November 10th

We are so happy and amazed at the quality of the responses so far. Thank you! And here's your Message for Saturday:


I’m counting my blessings. There are five of them. Security’s wrapped up in bed, nurturing is in the kitchen, luxury soaking in the bath, love’s waiting for me on the sofa and creativity’s popped out. She’ll be back when she feels like it.

I’m putting all my eggs in one basket. I collect them up each month in soft blankets and keep them in willow nests I’ve made in the trees. At night I go out and listen to the wind whistling through.

I’m seeing the wood for the trees. I spend hours carving the initials of everyone I’ve ever loved into the bark of young saplings. Over the years I’ve watched the love grow until some letters take on a life of their own, branching out in all directions.

I’m running before I can walk. I’m gone before you have time to turn around and tell me to stop, that I can’t do that, that I’ll never be able to do that. See me go. I’m doing all the things you never thought I could.

I’m putting the cart before the horse. It likes the view better that way. It never knew what it was doing before. This way the horse can take an active part in proceedings. Can feel really involved.

I’m falling before my pride. I need to, so I can get to the bottom before it, cradle it safely down in my arms so nothing gets broken, that it isn’t damaged, that it can carry on being so beautiful, so big, so vivid.

I’m a bigger fool than any old fool I know. I’m red-shoed, red-hatted, no knickered. I’ll fly high up to the sun and flex my unburnt wings. I’ll never be sorry one day. I’ll never come to my senses. I’m loving every minute.


  1. I knew things were bad when I had to join one of those groups. It was my job you see, the industry I was working in. Especially at stressful times and I suppose I started to use it as a way to relax. I tried keeping within the limits recommended but slowly, I was creeping over it first occasionally, and then every day. Then I was hiding it. The acceptable limit for most became my appetiser, the amount that made me feel normal but then that was never enough.

    I started getting ratty with the children. If they wouldn’t go to bed then I would start to get really agitated, I needed more. I knew it wasn’t good for them if I was on it whilst they were still up so I’d hurry them off earlier and earlier each night. At least I had finally started to sleep at night, the tossing and turning had stopped, the night sweats and manic racing of my mind calmed. In fact, I was so comatosed that I couldn’t remember a thing.

    Financially, it had made an impact of course but I was so cunning that I made adjustments here and there, would buy bogofs in Sainsbury’s, skip socialising too regularly (apart from with like-minded souls) and look for any way possible to compensate for the loss of my job. That’s guilt for you. But not so guilty that I wanted to give it up. It had become part of me.

    In the beginning it had just been in the evenings and then it was the first thing I thought of when I woke up. Before I even got showered or dressed. Or ate. Or drank.

    Must go, it’s about the time they post today’s Your Messages and I need a quick fix. Now.

  2. She always does that, it doesn’t matter what or who the situation involves. I search for the facts, I think and plan in advance and I want her to trust me and do it my way. But she always acts spontaneously and bangs her head against a brick wall. I wonder how she doesn't get a headache. I do, simply from watching her.

    I’ve asked her, begged her times and again to think about things before she acts. She laughed in my face saying I was a chicken and that that just isn’t her style. Besides, we’re more alike than you’d like to think, she said. You plan ahead and try to cross the bridge before you even get to it. How’s that different from acting rashly? She smirks at me and I tingle all over from the annoyance.

    But I’m not reckless and I’m not a chicken. I just don’t want to get hurt or bear unpleasant consequences if I can avoid it. She doesn’t worry about the consequences until they hit her. And honestly, she doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear after her escapades. Rather, I get gray her from worrying about her, I get wrinkles from hating myself for worrying and not being able to relax.

    For decades she’s been my best friend. For decades she’s been as different from me as she can possibly be. And it’s become a ritual for me to wonder why I love her and cherish our friendship so much. I pretend it is because it’s true what she says – we’re more alike than I would like to think. But deep down I worry it’s because she dares to do what I don’t. Until I learn to imitate her and let go I’ll suffer from borrowed headaches and undeserved wrinkles.

  3. Sandi looked down at the scattered wrapping paper and ribbons surrounding a gaping hole of a box. It was in there, practically peeping over the edge of the corrogated cardboard, waiting for her to get too close, waiting to pounce.

    She took a sip of tea, and clutched her copy of 'the big square book' as Lionel described it, flicking imaginary dust from the toothpaste striped cover.

    By both of them.
    Probably worth thousands on eBay.

    The box, it had come from Amazon of course, though not the .com one, that was far too American.

    She patronised the company, but insisted that everything came from England. She wouldn't even buy the cheap CDs from their Jersey branch after the islands disgraceful behaviour in World War II.

    She had never trusted John Nettles, even now he is older and fatter and crime-fighting in chocolate-box-land.

    The buzzing; the box started to purposefully creep across the laminate toward her. She felt like that woman in Psycho, what was her name, the dippy one in the shower? Vivien Leigh? No, she was far too strong. Vivien wouldn't have hammed it up quite so much either, she was a proper actress. She would have put up a lot more of a fight. Still, it usually looked simple in the movies; brave - always easy to be.

    Sandi adjusted her feet measuring the distance from her perch, to a spot where she knew that the box and its vile inhabitant would arrive.

    She waited.

    Bzzzzzzz - One
    Bzzzzzzz - Two
    Bzzzzzzz - Threee...

    She jumped, hitting the floor in a ninja street fighter's crouch, gracefully delivering four great thwacks with her copy of 'Messages'.

    Sandi stood looking down at the broken, pink plastic rabbit in the box.

