Monday, 26 November 2012

Must Read Monday

Here's a new thing on my blog! Shamelessly nicked from the lovely Elizabeth Lefebvre's own 'Tuesday Tomorrow' entries - in which I round up a bunch of books that are hovering on the edge of my consciousness... or things I've been sent or have bought... or i've just become aware of. Things I feel like I simply MUST READ, in other words...

I'll kick us off with the first in a fantasy series (trilogy?) recommended to me by my friend Jamie. I devoured the Kindle sample, and next thing I knew I'm a third of the way through and looking for breaks in my day to read more... (always the best sign)


BLURB (which makes it sound derivative and portentous - but stick with it!  see past it! writing blurbs must be a thankless and horrible task. This one isn't great 'thrilling', 'terrifying', 'miserable', etc...):

"The first thrilling book in the most exciting children's fantasy series since Harry Potter.
They were taken from their beds one frozen night, when the world was covered in snow. The silhouette of a tall, thin man has haunted Kate ever since.
Ten years on, Kate, Michael and Emma have grown up in a string of miserable orphanages, and all memories of their parents have faded to a blur. Arriving at Cambridge Falls, the children quickly realise there is something different about this place - and Kate feels sure she has seen the dark, crooked house before.
As they explore, they discover an old, empty leather book. The moment they touch it, an ancient magical prophecy is set irrevocably in motion, and the children are thrown into a dangerous alternate reality of dark enchantments and terrifying monsters. Only they can prevent the terrible event that will ruin Cambridge Falls - and stop the world from falling into complete devastation."

Anyhow - duff blurb or not, i'm thoroughly enjoying it. A personal recommendation from someone whose taste you trust is the best way of finding books.

What next..?


This was a present from Nick - and a real treat. A book I never knew existed!

"A wondrous trove of letters and sketches between Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer connect the Floating Worlds (Pomegranate) of these inspired collaborators; enchanting and witty and sparkling with intellectual banter, the book illustrates their artistic process and stands as a moving memoir of friendship. --Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair"

They're talking about drawings of flies, obscure scraps of poems, philosophy and photography and i'm only a third of the way through - but these are love letters, right..? 

A blissful book, wonderfully illustrated by old snaps and drawn-on envelopes.

Now here's a series I was sent by its editor, because it's something he thinks I'd like. I think he's right - they look something like an updated version of 'The Borribles' - remember them?


"Children everywhere are disappearing.

Orphan, Chess Tuesday, and her brothers, Box and Splinter, don't want to be next. But they are being tracked by two powerful enemy organizations, each intent on destroying the other . . .
Who is good and who is evil?
Why do both sides need the Tuesdays?
And can anyone escape the hunters?
Chess, Box and Splinter are about to embark on a terrifying mission to find out."

I really like the comic  strip art on the covers of this series, too.  Looking forward to these!

Also, I discovered that the new book by my favourite Australian novelist has just come out on Kindle. She's changed her name and her genre, but I want to read it just the same...


"In 1929, Beattie Blaxland had dreams. Big dreams. She dreamed of a life of fashion and fabrics. One thing she never dreamed was that she would find herself pregnant to her married lover, just before her nineteenth birthday. In 2009, Emma Blaxland-Hunter was living her dream. A prima ballerina with the London Ballet, she had everything... Until the moment she lost it all. Separated by decades, both women must find the strength to rebuild their lives. A legacy from one to the other will lead to Wildflower Hill, a place where a woman can learn to stand alone long enough to realise what she really wants."

So, there'll be fewer elemental demons and vengeful revenants than there usually are in a novel by Kim Wilkins - but I can live with that! 

And finally this week - I've bought a novel by James Goss, charming author of lots of Doctor Who / Torchwood things. This seems to be the first in a mystery series of his own... and it was just £1.99..!

"Assassination is Ancient Egypt's second oldest profession - and The Lady Serpent is the kingdom's most skilled practitioner of its deadly arts.

But she has a problem.

She on a job Thebes, and someone's killed not her target - but her client.

Working with General Ay, the Pharaoh's right hand man, she must find
the culprit fast.

Yet she's caught up in the middle of a power struggle for control of all the lands of Egypt. And, even worse, her professional reputation is at stake.

Can she see off mutineers, cunning widows, a soothsayer and a scheming butler? Or will her career be finished while she is still in her prime?"

So, these are the books perched and roosting all about me this week - along with various others, all jostling for attention...  How about you? What have you got lined up?  Let me know if there's anything you've spotted that might be something I'd love. At the moment I'm in a kind of mystery / seasonal / creeping-sentimentality / almost mawkish / spooky mood. The kind where I'd appreciate a thrilling adventure, but I'd need an occasional sit down and a sigh - and a cup of Twinings Lavender Earl Grey to go with it..?

Friday, 23 November 2012

Flash Eleven - In the War

A very, very cold night in Weatherfield it was, late in 1963. The Rovers was deserted because they were all over at the Mission Hall for the wrestling again. This time Stan Ogden was taking on the Masked Marvel. 'Two great lummoxes rolling about on a mat in short little pants like two big babies,' Ena Sharples was heard to say, sniffily. 'It's not something decent folk would want to look at.' She stayed in the pub all Saturday night with the landlady, Annie, who she never usually saw eye to eye with. But these nights that the wrestling went on they'd become boon companions, sharing a glass or three of Cherry Brandy and sometimes even singing.

Talk often went back to the war years, which was twenty years ago by then. But it was fresh in the minds of the two women. Fresh as the chill wind that came in through the front door with the stranger in the battered leather coat.

