November 3rd

Good morning. Here's today's message - click on the comments button to respond.


the coalbunker smelling of earth and onions spades and rakes a hoe garden forks leaning against the cinderblock wall an empty metal bucket some cardboard boxes with dusty overlapping lids the onions plaited into ropes hanging from big nails and kept in the dark all winter their papery skins flaking in your hands when you broke one off the door was latched and padlocked the keys on a hook too high for you to reach

the front room venetian blinds slanted so no-one could see in from the street a dark oak table with flaps that pulled out at each end and pinched your fingers when they dropped into place the stereo you had to be careful with the gas fire’s chalky blocks trapping blue and orange flames the woman who wore a headscarf to say a prayer the books of the bible from Genesis to Revelation you learnt by heart

your bedroom where you could see the sea and hear the sea when you closed your eyes at night the two single beds with yellow candlewick bedspreads yours with a bald patch where you picked at the tufts and always said you didn’t your sister scratching your back the G-Plan wardrobe with sliding mirror doors and a big drawer at the bottom the shell box and the blue glass bambi

the tumps you ran up and down petered out at the BP chemical works the grass was sharp your calves ached in the soft sand you ate picnics in the valleys to keep out of the wind at the Ferry Bend there was a wreck you could see at low tide a girl called Faye pushed you down one once because her boyfriend liked you and Geoffrey Moyle tried to make you laugh he kissed you in Verdi Road


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. the car you left in driving through the night that passed the lights of towns you never new where the possibility of lives was hidden till sunrise and the milkman clinking the morning awake so that others could go about their business in a new dawn but one that would mean a different thing for you from everything you grew up with and this because of police and searching and loss because she never came home

    new rooms new spaces haunted by the sea that no longer lulls your sleep miles away just the echo in a shell that you kept to remind you of boyfriends and tumps and the lights of the chemical works all just to remind you in the new cold and empty life growing around you that your father said would be better once you got used to it that was alien all the same

    the news years later with a grey father who never got used to the knowledge she left him holding onto a book of words as tight as he could because it gave him hope at night when the bottle was empty in the morning before you left for school and he watched with eyes that said come back please come back

    the years that passed unsaid until you were alone

    alone and free of the past except for the seashell in a drawer that drew you back to the sea back to the place you left in the dark with the shock that was change that your house was gone but there was more somehow to live within earshot of the sea and feel the wash of waves on the tide the salt bringing tears to eyes that forgot what you left for

    to being home where history didn't repeat itself.

    Jim Barron

  3. ‘It’s good being a grown-up, isn’t it?’

    ‘It is now we’ve unpacked.’ Jodie looked round our new flat. ‘No mummies and daddies!’

    ‘We can do what we like.’

    Her eyes shone with possibilities. ‘We can have pudding before dinner.’

    ‘We can have pudding and more pudding and no dinner, if we want.’

    ‘We can stay up too late.’

    ‘Get drunk.’

    ‘Sal, that’s a great idea.’ She looked at me, her head on one side, half a grin, one eyebrow raised. We headed for the kitchen.

    ‘What do you fancy?’ I asked.

    ‘An Orgasm. To start the way I mean to go on. Cocktails are very grown-up, aren’t they?’

    ‘Very. I’ll get the ice out. ‘Scuse me.’ I squeezed past her to the freezer.

    ‘We’ll need to get some beer.’

    ‘Why? I hate beer.’

    ‘Me too. But we’ll need some in for all the blokes we’re going to pull.’

    ‘Good point. No more snogging on the doorstep for us. No more car gropes with the gear stick in the way.’

    ‘Not now we’re grown-up. You know what, we haven’t got a measure for these drinks.’

    ‘We’ll have to get one. An egg-cup for now?’

    ‘No, I’m going to use a ruler.’ She got two highball glasses out of the cupboard, fetched a ruler from her bedroom and measured one. ‘Six inches high, so that’s two inches of Tia Maria, two inches of Baileys and two inches of Cointreau.’

    ‘Then there won’t be room for ice.’

    ‘True. One and a half inches, then.’ Jodie poured carefully from each bottle, bending her head to check the amount. She added ice and handed me a glass. ‘Cheers, Sal.’

    ‘Cheers.’ I took a swig. ‘We’ll be too pissed to go into college after this.’

    ‘Never mind, we can go tomorrow instead. Because we’re grown-ups, remember?’

  4. just sit and count your breaths, she told me, meditation will help quiet the chatter that’s going on in your head and so I curl my legs up like a pretzel but no, that hurts, and she says don’t worry about your legs, just sit and breathe and count — one, two, three, four, and then start over again — well that’s just stupid, how can you become enlightened by pretending to have OCD or autism, and do autistic children count I wonder aloud, but she tells me to shush and try it again so I settle down on to the zafu, that’s a silly name, if I make a mistake on it would that be a zafu snafu? — and one, two, three, four, one, two — this just isn’t working, don’t talk she says, just keep counting — one, two, three — monkey mind, she calls it, can’t I just give it a banana, or shoot it with a tranquilizer gun — one, two, three, four , one — really, wouldn’t a Valium would do the trick — one, two — my ear itches and I think I have to fart — three — god I hope it’s only wind that comes out — two, three, four — shouldn’t have had all that cabbage — one, two, three — grandma made the best cole slaw, I followed her recipe to the letter but mine never turns out as — four, one, two — they served the worst slaw at her funeral — three, four — I thought she was just asleep in that chair — five — oh shit, I’m only supposed to go to four — one, two, three — she always slept in that chair, watching tv — four, one, two — and that’s where she died — three, four — how long do I do this, 30 minutes a day for the rest of my life? — one, two — this is going to kill me

  5. there was a chicken shed at the top of the orchard in your parents garden you didn’t realise for years that when they referred to it as the fowl pen they weren’t saying foul pen and you wondered what was so terrible about it – it hadn’t seen a chicken since you moved in when you were two and your mum had all the chickens removed because their constant clucking and mad staring eyes gave her nightmares so your dad sold the whole lot to the butcher for a shilling each

    there was an old house at the top of the drive that used to be the bakery that the grandparents you never knew ran your dad was born in that building but the upper floors collapsed so your grandparents built another house in front of it and lived there instead and when he got the house your dad used the old one to store the coal for the firs and the coke for the aga cooker and in the other he stored generations of lawn mowers in british racing green with the name atco in handpainted letters on the petrol tank

    there were ladders in there as well that would reach to the tops of the trees in the orchard and every year hed get them out and send you scurrying to the top with a wicker basket to put the apples and the pears in because you were the lightest in the family and you weren’t scared of heights but it did scare you then because you weren’t in control of the ladder and you wet yourself once when he let go and you nearly fell and he laughed so you sawed through the top rung of the stepladders and he fell and broke his arm and you cried

