Dec 182017
 

Today’s offering starts with a question from Karen Tucker…  

A Merry Christmas?

Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree. But what do they know?  After all, they can’t even find more than half the matter they’re so sure there is out there in the Universe!

If your story is what you tell yourself and others about your life, then my story started when she left.  Before that day I was reasonably happy, I suppose.  I loved her, she loved me (or so I thought), and life was tootling along fairly OK.

She had to pick Christmas Day to make her dramatic departure of course.  Ruined the holiday for me ever since.  Can’t stand Christmas now.

‘Bah humbug!’  I’m with Scrooge. What’s to be merry about I should like to know?

With a snarl of anger, I pass by yet another tin-rattling group of carol singers.  What a racket!  I’d be more likely to pay them to shut up and go away!  What makes them think they’re adding anything to people’s lives?  Why would anyone give them a penny?  But there goes one now, dropping two whole pound coins in the bucket.  Sheep, that’s what they are.  Oh, is everyone else having a good time and spending lots of cash on people they don’t even like?  Then I’d better do it too!

Can’t be doing with it, and they can call me ‘Miser Smith’ all they like.  I wouldn’t be out on Christmas Eve anyway, except I need some baccy. Can’t stand it.  Thank God all the little sods round my way have learned what they’ll get if they come to my front door with their stupid warbling!

Then, in an instant, the whole world changes.  With just one word.

‘John?’

I know that voice!  A memory from decades ago dredged up in a split second.  Kisses stolen behind the bike shed and maybe something more too.

I whirl around and there she is.  Oh she’s changed, of course.  So have I!  But I’d know that cheeky smile anywhere and the way it brings out a dimple in her chin.

‘It is John, isn’t it?’

‘Yes!’  Despite myself hope floods back into my heart, making it tighten painfully like pins and needles.

She spreads her arms wide.  ‘After all these years!  Come and give me a hug my love!’  I walk into her embrace and it’s like I’ve never been away.

Turns out she’s widowed so that’s perfect, though of course I’m sorry for her loss.  But she’s got used to it.  And she’s more than happy to keep an old man company on Christmas Day – and for the rest of our natural lives.

So I’ll be having a wonderful Merry Christmas after all!  And that story goes back way further than the miserable one I’ve left behind.  Thought she’d ruined my Christmas, eh?  We’ll see about that!

 

Dec 172017
 

Haiku. Bless you! An unconstrained nineteen-syllable offering from David Hensley, and an even more exuberant two stanza “chain” from Sue Marlow. Bah, humbug and fie to your 5-7-5!    

Everything starts somewhere
Flowering brighter better times
Start in a dark place

***

The General Theory of Relativity in A Christmas Carol

Many disagree
But ev’rything starts somewhere
As the clock strikes one

Past, present, future
A persistent illusion
All done in one night

 

 

 

 

Dec 162017
 

Today’s offering, a short story, comes from that crusty ol’ codger, David Smith…  

Let There be Lights

Everything starts somewhere, we’re told, though I’ve heard it said that many physicists disagree. The amount of time I’ve spent trying to find the start of these fairy lights I’m beginning to think they might be on to something; if I ever find the first bulb and get them unravelled it’ll be a Christmas bloody miracle! My own fault, I suppose, because I was so busy sorting the rest of the decorations back into their box last January I let the boy sort these out. ‘Make sure you wind ‘em round the slotted spacer thingy and thread them on one by one,’ I said, ‘or we’ll never untangle ‘em next year.’

Two minutes later he says, ‘all done! What’s next dad?’ and I actually winced as he said it.

I go to look, and the box – and the slotted spacer – are both still on the floor and there’s a dirty-great black bin liner bulging at the seams with what looks like a green plastic tumbleweed poking out the neck of it. The little coloured lamps seem to be winking at me conspiratorially, but it must be a trick of the light (if you’ll excuse the pun) because they’re nowhere near an electricity supply.

‘What happened to the box,’ I ask, ‘and the slotted spacer? Why didn’t you use the spacer?’

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I forgot,’ he said.

