Category Archives: snippets and soundbites


In my defence, I am struggling with another bout of chronic insomnia and am therefore experimenting, sadly unwillingly, with writing at very odd times of the day or when I am completely exhausted.
It has an odd effect on writing, I’m not convinced its really the way forward.


Her days have a new rhythm now
A recognise able tune, familiar, but with a new syncopation
Get in car…..familiar
Fingers fumble to find the measured tones of Radio 4…familiar
But the crying is new
And she has a new routine to manage this
And then, head on steering wheel, salt tears mixing with that chemical
That spray the Kosovans on the corner squirt liberally over the dashboard when they swarm over the filthy car
That spray that makes old cars new

The tears are time limited
5 minutes and she is ready to go
Has become practised at emergency make up repairs
Stalled,stopped at the traffic lights, waiting to make that tricky right hand turn


The tears have become more frequent
No longer need the nudge of those other voices, other sounds
She carries them
Internal radio
Even in silence

She has become adept at dabbing, mopping
Crumpled tissue always at hand
She wakes at 3,4 am
And finds that her tears have begun before the day itself

Embarrassed by her mute mourning
She takes herself to a doctor
Shines lights, pokes and prods
She has blocked tear ducts
Her crying is a symptom, not of the world tearing itself apart, but her own physical malfunction

There is a pause


Scratches his nose

Rubs his own eyes

Says there seems to be a lot of blocked tear ducts

These days.


Strategies to Survive a Summer Storm

1. Make no mistake, this is a snow day, sans snow.
A day when all bets are off, routines abandoned, rythmn lost.
This is not a day for useful enterprise, cupboard mining, tax return or improving books.

2. Before it breaks, before the sturn and drang, stand and wait, wait at the window, on a balcony, in a garden.
Wait in air so leaden with promise, with threat.
Dragged down, earth bound, in bondage.
Smoke a cigarette and watch the smoke, hang in the heavy air.
Familiar tobacco scent cutting across a hint of metal, electricity in the air.

3. The first flash, first fork is a signal.
Gather together small children, pets and adults of a nervous disposition on a life raft of duvets on the largest double bed
It is permissible to collect extra pillows, soft toys and snacks of a comforting nature for this voyage.

4. Priority places should be allocated to those who can remember the techniques for calculating the exact distance of the storm from your roof top.
This calculation can contribute to the primary numeracy curriculum and therefore this storm day is technically a learning day.

5. No food or drink consumed on a storm day has any calorie, fat or sugar content, but choose carefully, ensure that all snacks celebrate the spirit of summer storm.
Consider rum, hard bread, small fish.
If all else fails, consider crisps, conveniently packaged in water-proof bags.

6. Tell stories of storms gone past, remember to embellish.
The horse hit by lightening, its’ metal shoes quadraphonic conductors.
The man drowned when the stream became a river, became a torrent,became the sea.
Mr Noah
Mrs Wolf

7. Be kind to those who become fearful, they are right, the gods are angry.
Do not share the statistics of the likelihood of lightening strike.
It will not help.

8. Exile, exile immediately, anyone who, peering into the sky, suggests that
“It seems to be clearing up”
This is a day to catastrophise,
To watch the world wash away.
Street by street.

9. Eventually, you will have to succumb to the irresistible rythmn of the rain on the roof.
Open the door, deep breath,
give yourself up to the storm.
A shower of power.
Stand and wave a fist at Thor and all the gods whose names you have forgotten.
if you are less heroic, more self conscious,
sing quietly to yourself
“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain, what a glorious feeling” and as the words peter out, find a puddle to stamp in.


This weeks’ writing task for my school based writing group – 300 words on the topic of lost, deserted, dangerous or abandoned places.

“But it wasn’t like that”, I want to shout out, set them straight, but when I look around everyone, all these strangers, are silent, intent on the performers moving along the corridor, so i duck my head down, start fiddling with the buttons on my winter coat.

“You don’t want to go to that” said Norah, when it was our turn to make the lunch, ” Might raise a lot of, you know, stuff”.
I wanted to argue with her, explain, but the words were sticky that day, so i ran the zip up and down on my cardigan, taking comfort in the feeling of wool against metal.

Tony brought it up at the weekly meeting, mentioned the poster in the community centre, asked how we were feeling about it and i wanted to say, excited, looking forward to going back, but you have to be careful how you answer those kind of questions, so i said nothing, just rolled the loose threads in my pockets into tiny soft balls.

