Thursday, 19 July 2018

Haunted

Many walk past his statue.  School children sketch it and history teachers wave wildly as they walk its bounds.  His name is in legend.  But for those who have the sight, his ghost huddles at the foot of the bronze, sobbing inconsolably, his hands shielding his head, as he remembers the blood shed in his wake. 


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Bells of St Brigit

I thought I would revisit this piece I wrote back in 2014 in response to a writing prompt from Write on Edge.  

The bells of St. Brigit's are calling tonight,
The moonlight is sparkling over the sea,
The stars are shedding their magical light,
And my lover's dead soul is calling to me.

The roses are breathing their passion filled scent,
The soft waves are hissing onto the sand,
The bells chimes are ringing an empty lament,
I feel the blessed touch of my lover's cold hand.

Down the stone staircase and out to the sand,
Across the storm wreckage to the now quiet sea,
My lover steps slowly away from the land,
A final farewell and he's now lost to me.   

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Door



“Can you see the door?” The guy lounging against the tree seemed to have always been there, but I was sure he hadn’t been there when I stopped to get my water bottle.  I needed to pay more attention,
“Of course I can see the door.  It’s an art thing, isn’t it?” I took a quick mouthful of water. 
“An art thing?” The guy straightened and moved over.  He looked skinny under the designer jeans and fancy sweatshirt and his eyes were dark blue and slanted under his thatch of fair hair. He moved like a cat. 
“Yeah, an art thing.  You know, some installation or thing where they make the world brighter.” I wiped the sweat from my face with my bandana.  It was warm even in the shade.  “I mean, it’s a steep drop the other side.  That’s a door to nowhere.” I leant over the rails and looked down at the steep, bracken strewn slope.  The door had a handle the other side and I wondered what was the point of a handle that no-one could reach.  Then I wondered what the point of a door was in a fence above a drop. 
“A door to nowhere?” The guy beckoned me closer and against my better judgement I followed him to the door. 
“It’s just a junk door.” I glanced up and down the path.  There was no-one else around and I started to feel uneasy.
“It’s the door to fairyland.” The guy grinned mockingly and bowed before pulling the door open. 
What the…” I couldn’t guess what I was going to say.  The door opened onto a level path that cut across a clearing in spring woods towards a stream that gurgled in sparkling sunlight.  I moved back and looked to the side of the door.  The steep drop remained in the late summer shade and the bracken was looking tired.  I stepped back in front of the door and I could feel a fresh breeze on my face and the scent of spring woods and violets wafted past. 
“Welcome to fairyland.” I felt a sharp shove to the small of my back and I staggered forward through the door and into the spring clearing.  I heard a door slam behind me and I whirled around.  There was nothing.  The woods continued into the deeper thickets.  The door was gone. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Free Books!


There are a lot of free ebooks out there.  Some are legitimate free ebooks which are released on Amazon, Smashwords and similar places to tempt readers into buying other books from the same author.  Others are curiosities.  Perhaps someone wants to share their knowledge of making chainmail or crochet or gas metal arc welding and for whatever reason don't feel it right putting a price on it. 

There are other legitimate sites where the books are free.  You can visit your local library (some lend ebooks as well), or read books that would otherwise have a cost through subscription schemes like Amazon Prime or Scribd.  You can even share books around.  There are a lot of book exchanges, some more official than others.  I found a load listed on Wikipedia here

Some free ebooks deal with health matters.  Sometimes those who have struggled down dark paths of addiction, disordered eating or chronic illness want to share their experience and how they made it through.  They can be a valuable resource to people lost in bad places.  Please always check advice from these sources against reputable medical advice.  It's not that all of the books would mislead you, but some are safer than others.  You are precious and worth doing due diligence. 

Then there are places out there that tout that they supply free ebooks, but perhaps aren't the safest places to find a good read.  If you are not familiar with a site, it's worth double checking or skipping altogether.  The last thing anyone needs is to find themselves downloading the latest virus instead of the most recent blockbuster. 


These are all modern books dealing with new fiction or current techniques.  But did you know that there are a lot more books out there that may have passed under your radar?  For example, did you know about 'Internet Sacred Text Archive'?  This is a collection of free texts on folklore, esoteria, religion and mythology.  You can donate or subscribe to read without ads, but if you do neither you can still read such works as 'Four Ancient Books of Wales' which is a translation made in 1868 of some of the older works in the Welsh tradition.  I am sure that fantasy writers of all types would have a gleam in their eye at the thought of dipping into the legends of the saints, the Vikings, the Celts, Alchemy, the Pacific, or even UFOs.

