Monthly Archives: October 2013

Autumn writing workshop…..rough draft piece

With huge thanks to Carol Leeming and the other workshop participants at yesterday’s writing workshop, a very rough draft of a season prose poem…..


You fall into mud
Held fast

Feet of clay, quite literally, boots of sticky, viscous clay….weighing you down
Everything else is movement, shimmering, blowing, dancing in autumnal gales,
While you are stuck in mud.

This is the start of the end, the end of everything,
Death of grass.

Plans slip away,
Sucked into the mud

Light slips away
Clock ticking
Tick, tock, tick, tick, tock, tock……tick.

You move, ungainly puppet,
Feet slip sliding,
Slip, sliding away

And your hand grabs at desperately at manes, whilst incurious, moon eyes regard your unsteady paces and they sure hooved judge you and find you wanting.
No longer an adequate herd leader.

Later, they stand at the gate,
Arses turned against the wind,
Heads lowered,
Still as if planted,
Growing in the mud,

Solid against your sloppy progress.

The herd follow,
Threaten to trample you into the bloody mud.

You shout,
But your voice is lost, grabbed from you by a gust that sneaks up, steals sound.

You want to wave your hands, re-assert your place….push the horses away,
You know that this movement will unbalance you,
Speed the descent
The terrible inevitability of fall.

Mud stained.
Mud shamed

No way to hide that you have fallen,
Are falling
Into fall


Getting my writing mojo back

It’s been a little quiet here @ rubiesandduels over the last couple of weeks, so apologies to those who have come to expect regular new content.
I have been struggling with a terrible lack of inspiration and feeling the dread oncoming winter.
So, in an attempt to shake myself up, I am off to a writing workshop this afternoon, hopefully, I will come back re-energised and full of new ideas.
I’ll post anything useful or that seems worth sharing later.


Le Weekend…..a film for people like us

So, rubiesandduels is usually found extolling the virtues of art-house, independents and the subtitled, but, my secret weakness for anything Jim Broadbent appears in, sent me off to see ” Le Weekend “.
The film knows who its target audience is, almost half the seats were taken up by people who could easily have been friends, neighbors and colleagues of the 50 somethings played by Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan.

A romantic week end in Paris is by turn funny, touching and painfully honest, a truthful look at the lives of those of us who somehow thought it would all be better than it turned out and find ourselves in jobs that feel increasingly meaningless, with mildly disappointing adult children and a sense that life has not delivered on our early promise.

The film is a meditation and finally, a celebration of those long marriages and the strategies we use to survive them and is brutally honest about sex and the older woman, but with a light and delicate touch.

And so good to see an actor actually allowed to look her age, Duncan is hot and attractive, but looks the way many of us do now, a little faded, a little plumper, but still the absolute object of desire for Broadbent.

It’s a “little” film and non the worse for it.


A piece of guest whimsy

We haven’t had a guest writer for a while… following on from my piece on strange neighbours, I give you some very strange neighbours indeed.

If you write and would like to share your work here at rubiesandduels, please get in touch.

Enjoy this story..I did.


Bunty was not particularly liked at work. He didn’t particularly

like them. They continued to call him Bunty, a nickname he

acquired in his early days with Turgid, Turgid and Whitehead. It was

his ex-wife’s pet name for him and she was overheard calling him

Bunty, during an office party where spouses were invited. The name

stuck. Everyone from the boss down called him Bunty; dammit he

even thought of himself as Bunty. That is until he met Brenda from

accounts. She always calls him William and sixteen weeks ago she

became Mrs William Milkins. They moved into their new home

together two months ago, having sold their respective properties for

an excellent price, allowing them to move into leafy Hollingbrooke

Avenue. It had four bedrooms and a huge garden.

“Come on then Bunty, when’s the house-warming party?” said Bill

Pratley, enjoying watching William dither for a response.

“Yes not had my invite yet either.” Said Veronica Tate. “Brenda

says you’ve had a lot of work done on the house.” Egging on Tom

Banks, over by the photocopier to join in.

“Perhaps we’re not good enough, now you’ve up Hollingbrooke

Avenue, so come on Bunty you know you love us really.” Said

Banks a broad grin creasing his mean face.

William adjusted his tie, removed his spectacles, cleared his

throat and shocked them all.

“Well yes, we’ve made a few alterations, how does next week

sound, say Saturday, 8 o’clock suit you.

“What really, right oh Bunty; I’ll bring some champers.

