Google+ A Tangled Rope: 08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Artificial Intelligence and its Limitations

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Well, I suppose you had to be there, or - at least - in fairly close proximity, otherwise it would probably have made no sense to you at all. At least, that is if you hadn’t seen one of them before and the way it can totally reconfigure your conception of what it means to be a person with an average interest in a decent portion of fish and chips.

Of course, the early experiments with artificial intelligence had not been all that successful. After all, despite all the millions of years of evolution we still have trouble sorting out natural intelligence, let alone wiring up the artificial type. I mean, there are still people out there who believe in all sorts of nonsense up to and including a belief – despite the evidence to the contrary - that Britain’s Got Talent.

Still anyway, as robots go it did have some sort of rudimentary intelligence, even if that was only limited to going to the shops for its owner. Expecting it to negotiate the tricky business of getting 3 portions of fish and chips and a fresh roe and chips, though, was perhaps – at this stage of development – a step too far, as was – quite probably – arming it with military-grade lasers.

Not to mention giving it a rather sketchy algorithm for detecting queue-jumping in other patrons.

Sending it out after the pubs had just shut was probably a mistake too.

An accident waiting to happen, someone said with all the usual post-event wisdom we’ve come to expect from news media talking-heads.

Although, as someone else with a more literal cast of mind who witnessed the actual event, did say, somewhat more accurately ‘it was an absolute bloody massacre.’

Still when it got back the chips were still nice and warm, and it remembered about the salt and vinegar - so it is too early to write it all off as a total disaster, despite the rather high final casualty count.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday Poem: Empty Stone

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Empty Stone

Sweep up the dust of those prayers
whispered up to echo through empty stone.
Dancing like dust, dancing
like angels on the heads of a pin

in the rainbow-flecked sunlight
pouring through stained-glass windows
hiding a real world, outside the empty stone,
where life goes on and time passes.

While, inside the stone tomb,
dust settles on dust and whispers
fade away without ever reaching
any ear that could ever offer a hand

to lead someone away from this
and out into that sunlight where birds
fly free and sing in treetops
not huddle in cages singing songs to no-one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Annoying the Pandas

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Well, not that she’d every given it very much consideration. After all, very few of them do, just so long as they can get their hands on an accordion, very few of them bother to stop to think of the consequences, especially in relation to the pandas.

After all, with pandas being as rare as they are, and their well-known disinclination to get down and dirty with each other leading to a general consensus that their numbers will continue to be limited, the last thing you want is some young know-it-all with a sense of entitlement, and an accordion, coming around and annoying the poor things, especially when there is bamboo to be chewed… and – more likely as not – the female panda already has an headache.

Still, that is not the only instance of wild animal-related musical disquieting going on in the modern world. After all, who amongst us has been so hard of heart as to not reach into our pocket when confronted with one of those adverts for a donkey sanctuary. The only place a donkey cane feel safe from the otherwise ever-present menace of bongos.

Many of us have also selflessly made donations for a bagpipe-free enclosure at the Edinburgh zoo for the zebras and for an anti-xylophone fence to be built across the Serengeti to keep the elephants safe.

No doubt there are many of us too that hope that a world free from lions plagued by clarinets will – one day - no longer be an impossible dream.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Eyes Holding Worlds

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I had no stories left to tell her. There were no more secrets of this, or of any other world, I could reveal to her. I had told her all my stories and taught her all I knew.

I’d stayed with her far longer than any of the others. I had travelled many lands, always on the move from my own land, far to the North, where the winters last for such a long time we do not know if the world remembers how to make a summer. Each new year I had moved on: leaving lands I’d come to know, leaving the women I’d come to love, to search for something I still could not name, despite all the stories I told, beside all the wonders of this world I had seen. There was still something out there, beyond me that I wanted, needed to grasp, to take into my hand and learn its secrets.

She, with the dark skin and the long black hair and the eyes that seemed to hold worlds inside them; worlds I could no touch or reach, held me here, here in this strange land where only the distant mountaintops seem to feel the winter. She listened to my stories and asked the questions I knew the answers to, about the world that lay beyond those mountains that brood over her lands like the homes of watchful gods.

She took everything I could offer her, but never asked for more, always satisfied with what I could give her, and so the years passed and we had children that grew, and a life like the others who scrape their living in the shadows of those mountains.

Many times I made plans for leaving, but instead would turn to travel into those countries in her eyes as her practiced elegant fingers retraced familiar routes across the maps of my body.

Each day that passes takes me further from those lands I have not seen, those people I have not met and all the wonders that lie beyond this land, but each night I return from our fields eager only to wander, lost, in the landscapes of her eyes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Poem: Lying Together

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Lying Together

We are here and there is there
and we do not know what to say.
The words are there, between us
tentative, hesitant and unsure.

We are here and the space
grows wider between us,
no matter how close we lie.

We lie together and we lie
about when we are apart
and not lying alone.

We make promises
about not lying any more,
knowing it is another lie.

It does not matter though,
here and now, because here
and now is all there is, now

and promises can be made here
so easily when there is no past
and there is no future,
just lying here, lying together.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Secrets of Hats

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It involved a hat, after all this time I can’t really remember all the details. We were young, though, and we knew little of the secrets of the universe, the secrets of hats in particular.

When you are young like that, and as involved with yourself and those around you of the same age, you tend not to really notice the rest of the world. It is just there, a background against which the high dramas of your young lives are played out in all their tragic-comic intensity.

And… well… hats are just hats.

Or, at least we thought so.

Some hats are special… we know that now.

After all, no magician is really a magician unless he has the hat to pull things from, no wizard is a wizard without the hat that denotes his status and we all know about witches and their hats.

Natalie’s family invited me on holiday with them. I was surprised; I thought they didn’t like me. After all, what parents ever really likes their daughter’s boyfriend; especially in the teenage years when to them she is still their baby girl?

They had a house down by the coast. There was some entangled family tale of just how they had ended up owning this house that I listened to them telling each other without taking much of it in.

Anyway, this was supposed to be half-holiday, half sorting this house out, getting it ready for some locals to do it up over the following winter, ready for it to be hired out as a summer holiday place from the next summer onward.