    Hearing one final Bzzzzz,
    feeling nothing..

  4. Rule number one: Show don’t tell.

    I close the text books and yawn, creativity already totally stifled for the day. I glance over my latest writing assignment, noting the punctuation errors, the stiff dialogue and the lack of plot substance. I try to understand the tutor’s notes.

    I have a story I need to tell. A story bursting to get out of my head, to show itself to the world. But do I yet have the tools to enable its successful escape?

    I read back what I have written today. It bores me, so surely it won’t convince you either. I have tried hard to follow the rules, but I can’t make them work. No one will want to read this rubbish.

    I might as well delete it now.

    Rule number two: Consider point of view.

    Most writers are insecure and battle with their inner critic. But how does anyone ever succeed? I really don’t know what I am doing here. I can never be a writer, why am I wasting my time?

    I must stop winging it with the writing. Now where did I just read that? I’m not flying; I’m about to crash heavily to earth.

    Why on earth would anyone want to read my self-indulgent ramblings?

    Rule number three: Avoid clichés…

    Perhaps I should just listen to my father’s warnings and go out to get a ‘proper job’. Find some employment which actually pays. Give up my ambitions.

    But what is life without a dream?

    I drag myself away from the keyboard. Packing my Moleskine notebook into my bag, I head for the library. Burying my head in some classics, I try to understand how the great writers did it. How they managed to incorporate the rules into something timeless.

    Rule number twenty: There are no rules.

  5. I’ll never laugh on the other side of my face for my face has no sides. “You’d laugh if your arse was on fire.” My lover said so but I was just a kid and it never burned, not like that. It would not amuse me. “We’re all going to hell in a hand-cart.” My husband says so on frosty, window rattling Saturday mornings. I won’t make old bones and my face would stand clogging. This is the crying game and when my son is big enough he’ll be too old.
    Sister Mary Gabriel asked: Have you anything to say for yourself? But who else would I be saying things for? The Holy Spirit? Lamb of God? Sacred Heart of Jesus? Most gracious advocate? Poor banished children of Eve? When uncle Martin was a child he thought the words of the Kyrie were – Curly Hair with Lice In. He’s 80 now, has Alzheimer’s but is as clean as a whistle in a sharp suit, mind not like a razor.
    Cuttings – the ones on The Bongs, where we played joyfully, are gone now, absorbed into the anonymous landscape of grey and characterless roads; Widnes to Liverpool, Runcorn to Huyton - the road to nowhere. The brook, full of poisons, seeping from the Everite – it’s disappeared and we are clean. How big is your carbon foot-print? How green your valley? How blue is your thinking in the sky? How black your heart or purple your prose or yellow the paper you struggle to write on every couple of days? My glasses have been scratched by thorns, lost their focus, have become tinted by nightshades and life – this precious, once in a million race – the good fight, the long and winding road in the woods. Not, a bed of roses.

  6. I can’t tell a cliché from a chicle, except that the latter is Mexican. I can chew on them both for countless hours, which probably explains why I like Ferdinand. So let me take the bull by the horns all the way to China. I tend to jump out of the frying pan, so here’s my bull story.

    Ferdinand is an alpha bull. He loves to smell flowers and is gentle and sweet. One day, he got hit by anosmia and couldn’t smell anything anymore. But he remembered how his horse friends would nibble the flowers he’d get his nose into, and he loved horses nearly as much. That’s why I took him to China. It was tough getting him on the plane to Xi’an, but I dressed him in a pink coat and we went economy with Virgin. They’re not too fussy and even said we could fly to Mars with them once the route was up. But we had China in our sights now. Ferdinand had always wanted to see Emperor Quin’s terracotta army, not so much for the soldiers, but for the horses. He was very gentle and didn’t break a thing. Told you he was alpha.

    On the way back we detoured over Mexico. Ferdinand wanted some of that gum. I’d told him that we had Chiclets at home, but he wanted the real thing. Before I knew it he’d swallowed a whole 500gm serving and was well into chewing his cud by the time we landed. He burped his way through immigration and at the scan desk a huge blob of gum in his belly came up. Chicle alert!

    Seems Chiclets are on the soon-to-be- banned list and Ferdinand copped it for smuggling the stuff. They took him away and it broke my bleeding heart.

  7. Now is the best time.
    In spite of bombs and Bush;
    crashing stock markets, housing markets, farmers' markets;
    melting ice caps, autumn days in spring and winter floods in summer.

    Now we have hi-fis smaller than credit cards, art in every corner and Melly on the telly.
    No fumbling with blank tapes and schedules from Radio Times.
    One button touch brings a blue screen, another has him waiting to record.
    Georgeous George.

    His life a reproach to mine.
    The music, the lovers, the drink.
    Grabbing the microphone at twenty - and never letting go.
    Until now. So they fix it to his chair.
    Now he's dying and we all: wives; lovers; audience; friends - all are invited to the party.
    In these last few days, though the chutzpah of the voice is gone, the truthful knowingness of the smile remains - born of singing and longing and loving and being and larkin' about.

    They wrap you round, your mum and dad
    Keeping you safe is what they do,
    Sheltering you from all things sad
    And, sadly, all things happy too.

