Friday Fictioneers – Paradise Lost

ff250516The palm trees lining the wooden promenade swayed gently in the hot ocean breeze. The sky above the village was its usual cloudless blue. From my seat outside the café I watched as a small crowd gathered down by the shoreline.  Even from this distance I could soon see what they had also surely seen  – the waters of the bay slowly receding into the shimmering horizon. I quickly finished my coffee and walked across the street to the beach. A single, white-topped ripple now rolled its way back towards land. Then the horizon went dark. Then we all ran.

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These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challen

Sunday Photo Fiction – A Woman In Every Port

spf220516For fifteen years I worked as a Cabin Steward on various Mediterranean cruise ships. Before that I served nine and a half years in the Her Majesties Royal Navy – many months of which was spent under fire in distant combat zones. I loved everything about the life at sea. From a boy I’d dreamt of nothing else. I’d never suffered from sea-sickness, never once felt frightened by rough, foreboding seas. I actually enjoyed the feeling of being calm and in control when others around were unable to suppress their fears and worries.

Yet, as much as I enjoyed my work, I also enjoyed my time on shore. We stopped in so many places. I never had time to form lasting relationships: there was always another departure looming, another month at sea just around the corner. Instead I preferred to deal with my urges on a needs basis. I’m not sure when I lost the ability to control those urges; I can’t truly remember the first time I hurt someone. I didn’t mean to – I still don’t.

I was always glad to get out to sea again. However, no matter where we sailed I knew I’d never escape who and what I am.

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Friday Fictioneers – Island Stopover

ff180516For years when I closed my eyes it was still there: the cries of a hundred, teething infants; the tears of a thousand, desperate mothers; the stench of a month on the open oceans – we had been on land for a week before the sea-sickness truly subsided.

Hour after hour, day after day I waited in different lines. I was without my dear mother, my brothers and sisters for the first time in my life. They said they would come eventually, but I was to be the first. The land of the free they called it – I just wanted to go home.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge

Sunday Photo Fiction – Weather Watching

spf150516The twisting pass between the lush valley floor and the steep sides of Col Lauran used to be filled with the sights and sounds of excited travellers. Ahead lay the end of the road and Val Deraux. You never travelled through Val Deraux, it was a destination; it was a journey’s end with one purpose –  the snow covered slopes of Col Lauran.

Today that road lies all but deserted, as does the small village at its end. Cable Cars sway gently in the late-winter breeze on lines rusted to shining copper. La Hotel De Marché last saw a guest over ten years ago. Its wooden shutters remain tightly shut. The small main street shows the same state of disrepair and disinterest as its Hotel. Crumbling potholes cover the narrow roads. Leaves drift and gather in piles which will never be swept. Only one window remains curtained, only one front door leads to a resident. Madame Felence was born in the village and refuses to move down to the valley.

‘Will the snows ever return?’ I ask her.

She smiles. A mosquito buzzes around her tightly-bunched grey hair. She shields her eyes from the blistering sun. ‘J’espere,’ she says. ‘J’espere.’

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Other entries for SPF can be found here.

Friday Fictioneers – Area 52

ff110516The pencil-thin man in the stiff, dark suit remained unmoved. He readied a fresh sheet of paper and switched the tape recorder back on.

‘Once again, Sir, please.’

I was exhausted. I’d been there for hours, or was it days?

‘As I’ve already told you, we were out night fishing on Jessop’s creek. Something came out of the water – something big. Lights flashing all over, but silent.…and then it was just gone. That’s what happened.’

The man sighed. Nothing I could say seemed to satisfy his questions.

‘What do you want?’ I asked.

‘Only the truth, Sir: that you saw nothing. Now, shall we try once more?’

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge

Election Aftermath 2016

SNP_LOGOmed_copyYesterday the Scottish electorate went to the polls to cast their votes in the 2016 Holyrood elections. In 2011, Alex Salmond led the SNP to a historic, and apparently, all but theoretically impossible majority considering the constraints of the De Hondt voting system. Last night, the SNP, under the inspirational leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, came within 2 seats of breaking the De Hondt system for a second time. However, the overall result was never really in doubt. The SNP are re-elected as Scotland’s party of Government for the 3rd term in a row.