So, one day while the rest of the family were out, Natalie and I were exploring the house, stopping every now and then to explore each other in that typical frantic teenage way whenever we could.

Then we were in a gloomy attic, lit only by a dusty skylight and Natalie was naked, motes of dust dancing around her body as she found this hat and put it on, turning to pose for me to admire her….

Then, everything changed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

On the Use of Camouflage Pastry

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It was the subtle use of camouflage pastry on their battlefield steak and Kidney pies which allowed the King’s Own Queens regiment to get within 50 yards of the German trenches during one of the decisive battles of WWI.

Up until then, with their camouflaged sauerkraut, the German forces had an inherent battlefield advantage over the allied troops, especially over the French army battlefield baguette, which had a tendency to leave a trail of crumbs that any German spotter plane could follow, enabling it to discover precisely where the French troops were massing for a pre-battle dejeuner. Often too, the number of corks left behind, as well as the piles of empty wine bottles, were very useful clues to any German spies operating behind the French lines, eager to learn more vital tactical details of the French battlefield menus.

As the First World War progressed, the British army became very cunning in their use of cardboard breakfasts and inflatable sausages which they used to fool the enemy as to the true intentions of the Allies. Once, a regiment managed to fool the Germans into calling off an attack by pretending to order several hundred bottles of brown sauce in time for a pre-offensive breakfast, knowing that the Germans would intercept the signal. The Germans knew that brown sauce was a vital component of the British infantry bacon sandwich and therefore calculated they were facing far more enemy troops than they actually were.

Originally, the invention of the tank was seen as a way of quickly getting hot food to the front-line troops. Initially envisaged as a mobile snack van, armoured against enemy fire (and also against a possible explosion of the famously volatile British battlefield gravy), the tank was intended to bring hot food right up to the front line while under fire.

However, because of the limited visibility, and the heavy steam build-up inside the tank as they prepared some fresh custard for the troops, the tanks missed their stopping places on the British trenches and went on to overrun the German positions with the British troops running behind them with their dishes, all eager for some fresh custard on their battlefield apple crumble.

Obviously, for the final push which won WWI, the British battle-ready Cornish Pasties were essential. Unfortunately, the Germans had – at that point in the war – perfected the anti-pasty sniper, capable of blowing the crust off a hot pasty from the relative safety of the German trenches and thus totally demoralising the British troops as they were about to ‘go over the top’ with the pasty. Therefore the British high command eventually realised that some sort of camouflage pastry would be essential. However, for the subterfuge to work, the precise placement of the pasty was all-important when matters of camouflage and deception were involved, so that the camouflage pastry of the pasty blended into its surroundings.

Fortunately, however, the British front-line chefs had run short of flour and other ingredients necessary for making the pastry for the pasties and had resorted to using mud which, luckily, made the Cornish pasties blend in perfectly with their surroundings as the trenches at that time consisted of various defensive arrangements of mud.

Thus were the British able to camouflage their frontline battlefield pasties ready for the final push, after the German army’s severe sausage shortage led to the failure of the Ludendorff Offensive to achieve any of its strategic goals, so then when faced with the overwhelming Allied advantage in battle-ready Cornish pasties the Germans had no choice but to surrender, thus bringing about the end of the First World War.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday Poem: Without Walls

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Without Walls

The darkness grows around her life
she reaches out with stretched taut fingers
hoping for the reassurance
that walls can give to her. She lingers

behind the shadows, lost and still
afraid to fall into the light
and movement while her safety turns
between the open space and fright.

A step away from walls is far
from the security she needs
into falling down for ever more.
In silence she bargains and pleads

for walls to keep her safe from harm
while stepping out, away from them
into the open possible
and unconstrained that will condemn

her, taking all refuge away
to leave her falling through the air
into empty space, to fall into
a freedom leaving her nowhere.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Unexpected Visitors

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It happens….

Well, usually, a lot of things happen, often one after another, which is a useful and handy feature of this whole time business. After all, chaos is bound to ensue if everything happens all at once, especially if you are not suitably dressed for it. A bit like getting rather interestingly rude with a lady-friend when some close relatives turn up, inviting themselves round to your place of habitation without a moment’s thought as to what other events you and the aforesaid lady-friend had planned, especially when she is standing there dressed in only a pair of riding boots and holding a melon in what can only be regarded as a rather provocative manner….

I imagine….

Still, there was some boiled ham in the fridge so eventually we could offer them some sandwiches, whilst – of course – making sure we didn’t mention to any of them what we’d planned to do later in the evening with that selfsame boiled ham.

Some people can be funny about things like that.

They all declined the melon though, which does – I feel – say something about our rather un-relaxed attitudes towards anything slightly out of the ordinary in sexual matters in this country, even in this day and age.

Still, I couldn’t help laughing later when the lady-friend and I had said our good-byes to the last of them and they were all still complimenting us on the surprisingly excellent taste of the cucumber.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When She is Almost There

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Sometimes… sometimes….

There are days when she is almost there. There are days when he can reach out and feel her under his hand. Days when he turns to her and begins to tell her of his thoughts; only to see that the chair he turned to, the space in the kitchen where she stood, her side of the bed, is empty.

There are nights when he, half-asleep, rolls over in that big bed to wrap his arms around her, feel the warmth of her sleeping form against him… and finds only emptiness.

She was here… and now she is gone.

He walks down by the river each morning, leaving a space for her at his side, stepping back with the gate open in his hand for her to walk through. There is only him though and now the paths seem empty, the winter made harsher by her absence.

The wind is colder, the leafless trees more desolate, the mornings darker and the evenings lost in shadows of regret now that she is gone and he will never touch her again. That is unless he is wrong and there is another life that comes where he will see her again, when he too is dead.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Poem: The Fragility of Life

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The Fragility of Life

Reaching out a tentative
and hesitating finger
touching pulsing undulation

and there feeling the warmth
feel the heat of living flesh
both so solid

and too fragile
underneath the pressure
of a single finger.

