Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Curse

Audio to Follow
Ssshee shhuur, ssshee shhuur, ssshee shhuur, ssshee shhuur, cough, cough, cough, ssshee, shhuur, ssshee shhuur, ssshee shhuur, cough, cough, cough. 
David couldn’t stand it any longer for the last two hours he’d been listening to the constant floor scrubbing directly outside his room. The sound was only interrupted by the click of a lighter, a deep inhale of breath and then more coughing and spluttering before the ssshee shhuur started again.   He threw off his duvet and stomped over to the door and looked through the peephole and saw an old woman on her knees scrubbing dirt off a perfectly clean floor. He pulled on his hotel issued dressing gown and opened the door. 
“It’s three o’clock in the morning,” he said, but the woman didn’t look up from her task, the smoke escaping from a cigarette in her mouth. 
“Oi, what are you doing,” he said again, but it was like she was in a trace. He walked right into her path so his bare feet were in danger of being scrubbed. She looked up from her labours, surprised to see someone towering over her. 
“Why are you cleaning?” David said, “it’s 3am.”
The woman shrugged and tried to continued scrubbing. David bent down and held her wrist. 
“What are you doing?”
She stared at him, but David wasn’t sure she saw him. 
“I used to be a beautiful princess,” she wasn’t speaking English, but somehow David understood her. “Until the day of the curse.” 
“The curse?” David replied. 
“Let me tell you a story,” the old woman said. “Many years ago, I was a beautiful young woman who offered services to men. One night a man didn’t want to pay me for what he took. He said I had misled him. He stayed in this room.” She pointed at David’s door, “When I threatened to call for help, he muttered something in Latin and said I was just an old crone who deserved nothing better than to be scrubbing floors forever more.” 
That’s weird, David thought, surely she should have cast a spell on him, not vice versa. 
“Ever since that day, I scrub the floors of this hotel, over and over again.” The woman was babbling but David understood with every word. “The only thing that can lift the spell is a kiss from a man in the same room.” 
“That’s terrible.”
David thought about this for a minute and then closed his eyes, leaned forward and kissed the old woman on the lips. He could feel the hair of her moustache rub against his clean shaven upper lip and smell the cigarette smoke and detergent on her skin. He waited, eyes closed, hoping for a miracle.  
He was not expecting a slap in the face. But a slap in the face was what he got. The woman was on her feet, screaming and shouting and then she ran off. 
David slipped back into his room wondering what the fuss was about.  She’d asked to be kissed. 
In less than five minutes there was a knock on the door. The man standing there had duty manager on his lapel badge, standing next to a man with a scrubbing brush in his hand.
“This man said you kissed him,” the Duty Manager said. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Water is stronger than Stone

AS a little experiment I have tried to write a few fable type, traditional stories. This is the first one. 
Audio to follow.
A long time ago, there lived an old wise man, who had a long, long, long grey beard. He was known throughout the land as the Wise One. The Wise One had one son who instead of growing up to be wise like him, was something of a fool who didn’t really understand how the world worked. Despite his best efforts and teachings, the Wise One couldn’t pass on his knowledge to his son, who soon became known as the Foolish One. But the Wise One never gave up. 
 One day the Wise One and the Foolish One were out walking through the countryside when they went under an overhanging cliff where water was dropping onto a stone. 
“Who is more powerful,” the Wise One asked, “the water or the stone?”
The Foolish One considered this for a moment and then replied. 
“Well, the stone is more powerful, father. Look how strong it is. The water can never affect it.”
“Think again my son; the water can destroy that stone.” 
The boy watched the stone for a short while. The drip, drip, drip of water was having no effect on it. He looked at his father and then walked off. 
“You need to have patience,” the old man said. But the boy dismissed him with a wave of his hand. 
The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, the months into years and one day the old man and his son returned to the spot. 
“See father,” the Foolish One said, “the water still drips but the stone remains strong.” The Wise One watched the water drip. 
“Time will tell,” he said. 
“I don’t have time.”
The Foolish One ran to the stream, he took a bucket of water and threw it over the stone. 
“See father, nothing changes.”
“You need to have patience,” the old man said. But the boy dismissed him with a wave of his hand. 
The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, the months into years and one day the old man and his son returned to the spot. 
The Wise One was now very old, his beard very long and very grey. The Foolish One looked at the stone and said. 
“You see father…” but before he could finish his sentence he saw that the stone now had a hole in it. “Father you were right,”
The father said nothing. He just smiled.
“Which drop was the strongest?” he asked his father.
“Each drop is neither stronger or weaker than the previous or the next. Alone they are feeble, but together they are strong.” The last breath left the Wise One’s body as soon as he’d finished speaking. 
As for the Foolish One, well he grew wise with age and was soon known as the New Wise One.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


Audio to follow
The woman next to me twisted and turned in her seat and then dug the seatbelt out from beneath her and tried to do it up. 
“Is this yours?” she said handing me a female buckle and searching around beneath her butt for the male one. 
“Is that it?” she said to me once it was done up. “It doesn’t feel like much. 
I wanted to say that if the plane crashed we’d all be dead with or without the seatbelts but she didn’t look like the right audience for my wry observations. 
I nodded and then yawned. I’d been up since five-thirty and was looking forward to a snooze. The plane’s engines rumbled and the captain told the cabin crew to take their seats for landing, I closed my eyes. 

