Monthly Archives: March 2013

I cannot write a novel today because……

my friend is writing poetry for gerbils & i need to watch the letter box for the manuscript, small and brown, a forgettable butterfly of verse

the towels in my airing cupboard cry out to be arranged not just by size and colour, but fluffiness, fraying and the frisson of pleasure they give against warm damp skin

I cannot write a novel today, because somewhere, out there, the perfect shoes exist – red, patent leather, kitten heeled, whimsical lacing and my feet are restless with longing

the sofa groans with undiscovered hidden treasures, chocolate coins, half smoked cigarettes, a tiny china rabbit, i feel the urge for urban archaeology

i cannot write a novel today, the dog seems depressed, not in touch with his inner wolf, i try to cheer him up by baying at the moon, its the least i can do

somebody has updated their status, a photograph of mashed potatoes, onion gravy, steaming sausages, I need to comment – yum yum

I cannot write a novel today, the horse needs me to stand, one foot resting on a gate, my chin against the sun warmed metal of the fastening, watching her eat grass

the ducks are all in disarray, facing the wrong way on the bathroom shelf, if ignored, disaster will certainly follow

i cannot write a novel today, the biscuit tin contains only cut price own label digestives, nobody can expect creativity on such poor fare

there are blue pens in the black pen jar and felt tips with the wrong colour lids and duplo in the lego box and the my little ponies are missing their mane combs

I cannot write a novel today

I didn’t write one yesterday

But tomorrow…..ah tomorrow

Rubies and Duels is getting out and about

So, we are leaving the safety of the blogosphere and reading a couple of pieces to an audience.
Will try and get photos and maybe even a teeny video.
Tonight, Tuesday @ Duffy’s Bar, Leicester and next Tuesday , Y theatre, also in Leicestet


Ruithin – spring ?

rubies and duels would like to welcome our newest guest contributor – Maureen McDermott.
Maureen lives, writes and swims in the welsh market town of Ruithin and this piece is sadly horribly seasonal.

It’s a gloomy, dreary Saturday

The night before the last
Trees, fields, nascent flowers
Stricken with an unwelcome
Snow fall.

Where yesterday , there had been a hope of
Instead, an icy, wind – driven rain
That with cruel sleight of hand
Beneath a smooth, pristine , unpainted
The longed for days Spring’s sun warmth would

Roofs , Trees, Fields turned to
My road from home into town now
Trace of foot steps tracks
Retraced foot step tracks
Recorded proof until the
Of my morning’s journey all

Foot steps soft thread
The muffled burr of some car’s
Crunching the ground’s stainless
So softly, so noiselessly , inconsiderately
Throughout the night, while I
Of all happenings in the dark outside
Unaware, fast asleep in


the postcard

Dad must have kept the picture in his wallet for years, he thought when he found it, folded up, creased, stuffed in behind his AA membership card in the first round of sorting things out.
At first, he thought it was a photograph and for one mad minute, he found myself wondering if this was a moment of truth, some bizarre twist in his fathers’ humdrum, everyday life.
A love affair?
A second family ?

And then he looked around the bedroom, the furniture bought when they married, built to last, his father said, the wallpaper, cabbage roses on an off-white background, his mothers’ hair brushes and perfume bottle still center stage on the dressing table, even though the perfume has long dried out, leaving just the hint of a ghost of a scent.

He shook my head, this was not the bedroom of a bigamist, a philanderer and he looked more carefully, more critically at the little picture, discovering that it wasn’t a snap shot at all, but a postcard,a staged, manufactured image of cuteness, a boy & his dog at prayer.

He turned the postcard over, expecting to see a holiday message, a jokey comment, but there was nothing, the card was blank, not sent then. His father must have bought it and for reasons he cannot grasp, kept it carefully in a lifetimes worth of wallets.

The man, the son, middle aged, busy in this careful sorting, ordering of the remains of his fathers’ life is brought up short. He looks again at the picture, the boy is blond, out doorsey, good at sport, the sort of boy who would run through fields with the dog always at his side.