As the hand touches
and the life moves underneath
towards the sudden realisation

of the fragility of life
how tentative is the grip
on this living world,

and how easily this world
lets us go, to fall to the ground,
leaving us becoming the forgotten.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Visitation

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It was not really that obvious, not at first anyway. The dark was deep and seemed almost heavy as though the night had dropped some heavy black blanket over the room, letting its folds fall into the corners to create a thicker darkness.

I could sense something was wrong though, how I do not know. Maybe it was some old pre-civilisation preservation instinct.

‘Shit!’ It is funny how, in the quiet heart of the night a whisper can be as loud as a shout.

Now my eyes widened and I could see movement. I had thought maybe a burglar or some other miscreant when I first awoke feeling as though there was someone in my bedroom, but that had been a woman’s voice.

There was a rattle as she knocked something over, obviously not expecting there to be a pile of books in the middle of the bedroom floor. The books clattered across the bare floorboards.

I turned the light on.

There was no-one there.

There wasn’t much in the room, after all I’d only moved into the cottage that morning and most of the furniture had not arrived yet due to some bugger-up at the removals firm, but there was a wardrobe, the bed and piles of books on the floor.

I got out of bed, feeling the cool air on my naked body. I pulled open the wardrobe doors.

It was empty, except for the suit and the shirts of course.

I looked around the room. The pile of books had been kicked over, I had not imagined it.

Also there was an old carpet tack, sitting up at an odd angle on one of the bare floorboards, and a trail of blood spots between the tack and the book pile.

The room though was empty. I picked up my trousers from the floor, pulled them on and opened the bedroom door. I paused and went back to pick up my golfing umbrella – not that I play golf of course, but I walk a lot - and crept out on the landing, following the trail of blood spots that….

The spots just stopped about three steps from my bedroom door, just disappeared. I took a firmer grip on the umbrella and started down the stairs.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Out Alone at Night

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She stepped out of the night in front of me and I did not know what to say. I had expected something like this ever since I’d first seen her, three days before, walking alone down by the river as the day faded into the grey of a late summer evening.

Tonight, though, I did not expect to see her, not here, alone like this.

Around here, it is not like the city; especially the cities these days, where it is too dangerous for anyone to be out alone. Here, far away from the cities it is still safe to go out at night and to go out alone.

We have no gangs that roam our streets, searching for victims, patrolling the edges of their territories looking for other gangs to take on in their war against what it used to mean to be human.

Out here, we still like to believe that we hold onto the few remaining bare threads of what used to be a civilisation. Out here we, still try to care about each other. Out here in the dark countryside we still like to believe there is something worthwhile in being human.

No, I did not expect to see her out here because she had – I’d learnt from local gossip – escaped from some distant burning city a few days before; barely escaped with her life was the story I’d been told.

Now here she was standing in front of me, her one arm in a dirty sling and limping towards me.

I knew what she wanted of me, what she was going to ask me to do. I knew she had been forced to leave her child behind in that burning city and that she wanted someone to take her back and save her child.

I knew that the person she wanted was me and I had no power to refuse her and still I did not know what to say when, eventually, she told me that the missing child was my child too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Official Sponsors

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Those were the days, you could tell because they had that day’s official sponsor’s logo on them and you aren’t allowed to use ay other company’s products on that day, which made for some rather unfortunate incidents on those days not sponsored by a toilet roll company… and as for the first Tuesday in October, which was sponsored by a leading pet food manufacturer: many people chose that day to begin their new dietary regime. Luckily, however, in this country at least, it was also the day after the day sponsored by a leading brand of sexual lubricant, so most people were too exhausted, or slippy, to get out of bed for most of that following day anyway.

Matters, though, did come to a head on that now infamous day in early June which was sponsored by the world’s largest arms manufacturers, which made the normal morning commute rather dangerous for many folk, especially with the free sample shoulder-launched anti-vehicle missiles that were given away to many motorists that morning. It was a morning when road-rage took on a whole new – and much deadlier dimension – although the police did report later that tardiness at changing traffic lights did hit an all-time low that day.

All-in-all then, although there have been some teething troubles (except on days sponsored by baby rusk manufacturers, of course) the new sponsored calendar in turning out much better than the naysayers predicted, especially when one company put a prize-winning bounty on those very same naysayers on last year’s National Chainsaw Day.

So… that’s all good.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday Poem: Treasure Hunt

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Treasure Hunt

It could be so precious
radiant with captured sunlight.

It could be so dark
that light turns away defeated.

It could be some delicate jewellery
just made for your poised neck.

It could be anything at all
and I could be the one

who discovers it, then carries it
carefully back home to you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A World Enough and Time

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Still, you can’t have everything, not only is there no place to put it all, the delivery charges are going to be a bit of a bugger, especially if you end up having to warp the very fabric of space-time in order to deliver everything to itself. You don’t get much choice as to the colour either, come to that.

Then there is the problems with the herds of wild animals migrating right across it as soon as you’ve got it put up on the shelf, not to mention losing a black hole or two down the back of the sofa and the problem with tripping over the dark matter in the middle of the night when you urgently need a quick pi… trip to the toilet in the dark.

Then, probably, just as soon as you get everything, they go and bring out a new model with loads more everything in it, for half the price and in a choice of colours. Thereby making yours look… well, a lot less like everything and more like a whole load of nothing, especially when that smug git from three doors down happens to mention he’s got the latest model and invites you round to have a look at it, knowing only too well about how you bought one of the last of the old model. Then he can’t wait to show you all the new features, including the wild animal migration control and the new version of string theory that prevents you from mislaying a black hole down the back of the sofa ever again.

But… like I said… you can’t have everything, just wait until the next new model comes out next year, then you’ll be able to give that smug git a lesson he won’t forget.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some Odd Angle to This World

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It lay, I knew, at some odd angle to this world. It was there waiting for me, I had seen its high towers through the morning mists. I had glimpsed the road I would have to take to cross the old stone bridge over the river that separated this world from that, but only if I could find the key that would open the door to that world that lay waiting.

I had tried to conjure it with visions, with imaginings and with dreams, but always it lay just beyond my reach, shimmering into view, its mists clearing to reveal the far high towers and then closing again as the world slipped back away to its own dimension.