So, Saturday, my library day, I take my books, but I don’t turn right at the end of the road, i turn left and i walk up the hill, heading towards the miles of metal railings and the big gates and when i get there, there’s a woman, she’s dressed as a nurse, but i know she’s not one, I can tell, but she’s smiling, so i smile too and there’s a little crowd, so i tuck myself at the back and we walk up the gravel drive towards the front doors.

Mr Carmichael would be cross, the gardens are all over-grown, flower beds choked with weeds, he was proud of the flowers, always made sure that the vases were full, cheered up the day rooms, some of the men helped him, we would watch them, know who was having a good day. Sometimes, at the Saturday night dances one of the men would have a flower in his pocket, give it to the woman he was dancing with and she would hide it in her locker until all the petals had fallen off.

I head towards the side door, the womans’ entrance, but two more of these people appear, they’re dressed as doctors, but they’re not, too young, not busy enough and now i know we’re were heading, the tunnel.

The tunnel was famous, a mile of corridors, everyone used it. It was where you saw stuff, heard stuff, caught up with gossip, news. Sometimes people just walked it or on bad days stood still, shrank against walls until someone came and took you back, put the kettle on.

And now we’re standing in a little huddle and in front of us are these young people and some are wearing strait jackets and pajamas and some are dressed as doctors and they’re screaming and shouting and now I really want to tell them, but I bite my cheek, hard enough to draw blood and I half close my eyes and i’d like to rock , but that’s attention seeking behavior, so i don’t.

I’m drifting now, remembering……………

Saturday dances, men one side of the room, women the other, piano and then later, years later, a record player and sometimes wanting to dance and sometimes feeling the music pour through your hands and sometimes it all being too much and being taken back for quiet time and the kettle on.

The laundry, warm, steamy, the smell of soap and hard work and the jokes and the nice Irish nurse, the one who would share her cigarettes.

Fish and chips on Friday and jam roly poly with custard.

The men had a barber, but the ladies had the WRVS women, shampoo and set, the smell of warm hair and setting lotion.

Concert parties, everyone, well everyone judged good enough to be an audience, in neat rows, nurse on the last seat, the one nearest the aisle, a good sing along and a nervous comedian.

And days when the sky seemed too near and you needed to hide under the blankets and someone would save a slice of cake from tea and leave it, quietly, on the bed-side locker.

The young people are writing on the floor now and there’s an abandoned wheelchair placed carefully halfway down the tunnel, everyone in the small audience is focused, all attention on the performers.
i take a deep breath, rub my fingers along the fabric of my good winter coat and quietly slip away.

It’s time to go home, to the home, I walk out of the main doors for the second time in my life and my feet make a soft crunching noise on the gravel path and i wonder what’s for tea.


1976 and all that

It is 1976 and I paint my toe nails Californian Poppy red and my father says I am a tramp.

It is 1976 and my friend Karen is dating a Northern Soul DJ, he says his wife doesn’t understand him and our 14 year old mouths try out, for the first time, the flavour, taste and texture of this sentence.

It is 1976, we play swingball in the back garden, within days the parched grass is trodden down to dust.

It is 1976, I walk past the only punk record shop in town and want with every fibre of my being to go in, but too fearful, simply walk past as often as I can believably contrive, hoping that someone inside will notice me and see beyond my convent school uniform.

It is 1976, two older girls get expelled from school for piercing each others ears with darning needles and slices of cucumber. We talk about it in whispers in the playground.

It is 1976, there is some Royal Jubilee, but my family, Irish, keeping our heads down during the whole of the mainland bombing campaign do not get involved and do fly flags of any sort.

It is 1976 and I am teaching myself to like coffee and smoke cigarettes, I apply myself to the project with focussed concentration.

It is 1976, the Sex Pistols get to No 1, the record is banned, but I buy a copy & keep it hidden. I play it when my parents are out, I threaten my brother and sister with violence if they ever tell on me.

It is 1976 and I buy a pair of wedge espadrailles – they are so heavy that each time I walk, I twist my ankle over, but they are the first shoes I have ever bought myself and so I continue to walk and fall until the soles themselves fall apart.

It is 1976 and it doesnt rain, we watch people waiting for water at stand pipes on Nationwide and wait for the water to run out in Norfolk.

