It’s nice to be back! I’m still writing.

Image

Hello, It’s nice to be back to WordPress. It has been a while!

Since then I’ve finished my second Creative Writing module with The Open University and now I’m on to my final module of the Open Hons Degree – ‘Why is Religion Controversial’. It’s engrossing and fascinating but very heavy and sucking my small tank of spare time dry! The first section of the course is about controversial figures in religion. I’ve been reading about Regina Jonas, the first female rabbi to be ordained, in Berlin 1936. It’s an extraordinary tale of a woman who defied tradition and was ordained. What’s even more interesting about her story is that it was buried without trace until the 1980s, when female historians and rabbis began to investigate and speak about her again.
If you fancy reading more, check this link out
https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/jonas-regina

Writing-wise, I am close to finishing the first draft of my novella…and when I say close I mean about 30,000 words away. I haven’t written a word on that project since August though. I am working away to make a space for it in December.

Last weekend I attended a writer’s retreat, part of the Literature Festival of Bristol and enjoyed talks from industry professionals, and writers Gareth Powell, Alice jolly & Amy Morse from Learn to Love Your Words. It was a very inspiring and informative day.

I’ve also submitted stories for two anthologies and await further instruction!

And that’s it! Just a little hello and how are ya. Looking forward to catching up on all the reading here!

Advertisements

Loss

Featured

‘Ah, times are changing, that’s for sure. A farmer can’t make a living anymore. If it wasn’t for the grants, we’d be down in the town below, living like animals in a block of flats. She went down there, y’know. She set herself up down in the town. She said couldn’t stick the mountain n’more. Didn’t want another hard Winter, she said. By God, she didn’t have to worry. It wasn’t even three months after when she got sick. Me? I’ll die up here, and I’ll die happy’
He was picking dandelion leaves that were growing in tufts along the cement path. One hand was picking, the other holding his stick and the bag. Three ragged farm dogs were around his knees, annoying him. He waved his stick and yelled at them. They backed away a little, enough so they could still watch his every move. He was their God.
‘I’m picking these, now, for the hens. They don’t have a bad life at all. But they’re not free range, are they? Not politically correct’
He chuckled to himself as he continued. I coughed awkwardly.
‘Are they not? Well, I suppose they’re up there in that dark loft, so technically, they’re not free’
He stood upright and looked at me. He had a hard face with small eyes and deep dry lines. He had the type of face that had felt the cold and wind all it’s life.
‘But sher, it’s a big loft and they’re not shut in. They can sit there, in the fresh air looking down on the yard, with their handpicked dandelions, can’t they? It’s not a bad life at all’
He shook his head.
‘It’s the likes of these big foreign supermarkets coming over here and breeding their deformed chickens in big warehouses with no light; they’re the ones that are causing all the problems’
We both turned outwards towards the mountain gorge, looking at the majesty in front of us in silence. I’m sure we were both contemplating how the world was changing, and how we never wanted to leave this place.
A loud howl came from behind. We both turned to see. A bony cow was making her way down the narrow village lane. She investigated every doorway and window along the way, bellowing and grunting as she went. When she reached the opening where we were, she stopped. She roared again; she was upset. Moving her head up and down, bucking at the air, I watched her massive udders shake from side to side.
‘Aaaah, haha, there she is!’
‘Yah yah’, he roared, as he waved his stick in the air.
She responded with a long agonising cry.
‘What’s wrong with her?’
I asked with the hardest tone I could find in me. After seeing him skin a wild boar with his son the night before, surely I could handle a sad cow.
‘She’s looking for her calf. It’s up there, in the top barn – hand-fed twice a day by my very self. It has a gammy leg, that one, but it’s not a bad life for it. The old cow there is protesting, but she’ll be fine after a day or two of milking. Back to normal’
I continued looking out onto the panorama in front of me.
‘She’s wandering around the village looking for it. You can’t get more free range than that now, can you?’
He was chuckling again, his shoulders bobbing up and down. He steadied himself with the stick and put it against the fence.
‘Right, a few more of these for the hens before I drive cows down to the bottom field’
As I walked away, I watched the distraught cow walk slowly, still crying, still bucking in anguish, up towards her field. As she entered, I watched some other cows come to greet her. They understood her loss.

