Monday, 15 October 2018

Round 42.


There are may places where you can feel alone - in the middle of a big city amongst millions of people is perhaps the easiest, in an empty one room flat is one of the hardest.

There is a sink under the only window from which I look down onto the streets of this biggest of cities. On the ground floor is an empty carpet showroom with a For Sale sign still standing after a year; on the floor above there is storage space, also empty.

It’s six a.m.

I can’t sleep.

I had dreamed of someone I once knew. In better times I would have taken this as a sign and phoned him to check everything was ok, but I no longer have the desire, or a phone. I have no coffee either, and right now that need is the most urgent.

The early morning air is still chilly, my breath clouding a little in the weak sunshine; this is meant to be summer but so many things are disappointing today, that I hardly notice.

Stepping outside makes me feel less lonely. For a moment I am fooled into thinking myself part of something greater, before I remember that no one really cares.

I pass someone walking in the opposite direction; they are looking away.

They are walking a dog.

They have a companion and the absence surrounding me feels larger, though I smile at the dog.

And the dog looks back.

Then it stops and takes a shit.

The owner looks at it like it’s shit.

Which it is.

I walk on; there used to be a coffee shop around here someplace and I am hoping it is still there.
I feel a little disorientated, my communion with the dog has perturbed me.

Though communion is maybe too strong a word.

There used to be a church around here too but the need for communion died and the church became a bingo hall, and the bingo hall closed and it became an empty church.

The empty church was sold to someone who didn’t have much believe in anything and it became a car park.

But no one parks there, because no one comes here and so today it is just an empty space.

An empty space where the litter and the cold winds blow.

There are many places where you can feel alone, and an empty place like this is one of the worst.


Monday, 8 October 2018

Round 41


I’m still trying to get better at this, though you would think that it should be easier now; I have completed forty of the things after all.

But it isn’t any easier and I have been stuck on forty for a long time.

Right now I’m lying in bed, outside and inside, telling myself that this can be done, that I simply need to start writing.

I was hoping to write something yesterday, but I ended up reading instead.

Reading a very old, pages brown with age, copy of Trout Fishing in America – some of it – and then the text Rivers had sent me for comment.

I commented, hoping that it was both worthy and helpful.

Rivers is someone I don’t know very well, but something she asked me at a dinner party when we first met opened a door that not many people know exists.

She walked through it as if it had always been open.

Rivers comes from America, but we met in France, she is living here until the end of the month and then she will return.

She will see her daughter.

She must be missing her.

I miss many things, most of them inaccessible and lying far away in the past.

My mum and dad.

My dog Joey.

My first girlfriend…

Maybe I just miss my youth.

Would I go back? 

Given the chance?

Some things I would be happy not to face again.


I wonder if any of this gets any easier.

You would think it should be by now.

But it isn’t.

(friday?monday? what's in a name - the editor)

Monday, 1 October 2018

Round 40.


The man standing in the middle of the bus lane is wearing a white, two-piece judo suit. It is too hot to be wearing a white, two-piece judo suit and since he never practices judo in or outside of a bus lane, it is not altogether clear that he is aware of the white, two-piece judo suit.

Or even the bus lane.

However, he does look cool, albeit very hot.

He is listening to music with the aid of solid black headphones that cover most of the side of his head; his eyes are blue yet distant.

Another man, who is driving a number 17 Bus along the same bus lane is, for the moment, also distant. He has just stopped outside the Spar grocery store, where a line of people is waiting to board.

The grocery store is in the middle of an exceptional promotional campaign for their household cleaning products and each of the people waiting to board is carrying a bottle of detergent.

The bus driver is waiting for an elderly passenger to alight at the rear of the bus before opening the front door to let the bottles of detergent enter. Although the driver is hot and would like to open this door as soon as possible, protocol forbids it. Contrary to the same protocol, the bus driver is wearing a dress; the waiting passengers can not see this from where they are standing.

Even though the bus driver appreciates the comfort of the dress on what is a savagely hot day, it is not in his nature, and he is wearing the dress out of solidarity with his colleagues that were prevented from wearing shorts by the management when they complained about the excessive heat.

The shorts were deemed to be inappropriate attire and at odds with the company’s strict dress code.

The dress code says nothing about male drivers wearing dresses.

The elderly passenger alighting from the rear of the bus knows that the driver is wearing a dress and is quite thrilled by the thought; she thinks the driver’s knees are rather cute. She has resolved to flirt a little with him the next time she takes the bus. This will be tomorrow afternoon after she has finished her swimming session at the local municipal pool.

She doesn’t like swimming but her doctor has advised it because of her back problems. These are the result of her former occupation; her career as a competitive weight lifter was cut short by extreme sciatica. Right now she is struggling even to carry the two shopping bags of empty detergent bottles that she is returning to the grocery so that she can claim the refundable deposits. She intends the money to go towards her holiday she has booked for the end of the month. 

Unfortunately she will be dead before the week is out.

