Sunday, 18 September 2011

"Another Place"

                                                                          ANOTHER PLACE

Mr O'Hare gazes down from his balcony remembering the cardboard house his father made at Yuletide with the silver -wrapped chocolate men. Feeling like a marauding giant, he would ease his fingers through the windows to pull the figures out, devouring them, the first holiday ritual.
Now he, the giant, has somehow been crammed into the chocolate men's house. A small hotel in Northern England. Someone glances up. He steps back, although they wouldn't have seen his shadowy figure, cocooned by nets at the window of room 43.
He lays on the bed on his stomach. The counterpane smells of stale cigarette smoke. He raises his chin and contemplates the wall. A monochrome photograph of Monterey pines by a leaden lake. He remembers the family exodus from New York every year to the lake house, the visit to the conifer nursery, choosing the tree with Eammon, his younger brother. Mrs Kaufman would trundle along with a trolley and her chainsaw zipped it down. Back home, Mom and Sylvia would dress the tree. The menfolk weren't allowed to help. Later they'd troop in to see it lit in all it's magic next to the old Vermont stove.
All gone, all just memories.
He reaches for a Kleenex to mop his face. The air conditioner rumbles away, unable to cool the room. The central heating keeps the entire place at a steady Eighty. What was the use of it?
Hey Grandad!” He jumps. Who the hell? He eases himself off the bed and goes out on the balcony. A grinning face contemplates him from room 45's balcony.
Yeah, what's up?” He said cautiously.
You American?”
Er..” The sky feels too near, too light. He has an absurd thought that he might burst through it, his shoulders causing it to crackle like cellophane, his head to burst through into blackness.
Ah knew you were. What ya doing here then?”
Excuse me.” O'Hare turns abruptly back and sits on the bed, holding his head, lungs bursting, the panic of being unable to draw in another breath driving all thoughts of control out of his mind. Gradually the fear subsides, he reminds himself about counting, four in, hold for four, four out. Rate the terror, Eight now, (was off the scale.) Five minutes more and it's a six. Odd how he's coped, suppressed it. But now, the ten year anniversary's come and gone and it's as if -
A knock at the door. Shit.
Mr O'Hare, are you all right? Can I get you anything?”
No, It's fine, I'm good.” Slow breath.
Only Peter thought you looked unwell?'
He makes himself go to the door. This endless politeness! His one thought is to get rid of her. Mrs Plover's dark eyes look into his. He looks away.
I know what's wrong with you. I see it a lot. Stress.”
And something happened... and now you've come over to look up your Irish ancestors?”
Now how the hell can you know that?”
Don't worry, I'm not a psychic But there are O'Hare's in Formby and Blackpool, moved from County Armagh at different times. I did a season's work in the National census office, processing forms. Cup of tea? -or I suppose, being American, you'd prefer coffee.”
Tea would be great.” The bad feeling hovers, and moves away. Gives him room to sit down on the hollow bed conversing with Mrs Plover and sipping strong tea. Why has he never drunk this stuff before?
He stays for six weeks. Listens first.
(Fixes the thermostat). Then tells her about How He Survived.
The terrible guilt.
He finds no ancestral O'Hares belonging to him, tells them he'll go back at Hallowe'en and stay in the Lake House. Stop pushing and striving. Let it pass.
On his last day they take him to the bay to see 'Another Place.' Anthony Gormley. The tide is going out. Strong, still figures look to the horizon. Peter says that The Council had wanted them removed, Health and Safety. O'Hare thinks of people, Christmas trees and chocolate men , devoured before their sell by date.
The council lost. The rusting men survive. He exhales steadily, says aloud,
I survive.”
Then he stands straight at the edge of the sands, breathing easily, the sun setting silver in ripplemarks, wet rusty metal and the horizon line; past Ireland and all the way back to America.

NB. HARES and Lapwings (also known as peewits or green PLOVERS are linked in mythology, sometimes together in fields, the lapwings sitting in hares forms. Lapwings symbolise 'hiding the secret.' Mrs Plover is there at the right time for Mr O'Hare, to help him through his difficult time, which is the ten year anniversary of 9:11 in 2011.
Antony Gormleys 'Another Place” sculptures are hidden by the tide twice a day but still they reappear, isolated and slowly rusting away. I wanted them to symbolise Mr O'Hare's resolving of his pain at the reappearance of all the buried feelings after the ten year anniverary of 9:11, where his only brother lost his life.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

