Sunday, February 19, 2023


Madelaine Fortesque Fothering
Entered the room without bothering,
To knock or to wait,
‘Sorry I’m late
It’s because of the case that we’re covering.’
Her boss raised his head, crossed his fingers and said,
‘Sit down and tell me quite plain.
Did you catch him this time? Or did he just climb
Out the passenger door yet again.’
‘Inspector Sir! That’s highly unfair,
It wasn’t my fault that he legged it.
The door came unstuck, when our car hit a truck,
Besides no-one had told me to shut it.’
For a moment her boss seemed to be at a loss,
His body was glued to the spot.
But he grimaced and moaned and, later on, groaned,
‘Well? have you a suspect or not?’
Madelaine raised her hand, ‘Sir please understand,
While my methods are somewhat obscure,
I have the right crim – It’s definitely him.     
And I’ll give you the details - what’s more!’
Said Madelaine with pride,‘He’s waiting outside.
I nailed both his feet to the floor.
Right next to the spot where you fired that shot,
That blew away most of the door.’
Sir! This lead is the clue and it’s staring at you,
And if you’ll just give me a minute,
I’ll tell you a story quite short and quite gory,
To show that I know how he did it.’
Mad walked with some speed and grabbing the lead,
Held it close up to her boss’s nose.
‘Now if you look there you’ll see some grey hairs,
That came from the head of Bill Rose.
The crim he did kill poor defenceless, blind Bill
And also his pet dog as well.
When I reached the scene Bill couldn’t be seen,
But I knew he was there – from the smell.
I went to the bog and saw Ruffles, the dog,
All squishy and bloated and dead.
Then this guy came by, and looked up at the sky
“Take his lead he won’t need it he said.”
I knew that the lead was all I would need,
To prove that this man was the perp.
And when I suggested that he was arrested -
He came along with me – the twerp!’
‘Why Madelaine PC ‘her boss said with glee
You’ve been most successful this time
Said Madelaine PC, ‘I’m so glad you can see
That I’m pretty familiar with crime.
Could I have a big desk Oh, and one more request
A Detective I’d much rather be.
‘Cos Fothering Detective
Would be much more effective
Than Fortesque Fothering PC!’
Maybe in time when you’ve solved some more crimes
Your request will be granted PC
But until that day I just have to say
Please do not give the prisoner a key!
These days Mad she fights from Olympian heights,
All manner of crime and misdeeds.
She works from a room that houses a broom
And a million grotty dog leads.
She spends most of her days
Trying to figure out ways
To rid her city of crime,
While those in the know usually go
And do it in half of the time!
Madelaine Fortesque Fothering,
Enters her room without bothering,
To knock or to wait,
‘Cos she’s usually quite late
Because of a case that she’s covering!

Saturday, August 21, 2021


The dog jumped up and locked its eyes onto mine

Stared into my soul

And brought tears to eyes

That can no longer connect

With those of the little dog 

Who bumps into my legs-

And who doesn't hear a word I say

Who runs around in directionless circles 

Convinced she's headed somewhere.

But there are times when

She sits and sniffs the air around her-

Waiting for recognition and familiarity to kick in.

Then she knows exactly where she's going

And what she will find there.

She doesn't need eyes for that

And sound is unnecessary-

And the circles will keep for later.

That is what the dog who jumped up on me today

Reminded me of

And that is why

I held that dog's gaze

Until the tears dried.

Monday, November 2, 2020




Margaret Fairway, 82 and still going strong, was tired after dropping all her clutter off at the charity shop. It was a hot day so she looked around for somewhere to sit down for a few minutes. A large brown armchair was positioned invitingly in a shady area just outside the shop so she headed towards it and picked up the newspaper that was on the seat. Her mind registered the photo of a blonde haired boy as she pushed it down the side of the chair and sat down.

She let her arms rest in her lap. Her head plopped forward on to her chest and she promptly nodded off. Some time later a bumping, rumbling sound shook her awake.

Margaret  Fairway was in the back of a truck. She scrunched her eyes trying to make sense of her surroundings. The vehicle was travelling at speed and the armchair and Margaret were bouncing about like a lost seagull in a very rough sea. She glanced around the dark interior and could just make out different shapes around her.