“Sorry do you want to get out?” the woman next to me was staring so intently at me that I thought she must have been scared to disturb my slumber. 
“No, no,” she said. I was just exploring your aura. 
“My what?” I looked at my watch. I’d only been asleep for twenty minutes there were still six hours of flight time to go. 
“Your aura.”
“I see,” I said, closing my eyes again hoping sleep would be my escape. 
“You’re a survivor,” she said to me, laying a hand on my arm. 
“Your aura is light brown and a long way from your body.  You are a troubled man.”
“I’m not,” 
“Don’t fight it,” the woman touched my face. “Allow yourself to grieve.”
“Okay,” I said wishing the drinks trolley would get a move on. 
‘You need to cleanse your aura. It is too big. There are people encroaching on it. Do you feel violated?”
Only by you, love. I thought. “Not really,” I said.
“But you are troubled,” I can sense it. 
“I’m not,” I said again. How do you convince a mistaken psychic that she’s wrong?
“You can hide it as much as you want,” she said. “But your aura never lies.”
“Was that a Bucks Fizz song?” 
“Ah typical of brown aura people,” she said. “Make jokes out of everything. You were abused as a child, weren’t you?” 
I didn’t reply. 
“You can tell me.”
“There’s nothing to tell.” 
She lay her hand on my arm again. 
“It’s better if you open up.” 
“Okay,” I said. I am troubled. “I have a face that attracts nutters. They start talking to me and go on and on about their psychic mumbo jumbo. It started when I was very young and it’s been getting more and more regular.  It drives me fucking mad. Why can’t people just mind their own fucking business?” 
I’m pleased to report, the rest of the flight passed in silence. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Bakery

Audio to follow. 

Please note, this story carries a red warning and is not for the faint-hearted. You have been warned. 

If there was a better-looking woman than Belinda Carlisle, I was yet to see her. For the early months of the summer of 1988, she seemed to be everywhere. Her pictures graced the pages of Smash Hits and Hits magazines, Circle in the Sand was on the radio all day and her face seemed to be imprinted on my brain. I was in love.  I was also falling in love with Megan my colleague in John’s Hot Bread Shop where I’d just started my summer job. Three years older than me, she was no Belinda, but she had a cheeky smile and big, buxom breasts for which she had no end of bread related names for. They were her cobs, her buns, her baps, her small farmhouse loaves.  
Despite the heat of the kitchen, I loved the job. I'd never felt anything as wonderful as the warm dough beneath my fingers, I loved the way it moved beneath my weight, the way the silky mass curled itself around my hands.  I watched Megan serving customers in the shop and imagined it wasn’t warm dough I was kneading.
“Oh, John said you were good with your hands,” she said as she came out the back for some pasties.  “You can knead my dough anytime.” she winked. I reddened at the thought that she was reading my mind.
Circle in the Sand sang Belinda from the radio. This was getting all too much for me sending blood to my epicentre. I couldn’t take it anymore, I needed relief or else I would do a Krakatoa. I looked at the dough. I scooped a piece of it off the counter and took it with me to the toilet. 

Oh wow. It was better than anything I'd ever done before and quite frankly ever done since. The dough added a certain warmth that I imagined might be like the real thing. It was me that was flushed when I left the cubicle not the toilet. I went back out to the counter and looked for a bin to throw the used dough into.
“What's going on?” John was stood behind me.
“Nothing boss,” I said.
“Well get on then.” I stared at my boss for a moment. What should I do with the dough?  Panicked, I threw it back in with the rest and started kneading away.
“Not, like that,” John said, pushing me out of the way and putting his hands into my seedy dough. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Poetry Friday 37

Poetry Friday 37.
Just two this week and both very much works in progress. 
For audio click here

The Canal
A dead rat lies on the canal bed
in between the car battery
and someone’s CD collection.
A duck dives beneath the surface.
A bottle of shampoo slowly
leaks into the water
giving the duck shine and a silky sheen. 
A nappy, a toaster, a two-litre
plastic bottle, a 50p coin,
a pizza box, a wig. 
Young lily pads poke through
these remains of life.

The rollercoaster
a rollercoaster ride
to the end of the world.
With all of humanity on board
their arms in the air,
screaming with fear, joy, fascination.
Loop the loop, switchback, drop.
Climbing, climbing.
until the tipping point.
Then freefall
into oblivion.