"Signs" a first attempt at writing an idea of what might be, in the future

26/08/11 Crossing the Threshhold.... into the future “SIGNS” by Liz Davey 1998 words
Porsche looked across Foredown, high on Bodmin Moor. A pale glimpse of sea shone between coastal promontories. It was a beautiful evening of fading sunshine. A soft wind blew, and the ever present smog over Plymouth released some brownish curls which drifted to the west, joining the lesser smog over Liskeard. Windmills turned silently, casting long crosses over the land. She said,
Do you remember when we could still see the lights on the Tamar Brige from here?”
Jago looked up from the plastic sheet he was trying to straighten.
Yeah, just about. But those stacks look as if they've been there forever now. As long as the mine chimneys... and even 'Old Tom'.” Jago waved towards the standing stone on the horizon behind them, once the tallest in Cornwall.
The solid fuel powerstation had been built in 2023 amidst much controversy. All the domestic homes now ran on wind, wave and crap power, as Faeces Recycling Centres were called with their frequent startling wafts of sulphurous fumes. People were used to going without power for hours at a time, when the uncertain batteries, bought in cheaply from Matabeleland, played up. But Government establishments had to be consistent, and ran on fossil fuels.
The chimneys belched smoke twenty four hours a day. Ranked along a plateau, they effectively obscured the view of The Sound from most vantage points in Southeast Cornwall.
The two continued to resecure the vandalised coverings of the hay mountain. One of at least thirty in the area. Surplus crops were stored in every open space. The new government catchphrase 'WASTE NOT WANT NOT' ensured that almost all of Bodmin Moor was covered in hay and wild oat mountains under this black plastic.
Jago had discovered the vandalisation. Hay going mouldy under sabotaged, torn plastic. He'd gone straight to the Communal Newsmast and plugged in. The Central Council would send teams to replace it and trace the Perps. Jago would get Duchy points, not as many as you got for reporting quarreling neighbours, but always handy. Porsche was of a generation that shied away from this social monitoring of people, but held her tongue. She supposed that all middle aged people struggled with change.
Jago had read that white plastic was the material of choice and far more likely to preserve the food and the moor, but dared not bring this up at Council. It would prove that he had access to books, rather than the Ultimate Kindles that had been around for about thirty five years and officially replaced all older forms of reading matter.
Jago suspected most non fiction books had been rewritten to fit in with the current Zeitgeist. But then, he was generally considered to be a 'Crank'; this was a new catchphrase for someone who in the olden days would have been called bit la-la, doolally, eccentric.
Porsche and Jago were planning to make a verandah at the front of their Brubeckburrow. It was next to the last of the old cottages at Minions and considered to be in a good position, worth adding to for it's Westerly views where the wreck of the Eden Project remained, (a curiosity and warning not to try to recreate the past.)
The verandah's framework was in place, made from abandoned saplings. They'd found lots of spare plastic, which shone a beautiful frosty purple under the sun. It would make a fine covering.
They walked past Wheal Cameron just as the siren sounded for end of shift. It was a crowing cockerel this week. Miners strolled out, pale faced and red eyed from staring at monitors all day. Caleb, who lived next door, was with them.
Hola! Dig up any gold?” Jago called , tongue in cheek.
As if!”
They all laughed, nothing was produced from the re opened mines, but they provided 'employment', keeping local people who didn't work for the Government or Councils, (Central, Local or Duchy) occupied.
Several friends walked together. Most people lived in the Brubeckburrows, developed by an environmentalist in 2016. Unlike the pioneering environmental buildings they were both quick to erect and space saving. Only the old, old cottages and stately homes remained from the past, ostensibly for Council and Government workers, but most were holiday homes for foreign dignitories. The Mayor of Rabe, in Northern Spain, was currently in the end cottage and had enjoyed being shown Porsche's pet goats. They reminded him of his great grandfathers home, a Finca in Andalucia. All these rural properties had long since been swept away in Spain.
Have you got much food?” Caleb's mother Maggie called to Porsche.
Yes, gram flour and carrots. I can make Moroccan pancakes. Want to join us?”
Lovely! I've got lots of bilberrys from Golitha and of course....”
-”Cream!” Everyone cried. The huge clotted cream processing plant in Callington, six miles away, was always a source of amusement. Whatever shortages there were, cream was never one of them.
They all sat under the half finished verandah watching the sun set over small, round white brubeckburrows, dotting every remaining space on the moor. Caleb called them Babies Heads after an old man, met in a museum, told him about the Manchester steak and kidney puddings that went by this name, but everyone he told stared blankly. Why were he and Jago always so silly?
Later they were supposed to attend the latest blockbuster movie, 'Sex around Wuthering Heights' being screened out at the Communal Newsmast, or C.N.
Porsche hated films nowadays, which were all what she would have called pornographic, but that was all there was to watch. It was one of the reasons she had left Street Pastoring; she wanted to do more than hand out morning after pills and bandages to drunken people coming out of Night Spots. To try to make people respect each other and learn about their world! Study old faiths that had been banned, but still flourished underground; mostly the Moslem Religion, followed closely by Methodism, Jedi-ism and Buddhism. There were more of course.
And there was the possibility of a God, dwelling inside each person as well as existing somewhere high in the sky, charged with the faith and spirituality of believers across time, like a huge, strong battery leaking power in the form of Signs. Not like the Matabeleland batteries at all.
People were always angry and resentful when any religion was mentioned, as far back as 2011, when she'd been still a girl. They blamed it for wars, rather than their own interpretations and subsequent behaviours! And yet there were still wars, they raged constantly according to the news bulletins at the C.N. Porsche shook her head, remembering her gentle grandfather, one of the last Anglican Vicars. He'd encouraged her to look up at the sky sometimes and think about why we were all here. Could it be wrong to just explore such concepts?
Well, she was to be given the benefit of the doubt. The Central Council had today permitted her to spearhead one such project. It had been agreed she could start up a local Body and Soul Cafe. (Porsche privately called it a Church.) She took out her Personal Media Communicator and read the message for the twentieth time today. Her closest love, Jago, was to monitor her and report back to Duchy, any misdemeanors or problems likely to lead to strife. This would ensure that she did not begin to get grand ideas about her position, and also refrain from manipulating less intelligent or gullible people. She knew she was putting her head on the block-(what on earth did that mean?)- Anyway, at least the Power holders were facing up to the fact that the people still needed more than a roof over their heads, occupation and entertainment.
She and Maggie looked at one of Maggies ancient House books from the 1970's. Yellow with age and crumbling until Caleb had sprayed each page with waterproof coating used on the roofs of the Brubeckburrows. They studied floral patterns and pinewood furniture with constant fascination. Without telling the School her sources, Porsche had started the infants on potato prints, using simple cruciferae flower shapes from the oil seed rape that grew wild along all the roads. No other wild flowers existed outside museums now, and these were considered weeds. But you could go along to one of the enormous museums if you wanted to see more flowers.
Porsche and Maggie were planning more ambitious designs onto fabric after a rare visit to Exeter museum. Cushions were the goal, stuffed with the goats wool. The neighbours thought they were mad. In a world where wall art, patterns and colour could be programmed to change as often as you liked; (batteries allowing), who would be interested in stamping out rough, barely recognisable images of weeds?
Their conversation was interrupted by a sudden cacophany of bleeps, chimes and chirps. The fashion for real sound clocks was back with a vengeance, bird noises being popular this week. Porsche turned down her snoring ostrich and stood up. Eight o'clock, time for Social activities, Lucy the Historian would be walking up now. Lucy was helping her to build a picture of St Cleer in previous centuries, when warring miners marched into Liskeard on payday to drink and fight, (not much different from today) and John Wesley's outdoor preaching of the Christian gospels had contributed to the development of little buildings, chapels, across the Duchy.
Christianity had been big in those days. There was nothing like it now. No miracles, prayers answered, no Signs like the face of the Christ imprinted upon a small blue flowered weed. Porsche would have liked to have seen that before it went extinct. It was called Veronica after the woman who gave Him her handkerchief to mop his face and drop on those flowers as He struggled along carrying the heavy wooden cross.
Porsche knew about that punishment. It had been banned for hundreds of years, up until 2025. They didn't use crosses now. There were always spare, furled windmills that could be utilised. Not too often, thankfully. People got over excited when one was due,- here on Caradon Hill, usually, so more people could see it across the Eastern Duchy. She shivered. Surely crucifixion was as bad as stoning people to death? But that had been banned in 2020.
She got up to leave. Caleb and Jago were arguing about the government. Maggie was saying,
Anyone for bilberry flummery?
What's the flummery bit?” Jago asked suspiciously, then grinned as everyone shouted
Maggie gave the two men bowls of purple sweet stuff and returned to a discussion that had been going on while Porsche had been thinking.
You two and your Economics! It's a good hobby, but you'll never change anything. And you, Porsche, with this Spiritual stuff. You'll go the way of all the others.”
She spoke lightly, but Porsche was surprised to hear a tremor in Maggie's voice and see her eyes were shiny. Dear Maggie, she cared.
Caleb and Jago took the leftovers down to the swillsilo while Maggie watched Porsche step lightly down the lane. Lucy approached, carrying the antique reel to reel tape recorder with voice recordings of real old people remembering what their ancestors had told them about their lives, and most importantly to Porsche; their Faiths. Maggie's worried gaze moved beyond Lucy and Porsche, chatting excitedly. No signs, no symbols. No faith left. It was safer that way.

