Monday, 29 June 2020

A Job Well Done by Chris Lloyd

Three friends were sitting drinking coffee. They were deciding which one of them would do the deed. It wasn’t going well.
Barry, Kenny and George were mates from way back. Same estate, same trouble, ducking and diving since they were in the last year of junior school. They’d all three encountered the local police and had spent time away from their loved ones for minor offences, (well minor in their eyes). At least they hadn’t topped anybody. However, topping was the subject on the table for discussion. The arguments were getting serious.
Barry was the largest and strongest of them therefore Kenny and George assumed he would do it. It would require some strength and bulk.  Barry though was more a gentle, genial giant. He had no appetite to do it. He was not about to agree it should be him. His wife would go ballistic and he wasn’t going to let that happen.
Barry and George turned to Kenny. Kenny had seen a topping after all. Had the experience so to speak. The hands on, eyeballs experience. Kenny knew that would come up and was ready. He played his ace card. He informed them that he was going to the governors’ meeting at the school that night. In any case, he assured them he did not remember the details of that topping. Kenny sighed as he relaxed in his chair.  That went well in his mind.
Expectations now pointed clearly to George. Barry and Kenny were all ears as to how it would be done. George stood to speak, coffee in hand, took a sip as he told them of his plan. It would, he said, be daring, would require strength, good management and skill.  The risk, he said, would be getting near enough without putting himself in danger. Barry and Kenny assured him that if he carried it out stealthily and carefully, his plan would work. They exchanged glances as George sat down.
It was agreed. The deed would take place during the school governors’ meeting, Kenny would create a noisy diversion. 
The time and day seemed to dawn very quickly to George. He was beginning to doubt his ability to actually do the deed. All day he paced up and down in his garden going through how it might pan out. He counted every minute. His eyes left his watch only momentarily. Then, unbelievably, the hour was upon him. Time seemed to slip into slow motion as he walked, his feet feeling like blocks of lead, to the place. He glanced around, checked that the coast was clear. He was there.
He went to where it would “go down” and waited. It was quiet. Too quiet by far. He was perched in a cramped position, his legs starting to get numb. Then suddenly, right on cue, the noise he was waiting for erupted from the governors’ meeting. George started the chain saw and began to top the old apple tree in the school garden, making it a safer place for children to play, including his six grandchildren.
It went very well.

Monday, 22 June 2020

COVID 19 - When Change is Inevitable by Yvonne Witter

How do we cope with change when the unexpected Covid 19 is all about change? We had to alter our buying habits and grocery items. Public entertainment disappeared overnight, and the patterns of our social life and work routines for many were severely altered. Marginalised workers, overnight became essential workers and as such recognised if not in pay and conditions, at least in the hearts and minds of the populous in countries where essential services and those that deliver them became the focus of acknowledgment, applause, conversation, and concern.

But what if you’re not an essential worker, what then, eh? Some people’s jobs are secure, such as teachers, postal workers, public transport workers, bank staff, and so on. But that leaves many with a precarious future, because having service industries closed down during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s questionable whether some restaurants and shops will re-open.

So how do we cope in the midst of a crisis like this? Do we pivot to the left, or do we pivot to the right? and what is left and what is right in this circumstance? I heard someone say recently that human beings are highly adaptable, and people will find a way out of this. I believe that is true but in order to find a way they have to first learn to be still. The government guideline to stay in your house and not leave unless you have an essential journey is an opportunity for stillness, and by stillness, I mean taking the opportunity for deep reflection, on where we are now and where we want to be, and how might we get there. Too many people are sitting like, rabbits caught in the headlights waiting to ‘go back to normal’. 
Post-Covid planning is what I mean here. I am not entirely sure that this period of turbulence is a time to necessarily learn a new skill or build a new business or do something previously unimaginable. However, if you are inclined to, that is a good thing, but I do not believe that people should feel pressurised amidst all the emotional turmoil that they are already going through. I do not think anyone should feel pressurised to 'achieve' just for the sake of it.

I do hope though that we can take the time for reflection, for looking at what we’ve achieved, acknowledging our achievements, remembering and reminding ourselves of the aspirations we had for our business, and looking at how possibly latent dreams could now be reconsidered. Were you really enjoying what you were doing pre the pandemic or had your work become a drudge? Be honest now, were you jumping out of bed in the mornings feeling a bounce in your step and excited to get the job done or were you dragging yourself into work buoyed up by the designer coffee?

So how about considering changes to your current service provision if you are self-employed, in order to remain relevant. You know so that people do not forget about you. One woman I know who makes novelty cakes for parties, she got in touch to say that she was doing a box of cakes that would be delivered to my door.  I placed an order even though I am swiftly growing a third chin. I did that because I wanted to support her business.  I paid for them online three days before they arrived and the box of six comfort treats was delivered on Friday as promised in time for afternoon tea, and there were some delicious treats in that box, a slab of carrot cake, millionaire shortbread,  coconut and jam cupcake and much more, I was spoilt for choice.