And then she heard it.

A low sobbing sound.

It was coming from behind a pile of furniture at the front of the vehicle. Margaret got out of the armchair and made her way to where she’d heard the sound.

She pulled at the assortment of chairs and small tables. Through a crack in the side of the truck a splash of light caught the tear - streaked face of a young blonde haired boy.

Margaret reached out her hand to the cowering child.

‘Hello,’ she said gently, ‘who are you?’

The boy pulled away and put his arms over his eyes. His sobbing became louder.

Suddenly the vehicle hit a bump and Margaret was thrown off balance.

A male voice drifted towards her from the driver’s cabin.

‘I‘ve got the cargo.’

There was a sound of swearing and banging.

‘Bloody phone. Oi! Are you there? I said I’ve got the cargo. I just need to know where to drop it off.’

More mumbling and swearing followed.

‘Pick up a what? But the truck’s full mate. There’s no room for an armchair.’

More swearing.

‘Ok. Ok. I’ll stop by there and grab it.’

Margaret was just starting to wonder where she was when and almighty jolt sent her reeling back into the armchair once again. Her wondering stopped, as her head dropped forward, onto her chest and her eyes closed.

‘Oi Mrs. You can’t sit there. I got orders to pick up that arm chair.’

The voice seemed so very far away and was interrupting her nap.

‘Oi! I said you can’t sit there,’ said the man again.

Margaret’s eyes sprang open!

That voice. She was sure she’d heard it somewhere before.
The she saw the truck directly in front of her and  remembered.

The voice! The truck! The blonde haired boy! The newspaper!

The newspaper!

Margaret fumbled around and slid her hand down the side of the armchair. Retrieving the newspaper she glanced at the photo on the front page.

Shooting out of the armchair she ran inside the charity shop and reached behind the counter. She grabbed the phone and dialled triple zero.

She spoke for a few seconds then headed back outside. The truck driver was busy opening the back doors of the truck and didn’t notice Margaret wander past him and climb up into the truck. She removed the keys from the ignition and  clambered back down and walked back the way she had come. She smiled as she watched the driver trying to drag the armchair towards the back of the truck and she chuckled when he stopped dragging the chair and ran to the front of the truck. He jumped in, just as the police car entered the parking area.

Two officers led the driver away as a third officer walked over to Margaret, She handed the newspaper to him, then pointed to the back of the truck.

‘He’s in there.’

Margaret sat down in the armchair and smiled. It had been quite a long day really but it had ended rather well she was thinking to herself. Her head dropped forward onto her chest. Her eyes closed and she nodded off…


Monday, October 12, 2020



‘Will I see you again?’

‘Don’t know, do I?’

She dragged her knickers up and pulled the thick coat around her.

God it was cold.

‘Why did we have to do it out here?’ she said, ‘should have gone to your place.’

He lit a cigarette.

‘Urge I s’pose.’

‘You flyboys are all the same. Out with the machine gun and in and out before we girls know what’s hit us.’

He took a deep drag on the cigarette and the smoke, when he finally exhaled it, almost froze.

‘Could be dead tomorrow,’ he said.

And he was.


‘I love you Blondie,’ he said, ‘you must know that.’

Hugh rolled off the bed.

‘Then why won’t you marry me?’ said Ivy.

‘Because, you silly thing, it’s war-time, in case you hadn’t noticed.’


‘So- I don’t want to leave a widow behind. Find someone who has a less dangerous job than I do…’

‘But Hugh. We’ve been going together for almost twelve months.’

‘It’s not about marriage.’

‘So what is it about then?’

‘Look I’m a pilot right? I never know if I’ll come home.’

Hugh threw his clothes on and walked to the door.

‘Only yesterday Jonesy went down with his plane. Tomorrow it could be me.’

And it was.


Ivy opened the door. A young airman stood there.

‘Your name Ivy Cooper?

‘Yes,’ said Ivy. Who are you?’

The young man shuffled his feet nervously.

‘My name’s Peter Scooner. I’m a friend of Hugh’s.’

‘Is he alright?’

‘No Ivy. He got shot down over the channel yesterday...’

‘But he was rescued right?’ Ivy interrupted.

‘I’m so sorry Miss. He’s dead.’