But her gaze alighted on a small weed, supposedly extinct. She'd found one earlier, just as Porsche received the go ahead for her new spiritual venture. Opened the Concise British Flora 1963 in trepidation, knowing before she found it that it was a Sign, Veronica, speedwell, the face of one to be crucified in the name of religion. More would follow. The circle would keep turning as surely as those windmills turned; shadow crosses over the barren land.


Thirty years into the future, this story is set on Fore down, near Crows nest, St Cleer and Minions, villages on Bodmin Moor. Minions was originally developed as a mining village and named for the tumuli there since ancient times. In 2031 a wind farm exists on Caradon Hill and the land is covered with surplus food store 'mountains' All twentieth century buildings are gone, only vernacular cottages remain, and thousands of “Brubeckburrows” which house “the Workers” Some of the old tin/copper mines have reopened, but inside the only activities are computer games on a mining theme. All wildlife (apart from some domestic animals), flowers, non crop trees, animals and birds are in Museums, the nearest in Exeter; huge cathedrals to the past set up to provide exactly the environments their 'contents' once lived in naturally. This needs a lot of electricity, hence new fossil fuel power stations.There is little medical care and no spiritual needs are recognised. Social networking is used even more extensively to monitor the people, here by the 'communal newsmast 'on Caradon Hill No quarreling is allowed. Lawbreaking is punished by public execution.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

"Looking for Mermaids"


Jessie skipped out of the Plaza, singing the mermaids song that had been playing while the credits rolled. Her eyes were set on a pirate ship becalmed on a purple horizon under a purple sky, sparkling with stars. Jessie lived with her Mum, Agnes and Mum's partner Leanne. Jessie's Dad Wes lived with his new partner and Jaden, Jessie's big bro'. They weren't coming tomorrow, when Jessie, Agnes and Leanne and two of their friends were going on holiday. It was sad not to have Jaden, BUT - there might be mermaids there.
There was a yelp and an angry yell. She looked down startled. Two pairs of brown eyes looked up at her. An angry faced man in a wheelchair and a dog, holding up it's paw, with a sad 'You trod on me!' face.
Jessie knelt down
'I'm sooorrry! Poor Doggie!' she stroked its curly head.
'Jessie! Dont touch the dog!' Agnes hurried up behind her.
' Dont touch nothin'. I dont want my 'ead stroking neither.' grumbled the man.
Agnes grabbed her hand but gave the man a 'big mouth no eyes' smile. Jessie, hauled along, looked back over her shoulder. A boy ran out of the cinema and the man turned his chair towards the station. They went off together, the dog stopping behind to sniff at the cherry tree on the corner.

The next day was the first day of the holidays. Doris the camper was loaded up, Leanne, Mum's partner, had finished topping up levels under the bonnet, whatever that meant, and had the tyre pump out now, it was shuddering and groaning loudly.
Alf, who lived next door, stopped to inspect her work, his two Staffies' on their chain flopped down, blocking the pavement as they lolled and panted in the hot sun. Alf tweaked at a few things and tightened something, then he made a roll up and stood watching Leanne cleaning the windscreen. Her long curly hair blew in the warm breeze and she stopped to wipe her forehead. The sun made Alf's head shine like Doris's windows. Agnes loaded up the last of the bags.
Jaden came up on his new bike and held out his hand to Jessie.
'Come here, I got so'ing for your holidaaaay!'
It was a really cool wallet with layers of coloured leather, the name of their favourite band and a star made of silver studs. Inside was a ten pound note. Jaden gave his sister then their mum, one armed hugs and pulled up his hood.
'Have a good time yeah?'
He streaked off towards the river. Jaden, Dad and Stacie lived two streets away. Stacie, Dad's new girlfriend, was older than him and very generous to the kids. Agnes thought that the present had come from her in a vain attempt to win Jessie's friendship. Whatever.
The alternative was even worse.
She looked after Jaden, so thin and preoccupied. Tears came into her eyes.
'He's all right Mum, honest?'
But Agnes took no notice and turned away.
Alf took one final look at Doris and slapped her roof.
'She's ready!' then he waved and sauntered off.

Mum and Leanne's friend Carol, and her daughter Lara hurried up. They were coming too. Everyone settled in. Agnes lifted their dog Dizzee in beside Leanne and got into the driving seat. Jessie looked out of the window the whole way and when they got to the services for more diesel and a wee she didn't even want to go inside. Agnes shrugged and left her there to give Dizzee a walk.

It got windier and was overcast all the way to the campsite, near Southsea. When they got there in the evening Jessie and Lara ran down to the shingly shore and opened their arms to the salty, mist laden breeze off the sea. The sun came back out then, a bit late, Jessie thought, 'cos it was just about to be night time. She began to pick up slipper limpet shells, white, grey and pearly pink. Dizzee span round and round chasing his tail.
'C'mon kids, food!' called Agnes. They ran to the van where an awning was up to one side, the setting sun shining gold on Doris's now dusty windows.
'D'you think mermaids leave these shells on the beach?' asked Jessie but everyone laughed. There were beans and mash with a fried egg on top. Carol said,
'Tomorrow we'll pick cockles and whelks and limpets. Boil 'em up in the bucket!'
'What's cockles and that then?' Lara looked askance.
'Lovely shellfish fresh off the rocks. Bit of pepper and vinegar.'
'Uugh! I ain't eating them!'
'Ah, go on. Your Grandad used to do that when we was kids. Dee-licious!'
Leanne and Lara's mum had put up the tent. It was only £7.99 from Asda last year, but they hadn't gone anywhere then. Jessie wanted to get in her bunk in the funny stick up canvas bit in the roof. She couldn't wait to go to bed. Lara and Carol had the double bunk that went across the table, Leanne and Agnes were sleeping outside in the tent.
The wind made a funny noise around the roof and she could hear the sea slapping and rattling on stones. She sniffed the leathery smell of her new purse inside the sleeping bag and wondered why the sea stopped there and didn't just keep coming ...she thought she could hear a crying noise like a dog whining but Dizzee was fast asleep by the door, tired out. She wondered if there were shops near to spend her ten pounds. Just before she fell asleep she wondered whether the sea was purple in the dark and whether there there were stars on the horizon....

