Monday, 31 January 2011

Last few stones...

Awww, I can't believe this is the last day of the 'River of Stones' project, I've really enjoyed taking part. I'd like to say thanks to all of you who've been reading my stuff, and "please don't go away"! Tales plans to carry on 'stoning', not to mention signing up to 'flash fiction Friday', which should (hopefully) mean more stuff to read here, seeing as the novel-in-progress is still in pieces.

The 'River' project has been brilliant; not only have I been lucky enough to receive some lovely encouragement from you guys, but I've met so many creative and talented people. It's been very inspiring, and I'm hoping we all keep in touch.

Okay, emotional moments aside, I've ended this project by missing the last few days, so here we are; catch-up time....

Stones #26/27/28
The woods echo with a woodpecker’s rapid-fire.
Over and over again. I thought long and hard for a good way to capture the sound, and this was the best I came up with.

The grey-brown squirrel is posing with his feathery tail held upright, the tip curling over, while he’s nibbling something he’s found.
I usually only ever see squirrels charging up trees, or performing death-defying leaps from branch to branch. This one was sat, looking like an illustration in a book, until he spotted me, and fled.

Little blue hair-slide, with your pink and yellow flowers, you’re too pretty to be lost. I pick you up again, put you back on the school wall, and hope today is the day your owner will spot you.
I've been saving this one! Every day I walk past, the little hairslide is still there. I've picked it up out of the mud so many times, but no matter where I put it, it hasn't been claimed.

And that's it! So thank you for dropping by, but please, do keep coming back. After all, what is life, but one long tale of very ordinary madness?

Friday, 28 January 2011

Stone #25

The sun floods down from a watery sky, the air is filled with birdsong, and the scent of freshly dug earth. ‘It’s a beautiful day’ the rugged blonde gravedigger says to me, with a broad smile, as the dog and I walk past.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Stone #24

Reams of paperwork lie swilled across the table, white against the red cloth. The boy’s future depends upon what I do with it.

A feathered flash of white and black and green darts into the twiggy hedge, and jolts me from the inertia of driving.

Hey-hey! two pebbles today. The first refers to what I've been languishing over all afternoon (the paperwork, not the stone!) and the second is about the amazing little bird I saw earlier, whatever it was. And here's the question...

Why is it, that no matter how clearly you think you saw the bird in question, it never bears any resemblance to any of the pictures in the birdbook?

I've no idea what it was, although a dear friend of mine would say it's the appreciating, and not the knowing, which counts.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Stone #23

On pale straw stalks brown bulrushes sway, slowly being feathered by the wind.

I think one day this week I really ought to take some time away from my bumpkin existance, and head into town with the aim of writing about something other than plants, and birds, and muddy fields! But seeing the bulrushes this morning brought back memories of a kitten I had some years ago. She was a feisty little moggy, and I still miss her.

Back in those days, I used to have a vase of bulrushes in my kitchen. I had no idea they ripened into fluffy seedheads until the morning I came downstairs to discover the kitten had attacked them in the night. The floor was covered in what looked like masses and masses of thistle-down. Bulrush carnage. The wind which blows around the fishing pond near our house, is far more gentle.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Stone #22

A wet day, the warmest we’ve had for weeks, but the air is dank, sour with the scent of rotting plants.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Catching up...

Yesterday was a rough ride in our house, and I didn't have time to breathe, let alone blog, so here's stone #20, inspired by my 'lovely' day...

The screaming fades, the shouting becomes distant until all I can hear is a vague noise, and the whoosh-whoosh of my heart - as if I needed reminding I’m still alive.

The youngest member of the 'Tales' household is also the main source of the madness, having both feet firmly planted deep within the autistic spectrum. I had to change our plans for yesterday (horror of horrors), so thus had to endure a day-long ear-bashing as punishment.

One of my few successes of recent months has been to acquire a pair of ear-defenders for Tales-the-youngest, who has issues around sensitive hearing - sensitive, apart from (obviously) whenever I'm asking him to do anything. He loves wearing them, and the barrage of curious stares they attract are far preferable to the daggers-looks his bad behaviours usually attract. So in the mid of his scream-fest, I retrieved them from his schoolbag and popped them on. I didn't get away with this ruse for long, but it was worth it!

And here's today's...