    Schooled by Jung and Freud, reinforced by our rascally political class, it is tempting to look for the truth behind the words.
    But, like George, truth is there, still, always up front.
    Looking and sounding so happy, just a breath from death.
    Some scenes are hard to stomach - for us and him. His lips, once a megaphone for luuuv, now a casement of crone's teeth.
    What he can bite he can't swallow, what he can swallow his insides can't digest.
    Painfully manhandled up on stage. A memory of that voice which defined Mellyfluous, whispering from the wheelchair mounted mike.
    Still Gorgeous George.
    An old friend reminding by the glory of his happiness
    Even when dying, still loving
    Every minute.

  8. Shopping is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Me and the girls, we shopped till we dropped, today, and a good time was had by all. Now I know money can’t buy you happiness, so there’s no need to take the moral high ground. But I make no bones about it, shopping is the best of all possible worlds. It’s true that the best things in life are free, and that applies to shopping, too. What you buy is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m no big spender, it’s not as if I’m rolling in it, so I never get more than I bargained for. But put me in the High Street and I’m in seventh heaven.

    Life’s a long hard climb, it’s not all fun and games, you have to take the rough with the smooth. But when the time is right, girls just want to have fun. And this morning we hit the ground running. Clothes make the woman, they say, so first and foremost we let it all hang out in the changing rooms. Josie, she’s not a happy bunny just now although her heart’s in the right place, she started rabbiting about girl power. So we moved swiftly on. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, so we checked out the jewellery next, and saw a ring that Alice said was a thing of beauty. Then Brenda said it was ugly as sin, and I had to pour oil on troubled waters by reminding them that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    It’s true there is no such thing as a free lunch, so we put our money where our mouths were. And then we did a little more shopping for luck and at the end of the day it was home, sweet home.

  9. It would have never happened if you hadn’t come along! Unexpected in your arrival, yet everything is rose colored with you. We go, we run, we play and I am no longer self conscious. I see the love reflected in your eyes. The sound of your laughter encourages me on to greater silliness. Boundaries are unknown. I can do anything. You tell me and I believe you and I believe that you believe it and wish to not disappoint.
    Together we run for no reason, sit when we’re tired and lay about if we chose. There is no tomorrow only today. I watch you learning new things and think I can learn new things too.
    Your laughter fills my heart and I can tell stories for hours of your many accomplishments and escapades. I’m afraid everyone around me is a little bored with all the chattering on of how “my love does this or that or the other” and I know I should stop, when I suddenly remember something truly fabulous that you did or said and I go on and on and on.
    Who would have thought that you could have released this in me? This joy, this creativity, this desire to go and do and be or this contentment in this place. I am happy as a clam – if in fact, clams are happy.
    Don’t get me wrong there were and are times when I’m at my wits end with you. You have made me so tired I thought I would drop, so frustrated I could scream and so completely at a loss and fearful when I didn’t know what was wrong with you that I didn’t know what to do.
    But you – my darling child – you have given me the greatest gift. You have given me life.

  10. For the first time in her life, Lilia left the house without wearing any knickers. She wished it was under different circumstances. She wished it was because she was feeling frivolous, daring, unrestrained, brazen even. She wished she was on her way to do something outrageous, maybe even lift her skirts to complete strangers in the middle of Trafalgar Square. But she’d never been that sort of person and besides, it was too late for all that.

    Her chest wasn’t hurting so much now, but still she feared this might be the last time she’d ever leave her home, with or without her underwear. If she died tonight she hoped they’d engrave For Lilia who left home without any knickers on her headstone. In years to come passers by would wonder about her and perhaps think she was a woman of the night. She must make sure Sally knew to do it, and she must remind her it had to be a burial. None of this cremation lark for her. She preferred to take her chances down there with the worms. Where was Sally? She thought she was coming with her in the ambulance.

    It was of course humiliating to be taken off in her nightie – no time to gather her things together, no time to say her goodbyes. It didn’t feel so bad, this tightening in her chest. Couldn’t they have waited just a minute while she said ‘Good-bye’ to Percy. And who would fetch his tea for him now? Sally she supposed. They’d get along fine. Perhaps Sally would take him in, after all a cat’s not that much trouble and they always seemed to get along OK.

    The nurses wouldn’t bat an eyelid, about the lack of kickers that is. They must have seen it all before.

  11. I’m sawing up a few of them, to test their validity but it’s a bad day for it; it poured last night, this morning the garden is smothered in dead cats and dogs, the poor things must have bitten the dust with such a bang. I tried to clear them up with my old garden broom, which was useless so went straight out to buy a new one. I can’t say it really lived up to its reputation.

    Anyway, nothing attempted nothing done, so I swept up a panful of honest dirt and sprinkled it on my cornflakes. I’ve a long way to go before I get through the proverbial peck, enabling me finally to kick the bucket. It would be less tiring to live for today, and simply accept that tomorrow I may die.

    Why shouldn’t I procrastinate? I’ll jolly well flout that one and will deliberately leave until tomorrow work I can very well do today. It’ll take longer that way, I concede, but I don’t care if it takes donkey’s years.

    My first child had difficulty being born. The midwife discovered a long piece of metal stuck inside her mouth; she manoeuvred it until eventually the baby came through, a silver spoon clamped between her gums. I threw it away; she will be happier without it.

    Family visit tomorrow and it will be delicious chaos. They’ll all want to help me with the cooking - kind of them, so never mind about the spoilt broth, none of us likes it anyway, I’ll open a tin of soup for starter. There will be twenty hands between them, so it should make the work very light. Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I must confess I feel decidedly under the weather the next morning.

