Monday, 27 March 2017

Why Me?

For audio click here 

The woman beside me fiddled with the screen and then set back. She sighed so heavily it sounded like her pillow collar had a leak. She touched the screen again and then tutted. I couldn’t exactly locate what her problem was. I checked I was not manspreading into her space and that my bag was beneath my own seat and not hers, but the tutting continued. I thanked my lucky stars I was not her husband and closed my eyes hoping I could get some sleep despite the woman doing her best dripping tap impression next to me. 
“It’s not right, you know?”
I opened one eye to see if she was talking to me. She was playing with her screen again, looking at the map that was showing us the route we were about to take. I looked around to see if there were any spare seats but the flight was chocka, there was no escape.
“It’s not right at all.”
“Long journey isn’t it,” I said, thinking that was what she was complaining about. 
Her eyes lit up with pleasure. Her tuts and sighs had obviously been part of an elaborate mating ritual, designed to lure the unsuspecting male. 
“Oh, I don’t mind that,” she said.
I took a deep breath. 
“It’s this I mind,” she flicked the map on the screen. 
“You can turn it off. Look.” I pressed the button on the bottom of the screen. She immediately turned it back on again. 
“It’s wrong,” she said. “Do you know I’ve written to them about thirty times and they never do anything about it. 
“What’s wrong?”
“The map.”
“It looks fine to me,” I said.
The woman tutted so hard I thought her false teeth might fly out. “Look closer young man,” she said. 
Now, I’m not the best in the world at locating places on a map but everything looked in roughly the right place. I guess she came from some little place like Wales that often gets put in the wrong spot. 
I had to ask. “What’s wrong with it?” I said. 
“It’s the earth.”
What was she expecting? We were flying from Dubai to Manchester not from The Kennedy Space Centre to the Moon. 
“It’s the wrong shape.” 
What on earth was she talking about?
“There should be two maps,” she said. “this one for the gullible,” she flicked the screen, “and one that shows it flat, like this.” she unfolded a piece of paper and gave it to me. It was a flat map of the world. 
“But the earth is round,” I said. 
“We are told that,” she said, “but they lie.” 
“Who lie?” I could scarcely believe I was having this conversation. 
“They do. But I know the truth, and now with a proper president in the White House, the truth will out, God will see to that.” 
I looked at her properly for the first time. She was older than me, by about twenty years, but she looked normal enough. 
“Okay,” I said. “You believe what you want to believe. But please, never speak to me about anything ever again, you’re obviously batshit crazy.” 
I’m pleased to report, the rest of the flight passed in silence. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Poetry Friday 38 - A Vietnam Special

Poetry Friday 38.  A Vietnam Special
As I have been in Vietnam this week, here are 4 poems scribbled here giving my impressions of the place.
For audio click here

Toad Poetry
Breathing the molten lava air.
A melee of motorbikes
with two, three, four, sometimes five passengers,
swarm like hornets.
Every way is a four-way road.
Your rules are the rules.
The pavements overflow with picnickers.
A fashionable haunt for young and old alike.
Exotic food spread out to share,
steaming in the heat.
Motorbikes become armchairs,
a ringside view for the people watchers.
And she
tries to sell herself
to sweat-stained tourists.

Physical v Mental
Joints ache with
Throbbing legs, feet, head.
Let me sleep, please.
Again, my mind has other ideas.
Going through my databanks.
Giving precedence to
Embarrassing moments from yesteryear, usually locked
deep inside my vault.

The river snarls and growls,
a constant flow of fumes and horns.
Different currents, rush, meander, and weave in
a constant flow of fumes and horns.
I dip my toe into the torrent,
a constant flow of fumes and horns.
Overwhelmed, I’m dragged under by
a constant flow of fumes and horns.

The Black Beetle
Dashing across the bathroom floor.
after laying eggs in my washbag.
for me to take back to Wales.

Hope you enjoyed those. I am sure Poetry Friday will return next week.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Curse

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

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Water is stronger than Stone

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

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


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

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

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Bakery

Audio to follow. 

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

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

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