‘But I only just said… … …’

‘Calm down, dear, it is Christmas after all,’ said the missus.

Technically Christmas was all done and dusted, but I wasn’t daft enough to pick her up on it, so I just sighed and got back to putting the baubles away. I think I might have snapped the head off one of the little redcoat soldiers, but I haven’t found him yet. That’s easily sorted – a bit of superglue and he’ll be good as new. Not like these bloody fairy lights.

Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. There’s been plenty of time to sort them out. If I’d done it straight away I wouldn’t have this problem now, but after all the other Christmas stuff I just couldn’t be arsed, and once they were back in the loft I just forgot all about them. Until now. Not just the boy who forgets stuff, then. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Or the fairy light from the Christmas tree in this case.

I can’t even see the fuse bulb. God knows. I’ve got the plug – well can see it at least – so that’s the business end sorted, but it’s right at the centre of the tumbleweed, and if I reach in and yank it out I’ll be tying all sorts of new knots that’ll make things even worse. Come on, you little white bugger, show yourself! It’ll still be like unravelling spaghetti, but once I lay my hands on you I’ll at least have a fighting chance.

She’s no help either. I say it every year: if we had lots of smaller sets it would be much easier to sort ‘em out. One big string’s just asking for trouble.

‘But I don’t trust them extension cords and four-way adaptors,’ she says, ‘and we need the other outlet for the telly.’

That’s her dad’s fault. He nearly burnt their house down one year trying to plug about eighteen things into one of them little five amp round-pin sockets. She’s been paranoid about electrics ever since.

Ah. There you are… Gotcha! Now we’re getting somewhere… I hope you’re not blown after all this…

WHAT? What love…?

Well tell him to sort it out himself, I’ve just found the fuse bulb and I don’t want to lose it again!

Well what does he expect me to do about it? If Rudolph’s got the squits again there’s sod all I can do about it! One of the others will have to stand in for him. Besides, we’ve got headlights on the sleigh now, so Rudolph’s more tradition than necessity. Tell him I’ll be back at the workshop in a couple of hours, and if he can’t handle things himself until then I’ll be looking for a new foreman in January…

Bloody Christmas.    

 

Dec 152017
 

A short story today from Katrina Ray. I’m a poet and I don’t know it!    

The External Interference Effect

Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.

But it was an ending currently occupying Michael’s mind. In retrospect Caroline’s departure should not have been a wholly unexpected outcome but it was not a permutation he had predicted. It was precisely this insistence on applying inherent reasoning to all aspects of his life that had, in the end, been the crucial factor in the failure of this particular experiment.

He, she said, always insisted on attempting to quantify the unquantifiable. And when this was not possible he was unable to respond appropriately within acceptable parameters. (Her words.) Quite what acceptable parameters are he was at a loss to define, but was beginning to suspect that a) she demonstrably did not adhere to the same standard criterion of data interpretation as he; b) an empirical logic-based approach was incompatible with the actuality of a successfully functioning relationship.

‘I hate doing this to you right before Christmas,’ she’d said as she left.

Yet what possible significance could the timing of her departure be on the outcome of the situation? He had, incorrectly as it turned out, assumed this would not be a differentiating factor. And although clearly this was impossible to accurately measure, somehow, it was. Seasonal songs provoked unexpected responses in his cerebral cortex. Jostling crowds in the shopping centres were more than just the usual annoyance. Groups of friends celebrating in pubs and bars stirred unexpected emotions; evoked feelings even. It was unfamiliar, unexplainable. So, he had done the only sensible thing and walked away from the hustle and bustle to the top of the hill to more efficiently process this strange and irrational phenomenon.

The bench underneath him was cold but he welcomed the discomfort, finding it sharpened his thoughts as he sought clarity. The gaping yaw of the dark common lay below him, the bright lights of the town a little further away. Those of a romantic disposition, Caroline for example, would probably describe the scene as like something on a Christmas card. But Michael instead saw the lights and the darkness as a pattern to decipher. He was observer rather than participant, and all would make perfect sense with the enhanced perspective that distance offered. All he required was this blessed solitude.