  12. Few ventured so high up at this time of year during nightfall. Andrew was alone in retrospection, straddling the summit of the steep hilltop. Stifling, artificially heated air dispersed via the tiny, console mounted, wheezing ventilator, engulfing the battered Toyota’s cab. He daren’t risk the consequences of killing the still running engine – the very real threat of mechanical failure prevented such sensibilities.

    Sloping two miles beyond his frozen peak, the city’s long chain of fairy lights twinkled and flickered; an intense procession of intersecting limbs radiating tiny prickles of illumination, their random patterns resembling scattered diamonds violently thrown to the ground.

    A crumpled broadsheet lie discarded on the dashboard, its headlines subtly informing the refined readership of his pariah status.

    Accidents happen. Andrew’s disadvantageous predicament attributed to one fact; his highly specialised brand of alchemy generated new frequencies for intolerant masses to bear.

    Early victories overcame an initially sceptical public with relative ease. Breathing tangible, organic life into commonly deployed, poorly understood axioms from the twenty first century came naturally. Granted, his catching of ‘lightning in a bottle’ met with remote plaudits usually afforded a common street conjurer. Attitudes positively transformed following the outrageously successful, ultimately messy demonstration (using fully insured, willing participants), interpreting how uncomfortable ‘tempers boiling over’ really was. And proving mass insomnia was deliverable at the click of a button in proving useage of ‘the city that never sleeps’ possessed dangerous undertones; he gained voluminous acceptance of the nation.

    Subsequent publication of his “Rainmakers Guide” shattered everything. Linen mountains of unnatural proportions appeared when ‘sheeting down’ backfired. Unperturbed, a dual extravaganza disproving the theories of ‘raining stair rods’ and ‘pissing down’ brought overcrowded chaos to local head trauma units, simultaneously destroying urban sanitation facilities throughout the south.

    So much for ‘If at first you don’t succeed’.

  13. Margaret had a pet hare, which she spoilt rotten. Like, they’d eat at the table together. Not just any old carrots and cabbage, either, only M&S best. Nothing past the sell-by date for that one! Not only that, he’d even sleep in her bed. Just imagine, Margaret’s head poking out of the duvet, with these floppy ears sticking out next to her. Then she’d take him out in this shiny pink pram, everywhere she went, with him looking all happy with the world, with his nose twitching over the side, and her singing to him as they went along. And then, in winter, she’d put this little woolly hat on him. Brilliant!

    You see, she was absolutely, selflessly devoted to him. Highlight of the year, though, was Christmas. Obviously, she’d buy him presents and all that, but the real treat was on Christmas Eve, where she’d put on his hat, settle him in the pram – all covered in tinsel for the occasion – and take him to the sprout farm. He loved it! In fact, after a couple of years, he somehow knew it was going to happen and used to look forward to it. Honest. So this one year, she got him all dolled up as usual, into the pram, and off they went, with his ears waggling from under his hat, his little nose twitching away with excitement and everything.

    Now, you can smell the sprouts a mile away, so he’s practically hopping out of the pram by the time they get there, with his little mouth watering. So you can imagine how he felt when they got to the gate and she suddenly turned back and went home! Talk about gutted, the poor little so-and-so! Still, it was a nice change to see Margaret letting her hare down.

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  15. She’d never walked. As a baby she’d moved from sitting still to crawling at high speed. She’d beetled around from room to room as if she was afraid of missing something.

    Then one day she saw the children running in circles at the park and realised she could be even faster upright. So she stood and started to run. Most three year olds grew out of their shoes, she wore hers out.

    The ‘no running in the corridors’ rule meant that things were tricky when she went to school. Her teachers explained many times that ‘if all the children ran there would be an accident’. She didn’t see the problem, after all, she was the only one running.

    Teenage years weren’t a worry to her parents, no concerns about underage sex as no boys could keep up with her. She thought drugs and booze pretty pointless; she had no need for uppers and downers would stop her running.

    In her mid twenties she joined an Athletics Club hoping to meet someone likeminded, but they all stopped at the end of the track and headed for the bar. In her thirties, she started to notice small niggles when she got out of bed. Luckily they disappeared after she reached her optimum speed. It was downhill from there and by the time she was forty, her morning sprint to the shower had become a jog.

    She’d lost count of the pairs of shoes she’d worn out and the friends she’d left behind, when one day she woke up without needing to run. She walked downstairs and into the street. For the first time she saw her neighbours smile at her, for the first time she had a conversation about the weather. And for the first time she looked around for something else.

  16. I was red-shoed, red-hatted, no knickered. I ran down the stairs of the dank Victorian house as high as a kite, my emerald green dress swishing against the graffiti daubed walls, sweeping away some of the filth. Adrenaline coursed through me as powerfully as a tsunami and my leap onto a passing bus might have shot me to the stars. I beamed at my fellow travellers, dismal specimens wrapped up in their problems, unaware of rainbows. They could have dispelled mine so easily. My endorphin packed presence encouraged them to look towards the light - tunnels always offer a pinprick of hope; value their blessings. I was tempted to lead them into a joyful song of praise.

    He was waiting dressed in his moth-eaten duffle coat, one pocket hanging by a couple of threads, the other stuffed with used train tickets, snotty paper hankies, a crumpled jockstrap. His features creased into laughter as we joined hands. Afterwards he would dash off like a greyhound, play his guts out, return in a state of collapse. I would meander back to Notting Hill, to the room at the top without a view, a nest filled with promise.