  6. Daddy's brown bottle of Budweiser, a lure.
    Billy takes his first steps. Where's the camera?
    Ma kills a cig in a marble ashtray.
    Carol's metal baton can be used as a weapon.
    Dad rocks tight jeans, Adidas sneaks, mutton chops.
    Ma is all 70's prints and a mole on her nose.
    Carol's hair, mouse-brown and straight. Fix the barrette.
    Billy got a yellow mullet, is round as a butterball.
    Billy feels the breath of a stray dog at his crib.
    Carol got a dollhouse, wants to shrink.
    Daddy got his Masters in headshrinking.
    Ma fills the donuts with extra creme.
    Carol tells Aunt Deb to send her coat to poor kids in China.
    Dad quits smoking on his first try.
    Ma's best friend is a crazy woman called Hun.
    Billy wears Carol's nightgown more than once.
    Carol is flattened by a bus in Billy's first nightmare.
    Dad "can't bear to leave" Bushkill Falls.
    Mama glues milk caps to a cardboard box and makes a television.
    Billy and Carol collect stickers from the Five and Dime where NeeNee works.
    Carol names her guinea pig "Lisa."
    Billy quits the Boy Scouts (too gay). And the basketball team (too short).
    Ma tries to strangle herself with a brassiere.
    Dad can't quit the sauce, bumps his head on the concrete.
    Carol finds a handgun in her face.
    Billy spills a little secret.
    Billy plays on a crumbling stoop with a puppy and a colander.
    Daddy shaves it off with Barbasol.
    Mom fights off her thyroid with a little radiation.
    Carol finds love in the arms of a murderer.
    Carol arranges the most exquisite bouquets.
    Dad shadowboxes.
    Ma has a greeting card for every occasion.
    Billy sidesteps a hurricane and takes his mom to Antigua.
    Dad hits a snare and a Zildjian cymbal. Drumroll, please.

    Bill Trüb

  7. When you were little you never let me push your pram. If I tried to take over from Daddy you would scream until I handed the pram back to him. Later we quarrelled, made up and played with our dolls’ houses You were the only one who had a tiny male doll; we both had a mother, two little girls and a baby doll each. In those innocent days you called your dolls Mr. and Mrs. Bonks. Sometimes you lent your Mr. Bonks to accompany my Mrs. Smith for a session. We made artificial food with flour and water and painted tiny yellow bananas to go in our miniature bowls; saved our pocket money for additions to our houses, selected from a shop round the corner where the assistant would bring out a special drawer of odds and ends for us to choose something, each article never costing more than sixpence.

    We read Rupert Bear Books in yellow hardbacks from Woolworths. I liked reading to you, but you didn’t need me for long. Daddy came in at bedtime and said prayers with us each night. Later we said our own secret ones to ourselves.

    During air-raids we were woken and summoned to sit under the big Morrison shelter that had replaced our kitchen table; too sleepy to play games. I found out the secret of Father Christmas first but couldn’t bear to tell Daddy. I kept it from you too.

    Even then you were a perfectionist. At school we each had our own special friends. Yours so like you - quiet, neat. As we grew older the three year difference in our ages had more relevance; the doll’s house era over, my affections were concentrated on my brother and you weren’t interested in his highly innovative games, our make-believe worlds.

  8. Voice teeming with panic, discarded, abandoned holdall demanding immediate retrieval. Urgency. Black light, catapulted into white light, hard objects, battering, Laika. Face wet, can't raise hands to check. The silence, such silence. Legs immobile, fingers unwilling, so fucking dark. Why is it so fucking dark? Throat filling with puke, nose burning, no smell, can't think straight. Dark whoosh of sound Laika, screaming, no light, howls, sobbing, pindrop crescendo. The fucking noise, can't move head away, can't avoid. No hands over ears, no ears. That tinkling sound, feel cold, feel so fucking cold, no legs, shit where are my legs? Feeling the wind in my face, inside my face. The noise, tinkling, annoying - mobile 'phones, thousands unanswered, mobile 'phone symphony, terrorises. The cold now, creeping, to waist. Creeping, but the noise, deafens though deaf, almost feeling the noise. Something niggles, something annoying, something. Try to lift arms, hear screams, coughing wet, stench of shit and piss, smell of cordite. A bomb. The fuckers, a bomb. Shit.Can't see nothing, blind, can't move arms, legs, damaged. Feel breeze on my face, no, in my face. Shit, the dirty bastards, there were children, the bastards killed children. Took the faces from kids, but why? Why would they do this, but that noise, the tinkling, annoying pissing sound. Mono, one ear only, deaf in one ear, the bastards. No more Mozart, no more Handel. Shit, no more Christmas songs, least the kids stayed at home, least the kids, least they're safe. Hear the 'phones better now, people dying, screams cease - guilty relief. But so cold, so fucking cold now, must be bleeding, can't feel nothing, hazy. Shit, what is that noise, know that tune, the ringtone, know that tune, so fucking annoying, what is it, the song, dying to know dying to know dying.

  9. the posh pub at the end of the pier tall salty tales swallowed with crisps and beer the locals knocking back pints until the early hours awash with tales of Dylan in his hey-day when he was one of the boyos the iron-filing smell of seaweed its crunch beneath Clark's sandals lava bread for breakfast with crispy bacon gulls screeching overhead spilling their bowels onto hair heavy with damp the swish of waves washing away grit between toes and memories of the past best forgotten moonlight streaking the water with silver masking its cobalt blue its turquoise its darkness

    the square field where it all happened the pig roast that smelled better than it tasted camp chairs and collapsible tables dotting the area as randomly as buttercups and daisies the upstairs window of your house where you imagine you spot the figure of your long-gone mother watching your every move the shut lid of the piano the dead violin lying against it cobwebs wreathing its strings Catrin caressing the strings of the harp towering above her sylph-like figure her feather light fingers made strong by years of discipline producing a rainbow of sounds.

    the fire in the bedroom grate where I lay with tonsillitis the goose grease smeared thin towel wound round my neck smelling of Christmas the doctor whipping it off and throwing it into a corner the Aga in the kitchen a constant source of comfort the riding whip hanging alongside it the smell of grouse from the cellar the retriever shot by my father when she became diseased the maggots red nosed writhing in tobacco tins in the pantry sheep dog trials on the nearby hills a cause of merriment when the dog was twp and the sheep ran amok trout fresh from the Aeron for breakfast

  10. You arrived far too early. You wheeled your bike up and down the road outside my house, knowing better than to appear too desperate. You could see lights on in my house, blurred colours rippling across frosted glass. You probably thought I was inside painting myself with blue eye shadow, sparkling lipstick and perfume. But I’d been ready for ages, I was peeping out of the upstairs window, watching you wheel the bike backwards and forwards.