Stone #21
Dainty pink stems sashay forth and scorn the season, unfurling their parasol leaves; at least, I think it’s a bit early for rhubarb.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Stone #19

The children are gaming, the woman is typing. The dog gives up. He slumps to the floor, puts his nose on his paws, stares at the rubber green ball, and sighs.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Stone #18

Sitting at my desk, staring out of the window...

The mouse in me ducks as the buzzard swoops up and over my house, its speckled feathers the colour of cocoa powder and flour sifted together.


He rang this morning. I knew he would. He said “why don’t we meet in Bradstone Copse? We could have a picnic,” he said. “No one who knows us goes there. I’ll stop at the garage and get us some sandwiches. And some wine, no: champagne. Champagne will be perfect, what do you think?”

I sighed from deep inside a romantic haze, and said that would be wonderful, but surely he wanted me to bring something. He did that big laugh he does when something really tickles him, when he tips his head right back, and his velvety-brown eyes half-close, the skin crinkling at the corners, his lush lips parted with mirth. I shiver, just thinking about his lips. Then he breathed with that husky breath which makes every woman fluttery, just to bring myself. And he laughed again, but this time with predatory glee. I hugged myself in delight, and told him I’d bring cake.

And what a cake. It’s very special you know, a fruit cake baked with help from Bradstone Copse itself; crammed not just with raisins, cherries and sultanas, but baneberries, thorn-apple and a spoonful of mistletoe berries just to be sure.

And later, when he’s eaten it and lain back with me on the picnic blanket, the glazed look in his eyes growing milkier by the second, I will read him the letter his wife sent me the week before I met him, the week she asked for my help.

I thought it was high time I put something else up here apart from the 'small stones' offerings. No apologies for the 'witchy' tone to this one, its all down to the book I'm reading at the moment by A. Lee Martinez, 'A Nameless Witch'. It is hilarious... 'laugh out aloud and get funny looks from the kids' hilarious, about a cannibalistic witch, a demonic duck and a perilous quest. Very funny, and highly recommended reading for January!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Stone #17

After a very murky day in which the hill behind the house has been missing since early morning...

I love fog, I find it comforting. My senses tell me that since there’s nothing out there but white smudginess, there’s nothing to worry about today.

It would, of course, be nicer still if I didn't have to go out in it, crawling along, squinting through the windscreen, trying to work out where the road ends and the verge begins! And now it's gone dark, it's going to be a very interesting drive down to the village to take the boy to scouts...

Our roles reverse as I suggest he takes the night off. He gives me a disapproving look, and mutters out the lecture I give, the one about commitment and dedication, on the nights when he'd rather stay at home. I slouch and sulk; he gives a heavy sigh and turns back to his game.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Stone #16

The frost returns, and in the night, grows ice ferns across my windscreen.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Stone #15

Spiders’ webs, coated with moisture, are revealed in the morning sun.

I tried to keep today's stone very simple and uncontrived today... And that feels very uncomfortable, like a half-baked effort. Hmmm.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Stone #14

A glut of shellfish marooned by the tide: fattened seagulls, too full to fly.

[There isn't supposed to be a theme of dead things being eaten by birds developing here! It's just that being very tired of getting wet and muddy, the faithful dog and I decided to decamp to Ainsdale beach... It was a very beautiful morning, dead sea-creatures aside!]

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Stone #13

Now, this is yucky....

I wondered why there were so many birds on the flooded field; now I know. Drowned worms, their bloated, pale pink bodies lie twisted on the surface. I grit my teeth, and don’t look down.

I really wished I hadn't decided to walk across that particular field, it was horrible. But it reminded me of the artwork on a record sleeve I bought back in my 'younger' days.

That record was 'Body and Soul' by the Sisters of Mercy, and I played it over and over again...I still love it.

I remember the picture on the sleeve vividly, so after a little digging online, I discovered notes unpon the record's artwork which reveal it to be an engraving by the nineteenth century French artist Gustave Dore, and depicts a scene from Dante's 'Inferno'.

Apparently the picture is sometimes reproduced with the caption
'take care that you do not trod on the heads of thy brethern'.

I'm glad to report that I did try very hard not to tread on any of the dead worms. Yucky...

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Stone #12

The jetfighter wind roars across the sky.