He catches sight of his own refection in the dressing table mirror.
His hair, thinning, has faded, neither grey nor white, just an indeterminate nothing, his eyes, magnified behind vari-focals are weak, watery, his shoulders slump in a characteristic apologetic shape and his mouth, the lips too thin, falls into its usual unspoken apology. He smiles at himself, teeth barred in an approximation of happiness and then shrugs and returns to his careful internal inventory of his fathers’ possessions.

But later, at home, making himself a cup of tea in the tidy, functional kitchen of this boxy flat, his share from the sale of the marital home, he cannot shake the image of the blond child in the postcard.

He is shaken by a thought so shocking, so dreadful,that he has to sit down and he realizes that now the thought is there that he will never be able to completely shift it.

He has a sudden image of his father, standing on a touchline on a freezing February day watching him, his only son, already plastered in mud, pushed down again onto the pitch by bigger, stronger boys from the other team. He remembers, struggling to his feet, peering through his mud encrusted glasses and discovering that his father had gone, returned in disgust to the car to wait out the match.

He can still remember the hot shame of that failure,the silent journey home, buy now, he has another, a new image to torture himself. He sees his father, sitting in the family car, rain hitting the roof, head bowed while he looks longingly at a picture of someone else s’ son, someone else’s life.



Their journey to Christ starts here, in the hallway of the old chapter house.
In the past, it seeemed that every month we stood, in neat serried ranks, greeting the new noviate, but now months, even years can go by before we are called together to watch a small clutch of women enter the convent for the first time.

The women are older now, not the young girls I remember from my own entrance into this hall way. We were all so young, faces shiny with holiness, turning our back on a world we knew nothing about anyway.
We had a calling, a vocation, they said – our parents, the priests, the very nuns who taught us in our remote way station schools.
We were the devout, the ones who made a full rosary every day, the ones who were moved to tears by the suffering at Gethsemene, the ones who, late at night, truly felt HIS spirit on us and if we didn’t, well, we grew accustomed to the attention, “she’s going to the Sisters” our classmates would murmur as we walked past, our faces innocent of make-up, our clothes, simple, modest, already emulating the habits we would wear later.

We came here, because it had been ordained and then, in due time, so were we.
A linear journey, convent school, to convent and another convent school – child, nun, teacher.

But these women, these new potential nuns, have had lives, known the world, I can see it in their faces, their clothes, the bags they carry.

Some, perhaps trying too hard, have fashioned their own version of a habit, long skirt, head covered, faces bare, they radiate a hungry desire to be here, to be what we are. Oddly enough, they often don’t last, the reality a million miles from their Black Narcisuss day dreams.

Others, adopt a mid point, somewhere between the convent and the world, clothes sensible, confortable, a little dowdy. They are the Marthas in training, busy, bustley. The women who, in 10 or 20 years, god willing, I will look at across the plain scribbed table and feel my fists clench with anger and have to push back an over-whelming urge to
punch, hard, in the face at the way they chew their cereal.

And then there are the others, still grasping onto the world. Fingernails and faces painted, tight jeans, high heels. These very heels almost drag along the ground as they try to resist this calling, fight against this plot line.
This is not what they were planning and having tried everything to silence HIS voice, here they will stay, at least for a little while.

An unsettling presence

And we, the Marthas will watch them nervously, tip toe round their firey faith, which seems not comforting at all, but something to fight against, something to make them gaunt, tired, burnt out.
We, secure in the rythmn of our day, secure in our place in the world, wait for the cycle to end, the natural order to restore and then we will, as tradition gives, watch their leaving, their return to their world.
Those who wanted this too much and those who won the fight against that tiny voice at night, it’s promises of being choosen.

And when they are gone, we easily absorb the one or two new faces, the daily order sucks us back in, soothes us, keeps the tiny doubts stilled, keeps us in this world.


