thumped him when I discovered that he just wanted to ask me about joining the union – NALGO (National Union of Local Government Officers – later absorbed into Unison). I joined. More out of relief than anything else.

In 1984 we went on strike. It was almost as exciting as going to conference. We were out for three months in total and there was an atmosphere of camaraderie as we sat outside on picket lines with our tents and camping chairs. I was working in a children’s home and whilst agency staff were employed to ‘look after’ the children, in reality the children spent more time out on the picket line with us.

NALGO paid our wages and we thought we were making an impact.

We weren’t.

The strike fizzled out when the weather turned bad. We returned to work without realising how much damage had been done. Homes were closed. Junior staff like me were redeployed but senior staff found themselves passed over for promotion because of their disloyalty in going out on strike.

The cost was high; a lovely man who had been a driving force in our protests became so depressed by his demotion and lack of prospects, that he took his wife and son out for a drive in the country, drugged them both and rigged up a hosepipe to the exhaust.

All three of them died.

They weren’t the only ones who died as a consequence of the strike. I promised myself that I would never go out on strike again.

Life moved on and I managed to avoid union membership or too much political involvement bar voting in local and national elections. I usually voted Labour – except for the year when I didn’t like the candidate and was persuaded by my eldest son to vote Green. My husband has his own preferences but we decided a long time ago not to argue over politics – so we don’t.

Then I came across Jeremy Corbyn. I liked him. Compared to the glossy, posh-suited politicians he was a breath of fresh air – although he had been around for a long time apparently – quietly rebelling against the Blairite MPs who were only a step away from the tories.

My sons introduced me to social media; the eldest to Twitter and the youngest to FaceAche – although he unfriended me very quickly.

‘Mum! Stop liking my posts!’

We use FaceAche now to keep in contact with friends and family mostly. My husband and I share a page so it is an eclectic mix of both our interests.

I came off Twitter for a while because it was becoming my favourite waste of time.

I don’t always like what I see on FaceAche. I skip over or hide anything that I find unacceptable and I expect others to do the same if they see anything they don’t like amongst my posts.

It came as something of a shock when a family member disowned me because of poor Jeremy Corbyn. Apparently she saw him as the spawn of the devil and responsible for all that is bad in the world. I was given a choice. Stop putting my thoughts and opinions on FaceAche or be unfriended.

It hurts when someone you have known all your life turns their back on you.

To thine own self be true.

I am in my 50s now and have many years of social work under my belt. It’s a shame if others are upset because I won’t do as I’m told just to make them happy, but I think I have earned the right to know my own mind by now.

Then came the Referendum.

My eldest son is a Master of Science and a PhD student. He spoke very eloquently in defence of staying in the EU, knowing that EU funding is responsible for most of the research carried out in this country. He showed me where to find information on the possible effects of leaving the EU and I posted them on my page – with the proviso that no one HAD to read it if they didn’t want to.

Scroll – scroll on.

Most of our friends and family were of the same mind. There were more casualties though; a friend who felt that it was her role in life to put opposing posts on my page in order to give more ‘balance’. The posts were totally subjective and not well researched so they were deleted. And reposted. And deleted. I had to block and unfriend in the end to save my sanity. It was not a decision I took lightly.

To thine own self be true.

The murder of Jo Cox MP was shocking and showed so clearly how easy it is for political hatred to influence the most vulnerable in society so that they can commit such heinous crimes and believe that they are doing the right thing.

Such a waste of a life.

The Brexiteers won.

There was an increase in racist attacks almost immediately – as if the outcome was an excuse to persecute and harass anyone with a different skin colour, accent or surname.

I was accused by another family member of being a bad loser because I wasn’t happy about the outcome. I didn’t feel that those who had voted to leave on the grounds that it would stop us being ‘over run’ by immigrants and ruled by the EU had really looked into the possible economic and environmental impact.

I was getting very fed up with being told to ‘get over it’ by people who had caused chaos without knowing fully what they had done.

Said family member stated that ALL remain campaigners were being horrible (by pointing out that leaving the EU wasn’t going to happen overnight and that there were going to be a lot of casualties). I dared to argue and was told that I should stop playing the victim and that I was full of hatred.

To thine own self be true.

Block and unfriend.

I have never felt myself to be a victim of anyone or anything. My Mum taught me to stand up for myself and the things that matter to me.

There have been times in my life when the strength of opposition has been huge – but never totally overwhelming – due largely to the support of my husband, friends and family.

I don’t hate anyone or anything – except maybe spiders. And Brussels’ sprouts.

