Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday extracts. Richard Bach's explanation of miracles.

Illusions is a wonderful short book by Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Its sub title is The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. That probably would offend some people but I think the philosophy behind the book is wonderful and, in my experience, is largely true - if only we have enough imagination.

Richard is a barnstorming pilot who earns his living flying people on short trips around their towns in the American mid-West. One day he meets another pilot, Donald, doing the same job and they tour together while Richard hears Don's version of how the world works. As the days pass, Richard realises that Don was once known as the Mechanic Messiah, the American Avatar (until he announced one day that he quit and disappeared in front of twenty-five thousand eye-witnesses) and probably holds the answers to some fundamental questions. In this (long - I'm sorry!) extract, Richard is feeling lonely and has asked how to attract a lady into his life.


The hamburgers in this place were wrapped half-over in thin oiled paper, and when you unwrapped them you got sesame seeds everywhere useless little things, but the hamburgers were good. He ate in silence for a time and so did I, wondering what he would say.

 "Well, Richard, we're magnets, aren't we? Not magnets. We're iron, wrapped in copper wire, and whenever we want to magnetize ourselves we can. Pour our inner voltage through the wire, we can attract whatever we want to attract. A magnet is not anxious about how it works. It is itself, and by its nature it draws some things and leaves others untouched."

I ate a potato chip and frowned at him. "You left out one thing. How do I do it?"

"You don't do anything. Cosmic law, remember? Like attracts like. Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright. Automatically, as we shine who we are, asking ourselves every minute is this what I really want to do, doing it only when we answer yes, automatically that turns away those who have nothing to learn from who we are and attracts those who do, and from whom we have to learn, as well."

"But that takes a lot of faith, and meanwhile you get pretty lonely."

He looked at me strangely over his hamburger "Humbug on faith. Takes zero faith What it takes is imagination." He swept the table between us clean, pushing salt and french fries out of the way, ketchup, forks and knives, so that I wondered what was going to happen, what would be materialized before my very eyes.

"If you have imagination as a grain of sesame seed," he said, herding an example seed to the middle of the clearing, "all things are possible to you."

I looked at the sesame seed, and then at him. "I thought the thing was faith, when the world goes against me."

"No. I wanted to correct that, when I was working, but it was long uphill fight. Two thousand years ago, five thousand, they didn't have a word for imagination, and faith was the best they could come up with for a pretty solemn bunch of followers. Also, they didn't have sesame seeds. "

I knew for a fact that they had sesame seeds, but I let this lie go past. "I'm supposed to imagine this magnetizing? I can do that, but that's all that is, that's just my imagination. "

He looked despairingly to heaven, represented for the moment by the tin-plate ceiling and cold lights of Em and Edna's Cafe. "Just your imagination? Of course it's your imagination! This world is your imagination, have you forgotten? Your imagining doesn't change the Is one whit, doesn't affect reality at all. But we are talking about Warner Brothers worlds, MGM lifetimes. All dreams with the symbols we waking dreamers conjure for ourselves. "

He lined his fork and knife as though he was building a bridge from his place to mine.

"If you dreamed about airplanes, what would that mean to you?"

"Well, freedom. Escape and flight and setting myself free. "

"How clear do you want it: The dream awake is the same: your will to be free of all things that tie you back--routine, authority, boredom, gravity. What you haven't realized is that you're already free, and you always have been. If you had half the sesame seeds of this . . . You're already supreme lord of your magician's life.”

The waitress looked at him strangely from time to time, drying dishes, listening, puzzling over who this was.

"Show me what you mean give me a little miracle of the magnet. . . I do want to learn this."

"You show me," he said. 'To bring anything into your life, imagine that it's already there."

"Like what?"

"Anything. Something small, at first. "

"OK. . . . A blue feather. "

He looked at me blankly. "Richard? A blue feather ?"

"You said anything, something little."

He shrugged. "Fine. A blue feather. Imagine the feather. Visualize it, every line and edge of it, the tip, V-splits where it's torn, fluff around the quill. Just for a minute. Then let it go. "

I closed my eyes for a minute and saw an image in my mind, five inches long, iridescent blue to silver at the edges. A bright clear feather floating there in the dark.

"That's it. You can open your eyes now. "

I opened my eyes. "Where's my feather?"

"If you had it clear in your thought, it is even this moment barreling down on you like a Mack truck."

"My feather? Like a Mack truck?"

"Figuratively, Richard."