LOSS

Opus 22 – A Rhapsody of Short Fiction

Image

OPUS 22: A RHAPSODY OF SHORT FICTION - STORIES BY TWENTY-TWO NEW AUTHORSOPUS 22: A RHAPSODY OF SHORT FICTION – STORIES BY TWENTY-TWO NEW AUTHORS by Melius Scripto Press
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.” Stephen King
Opus22 is an original anthology from the newly formed Melius Scripto Press, a small publisher born out of an International community of both experienced and emerging authors and editors. It’s an eclectic collection of stories, across genres and styles, with a common theme. The collection comprises of 22 stories. Each one is about or mentions the theme Piano.
From reminisiscence and regret to genuine horror this collection has been thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. I won’t review each story but my personal favorites and worthy of mentioning are

The poetic prose of Akira Fuyuno’s Chocolate Soup.

The Dystopian fantasy of Wayne Meyer’s Sonnet of the New Dawn.

The dry satire of Michelle Freson’s domestic noir, The Final Supper

The engrossing depths of Lazarus Gray’s The End of Love

The vivid and shocking imagery of Deacon Gray’s Requiem for a Liar

Despite choosing the above stories, I can honestly say I enjoyed every single one, despite length and genre. Some are steeped in nostalgia and romance, others are traditionally crafted in their genre. If you’re a reader that enjoys anthologies, you’re going to love Opus22.

View all my reviews

The angry ditch

Featured

hedge

Thickety, prickly thorny ditch
You’ve been pruned for Spring.
You’re angry now,
Leafless branches pointing upright,
violated by a metal monster
with no regard for
your joints nor early buds.

The moss on your strong base tries to
passify you. Soft like velvet
sotto voce ‘You will have your day’
The ivy, dark and dry, winds
around you like a snake
‘I’ll give you life’

But no! ‘I’m a hedgerow! I will grow!’
There’s lots of rain and sun, you know.
You will grow and bud and thicken green
Hawthorn, Bramble and ramblers seen
in full life, gushing and lushing.
You will reign supreme in your beauty.

Book Review: The Penguin Lessons by Tom Mitchell

Featured

The Penguin LessonsThe Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tom Mitchell recounts his true and bizarre meeting of an adorable Penguin while traveling in Central America in his twenties. He stumbled across the only one left alive on a shore of oil slicken Penguins in Uruguay and manages to bring him back to the flat where he is staying. There’s a strong bond from the start. Under the regime of Eva Perón with an imminent military coup, the penguin was smuggled through customs and into Argentina, back to the boarding school where Tom taught. Juan Salvador, the charming Penguin, manages to become the school mascot and everyone’s friend. He’s pampered and treasured by students and school staff alike.
The most enjoyable thing about this light hearted quirky tale is that it’s true. The formidable determination of Tom resulted in Juan Salvador living a very charmed life indeed! Here’s where the charm stops. There wasn’t enough story to go into such word count. It wasn’t a long story, and it wasn’t a profound story. I found myself flicking through three to four pages of a rugby match yawn-fest and then again with a scene where Tom and Juan meet the school’s housekeepers’s family. There were more than a few of these moments in the book. I think if they were shorter they could have been much funnier.
The book did include some interesting insight into the Argentinian society and political World of the seventies. The cover, the concept, and the cute little illustrations were as delightful as the tale itself but frankly, there were too many pages. Overall a light and entertaining story but I feel it lacked substance and had too many fillers.