You can also have a rummage around the kindle bookstore on Amazon.  Did you know that there are a lot of free classics on there?  I have no longer have an excuse to avoid Moby Dick - free on Amazon.  I ought to be dipping in to Immanuel Kant, or Dickens, or Kafka - all with editions of their work free on Amazon.  I won't, though.  I'm currently listening to the free Audio book, The Children of Odin.  This channel, like many others on YouTube, has a collection of out of copyright books read by individuals and while some are less than perfect, others rival professional audio books. 

If you are looking for a really good site for free, obscure, out of copyright books, then check out Project Gutenberg.  There are currently over 57,000 free books, including 'Memoires de Garibaldi' by Dumas, Dracula by Bram Stoker (seriously worth reading the original if you haven't already and if you want to pay for an audio version the one with Brian Cox rocks), and Persuasion by Jane Austen.

And after going back to all these great places, I think I may spend some time dipping in to a chapter or two.  I may be gone some time. 

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Elfshot at Dawn

They got Jenkins just as dawn broke and the mist was sidling away from the valley.  It was elfshot, straight in the chest above the heart.  We carried him back as he raved, our legs dampened and cooled with the morning dew and the light spilling golden through the mist and down the valley.  Into the farmhouse we took him and put him near the roof with a Bible next to his bed and a rosary over the bedstead.  The priest was slow to come but prayed hard when he came and someone was always watching as Jenkins told us about the sky kingdoms sailing through the skies like swans and cooed at pictures on the walls that only he could see. 

The hen keeper could hear his shouts as she collected her eggs and topped up the water trough.  The cows being milked in the cool dairy with rowan twigs hung above the stalls could hear his cries.  Neither the doctor not the priest could pull the elf shot as Jenkins sang wildly as if under a mackerel sky. 

He died at sunset, not well, and we did not bless the day the Shining Ones, the Fair Folk, the Faerie returned. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Book Review: Darker Daze by A L Mabry


This collection of short stories is not for the fainthearted.  AL Mabry looks unblinking into the darkness that lies within and tells it without flinching.  The stories spread from the modern account of domestic violence to the story of a witch's execution in an historical setting to a fantastic tale of demons and their demands. 

To be honest, it scared the life out of me.  It is not a collection that makes for easy reading.  It is disturbing precisely because of the chilling insight of the author and the clarity of the writing.  I think it's a great collections of stories, but I'm too chicken to ever read it again!

You can find this book on Amazon and other leading stores.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Grave Insight

“I miss him.” Geoff said, looking around the hall. 
“So do I, but I hate admitting it.” Stephanie took off her Chanel coat and hesitated for a moment before hanging it on the peg next to Uncle Jeremiah’s dusty jacket.  “He never approved of me.”
“Or me.” Geoff took off his own faded jacket.  He thought it was quite a spectrum as he hung his jacket up next to his wife’s fuchsia model.  Uncle Jeremiah’s old jacket was probably older than most vintage cars.  Stephanie’s up to the minute coat was probably worth more than most vintage cars and was absolutely right for a top flight barrister.  His own humble raincoat was not as old as Uncle Jeremiah’s but was far more battered and had been bought only with practicality in mind. 
“I looked over the will.  It’s not worth contesting, but what was his solicitor thinking?” Stephanie ran a finger over a dusty table and shuddered.  “I mean, the house is signed over to us, all the bank accounts are closed and the estate is considered settled.  But there is still around a million pounds unaccounted for.”
“It’s not unaccounted for, according to Colin.” Geoff had not had a good opinion of the solicitor.  “It’s hidden in the house.”
“To be precise, the whereabouts is hidden in this house.” Stephanie sighed and got out her phone.  I suppose I had better start making a list.”
“What do you mean?” Geoff opened the door into the sitting room and wandered in. 
“Well, a list of what we need to do.” Stephanie followed him, automatically straightening some sagging cushions.  “It all needs a deep clean and we should probably redecorate.  This is a beautifully sized room with a great view of the garden and we could strip out all these bookcases and go for something more minimalist.” Stephanie trailed off as she checked the side table and adjusted an ornament on the mantelpiece. 
“It wouldn’t be the same.” Geoff said.  He stood motionless in the centre of the room, an older, greying man with a nondescript sweater and faded jeans as his curated, blonde wife darted around the room, unable to stay still.
Stephanie paused.  “No, it wouldn’t.  I can’t imagine it changing.  It would be like losing another member of the family.”
“It needs a good clean,” Geoff said, “And perhaps a lick of paint, but I can’t imagine it ever changing.  There has always been a sofa at that angle, so that you can watch the birds in the apple tree outside.”
Stephanie tested the sofa with a cautious hand.  “Do you know how hard it is to get hold of a decent upholsterer these days?  But it’s sound.” She checked the small bookcase in the corner.  “I mean, I can imagine replacing the sofa but putting the new one in the same place.  I can imagine different books in the bookcase, but I there always has to be a bookcase here.” She sat down suddenly.  “I wish we had seen more of Uncle Jeremiah in the last few years.”
“My nerves couldn’t stand it.” Geoff said, sitting next to her and taking her hand.  “He would be arguing that you should be at home in the house and why wasn’t I in the London office.  You would be arguing that he was an old fossil and when was he going to get out of the nineteenth century.  He would be complaining about how much you spent on handbags and you would be complaining that he hadn’t replaced his wreck of a car.  It would be murder.”
“He didn’t understand us.” Stephanie looked around.  “But he was always there.”
“I know, my dear.” Geoff said.  “The problem was, he was always there with an argument.  And then your career took off and I was busy with the kids.  There was never the time.”
“At least you called him.” Stephanie’s thin fingers clung to Geoff’s sturdy hand. 
“I rang for a listen at least twice a week.” Geoff agreed and smiled.  “Come on, let’s look around.  According to Colin, we need to have a grave insight.”
Stephanie snorted.  “I suppose we need to look out for stone crosses.”
“That would fit Uncle Jeremiah’s sense of humour.” Geoff helped his wife up and they wandered back into the hall. 