‘Shit, it’s freezing up here. Still, at least there’s somewhere to sit. I can’t walk another bloody step in these heels.’

Michael turned to the stranger who had intruded so abruptly into his contemplation, ready to utter a sharp response, but the breath caught in his throat. She had long black hair, pale skin, cheeks rosy with cold. Her short sequinned dress and thin jacket were entirely inadequate protection against the elements. Puffing in the chilly air, she rummaged in a plastic carrier bag on the bench next to her. Michael watched in stunned fascination as she pulled out a multipack of brand new socks and snapped the plastic ties with her teeth. Peeling off a pair, she kicked off the impractical heels and wriggled her delicate feet into the thick socks. They had clearly been purchased for a man, being far too large for her, but she didn’t seem to care and instead sighed with apparent pleasure and relief.

‘Ah, that’s better. Not elegant, I admit, but a bloody sight more comfortable.’

For the first time she appeared to notice Michael’s strained expression.

‘Sorry. Am I interrupting something?’

He wanted to say yes, to ask her to go away, but no words came out.

‘Okay, quiet boy. I’ll take that as a no. Drink?’

She pulled out a bottle of whisky, unscrewed the lid and took a deep draught before proffering it towards him. He almost declined out of habit but something made him hesitate and he reached for the bottle. Trying not to think about germs or the fact his mouth was in the exact spot hers had been just a few seconds previously he took a nervous swig. It burned, fire and ice at once, unfamiliar yet not entirely unwelcome.

‘I’m like a trusty St Bernard, bringing medicinal alcohol to those suffering in the snow,’ she said.

‘Drinking alcohol dilates the blood vessels and can induce hypothermia in freezing conditions. The notion these dogs carried kegs of brandy is a complete fabrication, due entirely to the extensive artistic liberties taken by Landseer in one of his paintings.’

She stared at him, incredulous, then shrugged.

‘That’s me told. And I suppose it isn’t snowing yet. Won’t it be lovely if we have a white Christmas?’

‘We won’t. The air pressure is all wrong. It’s going to rain.’

‘O-kay. And I suppose you wouldn’t enjoy it if it did, anyway.’

‘What makes you say that?’

‘Well, I’ve only known you a brief while but I’m sensing you’re not the type to bunk off work to go sledging or make snow angels. It would be a pain in the arse rather than fun.’

‘I can do fun,’ he replied, wondering if this was at all true. Caroline hadn’t thought so. Maybe her surmise had been correct.

‘Have one of these,’ she said, rummaging again in her bag before handing him a small object like a grenade.

‘What is it?’

‘A seed bomb,’ she said, as if it were obvious. ‘I bought them for my sister but let’s throw them down onto the common.’

‘Why?’

‘So that hopefully in a few months lots of wildflowers will grow here.’

‘Don’t the council take care of the landscaping?’

‘This isn’t about careful landscaping, it’s about the creation of random beauty. And all this rain you’re predicting will get them off to a good start. Come on.’

She hurled her seed bomb down into the black abyss of the common below, then grabbed his arm. He flinched at the sensation, but it wasn’t entirely unpleasant as she drew his arm back and helped him throw.

‘There!’ she said, eyes blazing beautifully as she turned triumphantly towards him. ‘They’ll be so pretty.’

‘If they grow.’

‘They’ll grow.’

And it was a beginning, of sorts.

 

Dec 142017
 

Poetry today, from one of our newest members, Amanda Gazidis. We love it when new members get involved – welcome aboard, Amanda!   

Everything

Everything starts somewhere,
Although many physicists disagree.
Everything starts with a slice of toast
And a good cup of tea.

Everything starts with a feeling
Pounding in your heart.
Everything starts with intuition,
An inspiration to create art.

Everything starts with an impulse,
A feeling hard to define.
It starts with something beyond us,
An intervention quite divine.

Everything starts with a seed,
A potential that can grow.
Give it the right conditions
Watch ideas flourish and flow.

Everything starts at the beginning,
Sometimes there is no end;
Often time and space
Can magnificently merge and blend.