FM Nicola Sturgeon

A quick look at the numbers shows the SNP winning 59 of the 73 “first past the post” constituency seats with over a million votes – a record, and more than Labour and Conservative combined. However, despite over 950,000 votes on the Regional Lists, this only garnered the SNP an additional four seats. That’s the De Hondt system for you – it sometimes fights back and actually stops the thing it was designed to prevent i.e. a majority. In some respects this election was all about who would come second. Much to the on-going disappointment of Labour in Scotland, it was the Scottish Tories who now form the second largest grouping with 31 seats. This includes a constituency seat for the abrasive but undoubtedly media friendly figure of Ruth Davidson. Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale failed to win her seat and instead was once again elected via the top up list votes. Elsewhere LibDem leader Willie Rennie won his seat in Fife and the Greens did well on the list to move ahead of Willie’s party in number of seats.

Moving forward, despite no SNP majority, there is a natural pro-independence majority with the SNP and Greens having 69 seats between them. I can’t begin to speculate what horse-trading may go on over the next few years, but the SNP have governed before in a minority scenario (with many fewer seats) and I’m sure they can do so effectively again. Just as interesting as how the SNP perform is what will become of Labour in Scotland. It should now be clear to even the most blinkered Labour supporter that their party was well and truly used and abused by the Tories to save the union. The price they paid for that toxic marriage has been reflected at the last two national elections. Labour in Scotland need to move ground, reinvent, put distance between themselves and the Tories. Until they do I can’t see any way back. Until then the Tories will revel in Labour misfortunes – misfortunes of their own making.

Thanks for reading.

Friday Fictioneers – The Final Condemnation

ff040516The overhead power lines gently trembled under the weight of chirping winter birds. The nearby tree tops were all but shorn of their autumn red leaves. The cracked slabs in my exercise yard glistened under a light frost; the skies above grey and heavy. It said to me what I already knew, and had finally accepted: I’d seen my last summer. No more for me the smell of the warm waters of the bay; the sun on my face; the smiles, the laughter – the innocence.  All I had left of this world was its cold, its emptiness, its despair. Yet I had made my peace. I was ready.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challeng

Friday Fictioneers – The Wake

ff270416It was a confusing picture. Everything moving, everything out of place, everybody out of focus. The room was full of blurred faces; hushed, gentle voices whispered in respectful tones around me. My whole body was numb, my mind blank, my once inexhaustible spirit all but drained – my heart bloodied and broken. I didn’t want to be there, but I knew I had to stay, that much at least was clear. I know in time I will want to be with these people again, to enjoy their company and to share in their love and kindness. But not today. Not now.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Friday Fictioneers – The View From The Other Side

ff200416Through the bedroom window I could see the forest, its canopy of leaves glistening white under early morning frosts. From somewhere beyond the trees was often heard a distant barking of dogs, the whining engine of a motorcycle, the faint echo of shouts and whistles. And then there was the smoke.

‘Didn’t you ever wonder what was happening to these people?’ asked the old man in the crumpled brown suit.

It wasn’t the first time he’d been to our village; I wasn’t the first person he’d  asked these questions. Like the others, I had no answers – only the ceaseless burden of our shared memories.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Apologies for not submitting for a few weeks. We’ve moved house since my last entry and a lack of internet connection for over a month meant I wasn’t able to take part. However, I’m back and ready to get stuck into FF once more!

Friday Fictioneers – Overtime

ff170216Tommy and his mother flicked through Winkleman’s summer catalogue.

‘Is that the watch you want?’

Tommy nodded and smiled. Jessie never could resist that smile – even if it did mean finding an extra fifty dollars before her son’s birthday at the end of the month.

A single knock echoed across the sunlit room.

‘Off you go now, Tommy. Mummy’s got to work.’

Tommy was only eight but he knew what work meant. The kitchen door clicked shut behind him.