My friend who runs a training business, has taken her courses online, some fitness instructors doing Zumba classes are using YouTube and various other online media to keep their classes growing. The question everyone has to ask themselves is how willing they are to adapt, and what does adaptation mean to them and their business, or life in general.

Monday, 15 June 2020

You, Today by Anna Kingston

You, Today

“How much again?” you ask me, pen poised.
“£10.20,” I say distracted by noise.
“What’s the date, did you say?”, still sounding like you.
“10th of May, I believe.” It’s me who’s confused.

You ask me the figures and date yet again
Not even writing the cheque, and then
I really do look, and see you anew - 
You’re definitely altered - are you still you?

The woman we loved, and thought that we knew 
Is slowly dissolving, like smoke up a flue:
Miniscule changes: the outside’s the same
But now you’ve forgotten your own grandson’s name.

Your smile doesn’t change, nor your deep love of cake;
But these changes are cruel, they make my heart ache
For the mum I remember, who taught me to cook,
Who taught me there’s nothing so good as a book.

Close my heart to the past, my eyes to next week,
I’m with you today. I won’t try to seek
The mum I remember, the woman I knew:
We’re together today and, for now, you’re still you.

Friday, 12 June 2020

A Silly Verse Trilogy by Owen Townend


About five metres
from supermarket greeters
Miss Rosie gave birth on the shop room floor.

Mr Mark Peters
of those supermarket greeters
Welcomed her baby through automatic doors.


Claire E Hughes
truly did not choose
to be named after a poetic form. 
Social disgrace in a perfect storm. 

Claire E Hughes
has never perused
comic verse of any style or kind. 
She just wants to leave all that behind.

Claire E Hughes
left me battered and bruised
when I penned this three-stanza warning.
That woman is not for scorning... 


Am I
the only one
who hums?

Am I the only one who hums
conundrums like:

How the A-Team theme
can be heard and seen
from Both Sides Now?

How You Are My Sunshine, 
My Only Sunshine
during The Great Escape?

How There Are 
Nine Million Bicycles In Beijing when 
you Play That Funky Music, White Boy?

Am I the only one 
who makes sums from hums, 
dear chums?

Ho hum...

Monday, 8 June 2020

Hope Springs Eternal by Juliet Thomas

Hope springs eternal;
Proverb Meaning – It is human nature to always find a fresh cause for optimism

by Juliet Thomas

The burden of the week lay like a boulder on Nicole’s chest as her daughter, infused by days of being stuck inside as the clouds grieved, quickly tugged on her wellies. Her cute dimples sucked in her cheeks and she stomped about grinning widely, asking if she could jump in the muddy puddles.

‘Sure, you can,’ smiled her Mum, a fresh dose of energy spiking her weary limbs as she grabbed her mac and purse.

Outside, as Mya slid her clammy hand into hers and continued to bounce along out of step, she filled her lungs with fresh, damp air and tilted her face towards the sun, it felt delicious to be out of the house.

The road and pavement they paced along were varnished slick with rain and she noticed families that she hadn’t seen for weeks doing the same, heading towards the park, now a chink of sunlight had come out to play.

It was like a calling, being drawn to the comfort of tree canopies, the scent of blooming rhododendrons and the expanse of the lake rippling in a soft breeze whilst mallards glided noisily in to land, making Mya giggle.

For weeks the virus had kept Nicole inside the confined safety of her ground-floor flat.  Together, they'd filled the small back patio with pots and sown seeds to occupy Mya. But growth was achingly slow for her little girl, despite her checking them curiously and tending to the pots every morning and she was beginning to show signs of frustration, she didn’t blame her, she felt it too.

Nicole had been fearful of this new enemy, of something she couldn’t see and was desperate to protect her daughter, but this week something shifted, something monumental.

This week the world had changed in yet another horrifying direction and she needed to be seen and to see her fellow community, real life people. She needed to know that they had her back, that they shared her outrage. She could no longer listen to the news presenter’s endless, angled, versions of the truth, of the other outrage, centring once again on the wrong point.

She’d only watched the updates when Mya was in bed, mind. At five years old, it was enough to be afraid in a global pandemic, without her being exposed to a world gone mad driven by the sickening footage of the murder of George Floyd.

How could she even begin to clarify in simple terms to Mya what had happened anyway when she was duly lost for explanation herself? And how could she explain the response? Anger and hurt, understandable, the following violence and a President condemning it; ‘When the looting starts the shooting starts’, how do you ever explain THAT, to anyone? Would it ever end, really?

And this was the concern for Nicole, who had worked so hard to bring her daughter up with good values, purposely in a multi-cultural community that respected and looked out for each other, only for the hate to be rising up so high across the ocean that it could inflict a tidal wave to drown us all here. She prayed each night for that not to happen, for something to change.

But life wasn’t perfect here either, there was still work to do. Many of her white friends and colleagues had reached out to her, checking she was okay, but she knew they were scared too, a hesitant tone to their voices, fearful of saying the wrong thing, sometimes saying nothing at all. She was not angry with them personally; she was angry with a system that continued to uphold white supremacy in a time when this should no longer be. 