Everything starts with intention
To make something new and true.
It starts with the Universe
That lives inside me and you.

Dec 132017
 

Not the official Twelve Days of Christmas, of course, but a nice festive run up to the big day itself (you’re welcome!). Today’s seasonal offering is a short story by Sue Marlow, getting our annual project off to a fine start…  

Ringing the Changes

Everything starts somewhere although many physicists disagree. For James it all began as the clock struck eleven one Christmas morning. It was the ninth year on his own, caught in the expanse of solitude that arcs between Christmas and New Year. James’ friends all had family and were collected by their fractious and overworked sons or daughters, whisked away to an unfamiliar location and placed in an armchair in the corner of the room with a cracker, mince pie and the TV. They accepted it all with good humour and gratitude, not wishing to upset anyone but secretly longing to return to their homes and independence. But for those without family this seasonal paradox of good will often abandons people at their loneliest.

James and Mary had not been blessed with children and neither of them had siblings. They had been everything to each other and it was at Christmas that James felt his loss most deeply. He knew it was time for action and as the clock chimed eleven on that grey Christmas morning he decided that he was going to ‘hit the bottle’. It was Mary who had discovered Whitstable Bay beer when they had popped into the local Co-Op together for a cream slice to accompany their Sunday afternoon tea. She had liked the design on the label and the beer itself had become James’ favourite.  But a pint at home in the evening or an occasional cream slice at tea time were no longer pleasures without Mary to share in them.

James spent that Christmas afternoon calculating how much beer he would need to consume to achieve his objective and when the local Co-Op opened for a few hours on Boxing Day he picked up the first two pints. As the New Year progressed and spring opened its doors to summer James’ purchases continued at an unfaltering pace.

The next Christmas was causing the bookie’s last minute concern due to an unaccustomed threat of significant snow. Dressed in a thick coat James opened his front door at half past ten on Christmas morning but quickly closed it again and went in search of another jumper. The terraced house had a small front garden with a low brick wall and throughout the summer James had been pruning and transplanting. Hence the trestle table, with which he returned, fitted perfectly and allowed him just the right amount of space to stand behind. The table top was marked out with rows of neatly drawn circles, each with a number and letter. He then brought out trays of bottles all labelled and filled with liquid to different levels. He placed them within the circles. At precisely eleven o’clock James lifted an old school bell and rang out the hour. In the cold crispness of the waiting morning the chimes reverberated in the air with a beautiful clarity. James then took two small beaters in his gloved hands and began to gently hit the bottles. The notes leapt from the glass and danced along the street, piquing and pirouetting in the stillness. By the time James reached the ninth bar of ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ people had gathered on the pavement. The little girl from the house opposite watched every motion of the beaters, her eyes full of wonderment. On the final bar the first snowflakes began to fall, elegantly skating down the necks of the bottles in a finale flourish.

That afternoon James joined the little girl and her family for tea, mince pies and the Queen’s speech although he didn’t hear much of it over the chatter. He was easily persuaded to promise to teach Jingle Bells to the little girl and her friend for next year’s performance! On Boxing Day James was invited to help Mrs Green and her visiting brother finish the turkey. Mrs Green told him she had a fondness for Whitstable Bay. It was where she and her late husband had honeymooned. James admitted he hadn’t been there for years but would very much like to see it again. ‘Why don’t we go together in the spring?’ asked Mrs Green and James agreed that was a lovely idea.

Dec 082017
 

Well here we are again on the cusp of another seasonal break, with just our annual DO to go before we put Tunbridge Wells Writers 2017 out to stud and throw ourselves into the saddle of Tunbridge Wells Writers 2018. And what a magnificent steed it will undoubtedly prove to be! But let’s not gallop too far ahead, for we still have all the joy and wonder of that annual DO to look forward to, as well as the Twelve Days of […insert favoured seasonal holiday here…] Project to unveil from December 13th until Christmas Eve. For details of the project click HERE, but if you’ve not got in already you’re going to have to get your act together pretty sharpish.