To hate you have to want to kill – it takes quite an effort for me to exterminate a spider so I couldn’t kill a fellow human being however repellent their behaviour is. I certainly don’t hate anyone just because we see things differently.

The current Labour situation angers me. I despise bullying and the abuse of power. Liars and arrogant politicians who ignore their electorate are equally despicable.

The behaviour of certain Labour MPs, the Parliamentary Labour Party  and Labour NEC goes beyond despicable.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t bitch about his fellow MPs or about the opposition. It drives them mad and they do their best to goad him into a response that can be spread around the media like wildfire.

I’m back on Twitter.

I joined Labour to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Labour NEC changed the rules.

I joined Unite so I could vote as an affiliated member and vote for Jeremy Corbyn.  Labour NEC changed the rules. I will stay with Unite though, I like their policies.

I joined Labour as a registered member and paid my twenty-five quid so that I could vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Labour NEC set a timescale of forty-eight hours to register and used a woefully inadequate website that constantly crashed due to the huge numbers of people trying to register.

It took me eight goes but I got through in the end and I have the email to prove it.

Many of the people who became registered voters are on low incomes and are having to go without to pay their twenty-five quids.

I feel humbled by those who have made this sacrifice in order to see that justice is done.

A nice woman set up a crowdfunding site to for those who couldn’t afford it. She raised over fourteen thousand pounds but the NEC have told her that she has to shut it down because it is ‘buying’ memberships and against the rules.

Not sure how you can buy memberships for people who have already joined the Labour party but needed to stump up and extra twenty-five quid in order to vote.

I have learnt much from Twitter.

I have learnt that it is better to block than to bicker with people who are out to cause trouble. Using the ‘Mute’ option on Twitter is also very satisfying.

I now know the truth about the Blairites who are doing their damnedest to distract people from the Chilcot Report – and who are behind the whole ‘get rid of Jeremy Corbyn‘ campaign because they know that he will not defend the part they played in the Iraq war.

I have witnessed the arrogance of people who spread lies about death threats, bricks through windows, homophobia and anti-semitism – without realising that they will get found out in the end.

The media (most of which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch) has forgotten the meaning of impartial reporting – especially the BBC.

The total lack of compassion shown by those who will vote for nuclear missiles that cost billions of pounds but jeer at the poor and the disabled.

I hope that Jeremy Corbyn overcomes the obstacles; that he remains leader of the  Labour party, that the NEC and PLP finally realise that it is the members that they answer to – not to the media, big business or Blair and his acolytes.

I hope that those who choose to support Jeremy Corbyn have the opportunity to serve their constituents well. There are many more bright stars waiting in the wings.

Jeremy Corbyn is an honest man; a man of integrity, a rare thing in a world of lies and political spin.

To thine own self be true.

 

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Birthday – Week 23 of the 52 week short story challenge

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I can remember every moment of your birth-day – and that of your younger brother who was considerably bigger than you but slipped out with an ease and speed that caught the midwife on the hop. More of him another time.

Before you were born I had two miscarriages. I wasn’t sure if I could carry a pregnancy to full term; if I would ever know what it felt like to hold my child in my arms, to watch him or her grow into an independent person.

So when we got to the thirteen-week scan and could see your little heart beating, your Dad and I (and your Grandma) finally dared to hope that our dreams might come true. They didn’t do scan pictures in those days but your Dad had come prepared and was allowed to take photos of the screen.

We christened you Parsley. After Parsley the Lion, a character in one of our favourite children’s programmes – The Herbs. It wasn’t until the twenty-week scan that we found out that you were a boy and you became Robin. Robin Goodfellow. Robin the Hooded Man. His friends are more than fond of Robin. All our hopes and joys were invested in you.

This pregnancy was different.  All the symptoms that had been missing in the previous two pregnancies were there; the nausea, going off certain foods, craving other foods – especially cod in cheese sauce and crunchy cornflakes with strawberries.

You don’t like fish.

We went to National Childbirth Trust antenatal classes. All first-time parents, all nervous and full of questions – except for the immaculate health visitor with the designer bump and gorgeous husband who was planning a water birth at home. She knew it all – and she made sure that we knew that she knew it all.

Fast forward to the day before your birth-day. Things felt different. I started fussing and nest building. The labour bag was packed and unpacked a dozen times and when my waters broke – luckily after we had been shopping at Sainsburys and put it all away – we phoned the hospital and were told to come on in.

You were in no rush though. Your Dad and I spent most of the following morning trudging round endless hospital corridors in an effort to get labour started. It was more diverting than lying on a hospital bed and feeling uncomfortable. The words of our antenatal teacher rang in my ears. ‘Keep upright as much as you can and let gravity do the work for you.’