So what do you think? Hopefully there will be more poetry next Friday from Vietnam.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The White Astra part 2

For audio click here
For part one click here
Lacey rubbed his wrists and looked at the marks the cuffs had left. He took a deep breath and bent down, picked up the recipe for banana bread and tossed it in the bin. He flicked the kettle on. He’d need a spoonful of sugar in his next cup of tea. He wandered over to the window to see if the Astra was still there. He smiled at the two figures in the car, there was no sign of the inspector. A dog walker walking a golden retriever paused to let the dog piss on a tree next to the car. Lacey turned his back to his watchers and rubbed his forehead. 
“Shit,” he looked around the flat. “Where the fuck is it?”.  He scanned the room.  He didn’t even know what he was looking for, but he knew it was there somewhere. Or maybe it was outside looking it. He looked out of the window again and looked for a tall structure that could hide a camera. But that would be daft, he’d only have to draw the curtains he’d beat it. No, the camera had to be inside. Lacey grabbed his coat, it was time for a walk.
The dog walker was about ten metres in front of Lacey, so he quickened his step and caught up. One of the two figures from the car was on foot about twenty paces back. “Not subtle are they,” the dog walker said. 
“They’re everywhere,” Lacey replied.
“I had a good look at the Astra while Rolly was relieving himself,” Lacey had to lean in to catch the words. 
“Just had a visit from Inspector Gormless. They’ve put a camera in my flat.”
Dog walker looked at Lacey. “It’s okay,” Lacey said. “He only discovered a recipe… and one of my hiding places.”  
The walked in silence for a few moments listening to the footsteps behind them. 
“Your TV,” the dog walker said.
“That’s the camera.” 
“Oh fuck,” Lacey nodded. “So, I leave it off?”
“No, it even works while it’s off. And if you unplug it, they’ll know you’ve discovered it. Good boy.” The dog walker bent down and patted the dog whilst a woman walked past the two of them; better to be safe than sorry. “So, leave it, but make sure your hiding place is out of view of the television. Okay?”
“They’re all over us,” Lacey said. “We don’t stand a chance.” 
“But if we give up?” the dog walker said.
“I know,” Lacey said and looked at her. 
“We’re getting there. Now go home and make a start on those articles.” 
Lacey nodded and wheeled into the newsagents. He needed some chocolate to go with that cup of tea. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Signal Part 2

For audio click here 
For part one click here 
“This is a customer service announcement,” Paul looked up at the ceiling of the station. “All customers are advised that anyone using a camera will be immediately dealt with. Please refrain from using any recording equipment anywhere on the station.”
Paul looked at the man next to him and at the other passengers. Everyone else was looking around too, looking for answers in their fellow travellers’ faces.
Paul slipped his phone into his shirt pocket. 
“This is a customer service announcement. Due to a security situation, no trains will be departing the station until further notice. Customers are asked to remain on the station concourse.” 
There wasn’t the usual collective sign that accompanied a delay announcement. No one had expected trains to depart from this nightmare. Paul noticed that a young man in a blue cap was filming the situation. Was he one of the strange security people? Paul’s question was answered immediately as the phone was slapped from the man’s hand and went skittling across the tiled floor. One of the soldiers punched the man in the face with a black gloved hand, punched him in the stomach and then kneed him as he fell to the floor, another black uniformed man crunched the phone under his large black boot. 
Paul could hear the breathing of the man next to him and some sobbing from behind him.
“They’re coming for me,” the man said. “Here take this.” Paul felt the man touch his hand.
No one spoke, no one moved. The soldiers moved like teachers judging a musical statues competition. They studied the faces of the passengers. Who or what they were looking for was anyone’s guess. 
It was Paul’s turn. The soldier’s fiercely blue eyes studied his face. Paul vaguely recognised the man behind the mask but with only the eyes and the bridge of the nose to go by it was difficult to place him. Neither man blinked until the soldier grunted and moved on. Paul took in a huge gulp of stale station air. The soldier was now studying Paul’s neighbour. The stare went on longer and longer. Paul didn’t dare look around to see what was going on. 
He winced at the crunch of bone and cartilage and felt moisture splatter his cheek. The soldier stopped the man from falling and cuffed him and dragged him away. Paul felt brave enough to take a tissue out of his pocket and wipe the blood off his face. Other people were being dragged away, bloodied and dazed; men, women, all ages, all colours. Paul managed to count twelve people in total but there may have been more. The station cleared of soldiers, even the plain clothes ones had gone, but still nobody moved. 
“The delayed 18.30 First Great Western Service to Bristol Temple Meads is now ready for boarding on platform 1.” 
Instead of signalling the usual rush, the announcement barely raised a murmur. More announcements were made and people started moving slowly towards their trains. No one had got their phones out to see if the signal was back. Paul’s train was announced and he too made his way to the platform.