    Finally it was time and you could walk up the path. You carefully locked your bike and smiled at your faded reflection in the window. I saw you take a deep breath before smoothing your hair and ringing the bell, trying not to show your nerves. The bell rang and I counted to 10, slowly. I certainly didn’t want you to know I’d been waiting by the front door, counting down the minutes on the clock in the hall.

    At the cinema you bought popcorn and coke for us. One huge tub of popcorn to share. Inside you said, shall we do the traditional? I nodded so we sat in the back row.

    We watched James Bond 007 super-secret-agent blow up bad guys and get the girl. You stared fixedly to the front. The film was good, the sweet crunchy popcorn was great, especially when our fingers grazed in the dark. I felt you jump when that happened. You kept your hands to yourself but I could hear you breathing.

    I could feel your indecision, one moment you were going to act, the next you wondered if I would slap your face. I took pity on you and lent forward to pick up my drink. You took the opportunity and slid your arm along the back of my seat. I relaxed back into you.

  11. She lies on the ground watching ants tripping over the grains of sand that are so small yet so big just like life from down here feels smaller but not small enough she feels safer here where she hopes no one can find her amidst the dry tufts of grass and sand dunes where the solacing murmur of the waves drowns out their yells and the banging of doors in the house

    the waves are washing the late summer’s debris from the shore but they can’t wash out her father’s shouts and the sound of the car leaving in a fury they can’t wash out her fear and shame at the mocking in school her lunch money getting stolen her bag being painted with nasty words

    everything goes quiet no more voices blades of grass are whipping her calves as the wind builds up sand is now everywhere in her blouse up her shorts between her teeth but she doesn’t notice it as she draws lines into the willing surface and if she sat up she could see that mute cry written in a language of broken words and muted sounds

    there’s a salty pool gathering under her face making a sticky mixture for sand castles she used to build but doesn’t anymore like so many other things she doesn’t do anymore play with her dolls fly a kite laugh sit on her father’s lap steal to the store for an extra ice-cream help make cookies for Christmas she has outgrown all that

    The thunder is like a roar of pain with crackling ferocity sweeping over the dunes the house with chipped white paint a run down trailer a girl in the grass the quiet dead landscape

    sad raindrops are hissing as they land soothing on the open sore below

    Brigita Pavshich

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. The gas fire warms the coffee table and a copy of People’s Friend,taking the chill off Gran’s sofa bed. Soft, floury rolls in a poke, bacon frying, butter dripping, cold metal bath warms up with water, makes water cold again, wire soap rack always falls in, Imperial Leather, knitted lady covering toilet roll, clothes drying near the fire, steaming up the window, looking down at the wide concrete lanes, big upright piano, photos shuffled for visitors, by visitors (a family joke), playing chopsticks, piano is Joanna, Gran is Joanne (but not cockney), black and white china spaniels guard the fire, the stairwell stinking of disinfectant keys jangling, the place where armed with brooms they blether next to the shoot, a the black hole for the rubbish which bangs shut, the concrete walkways high above ground, fear of not finding way back from corner shop so follow the trail of dog dirt, Gran whispered that they called it ‘Shitty Alley’ but Mummy would never have used such language, hot water bottles, sharing bed with Mummy, condensation on the windows in the morning, greyness, diesel trains chugging by with trucks of coal, clacketty-clack, clacketty-clack, honking their passing, black on grey, billowing socks of exhaust under the iron bridge hexagonal ticket office, over the iron bridge slippery shiny red benches with black pen marks of pierced hearts, arrows Rangers vs Celtic, the static from the bench makes your skirt stick to your tights. Change at Springburn, slam the doors shut on the diesel train through the parting electric doors of the next one generator comes on hot air on legs, scarf itchy and slip silently away underground overground past those houses that had stood up to the war, dripping with blackness, greyness, white underneath into Queen Street. The best holidays of my life.


  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. You didn’t understand the history of that house, but for you it was a sanctuary. The unusually long living room had a dining table at one end, a piano and a bookcase, full of bibles, hymn books and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, at the other. The middle of the room contained easy chairs, grouped around a stone fireplace. You watched television here for a treat, not having one at home, and would hide behind the faded sofa during Dr Who.

    Upstairs, off a long corridor, your grandfather had a bedroom and a separate study, where he worked obsessively in solitude on his stamp collection. Your grandmother’s large bedroom had been divided into two to create a tiny bedroom for you, then the only grandchild. You never questioned the sleeping arrangements.

    The kitchen was, even to your child’s eyes, in a time warp. Ancient oven and old-fashioned larder, complete with special mesh fronted cabinet to store perishables. Only later did they buy a refrigerator. But the cooking which emanated from that kitchen was truly special and radiated your grandmother’s warmth. You still remember the taste of potato pie filled with local cream. How you wish you had that recipe now.

    You didn’t know that the quiet, tree-camouflaged hotel next door was linked to the history of that house. That your grandparents’ walled courtyard garden, with its stone arch and huge green-painted gates, must once have housed coaches. Their living room may have been the stable stalls, whilst the grooms lodged upstairs. You grew up to love horses, yet you never really made those connections until it was too late.

    Your grandparents moved to a bungalow, the house was sold. But on your parents’ wall hangs a delicate watercolour of that pretty courtyard garden. They have promised it to you when they die.

  17. It was dark when I opened my eyes. Before, when I was sleeping, the world was full of colour, noises, faces, even laughter I think. It’s hard to remember the world of that dream, but I think I remember a sun, a breeze, the grass behind my grandmother’s house, the feeling of safety and warmth. I think I remember all that.