The first person to get on the bus, once the doors are open, is a young woman who is employed at the local gymnasium as a cleaner, the detergent is for the toilets. It is not the favourite part of her job.

The second  is in love with the cleaner from the local gymnasium and he has been following her all day. He has bought the detergent in the hope it will serve as a way of introduction.

The third person to step onto the bus made a mistake. He thinks the detergent that he has bought is vinegar and he is intending to use it to make a salad dressing for the corporate picnic that his company has organised for the weekend.

The last person to enter the bus knows the driver and says hello. They hand over one of the two bottles of detergent they are carrying with them in lieu of payment for a ticket. The driver is privy to this arrangement and places the bottle next to the cabbage and oatcakes he has already acquired. He wonders if by googling the words ‘cabbage+oatcakes+vinegar’he will find a recipe suitable for his evening meal; he too is mistaken concerning the bottle of detergent.

Closing the door of the bus the driver slips the vehicle back into traffic. He is thinking about the dinner party he has organised for later. He has invited the neighbour, a wild and beautiful woman who comes from the west coast of a distant island that he has trouble pronouncing the name of. He doesn’t know much about her , nor she he, but she has accepted as much out of curiosity as politeness.

This is a good sign.

She too will be happy to know that the driver is wearing a dress.

As the bus eases back into the traffic she is walking on the pavement in the opposite direction towards the grocery store, and she is smoking. She has promised herself that this will be her last cigarette ever, and the fact that she will pass the grocery store without stopping to replace the empty packet lying crumpled in her right hand bares testimony to her resolve. She is left-handed.

She looks up and sees the number 17 bus coming towards her and raises her arm and waves. 

The bus driver’s eyes meet hers and smiling, he waves back.

He doesn’t see the man standing in the middle of the bus lane.

That man is wearing a white, two piece judo suit and it is unclear whether he is aware of either the judo suit or the bus lane.

And certainly not the bus.

In the grand scheme of life’s chances and the opportunities it throws our way, this is, perhaps, an error.

(sorry - on the road yesterday - the editor)

Monday, 24 September 2018

Round 39.


Lying on its back at the side of the road, a hedgehog waits for someone to care.

The driver of a grey Clio stops and gently lifts the lifeless body and lays it even more gently in the long grass.

The hedgehog’s body is still warm and a heart shaped drop of blood remains on the driver’s hand.

He stops and looks at it.

In form, the heart is perfect: the brightness of the colour shocking and though absent, the soul of the hedgehog can only smile.

The man sits in the car and takes a tissue from the half empty packet his daughter has left in the glove compartment.

He wonders why he never seems to have tissues in his pocket and yet his daughter always does.

And he wonders where she is today; Montpellier? Paris?

He can’t remember.

He also wonders why he never sees live hedgehogs these days.

Then he looks in the rear view mirror, switches on the CD player and drives off.

Bob Dylan in signing.

In the lonely night….

It’s morning; the sun has only recently risen and not many people are on the road; though that hadn’t saved the hedgehog.

The man is driving south and the sun is warm on his arm, which rests on the ledge of the open window.

He looks at the heart-shaped stain and the otherwise pure whiteness of the tissue sitting on the empty passenger seat.

And then he looks at the road ahead.

There is a softness to the day that is beginning; the road winds through the forest and the morning sun is patterning the leaves with a labyrinth of shadows.

There are shadows in his thoughts too.

The shadows are soft; they are almost memories, happy memories, and sad memories, maybe just longings.


He decides to leave them there, in the shadow of the shadows - far away, close at hand.

Like the hedgehog.

(yep - late again, sorry the editor)

Monday, 17 September 2018

Round 38


It was getting late.

And he had made her laugh.

She said; “You’re funny, stay in the city tonight.”

He said; ”I can’t, I promised my mum.”

She said; ”Good-night, tell your mum you’re weird.”

He took the canal road out of town; the streetlights watched him go.

The motorway was empty; he listened to his dad’s CD in the car.

Bob Dylan.

The Tempest.

But it didn’t rain; the sky was clear and the stars so bright that they looked like crystals falling from someone’s pocket.

The pocket of a thick dark coat.

He turned off and took the road through the forest.

The trees gave him no light, but they too watched as he passed.

A dear was standing in the meadow next to the house where he pulled up.

The deer barked.

And turned away, jumping through the long grass.

He could smell the blossom of the Crab Apple Tree, where the swing still hung.

Even though now he was too old to use it.

Crab Apple.


He walked across the pathway - washed river stone –and the pebbles crunched under his shoes.

A cat darted towards him from the shadows.

The cat was black.

The shadows too.

He entered the house and left the night outside.

It had no right to enter in.

The night sighed and watched the cat slink back into the shadows.

Across the valley the frogs started calling again, and in the tree the owl that had been silent until now, called back.

The night tumbled down through the trees into the valley and around the pond where the frogs waited.

It was getting late.


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