    The ceremony was over in a flash. The registrar sniffed throughout so I reached into the pocket of the duffle coat and passed him one of the damp hankies. The sniffing became snorts which stifled his words. The witnesses were a couple of hoodies whom we hugged with gratitude, but there was no celebratory drink, no time for niceties. He dashed off to his game; I spent the afternoon in the launderette watching his pants wrap themselves around my knickers. I loved every minute.

    We would have chunky chocolate cake that evening, knock back a bottle or two of Cava and laugh ourselves into bed.

  17. Now that I have my foot in the door I think the ball is in my court. Its with this thought ringing in my ears that I will step into the unknown and ride the wild winds to the end of time. OK so at the end of the day maybe reality will set in but I won't let that hold me back, opportunity has knocked louder than ever before and I am ready and waiting to make a leap of faith. But faith? Like Hope and Charity she is a hard taskmaster, and her brothers, the Four Horsemen will be watching carefully, they are very protective of their sisters.

    If it all comes out in the wash I will not be washed up, I will walk the walk, talk the talk, and everyone will be watching my every step. With this in mind as I prepare to trip the light fantastic, to reach for the stars, my mind is elsewhere. Its safer that way, just in case I'm tripped up by my own lies, the web of deceit that I wrap around my heart. To capture unwary passers, voyeurs of my life.

    It is in the past you see, because I can be all things to all men, I am the wolf in sheep's clothing and my soul is as dark as a wolfs mouth. Take care, when you meet me at the full of the moon, look into my eyes, the windows of my soul, be careful what you wish for when you see the glint in there, it will capture your imagination and I will use it for my own devices. And they are just my womanly whiles to ensnare brutish man. For revenge is dish best served cold, and time has made me very cold indeed.

    Jim Barron

  18. I’m Icarus of the British Isles. I wane in the lack-lustre sky, my pride veils my creative impulses. She droops in dismay. Love sits quietly waiting, nursing a bruised bunion as our union takes on a different guise, for I become Coriolanus, albeit my victory, Pyrrhic. I’ll be sober on shandy and drink forthrightly to my words, foolish to contemplate, the fool’s hat glows a brighter red in the heat, burning my desire to manifest my pride, a fool’s proclamation, I must confess.

    I’m nearer to the truth that I admit. I think about the mistakes I made and dwell on the foolish steps I take in wanting more than I can chew. Love only knows how I feel as I nurture my passion to soar the breath of serendipity, to hold the flag of eternity and caress Creativity when she appears by chance.

    I’m wholesome in words that strike at will. I steer the wheel that Fortune turns to make a fool grin in jest and give Luxury the cravings she so desires with the headstrong force of an eternal flame, in Love’s presence.

    I’m in love with Creativity’s generosity, ad infinitum. I’ll hold firmly onto her donations and return the compliment with a ‘thank you’ note in praise of her acceptance to be here when she can and shower me with the beauty of words that will help my cause, ad infinitum.

    I’m about to sign off my story and subside Fool’s presence. I’ll make a fool of Chance yet and Nurture my Love to create a Masterpiece of Art for Eternity to remember and cherish as Luxury gets a look-in and I challenge Hope courageously.

    ‘Thank you one and all, see you at The Falcon, 8.30 sharp. Be good, ‘night you good people and a pleasant evening.’


  19. There’s no fool like an old fool. But old fools have had time to develop cunning and guile not available to young chickens who may or may not have come before eggs.
    One of the really good aids to decaying memory and benevolent decline is ‘Brewer’s Phrase and Fable.’ Not one of the streamlined new printings, but an experienced volume. This is evidenced by its lack of spine and back covers. The page edges are browning and the binding calls for sympathy when the book is opened and laid flat on the table. Where the spine cover should be there is some blue paper which was obviously conveniently to hand when it was being bound. The type on the naked spine reads,
    Now on sale everywhere of
    Geo. R. Sims’
    New Weekly
    This is the edition of 1894, new and enlarged, so George Sims must have been promoting his New Weekly some time before that. Was he successful, or did he gradually realise that what was good enough for the likes of Hardy and Dickens could no longer compete in the heady days of the approaching century? Too late, now, to worry about him although there is a story in that strip of coarse blue binding paper.
    Brewer leads the curious reader into strange worlds.
    Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell. Variously 37 or 45 inches, the Flemish ell was three-quarters of a yard and that of the French is a yard and a half. Modest people will take one of the lesser ells, but a Frenchman is avaricious.
    Perhaps Brewer knows a thing or two and after 113 years is still able to lead you further if you are willing to look.
    Frenchmen. Monkeys in action, perroquets in talk.
    There is no entry for ‘Political Correctness.’

  20. The Family met last Friday to discuss Uncle Basil’s Will and how to care of Auntie Kay. The following Minutes of the Meeting were taken by Manfred:

    All parties agreed it was good to take the dilemma by the scruff of the neck and try to put the family ship back on the road. The discovery of a second Will had been a very hot potato at the time but they all believed they had put it to bed, although Michael’s insistence on regurgitating it at the meeting was not helpful. Peter’s solicitor said even when everything was against them they could see the carrot at the end of the tunnel, while Barbara said she didn’t feel they could go on living in the past, but only in the future. Michael accused Peter’s solicitor of jumping up and down like Jack in a Beanstalk instead of rolling up his sleeves and getting his knees dirty as he was paid to do, and he complained that this was just another nail in his life.