View all my reviews

Dreams of India

Featured

Blasting horns and angry shouts unnerve me; men are scratching their balls and hocking on the path where I walk in my flip flops. My feet are filthy from the grime. There are fast colourful movements in my periphery. Even the colours feel volatile. Lepers wiggle their deformities in my eye line. One of them sits, waving his misfortune at me, at the foot of the steps that lead to the golden M. That’s  where the privileged scoff their burgers. Another offers me a lucky charm.

‘No charge, No charge’, he cries in monotone as I speed up.

Keep your head down. Keep your head down. Don’t catch anyone’s eye.

This is beautiful India.

‘Oh you’ve been to India too’, someone once said to me.
‘Isn’t it just the most beautiful place on earth? I remember passing a tea plantation, during a train journey. I watched the beautiful saris blow with the breeze while the women picked tea. It was a sight to behold’

They hadn’t seen their hollow faces up close, nor their shadowed eyes.

Starving girls with other women’s sleepy babies on their hips; hands out with their ‘sad faces’ on as they call.

‘Please, madaaaam, my baybee milk’.

They gesture to their mouths with the tips of there fingers bunched together. What a paradox. They are hungry and they are sad, yet this automated act is for me to believe that they are hungry and sad. Later their owners will check in and count their takings.

*****

I had gotten to know two young girls on my first trip to Mumbai: Lakshmi and Pari. Every day I left the hostel and headed straight for the internet cafe, just minutes away from the Gate of India. After catching up with friends and letting my family know I was still OK, I usually took a stroll down to the gateway. That’s where I met the girls. They were sweet and I was very innocent. Pari was the eldest, maybe fourteen years old. Her hard eyes showed fear but she was street wise. I observed her when she thought I wasn’t looking later on. With her hand on her hip, flicking her scarf around her shoulders like a pro, she fluttered her eyelids at tourists like she meant it. Her light skin was clean and blemish free, and she had the smile of a beauty. Lakshmi was different. She was still a little girl. Her frock told me so. Her dark ponytail was messy and low at the nape of her neck. The wisps from the sides clung to her smiling lips. She followed Pari in an obedient manner, always watching from the sidelines, mimicking her.

‘My name is Lakshmi, Laki for short, but for the tourists I am Lucky’

This was always followed by a huge adorable grin. She told me this repeatedly, as if practicing the line. I was sure she had been given it by her teachers; she didn’t have much English. I met them for a few days in a row. I gave them some money, just once, and invited them to come on a trip with me over to Elephant Island, ten minutes away in a ferry. They smiled at each other. They thought I was a rich fool. I think I was too.

After a few days of not seeing them they showed up one morning outside the internet cafe. Pari walked towards me as I hit the stinking street from the door of the internet cafe.

‘Baby sister very sick. Please help.’

She gestured to her mouth.

‘She need milk’

She put her hand out for money. I shook my head firmly told and them I wasn’t giving them any cash. I continued to walk the daily route and the girls followed me imploring me, begging for help in such exaggerated tones I cringed.

‘You have money. My sister is sick. My sister needs milk’

What if it was true? What can I do? Say no for the sake of 300 rupees?

I offered to buy milk for the baby so they walked me to the shop of their preference. The doorway dripped with small plastic packets, each containing a mouthful of paan. They streamed down like a pretty beaded curtain. I stepped in and found myself in a dark little hovel. The girls spoke to the man behind the counter. He nodded without looking up, and then reached up to take a tin of baby food from a shelf on high.

‘No, no, theees one, pleeeease’

Pari was pointing to a bigger tin. The shopkeeper glared at me, his eyebrows tilted inwards, waiting for my response. I nodded. I heard Lakshmi giggle behind me, and then her groan after receiving a thump. As I handed over the money to him his lips narrowed as if he was holding back insults. I took the tin of food and handed it to Pari. Turning to walk out of the shop, I realised a small group had gathered at the door laughing, some scowling. Some were shaking their head in a disgust that I didn’t understand. Me , a silent stressed disgrace, marched out past them with my head down. I felt ashamed. I wasn’t ashamed that they had managed to trick me. I was ashamed that this was all they had. I never saw those girls again.