All that afternoon I looked for the feather to appear, and it didn't. It was evening, dinnertime over a hot turkey sandwich, that I saw it. A picture and small print on the carton of milk. Packaged for Scott Dairies by Blue Feather Farms, Bryan, Ohio. "Don! My feather!"

He looked, and shrugged his shoulders. "I thought you wanted the actual feather. "

"Well, any feather for openers, don't you think?"

A spooky strange feeling. It worked! I had consciously magnetized my first thing! "Today a feather," I said, "tomorrow the world!"

"Be careful, Richard," he said hauntingly, "or you'll be sorry . . . "

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

River of Stones... Preparing with peas

Pop. Zip. And the sharp taste of summer green. 
Some peas won't make it to the pan.

The River of Stones project is starting again on July 1. I have dedicated a new page to it, rather than having 31 consecutive posts in the same series. My normal posts will continue as usual.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poems in the Waiting Room

I've been to the doctor's this morning. Nothing serious - all routine - but I was happy to find a new copy of a little leaflet that's available there. Happy to find a leaflet in the doctor's?  What's it about?

Well - it's a triple fold card called "Poems in the Waiting Room" that offers a selection of poetry you can read while you wait and can take home with you.  I always pick one up when I see one and often find some excellent new poems as well as some old favourites.

Check them out here if you would like to know more.

And here's a choice from the current selection:
Madonna of the Evening Flowers
All day long I have been working,
Now I am tired.
I call: "Where are you?"
But there is only the oak tree rustling in the wind.
The house is very quiet,
The sun shines in on your books,
On your scissors and thimble just put down,
But you are not there.
Suddenly I am lonely;
Where are you?
I go about searching.

Then I see you,
Standing under a spire of pale blue larkspur,
With a basket of roses on your arm.
You are cool, like silver,
And you smile.
I think the Canterbury bells are playing little tunes.

You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and rounded.
You tell me these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart-flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur,
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud,
sweet Te Deums of the Canterbury bells.
Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

(Sorry - I don't have any photos of larkspur.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

3 word week: Green, green grass of home.

The thing about living in a hotel is that your circle of friends changes with alarming frequency. Just as you start to get to know someone and add them to your ad hoc family their holiday is finished and off they go home. On the other hand, sometimes you are glad to see the back of visitors who over-reacted to mein host’s esemplastic skills and were sucked in closer than you ever intended. I choose to live here precisely because it brings a varied stream of potentially sparkling company to my door without me having to make any effort, but there are limits.

Seven nights of sitting in the bar listening to Sharon and Darren trying to outdo Tracey and Duane with their tedious tales is enough to put anyone off. I mean, déjà moo darling! The other night it was all about holidays-they-have-spent, and the claims became increasingly ridiculous as the level in the vodka bottle fell. If hand-rolling cigars in Cuba or pearl diving off Bahrain are so exciting, why did they come here? Truth is, a wet week by the scruffy seaside is the measure of their worth.

As for last night’s discussion about all the celebrities they claim to have met, well it was just too outrageous. They had never clapped eyes on any of the stars whose names were being bandied about. Even if I had never mixed in such exalted company myself it would have been obvious that they were just repeating women’s magazine gossip.  I fetched up here after a lifetime in the entertainment industry so I really have met most of the artistes they mentioned, and quite a few more I can tell you. I was never on stage, of course, never front of house. I worked as a dresser, so I have seen the great and glorious without their costumes and make-up, and I know the reality. But I am far too discreet to kiss and tell. Besides, once you have seen Tom Jones in his underpants you know there really is very little glamour in showbusiness.


This is my offering for Steve Isaak's three word Monday, which he hosts at his blog Reading and Writing by Pub Light.
This week's words and phrases are: ad hoc families, déjà moo and esemplastic. If you want definitions click here.
For rules of the contest click here.

I've had an idea going round in my head for a couple of weeks now (as if I didn't have enough on with my current WIP) and this gave me the opportunity to let some of it escape and see daylight.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday 160. Back pain.

Back, butt, thigh, knee, calf, ankle, foot.   Like hot needles in my body.  The pattern is diagnostic. It can be only one thing.  I really hate having sciatica!


Sunday 160 is a weekly challenge set by the Monkey Man that involves writing a 160 character story, poem or microfiction. Go visit to see some more.

Friday, June 24, 2011

fff55. Social not-working III

Keely was flattered when Mike asked to be her friend online. He’d seen her photo and thought she was pretty. Yeah, yeah, she could hear teachers and her mum warning about stranger danger, but he wasn’t a stranger was he? She’d seen his photo. But she wondered why his dad had come to meet her.