    After lunch Jennifer’s group arrived with their solicitor. The others expected problems with them, and a question mark in the shape of an axe hung over everyone’s heads regarding Jennifer’s attitude towards Auntie Kay. Many expected the big guns to come to the boil, but others, especially Michael, said he could see the light at the end of the rainbow. It has to be said that when the chips are up against him, Peter can certainly pull out all the stops, although he’s not the sharpest sandwich in the picnic.
    In his final statement to the family he said he had now tasted the other side of the coin, and regarding the trust funds he no longer saw the point of hiding a bushel under the carpet.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Careless talk – careless whispers. Standing on the precipice. Waiting for a train.

    Talking through the bars, across the barricades. Taking it all to heart. You picked a fine time to leave me …

    What am I supposed to do now? Don’t leave me … don’t let the sun go down … there’ll be bluebirds over …

    A stitch in time … won’t make any difference now. Ten green bottles – bottles of what? Vodka, gin, red wine? Bed sheets to the wind. One over the eight – sun over the yardarm. What’ll we do with the drunken …

    She’ll be coming round … come on, come on. My old man said – catch the pigeon, catch the pigeon! That’s another fine mess.

    I’ve found my thrill. There’s many a slip – but many hands, just get in the way. And a watched pot never – never on a Saturday.

    Had a great fall. Tell me a story. He’ll come back and marry me …

    If you can’t stand the heat, get out of my way. Twinkle, twinkle – upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown.

    Take it from the top, take it away, take care. Hold it, hold me, hold on. Hold me in your arms…

    Red sky in the morning. Pink for a girl. Sugar and spice and ...

    A pocket full of posies. Remember, remember. Gone with the … I told you so. A spoonful of sugar makes the world go round.

    What’s up doc? Your heart goes – pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, bake me some bread. Crying in the … rain.

    Oh, what a beautiful … cry, baby, cry. How I wonder what you meant. The bitterest lemons make good lemonade.

    Take me to the limit. Cry me a river. Please release me … We’ll never meet again. Still crazy after all this.

    Careless talk costs lives.

  23. Love , life in its full fulcrum ,enjoy its radiance, have a complete grasp of Life’s absolute
    Radiance. Life is to be enjoyed; its every minute should be imbibed with its aura bereft of
    Concerns and worries. Sarah is one such person who is gifted with all the blessings from
    Heaven. Sarah’s husband is caring and taking care of her needs and her child whom she loves
    Is curdled up in the sofa expecting a cup of coffee from the mother , her own bathroom which
    Is smelling aromatic set in along polished tub, and her well ser kitchen –these are her benign
    Gifts : to crown all she has the MUSE in her grip. A passion for writing, poetry, stories
    and to put in a nutshell – creativity is in her blood. True to the bard’s saying “every flower
    enjoys the air it breaths” Sarah knows how to live, enjoy the life in all its aspects. It is a
    craft she perfected in. I have seen Sarah collecting eggs and her love to see the chicken
    coming out is a pleasure indeed.

    Yes! There is a go in her, a catch, a run , a go getter. When she knits a sweater her
    Needles weave and interplay the love theme in the wool. She runs runs with her nimble
    ‘’light fantastic toe.” Sarah has got the magical swiftness, the wizard like crowned by
    The inborn majesty. She is indeed conscious of her ability to outwit the faster,kite-like
    blooming agility to be proud about. May be she is a creative writer she is up always
    On her wings propelled by her imagination the mighty Pegasus flying, flying, conscious
    Of her achievement is she a wandering minstrel? Her conscious pride is beautiful
    She manages it to be tout.


  24. Ooh, this tastes nice. Double expresso, with two sugars. I know I shouldn’t - it isn’t good for the brain cells - but it’s exactly what I need just now.

    I can see her from my seat here in the coffee shop. She’s sitting in her study, staring at the screen, left hand pushing the skin up against her cheekbone, right hand out of sight, probably working the mouse.

    I know what she’s doing. She’s reading. She’s reading through what she’s written, praying for the muse to grab her again. She wouldn’t like it if I did. If I grabbed her right now it would be around the neck. The muse has had enough, you see. The muse was desperate for a shot of caffeine.

    She rubbing her hands over her face now, and running shaky fingers through her hair. We both know that she’s still a thousand words short.

    Not my problem.

    Except that she’s good at making me feel guilty.

    ‘I was nearly there, and then the muse abandoned me.’

    Abandoned her? Abandoned? Are you kidding? I needed the loo/some lunch/a lie down after I’d been worked non-stop for thirty six hours. And she thinks her head hurts.

    She thinks it’s so bohemian to doss around for weeks, waiting for ‘the muse to strike’, while I sit patiently by her desk, waiting for her to get her finger out. If she didn’t keep expecting me to save her at the eleventh hour, I might feel a bit more inclined to help the words flow, in the right order, and roughly along the lines of the plot.

    I suppose I’d better go back now. I don’t want to push her too far. She might do something stupid like get a proper job. And what would I do then?


  25. When I was small, afraid to sleep, you’d say there was nothing to fear, that “worry often gives things big shadows”. But when you left the shadows crept in behind you..

    When I told you how cross mama would be if she found out you’d given me a whole bar of ‘Old Jamaica’, you’d say, “Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb”.

    When you said you wouldn’t always be here, I told you I would not know how to live without you. You said “don’t cross your bridges till you get to them”.

    I never understood these quirky little quotes. They never made sense and were quite alarming. I never wanted us to be hanged or to start fires on bridges.

    I see now this was not proverbial rhetoric , idiosyncratic eccentricity .

    But a philosophy for life’s absurdity.

    I remember you saw a spider on my bedroom wall, you hated them, you were frightened. You said, “ wow….fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. Then you said,
    “ He who hesitates is lost,” as you cupped and threw it.