There were times when I tried to live in this world, dismissing my far world as some dream, as some fantasy that existed only in my mind and should be put away as just another childish daydream. I felt I had to create a life here, not wait for my life to begin amongst those far mist-enshrouded towers.

It was then that she came to me in my dreams; telling me the stories of those far towers and the route I would have to take down that road and across the bridge to get to them. She told me that she would be there, in the highest tower, waiting, waiting just for me, and I should hurry and go to her before it was too late and the door to that realm closed on me forever.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Next Big Thing

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Well, it is not as if anyone had any choice in the matter. After all, there it was, just sitting there like some politician with an overwhelming sense of entitlement, and no-one could really shift it.

There was talk of some sort of hero, like King Arthur who pulled a formerly un-pullable sword from the stone. These days, though, are not the times of heroes, when the best that we can manage is regarding someone famous for being off the telly as a worthwhile human being.

Heroes belong to other times, other places. After all, these days it is equality that matters, no-one should be so above the common herd as to think or – worse – demonstrate they are not like everyone else. Originality is regarded with suspicion when being the best at being mediocre is what gets you the audiences, the contracts, the fame and the wealth. Being ordinary in front of the cameras is what matters, which is why – it seems – so many of the ordinary want to be famous and being famous is the only thing that matters… as long as you don’t do it by doing something too different.

Anyway, there the Big Thing sat, huge and immobile, with everyone standing around it wondering what could be done about it, right up to the time it was reported that some woman who’d once been on the telly had half-fallen out of her dress after forgetting to put her knickers on, and everyone rushed off to see if they could find a video of the occasion and the Prime Minister ever eager for popularity announced a National Bank Holiday to celebrate the woman falling out of her dress at such a nationally-important time.

The Big Thing still sat there – huge and immobile – but now no-one cared because it was only yesterday’s big thing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Close Encounter


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‘Where?’ I said, just to be sure.

‘Take me…’ he/she/it… possibly even them… said. ‘…to your larder.’

I pointed to the cube-like thing it had in its hands… paws… feet… appendages. ‘I think your… er… translation thingy machine may be on the blink.’

‘Please…?’ It looked confused.

I was now fairly certain there was only one of it, although there were probably more in the machine that looked as unlike any flying saucer I’d ever seen and I love 1950s SF films. I suppose that is why I wasn’t too put out by having, or - as it now seemed - failing to have, a conversation with what could only be an alien. ‘Don’t you mean: Take me to your leader?’ I said slowly and precisely, as if I was taking to an exchange student.

It shook its… well, the top bit of it moved backwards and forwards. ‘No, take me to your larder.’

I stood, head cocked.

‘I am hungry,’ it said.

‘Oh, I see,’ I nodded too. ‘Only you see, these days we don’t really have larders… well, I don’t. I have a fridge, I have a few cupboards, a freezer, but no larder.’

‘No larder?’

‘No.’

‘But I am hungry….’

‘Sorry, you’re welcome to see what I have in the fridge, or a tin of soup, beans on toast or something.’

‘I am hungry,’ it repeated and looked up at me. ‘No larder?’

I shook my head.

‘No president, no Prime Minister, no larder?’ It made a noise like a sigh. ‘I am hungry.’ It looked up at me. ‘No politician at all… I am so hungry?’

‘Prime Minister?’ I said. ‘Politician?’

It licked its… well, I suppose they could have been lips. ‘Politician… yes. I am hungry.’

I thought for a while. This time of night it wouldn’t take that long to get to London with not much traffic on the motorway. I felt in my pocket for my car keys. ‘Come on,’ I said to the… the alien, taking hold of one of its appendages. ‘I’ll take you to our larder.’ I was pretty confident I could, once in London, find my way to the Houses of Parliament.



















Saturday, August 11, 2012

Digging

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It was a small village, spread out up the one side of a valley away from where the narrow river weaved down along the valley bottom. The slope, on which the houses lay in rows of streets above each other, seemed quite gentle, but as they said in the village ‘everywhere is uphill from everywhere else.’

This seemed to give the people who lived in the village a kind of weariness, as thought they spent their whole lives climbing, working their way upwards. It is true that the houses higher up the hill were seen as somehow posher than those lower down, but it was a matter only of degree. Even then, though, there were some who lived higher up, the councillors, the headmaster, various tradesmen and shopkeepers, who felt they were some how above the rest of us more ordinary folk.

Down at the valley bottom, the Miners’ Welfare stood in its own grounds. A fine building that mocked the finer buildings higher up. The miners, always in their best caps and mufflers and their best suits would sit outside in its the gardens as though sunlight and summer were a rare treat for them, as though they were somehow surprised to be out in the open air.

My granddad lived a few streets away from the Miners’ Welfare in one of the small terraced houses with precarious gardens, running down the slope, all held up by retaining walls that seemed always in need of repair. My granddad would be out in that garden in all weathers, digging, as he’d spent the whole of his life before retirement, digging in the mines, but now he could dig and look around at the valley above and below him as he dug and coaxed his prize-winning vegetables out of that thick black soil. One of the last things he said to me, before he died of the mine’s disease that strangled his lungs from the inside, was ‘there is nothing like having a view, being free to look around and see what lies all around you. Remember that.’ Then he picked up his spade and began to dig again.

I did remember it - always.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Something for the Weekend: Free Kindle Novel – Hanging Around Until

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Hanging Around Until

'Education is hanging around until you've caught on' - Robert Frost.


Set during the mid-1980s, Hanging Around Until is the story of Paul Carr, who, at the age of 28, decides to become a mature student at a North-Eastern university in the hope that an education will help give a direction to his life. On arriving at the university Paul discovers he is to share a house with five other students. Two of those housemates – Alison and Julia, each in their own way – turn Paul’s simple quest for an education into a tangle of confusion and uncertainty amid the turmoil of university life during the height of anti-Thatcherite campus activism and the birth of the new Left.

Available here (UK) or here (US)

[Extract]

[….]

‘I frightened myself yesterday,’ she said. ‘I was shaking so much I couldn't get dressed. I was expecting you to come back to my room, hoping you would but scared in case you did. I've been sitting up there for over an hour tonight trying to make sense of it all.’