    But I know it was dark when I opened my eyes. That I know for sure. It was dark and stifling hot, and a wall of sorts was hard before my face. I pushed but couldn’t break through. Something covered me tight all around. My legs were so far behind me they no longer were really mine. My arms and hands were near me but they could barely move. The world was tight and dark. The smells were dark and musky. But I was small, trapped and yet, my eyes were open.

    I screamed, “ Linda,” and I screamed once again. I cried and screamed for hours, I thought. Until a hand wound around a distant ankle. A quick yank pulled my leg and warm cotton slid beneath my twisted shorty nightgown.

    “Wake up, Susie, you’re dreaming. How did you get down there?” She yelled at me in her sleepy exasperated older sister voice. “You’re head is at the end of the bed, you idiot. You’re all turned around.”

    “But where am I?”I whispered. “I was lost, trapped.”

    “We’re at gramdma’s, remember? We’re sleeping in the big bed. What a baby,” she scolded, pulling the covers off my head.

    And suddenly there was light, air, a pillow under my cheek, room to move my arms and my sister’s hand wiping my tears.

    “Oh,” I said. “Don’t be mad. Really, I’m sorry.”

    And I was. And I am. Even now.


  18. You said it was the coal pits that killed them. Fine dust would itch the insides of their lungs until years later their hearts suffocated. After the first war you’d bury the potato crop over the winter in the deep rich soil. Not to grow, but to hide. Hungry men killed for potatoes back then when there was not enough food to go round. Those spuds were small and tight, not like the fat floury ones you got used to on the other side of the world. But you never forgot the coal-pit potatoes of a small town in Germany.

    Years later, after more deaths ate into your generation, you went back for one of those tight green potatoes. You smuggled it in, against the law. It was worth it, you said, just one taste, please. You planted the spud down by the grevilleas and marvelled at how everything grew. The leaves tangled down through the back yard, but when harvest time came they’d sucked the food dry. You always thought transplanting was easy

    I know what you went through. It happened to me. I nursed the stump of frangipani in Europe, but it just wouldn’t take. No sand, too much cold. I’d been wrong, perhaps, to lace the soil with my cinders. But that’s all I had. Didn’t we?

    The memories eat, take you back to the old days, they itch at your heart and kill off your taste buds, until nothing’s left of the savours of old.

    Last month I came back and you lifted the mattock, asked me to go on, begging fatigue. I cleared out the weeds, planted potatoes. There’s no coal here, Mum. No need to fear.
    “I‘m too old for that now,” is what you said. “I just feel a texture of itching dust.”

  19. Suddenly there’s a rush of noise and great shards of light came burning into your eyes.
    “Drank some kind of poison”
    “What kind?”
    “Don’t know they found her like this.”
    Blissfully the noise subsides. There’s Maggie. The two of you had spent so much time together at University. Beautiful, brilliant and hysterically funny. The two of you spent hour upon hour running around town laughing, drinking beer, wasting days, weeks, and yet Maggie had still managed a 3.8 for the semester.
    Again the noise and now horrible pain as they shoved the tube up your nose and down your throat and you could feel yourself gagging. How could this have happened? You had been so happy together earlier on but as days and weeks blurred into years the silences between you and the criticism had brought you to the place that any extended period of time together made you think about drinking poison. The conversations would go from pleasantness to pain and then silence as you pondered which might kill you quickest.
    Ah silence! There you are laughing as you disembark from the plane. Barcelona! 8 days in Barcelona with… what was his name? You remember riding through the countryside during the day and spending long nights drinking gallons of wine and incredible passion.
    They say your life will flash before you as you’re dying but it turns out to be more like a train ride -zipping past some parts and then slowing again for others.
    Beaches of coral and little waves, Key West, Cuban sandwiches pressed flat at the laundrymat and handed over the counter with bitter tasting Dixie cups of Cuban coffee.
    “Her blood pressure is dropping!”
    “We’re losing her!”
    And then that horrible light again cutting into every part of you and then that dreadful, terrible silence.

  20. Sunday mornings we would walk through the meadows to grandma’s house where she sat in an upholstered armchair for our visit her grey hair long enough to sit on arranged in plaited circles one on either side of her head while aunty fussed about making camp coffee with hot milk which skinned and we three children were to be seen and not heard and never touch the glossy black upright Bechstein though our fingers longed to press down the black and white teeth from one end to the other climbing the ladder of sound but Aunty would fetch her violins and if I was very careful she’d let me tuck one under my chin and drag the bow over the strings or sometimes allow us into the garage to wonder at the galvanised washtub with its wooden washboard and dolly those relics of the tribulations of a weekly ritual she remembered and how lucky our mother was now twin-tubs were invented and we’d want to try out the black iron bikes one of which she said she used to ride that leaned against the wall but couldn’t even hold them upright then to keep us quiet she’d reluctantly reach down the boxes that hung from their straps and let us fit the strange rubber and canvas contraptions with the heavy round nose over our faces even though we knew the foul smell would choke us and you couldn’t see out of the goggles and anyway what was the point of a mask full of gas and we heard the word war and thought about the charred and rubble filled gaps in the rows of buildings in the city because dad had used the same word and we wondered why nobody seemed to want to talk about it very much

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. The first thing you hear is the sea whispering to you.

    You can feel it tickling your ears, hissing at you to move, to get up, to answer the call of its rhythm. Your eyes open and the first thing you see are your dolls hanging from nooses made of twine, the twine made from dried onion stalks.

    You can smell the onions in the air, their scent mixing with the sharply angled smell of the sea, the saltiness and the coldness that snaps at you, at your heels, like a dog. You reach up and touch three of your dolls and watch; it is as if they are dancing to the sound of the sea, to the sloooosh and wseeeee and keesplash.

    Your feet are cold on the hardwood floors but you don't take time to put your slippers on. They are waiting for you, the sisters, out on the sand, dancing to a music that you can hear inside you. You have seen them a lot lately, those three women, each with different coloured hair: Red, blond, brown.

    Outside, the air is cold through your nightgown but you must reach your sisters. You watch as they turn to you, their arms outstretched. Your black hair is whipped into the wind, a piece of it lands in your mouth and tastes like sunlight.

    You take your sisters hands and you reform the circle, dancing to the soft sounds of the silken sea. And, when your sisters reform the circle into a line that heads towards the water, back to where you came from, you think nothing of it.