She was woken up by a noise outside and nearly bumped her head trying to sit up.
She slipped off the bunk, avoiding Lara and Carol below, still snoring. She scrambled over the front seat and opened the driver door. It was heavy and she struggled with it. The sun was just coming up to her left. Everything was pink and grey. She looked at the tent, Mum had left the front bit unzipped and she could see her and Leanne through the mesh, squashed up with their backs to each other, still asleep too.

Jessie skipped along the path at the edge of the grass. Now she could hear the whining better. Behind a low wall with criss cross fencing on top. She skipped over between the tents and campers where everyone was asleep, singing quietly to herself. The “What shall we do with the drunken sailor...” song from Mum's old tape player in Doris. She climbed on the wall where there was a gap and saw lots of runs and kennels full of dogs. A woman was there, with a mop and bucket and a shovel. Cleaning out the runs.
'Get down there, you!' she shouted.
'I only want to see the dogs,' Jessie said, but she put one foot back down.
'Bless you, I wasn't shouting at you, love. Come over and see the dogs if you like. Get down, Dino!'
The dogs all came out and began to bark as Jessie walked towards them, laughing as voices started complaining from the tents nearby.
'Shhh! Get back inside!' the woman roared and surprisingly the dogs did quieten down.
'Good job there's no neighbours,' she said.
'But there's people like us, we're neighbours?' said Jess looking back over the grass where tents and campers straggled at the edge of the shingle. She walked up and down the rows, admiring the dogs who looked expectantly out at her.
'Well, you're only temporary, like. Whoops, who'se this?'
A very small man was scowling at them through the fence.
'What's this bleedin' noise? I'm stuck on a noisy train for hours on end, then a rotten bus and now I'm here with the hound of the bleedin' Baskervilles howlin' all night!'
'Dad! It's only a boarding kennels, look!' A tall boy came up and pointed at a sign beyond the kennels where a bungalow stood.
Jessie began to smile. It was the man from the Cinema, he wasn't small at all, his chair had been hidden by the wall, and the boy wasn't that tall. She trotted back down the path.
'Hallo! D'you remember me yesterday[? I trod on your dog. Where is he?'
The man stared at her.
'Well that's a coincidence. A coincidence aint it Luke? Where you staying then?'
Jessie leaned over the fence and pointed back up the beach. The canvas roof stuck out above the rest of the campers. She could see Mum standing and stretching, doing her exercises. What an embarassment!
'Oh, er, up that way.'
'You're in the Bongo,' said the boy. 'That your Mum is it?' he looked as if a smile was trying to pull up the sides of his mouth.
'What? Oh, no. Dont know who that is. I gotta go! Thanks for letting me see the dogs!'
She climbed back over the wall, the man held her hand to help her and a friendly grin replaced the scowl.
You come down and see us, we're in the orange tent down there, Sunny's there an' all. We don't shut our dog away in prison when we goes on our holidays!' Abruptly the smile disappeared and he glared through the fence at the dog woman.
'I'll try and keep 'em quiet.' She said, 'But it's the holidays now so we're full up!'
'All right my love! Not your fault! You come an' ave a cup of tea later an' all! And you, Princess, bring your Mum too!' Jessie looked at the boy who was looking as embarrassed as Jessie felt. He met her eyes and shrugged.
'Parents!' she thought.
She ran back up the path to Doris. It was starting to rain.

Mum and Leanne decided to go shopping, and Lara wanted to go. Carol and Jessie stayed in Doris watching them rustle away in their stiff black kagouls. The rain beat down loudly on the roof and dripped through the canvas bit. Carol tried to stop it, but ended up stuffing a towel into the seam.
Jessie felt miserable. Carol got out the scrap book and glue, and her bag of special make and do things. Jessie was soon absorbed in sticking the limpet shells down in a spiral pattern onto grey paper. They would look for a piece of board that would take the weight of the shells to mount it on later.
Then she began to make a sunset sky with the sea below, like in the pirate film. Carol drew the ship. It was called a Galleon. Jessie wanted a mermaid so she drew one sitting on a rock and then they got the sparkle glue and made stars in the sky and scales on the mermaids tail. Carol showed her how to make reflections wavering in the water. It kept on raining all day and into the night. Some drips came through the towel onto Jessie.

The next day was grey, but not raining. They got up very early and decided to drive over to the New Forest later. Mum was worried about leaving the tent so Jessie, forgetting to be embarrassed because she wanted to see New Forest ponies, ran along the site, looking for an orange tent. The boy, Luke, was there on his own.
'Where's your Dad?' She called
'Down the pier fishing. Been there all night!' he pointed along the beach where a pier was just visible. The path turned into a prom. later, he told her, and his dad could get about really easily here.
Jessie told him she'd hoped he could make sure their tent was OK while they went to the New Forest. He looked interested.
'I'd like to see that.' he said. Jessie felt awkward.
'I'll have to ask everyone.'
'No, dont bother.'
Lara came up, looking curiously at Luke. They introduced themselves, Lara said she would run back and ask if he could come with them. Luke said no, but they could tell he wanted to go. Then Luke's Dad came back, his strong arms seemingly effortlessly racing the wheelchair along the path.
'Get the stove on! I got loads!' he called. Sure enough, a bag of shining silver, black barred mackerel were tipped out on the grass. Luke ordered Sunny away and Jessie held his collar while they put them on a little camping table and started to prepare their breakfast,
'Had yer breakfast? No? Get yer family over here. There's enough to feed an army.'
Jessie pulled a face at the dark red guts spilling over the table, but when the fish were prepared and washed with seawater, Luke took the table down to the sea to clean it. His Dad let Jessie pour in some oil and lay one in the frying pan. She squealed at the slippery cold feel of them and said she would be sick, but within seconds the sizzling started, a delicious smell came up, not fishy at all, she thought, but just like the sea. A savoury sea smell. Luke's Dad showed her how to judge when they were ready to be turned, and how they went less shiny when they were cooked.

Luke went off after Lara to tell the others to bring forks and plates and soon, looking a bit worried, they all came over.
They hadn't known what to expect, Jessie supposed. Agnes gasped to see Jessie confidently flipping over a mackerel in the hot pan, and Leanne ran to the edge of the shingle where some wild fennel was growing, and put a few fronds in too.