“Just you three mind and your partners of course. Don’t tell

anyone else.”

“Scout’s honour” said Bill Pratley – I’ll bring someone, not saying

it’ll be the wife mind you.” He laughed winking at Tom Banks.

“Well I’m looking forward to it.” said Veronica Tate. “I’ve spoken

to Brenda about soft furnishings and Kitchen fittings, I bet she’s

taken my advice about that Bosch dishwasher and those beautiful

Sofas from John Lewis and exquisite bed linen. We’ll need the grand

tour when we arrive on Saturday Bunty.”

And indeed Veronica was first to arrive that Saturday night, while

her husband parked the car she rang the doorbell. William opened

the door and Veronica gasped at what she saw. William was naked

except for a lion-cloth and a scabbard at his side.

“Welcome” he said just as her husband caught up. William

opened the door wide, and they both gasped. The house was

completely gutted. No walls, no ceilings, no beautiful John Lewis

soft furnishings, no Bosch dishwasher, just three gigantic tree

trunks, stripped of foliage their twisting branches reaching up to the

rafters and stretching into every corner of the house.

At the very top of the centre trunk was Brenda, also naked apart

from the skin of an antelope wrapped around her. She swung down

to them on one of the many hanging vines.

“Hello Veronica, and this must be your husband, Jerry.”

“Err yes, hello Bbbrenda.”

“She’s not called Brenda here at home, she Jane, me Tarzan”

said William, hands on hips, legs slightly parted, his large hairy gut

hanging over the top of his loin-cloth, Brenda simpering at his side,

toying with the handle of William’s scabbard.

It was then when the other two couples arrived, who also stood

slack-jawed as they slowly walked into the house.

“Bunty, what the hell…”said Bill.

“Not Bunty, not Brenda, Me Tarzan, she Jane. “Drinks?” he said.

“Yeah, OK.” Said Tom at the back of the group, staring all around

him, what you got?”

“Dandelion and Burdock.” And with that thrust a hollowed out half

a coconut shell into their hands as Brenda skipped around with the

bottle of D and B pouring.

“No expense spared hey Bunty, I mean Tarzan.” said Bill.

“Can you show me the little girl’s room?” asked Veronica.

William handed her a spade.

“Out there” he said opening the French windows. “I’ve fed the

lions so you should be alright.” Just then a young Gazelle cantered

up to the house. “Oh it’s Valerie.” Said Brenda.

“Jane, I’ve told you before stop giving the animals names.”

“Yes, but don’t you think she looks like a Valerie Tarzan?”

“These are wild animals, calling the boa-constrictor Barry was bad

enough, now you’ve given our Sunday lunch a name.”

Veronica interrupted Tarzan and Jane’s first argument.

“A spade, bloody lions…”

“Oh yes” said William. “Don’t worry the Maasi hunt most of


“The bloody who?”

“The Maasi warriors, a beautiful people, that’s their drums you

can hear now. Did you know in drought conditions, they drink the

blood of their cattle, cutting it’s throat in a certain way that the

beast survives – a proud and noble race.

“In your back garden you have, lions, bloody deer”

“Technically it’s not a deer it’s an antelope….”

“I don’t care actually, and a bloody tribe of savages…”

“Just use the spade woman, do you want a spear for protection?”

He tossed her a spear, closed the French windows and went back to

the others. The lions continued to roar, they were not far away.

When Veronica hadn’t returned after an hour, the other guests

began to get nervous, particularly Veronica’s husband…”

“Look Tarzan, whatever you are bloody called where’s my wife?’

“Well we could organize a search party.,” said William.

“I’m not bloody going out there,” said Tom and Bill chiming in

“Yeah, she’s your wife.”

“Some work colleagues you are, where’s your guts?”

“Here inside, not spread over the bloody Serengeti out there.

“We are all going out to search,” said William, “we have to. About

this time of night the vampire bats fly in here to roost, the safest

place is in the bush, follow me.” They all trooped out into the

garden. They found Veronica’s bloody corpse just a few feet from a

partially dug hole, half of her eaten. Jungle noises echoed around

them and then a rush of bat wings as hundreds of vampire bats

flew towards the house. In the undergrowth Tarzan and Jane

managed to loose the others. The Maasi drums continued to

beat and Jane slowly crept up to Tarzan and whispered.

“This will do for the Lions feed this week, who can we invite next


“Your quite friendly with that hairdresser and his wife aren’t you?”

replied Tarzan.