    You watch as your body begins to change from a girls into a seals, a gorgeous pelt as black and shiny as your hair. For the first time, you know happiness.

    Jamieson Wolf

  23. the mud pies we made in silver foil cases still greasy from the steak and kidney pies from Purvis’s crouching in the long grass underneath the bushes where we picked goosegogs and ate them till our bellies ached with the sourness and we thought we’d die before we reached the outside lavvy with its squares of cut up newspaper threaded on string dangling against the door and the tang of damp brick and urine

    the red velvet curtains that she was so proud of and the living room wall covered in dark pine slats like a Swedish sauna that we’d never even heard of the shag pile carpet that was fitted all the way up the stairs where the wallpaper was psychedelic with unnatural purple flowers

    her bedroom where it was always dark with the scent of stale sweat and tears and the melamine dressing table with the two wooden elephants you saved up pocket money for weeks to buy her the big elephant for her birthday and she threw them across the room shouting was that all she was worth so you ran upstairs to find the small elephant you’d bought for aunty Debbie’s birthday the next week and offered her that as well and brought her the tea towel to cry into because HE hadn’t bought her anything but a mangy box of Black Magic

    the stray with its dunes where I cut my foot on piece of glass and had to hobble to the first aid hut with the blood spurting into the sand that was already streaked red from the iron bleeding into and looking out across the gare towards miles of flarestacks that lit up the world at night where we came that first time and lay together ignoring the prickle of the marram grass

  24. An aggravated sense of dire urgency had seized him. It arrived the same time as the facial invasion of Vesuvian peaks, now loitering on the landscape of his cherub cheeks.

    He was erupting.

    Mother fretted at the tissues piled and fetid. Congealed saline glue, once sweet and musky, now formed flaky clusters which bound the tissues into strange sculptures, testament to the libertine’s lusty labours.

    Mother knew it would not send him blind, she and father had chuckled. Dad had given him bawdy winks.

    But now mother could bare no more, tissue mountains renewed themselves daily. Did he seriously assume she did not mind bagging and binning the hideous heaps.

    And so, one day, dad barked. “Either you stop tugging ya todger son or learn to flush the tissues. Your mother’s not happy about the mess under your bed”.

    Heated heady hormones boiled. A blistering blush. The pit of his stomach hoisted itself to the threshhold of his throat. He grit his teeth, a furrowing frown knit itself across his feverish forehead. His eyes were banging in their sockets ready to bounce clean out of his skull. He cringed.

    He grimaced, then thought of Alice Bradshaw.

    Ever since that day she had shown him her stocking tops at Berwick Pond, kissed him and asked if he would like to see her nipples, he had been a quivering mass of combustible manhood.

    Sticky tissues, tribute to Alice Bradshaw’s nipples.
    He never saw them though. As he had finished fumbling with the front loading balcony device she had employed to bolster her ample bosoms, her brother had appeared.

    The lingering lament of loves first kiss, promises of petting Alice Bradshaw’s pretty pink nipples provided copious material for future solitary endeavours. Alone he’d shoot his load .

    But never again, not after this.

  25. coming goes and going comes and in the process stopping and going annihilate each other and it’s like stop


    and for a moment it’s like low tide with all it’s things that come in view like a wreck and too that you might


    view it with compassion all its winter dark and papery flaking skins these things so fragile so cold so lightless and so ready to be shed all stuck up in cardboard boxes with dusty overlapping lids inside a room you’re scared to visit so you latched and padlocked the keys on a hook too high to reach and slant the blinds so no one sees but


    you can see the sea with your eyes closed and you can always wait for low tide and you know it’s inevitable like the planets and for a moment


    you smell earth and onions and you know that some simpler part of you is home and growing your own vegetables and playing in treehouses because you exist in every moment in time no wonder it’s hard to just


    and smell the earth and all its things it’s whelming over me again this task we’re given


    pulling out at each end while your belly rising falling


    fingers pinched perhaps to focus energy while you drop into place and say a prayer of peace from whatever book or bible you believe whatever genesis to revelations your heart takes part in whatever


    makes you flap like looking down on the street in your dreams or how your world can sometimes change just looking just outside your own front room like


    how you move and still your mind and how this


    let’s you play careful with fire so gently gently trapping blue and orange flames

    alison baldwin

  26. This house used to tell its neighbours, ‘I am home, sweet home.’ It was Oh so truthful, with its clear glass windows, and happy families lived here. It stood to attention, like a guardsman ready to defend, though in time it grew possessive, ‘You belong here. You love me.’ It resisted intruders, stopping them with stout doors, watching through double glazing, glaring with halogen lights as they scuttled away.

    Within its stalwart frame, circuits still pulse deep inside cupboards, fresh water still pumps through pipes; people can hear the arteries thump, the veins gurgle and click.
    But now its carcase sometimes groans, as if bones and sinews were aging, and floorboards creak louder like stiffened corsets. Ah yes, it sighed when the old ones died and dropped like leaves from the tree and it sniffs stale odours of the past wafted from worn rugs and musty bed clothes.

    House taps doors against loose latches with restless fingers, as if bored. Aided by an errant draught, it may gently close a door, crushing small fingers near the hinges. It could even move the bottom step, with sly malice, when someone goes downstairs to make tea at night, so that a hip is broken.

    And this house remembers the violent nightmares of a young man leaving for the ends of the earth and the day he shot himself making a jagged hole in the ceiling and splattering his brains out well into the loft and against the tiles. And did it shudder with shame, or did it grin, that day she got fighting drunk in company and was carried upstairs by the unforgiving ones?

    Now house weeps, weeps down dirty windows. Tomorrow, they have said, it will be bulldozed and ground into dust, its doors, and floors, and rafters burnt to ashes.