I used to work for a company that supplied software to schools. Children can be very tech savvy but they are not so smart when it comes to protecting themselves.

For more FFF55s (a weekly 55-word microfiction challenge hosted by the G-Man) pop over to Mr Knowitall's Blog.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday extracts. Mary Shelley's shortage of friendship

One can imagine that, for a woman of her time and with such a vivid imagination, Mary Shelley might be a bit short on friends.   This Thursday Extract is from the start of her most famous work Frankenstein.

But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy, and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil. I have no friend. When I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate in my joy. If I am assailed by disappointment, no-one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection. I desire the company of one who could sympathise with me, whose eyes would reply to mine. You may deem me romantic, but I bitterly feel the want of a friend. I have no-one near me, gentle yet courageous, possessed of a cultivated as well as a capacious mind, whose tastes are like my own.
Robert Walton. Ship's Captain.

Frankenstein Mary Shelley

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

3 Word Week: Epic Fail

Called on geeky Simon last weekend – or Sly as he names himself. He was always a nerd at school, and he’s no better now, even though he can see thirty coming. He tried quitting home at nineteen but couldn’t maintain his lifestyle, so the hesher was back at his parents’ place before he hit twenty one, living his übergeek ways and missing out on any kind of girl action. He says “LOL. Why should I pay to get my laundry done?” You can get that from the way he smells.

Anyhoo. I wanted to reprogram Sly. Thing is, he’s superstitious: avoids green; touches wood; salutes magpies; the whole heap. Worst of all, he’s afraid of thirteens, and especially Fridays with that date. It’s called friggatriskaidekaphobia; he told me. He knows all his phobias personally.

As he opened the door he said: “What’s up bro?” He talks like that a lot. Like he’s seventeen and living in the ‘hood. Then he noticed the ladder. I’d propped it over the door hoping he’d step outside and walk under it but, no luck.

“Leave it out, bro’. Epic fail. You should not diss my belief system like that.  Show me some respec’.” He gets his street cultures confused at times.

“Belief system?” I spat, ignoring his slang salad.  “That’s no belief system, it’s hooey. The only person round here showing disrespect is you, scruffy n00b. Why don’t you bling yourself up and come down to the pub?”

He looked tempted but something held him back. “We’d have to check out before midnight. I can’t be there on the thirteenth.”

“Whatcha mean, the thirteenth?”

“Tomorrow, Saturday the thirteenth.” He looked at me as if I was vacant, so I decided to try my best shot.

“Sly. Today’s the thirteenth. You know?”

It wasn’t the thirteenth. I only said it for a joke, but his eyes opened out like searchlights as he muttered, without a hint of his usual attitude, “You mean I went to work on Friday the thirteenth? Oh shit.” Then he sort of belched and his eyes rolled up. He tipped backwards like a felled tree and I heard a crack as his head met the floor.

“Simon. SLY!” I yelled, and knelt down to check him over. He wasn’t breathing.

“Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh HELP!” I hollered, grateful his mother was in the house. Then I started mouth to mouth.

That belch had been a vurp because I tasted vomit as I put my mouth over his. His mother called an ambulance, but I had to stick with the paramedic act and eat his puke till they arrived. It was gross.

Huge relief: he was breathing on his own by the time they got him to hospital. When he came round I admitted I’d been joshing and it backfired. He was OK about it, considering. He recovered with no harm, except for one thing: now he’s afraid of Friday the twelfth too.


This story is in response to the weekly challenge at Steve Isaak's Reading & Writing by Pub Light. Steve offers three words and we have to include them in a short story of fewer than 500 words. (This one JUST scrapes through the word count).

This week's words were what you might call a challenge.

Hesher - the kind of 28-year-old who dresses and behaves like he's 17 and still lives with his parents.
Friggatriskaidekaphobia - the fear of Friday the 13th
Vurp - the kind of burp that brings a small amount of vomit with it

No, I didn't know them either!

Jetsam has been published on Microstory a Week

My 3 Word Monday story Jetsam has been published on Steve Isaak's site Microstory a Week.

Steve issues a weekly challenge through his other site Reading & Writing by Pub Light, which calls for a story of less than 500 words, including three specific words of his choosing.  Then he publishes the ones he likes on the Microstory site.

Thank you, Steve for choosing my story!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Social not-working II

friend [fRend] n person for whom one feels affection and whom one knows intimately.

FB friend [faisbuk fRend] n person who has met somebody one walked past three years ago; person wishing to boast about their achievements.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday 160. Last words

Switching on the lights, she saw the man standing across the room.  She pulled the trigger before he could speak. “I warned you,” were the last words he heard. 