The tattoo


The first one is the hardest, the one you agonize about the most.
Past the shop, look in the window, up the road, not today. Tomorrow. Yeah. tomorrow.
I must have done it, that stupid journey, on 3, 4 saturdays and then, on a Tuesday, I went in & had it done.

And its funny, you can hardly see it now, my little butterfly, sort of lost now in everything else thats going on up there.
I’m aiming for the whole arm, hand, shoulder, a sleeve.

I like that word, makes me think that i can dress myself in ink, drape my body in tattoos.
I’m wearing ART – lol

Ive got a plan, not just random stuff, I’m making a jungle, all the colors glowing and parotts and monkeys and everything, even my little buterfly, all warm and bright, like my mum says – its a cold old world and you need something to keep you warm, she gets her glow from spray tan and acrylic nails, but me, Ive got my jungle.

Sometimes, I sit in my room and i light a couple of candles and i really look at myself, the piercings and that, they’re nothing, just fashion. The ears, did those to annoy my dad, he hates them, says it makes me look mad, ,like some mutant or something.
But the art, it’ll be there forever, even when I’m proper old, like really, really old, old like my gran, I’ll still have it, the jungle, my little butterfly.
Makes me feel kinda of nice that, it’ll be mad, all these old people, all covered in ink..LMFAO

I like it when people look at me, smile my biggest, nicest smile, put on my poshest voice and always say hello to them. I like it best when they ask questions, come closer to have a good look, but what I hate is the sneaky peekers, too polite or something, whatever, to just smile and enjoy, no, they look out the corner of their eyes, faces all screwed up in judgement, just like that guy now, pretending to read his paper, but everytime he thinks I’m looking away, his head pops up, like something out of bloody Meercat Manor

I don’t think she’s noticed me, too wrapped up in herself, tapping away at that phone. Funny how young people are always tapping and poking and prodding things, don’t seem to be able to sit still, enjoy their coffee, have a quiet chat, watch the world go by, always seem too busy.
Now don’t get me wrong, me and Marion we liked to move with the times, when mobile phones got a bit cheaper, we had a bit of a confab and decided to get one, but we both knew, it was FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY. Marion learnt to text, the grandsons taught her, but I never really fancied it – too fiddly, easier to just speak to someone and now, well, like I said, its for emergencies really.

The girl, well, you cant help but look, everything about her says look at me, so I do.
Bits of metal all over her face, ear lobes distended, mis-shaped with huge black things, earrings maybe.
I remember when our Paul had his ear pierced, 1976, he was just 16, saw something on Look East about punks and next thing, he comes home with a little stud in his ear. Marion went mad, expected me to lay down the law, but I looked at his face, screwed up with defiance, a good boy really and I just shrugged, went into the garden, looked at the lawn, burnt to a crisp in the drought.
It’s her tattoos that are really catching my eyes, her whole arm is covered, leaves and flowers, but that’s not what’s puzzling me.
The thing I’m looking at is small, my age, close up stuff, well that can be a bit of a blur, but far away things, eagle eyed, that’s me, so I can see the tattoo on her hand and it’s not like the others. It’s just one word, a name maybe, but it’s impossible to read and it’s got me wondering. Marion always said that i was nosey, personally, I’m just interested in people, well, that’s how i see it.
So, this, well, it’s odd. This is a girl who wants to be noticed, but why have a name that no-one can read.

When I took the drawing to Tom, the guy who’s done most of the inking on me, well, he just didn’t get it, scratched his head, got a pen and re-drew the letters, each one perfect, perfectly readable, even drew some nice shading, looked at me, but I shook my head and insisted that he followed my design.
Afterwards, he joked, said that i shouldn’t tell anyone that he had done the work, said that he didn’t want anyone thinking he couldn’t write properly.
I looked down at where the new piece was hidden under gauze and tape and said his secret was safe with me, but I knew he didn’t understand.
Once, when my mum was out and it was raining, me and my dad were watching some old detective thing on telly, Sherlock Holmes, I think, and he was talking about how to hide things and he said
“hidden in plain sight” and my dad, who loved that sort of telly nodded and told me what it meant – hide something where everyone can see it and that’s what I’ve done.
Anyone can see it, it’s there, black ink on my skin, hidden in plain sight.