*****

Families are setting up homes around a tree on a pavement. Some have canvas and even a pot or pan. Toddlers with swollen bellies wander a little too far away. Their angry young mothers call them back from under their thick brows.

‘And then we went on a cruise, the boat had a glass floor. The service was exceptional and the food was to die for’

The food, to die for.

GettyImages-521825626-5961d8963df78cdc68ba888c

 

 

 

Supply & Demand

The car rolled up the gravel path. Wiping his hands in his leather apron, Dak sauntered over to the stove and put a pan of water on. He poured white spirits over his stained hands at the basin, and rubbed and old rag into the deep crevices.

‘Mornin Dak, a fine one it is too’

Dak nodded at him as he walked in to his usual spot at the back of the cave, out of the sun. He put a parcel and a letter on the desk and sat down.

‘There’s a few more orders for ya today. These things are gettin quite popular with folk, ya know’

Dak brought the tea to the table and sat down opposite to Jo. He didn’t look up as he poured the tea.

‘I’m running out of stock’

Jo tilted his head upward and took a deep breath in.

‘Well, ya know, supply and demand, and all that. There’s three more orders today, and that makes seven orders outstanding, isn’t it?’

Dak nodded.

‘I want you to know that I never kill any living creature to make these pieces. I respect the life that lived in every skull and every bone I find on this land’

Jo cleared his throat.

‘Oh sure, but- supply and demand Dak. There’s money to be made here and –

He snorted and omitted a jarring laugh that made Dak grimace. It faded once he realised he was the only one amused. He slurped his tea and put it down, looking sideways in thought before starting to talk again.

‘See, these rich folk don’t know what to be doing with their money Dak. It’s the new in- thing, if ya hear me. They want them on their mantles, they want to gift them to their friends on their birthdays, you know? They want them’

Dak stared passed Jo’s head at the wall behind him. He continued.

‘The mayor’s wife was looking for a nice big one. She’ll pay big bucks’

‘Big bucks: Big skull?’

‘Exactly’, Jo guffawed

’How big? As big as her husbands fat belly?’

‘Aw come on now Dak. I’m givin you an opportunity to make some money here! And you know, I earn a pittance with the National Post. Jenny’s wedding is coming up. It’s not easy to reach the level of affair she’s aspirin to’

Dak got up from the table and walked to his bench.

‘I’ll see what I can do. I’ll finish these two by tomorrow, and I’ll have a scout around today. It’s not the right season for roadkill or hawk prey, but I’ll look.

Jo stood up and wriggled his National Postal cap back on his fat head.

‘What about catching a few rabbits in a snare, Dak? Or even a deer for the mayor’s wife?’

Dak turned and walked towards Jo quickly. He stopped abruptly when their noses almost touched.

‘What did I just say?’

He walked back to his bench and stared at the wall until Jo walked out of the cave, past him and down the path to the van. That night Dak dreamed of the Stag. He had met him several times when running in the forest as a child. Each time, the stag had stopped in his tracks and stared into his eyes, penetrating him with an intense love that he’d never experienced again.

The following morning, he lay in bed and watched the sun slide further into the front of his cave before he jumped up and set to work. It didn’t take long as he’d seen his father do it time after time. As he raised the net and tested the ropes, he recalled the morning he had stood with the village looking up into the trees, watching the stag struggling hysterically in the net. A dart pierced his neck. Even once he had given up the stag kept his gaze until the life drained out of him.

Later, Dak stood at his bench and prepared his paints. A tiny skull of a bird sat in a delicate clamp in front of him. He heard the crackling stones under the tyres of the postal van. The van door shut loudly and Dak jumped. A few steps crunched on the gravel before he heard a howl.

‘Dak, what the fuck is this? Get me down right now you fucking weirdo’

Dak’s smile slowly widened.

‘Dak? Dak are you there? Oh come on!!!

A nice big skull.

He turned. There stood the Stag, staring into Dak’s eyes.

46868