Soon, they'd all introduced themselves and got talking. Luke's dad, Terry, knew Carol from long ago when they were teenagers, before Terry went in the army and got blown up as he put it. Leanne knew Luke because when she'd helped at Riverside School he'd been in her biology class. Everyone except Lara enjoyed their fish and Jess was bursting with pride. She looked at Agnes, but she was talking to Terry about whether sunflower oil was best... Who cared?
She wanted to text her brother to tell him about her cooking but there was no signal on the beach. Lara, Luke and Jessie went off along the path and climbed up over the road. A lot further down was an open gate to a walled garden and Jessie ran in curiously. It was full of roses nearly all in flower, scrambling up pillars and walls. She raced round the great oval path stopping to sniff each one as she went. She thought, everyone's quite happy. If only Jaden was here, but he's gone boring now, seems to like being with that Stacie and Dad all the time, and he hasn't answered my text.

That evening the three of them sat on the shore and watched the night fall. The Forest had been good, but Luke was disapointed that it hadn't just been trees. Terry explained that a forest meant a hunting ground, not a place just for for trees. They'd gone to a big wide open space, covered in heather all purple and full of bees. Agnes remembered a place called Hundred Acre Wood nearer to Portsmouth where you could walk round trees all day if you wanted. So it was decided they'd all squash into Doris and head off there the next day. A nice couple in the tent next to Terry had promised to look after all their stuff.
Jessie looked out across the water where twinkling lights were coming on. The Isle of Wight. It seemed to be floating in the sea. She sat there until the stars came out, scanning every wave and dip in the water and the other two wandered off. She nearly fell asleep and her Mum and Leanne had to carry her back between them. 'I was looking for a mermaid,' she mumbled.
She discovered that she'd lost her new purse and woke right up. The whole area had to be searched and 'Doris' turned upside down. Jessie cried and cried, because it was a present from Jaden. Agnes bit her lip. She could not afford to replace the purse, let alone ten pounds.

The next day things got worse. When they got back from the woods followed by a fruit picking expedition at a place called Titchfield, another tent was pitched up next to Doris. It was large and looked brand new. The car by it was Dad's old beamer.
Oh no, thought Jessie.
'Is this some sort of sick joke?' Agnes screamed, her face red as her hair. She leaped out of Doris, leaving the engine chugging hotly after another long drive. Wes, Jessie's dad, came hurrying out of the tent. He didn't even have to bend down it was so big.
'Hello, hello Aggy. Stacie thought we'd come and surprise you for a day or two. Got the tent off Ebay! Never been used. Some people eh? Give the kids a chance for some quality time you know.'
'They dont have quality time when we live round the corner so why have you driven 80 miles for nothing?'
Stacie stepped out behind Wes, putting her long streaked blonde hair behind her ears then folding her arms awquardly. A nearly empty wine bottle dangled from her fingers.
'This is the point.' She said, rocking slightly in her spike heels.
'We're all so busy at home and I do want us to be friends.'
'Why's Jaden sat in the car?' Agnes ignored Stacie.
Jessie knew why without asking. Jaden was drumming his long, light brown fingers on the outside of the door. His cap was pulled down over his eyes and his hood pulled up and forward. He was listening to his mp3 so loudly she could hear it even through his In ear pods. He hadn't wanted to come, for sure.
She went up to the car and got in. They sat in silence. Jessie watched Luke and Lara wander off up the beach and Terry deftly drop his chair out of the van and transfer into it, curtly declining Wes's offer of help. Carol looked around and must have been thinking it best to avoid what was coming. She walked after Terry and they made off towards the orange tent.
A full scale row developed. Jaden silently handed Jessie the left side of his headphones and she plugged in thankfully, though she could still hear most of what they were saying through her other ear.
Stacie had drunk a lot, Jessie could tell immediately, and Dad was kind of helpless and apologising to Mum and Leanne, who stood there uncomfortably after switching Doris's noisy engine off. Then Dad apologised to Stacie too! More shouting.
Other people were looking over with disapproving expressions. Jessie shut her eyes and waited for it all to stop. Then, Leanne opened the door and asked Jaden to take Jessie over to Terry's for a while. Terry got them all fish fingers and bread and butter and they sat silently in the dusk. Then Terry said,
'Bugger this for a game of soldiers! Let's go down the pier and play on the machines.'
Carol wrote a note and left it just inside the tent and they set off down the path, the prom, Jessie remembered,a long walk, past the rose garden and the castle. The pier was lit up and people milled about. Jaden walked ahead, too old for the three kids. They followed him feeling happier, and watched all the activity on the pier as Terry made off towards the slot machines. Carol, who never went out much according to Lara, was almost skipping with excitement by his side.
Jessie watched a big ferry glide by, covered with yellow lights.
'What sort of ship is that?'
'Well. It aint no pirate ship going to the Carribean if that's what you're hoping!' Luke laughed.
'It only goes to the Island there and back.'
They were aware of excitement, shouting and cheering and turned round to see Carol waving to them and holding one of the doors open. Terry bowled out grinning and punching the air.
'I won the jackpot! Hundred quid! We'll 'ave a great night tomorrow now, when your Mum and Dad have it made up, Jess... or come to some agreement I suppose, unless they wants to ruin the entire holiday, o' course.'
They all got chips and went slowly back to the campsite. Jaden and Jessie looked worried as they got near.
'Dont worry. That one 'll be asleep by now. Give her a chance. She's only trying to please everyone.' Terry said. Jessie made disbelieving humphing noises.
But there was more noise from their corner of the site. Music, giggling and laughing. Someone had rigged up a light and Wesley and Leanne were under it, cooking something on a driftwood fire. Agnes and Stacie were disco dancing round what looked like two old handbags and the beamer's stereo was blasting out. The disapproving people nearby were joining in, cans in hand and holding out plates. Wes slopped spoonfuls of something on and they all tasted and laughed more. Even the dog woman was there, trying to copy Agnes and Stacie's nifty dance steps.
'If you cant beat 'em join 'em!'
'It's cockles and mussels! Come on Carol!' called Leanne.
'Blimey, did you pick all those yourselves?'
'No, a man in a van came by!'
The others sauntered over and soon the story of the jackpot win was retold. Agnes was saying Terry mustn't spend it on them and Stacie, seeming quite sober, was saying Why not, and Terry was agreeing with her. Wes was smiling happily down on them all.
Jessie shrank back, confused. Were they all friends then? She looked over at the sea, a mist had come down with the darkness and she couldn't tell where the sky began. She went down to her favourite bit of beach where a sort of black fence called a groyne stuck up and sat under it. The tide was right out now and the moon was up, making shaky water paths over to the Island.
Jaden came out of the darkness further along the beach. He stood staring across the water. Jessie sat back against the wooden post and felt something stick in her back. She reached behind her and brought out the new wallet, wet with sea spray. The ten pounds was still inside! She pressed it to her face.
The Mermsids had found it for her and put it where she could find it!
'Oh My God.' she whispered slowly.
'Thank you, thank you!' she called softly
Jaden turned quickly.
'Didn't see you hidin' there!' he sat down next to her and nodded at the wallet.
'You O.K.?'
'Yeah, are you O.K? You're a bit far away now when I see you.'
'Lot on my mind.'
'Mum's worried you might be on drugs, and might like Stacie more than her.' Jessie said bluntly.
'Ridiculous.' He said. Then he turned to her ,
'I'm going in the Navy. Mum's dad, Our Grandad was in the Navy , did you know? It'll be after the summer if my G.C.S.E.'s are right. That's why I've been quiet. But dont tell them yet. Yeah?'
Jessie thought for a while.
'Mum thinks Stacie gave you the money for my wallet.'
'Well, you wouldn't have taken it from her would you. She aint that bad, Jess. And Mum wasn't happy with Dad. There aint so many rows now with her and Leanne are there? And you like Leanne dont you.'
'Oh yes, but I wish Dad was back.'
'Like wishing for the moon. Forget it, it aint gonna happen. But you could come and see Dad and Stacie and me.'
'I'm not going in that house! Mum says.'
'Well, she may think different now. Looks like they're all getting on alright.'
'They dont care what I think anyway.' Jessie felt tears coming and stretched her lips over to cover her teeth and shut her mouth very tight.
Jaden looked at her quickly and said nothing. Luke and Lara crunched over the stones and sat down.
They all sat there, waiting. Jessie fell asleep again and had to be carried to bed. She woke up in a panic on a narrow camp bed in a tent bedroom. She scrambled out and looked in the other bit. Dad and Stacie were asleep on a big airbed in there. She looked at them cuddled up together. There was a smell of booze. She looked around the whole tent. It was cool, with separate rooms and a kitchen with a washing bowl, plates and pots and food on racks. She got herself a drink of water from a clever little tap in the big water bottle and then crept outside.
As usual, everyone else was asleep, even though it was day and sunlight was creeping over from behind Doris. Jaden was asleep in the car. There was a mess from last night, she kicked a rolling beer can and walked off down the field to wait for Luke to wake up. She peeked in the orange tent. Terry was there lying next to Carol. God, adults! Why did they always have to swap about. Why couldn't they stay in their own beds? Luke must be sleeping in Doris then.
She sat by the sea and threw stones, then she had a thought. She took off her clothes except for her pants and teeshirt and waded into the water. It was quite calm away from the edge but cold, and you had to watch out for the shelf of slidey gravel near the edge. Once you got past that it was OK. She swam up to the next groyne, it was quite a way. The sea was rougher there and she lost her footing as she climbed out, a wave knocked her while she was off balance and she felt herself being sucked along the gravel. She opened her mouth to scream and swallowed the salt water. The wave broke over her head and she was in a glassy green, hissing world, gulping water and trying to hold her breath, for an instant not sure what was up and what was down. Then the sky appeared again and she crawled away from the water crying and retching as another wave smacked her coldly on the back. She felt herself sliding back down the shelf.
There was a rasping thump of footsteps and Stacie was there, pulling her away and making lots of noise. She produced a big soft towel and wrapped Jessie up. Jessie just accepted the hugs, the firm reassuring voice and overwhelming feeling of relief to be out of the sea. She allowed Stacie to carry her back to the tent and was soon warm, wrapped up in another huge purple towel drinking warmed milk and eating dark, juicy cherries. She explained to Stacie what had happened. Dad got up then and hugged her till she couldn't breathe and wanted to hear the story too. Then he went to get Agnes. Everyone was shocked and kept hugging Jessie, who began to enjoy herself and embellish the tale a bit. Jaden stood back and she heard him say to Mum,
'Shame she has to nearly drown to get some attention from you innit.'
Mum was upset at this and started to dab at Jessies cuts and grazes with creme from a mini first aid kit the resourceful Leanne had remembered. Jessie just looked at her. Then Mum got cross and told her off for swimming with no one else there and making everyone worry. Mum started to cry and Stacie of all people began to cry too. The two enemies hugged each other, rocking to and fro.
Jaden looked at Jessie, then they both started to laugh.

