“The last living Beatle” published at Spelk today


The first short story I’ve ever had published(!) appears today on the website of Spelk, publisher of “short, sharp, flash fiction”.  Huge thanks to editor Gary Duncan.


The opening bars to “Band on the Run” hiss from the van’s tinny little radio, breaking the dream I had last night…

Carry on reading here


Sunday morning stream

Blank lined ringbound notebookThe corner table in Starbucks had uneven legs and wobbled unpredictably. It made writing a challenge. My eyesight had become so poor I could barely make out the words as they escaped my pen and fled across the page.

Where were they going? Did they have any clue? Or was freedom not an idea to them, but a reality only experienced in that moment, as everything must be. None of them made it beyond the page’s edge. If they did, I had no idea what they were and where they ended up.

Perhaps they had found their way onto other pages and assimilated themselves there as part of a broader narrative. With stoicism – and some concealed longing and regret – they had accepted their positions within new and unfamiliar sentences, trying their best to fit in, regardless of the inexplicable discomfort they caused the other words.

Other may not have been so lucky. They could never adapt, never find any peace. They would be condemned to standing out, their difference being the only defining character the other words could discern in them.

Or else they loitered on the edge of a page, lost but conspicuous in the margins, hoping to avoid being crossed out…


Footnote: I’m what I would label a “tight” writer. Too careful. I rarely allow myself the opportunity to simply go with the flow, scribble down the first thing that comes into my head and see where it takes me. This was an exception. I just had a spare twenty minutes and a notebook, and managed to switch the thinking part of my brain off for once. It may be nonsense, but it was fun!

Image: gratuit

Desire lines

June 5th

It always pleases me to find evidence of the tracks that animals have worn through the undergrowth by their passage. I can’t explain why. Perhaps it’s something about the reassurance of knowing those animals are there? This is only a small area of woodland after all, ringed fairly tight by estate housing and roads, yet within it there are clearly populations of undomesticated creatures leaving their mark, simply by doing what they do, going where they go, following their instincts.

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I also know they’re there because I see them. If I’m lucky, I’ll happen upon deer on a weekly basis, and more so in the winter when there is less vegetation to hide them. They typically freeze with what seems like fear, but will calmly hold your gaze until you realise you’re no longer breathing, often only fleeing once you move on again. Squirrels are plentiful but rarely on the ground. Foxes are more elusive, and tend to keep their distance – I smell them more often than see them. There are surely other mammals around – mice, rats, voles, hedgehogs (although the latter of these are easier to encounter in the garden than the woods). Badgers I’m hopeful but not sure about. I keep on the lookout for the telltale entrance to a sett, without success so far.

Humans beings have made paths too, but by the more deliberate, co-ordinated use of earth-movers, aggregates and vibrating whacker plates, rather than the gradual weathering action of their feet. An army of dog-walkers, pram-pushers, cyclists and joggers criss-crosses the woods every day, and largely keeps its feet and wheels free of mud. We’re well-behaved on the whole, going where we’re ushered, following routes that someone else decided we should take. There’s little incentive to do otherwise unless you’re determined to stray no matter what – the paths are well-made and extensive. And there are nettles and fallen trees everywhere!

A “desire line” (or “path”, though “line” sounds better and is more familiar to me) is the term used by landscape architects, parks authorities and planners to describe what happens if we don’t behave ourselves when going from A to B, and instead go off-piste, following our own course rather than the one suggested and provided for us. This usually means a lazy shortcut, cater-corner, directly through the middle rather than around the outsides. We’re creatures of habit too, it seems.


Image: Metro Centric

I don’t imagine that cutting lazy corners, seeking a swifter route, is what the animals who made the tracks in the three previous pictures were necessarily doing, whichever species they were. Not deliberately, anyway. They were, and are, probably looking for food, seeking safety or returning to a reliable source of water. They have probably been doing it for centuries.