Her phone pings or clicks or something and she picks it up, I can see her hand clearly now, against the black of the tiny phone, but the letters are illegible, a scribble. I can make out a couple of letters, just enough to annoy me.
And then she is gone, a clatter of jewellery and over- sized bags and I’m left wondering.
I take another sip of coffee and finish reading the paper. I’m not in a hurry, nothing much to hurry for these days.
Just for a second, i wonder what Marion would have said if I’d told her that I was going to her name tattooed somewhere on my body.

Everyone I have ever slept with – nos 1 to 27 – Version 2

I’m planning to perform this as part of a collection on remembering & forgetting.

This is a re-write of an earlier piece, feedback would be much appreciated.

1.I remember everyone I have ever slept with, even though I may have forgotten many if their names

2. I remember the first time and afterwards, a shame faced entry into a sitting room where everyone knew our business.

3. I remember the last time with R, with nothing left to say, we took refuge under the duvet on a wet September day.

4.I remember sharing a bed with B, she carefully placed pillows down the centre line, a demarcation of distance, of decency & decorum.

5.I remember the man who would knock on my door at midnight and fool that i was, i would always let him in.

6. I remember spooning against A, his aubergine skin against mine, so dark it made my Irish whiteness glow in the soft light of my bedroom.

7. I remember summer afternoons with J, lolling on a grubby mattress on the floor, we stuck our feet out of the window to cool ourselves and waved them at passers-by.

8.I remember another J, in a tent where we pressed our hands against each other’s mouths so that we would not wake the other campers

9.I remember, drunk on cava and sun, sharing a bed with my mother, we talked and giggled until the children, over-tired and fractious, told us to shut up and go to sleep.

10.I remember the stone cold dyke, sprawled across my pillows, fully dressed as she watched me through half closed, calculating eyes.

11. I remember sleeping with A in a tipi and waking to find snowflakes drifting across our sleeping bag.

12. I remember a caravan in Norfolk and a small child pretending to be asleep while waiting for Christmas morning.

13.I remember dozing with the un-named Greenham women while we waited for morning and yet another eviction.

14. I remember Ns’ bed, so dipped and broken that we rolled together into an inevitable embrace, blaming fate & bad carpentry

15.I remember sleeping with an almost famous comedian who insisted on leaning his double base case at the foot of my bed. It loomed over us all night.

16.I remember New Year’s Eve 1999, D threw pillows at my head when I talked in my sleep.

17.I remember Ms’ home-made bed – 6 feet off the floor , we slept like over-sized birds in a wooden nest

18.I remember an un-named man who woke me to tell me that my cats were staring at him.

19.I remember sharing a bed with my sister, we slept top to tail, whispering and watching the flames die down in the bedroom grate.

20.I remember another R, we would listen to the shipping forecast late at night and he, claiming to be a sailor, would tell me tales of the sea, in retrospect, I see that many of these stories were fictions.

21.I remember M who in my freezing flat, wore his badly darned yellow jumper as some defence against the cold.

22.I remember a cat, who while i slept, gave birth to 3 tabby kittens.

23.I remember A who swore me to secrecy.

24.I remember the night I lured a model home and the look of disbelief on the faces of those left in the club who watched us leave the club

25.I remember the husky dog, as the night went on she would move herself further and further up the bed, until, finally, her head would rest on a pillow, face staring into mine.

26. I remember small bear, wearer of tiny knitted trousers to stop his sawdust innards leaking into my bed.

27.I remember staggering home from a dentist, mouth full of blood and H who lay on top of the blanket, patting my hand until the pain killers kicked in

All, many, some of these may be true, un-true, mis-remembered.