Jessie checked her lipstick in the mirror. She was tired of this life, but she wouldn’t let Tommy down – she couldn’t.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Moving House: Part 1 – Getting Ready

Pushed-into-Moving-HomeBack in 2003 we moved into our current house with the plan on staying for perhaps five years before heading onto somewhere new. Well that plan has finally come to fruition – albeit seven and a half years behind schedule. It’s not without a hint of sadness that we’re on on the move, but that’s only to be expected after so long in the one house. However, were excited to be starting a new chapter in our journey through life. It’s one we’re both looking forward to, and it’s also one I thought I’d tell the world about via my blog.

First thing to mention – where are we moving to? Well, the answer is a small town on the fringes of the Scottish Borders called Biggar. We currently live in Larbert, in Central Scotland, and the map below shows our move:

Moving1

It takes around 75 minutes to get from our old house to our new one. While it may not seem that far to some, to us it’s a big change. Biggar is a much smaller community with a completely different – more countryside – feel. It’s also much further from my work in Glasgow, but home working will mean it’s a journey I don’t need to undertake every day. The house we’re moving into is a new build. For details of the development, please click here.

Our moving in date is 04/03; however, we need to vacate our current house on 26/02 i.e. a week before. This will mean seven nights in a hotel before we can actually call Biggar our new home town. On 26/02 our removal people will take our belongings and place them in storage. A week later they will transport our possessions from storage down to Biggar. Between now and 26/02 it’s just a process of getting everything as it needs to be for moving day. Today we emptied the shed; next we will start to take some of our living room furniture to pieces.

Probably time I stopped writing and got on with something else. Hopefully this short blog gives you a picture of what we’re up to. Regular updates will be added over the coming couple of months – before, during and after the move.

Thanks for reading.

Friday Fictioneers – Home Bird

ff100216A single drip of condensation trickled down the living room wall. Arthur shivered and cupped his pale hands around a mug of steaming, black coffee – Arthur detested black coffee, but the last of the milk had run out over two weeks ago.

By now the early-spring daffodils would be forcing their way between the tangled weeds of his allotment on Warring Rd. Arthur wanted nothing more than to be back there, tending to his beloved patch – but he knew if went out he’d never get back in. He was the only one left you see, and he had nowhere else to go.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Friday Fictioneers – Development Opportunity

ff030216Frank rolled down the car window and spat raven-black spit onto the sandy ground. The sign chained to the fence said ‘Coming Soon – Affordable Family Housing’.

‘How can they build out there?’ I said. ‘It’s more water than land, Frank.’

‘People needs houses, Joe. They’ll just drain it. Five years from now you’ll never know Logan’s swamp ever existed.’ Frank reached for a fresh plug of tobacco and wedged it under his bottom lip.

I forced a nervous smile. It had been over ten years – surely they’d never find her. Even if they did, they’d never be able to prove nothin’.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Friday Fictioneers – Actions and Consequences

ff270116Vera’s whole body was shaking. In her right hand she still held onto what was left of the bottle of Chateau de Sable. The rest of the bottle lay in pieces around Billy’s head. At first she thought she’d killed him, but then he started to groan.

The meal, the cheap bottle of red: it had been Billy’s clumsy attempt to rekindle any lingering passion. Instead, all it had done was rekindle a belief in Billy that his wife was his to do with as he pleased.

Vera had to think fast. There was no easy way out of this, but one way or another, this would all end here.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

Friday Fictioneers – A Final Composition

ff200116Flakes of Viennese snow drifted in through the open window. On top of the grand piano a single candle dripped wax onto unscored manuscripts. A once warming fire now lay cold and grey in the hearth. Crippling fever pains again gripped his stomach; tears of stale sweat drenched his shirt.

None of this mattered – all that mattered was the commission, and his reputation.

Gripping the quill as firmly as he could between trembling, calloused fingers, two more bars, and then three more, were added to the overture. This requiem would be finished on time, even if it killed him.

friday-fictioneers

These words form my entry into Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.

(Apologies to the makers of Amadeus for this ham-fisted plagiarism of their cinematic masterpiece!)