On the last day Jessie went to Portsmouth with Agnes, Leanne and Stacie. They went to a big shopping place called Gunwharf Quays where you could still see the sea when you came out of the shops. Then they went to see an old, old ship called the Mary Rose, which Agnes said had once looked a bit like a pirate ship. It was the wooden skeleton of the ship and Jessie stared at it entranced. She looked carefully at all the things they'd found in it and watched a film of it being raised out of the sea, the year Leanne was born, she said. There were things with a moon and star on too, mugs and things in the shop. The man told her it was the crest for Portsmouth, which was a Naval City, he said. The Sailors looked at stars to remind them of their way. Underneath the crest was written,
Heaven's light Our Guide.”
Jessie asked to go back to the shops after that and they walked around with her as she looked in the windows.
'What are you looking for love?' asked Agnes.
Jessie didn't answer. She'd suddenly found what she was looking for, pinned onto purple velvet pads at an outside jewellery stall. They were two pounds fifty pounds each. So this was what her holiday money was meant for, definitely! She could get all four for £10.
Tiny brooches, in the shape of mermaids. And one in the shape of a star.
'Pink for Mum, green for Leanne, purple for Stacie, cos you're all like my Mums now and we all got together by the sea.' she explained, handing them out. They were speechless.
She ran ahead before they could all hug and kiss her. She didn't answer when they asked her who the star was for. She would keep it until Jaden needed it. When he went off to sea like their Grandad.
Something to remind him. A star to guide him back home to them all.

The end

"Red Mountain Lion" A story about coping with the onset of an illness and dementia

1977 words Red Mountain Lion.

Alec, wake up- It's only a dream, A dream!.....There. Goodness, what was that about?”
Oh.” he sat upright, sweating. ”I dont know. Ugh, -sorry, going to have to have a shower... what's the time?”
It's ten to three. Do you want a drink? I'll get you one for when you come out and you can tell me all about it.”
Alec glanced at Lucy over his shoulder.
No thanks, I dont think I'll start drinking this early in the morning.”
I meant something comforting. Ovaltine maybe, or Horlicks.”
No, I'll get some water. You go back to sleep.”
He shut the bathroom door and turned on the shower. Lucy sighed and pulled the bed clothes up tautly under her chin. Alec'd had some nightmare for months now and not told her what it was. She shivered. The curtains and windows were open and the icy air seemed to crackle. The walls and ceiling, papered deep blue and patterned with stars above the white duvet mimicked the snowy night. Alec didn't like the star design which was random and not set out in proper constellations.
At breakfast Alec held the marmalade jar up to the window.
What a lovely colour everything is in the sunshine.” He looked out at the country spreading for miles, the tawny mountain rearing in the distance, shadowed with pines. “The snow's going! Thank God.”
You're bored, Alec. Why dont you-”
-Why dont I get a hobby, start burning designs in wood with the poker, take up a sport. Yes, why dont I?”
Well, no- I wondered if you'd care to get the decorations down and bring a tree in? The family are coming on Friday...”
Later, Lucy watched him from her studio at the top of the house. He was walking purposefully towards the village and had remembered his hat and scarf. Good. She turned back to her work and allowed herself to forget Alec's accident and subsequent illness and the enforced retirement.
She had recently painted three round discs in amber, gold and lemon yellow on a heavenly blue green base, so thick the paint threatened never to dry.