Samuel P Whiskers Esq & the racehorses

Something very different, as set by the students in our school creative writing group- a 300 word story for children.
I am not optimistic about this challenge.

On the outside, Samuel P Whiskers Esq is small & ginger & hairy and really a bit scruffy, but when Samuel runs across the grass with the other little ponies, he feels tall and fast and splendid, because on the inside, Samuel remembers the day when he beat all the racehorses.

And this is how it happened, Samuels was out, and as usual, Big Ruby horse was turning round & snorting, telling him to keep up, not get left behind, His owner was kicking him on, encouraging him
“go faster Sam” and he wanted to say
“I only have little legs and I’m going as fast as I can”, but of course he couldn’t and he did his best to trot along to keep up with the big horse in front.

Then, at the bottom of the big hill, they met the racehorses, all brown and shiny and long leged and Sam felt very small and ginger and shabby.
“Let’s race” said the woman on the biggest and shiniest and brownest race horse and they were off!

Sam went as fast as he could, but within a few seconds all the big horses were far far in front and then something amazing happened, the big shiny horses began to slow down, even Big Ruby, who always got everywhere faster than him.
He felt his legs go faster and faster and then, he was passing them, leaving them standing’ His ears twitched with delight and then he was at the top of the hill, first, the winner.

His heart beat fast, partly with delight and partly because he was a very little pony and he had run as fast as he could.
His owner threw her arms around his neck and hugged him.

So, now the ponies run in the field and Sam is last or second to last, he doesnt care, because he knows that on the inside he is aster than a race horse and could beat all the ponies, any time he wanted to.



A task set by the students in my writing group – 300 words max incorporating the word rainbow.

She knows she shouldn’t but she can’t help herself, the car seems to have a life of it’s own, turns left at the lights, sharp right and then into the car park.
She sits for a moment, engine still running, she hasn’t commmited herself yet. It’s stil possible to simply reverse out, get the day back on track, get back to what passes for normal. Now.

With a sudden decisive movement, she scoops up the keys and exits the car. The suddeness of the movement surprises her, reminds her of winter sea swimming when the only way to do it is to plunge immediately into the icy water – no thinking, no dithering. So, she takes the plunge and walks towards the reception desk, head held high.

The Lift is empty, no need to make polite conversation with her almost, nearly neighbours.
Turning the key, she walks into number 24, flick on the light and slumps to the floor, legs collapsing under her.

Everything is as she left it last time and almost blindly, she stretches out a hand amd picks up a yellow plastic pony, its mane and tail bright, garish, a rainbow of orange, yellow and red. She holds the pony to her cheek and cries. Her sobs fill the tiny room and she abandons herself to her misery.
Time passes and then she sits up still clutching the little pony.
She places it in her lap, blows her nose and then gathers the others, the little line of multi-coloured horses, and carefully, methodically, begins to brush their mane & tails with the tiny plastic hairbrush she has kept hidden in her handbag since the last time.
Her hands feel too large for the task


Y & Z & over & out

Y is for Yes

I have said Yes to ;

A third helping of chocolate cheesecake

A line of coke on a Wednesday morning

A job I didn’t want, but it seemed rude to say no

Sex [ see above for rationale]

A Marc Jacobs dress- improbabaly on the clearance rail at TK Max

A kitten – the combination of kiten eyes and daughter eyes were over-whelming

A huge box of books, only for a few weeks they said, it took up residence, became almost sculptural, filled a tiny box room

Loans, far too many loans and even when the fiscal cliff loomed, again it seemed rude to say no

A scarf, blue & red, flowery, I never had the heart to tell the giver that I had given it to her six months ago.

A book, another book and then some more – I never read them, but it seemed to please you to leave them on the pine table in the whitewashed room in the house we didnt own.

And Finally…………………………..

Z is for Zero and Zorro and




Read them out loud – let the pleasure of Zs slide against your tongue.