I sat up and turned towards her. As we kissed, my hand moved up to her breast under the T-shirt. She broke off the kiss and looked down at the place where my hand disappeared under her clothes. I started to move my hand away. She took my other hand in hers as I let it drop. She stood up, still holding my left hand and led me from the room.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs while Alison was three steps above me, still holding my hand. I took a step forward, then another, and then we walked up the stairs together, hand in hand.

Alison moved over to her bed, still holding my hand. We sat down side by side. I kissed her lightly on the lips, lifting the jumper and T-shirt together. She lifted her arms to help me. I dropped the bundled clothes on the floor and she glanced down at them for a second. We kissed again as I reached out to touch a breast with each hand.

‘You are gentle,’ Alison said softly as she began to unbutton my shirt.

‘No, not really. I'm clumsy most of the time.’

‘One of the first things I noticed, and liked, about you was the way you rolled your cigarettes, so graceful, delicate. I could feel those fingers touching me.’

‘These fingers?’ I held up my hand. The fingers looked too thin, too long and too hesitant to be of any real use.

Alison helped me pull off my shirt and then pushed me back onto the bed. She undid and pulled down my trousers. She let her jeans, and then her pale green knickers fall to the floor. She sat down on my thighs, looking into my face as her hand held me. She lowered her face towards me. I felt the tips of her nipples brush my chest and the tickle of her hair. Alison kissed me on the lips; the chin, neck and chest, moving lower until her lips met her hand.

A few moments later, I whispered: ‘Come here. No, all the way up here.’ She crouched as I kissed her deeply. She stroked my hair and smiled down at me as I looked into her eyes from between her thighs.

Alison rose slowly, unwillingly, but in some other, greater, need and moved backwards, lowering herself again. She moved languidly, as slow as a lazy summer afternoon.

A few minutes later she began to speed up, then her back arched, stiffened. She sighed deeply and fell onto my chest. I rolled us onto our sides. Alison opened her eyes and looked at me as I resumed the slow rhythm.

‘Do you like it slow as well?’ she whispered.

‘I prefer to play the slow Blues rather than a twelve-bar boogie.’ I demonstrated both rhythms.

Alison laughed deeply in her throat and hugged me close, ‘I want adagio rather than allegro,’ she said before nibbling at my nose.

‘Yes,’ I whispered as I began to kiss my way slowly down her body, pausing at each breast in turn before moving lower. My tongue entered her navel and trailed lower. I could taste echoes of myself as my tongue moved deeply before returning to trace and caress along the mystery of folds and creases.

My tongue moved deeper again. Alison stiffened and relaxed as it eased her open and crept inside. As my tongue curled and turned and my lips kissed, my fingers traced the journey where my tongue had travelled moments before. Alison moved with the rhythm of my fingers and tongue. Her rhythm changed and mine changed to match hers. My fingers and mouth changed places and the rhythm continued, grew and changed.

As her body relaxed from the sudden stiffness again, I retraced my kisses back up her body and ended with two kisses, one on each closed eyelid. I eased back inside her and felt the warmth enclose me. The slow, gentle rhythm began again.

We lay on our sides facing each other. Alison lay with her head resting on my arm and my body between her thighs. She reached up to stroke my face. I kissed her fingertips and sucked them into my mouth. She held me tightly with her legs breathing hard against my ear. Moments later, I stiffened and then finally relaxed.

Alison trailed her fingers down my sweat-damp chest and rolled onto her back. I lay for a moment between her spread thighs, tracing around a nipple with my finger then I too rolled and lay on my back.

Alison turned and laid her head on my chest, wrapping her legs around me. I could feel a warm dampness on my thigh where she held herself against me. She sighed softly and rolled onto her back.

She looked across the pillow at me. ‘I've been thinking about that since the moment I first saw you.’ She reached out to touch my cheek. ‘For a time I was hoping you'd turn out to be a bastard, but you're not. The more I got to know you the more I wanted you. But that's the problem.’

‘What do you mean?’

She sighed. ‘I just wanted to get through this year and get out of here. I didn't want to get involved with anything… or anyone.’ She lay on her back with her hand over her face.

I reached out a hand towards her, but I couldn't seem to make it touch her. My hand fell back uselessly. ‘I'm sorry. But I wasn't expecting anything like this to happen either.’

Pathetique is about right.’ Alison turned to face me. ‘You looked so pathetic lying on your bed earlier. If I'd had any sense, I would have walked away. Would we be here like this if I'd waited for you to make a move?’ She stared across the pillow at me, ignoring the single tear that ran slowly down her cheek, daring me to contradict her. ‘Well?’

‘I never feel really sure,’ I said, hesitating. ‘I'm always afraid to act in case I'm wrong.’

Alison sat up slightly, leaning her head on her hand. The sheet slipped down over her breasts. The small pale nipples stared back at me. I wanted to take one into my mouth and be held. ‘Well, you'll just have to learn how to take a chance, won't you?’ She smiled. ‘Do you know how long it took for me to arrange my dressing gown yesterday morning, so it fell open like that?’

Disorientated by Alison's sudden change of mood, it took me a few seconds to realise what she had said. ‘Did you really arrange it?’

Alison laughed, but did not answer. She smiled at me for a moment and then kissed me on the lips. ‘Why can't I stay angry with you?’ she murmured, more to herself than to me. ‘I suppose you ought to go now, before the others come back.’

‘No, I want to stay.’

‘That's nice to hear,’ she said. ‘Even though I'm not sure I want you to stay.’ She took my hand in hers and turned it over, tracing the lines on my palm. She turned it back over and touched the small scar - diamond-shaped, pale and almost white - in the centre of the back of my hand. ‘After all, I know almost nothing about you, and you don't know much about me.’

‘Does any of that matter?’

She shook her head. ‘Maybe... maybe not.... I don't know.’ She lay back, staring at the ceiling.

[….]

Available here (UK) or here (US)

Something for the Weekend: Free Kindle Novel – Hanging Around Until

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Hanging Around Until

'Education is hanging around until you've caught on' - Robert Frost.