Hello Mr Grufydd. Still enjoying your retirement?”
Alec looked at the woman and passed on without speaking. He would walk up to the Wenlock Ark. It had only been open a few months and he'd never got round to taking a look. He quickened his step, kicking the slushy snow aside.
They open at ten, you're in good time!” the woman called after him, not minding his brusqueness. She bent to pick up after her dog and watched Alec striding away as she tied the mess up in a perfumed bag.
Watched. He could feel her eyes on his back as he had felt Lucy's from the high window earlier. People watching him, making a fuss. He wriggled his shoulders as if trying to shrug them off. Movement to his right... he glimpsed Red deer, silent in the forest.
The Ark was a pleasant enough, log cabin styled building, huge though. Alec went into reception, liking the tall windows with pines pressing close to the glass, showing their red brown undersides. The chap who designed it, what was his name...Post modern revivalist school. Not really Alec's style. They'd spent a lot of money on it, that was the sponsor of course. Lord something, Alec had met him once. He lived in a Penthouse overlooking Tower Bridge. Alec grinned to himself at the memory. Nothing Post modern there! His troup of pussy cats had scratched the furniture, lovely Sheraton stuff it had once been.
Good Morning!”
A girl was there by a desk smiling at him. Dark pink hair. Nice face.
Are you looking for a dog or cat sir?”
Good God no!”
She waited for an explanation, none came.
Would you like to see the animals though?”
Why would I want to do that?”
She kept smiling.
All right. Show me then.”
They walked up and down the corridors full of howling dogs and yowling cats. All had runs with views over the snowy fields and forest to the hills of Wales. Alec thought, why not?
I'll take that one.”
He pointed to a flame coloured cat with it's back to them. Looking out towards the Mountain. It was the only one that was not either asleep or rubbing up against the glass.
Well, we have to do a home visit first. Do you want him before Christmas?”
They went back in to an office overlooking the compounds. There was a computer on a desk and a Christmas tree up where the animals could see it, the girl said. Alec looked around the room as she tapped away. The tree was carelessly decorated, he noticed. The girl went away to get an information pack and Alec felt for a handkerchief. At the bottom of his pocket was an old Christmas bauble, it had been loose on top of the decorations box when he'd found it in the outhouse. He held it at arms length to read the writing scrolling around it. 'The playing of the merrie organ, sweet singing in the choir.' H'm. Merry eh? He stood up and hung it on the tree over a bare patch. It swung slowly too and fro, glinting in the filtered sunlight. On the way back he saw one of the red deer threading through the pines ahead. He was able to watch it running in front of him, almost all the way home. The nightmare! He remembered waking up gasping for breath and sweating. He stopped to think.
A feeling of fear and loss. Walking in the dark, the worsening sense of dread, a crash. That was the accident, he supposed. Flashbacks.
He'd been hit by a falling piece of scaffolding during a dockland site inspection, very late one winter afternoon. One of the feral cats had been running ahead of him. A big old ginger Tom. If he'd followed him instead of turning to the left the metal pole would have landed harmlessly. Still, he had been told he was lucky to be alive at all.
But at the end of the nightmare a wild animal, yes, in the dream he knew it was a red mountain lion always ran before him in a dark forest. That was the bit when he was allowed to wake up. But the Parkinsons Disease couldn't be woken up from.
You said we'd have a cat?”
Yes, that's all right isn't it? The girl's coming round to inspect later on.”
Lucy thought of a cat. It would be small and fairly self reliant, she hoped.
Alec sat and looked at his hands shaking while Lucy cooked. She wanted to get back to her painting, he could tell. There was something he was supposed to do. He looked out of the window.
'I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence will come my aid.' ”
Psalms. Remember that one. ”
He remembered now three things, like the three buses that come at once. Do the tree; family coming Friday; pink haired girl about the cat at three o clock. He heaved himself up and set to work, finding the decorations he'd dug out earlier and potting up a spruce from the edge of the wood.
These baubles have all got lines from 'The holly and the Ivy' on them,“ he read some of them out. There were only five, the sixth was up at the Ark. He told her he'd put it on the animals tree.
Lucy looked pleased.
Come and eat now, Alec.”
Is this it now then? Eating meals you dont want to cook, because if I wasn't here you'd stay upstairs with a cup soup. A walk, watch the mountain waiting in the distance. Count the stars on the ceiling?”
You can cook if you like. Be a first!” She was tired of his self pity, but tried to be patient.
Wouldn't know where to start now. I'll have cup soup as well. I dont care. “
Do you remember buying the set of baubles for our first Chrismas in the flat? ”
Cant remember a flat. Where was it? I remember London though.”
It was in Shrewsbury. About twenty miles away. Before you qualified and we moved to London. Then we bought this place ten years ago and came back at weekends. Until you had to retire.”
Alec looked blank, but again, as he stared out at the mountain another burst of thoughts came in. Accident, head injury, intermittent memory loss. Waiting, watching for more symptoms.
The girl came, did her inspection and talked about the cat. It had been abandoned by an Air Force family. Then she sat and looked out of the window.
Wow, what a view! I'd be happy if I could sit here every day and just look!”
Happy, would you? Not if you had no choice.”
Well, maybe not. But there are worse places to sit and look from.”
That was very true, he realised.
It was arranged. The cat would be collected tomorrow. Alec felt his concentration slipping like snow melting in sunshine, quite unpreventable. Lucy talked to the girl. They needed more volunteers apparently. Maybe in the New Year, she said.
On Friday the family arrived for Christmas. Alec heard them talking about him in the study.
His moods, grumpy, depressed, sometimes quite blank. Worrying. Under-occupied. Burned himself on the toaster. Going out without a coat. Was it too much for Lucy? Should she get help?
Alec sat still in the window seat. They thought he was sleeping, Saint-Saens playing on Radio Three. His fingers were numb today and he couldn't feel his toes. The sunlit illusion of warmth outside disappeared as the clock struck four, leaving the mountain faint and grey behind a shaggy wreath of cloud. The cat sat on his knee with its back to him, quite at ease. It was as if it had lived there for years.
The weather forecast came on the radio. Sunshine and Ice for the Midlands and Marches for the next few days. He flexed his fingers and grimaced. Better get his mouth into smiling mode. He hummed, 'The rising of the sun and the running of the deer.' The cat jumped clumsily down and stretched. No nightmares in the four days since he followed the deer home. Didn't follow the ginger cat as you should have, but you got your own now, so that's all right, he told himself. The sun would still rise and shine, even on him. Tomorrow the mountain would be tawny, like a resting lion again. Time he made an effort. Alec got up to join the family and the cat walked on before him, perfectly pleased to lead the way.
The end.