Unknowing the World

It starts so gradually, so gently, this learning to unknow the world.

One day, you look down at the crumpled, but mostly, unread Sunday papers, still littering the sitting room floor on Monday evening.

You will cancel the papers you say, such a waste of money and besides you never vist the galleries, the cafes, read the books, buy the clothes they review. The papers just make you feel inadequate, provincial, dowdy and illiterate, you don’t need to fill your Sundays with such naked consumerism..

So, no more lazy Sunday mornings, coffee and cats and one slice of toast too many and a nest of newsprint, but it’s fine.

Watching the news one night, you find tears rolling down your face as you watch another child walking down another devasted street in a country you can’t find on the map. You begin to treat the television with caution, choosing, when you can, the early pre-watershed news, less dead bodies, less screaming, more chance of a skateboarding budgie. You begin to avoud news channels altogether, start watching re-runs of Bergerac on channels that no-one has heard of.

One day, the black, once sleek box, develops a fault, a thick black line, cutting the screen in half. You consider replacing it, but instead, you carefully unplug it and after a few days, when it’s very blackness, it’s boxiness, seems just too much for the space , you carry it upstairs and leave it in the box room, half leaning on the abandoned treadmill. They make a good pair, you think, objects that you don’t need any more.
But it’s fine, you say.

Someone, probably the super-sized youths who hang on the corner and scare you more than is OK to admit, someone breaks into your car and steals the radio. At first you are outraged, make plans to replace it, but, 2, 3 days in to your silent journeys, you change your mind and don’t.

Silence becomes your goal. You turn off the radios at home, wonder briefly about The Archers, but suddenly decisive, pick up the kitchen sissors and snip the cable, leaving a plug attached to nothing still in the socket.

You spend a happy evening packing away CDs, you find the covers themselves sufficient entertainment and once they have joined the TV and the radios in the box room, you can think of no good reason to keep the stereo on display, so it too makes the one -way journey up the stairs.

You look around the sitting room, bare shelves, gaps where boxes should sit, the room looks empty and you sit revelling in that emptiness, that silence.
It’s fine you think.

At first, you enjoy your pre-technology life [ you are careful to always leave the mobile phone in the car – afraid that its chirping and pinging will disturb the calm of your evening].
You put on the kettle and choose a book for the evening, settle back on the sofa, lose yourself in words,feel calmed.
And then, one evening 2 or 3 weeks into this new programme, you begin to hear the words in the book you are reading, shouting themselves at you you, volume pressing into your brain.
Shocked, you drop the book.
As it hits the floor.

The next evening, you pack all the books away in boxes you have borrowed from the office.
The boxes are too heavy to carry upstairs, but you cannot keeep them in the house, so you leave them outside the front door, 6 large cardboards boxes, containing almost every book you have owned as an adult and then you shut the front door.
But it’s fine.

You are not really surprised when, 5 or is it 6 weeks later that you wake up and know, in the very fabric of your bones, that you cannot make the journey to work, cannnot cope with the noise of traffic, the constant thrumm of the city, even the breating of your colleagues seems too loud to endure
You make the call, mumble something vague, difficult to catch and then, you move to the window and with a simple opening of your hand, you let the little phone fall onto the concrete below.
But it’s fine.

Things speed up after that of course.
Your search for silence becomes more frantic.
With nothing to distract you, you spend hours seeking out the noises that drill into your brain, keep you awake at night, make your very flesh twitch.

Within days you have decided that all household chores must be done by hand, the tasks fill the day, fill the house with gentle, acceptable sound.
You carry the microwave up stairs, its ping and the agony of waiting for the ping have become too much to bear.
The washing machine is too large, too awkward to dislodge from its space, so you have to be satisfied with unplugging it, you would like to turn its face to the wall, but after an hour of struggle, you admit defeat and now it sprawls at an odd angle, half in, half out of where it used to sit, compact, but always humming.
But it’s fine.

One night, you wake up, the pipes are banging, water hissing on its journey around the house.
At first, you think, hope, because after all, it is November, that if you cover your head with pilows, duvet, even towels, that you will be able to drown it all out, but, once recognised you know what you must do.
Almost regretfully, in bare feet, you do your best to shut down the boiler.
Just fleetingly, you wonder if you are doing this right, wonder if the house will now blow up and laugh at the terrible irony of an explosion here, in this silent house.
Your laugh surprises you, it is , you reckon, using fingers to do sums, the first voluntary noise you have made for days.
But, Its fine.