    The time I told you that I had to finish my homework before I was allowed to watch “Sale of the Century”, you said , “Practise makes perfect”.
    Then as you flicked on the TV, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

    When you said you were going to heaven, I asked if you really thought god was watching . You said “Faith will move mountains”. And as you lit another roll up said, “Doubt is the beginning of wisdom”.

    Before you went, I asked if I would see you again. You said “ all good things come to those who wait”. I waited, you never returned.

    Not physically that is .

  26. Going out a limb isn’t a scary place really. You learn to enjoy the view, without vertigo. For all the refined guardians of lines that bid me warning, I’ve found that I lost little when I beat a hasty retreat past those grounded confines.

    The powers that be, are me. A stitch in my side saves time. I don’t waste breath on shoulds and grief – laugh straight past the abstaining, straining conscientious objectors to anything outside the status quo.

    I may or may not be a bitch (the jury went out for Chinese take up and hasn't show up since) but if I'm an old dog I can still learn as many new tricks as I teach.

    My bark is more musical, and persistent, than my bite, but don't be misled by this. Back me into an unpainted corner and I will bite, and it won’t be the dust between my teeth. Once bitten, twice as shy to retreat again. My pounce is mightier than the sword, double-edged, archaic.

    I’m action. Give me gunsmoke. Give me all hooch-hazed French kisses at breakfast or garbage-stench. But I refuse to wake up just to smell housewife bourgeoisie ideals of coffee and I never asked to be promised any roses so stop the wet-eyed apology. We aren’t flowers or gardeners. Let’s just leave blooming where you are planted for plants. Us people, let’s move on.

    I have my own boat to row and can’t carry passengers how I’m going.

    I can't tell you where to go. Well, could be won’t. If you want to stay hunched, playing sensitive cowboy over a water trough, trying to make a coughing horse which was led there to drink water, it doesn't even want, be my guest. No, second-thought, book a room. Adequate hotels are ubiquitous.


  27. “You’ve got the wrong end of the stick, trust me.”


    “Sure as hell - a little bird told me. Stop being such a doubting Thomas.”

    “I’m not, it’s just that seeing is believing.”

    “Would I lie to you? It came straight from the horse’s mouth.”

    “But you told me to never look a gift horse in the mouth. You said to put my best foot forward and eat drink and be merry or I’d have to face the music. Were you trying to pull the wool over my eyes?”

    “Look, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

    “Hmm, you think you’re just the cat’s whiskers, don’t you?”

    “Who let the cat out the bag?”

    “Ha! Pride comes before fall. Break a leg!”

    “At least I’d be falling head over heals.”

    “They say that love is blind.”

    “Oh clever clogs, don’t try teach your grandmother to suck eggs, at least then you won’t have egg all over your face.”

    “Oh, put a sock in it. It’s like that time you said there was that white elephant next to the river. I’ve looked and looked every time we drive by but all I ever see is that disused old bridge.”

    “You obviously just can’t see the wood for the trees. Don’t worry, you’ll see the light one of these days.”

    “Don’t play me for a fool.”

    “I’m not - I don’t suffer fools gladly.”

    “You live in a fool’s paradise.”

    “You’re barking up the wrong tree now. Come on, I’m at the end of my tether, let’s bury the hatchet.”

    “Call it quits? I guess all’s fair in love and war.”

    “Shall we kiss and make up?”

    “I won’t kiss and tell.”

    “Love will climb any mountain.”

    “I’d follow you to the ends of the earth.”

    “End of story”

  28. Once there lived a tall dark handsome prince who needed a wife. His parents collected pictures of all the eligible princesses and arranged them in order of rank and beauty with the poorest and ugliest first. He was instructed to visit them all, with a handsome gift and fine words so as not to cause offence, but to bring home at last the fairest one because her father was the richest most powerful king. So the prince set out.

    Meanwhile this beautiful princess expected his arrival any day. Each morning she bathed in foaming perfumed water, brushed her long blond hair ‘till it gleamed and curled over her shoulders, applied her make-up, glossed her lips and dressed in a designer gown, with the help of her stylists of course.

    Days passed, then weeks, months and finally a year. All this time the prince was travelling to and fro to the distant lands where the different princesses lived. Each day he gazed adoringly at the photo of the beautiful Lilybelle for that was her name, and dreamed of the moment they would meet.

    But Lilybelle was getting bored. It wasn’t her idea of fun. So one night she told the chauffeur to drive her to the hottest spot in town. This is more like it she thought, when she heard the throbbing music and saw the writhing bodies caught in the strobe. A rich footballer whose muscles were toned to perfection caught her eye and later that very night he worshipped her body with them, in the back of his white limo.

    They passed a bedraggled looking youth plodding along on the back of a tired steed as they drove off into the sunset. It goes to show If you save the best till last someone might get there before you.

  29. message reply to Sat 10 Nov (273)

    I've just been laid low with a touch of moonstroke but nothing to worry about. I'll be up and about soon and tucking into my weekly treat, my broccoli flavoured lollipop. Flying off the supermarket shelves apparently.

    I've been and gone and done it. Yes, I've signed the Petition. The Sexual Discrimination Petition. A petition with a big, ding-dong capital P. It's official. It's no longer Big Ben. It's Big Bertha.

    I've been in touch with the RSPB. Seagulls are to be treated as an 'endangered species.' They are now protected. Oh, and while I'm on the subject of our feathered friends - one swallow WILL make a summer.