Set during the mid-1980s, Hanging Around Until is the story of Paul Carr, who, at the age of 28, decides to become a mature student at a North-Eastern university in the hope that an education will help give a direction to his life. On arriving at the university Paul discovers he is to share a house with five other students. Two of those housemates – Alison and Julia, each in their own way – turn Paul’s simple quest for an education into a tangle of confusion and uncertainty amid the turmoil of university life during the height of anti-Thatcherite campus activism and the birth of the new Left.

Available here (UK) or here (US)

[Extract]

[….]

‘I frightened myself yesterday,’ she said. ‘I was shaking so much I couldn't get dressed. I was expecting you to come back to my room, hoping you would but scared in case you did. I've been sitting up there for over an hour tonight trying to make sense of it all.’

I sat up and turned towards her. As we kissed, my hand moved up to her breast under the T-shirt. She broke off the kiss and looked down at the place where my hand disappeared under her clothes. I started to move my hand away. She took my other hand in hers as I let it drop. She stood up, still holding my left hand and led me from the room.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs while Alison was three steps above me, still holding my hand. I took a step forward, then another, and then we walked up the stairs together, hand in hand.

Alison moved over to her bed, still holding my hand. We sat down side by side. I kissed her lightly on the lips, lifting the jumper and T-shirt together. She lifted her arms to help me. I dropped the bundled clothes on the floor and she glanced down at them for a second. We kissed again as I reached out to touch a breast with each hand.

‘You are gentle,’ Alison said softly as she began to unbutton my shirt.

‘No, not really. I'm clumsy most of the time.’

‘One of the first things I noticed, and liked, about you was the way you rolled your cigarettes, so graceful, delicate. I could feel those fingers touching me.’

‘These fingers?’ I held up my hand. The fingers looked too thin, too long and too hesitant to be of any real use.

Alison helped me pull off my shirt and then pushed me back onto the bed. She undid and pulled down my trousers. She let her jeans, and then her pale green knickers fall to the floor. She sat down on my thighs, looking into my face as her hand held me. She lowered her face towards me. I felt the tips of her nipples brush my chest and the tickle of her hair. Alison kissed me on the lips; the chin, neck and chest, moving lower until her lips met her hand.

A few moments later, I whispered: ‘Come here. No, all the way up here.’ She crouched as I kissed her deeply. She stroked my hair and smiled down at me as I looked into her eyes from between her thighs.

Alison rose slowly, unwillingly, but in some other, greater, need and moved backwards, lowering herself again. She moved languidly, as slow as a lazy summer afternoon.

A few minutes later she began to speed up, then her back arched, stiffened. She sighed deeply and fell onto my chest. I rolled us onto our sides. Alison opened her eyes and looked at me as I resumed the slow rhythm.

‘Do you like it slow as well?’ she whispered.

‘I prefer to play the slow Blues rather than a twelve-bar boogie.’ I demonstrated both rhythms.

Alison laughed deeply in her throat and hugged me close, ‘I want adagio rather than allegro,’ she said before nibbling at my nose.

‘Yes,’ I whispered as I began to kiss my way slowly down her body, pausing at each breast in turn before moving lower. My tongue entered her navel and trailed lower. I could taste echoes of myself as my tongue moved deeply before returning to trace and caress along the mystery of folds and creases.

My tongue moved deeper again. Alison stiffened and relaxed as it eased her open and crept inside. As my tongue curled and turned and my lips kissed, my fingers traced the journey where my tongue had travelled moments before. Alison moved with the rhythm of my fingers and tongue. Her rhythm changed and mine changed to match hers. My fingers and mouth changed places and the rhythm continued, grew and changed.

As her body relaxed from the sudden stiffness again, I retraced my kisses back up her body and ended with two kisses, one on each closed eyelid. I eased back inside her and felt the warmth enclose me. The slow, gentle rhythm began again.

We lay on our sides facing each other. Alison lay with her head resting on my arm and my body between her thighs. She reached up to stroke my face. I kissed her fingertips and sucked them into my mouth. She held me tightly with her legs breathing hard against my ear. Moments later, I stiffened and then finally relaxed.

Alison trailed her fingers down my sweat-damp chest and rolled onto her back. I lay for a moment between her spread thighs, tracing around a nipple with my finger then I too rolled and lay on my back.

Alison turned and laid her head on my chest, wrapping her legs around me. I could feel a warm dampness on my thigh where she held herself against me. She sighed softly and rolled onto her back.

She looked across the pillow at me. ‘I've been thinking about that since the moment I first saw you.’ She reached out to touch my cheek. ‘For a time I was hoping you'd turn out to be a bastard, but you're not. The more I got to know you the more I wanted you. But that's the problem.’

‘What do you mean?’

She sighed. ‘I just wanted to get through this year and get out of here. I didn't want to get involved with anything… or anyone.’ She lay on her back with her hand over her face.

I reached out a hand towards her, but I couldn't seem to make it touch her. My hand fell back uselessly. ‘I'm sorry. But I wasn't expecting anything like this to happen either.’

Pathetique is about right.’ Alison turned to face me. ‘You looked so pathetic lying on your bed earlier. If I'd had any sense, I would have walked away. Would we be here like this if I'd waited for you to make a move?’ She stared across the pillow at me, ignoring the single tear that ran slowly down her cheek, daring me to contradict her. ‘Well?’

‘I never feel really sure,’ I said, hesitating. ‘I'm always afraid to act in case I'm wrong.’

Alison sat up slightly, leaning her head on her hand. The sheet slipped down over her breasts. The small pale nipples stared back at me. I wanted to take one into my mouth and be held. ‘Well, you'll just have to learn how to take a chance, won't you?’ She smiled. ‘Do you know how long it took for me to arrange my dressing gown yesterday morning, so it fell open like that?’

Disorientated by Alison's sudden change of mood, it took me a few seconds to realise what she had said. ‘Did you really arrange it?’

Alison laughed, but did not answer. She smiled at me for a moment and then kissed me on the lips. ‘Why can't I stay angry with you?’ she murmured, more to herself than to me. ‘I suppose you ought to go now, before the others come back.’