Go see the Monkey Man for more Sunday 160 offerings
- short stories with exactly 160 characters.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The gentle art of word folding

I have never tried,
Though I write many poems,
to do a haiku.

Karate neither.
Although some origami
brings me great leisure.

Friday, June 17, 2011

FFF55: Technology

There are hundreds of channels on my new TV service, Internet access through my television, movies on demand and even a place where I can showcase photographs.  I can programme it to record favourites and watch them back while it records two more stations at the same time. 
If only I could understand the remote.

55 words for the great G-Man over at Mr Knowitall's blog.  Go see him for more 55 pleasure!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday extracts. T H White's mustard pot

"This must be Thursday,' said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer. 'I never could get the hang of Thursdays."
Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

And in honour of that I have decided to start a new regular feature of some of my favourite bits of writing. I plan to do this every Thursday (weather permitting and if I can be bothered and if I don't have something more pressing to write) so I have called this marvellous new idea Thursday Extracts. Who'd have thought it?

Actually Thursdays seem to have an effect on writers. Think Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde's intrepid Jurisfiction agent, or G K Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, not to mention the wonderful Douglas Adams quote up there. 

Anyhow. This Thursday's Extract is from T H White's The Sword in the Stone, part of The Once and Future King.

"Have some mustard," said the magician, when they had got to the kidneys. The mustard pot got up and walked over to his plate on thin silver legs that waddled. Then it uncurled its handles and one handle lifted up its lid with exaggerated courtesy while the other helped him to a generous spoonful.
"Oh, I love the mustard pot!" cried the Wart. "Wherever did you get it?"
At this the pot beamed all over its face and began to strut a bit, but Merlyn rapped it on the head with a
teaspoon, so that it sat down and shut up at once.
"It's not a bad pot," he said, grudgingly, "Only it is inclined to give itself airs."

From The Sword in the Stone. Part of The Once and Future King.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Three word week; Jetsam.

I have just discovered 3 word week over at Steve Isaak's blog.  This week's words are Her, Outrage and Seashell.  If you want to know the rules (or have a go!) you should go over to his blog and find out more.  Meanwhile, here's my first attempt. (Very swiftly knocked out during a coffee break at work!)



Eliza was a beachcomber - not that she made a living out of it or anything (nor was she like that weird old man who lived in half a wrecked boat at the shore).  She would walk along the sand as the tide went out and pick up the jetsam that was stranded there, imagining how it had been lost.

She never picked up pebbles or a sea shell. She was only interested in the abandoned, manufactured items. She would take her finds back to her tiny flat in the middle of town and arrange them on ledges and bookcases and shelves around the walls. Then she would sit and look happily at her treasures, while she talked to the spirits of their previous owners.

When the building collapsed, the inquest jury agreed that the structure was never intended to hold such a weight of junk and the old woman’s eccentricity had contributed to her death.  Her neighbours agreed it was an outrage that no-one had done anything about it before.

The old man watched from his half-boat as the merpeople returned to the sea with their recovered possessions, then he headed up to the church on the cliff where he was the only mourner at Eliza’s funeral.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Social Not-working

The carefully crafted message was designed not to exceed the maximum 140 characters. She planned to post it simultaneously to all of her social networking sites so she would know exactly what time everyone could see it. That way she would know how long it took them to respond. She opened the dashboard on her computer, copied the text and pasted it into the window. One last check:

Life is just too much for me so I have decided to take an overdose of pills and white wine and watch the sunset for the last time. Goodbye

Then she hit send.

And the words went unread by all the 263 people who called themselves her friends.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday 160

Landmark on my horizon.
Power towers are cursed by some
But announce that I am home.
Travelling by road, or rail or air,
Your curvaceous walls are
A welcome sight.

This meme is hosted by The Monkey Man. Visit his blog to find more.

Friday, June 10, 2011

FFF55. Victorian recreation

Living history: the past brought back to life. Were the good old days really so great? Or do we look at them through rose coloured spectacles? Whatever the real story, the picture painted by modern, interactive museums is attractive. And I plan to enjoy my old fashioned fish and chips when I visit one today!


We're off to Ironbridge for a visit to the World Heritage site, birthplace of industry and Blists Hill Museum, where you can buy some of the best fish and chips in Britain!

Go visit the G-Man to find some more fff55s.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

1001 books to read before I .......what?

A couple of those are actually on the list!

Thanks to Jarmara I have encountered the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die*. It's been an interesting experience, not least because of the whole concept of reading 1001 books.