This isn't what I was going to write about today, but I've just returned from a long tramp across squelchy, slippery fields with the-dog-of-small-brain, who, for the umpteenth day running, has had to bear the canine indignity of yet another bath to wash off all the mud. It's wild outside today; what a joy to take off my hat and let the wind whip my hair, and the rain splatter my un-made-up face. Plastered in mud, and with waterproofs swishing, I could have walked for miles further, had it not gone dark.

The sound of the wind blowing was so impressive, I don't think this little stone does it justice; it was louder than the Eurofighters yesterday, who thundered through my peace on a training flight. I was sorry to arrive back in the quiet of home. But not as sorry as one small, but no longer muddy, dog!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Stone #11

I kid you not....

My slobby, middle-aged moggy is snoring under the duvet.

When we got him, he was whip-cord thin, sleek and graceful. Now his belly hangs down towards the ground, and swings from side to side if he runs. He's a champion mouser, but that, we think, is because he sits on the mice, rather than actually catching them. And I never knew cats could snore, but he does...

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Stone #10

Double figures, woo-hoo! Have really struggled to find time today, so this hasn't had a huge amount of thought... But I do know what I'm making for tea tonight, which is an achievement in itself.

Sculpted bodies in neon yellow, gnarly legs in black lycra, they aren’t so much dedicated cyclists, as a jamboree of exotic beetles lending their flashy colours to muddy January lanes.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Stone #9

Her pewter spikes are tipped with drips of luscious raspberry. I don’t stare, but I do wonder: is this how old punks age? …And I wish I had her nerve.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Stone #8

Old knitbone has unfurled fresh green shoots amid the mulch of last year’s leaves.


She reads the letter, and her cold core fires. How dare they? She flings it aside, and stamps out with the dog, deaf and blind to everything but the magnificent doughy anger rising in her veins. She flounces across fields, and stomps over stiles, attention devoted to crafting a protest from sharply barbed words. When her feet arrive home, she is surprised; back here already?

Inside, she flings aside her coat, plonks herself down, and writes out her wrath. The words bubble, haughty and indignant, each one calculated to scald their reader. She picks up the maligned letter to copy the address, and stops. And reads it again. And again and again and again.

Now her face burns. She tears up her page, and sets fire to the fragments. She’d misunderstood. She’d railed and ranted for nothing. The letter didn’t say what she thought it had said. But at least nobody knows, she’s realised in time.

She slinks back to what she was meant to be doing today, tail tucked between her legs.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Stone #7

The wind whips away another layer, stripping back my shame for the world to see.

I live in a crumbly old house which is, literally, falling down around my ears. The problem is I can't afford to fix it, and I can't afford to move. Of course, 'Tales' knows many people in this world don't have a roof over their heads, and is grateful to live in beautiful countryside, but I never imagined I'd be such a source of consternation to my neighbours.

They are lovely neighbours, and rescue me from many a disaster, but the sight of them shaking their heads together over the dodgy plaster falling off my house, has left me rattled and ashamed. I know they despair of the unkempt vibe generated by my being supremely useless at practical, 'householdery' tasks. Thing is though, the falling plaster has actually made quite a nice hole, shaped, interestingly, like the outline of France. Every time the wind blows, a little bit more falls off.

I am single-handedly lowering the tone of the neighbourhood... Oh well, it's a tough job, but someone has to do it!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Stone #6

Toddled off to the local swimming pool this morning, and spent an entertaining hour or so bobbing around in horribly-chlorinated, water people watching, while my charming children wore themselves out with repeated, and eventually extremely bad-tempered, attempts to out-do each other. There was so much to see, I have three little stones for today; "Three Stone Sunday"!

Before I start, I must point out that 'Tales' isn't exactly sylph-like, indeed there was a heated conversation in the changing room about the inappropriateness of making loud remarks about 'Mummy's fat bits', but here we go..

Tattooed middle-aged men, magnificent bellies spilling over their shorts, heave themselves from the pool, and dwarf their tiny children.


Grumpy parents scold their offspring into the budding champions they never managed to be. Do they really think it will work?

(and because I'm really no better than anyone else when it comes to having inflated ideas about one's child's talents, here's one I wrote for me...)

