Wednesday, 23 December 2020

The Last Chance Saloon

I've been attending a work-based writing and wellbeing course, during which we were recommended to look at the monthly compeition 'Furious Fiction'. 

500 words, in 55 hours, with certain required words, items etc in the story. I had an idea which I worked through in my head, by which time there was only time to write it down, sleep and redraft by the 1pm deadline.

My writing group and my writing course gave good feedback which was very encouraging. 

The Last Chance Saloon


The bell trilled.

Strained conversations withered gratefully.

‘Okay everyone, mark your cards and get ready for your final encounter. If you haven’t found love at first sight already then don’t despair, this could be the one.’

Jake rose from his chair, wiped his still sweaty palms on the back of his jeans, and headed to the final table.

‘Nice to meet you’ she called after him.

He turned back, remembering his manners, ‘Oh yes, thank, you too’ and gave a kind but not-interested smile. He’d spent ten minutes nodding politely at her self-absorption, and the flat autumn light hadn’t done her face any favours either.

‘Before we start on our final round, thank you again for your understanding and like I said you’ll all be refunded for this evening, just enjoy yourselves, our gift to you’.

Due to multiple cancellations (‘there must be a bug going around’) the organisers of today’s events had combined the two age groups to have any chance of filling the afternoon. There’d been a few jokes about toyboys and cougars but everyone had voted to carry on.


‘Good evening,’ said Jake’s last chance at a match.

‘Good evening to you madam.’

‘Janice Smith’, she said, holding out a hand.

‘Jake Smith’, he replied taking the hand gently and bowing slightly, ‘Coincidence ?’

‘Maybe we’re related ?’


The following pause was awkwardly long. But what to say ?

‘So . . . ‘

‘You seem rather young, inexperienced, for this ?’ said  Janice.

‘And you seem rather . . . charming, for this’, Jake replied, catching himself.

‘Well thank you, for not calling me old,’

‘You’re welcome,’

The tea light between them flickered.

‘So, given the limited time we have, can I ask you something personal ?’

‘You can ask’, said Jake, taking a sip.

‘How many sexual partners have you had ?’

Jake nearly choked on his virgin coke.

‘You know if I answer then I can ask the same question ?’

‘Oh yes, sorry best not to answer then. I didn’t think that one through, new to this. Shame I’ve been waiting to ask you that all evening, ever since they combined the groups.’

Jake mopped up a little spilt drink with a serviette.


‘So what should we talk about ?’

‘Oh our hopes, our dreams, ‘ Jake said with a mock flourish.

At a neighbouring table a couple were gushing over shared dog photos.

‘Be honest, really, do you think I’m too old for this ?

‘You’re fine, you’re lovely. You take care of yourself. You’ve still got it in you,’

‘Thank you, it’s nice to hear. You scrub up well yourself, ‘


The bell trilled again.

‘Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Please mark your cards and hand them in on the way out. We’ll let you know your matches tomorrow.

‘So Janice, back to mine for some 'Netflix and Chill' ?’

‘I’m not too old to know what that means, and that, is not, appropriate,’

‘Yeah, sorry Mum.’



Saturday, 14 November 2020

Waiting in the dark

There's a lot of waiting going on, waiting for a vaccine, waiting to see if Christmas will be locked down, waiting for a grown up in the White House (at least that's over), just waiting for things to get better,

Waiting in the dark
Take the volume from the incessant chatter
snuff the blazing lights
sit down in darkness
comforted by patience
Stretched between twitching hope
and the sleep of nostalgia
the comfort of newness, of possible change
Or the embrace of the rush of the familiar
Wandering from one day to the next
with no race to run
no flames to feed
the metronome clocks
another day
that slips spent to the pile 
I sit in the dark
fix on one dim shape
and build around that reality
rebuild a sense of me,
that has been dismantling
Washing dressing eating working
scrolling, petitioning
wishing for time travel
either forwards or back
Waiting in the rain of speculation
for a cure, a believable all-clear, or a way out
waiting for the same again, again
to stay safe is to stay still, and let go
accept this is out of my hands
Sweet nostalgic music has lost all meaning
return to that country cut off by shifting plates
lose myself in stranger sounds, for stranger times
textural landscapes, shapes and patterns
that emerge from groans and clangs
Sylvian and Sakamoto,
T.Rex and Tom Waits
from a different time
a different place
to repaint the here and now
So I sit in night
shrouded in the weight of these times
while shadow dogs guard me
sinking into the comfort of the dark

Thursday, 2 July 2020


part 3 of the writing in pairs challenge, 
the topic was Wine, following 1) Shoes and 2) Blood.


wasps soothing buzz
licking the dregs of empty glasses
tiptoeing across the table
stumbling over crumbs
the summer sun hanging high
heat smells of dry hay
as sleepy children with sticky lips lost to their shaded dreaming
hazy afterglow
drinking in the peace

Blood is Red

Red blood
Dark skin

Light skin
Blue shirt

  beaten Black and Blue
Red dries Black

  took a knee in Red and Gold
to Outcry

Blue shirt
knee to neck
  to Ash
finally, Outcry 

children open your eyes
the grown-ups cannot explain
how accidents of birth
determine your worth

history has polarised
the beauty in our spectrum
and weak men do drive a wedge
of hatred born in fear

Blood is Red
tears are Clear 
in all God's children
a spectrum, a graduation
not Black and White,
nor Redskinned, nor Yellow
one race, one adam
revealed in many cultures, many traditions

but history is angry with injustice
awake to the heritage of privilege 
all slaves to legacy 
built on sin 
that chokes futures

Blood is Red
and washes pure
save us from our sins


The difference between men and women - Shoes

A light hearted poem about shoes (and stereotypes that might be true)

The difference between men and women - Shoes

Men have
A smart pair, and casual pair
a work pair, and a pair for the garden
Plus wellington boots, and hiking boots
and football boots, and tennis trainers,
and going down the pub trainers, and trainers for going for a run,
A pair for every function.
Equipment and uniform.

Women have
A black pair, a brown pair, a cream pair, a red pair,
A high-heeled pair, a low-heeled pair, and flats,
Crocodile, suede and leather,
Everyday, fancy - for weddings,
and for popping to the shops,
Knee-high, shin high, toeless,
Gappy, strappy, flip-floppy, trotty,
For teetering and tottering,
Slip-slapping and smacking,
A pair for every outfit, climate and mood,
And every combination.

It’s always justified,
No-one denies