‘No, I want to stay.’

‘That's nice to hear,’ she said. ‘Even though I'm not sure I want you to stay.’ She took my hand in hers and turned it over, tracing the lines on my palm. She turned it back over and touched the small scar - diamond-shaped, pale and almost white - in the centre of the back of my hand. ‘After all, I know almost nothing about you, and you don't know much about me.’

‘Does any of that matter?’

She shook her head. ‘Maybe... maybe not.... I don't know.’ She lay back, staring at the ceiling.

[….]

Available here (UK) or here (US)

The Erotic Uses of Strawberries

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Well, it is not as if there was any doubt about it. She had the strawberries ready, and we all know what that meant.

Obviously, if I’d been a tabloid reporter, this would be the point I’d make my excuses and leave…

but I’m not…

…so I didn’t.

After all, I had paid…..

And the strawberries looked very tasty.

Anyway, after some of the most low-down filthy and highly-charged sexual experiences it has ever been my pleasure to indulge in, and - it should be remembered - I once went on a day-trip to Luton. We used up all of the strawberries in what was later confirmed as a World Record Time.

Afterwards, of course, we had a nice cup of tea, and I asked her if she’d ever been to Luton herself. However, she did decline to answer in case she incriminated several members of parliament, many top-flight business men as well as the seven premiership footballers who had all taken out injunctions against her mentioning any mutually-consensual strawberry-related activities they had indulged in whilst in her presence.

However, she did happen to mention what she did get up to with a bestselling author and a punnet of strawberries, but we all know what writers are like. Even though writers are justly well-known for their extensive and extremely-skilful sexual techniques, you wouldn’t necessarily want one in the house.

Still, that is Luton for you.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Following the Instructions

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Not only that, I couldn’t get the device to work, despite denying my inherent maleness and making an attempt to peruse the instruction manual. However, any attempt to read the manual was cunningly prevented by the expedient of writing it in something almost entirely unlike English as it is known and abused throughout this fair land.

After all: Throughputting the electrician no put hand wet touchy-feely, is – I feel – open to a number of interpretations, some of which could require the aid of my lovely assistant who was, at the time, otherwise engaged in certain practices that are best not divulged on a forum such as this, at least not without insisting all readers don their protective headgear and make sure all under-age penguins are briskly ushered from the room beforehand.

Anyway, once I’d discovered how to plug it in and connect it all up in something approaching what I guessed was the correct manner, I thought about switching it on.

So I did….

Then - in a sudden flash - the universe wasn’t….

We ended up with this… this… whatever it is we exist in now, instead.

So, if you are looking for someone to blame, you must – I feel – blame my lovely assistant for not being there – in the necessary protective headgear – at the time.

After all, you can’t blame me… I was only following the instructions.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Arcane and Mystical Codes

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Back in those long ago days, of course, there was no such thing as the internet and any connoisseur of the rude and naughty had to make their way out into the open air in order to even get a glimpse of a photograph of an underdressed young lady. Furthermore, cute kittens could only ever be found gambolling on greeting cards and on posters in the bedrooms of teenage girls.

Still, we were young then and had the thighs of those not unused to strolling down a public thoroughfare in the midst of winter, or – if we were unlucky – getting extremely moistened by the typical British summer downpour.

Still, at least, in those days you didn’t have to rely on a sort of hit and miss game of ‘guess the next letter’ in order to get your word processor spell-checker to reveal to you how to spell ‘connoisseur’, in fact – if you were lucky you’d never even had a go on a typewriter, let alone had to learn the secret arcane code of the mystical Qwertyuiop tribe and their strange rituals of dexterity and incantation that would bring forth words of great wisdom onto the screens or pages of the ungodly.

You could also, if you so choose, wear a hat. Which, when you are just sitting there typing looks rather overdressed for the occasion, if not silly, unless of course you choose to wear a pith helmet, which is always stylish, no matter what the occasion.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Grow Old Together

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Side by side, we sat together on the riverbank. It was a perfect summer day, a cool breeze taking the edge off the heat. She turned, looked at me, and I knew then. I saw then the life we could have together, a perfect life.

I could live with her, here in this valley, down by this river. We could live together, love together, have children and grow old together, live a simple straightforward life. It would not be a life free from troubles; no life is ever free from troubles. Together, though, we would be able to face all that a capricious fate threw at us. We would stand together; both against the world and with the world. It would be a good life. I would have the love of a good woman, and no-one could wish for more.

I saw that all in one turn of her head as a butterfly flickered past behind her and she stroked the grass as though it was the fur of some well-loved pet. I knew we could lie down together in that grass she seemed to be preparing for us to lie in and the contract would be sealed. We would have our lives together from now until the end and everything could be all I ever wanted.

She knew though, moments later, that the next morning she would wake up and I would be gone.

It was not that I didn’t want that life she offered me, I could think of nothing better, nothing I would rather have. Nothing except that desire I had to see what lay over the next hill and the knowledge that if I stayed here, in this valley with her, I would never have the need to find out. That each night, after we’d put the children to bed, I would come out to this riverbank and stare over at that hill in the moonlight and the not knowing what lay beyond it would kill me in a way that the heartbreak from leaving her behind never could.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Monday Poem: Time Slips Away

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Time Slips Away

It is long, it is slow.
The time drips like a worn-out tap
and we watch it drain away.

I take a journey like a raindrop
in a river towards the sea
that stretches out to fill the horizon.

Time takes us sailing away
from our small lives into the past,
into forgetfulness.

We are here only once
and then we will be gone.
There is nothing left,

even the tombstones fall
to be lost in the long grass
at the edge of the graveyard
where no-one visits any more.

Time will come, time will fall,
time will go. We are here
and then we are long gone.

We try to hold on to this world,
wrap our lives around it and hold on tight.
But our grip is never strong enough.

Time slips through the fingers
like sand and is lost forever
on this beach that stretches
out to touch that infinite sea.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Bank Stress-Test

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However, the judge at the trial did – eventually – agree that although it employed slightly unusual methodology our attempt to stress-test our local bank branch using sawn-off shotguns and stocking masks was a very useful method of determining just how well it would survive a run on its cash reserves. He therefore upheld our counter-claim that police were acting in a prejudicial manner when they surrounded our hideaway and told us to come out with our hands up.