  27. If you go to Hell you’ll burn. Heaven’s out of the question for you, and you’re not sure what the options are in Purgatory because you only heard about it from one of the Catholic kids in the street. It’s not something your Presbyterian Sunday School ever mentioned and you don’t want to look stupid by either a) not knowing something you should know, or b) mispronouncing it. It doesn’t sound like the kind of place you’d want to hang out in though. Purg sounds like purge. You looked it up: something removed from you by a cleansing process. Although you are already trying to cleanse yourself of some things, through the process of thought, by concentrating so hard your eyes feel as if they might pop out of your head when you open them, and when they do, there, reflected in them will be the red-headed girl in your class. The only girl in your class with breasts. The only girl in your class with breasts that you can’t stop looking at, which probably wouldn’t be too bad if you were a boy but you’re not. But it’s not as if you want to touch them or squash them together like you’ve seen the women in your dad’s newspaper do. You’d just like to look at them and see if it’s possible to tell where exactly they’ve come from because from looking at your own chest you can’t imagine anything pushing out of it. Ever. But the process isn’t working too well. In fact you think about the girl’s breasts more since you’ve been trying to stop yourself from looking at them. So it’ll be Hell or Purgatory. And you wonder if Purgatory will be anything like a conservatory. And then you start thinking about the girl’s breasts again.

  28. They slept in single beds. We would sneak upstairs when Granny was in the kitchen, and lie on them. My sister would take Granny’s and I would take Grandad’s.

    ‘Put your face up to your ceiling and talk to me,’ my sister would say.

    ‘What do I say?’ I asked.

    ‘Anything, Betty. Don’t be wet.’

    ‘It’s been a hard week,’ I said.

    ‘It has,’ my sister agreed. And I wonder if the grandchildren will be coming soon.

    ‘I hope so,’ I replied. ‘I like that little Betty.’

    My sister said the game had to stop now. Apparently I’d spoilt it by being big-headed. She stomped down the stairs, one, two, three, I could hear her, to help Granny in the kitchen. I stayed upstairs.

    If I put my finger out I could feel the bumps and the weaves in the yellow candlewick eiderdown. I felt round one square again and again. ‘I like that little Betty,’ I whispered.

    By the time I got downstairs, Granddad was back.

    ‘Where have you been?’ My grandmother asked. ‘Go and wash your hands, dinner will be ready soon.’

    I stared at my grandfather. Go on, I willed him, go on, say it.

    ‘Betty’s trouble,’ my sister said, ‘is that she lives in this other world. She thinks too much of herself.’

    My grandmother laughed. ‘You do talk funny, Frances,’ she said. ‘Anyone would think you swallowed a dictionary.’

    Go on , I willed my grandfather. Say you like me.

    ‘I’m easily top of my English class,’ my sister said.

    ‘I’m not surprised,’ said my grandmother. ‘And you make a lovely apple pie too, pet. There’s plenty that don’t bother.’ She looked over in my direction.

    Say it, I willed him.

    ‘It’s been a hard week,’ said my grandfather, before going to wash his hands.

  29. One wet and windy winter’s afternoon the door burst open and a tornado landed in the middle of the living-room floor.

    Before I had time to lift my eyes from my needlework a little voice demanded “What is my dad doing on the floor in the wardrobe?”

    There was a loud rustling sound as Jack lowered the newspaper sufficiently to peer out over the top. With his glasses resting half way down his nose and not a sound or trace of a smile, he looked from the voice to me, wondering exactly what was going on.

    “Your Daddy is here reading the paper so he can’t be in the wardrobe?” I said.

    “He is! He’s on the floor in at the back of the wardrobe. Come and I will show you!”

    There was nothing for it but to set my needlework down because when this young lady got something into her head the devil himself couldn’t shake her off course.

    She took my hand and dragged me out of the room. The newspaper was lifted once more and I heard Jack quietly whistling behind it. Off I went to find out how a man got into my wardrobe.

    Opening the door of the built in wardrobe she pointed into the darkness of the farthest corner. “Look he is in there, on The Floor!”

    I moved the clothes along the rail to have a better view. Right enough her dad was on the floor propped against the wall at the back of the wardrobe. I carefully lifted him out and touched his face as I did so.

    “Don’t put him back in there” she said, “I think you should hang him up on the wall”.

    I did hang him that day, and he has had pride of place there ever since!

  30. The coalbunker is my secret place. I come here and hide when they are cross with me. I circle my bruised arms around my scuffed knees and hold my nightdress closed with my hands.

    I have wet the bed again, and they’ll be angry, so I am hiding.

    The coalbunker hasn’t got any coal in. It never has had. They have a nasty electric fire. They say I shouldn’t stand too close in my nylon nightie because it might catch fire. Or melt. And they laugh. They don’t know I can read the label. It says fire retardant. That means it can protect me from fire.

    There are spiders in here. Big ones with fierce eyes. They shout at me too!

    ‘Get out of my way!’ they spit at me.

    So I close my eyes. And I can’t see them. But I can feel them as they scuttle sideways across my slippers.

    It is dark, and … shush … and no one knows I’m here and, shush …

    When I lived at my own house, I was all right. No one hurt me. I could do what I liked. And there was a big coal cellar, not like this silly cramped thing. I could stay there for hours and pretend to be a queen or a fairy. I was shout retardant then.

    Now they hurt my ears with their voices. ‘Do this’, they say, ‘do that’!

    And they slap and pinch me. That’s why I have bruises. But when people come, they cover them up.

    ‘Let’s put your dressing gown on.’ So nobody knows. And they say, ‘So good of you to take her in. Saves her being put in a home’.

    Here in the coalbunker I am not cry retardant. The tears fall. Nobody wants you when you’re old.

  31. Nothing on Earth is more delightful than to be merged with Nature , gardening ,planting ,
    and to be in the midst of flora and fauna. Recently from my third floor balcony I watched
    a gardener with his hoe smoothening the ground and evening the mound , and all the burnt
    vegetation smelling nice .IT is winter ,things have to be preserved an d the agile gardener
    loads all vegetables in cardboard boxes: S hall I tell you something very informative
    Onions are indispensible in our culinary cupboards all recipes go delicious with onion.
    Forgetfulness or misplacing the key of your room door is another testing thing in your life.
    Our gardener was in such a similar situation when because of his short height he was
    Unable to reach the keys on top. Sometimes back I too was in a predicament like this that
    My door was locked ,the system was such that once the godrej ( a brand name for the lock) was
    Close d outside , you must necessarily have a key. Fortunately that day my spare keys were with
    My neighbour.

    ‘When Adam delves Eve spans.’ AS Virginia Woolf says a room of one’s own with beautiful
    Curtains drawn , a well maintained gas oven and above all a woman -the guardian angel
    to say the prayers , to cook food and mind the family – a perfect and ideal what is a house
    If it does not have a bed room positioned such that cool sea breeze coming in ,added to that
    Somebody to soothe your dampening spirits! With all these life is indeed a Paradise .