Time passes.
You lie on the sofa, bundles in duvets and blankets and spare coats.
It is very, very quiet and you bask in the silence, close your eyes, smile.
You think about venturing into the kitchen, wonder if there is any dry cereal left, although you are fairly sure there isn’t.
And then you hear it
boom, boom , boom
rhythmic, regular, like clockwork.
You are outraged……all this work, all this and still you cannot achieve silence, gain peace.
You lie back, close your eyes, consider ways to lose this final sound.

It will be fine.

No. 84.

Because truth is often stranger than fiction….

This house, this little terraced house is no stranger to the gently gothic, the slightly strange, the oh so ever so mildly odd.
She, the woman in this story has lived next door at 82 for twenty years, seen 3 tenants in that time.

The old lady, hair stained defiantly with a nicotine stripe, died one day, as old women do, alone, neglecting to fill the dogs’ bowl before she went and lay undiscovered for an unremarkable amount of time.
Discovered by a neighbour, a better neighbour, lightly nibbled by her starving pet.
No headlines, no story, just an everyday tale of inner city folks.

And then there was Elizabeth
” I’m Elizabeth, from Londonderry”, head bobbing like a frenetic wren, face tight with something hungry, eyes clocking the sandpit, the push toys in our woman’s garden.
Londonderry told our woman everything she needed to know, meant she never mentioned her roots, her own surname, the ritual of the manager and the baby Jesus carefully placed in the cotton wool on Christmas Eve.
Elizabeth apologised over the fence. Consonants so sharp it seemed they flew, imbedded themselves in the struggling flower beds our woman tried to plant.
Elizabeth apologised for hoovering at 4pm.
Apologised for going upstairs too many times
Apologised for the thud, thud, thud of her tumble dryer.
Our woman took note, took to creeping around her own home, sushed the children, forbade drum and recorder practice. Tried to use domestic devices only between the hours of 10 and 3.

And then one day, Elizabeth was gone, house empty, truly silent.
Our woman ran up and downstairs 6 times, just to celebrate.

The one legged landlord called, said there would be a new tenant, invited her, again, to take a spin in his almost new jag, jingled the car keys against a thigh that sounded just slightly wrong.

The new tenant, she still doesn’t know his name, arrived, hung thick net curtains and closed all the windows.
She saw him once or twice, face unfinished, ugly, as if created by an inept, uninterested sculptor was unfailingly unsmiling and so she didn’t smile either.

So, far, in 3 years,he has complained about
The dog
The children
The branches of her tree touching his fence
The cat
The dog….again
The ivy on the front fence
The radio being on at 11pm, she wonders if he dislikes Book at bedtime
The children……again
The radio being on at 4pm

She tries, our woman, to not notice that his windows are never open, even in a heat wave.
She tries not to notice that there are never any visitors.
She tries not to notice that there are never, ever any sounds.

When they pass on the street, she tries not to notice him either.

Her friends laugh, call him the vampire, speculate about the number of bodies there must be under the floorboards, she finds it hard to join in the laughter.

” I reckon he just hangs from a branch, upside down in the dark, like a big lizard” says a friend
” Sush” she mutters “he’ll hear you” and the friends, replete with cold beer and hot curry laugh and shake their heads and change the subject, but later, left alone with the washing up,our woman, standing in the tiny garden, looking up at the moon, last cheeky vodka in hand, cannot help but look into his windows, no light on, no sound, no movement.
She shuts her door with more force than is really needed and goes to check sleeping children far too old to need this nightly check.


I need your help for NANOWRIMO 2013

I posted recently about the plan [ & i use the word loosely] for this years’ NANOWRIMO novel [ well, novelish].
A series of inter-connected stand alone pieces based on dates & days and using newspaper headlines as the trigger or starting point.
I’ve got a little bit further in the planningg, so, what I have now is ;

A date in November choosen by asking a randon person to give a date, so we have 14th November.
I’ve decided to only use my local daily newspaper – the ” Leicester Mercury” – I like the limitations that this will put on me and the constriction will be that the short story/prose piece MUST be based on a story on the front page.
Now, I need years, so readers and visitors to this blog, send me a year between 1900 and 2012 and the first 31 will be used as a chapter in the novel.
If you add your name, I will happily dedicate the chapter to you as well.