Ivy tried to close the door but the young man put his foot against it.

‘He said that if anything happened to him I was to give you this.’

Peter Scooner took a cameo brooch from his jacket pocket, placed it gently in Ivy’s palm and closed her fingers over it.

Then he turned and walked away.





Tuesday, October 22, 2019


The soldier swears. The dry, soul-less land is nothing like he remembers from textbook images.
How long had it been now?
Eight months.
It felt like eight years.

Private Jonas Smith Junior had traveled a lifetime since he’d made the decision.
God! It hadn’t even been his decision.
It had been made for him by his father, Jonas Smith Senior, a military man who, desk bound through inclination and arrangement, had made a successful career of making life threatening decisions on behalf of youngsters who saw only the celluloid side of life in the military; the sanitized tele-images of death and glory.
The younger Jonas Smith had nodded at his father’s suggestion and by conversation’s end had owned the decision without quite understanding how or why.
‘You’ve made the right decision son! University can wait. I mean we can’t have our hard won democracy flushed down the toilet by bastards who’d sooner wipe their arses on our values than take them on board!’
His mother had smiled as a million military wives had smiled before her, while deep down, where no smile can reach, her mother-soul had wept.

So here the soldier stands, in the prickly sweat- induced discomfort of his battle fatigues.
His body, not quite fully grown, is hidden and weighed down by the armadillo-like shell from which hang a soldier’s accessories.
Under his helmet his scalp itches; further down the heat nibbles at his crotch beneath synthetic underwear designed for lengthy wearing in desert war zones.
Sweat beads in a palm that nine months ago had held nothing more threatening than a football.
Jonas Smith junior took two steps forward and disturbed the flies. His mind registered the smell immediately; it took his guts a little longer to respond.

The village, a wasteland now, had been a bristling life-hub two days ago. Now it was a festering fly-blown carcass. Two children were watching the soldier. Their matted hair and blood-brown clothes offering temporary platforms upon which armies of flies landed before bouncing off and swarming to other, more fixed platforms, which offered less resistance.
Two days ago Latifah and Tawfiq had played the games that children played.
Two days ago they had been safe.
All that was gone now. 
There was no safety anymore.
The missiles had seen to that…

Their father and mother had known; known that at any time their lives might change through no choice or decision of theirs.
So, two nights ago, when the change came, they’d woken Latifah and her brother and sent them to check on the old goats, which were tethered some distance from the village.
And afterwards, when the children returned to the village, the walls of their childhoods, like the walls of their village, were irrevocably breached by the images that confronted them.

*    *    *    *
One simple command, flick of a switch or push of a button and a world empties itself of sanity, disgorging order and reason and leaving only chaos in its wake.
Jonas Smith junior’s father had told him once that it is difficult - almost impossible in fact - to impose a new order out of chaos.
“That’s why we have to lead the way son. That’s why we have to take control.”
Right now Jonas was wondering just who the fuck was in control.
One thing was for sure. It wasn’t him.
And where was the fucking back up? It should have been here hours ago. Just what was he supposed to do? He was only a private for God’s sake!

*    *    *    *
The children watch as the soldier raises a hand to his mouth and sinks to his knees.
A rib cage shatters beneath his rifle butt - one more indignity in a multitude of indignities.
The soldier’s bile spills out as he pushes himself away from charred remains.
Tawfiq cries out and starts to run towards the soldier. Tears stream down his cheeks. Putting a finger to her lips Latifah pulls him back.
Her hair is matted; her dress torn and dirty. Her eyes are puffy from crying and she is afraid. She pulls her brother close, as if the closeness might protect them both – shield them from the presence of all this death and destruction.
She takes something from a pocket of her dress, and hands it to her brother.
The soldier looks up, aware of someone watching him, and grabs his rifle. He stands. His eyes lock on to the two small figures a short distance away. He wipes his mouth with his sleeve.
Still eye-locked on the children the soldier walks towards them.