You do the sums. Assume that you read a book a month. (Yeah, yeah, I know, you read a lot more than that don't you, but bear with me.) 1001 months is a little over 83 years. So assume you read the first one when you're seven. The Little Prince (Saint-Exupery) is on the list and so is The Hobbit so it's not unreasonable to start then. Though you probably wouldn't go straight from that to War and Peace. That will make you 90 when you finish. The average age-at-death in my family is somewhere around 73. Are you telling me that if I start reading the rest of the list I will somehow live long enough to read them?

Because even at one a week it's still going to take nearly 20 years. Actually, I've already read 100 of them (I can't believe that it came out at exactly 100 either!) so that would still need 17 years and 17 weeks to finish the list. Scarily, that would make me just about the right age to die in line with my family.......

So if it's all the same to you, I'm going to read what I want, when I want and not bother with any silly lists!


* That link will take you to someone's blog because the original list is in a book that you first have to BUY! It's got an introduction by Peter Akroyd, which might explain why several of his titles are included.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Reading the classics

Some time ago I made a pledge to read more classics this year. I've not been reading as much of anything as I'd like to but I have managed to get a few things onto my list. I've just finished The Great Gatsby, which is something I've intended to read for a while. Interesting storyline and the setting on Long Island was fascinating because I'd just finished reading a modern book called Murder Most Frothy (Cleo Coyle), which is set in almost the same place.

I have also chalked up a Dickens short book called A Message from the Sea, which was interesting, if only for the odd dialect that took a bit of translating. It came with my e-reader.

The orignal idea was to get through 12 classics this year, but I can't see that happening unless I try harder. I've got lots of other things I want to get through as well! I'm currently reading Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey, which is shaping up very well.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Intergalactic conversation

We could be in the middle of an intergalactic conversation and we wouldn't even know.
Michio Kaku, US theoretical physicist.

Voice 1. So how long do you think we should give it?
Voice 2. I'm not sure. It's not really going the way we thought.
Voice 1. Obviously not. Do you think it ever will? If we just carry on observing will it produce any new results?
Voice 2. Well, we're only going to know that if we do it.
Voice 1. So do we carry on and see what develops or do we quit now?
Voice 2. They are fascinating to watch. You never really know what they're going to do next, and all that activity in the middle is clearly important.
Voice 1. No, I don't think so. They've done that kind of thing before and it's never really changed much in the total system.
Voice 2. But I thought maybe this time..
Voice 1. Why is is going to be any different this time? They're making a lot of noise and producing a lot of waste, but they aren't actually creating anything, are they? And I think it's making the whole system unstable.
Voice 2. What do you mean?
Voice 1. Haven't you noticed that the matrix has been vibrating? That's made the water supply slosh around quite a bit. And then there have been these puffs of debris near the top. I think the whole thing is going to collapse on itself pretty soon anyway.
Voice 2. So do you think we should quit?
Voice 3. If we want to get more funding we really need to plan some sort of next stage, and I don't think the funders will settle for another round of just watching.
Voice 1. So you're saying we should cut our losses and start again?
Voice 3. I think so. It'll be easier to get grants for a new build. They won't want to pour any more money into something that's done nothing for millennia.
Voice 1. Right then, that's settled. Let's start the final recording stage and then, when we've got all that we can out of it, we junk it and start again.
Voice 2. Shame.
Voice 1. And meanwhile, get some grant applications in for Earth version 2.1.

Monday, June 06, 2011


Time is not on our side. Looking forward, the future rushes towards us with the power of a freight train. Looking back, we wonder where the last thirty years went. Tick, tick, tick - like a dripping tap - time is seeping away from us all.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Sunday 160

So there has been another irritating program update. How am I supposed to count characters now the Evil Elves of Microsoft have tinkered with my computer again?

I read these things each week but have never tried to write one. I can't believe how much more difficult it is to make exactly 160 characters than it is to hit 140 (which I've played in the past). rant And darling Microsoft have changed their program AGAIN so I have to click three times to get a character count now. How is that better for the end user?  /rant
This meme is hosted by The Monkey Man. And it's worth visiting his blog  find some MUCH better ones than I've written.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

fff55. Progress

There is no way through. So, having no dynamite, I must chip my slow way, painfully, until I can be free. I can smell fresh air and there are bright lights through the narrow chinks but I am still trapped. Is anyone digging toward me or do I have to make my own escape? Again.


For anyone who has ever had to go through the process of change, either voluntarily or because of circumstances. Keep plugging. There ARE people out there digging towards you.

Go see The G Man for more fff55s.