It was hard, going from room to room.  Every room had a ghost of an argument and a swathe of happy memories.  The study was the hardest.  It seemed to have become Uncle Jeremiah’s living space, with a tray for his meals sat on a table near the door with a salt cellar perched in the corner.  Photographs were everywhere you looked. 
“Look, do you remember this?” Stephanie picked up a picture.  “It was the summer after we married.”
Geoff looked over her shoulder.  They looked so young in their dated clothing, sprawled on the unkempt lawn at the back and filled with joy.  “I remember.  We had the most amazing time.  We had most of our meals in the garden, played cards for matchsticks every night and you and he had a ding dong battle about the Children’s Act.”
Stephanie shrugged and put down the picture, wiping her dusty fingers on a tissue as she wandered around the room.  “Geoff, come and have a look at this.”
Geoff followed her to a dim corner.  “That’s a lovely picture, and it’s full of graves.  Perhaps it’s a clue.”
Stephanie looked hard at the painting.  It looked nineteenth century, with dark, small leaved trees and sprawling shadows.  Graves framed the path to a ruined church and it pulled you in to its sombre centre.  “If Uncle Jeremiah was here, we would be having an argument right now about Romanticism versus Classicism and I would be quoting Byron and he would be talking about Tchaikovsky.” She swallowed a lump in her throat. 
Geoff leant forward.  “I bet this is the clue.  This tells us where the money has been stashed.”
“I suppose so.” Stephanie straightened the picture.  “It’s got graves on it.  Perhaps we need to count them or something.”
“At least it doesn’t refer to his grave.” Geoff said, his head to one side as he studied the picture.  “He was cremated and his ashes scatted at sea.”
“He said he was going to do that so I couldn’t dance on his grave.” Stephanie took a deep breath.  Hardened barristers did not cry. 
Geoff frowned.  “It’s not a very good clue.  I mean, shouldn’t it have a map or a motto or something?”
“You are a genius with numbers, my darling, but you never worked out how Uncle Jeremiah’s mind worked.  The grave is a red herring.” Stephanie lifted the picture down.  It was surprisingly light and left dust marks across the sleeves of her silk blouse.  “He would never give us a plain clue.” She turned the painting over.  On the back was a small key and a nondescript envelope taped to the corner.  She laid the picture face down on the desk and picked at the tape holding the key as Geoff worked the envelope free.
“It’s numbers.” Geoff said, spreading out the slip of paper.
Stephanie wasn’t paying full attention.  The key was small but well made.  She looked around the room and the large, mahogany desk had keyholes in its drawers.  She found which lock the key fitted on the third attempt.
“At least, it’s numbers but I don’t think it’s about the numbers.” Geoff said.
Stephanie turned the key in the oiled lock and pulled open the drawer.  It held a handbag, a beautiful, Hermes Birkin bag, in her favourite fuchsia pink.  She picked it up and stroked the immaculate surface.  The clasp moved easily under her fingers and nestled inside the perfect lining was a note addressed to her in Uncle Jeremiah’s spiky handwriting.
“It’s a bank account number.  I’m pretty sure it’s international.” Geoff said but Stephanie wasn’t paying attention.  She unfolded the note.

Dearest Stephanie, Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more and more that while you may not be my idea of a good wife, you are perfect for Geoff and an asset to the legal profession.  Please forgive an old man his mistakes.  And don’t go spending all the money on handbags.  This one should be enough. Jx 

Behind her, Geoff was checking his phone.  “It’s a Swiss account.  We’ve found the money.  Stephanie, we’ve found the money!” But she couldn’t answer.  All she could do was choke back the tears as she hugged the bag.