Phoenix Writers… weekly writing task

150 words, including the phrase

…if she waits five minutes longer….

If she waits 5 minutes longer, he may have least have got his pants on

If she waits 5 minutes longer, the other woman in their bed may have taken her dresing gown off

If she waits 5 minutes longer, she may not have to hear the grunting, animal noises as she drops her car keys into the fruit bowl on the kitchen table

If she waits 5 minutes longer, they may have uncoupled and be able to at least look her in the eye

If she waits 5 minutes longer she may not need to follow the trail of clothes up the cord carpetted stairs

If she waits 5 minutes longer she may miss the exit of the neat black sports car from her gravelled drive

If she waits 5 minutes longer she may meet, head on, the car loosing control on the tight bend just before she turns for home.


This character emerged when role modelling out a writing exercise to a group of Yr 9 students – the task, write about a character on the night bus.

I’m not quite sure where it’s going, but this is very much a first draft of a first idea of a fragment of something.

Distance is important in the nightbus, don’t get too close, this time of night, things can get messy.
So that man, he’s six, seven seats behind you, you notice him when you’re checking the bus, watching out for obvious mentalists, men alone, carrying the anger of a bad night out.
First glance, you think, office worker, back from a jolly, missed the bus, missed the tube.
Stuck on the night bus

And this is the good bus, good choice – the 12.30 bus, post pubs, pre clubs, quiet, safe, warm.

Him, the man behind you, he shouldn’t be on this bus though, it’s not right, not with his neat grey suit and his briefcase and little metal glasses.

He should be at home, tucked up, telly, glass of wine, a dent in the sofa in the place he always sits.

And then you look more carefully, pay attention,feel the image start to unravel. His feet are sticking out, sticking into the aisle and he’s got no socks on and there’s newspaper sticking out at the heel and the toes.

That’s night bus territory, you almost nod ” One of us” and you stroll, dead casual down the bus, past him, but you get a good look.

The suit is frayed, shiny with dirt, stiching fraying at the collar and cuffs, no button left on the suit jacket.

His glasses are bent, badly mended with a filty sticking plaster, but the lens are surprisingly clean, clear, the eyes behind them calm, quiet, almost friendly.

The briefcase is open, gaping and you see a tangle of twisted wire scavenged from skips, 3 or 4 flattened coke cans and a little stack of cigarette butts.

You get off at your stop, stretch, light a fag for the walk home.

The bus is halted at the trafic lights when you pass, and there he is, staring out of the window.

Going nowhere, riding the nightbus.


Grim little things

One of the wonderful young writers in my school writing group is currently working on his first collection – entitled “Grim Little Things”, I loved the title so much that I’ve stolen it.


Snail slime tracking across the pillow, heading not towards the window sill and away, but downwards, towards the tangle of duvet and sheets.

That moment, with eyes still half closed, you swing your feet out of bed and your toes find…..something wet, soft and still just slightly warm.

Sniffing milk to test for fresheness, the almost solididty of turn, throat gagging on smell alone.

The crowded bus, the man too close, stale sweat imperfectly masked by cheap deoderant, his [ at least to you] unwelcome erection jabs against your hip at every speeed bump.

The way a colleague chews her lunch, mouth open, a whale seeking crill and all the time you cannot tear your eyes away, mastication and conversation.

A used dressing, plaster, still damp, sticky, viscous and dropped by some stranger into your wheelie bin.

A lipstick left, inadvertently, to melt on a sunny window sill.

A bloodied thumb print, just the one, off centre on a downstairs light switch.

Chickens, necks yellowed, hanging by their greying feet in the make shift Halal butchers storefront

A toenail, blackened, hanging by a single thread, walking, you feel it move, shift under woollen socks, but fear the final loss, the display of pink unready flesh.

The smell of spilt milk in a warm car.

Coppers sticky from over handling pressed into your hand in part payment for 10 cut price cigarettes.

A windscreen splattered, flying dead and the noise the wipers make removing the crispy bits.

Under-cooked quiche, onion floating in a thin soup of egginess.

A pug, eyes a popping, pink onesie and a matching pink collar, cute is so subjective.

Knuckles cracking, slow, deliberate, preparation and then the silence.

That Nokia ring tone
Da da da ..dadad da….dada da da.

Any brown envelope with any Government dept stamp.

Cells mutating under a microscope.

My ageing neck.

And on and on and on and on…….