The judge was also rather relived when we later handed over all the photos of him and his professional lady-friends doing some rather unusual stress-testing of their own, only this time utilising some rather fetching leatherwear and a variety of implements more usually encountered in a medieval torture chamber.

Although, the judge did insist that we withdraw our claim for compensation from the police for the emotional distress of being woken that early in the morning by a raid. He did, to his credit, though, insist that the police return all our shotguns, as we pointed out that hunting urban foxes was not all that illegal, as we were not using hounds, and that sawn-off shotguns are more environmentally-friendly in the crowded urban environment that the more conventional full-barrelled shotguns.

So, that was all good, and it enabled everyone in the gang to get to the airport in good time for our various journeys to those few countries in the world that - at present - have no extradition treaties with the UK, where all of us each hope to have a very long and very comfortable retirement.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Lighting a Fire of Possibility

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When it began, it seemed as though anything was possible. It is like that, though, with beginnings: they can open out in so many different directions, go so many different routes, discover so many unknown new lands. There are whole worlds out there lying hidden waiting for some beginning to bring them into being from out of the shadows.

Beginnings, though, are not that easy to find. Why knows, who can say, what is a beginning? After all, so many things we think are beginnings turn out not to be beginnings at all they fade out and die before they start, like fires that never really take hold; smouldering and fading as the red sparks fade to grey ash.

Finding a beginning, though, a spark of possibility nestled deep in the protecting tinder of time waiting to catch light and for the first tentative flames to pull it out of hiding is a rare and precious thing.

So, when I turned that morning to find what seemed like a roaring fire of red hair caught in the dawn’s sunlight, lying there on the pillow next to me, I thought I’d found a new beginning bursting into flame right there in front of me.

Friday, August 03, 2012

A Journal of the Plague Years

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Still, I suppose it could be worse. After all, there are very few of them still around these days. Occasionally, you hear reports of a Labour one hiding out in an inner city, or a Tory one hunted down by hounds after living wild in the woods, but mostly these days the plague of politicians is at an end.

It started slowly like all things do, with only a few politicians here and there around the country, all easily manageable and containable in council buildings and the Houses of Parliament. Then, though, they started spreading. A new strain of politician emerged through the EU; with its open borders allowing politicians, infected with virulent continental strains of politics, into our communities, thereby spreading the disease and infecting more and more people.

There was a time in the 1980s when a virulent form of Left-Wingery took hold, infecting mainly those young enough to have not been inoculated against politics by time and disillusion. The outbreak causing those it infected to spout such idiocies as ‘everything is politics’, striking fear in the hearts of normal people everywhere who all know almost nothing ‘is politics’ and that if something does becomes polluted by politics, then the politics can easily be eradicated with disinfectant and strong bleach.

Soon, though, people began to see politics for the illness it is, and the first culls began, along with a country-wide immunisation plan where those suspected of having any unhealthy contact with the political virus were given doses of reality in order to strengthen their weakened natural immunity.

Still, though, despite all the advances in our understanding of the disease of politics, it does keep spreading. The problem seems to be that politics, especially in its more extreme Left-Wing and Right-Wing mutations, does seem incredibly virulent, considering that anyone who becomes infected soon looses all ability to act rationally, or engage in normal life, without descending into political name-calling and petty point-scoring with anyone that infected person comes into contact with.

With such high contagion rates, and the political virus’s growing resistance to increasingly high doses of reality, it has often been thought that isolation and quarantine is the only way to control the spread of the disease and stop the spread of the zombie-like plague of political-opinion espousers from running rampage through our world.

However, no matter how much we barricade ourselves behind our front doors, or pretend to be out, when the political-infected take to the streets at election time, there seems to be a steady increase on the amount of politics we are subjected to, and little chance of any of us escaping falling victim to it soon.

Therefore, if at any time you start to feel yourself beginning to agree with a politician, or start thinking that it may be a good idea for you to join a political party, please make sure you visit your doctor as soon as possible for a check-up before it is too late and the rest of us - one day - discover ourselves being implored to vote for you.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Thursday Poem: Summer Dancing

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Summer Dancing

We forget the echo of hollowness.
We forget the sound of truth.
There are only echoes here
fading slowly into silence,
leaving us to wonder,
leaving us to wander.

We do not know.
We do not want to know.
To know is to feel responsible,
to feel the heaviness of truth.

We do not want to be responsible.
We do not want to bear the weight.
We still want to dance
through the summer of love
without the responsibility.

We weave the dying flowers of summer
into our thinning hair
and still do not want to see.

We dance away from knowing
wanting love from an indifferent world
to become children once again.

We do not like these games
the grown-ups make us play.
For if we are children,
we are the innocent and cannot
be hurt by cruel words and cruel worlds.

We can only play and play on.
We can only dance and dance on
as the sunset dims around us
and our long summer afternoon
fades slowly into night time darkness.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Enforced Incarceration in the Pantry

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Still, though, it is not as though she hadn’t been warned. After all, unleashing a pair of that size in a restricted environment is bound to cause some damage, if not casualties. It is not as if anyone was prepared and poised for the full effect when she let them go. None of them had a chance to even dive for cover before they were free and ricocheting around the pantry like two rapidly-deflating hot-air balloons in a shoe box.

Although, being trapped in a pantry with a woman of such liberated imagination turned out to be not quite the ordeal some of the more nervous of the party had feared. Soon, several members of the group were snuggling up to the two recently-released objects of desire as if they had been intimate acquaintances for several years. Some of the more adventurous were even contemplating camping out on one or other of the upper slopes until it was deemed safe for everyone to exit the pantry when the All-Clear eventually sounded.

Anyway, by the end of the period of enforced incarceration in the pantry, everyone involved in the incident had become the firmest of friends. Some of the gentleman she had befriended had become very firm indeed and had all eagerly accepted the warm hand of friendship she’d offered to help relieve them of their suffering, so in the end – as I said – it wasn’t quite as bad as everyone had first feared.