Talking of the 13th, that’s also the date of this year’s Word Up slam final at the Forum, so if you fancy airing your poems or just listening to others air theirs then that’s the place to head for on Wednesday night, assuming, that is, that you’ve fully recovered from aforementioned DO.

The event calendar in the sidebar on the right has now been primed, so dates of our first and all subsequent 2018 meets can be found there. Have lovely ones all, and don’t forget to check in daily from the 13th onward for twelve days of festive fun. May your holidays, whatever their flavour, be full of joy and love, and if Santa does feature in them don’t forget to leave his mince pie and brandy out, together with a dirty big carrot for Rudolph.

XX

Nov 252017
 

Well I never – another year almost done and dusted! Next week’s meetup (Tues 28th) will be the last before our Christmas don’t on December 12th, and the last for 2017. If you’re coming to the don’t (do) get your name, order, deposit etc to Katrina Ray ASAP, and if you plan on contributing to our Christmas Project you’ll need to contact Sue Marlow post haste.

IN OTHER NEWS: There’s a Word Up slam final at the Forum on December 13th. I’ll add details on performers etc as I get them, but the date’s been added to the event calendar as a reminder in the interim.

End of transmission…

Nov 102017
 

Well, that’s Fright Night done, and what a corker it was! A fine collection of horror-themed writing and one hell of a tasty mort cake (as per) courtesy of Katrina Ray. Thank you, m’dear – Mr Kipling would give his right arm… While a long way off, it’s always a good idea to strike while the iron is hot, so if those contributing readings start firing their stories across to me on Facebook messaging I’ll start collating them ready for next year’s Fright Night Volume 4 e-book.

So, as the title of this blog highlights, time marches on, and it will seem but the blink of an eye before The Season of Goodwill is upon us. Very much time, then, to put pen to paper and get this year’s Christmas Countdown contributions sorted. While Christmas itself is still some… (starts counting on fingers)… six weeks away we’ve only got half that time to get the first pieces ready to roll out at the beginning of December. The remit for this year’s project can be found HERE, where a contact form connecting you directly to Sue Marlow (editor-in-chief this year) can also be found. So get weaving!

Sticking with Christmas, the other biggy on the agenda is our annual “do” scheduled for December 12th, which will also be our last (official) meetup of 2017. The “do” tradition started in the very earliest days of TWWs when there was just a handful of people in a local curry shop, and has continued, at various wonderful venues, to go from strength to strength. This will be our third at St John’s Yard, and we feel sure that this year’s offering will be every bit as special as the previous events, so don’t miss out. Katrina Ray is organising this year and would like your RSVPs, food orders and deposits (£10.00) ASAP so she can get her spreadsheet organised. Tuesday’s meetup would be perfect for getting that done and dusted, but details of the menu can also be found HERE and on the group’s Facebook page.

Finally, but in no way leastly (?), we have an extra event this week in the wonderful form of READ YOUR WORDS at Javabean Cafe on Wednesday night. These reading nights, hosted by Carolyn Gray, are always great fun, and an excellent opportunity for new members to cut their reading-in-public teeth while networking with other writers, poets and performers in the TW area. Full details HERE.

The devilishly clever Katrina Ray guarding her cake from Mr Kipling’s spies… 

 

Kat & Cake courtesy of Peppy Scott. Background courtesy of FreeImages.com

Oct 272017
 

 

A quick but timely reminder that this Tuesday’s meetup is FRIGHT NIGHT, when we’ll be reading ALL NEW stories and poems for Halloween and eating mort cake. There will be the-putting-up-of-willies to the extreme with around a baker’s dozen (how apt!) readers, but plenty of breaks for replenishing poisoned chalices and goblets. All comers are bid welcome, so if you’ve been toying with the idea of coming along to a meetup this would be a good one to get a feel for what we’re about. Carved pumpkins, fancy dress and trick-or-treat treats optional but greatly encouraged.

      Oh… PS: If you fancy free books – three volumes of Fright Night plus a clutch of others – click HERE

Original illustrations courtesy of FREEPIK

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