    Once in a way we must go for picnic for all work and no play is no good. My hurt leg needs
    Care , pushed by a jealous lover.


  32. Nothing on Earth is more delightful than to be merged with Nature , gardening ,planting ,
    and to be in the midst of flora and fauna. Recently from my third floor balcony I watched
    a gardener with his hoe smoothening the ground and evening the mound , and all the burnt
    vegetation smelling nice .IT is winter ,things have to be preserved an d the agile gardener
    loads all vegetables in cardboard boxes: S hall I tell you something very informative
    Onions are indispensible in our culinary cupboards all recipes go delicious with onion.
    Forgetfulness or misplacing the key of your room door is another testing thing in your life.
    Our gardener was in such a similar situation when because of his short height he was
    Unable to reach the keys on top. Sometimes back I too was in a predicament like this that
    My door was locked ,the system was such that once the godrej ( a brand name for the lock) was
    Close d outside , you must necessarily have a key. Fortunately that day my spare keys were with
    My neighbour.

    ‘When Adam delves Eve spans.’ AS Virginia Woolf says a room of one’s own with beautiful
    Curtains drawn , a well maintained gas oven and above all a woman -the guardian angel
    to say the prayers , to cook food and mind the family – a perfect and ideal what is a house
    If it does not have a bed room positioned such that cool sea breeze coming in ,added to that
    Somebody to soothe your dampening spirits! With all these life is indeed a Paradise .

    Once in a way we must go for picnic for all work and no play is no good. My hurt leg needs
    Care , pushed by a jealous lover.


  33. this mishmash of muddled memories with their strands of colour sounds and sensations knits one purls one knits one into a familiar blanket you hug it close warmed by the cramped school canteen lumpy mashed potato smell of cabbage and disinfectant and your fat teacher called Mrs Middleton the house is big noisy and cushion-filled your pink bedroom flowers beads scarves and scraps of paper covered with messages from your friend Kate her borrowed red lipstick in the middle of your dressing table

    but this room where you are now is dark and dusty crowded with unpolished furniture and cluttered with someone else's belongings it smells claustrophobic the aroma of cats' piss or something else unpleasant then there is that man who touches you calls you love don't talk to strangers but he brushes the tangles in your hair so softly rubs cream and lavender scent into your hands smooths a shawl across your knees places Cinderella's slippers on your feet

    only then he forces fabric onto you bends your arms at funny angles pulls them awkwardly into heavy coats sometimes too you hear him on the phone whispering cold secrets like the wind plotting when you demand an explanation he goes quiet and sad like it is you who is in the wrong and not him you ask to go out but he refuses so you scratch at him and he just cries tries to trap you in his arms tell you what to do it makes you angry who does he think he is you want to run outside in your nightdress dance in the dew laugh pick daisies sing carols kiss Geoffrey Moyle

    instead there is this tall greying stranger who sometimes helps you sometimes hurts you who is he who are you why can't your remember

    Sarah James

  34. Head bent she stares at cracks in the pavement rosary beads in her pocket she believes in little miracles big ones now that’s another story
    she knows this road its breath its shadows she can smell the seaweed she recalls the day of the treasure hunt mother filling flasks with thick soup father in green wellies fading in and out of doors the tut tut tut of mud on the kitchen floor and Archie singing nursery rhymes
    when the police car pulled up outside the house mother was making cocoa the fire crackling snakes and ladders on the floor
    father in his green wellies kissing us goodnight in the bedroom both of us in the same single bed playing impossible eye spy in the dark wondering if spiders prefer to crawl up or down next morning we woke up in our own beds rain tap dancing on the window panes knowing that we had sherbet fountains and lemonade leftover from yesterday when auntie came into the bedroom with mother’s apron on
    we played all day and auntie didn’t seem to mind that we made a yellow tent with cushions and a bedspread she and Archie were singing and we joined in before he fell asleep across her chest where mother’s apron had a chocolate stain
    it seemed to go on forever that week of playing with auntie and the night time scent of mother’s kisses on our half asleep foreheads and father’s footsteps heavy on the creaking staircase one night me my sister and Archie slept in the yellow tent and in the morning auntie picked out our Sunday best clothes from the wardrobe on a weekday
    she walks head bent her eyes black diamonds forty years of coal dust ingrained in the cracks of the pavement on Verdi Road

  35. I was at the crossroads. Alert. Ready to go. I indicated right. I pulled out. Halfway across the road the stupid woman opposite pulled out. Smack. Straight into me. I was so angry. I reversed. So did she. I put on my hazard lights, and took out my notebook and pen. I'm a writer. I carry these sort of things. I got out and looked at the car. Its left eye was blinded and the side of its face was smashed in. It looked a wreck. I was so angry.

    I stormed across the road. The passenger got out. It was her son, aged about thirty five. 'We seemed to have both pulled out at the same time,' he said.

    'Oh no we didn't,' I retorted. 'You can see from where you've damaged my car that I was already across the road.' He smiled, gently.

    'Name,' I said. 'Address.' He gave me one name, two addresses and one telephone number. I gave him my details. He wasn't going to get a sheet of my paper. He had to get his own. I was that angry.

    'My mother would prefer to pay for this privately rather than go through the insurance company,' he said. 'I don't think it should cost too much.'

    'It's wrecked,' I said, my jaw aching as I gritted my teeth.

    'Perhaps you could get an estimate and let us know,' he said, speaking kindly again, which was infuriatingly annoying. His mother got out. She was about eighty and had silver curly hair. She rested her fragile hand on my arm and slowly shook her head.

    'I'm so sorry, my dear,' she whispered. 'I'm moving house today and I'm afraid my mind is all over the place.'

    I felt guilty. Is that a woman-thing?

    From: Yvonne Moxley

  36. I had a boyfriend once who could list all the books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. There are more than you think: all those prophets, Obadiah and Zephaniah, Malachi and Haggai and Habbakuk. He knew the Greek alphabet too, and the stops on the Circle Line, and the Départements of France. He could do those alphabetically or geographically, filling in the map in his head. I was keen on him for a bit. I knew he’d be good on birthdays – useful if we had a lot of children – but I had a feeling he’d always have something more important on his mind when I’d had a bad day at work, or there was nothing in the fridge.