Her daughter should be growing up and spreading her beautiful wings in an equal society, one they were all fighting for, she hoped there was still time.

Nicole had thought long and hard, following the black square, show of ‘support’ on Instagram of how she could help her community to be seen, fully, in all their glory and be valued for who they were as people, not just by the colour of their skin. She hoped her white friends would try harder than just following the trend of ‘Black Out Tuesday’.

This morning, she’d woken and felt the slab of sadness of George’s needless death begin to dissipate from her body and be replaced by a physical force to rise up, starting with a need to get out of the house.

Nicole spotted Sacha and went to join her on the bench who turned and smiled at her,
‘Hey love, it’s good to see you, how big has your Mya grown? What have you been feeding her?!’ she laughed in the raucous, infectious way that Sacha does. Relief and warmth flooded her body, her people, her community, the only ones who truly understood.

At that moment Mya and Sacha’s son, Dion pelted their way across the play park, leaping over logs and crashing into their legs, laughing breathlessly.

‘Mum!!, look, look!!’ they both yelled at the same time, jabbing their fingers up to the sky.

Sacha and Nicole looked up to where they were pointing, high above the old oaks at the top of the hill outside of the park, were the perfect arches of a double rainbow, framed by more impending grey clouds.

‘Aren’t all the colours soooooo beautiful, Mummy?’

She pulled Mya in for a hug, kissing the top of her head and smoothing her hair back to look at her,

‘Yes they are my love, yes they are.’  
This story was written after a week of listening intently to my social media friends speak up about how they are feeling on videos and posts, and inspired by the double rainbow appearing, in my eyes as a symbol of hope, on Friday evening.

Friday, 5 June 2020

June 2020 by Vivien Teasdale

June is a poppy
unfurling red sails
into the sunshine,
its black heart giving
succour to the bees,
shelter to its own new
life within, ready
for the future – a future
it cannot understand.
Uncertain, yet believing
the poppy continues
and thrives in the face
of the unknown.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Albert Smith – Hit Man by Dave Rigby

It started with a debt. Well quite a big debt.

Albert liked a bet and when he’d had a drink or two, it all got a bit out of control. Frankie Collins had helped out, lending him money so he could continue paying for his addiction. But he knew there’d come a day when Mr Collins would want his money back.

That day had arrived.

It began with a knock at Albert’s front door – a sound loud enough to waken the dead. The man who’d lent him all that money stood on the doorstep and invited himself in.

They sat in the front parlour, two glasses of stout and a trilby on the Sunday tea table, a photo of Mabel looking down on them from the mantlepiece. It was cold enough for a fire, but there’d been no chance to lay one.

    “You can’t pay me back, can you?” Albert shook his head.

    “So, what are you going to do about it?” Albert said he didn’t know.

    “How about this then. There’s a feller who’s caused me more than enough bother, so much so, that he’s got to go. You can choose which way to complete the job. Once you’ve done the necessary. Your debt will disappear – like magic.”

Mr Collins pulled a strange face, a bit like a crocodile, removed a photograph from the inside pocket of his black overcoat and placed it face down on the table.

    “That’s your man.”

From a second pocket he took out a piece of paper and put it face down next to the photo.

    “And that’s his address.”

There was no more to be said. After the coat, the hat and the man had left, Albert started to breathe more normally.

It would be nice to get rid of the debt. But Albert Smith – hit man – didn’t sound right. It was the sort of name you’d give to someone like him who kept Belisha beacons in good working order.

And yet, he’d got the job of bumping someone off.

But when he turned over the photograph, it was clear that it wasn’t just someone. It was Harry. Albert didn’t need to look at the address because he knew Harry lived only three streets away, a bit too close for comfort. And to make matters worse it was on his dog walking route. That would have to change!

As luck would have it, he bumped into Harry the very next evening. An idea, a very good one, popped into his head in the snug of the Cat and Fiddle. The two of them talked it over.

It might just work.

Harry could raise a bit of cash and Albert would pay a visit to the pawn shop. He still had Mabel’s diamond ring and told himself he’d only be lending it – temporarily.

The thing was to pick the right horse at the right odds – and then just pray. A 50-1 outsider in the 4:30 at Wreston seemed to fit the bill nicely.

Albert placed the bet. If the horse didn’t come home a winner, they’d be well and truly stuffed. It was the gamble of his life, or more accurately, Harry’s life.

+ + +

There were so many mourners at the funeral. He’d been well known and people hadn’t wanted to miss the chance to say goodbye…and the opportunity to make sure he really had gone.

Wearing his only suit, Albert stood at the back of the church, near the porch door ready for a quick exit. He and churches had never got on. He stared straight ahead, not wanting to catch Harry’s eye and watched as the pall bearers brought in the coffin, topped with wreaths – and a trilby.

Their winnings had been put to good use. Harry had found a real hitman who’d done the necessary.

And as if by magic, Albert’s debt had disappeared.