The children step back.
The soldier stops.
The index finger of a sweat-drenched hand taps staccatically against the trigger.
A voice whispers from somewhere under his helmet. Easy Jonas. Easy …

The children watch the soldier wipe sweat from his brow. Their eyes follow his hands as he lowers his gun.
One hand clasps it body-tight; the other reaches out. The weapon is a barrier between soldier and children, yet a link which connects all three of them to this place and what has happened here.
A smile cracks the soldier’s face but it is so uncertain that it doesn’t reach the children. Instead it hangs in space, unclaimed.
Tawfiq’s eyes are on the soldier’s rifle. His sister notices and places a hand on her brother’s arm. She squeezes gently.
Tawfiq glances up at Latifah questioningly and he clings tightly to his sister’s arm.
Jonas calls out.
‘Hi, I’m Jonas.’
The children take another step backwards.
‘Don’t be afraid. I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m American see.’
Jonas points to the flag on his jacket sleeve.
Latifah scrunches her face and spits on the ground.
Her brother copies her.
‘Hey whad’ya do that for? I’m here to help you guys dammit!’
‘Americans do not help us. Americans kill us,’ Latifah stammers.
The fear in her eyes is slowly being edged out by something else.
The children ignore his proffered hand so Jonas lets it drop.
‘Hey you speak pretty good English,’ he says trying to quell his feeling of discomfort.
‘This your brother?’
Latifah nods.
‘I’ve got a big sister back home; she’s always looking out for me too.’
Tawfiq is still looking at the gun. Jonas notices and holds it up.
‘You like it huh? State of the art this is. Fifty rounds in ten seconds. Pretty effective killing mach…’
Realisation hits.
 ‘Oh shit. Look I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…’
Jonas shoves the gun behind his back.
‘There see. No gun. Just me.’
He squats down. He is at the children’s level now. He sits back on his heels, places the gun on the ground and reaches out.
Both hands this time.
Latifah stands behind her brother.
Slowly they walk towards the soldier.
Latifah wipes her face on her sleeve and gently squeezes her brother’s shoulders. Tawfiq reaches out and places an object into one of Jonas’ hands.
Jonas looks at the object in disbelief.
Fear sparks in his brain.
His body numbs.
This was not what he had expected. Not what he’d expected at all.

Four weeks later and Christmas dinner is well under way in the Smith household.
Jonas Smith senior clangs his fork against his wine glass almost breaking it in the process. Jonas Smith Senior is a tad tipsy. But this is Christmas so nobody really minds.
‘Jush gotta say s’good to have you back home where you belong son. It is jush soo good to…’
‘Dad, sit down please.’
‘You showed ‘em din ya son? By god you showed the bastards.’
‘Yeah Dad I showed ‘em.’
‘Yeah, we can all sh-leep safer now ‘cos you showed em right?’
‘Right Dad.’
Yeah he’d shown them. Or had he?

The voices around the table fade as a particular image fills his mind yet again, just as it had every night since he’d returned home.
The image is always the same.
Two frightened kids walk up to him. They stand looking at him. He can’t read their eyes. He wants to say something to them – but he can’t. He sees the girl’s hands, scratched and encrusted with dried blood, resting on her brother’s shoulders.
Then the boy, his lips curled in a strange disconnected smile, reaches out and places the grenade into the palm of his right hand…
And the question that follows is always the same.
Was it ignorance or intention that had saved his life that day?


Friday, March 29, 2019

Unfolding the noisy body and mastering the ageing process.

Old age doesn't sneak up gradually, in a graceful manner.
No! It rears up suddenly and thumps you in the face, in the back, in the knees, or...
You get my drift?
My life was going swimmingly until the about May 2018.
Sure, I'd always had the odd health issue now and again, but they usually came one at a time.
In 2018, however that changed. Health issues dumped on me big time interfering in my life in more ways than I could ever have imagined previously.
In 2018 I spent more times in Doctor's surgeries, specialist centres, MRI machines and Xray machines than I did in travel agents, planes or foreign countries!
As of now, March 2019, that is going to change.
In 2018 I turned 73, which for me was a bitter pill to swallow, but my body decided to let me know even if my ego wouldn't.
I am lucky. I'm still here when a lot of people I used to know aren't. to be continued

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Emma Harrington and the time Blip