# three

Half seal, half boy, his sleek body slithers through the water. I flail and flounder. That I bred such a creature defies logic. He slips away from me, and on and away.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Stone #5

Before I get onto stone #5... I never imagined how much fun it would be signing up to take part in the 'River of Stones' project, and here's a link for all you 'non-stoners' who are wondering what on earth I'm jabbering about! Visit it; it's a launch pad to propel you into a fantastic realm of other people's creative spaces. There's over 200 hundred people taking part from all around the world, and its absolutely not a 'writery' thing; there are artists, poets, photographers, doctors. I would list the brilliant sites I've already discovered, but every one is beautiful in its own, unique way. I sit with a mug of tea, and click on each and every one which snares my eye. It's wonderful to connect with a spectrum of fascinating people.

Okay, that's enough misty-eyed blathering. It's the weekend, and I'm chief entertainer, so here's today's stone as I'm off to drag my reluctant offspring outside for some exercise, in my role as the world's worst, and most unfair, mother...

Stone #5

It’s a…. I reach for the word, but my memory is receding, and what once sprang forwards must now be hunted through the dark.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Stone #4

The plump, purply pigeon plonks himself down outside my window and stares in as though it’s me who’s strange.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Stone #3

I slip. I land on my back, and in pain; the hard road knows no compromise. My faithful dog weeps with mirth.

Ghosts (ii)

I had forgotten you.

You disappeared through the door where I send things which don’t matter, banish those which do. But here you are, on my desk. I didn’t invite you, but one click of the computer’s mischievous mouse and you appeared, smouldering on my screen, eyes alight with reproach. I flinch.

I study your picture and it seems to me that you must have spent your whole life choosing this pose. How many snaps did you reject before the photographer finally caught that precise flash in your eyes, that artful fall of your curls, and your perfect expression laden with intrigue.

I look at your picture for as long as I dare, until your eyes scorch me. You’re doing well, I see, so it says, but I don’t delve. I don’t want you to know I was looking at you. I don’t want you to think of me at all.

I click again, and you disappear. If only it had always been that simple.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Stone #2

As I squelch across this bleak field, my fingers and toes numb with cold, I remember last summer when we rolled together in the wafting, warm grass.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A River of Stones

Messing around online this evening, I was reading Annie Clarkson's lovely blog 'Forgetting the Time'. She has decided to take part in a project created by the novelist Fiona Robyn, called 'A River of Small Stones'. The idea of the project is for you to chose something each day throughout January, and to write a few lines about it. Fiona explains it as follows;

"Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to pay attention to one thing every day during the month of January and write it down. We call these pieces of writing small stones. We're especially interested in both 'writers' and 'non-writers' taking part - it's not about the finished product, it's about the process."

Isn't that a lovely idea? You can read more about it over at A River of Small Stones

So 'Tales' has signed up too...albeit a few days later than everyone else. And so here goes...


The road is slick with mud-brown slush. Cars whoosh past. The dog and I cower, afraid we will witness a screeching, scrunching smash as worlds collide.

Fairy Dust

I've had so much fun purging the house of tinsel, I've even tidied my desk. And guess what I've found? This little story shivering, unloved, under the dust. In my zeal for new year clear-outs, I've given it a shake, and pasted it here. So to everyone who stumbles across 'Tales'this week, I hope you enjoy it!

Fairy Dust

It was Kerry-Anne’s first car. She chose it in ‘Moon-dust Mauve’, which made the salesman laugh, but Kerry-Anne just smiled. It was the colour she’d picked for her bridesmaid’s dresses, the tablecloths and favours.

Tony was waiting when she got home to Burscough. They’d been dating for four years, and engaged for three. Hands sunk into pockets, he slouched around the car.

“Very nice,” he pecked a kiss on his beloved’s powdered cheek. “Look! I got you a pressie.”

It was a packet of car stickers, sparkly pink. There were flowers, and stars, and the words ‘powered by fairy dust’. Kerry-Anne squealed.

“Tony, thank you,” she flung her arms around his neck. “They’re so cute. I’ll get Daddy to put them on. Daddy! Daddy!” She ran into the house waving the bag. “Look what Tony’s got me.”

“Let’s see,” her little brother snatched the stickers. “Powered by fairy dust’? That is so pathetic.”

“Give it back,” Kerry-Anne shrieked. “Give it back you creep.” She swiped at her brother, but he dodged. “Mum! Mum, Brad’s being horrible. Mum!”