Dice square writing group story set 21st March 11, from the writers circle magazine.

My subjects:
Newly retired spouse and teenaged girl; Alec, who had been an architect, (married to Lucy) and Girl working in an animal rescue centre
having a premonition; dream in this case, nightmare of the accident at work causing Alec's illness , retirement and subsequent unhappiness,which begins to be resolved in this story.
Ice; cold wintery weather reflective of Alec's mood and behaviour generally. Contrasts with fire/sunlight in the house and on the inspirational Long Mynd mountain that Alec can see from the house.
animal rescue centre; 'The Wenlock Ark' (fictional) Set in Shropshire.
old christmas decoration, one of a set decorated with lines from “The holly and the Ivy”

Sunday, 24 July 2011

this is NOT Rob Swire

Pendulum at Eden Project in June, "better than Glasto" said the Cornish Guardian, don't know about that but best gig I've ever been to even after a life long love of Steely Dan and seeing them at Hammersmith Apollo in 2000! It did help being nearly at the front and not looking down from miles away.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


"Last over at Byewood"

This story was based on a "dice square" where you have a list of characters, conflicts, weather, settings and 'objects'/prompts and throw a die twice for 2 min characters and once for each other thing. It was thought up by Liskeard Library writing group, who meet every other Monday.
My dice throws brought up a roadsweeper, a relief milk maid, unsatisfactory working conditions, a heatwave, the last over at a cricket match and tide timetables. A bit difficult to bring together, I found, and had to add three other characters before I could make sense of it. I was pleased with the tide times that became a symbol of the change that was needed to resolve the conflict

Ellie! Over here.”
Oh, Hi Uncle Nick! Excuse me, sorry! Thanks, thanks....ouch, excuse me..ooh. Phew! Thought I'd never make it.”
Well, I only got here twenty minutes ago from the Surgery; but you're be so late- it's only supposed to be a quick milking in the afternoons isn't it?”
Yeah, but you know what he's like...provocative. Testing me all the time. It's so airless today and the cows were feeling the heat. Everything took twice as long and he just stood watching me struggle to hook them up. Got me into an argument; I ended up betting him that if Byewood didn't win, I'd walk out and he could get some other idiot in to do the job.”
Oh Lord! That was very rash. You really need that job, Ells, and if he liked you there was the possibility of the full time post and the cottage wasn't there?”
She nods pensively.
Jubilant applause from Bailhurst. Ellie's boss grins over at her like a shark.
Let's catch up properly after the match. We've hardly seen anything of you in the last few months. Anyway, it's the last over and I'm afraid you'll have to say goodbye to your temporary job and any chance of a permanent one. Look at the scoreboard!”
Oh dear. Who's that bowling now?”
Ron, the road sweeper, you know? Bit of a pie chucker. Didn't do very well in the batting today either I hear. They always put him on last. Hmm, whose this taking the bat? New fella.”
Let's hope he can turn it round.”'
It would take a miracle. But I doubt the Bat's up to much. Don't usually expect brilliance from a tail ender. And I have to say, even Jonathan Trott would struggle with this.”
You never know... Oh! What happened then? “
LBW. Five balls left. Clumsy looking chap isn't he?”
He looks OK to me. Come on, come on Byewood. My future depends on this.”
Good man! Two runs, not so bad. More luck than judgement though, sent that one straight through the Slips. If it wasn't getting so dark they'd have caught him easy.”
I think he's getting into his stride.”
You're deluded. Work it out. Bailhurst were all out for 163. There's four balls left...Oh dear. A yorker! Naughty Ron! Batsman's fallen over his own feet. Three balls left.”
Yes. I see. Oh well...”
Nice square cut. But only one run this time. Well, he's trying but there's no chance now. Anyway, what's that you're holding on to?”
Tide timetables. I keep them for good luck. They're from the year I was in the team that won the Ladies Gig racing regatta. I Haven't won anything since. Five years ago, that was.”
Chin up. The tide'll turn one of these days. OOOH! What a lost opportunity. Come on, Byewood, one ball left, 158 for 9. You only need a boundary! Ha ha.”
A derisive murmur of laughter from the Bailhurst visitors, who've travelled two miles for this.
Little red houses, lights just coming on, peep through the wooded outskirts of the ground.
In the sticky heat an almost imperceptable wink of lightning charges the air. Under the inverted bowl of soft grey sky, Ron shambles up to the crease and bowls clean and straight for the first time.
The bat arcs in the dim dusk, Ellie seems to see lilac arrows of light gather at the point where the ball is hit-


-Ahhhh! The sighs of the crowd lap the ground like waves receding from their zenith, high tide.
Straight drive, over Mid On, over Ron's head, the red ball disappears into the high, welcoming arms of the dark trees of Byewood. A storm of cheers and clapping ensues.
What happened? I missed it! “ Hisses a woman fiddling with her handbag.
No one answers. They've just seen a real miracle. A few drops of rain start to fall.
Nick turns to Ellie,
By the way, what did he bet you if Byewood won?”
But she is on her feet, scrambling over the stunned villagers and into the arms of the new batsman for Byewood. He stands grinning sheepishly, as if he himself cannot believe the brilliance of that last, and only, Six. Ellie turns back to her uncle.
Oh, didn't I tell you? I get the full time job and the cottage. And Uncle Nick, this is my fiance, Andrew. He agreed to stand in yesterday when old Mr Dove had to pull out.”
So you're the reason we haven't seen our niece for three months!”
Uh oh! Here comes the Boss, or should I say, the enemy.” Andrew nudges her. But the farmer beams round at them all.
Good evening Doctor. Ellie, you won that fair and square! We'll draw you up a proper contract first thing on Monday. Welcome to Bailhurst Farm. Well done, young man. But you won't win next time.”
We'll see about that.” Andrew shakes his hand challengingly.
Nick smiles and holds up the little faded yellow book.
You wont be needing the Tide Times for 2006 any more then?”
The battle of the two villages is over. Byewood hadn't won this match since 1955. “Seems like the tide's turned at last.”
And the rain drums down in steady applause.

The End