The nurses on the ward would have preferred me flat on my back and well-behaved because they kept losing me.

Our consultant – who bore a striking resemblance to Maggie Smith – turned up at half-past two in the afternoon and although she smiled, we could see that she was slightly disappointed that you weren’t likely to make an appearance before she clocked off for the day.

We went into the labour ward around six o’clock that night. You were on the way. I tried to remember all the things our teacher taught us. Then I got told off. I was doing the empowering grunting thing. ‘Don’t waste your energy screaming – grunt and push.’

The midwife told me I was frightening the other mummies with my Neanderthal noises. I ignored her and carried on. Gas and air made me bold. Your Dad grinned and got the odd whiff of gas and air.

You gave us a bit of a fright when you finally emerged at half-past seven (in time for Coronation Street according to Grandma). Your APGAR score was low because you had managed to wrap the umbilical cord around your neck – not once, nor twice but three times. Liberated and unwound, you pinked up nicely and let out a yell. The midwife let go of the end of the cord and – according to your Dad because I was out of it by then- it flick-flacked around and sprayed the ceiling. Tennessee Chainsaw Massacre apparently.

Your Dad had you to himself for the first hour of your life. The midwives weren’t happy that all the placenta had come away so I had to go to theatre and have a ‘scrape’ under general anaesthetic. By the time I came around  I was back on the ward with you and your very proud Dad.

I never drink full fat milk and I’m not enamoured of egg sandwiches but these were offered to me and nothing ever tasted so good.
Your Dad went home to bed and I tried to sleep. You were in a cot beside me and I kept one hand on your head all night to make sure you were real and no one could take you away.

We had to stay in hospital for three days; I had stitches and you were jaundiced. It was torture because we lived so close to the hospital that I could see our house. Every night your Dad stood out in the garden and shone a torch so I could see he was thinking of us. I knew that.

We escaped on the fourth day and I can remember lying on our bed at home, feeding you and devouring Kentucky Fried Chicken. We were told to get you out in the sunshine to get rid of your jaundice.

You got sunburn – the yellow turned to pink and your ~Dad went out to buy a sunshade.

We didn’t do too bad for new parents; we only forgot you once. I’d strapped you into your car seat and left you at the top of the stairs for your Dad to bring down and put in the car. It wasn’t until he started the car that I realised something was missing. You slept through the whole thing so I don’t think you were mentally scarred.

Our theme song was ‘Kooks’ by David Bowie. You came to live in a lovers’ story. We hope you haven’t been sorry.

The antenatal class met up again six weeks after you were born. We shared our birth stories and showed off our babies. We tried not to look smug when the golden couple turned up with their screaming baby (and not very pretty). The water birth at home had to be abandoned and she was rushed into hospital for an emergency C-section. All that expense! Unlike her baby, the mother was very quiet during our catch up session. She looked rather unkempt and her husband’s tee-shirt had sick marks on the shoulder – just like the rest of us now.

So the birthdays came and the birthdays went. You were a left-hander and you skipped to school because you loved it so much. A prodigious reader;I had to buy two copies of each Harry Potter book when they came out because you didn’t want to wait till I had finished it. I always finished first but you said this was because I didn’t have to go to school and lose valuable reading time.

Senior school followed primary school, and we were told that you were officially a National Gifted and Talented Youth.  You made your own path – avoiding games and PE as much as possible  – but you were a very strong swimmer which made up for it. When everyone else was wearing an extremely short school tie, yours was a more respectable  – and acceptable – level because you didn’t care about such things.

You had your group of friends and parents’ evenings were embarrassingly wonderful for all of us. Dad helped you with your German and I dredged the depths of my mind for my GCE French. The maths and sciences were beyond me.

You aced your GCSEs and went onto college to do your ‘A’ levels. I panicked when we didn’t get a call from you after you got your results. I had visions of you throwing yourself into a canal in despair because you hadn’t got A stars.

I shouldn’t have worried. You sauntered in and showed me your results. All A stars. What was the fuss about Mum?

University was a foregone conclusion. So was your first-class honours degree in Chemistry and now you are studying for a PhD with a long title that I can never remember. Something to do with amino acids.

You are a teacher. A mentor. A scientist. You also mix a mean cocktail and know how to have a good time. Your knowledge of politics astounds me and I value your advice (and your cocktails). You are a bit more of a dedicated follower of fashion since the school tie days.

We don’t see that much of you because you are a hundred miles away and have your own life to lead but you know that you have surpassed our expectations and that we are very, very proud of you.

Robin Goodfellow. Robin the Hoodied Man. His friends are still more than fond of Robin.

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