“Knock it off Bradley,” their mother appeared from the kitchen, a cigarette lounging between her manicured fingers. “Hiyah love,” she said to Kerry-Anne. “Let’s see the car then.”

“Tell him to give me my present back.”

“Bradley! Will you pack it in? Give that back to our Kerry-Anne before I knock your block off.”

Bradley tossed the packet onto the floor.

“You little pig!” Kerry-Anne looked to her mother to scold the boy, but he was already bounding upstairs to his room.

Kerry-Anne beamed when Daddy showed Tony how to apply the stickers, when Mum wanted a lift, and when her work colleagues clucked approval. But Bradley pretended to vomit every time anyone mentioned the car. And when he thought no one was looking, he picked at the stickers with his grubby nails.

There was a wedding fair at the Skelmersdale hotel where the reception was booked. Kerry-Anne was straightening her hair when the telephone rang. It was her best friend and chief bridesmaid, Carla-Jayne.

“Kerry-Anne? It’s me. I can’t come. I’m not well.”

“You sound awful,” said Kerry-Anne, squirting hairspray. “Don’t worry. Mum’ll come with me. Ring you later.”

But her mother was busy with the church coffee morning. Kerry-Anne pouted, but she wouldn’t change her plans.

“Mum,” Kerry-Anne wailed. “What if I see a nicer dress?”

Her mother paused, torn. But she thought about how many wedding fairs they’d attended since Tony had proposed.

“Why don’t you give this one a miss?”

But Kerry-Anne was determined, so she went by herself in moon-dust mauve, powered by fairy dust.

It was dark by the time she set off home, the sky lit with stars and a gleaming full moon. Her breath turned to curling, swirling steam as her heels clipped across the car park. She opened the car door and sank in, her belly rumbling and her head full of weddings. She rang her mother to say she was on her way, then turned the key and set off.

The roads through Skelmersdale were busy, but Kerry-Anne barely noticed. Her mind was reeling from the orgy of wedding paraphernalia. She took Daddy’s shortcut down a dark, narrow lane.

Music, yes. What time did Tony say he’d be round? Put the radio on. What is Mum making for tea? No, not that channel.

She looked down.

There was a thump. She jerked up and screamed as a thing, a scarecrow thing lurched at the windscreen. She stamped the brake. The car juddered to a halt. The thing rolled off the bonnet.

She kept still, waiting. Nothing happened. She peered through the window, but it was dark. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door, and stepped out.

Her foot landed on something squashy. She yelped. There, in the light from the car, was the thing. It wasn’t a scarecrow. It was a body. She’d hit somebody with her car.

Her blood iced, memory playing in her head like a film. She’d been looking down. She’d been fiddling with the radio. She hadn’t been looking where she was going. And she’d hit someone. She’d hit someone with the moon-dust mauve car, powered by fairy-dust.

“Hello?” Her voice squeaked. “Are you alright?” She bent down and gave the body a shake. It was a man in jogging gear. He didn’t respond.

She shook a bit harder, trying to remember first aid courses. But none had covered what to do on a dark night when you’ve run somebody over.

“Hello? Are you alright?”

He didn’t answer. Kerry-Anne’s hand trembled as her fingers fumbled for a pulse. They pressed and felt, but there was nothing. There was no sign of life.

Her heart thumped. Her body sweated. The thought flickered that she ought to try to revive the man, but it went out, smothered by certainty. He was dead, and she had killed him. She was a murderer.

Everyone would be horrified, appalled. She’d be sent to prison, wedding cancelled, career over, her promising future ruined. Why had she bought a car? If she hadn’t, this wouldn’t have happened. She looked down at the man. If he hadn’t been out jogging, this wouldn’t have happened either. It was his fault too.

His fault. The thought lodged. It germinated. It sent little roots spreading through her mind. It was the man’s fault. He shouldn’t have been here. It was his fault. Why should he ruin her life?

She didn’t waste another second. She got back into the car. She shut the door, and drove off. She drove away as though nothing had happened. It was the man’s fault. He shouldn’t have been there. She didn’t look back.

The full moon glared down. In its light, something sparkled. It was a car sticker, worked loose by Bradley, stuck to the jogger’s body. The next driver to pass saw it. He saw the body, and rang the police. The sticker continued to sparkle. Such is the power of fairy dust.
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