    News from Australia. Moonbathers must be protected from moonstroke at all times. It's a national thing and will not reach our own fair shores. Fair enough. Or should that be fair and freckled enough?

    On good authority, well, to be precise, on London Transport Authority, I'm reliably informed back-packers (all nations included, none exempt) are soon to be welcomed on all rush hour commuter lines. Tube lines in and around Oxford Circus at a special weekly rate. It'll be like Piccadilly Circus in no time.

    The NHS is taking the nation's welfare seriously, as always. Chocoholic counselling centres are to be set up throughout the UK with an extra one or two in and around the chocolate manufacturing centres. Both soft-centred and hard-centred, obviously.

    I'm on the look-out for volunteers. For a choir. Based in Wales. Females only need apply. There is outrage to be heard in the valleys. But it's beautifully sung.

    A black American is releasing his debut album "I'm NOT Dreaming Of A White Christmas"...

    the Manx cat will grow a tail ...

    pigs will fly ...

    and tonight at breakfast ... you will tell me you love me!

    written by Louise Laurie


  30. In the library I skim through a slim volume of Simon Armitage, and find
    his poem about the girl in the Science class - he only meant to tell her
    he wanted to marry her.. Message no.9 still swirls in the head - a man
    who tells you every day -he loves you…?? A good story there! Then
    I put the milkman’s horse before the cart; thought about yesterday
    when Stevie knelt on the sisal mat over his young son, who couldn’t
    control his giggles, and showed us all how to give the kiss of life. I struck
    a match to burn a pile of torn up scraps of paper, wrote a first draft -

    No fire without smoke

    Another unposted letter hits the ashes
    Wind and starlings sing down the flue.
    The fire basket of iron, bespoke
    is solid, simple. perfect for the job.
    Ever lasting. Forged in a furnace.

    Soft heaps of ashes on top ledges
    small mounds of ashes going to dust.
    Inside slopes, valleys, plateaux formed in flakes
    far more delicate than flaky pastry
    map out a countryside in tones
    of whites and greys and silvers.

    Yesterday’s joys revisit
    All the boys are strong
    and growing in the right direction.
    It was a gift from him, who built the house
    this fireback; charred with charcoal
    The point of a heraldic shield points upward
    to a scrolled ribbon, inscribed..

    I stay up late, get up early
    to clear multilingual plates
    which speak of another roasted feast.
    I don’t know how to tell him
    and all the hymns, I love them
    but I do.

    My burning letter transforms
    into a blackened fir cone shape
    the heart still glowing red.
    Tracing the sooty caps
    my index finger spells
    upside down and back to front

    Geraldine Cousins 10th November 2007

  31. I notice the red shoes first.

    “What’s with the clown shoes?” I ask.

    The man, a gruff old gentleman, looks up at me. His eyes are swimming with cataracts and he has a beard several weeks old.

    “They have magic in them.” He tells me.

    “What kind of magic?”

    He looks me up and down as if he is sizing me up. “I don’t know that you’d believe me if I told you.”

    ”Try me.”

    “Do you believe in magic?”

    “Sometimes.” In truth, I don’t believe in anything I can’t see or touch. Perhaps he senses this about me because he laughs. It’s a gruff sound, like rocks in a blender.

    “What kind of magic do you want them to be?”

    I ponder that question for a moment. It seems an odd thing to ask. “There are different kinds of magic?”

    He nods. “Sure there are. Sure there are.” Here, he pauses to take out a cigarette and light it. The smoke makes him look like a wise man, a prophet. “They are what you wish for.”

    “What did you wish for?”

    ”That I would be able to dance.” He says.

    “Did you get your wish?”

    He nods sagely. “Oh yes. I was a brilliant dancer. I was known the world over.” He takes a drag. “But that ended badly.”

    “Then why do you still wear them?”

    He looks sad for a moment and I regret asking him such a private question. “So I can remember the good times.” He says.

    “Do you think I could have the shoes?” I ask him. It’s unlike me to be so bold. “They aren’t doing you any good.”

    He blinks in surprise. “What is it you wish for?” he asks.

    I look down at my wheelchair. “I want to walk.” I tell him.

    Jamieson Wolf

  32. Serenity left me. I can’t say that I blame her, we’d lost Hope, you see. Hope was our third; a three-way marriage of convenience. She couldn’t see the point. She wanted Serenity right up until the day we celebrated a triple handfasting by the side of the river Derwent. The morning after she was gone, leaving just a hint of perfume and a dirty teacup in the sink. It seems that Hope cannot stay with Serenity with losing her identity. Well how was I to know?

    I was so distraught over her going that Serenity decided that it had been Hope I was after all along. Not true, of course. I was happy with Serenity until I saw a glimpse of Hope. Her sister Misery took pity on me and shacked up with me for a month or two bus she hated my solitary lifestyle. She preferred company and left me to join a commune of nomadic Christians.

    I had a brief flirtation with the twin sisters Vanity and Self Deprecation but it amounted to nothing. They didn’t get on with each other let alone me and half the time that I thought I was seeing Vanity I was seeing her sister instead. It did my ego no good at all.

    I tried to hook up with Pride, but the number I had for her in my little black book was long out of date. I did manage to speak to Self Esteem but she was already in a committed relationship with Avarice and wasn’t interested in going for a drink, even for old-time’s sake.

    I packed my suitcase, gave up my tenancy and set off after Hope. As long as we don’t try the threesome thing again, I think we’ll get along just fine. I wonder where she went?


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