Published in Spelk Fiction!

For the first time ever, I’ve had a piece of flash fiction accepted for publication! Spelk Fiction will publish my short story “The last living Beatle” on its website at the end of June. I am extraordinarily chuffed.

Thanks very much to Spelk editor Gary Duncan.

the_beatles_crossing_road

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There is no real beginning, so let’s begin there…

March evening, looking west

March 26th

Let me tell you where we’re at.

Five days have passed since the vernal equinox, and during the night, our clocks were adjusted for British Summer Time. I always find this so quaintly human, the way we need to invent a system for measuring time, and then still tinker with it every so often to make it work for us. So with this in mind, does it feel like spring? Well…

More than any other time of year, this one defies both prediction and pinpointing. Yesterday was a day of serious sunshine, barely a breath of wind, temperatures peaking around 16C; nothing to get excited about in many parts of the world, but eventful for here. T-shirts were being worn. Yet three days ago we had a flurry of snow, albeit a non-lingering one. Four days ago it rained without respite. As our planet’s climate changes, one of the apparent consequences for us in these parts is the blurring of the lines between the seasons, or even the disappearance of “seasons” as we used to understand them. It feels like their transitions have become stop-start and messy, and that almost any weather event is possible at any time of the year. But in truth, most of the general old markers are still there when you start looking and listening.

Three months back, the dominant colours in the woods were greys and browns. Now, the floor is washed with a palette of greens, as early starters take advantage of the lack of leaf canopy overhead. Snowdrops have already been and almost gone, thComfrey and nettles emergingeir flower heads withered, task complete. Now there are nettles emerging everywhere, still only inches high – difficult to imagine they’ll be five feet tall in a few months time, tumbling across paths, stinging exposed arms and ankles. The yellow stars of lesser celandine fill up many of the spaces where the sun reaches the ground. Comfrey is there too, even a few clumps of white violets – if you can handle such a contradiction. And threads of moss everywhere dead trunks and branches have landed.

The neighbourhood’s birds have clearly decided that a switch has been flicked. The frequency and volume of their calls has been cranked up recently. On any still morning before it gets properly light, the drumming of at least one woodpecker – often two – comes via the bedroom window. Glimpses of them are rare, but their beaks give them away. I always find the first annual instance of this – which can be as early as January – particularly enthralling. Some years, I even get to see them swooping down and making an unexpected foray into the garden.

I’m telling myself it’s only by chance that I’m starting to record these observations now. Spring happens to be my favourite time of year, but I could just as easily start during any season. Although I’ve always considered spring as a time for beginnings – not just for blogs! – I know that the progression of the seasons has no real beginning, no end. Spring is for rebirth, rather than birth. There is always something new happening in summer, autumn and even winter too. I’ve now had several opportunities to observe the various changes that take place in these woods within any twelve month cycle; the only constant is change itself. And there’s something reassuring in this – that the woods have been here for longer than I have, and know perfectly well what’s coming. They have no need for either calendar or clock to tell them what to do, what to expect.

Welcome to The Woods

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to experiment with the literary genre which seems to have become known as Creative Non-Fiction. I’ve never looked up a definition for CNF – as I’ve seen it abbreviated in several places – and although I’m sure they exist, I wonder if it’s something that’s easier to recognise than to define.

I’ve also been keen to give myself a reason to write something on a regular basis, methodically, rather than simply as-and-when. I’ve kept personal journals before, but they tend to become horribly introspective and analytical very swiftly.

Welcome to The WoodsSo I’ve decided instead to keep a journal based around the seasonal changes taking place in a small patch of woodland close to where I live. Not a very original subject perhaps, but I do read quite a bit of nature writing, and I’m pleased to see there has been something of a resurgence in this over the last few years. I’ve enjoyed reading books by the likes of Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald and Richard Maybe – I’m not pretending my efforts will be on that level, but I’ll give it a go!

It’s also a subject that I won’t have difficulty seeking out, as it’s right on my doorstep, and I try to walk there every day – if only for fifteen minutes or so. It may not be the grandest bit of woodland you’d ever stumble upon, but then I suppose the challenge of Creative Non-Fiction is to be creative, to bring life to something which appears on the surface to be unremarkable.

Read on…

 

What would J.C. endorse?

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It’s a Saturday night, a full stop at the end of a long working week. The best I can do by way of entertainment is to collapse in front of a movie on the TV. The movie itself doesn’t matter, but the channel is one of those at the lower reaches of Freeview, so the longer the movie goes on, the more frequent the ad-breaks become. And – I’m sure, although I don’t count – the greater the number of ads per break.

Other than suggesting I might actually exist in a parallel Universe, TV advertising does little for me. They rarely grab my attention. It’s the usual story tonight. The full range of human insecurity is being probed and exploited in order to sell a variety of commodities and services. And I just wish we could get back to the movie.

But then my attention is grabbed. Onto the screen comes a very well-groomed John Cleese, in an advert for a legal firm specialising in mis-sold PPI claims. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the ad. It’s not especially funny or exciting, but then ads for this type of service rarely are. Some of them are excruciating, which this at least manages to avoid being.

Now don’t get me wrong – I have no issue with people who’ve been ripped off getting their due, nor with solicitors and lawyers practising their trade (well, actually…). And John Cleese has every right to appear in whichever ads he chooses, and to make a few quid in the process if he’s able. He’s a pro, after all. But something about what I’m seeing sits uncomfortably with me.

And I think it’s this: iconic creative geniuses endorsing the mundane. Particularly those with a little panache about them, or an off-the-wall take on the world. These are, after all, the very people who make us laugh, cry, dream, catch our breath. The ones who make our lives worth living. So why is Harvey Keitel doing adverts for Direct Line? Iggy Pop and car insurance? What next? Patti Smith advertising Rennies?

It got me thinking about what would be the most inappropriate or unlikely celebrity endorsement. And who is the well-known personality most in demand, the global icon the ad agencies would fight to the death to sign up?

Yes, that’s where my thinking ended up – what would Jesus advertise?