The note was on the table when Emma Harrington arrived home from school.
See you at the weekend.
Keep an eye on your brother.
Another lost week.
That summed up Emma’s life. Lost weeks.
Mrs Gwyneth Cluster, from the next farm appeared at the door.
‘Hello Emma. You’re home early.’
‘You noticed.’
‘No need to be like that. You know your parents. Or you should by now.’
Mrs Cluster went to the stove.
‘You need a cup of tea love.’
‘No Gwyneth. I don’t need a cup of tea. What I need is a life!’
Gwyneth ignored the comment. She was used to Emma’s behaviour. She’d experienced it for the past ten years and had learned to take it in her stride. Sometimes, though, her stride was not big enough; especially now that Emma was approaching adulthood. When Emma was younger it was easy to give her a hug, take her for walks and read to her before she went to sleep. She could also manage Tim a lot better back then too.
But those days were long gone.
Children matured a lot earlier these days, she thought. It was such a pity. She thought of her twins and how they never wanted to be adults, except on the odd occasion when things didn’t go their way. That was thirty years ago and both her children were now married with children of their own.
She sighed and poured the boiling water onto the teabags waiting in their mugs.
‘Whatever happened to real tea? – or coffee come to that- These days it’s all bags and powder.’
Emma took a mug.
‘Thanks,’ she said, ‘you don’t have to try and engage me in conversation, you know. It doesn’t make me feel any better.’
Gwyneth raised her hands.
‘Right then. Well, I’ll just take my tea into the sunroom. Call me if you need anything.’
Emma sat at the kitchen table and played with the teabag.
The sound of singing suddenly reminded her that she had a brother.
Tim Harrington flew through the door and rushed up to Emma. He threw his arms around her.
‘I solved three puzzles,’ he said, ‘I’m really good aren’t I Em?’
'Yes Tim you're very good.'
Tim beamed and whooped. He always beamed and whooped. Most kids Emma knew mixed their emotions a little. A smile, a laugh and sometimes a beam. But not her brother. He just seemed to specialize in beaming and whooping. He was moderately autistic according to his teachers, but sometimes Emma wondered if there wasn’t something else wrong with him.
If she was around he was in her face a lot. If she wasn’t he’d spend his time in front of the TV mimicking the action on screen, talking to the characters or speaking the words with the characters.
Often he would just wander around talking to himself and making gestures with his hands. Sometimes after one of these sessions he’d rush up to Emma and say something like  “An apple fell on Tristan Newton’s head didn’t it?”
Emma would explain that Newton was sitting under a tree, watching an apple fall and as a result discovered gravity.
Tim’s response was always the same.
‘The apple didn’t kill him did it Em?’
He was fascinated by how things worked. Anything mechanical, like old clocks and watches, could hold his interest for hours. He loved car engines; any engines.
Tim was only eight and when her parents were away, which was most of the time, it was up to her and - when she was around - Gwyneth to keep an eye on him.
Tim could be very annoying. He was being very annoying now. He started fiddling with the teabag in Emma’s mug.
She pushed him.
‘Leave it Tim.’
‘It’s fun.’
‘No Tim. It is not fun. It’s annoying.’
‘Tim stop!
‘But it’s fun.’
‘No Tim. It’s not. Go away.’
Tim ran to the cupboard where the teabags were kept. Emma got up and went after him.
‘Tim! No!’
Tim shrugged Emma away and opened the cupboard. Emma shoved her hand forward and slammed it shut.
Tim pulled it open again.
Emma pushed it harder this time. It slammed against his left hand.
‘Ow! That hurt! You hurt me Em.’
He cradled his left hand.
‘It hurts Emma. You hurt me.’
‘Tim, I’m sorry.’
‘Go away! You hurt me!’
Emma reached for him but he pulled away and ran outside.
Emma ran after him but when she reached the door he’d vanished.
Gwyneth came into the kitchen.
‘What was all that about?’
She looked around.
‘And where’s Tim?’
‘He ran off.’
‘He was annoying me. He wouldn’t listen to me and I slammed the cupboard door on his hand. It was an accident Gwyneth, I swear!’
‘We’d better find him then hadn’t we?’
They went outside and searched the usual places where Tim liked to hide but with no success.
‘Don’t worry,’ said Gwyneth, ‘he’s probably curled up somewhere watching us. He’ll come back when he’s hungry. He usually does.’
But he didn’t.