    The next one didn’t seem to have anything much at all on his mind, which was a relief at first. We could go for whole walks without him telling me a single interesting fact. Then it dawned on me that ninety-five percent of him was in standby mode unless he was in front of a screen, preferably watching men chasing a ball on the telly. I reckoned he wouldn’t notice whether I was there or not after a bit, even if I learnt the whole Bible by heart.

    Then there was the motorbike fanatic, the fishing fanatic, the sex fanatic. The cooking fanatic: he had promise, definite promise, but the sad truth was my metabolism was no match for his hollandaises and claret reductions. Pity: I’ve never met anyone else who can make lobster thermidor.

    In the end I found Sam, who wasn’t fanatical about anything – except me, apparently. My friends couldn’t believe my luck. Funny, though: even Sam can tell you every player for every team in the Premier League right back to 1985. It must be a boy thing.

  37. saturday afternon it's raining outside you sit alone in the house you're cold and tired but the sorting through is almost done now In front of you is a box of letters and photos green onion memories playing on the record player the stylus clicking over and over layer upon layer the images build

    For once you are alone with him in the house here in this room dancing skin to skin rhythmically swaying holding tight to the moment a moment so intimate so intense and yet the memory of it is so sharp it stings and resolves itself in the eyes with the realistation that it is no more than the idleness of deams

    a love song gone wrong a space the shape of a teardrop sliding down a window pane until it hits the frame and dissipates along with all the other dissapointments

    you were so naive back then you didn't see what was in front of you the way he left you hanging the way he cut loose and put you out to dry and how he stripped you of your self respect revealed an inner loathing pulled you down until you didn't care to get up in the morning the sourness of neglect on your breath and how one day after a while you realised you had grown tired of the taste and pulled yourself back to the world

    that was a long time ago and maybe finding that old record player in the attic was a good thing as it's brought with it an understanding of how it is only by peeling the onion that you can get to the heart of it all you find yourself wondering if he ever plays his old records and if he does what it is that he finds

  38. He thinks, no, knows he shouldn't be dealing with crap like this, regardless of his programming.

    Alighting from the crowded, pulsating bus, he begins the long walk back. A single, watery tear of snot involuntrily joins the sweaty pearls of anxiety absailing from his shallow temples. The roads are always busy, and to every passing driver, he is no different than the other school kids milling around the streets at this time of day.

    Unconsidered remnants of what was surely an impeccably presented uniform at the start of the day now hang in unkempt tatters from his portly, playground soiled frame. Neglected blazer rammed unmercifully into battered book bag. Single shirt flap, scrunched, hanging overboard, a flaccid testament to unruly unkemptness. Black, man made uppers scuffed and scratched beyond recognition.School tie hurriedly removed, its frayed tip protruding from a trouser pocket containing holes in both knees and a single key.

    He is not the same as the other beings marching towards him. He walks alone, a solitary troubador jostling against a tide of savagery. Their uniforms are different, therefore identities and allegiances become hotwired to a seperate philiosophy. They hate and despise him for it. He is the enemy, traversing their scared territory.

    Abuse is routine, threats regular, physical engagement frequent.

    Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly - he has one mile to run the gauntlet of this unrelenting foe.

    Event's of each day's learning are invariably forgotten and disposed with the passing of another run through antagonism alley, but come the end, the rewards are great.

    Sanctuary lies but not seconds away from the insertion of the copper key. Relief commences with the flight along the runway of broken, weed strewn paving, beyond the rotten, swollen front door, into the safety of the damp, pestilence riddled, decrepit pit called home.

  39. She paused in the dining room and gazed at the dark oak table - the one with the flaps that pulled out at each end.

    She remembered being enlisted by her mother to "make the table bigger" when there were people coming over for a party. Then, of course, the tablecloth was too small. Mum always did a remarkable cover-up job with an extra tablecloth and some strategically placed tableware.

    She hid under the table when the grown-ups were sitting around it listening to music and enjoying their red wine. Mum's friend Angela used to crawl under, too, to keep her company. One time she brought some bubble mix, and giggled together as they blew bubbles and heard the surprised exclamations of those seated around the table.

    She did her homework at that table every day after school. Mum would bustle in at 5pm calling for the table to be cleared of books so that it could be set for dinner in time for Dad coming home from work.

    She was chased around that table by Dad one day when she was five years old and had drawn on the new wallpaper. He was going to smack her. In the end, he gave up and started to laugh, and she knew that the anger had passed.

    She found the table laden with gifts every Christmas morning, when they'd crept down the stairs in single file. Dad always went first to make sure Santa wasn't still there. She wasn't sure what would happen if he was.

    Strange how death can assign meaning to even an old oak table.

    She swallowed hard and turned away, chased by laughter and voices from years of memories around that table . She retraced her steps to where the two oak coffins sat side-by-side in the next room.

    Hayley Millar

  40. Flood tide.
    It was the Amazon and the Orinoco. Dense woodland came right down to the water's edge and the branches reached wide and low over the surface.
    Our boat was wooden and heavy, very old and hard to row. Two boys were better than one, except for the problem of keeping straight. One boy had to bail all the time so a crew of three was ideal.
    Our expeditions would to leave the town above the many arched bridge and ride upstream with the flooding tide. This way nobody had to row and each of the crew could be a harpooner, looking down into the water for flatfish as the boat gently bumped its way over the bottom. The water here was very clear, but nobody ever caught anything edible.
    Those were the days when all boys of ten could swim and were not expected to wear life jackets on the river above the bridge or be home in time for lunch.
    We sailed on our Amazon with a sheet stretched on broomstick spars and saw wondrous things like kingfishers and herons and how a dead cow swells.
    There was a day when we were overtaken by the same driving force that Captain Cook knew so well and set sail for distant seas. We didn’t quite get as far as him, but for boys of our age the sensations must have been very similar. We left the still river above the bridge and fllowed the stream to the harbor entrance. Past the end of the pier we were on the open sea. Mighty adventurers we might be, but we had to get the boat back before we were found out and banned.
    I remember with total recall that it was always summer and all of life was an adventure.


Add Your Own Message Here
If you want to take part - great. All you need to do is add your response to our message here as a comment, but remember it has to be exactly 30 or 300 words, and it needs to be posted before 8am GMT the morning after the original post for each day. Please also remember to add your Name and Email Address to the end of your message, so that we can get in touch if your work is selected.