Ena and Annie looked at him warily, for he looked a rough type in his work boots and his crew cut. He stood wavering at the bar and Annie was like a ship’s figurehead at the pumps, fixing him with her most formidable welcoming smile.

'A pint, is it, sir?'

He grinned at her broadly. 'Yes! A pint! Please!' His accent sounded local to her ears.

'Newton and Ridley's Finest, sir?'

'No, no! Ginger pop!'

Ena fixed the stranger with one of her looks and spoke to him bluntly, as was her wont. 'Mrs Walker and myself were just discussing the war years. You look like you've been a military man in your time. Where did you see action, if you don't mind me asking?'

The so-far nameless man stared at her as if he couldn't follow what she was saying. The smile had frozen on his face. Then he said, 'Yes, yes. I did. I saw action. I was in the war. But it's finished. The war's over now.'

Annie and Ena shared a glance as the noise from the Mission Hall across the road reached deafening levels. They seemed to say to each other, we've got a right one here. Seems to think the hostilities have only just ceased...!

He took his ginger pop gratefully and the pub started filling up again. Ena asked him a few more questions about his war, and was surprised by the answers she got.

The poor thing, she thought. The things he's seen must have sent him doo-lally.

Then others were calling on her to play them a tune on the piano and by the time she returned to the Snug, the stranger had gone.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Flash Ten - Cheese and Crackers

They had a makeshift dinner of cheese and crackers and some fancy wine the Doctor spent too long explaining to them. Jo thought she detected some nervousness in his manner. Strange, with these two apparently being such old friends of his. He was making rather a meal of explaining their recent adventures in the village of Devil’s End.

‘But it wasn’t actually Beelzebub who appeared?’

‘Chesterford, really,’ laughed the Doctor, rolling his eyes.

Barbara talked a little about her work, and about her own amateur historical research. She’d become quite involved in a number of oddities and quirks that kept turning up in dusty old records.

‘It’s made for some very dull foreign holidays,’ Ian sighed, sipping his wine and grinning at Jo. ‘Guernsey was quite nice this summer gone, though. Tell them what you were looking for, Barbara. Go on!’

Barbara smiled, not fully appreciating being sent up by her husband, but too happy to be annoyed. ‘Well, it was all about the Nazi occupation, you see. There were a few very strange references in the press to fictional characters from French eighteenth century novels turning up in the most inappropriate…’

Jo let much of the conversation wash over her, hopping out to fetch more supplies from the kitchen. She took a phone call from Mike Yates, who passed on the gossip from UNIT HQ. Everyone was looking forward to coming to Norfolk for the Christmas break. No one quite believed the Doctor’s warnings about Cybermen, though everyone was going to bring all the gold they could lay their hands on, just in case…

The voices from the dining room were getting louder, and more joyful as talk evidently turned to old times. They were swapping reminiscences in there, and the Doctor’s old friends were getting used to his new face. Jo listened to Mike chatter on at the other end of the phone, and wondered if that was something she would have to do one day. Would she ever look into a stranger’s face and have to wonder if he really was the Doctor?

She realized she wasn’t really paying attention to Mike – who was passing on an over-complicated message from the UNIT tealady – and she was staring into the garden beyond the mullioned windows. It was snowing, she saw. Sudden, heavy snow.

And then a double decker bus was materializing - very festively - on the lawn. The sign at the front said that it was the Number Twenty-Two, and it was bound for THE DEATH ZONE.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Flash Nine - Tea Lady of Doom

Three sugars for the Doctor, none for Miss Grant. He likes a running supply of Jaffa cakes in the afternoon. Excitement round here today because of his invite. Christmas in his big house in Norfolk. Very nice. Room for all. YES MASTER. BLEEP.

The Brigadier’s not best pleased about the Christmas plans. He’s got the Cryons in today. Cream horn for the Brig, though not when he’s in a meeting. A cup of Earl Grey and a bleak-looking plate of Digestives. I UNDERSTAND MASTER. BLEEP. Doesn’t want to look like he’s flashing government money about. Course the Minister in with him goes demanding bleedin’ doughnuts, don’t he?

Last week it was Axos in the building, causing a rumpus, then the Master made a fleeting, deadly visit over the weekend, and the week before Gawd knows. The whole bleedin’ building’s had to be frozen because of these visitors from, where was it? Telos. On a diplomatic mission or something. The Doctor’s been in with them, but he doesn’t have much patience these days. He’s keen to work on his whatsit, dematerialisation circuit. THY WILL BE DONE, MASTER. BLEEP. I slip him an extra packet of Jaffa cakes when I can, poor old thing. I can understand how he feels about this exile business. One afternoon when we were locked in the attic (by the Master) he told me all about it. Well, I did sympathise. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never see Hastings again, which was where I was born.  BLEEP. I WILL NOT LET YOU OR YOUR ALLIES DOWN, MASTER. BLEEP BLEEP.

I went in with the tea about an hour ago and the Brig was ushering the Cryons out, back to their ship. Funny-looking women. Captain Yates usually has the interviews with the lady aliens, have you noticed?  Very fond of a ginger snap, Captain Yates. In fact, all the ladies end up in Captain Yates’ office. Just saying. Don’t mean nothing. He’s always seemed like a perfect gentleman to me. BLEEP. INDEED, MASTER.

Course, I felt more special when I didn’t know the Christmas invite was for everyone in UNIT. But never mind. And then it had a bit less appeal when it turns out the old Doc’s saying there’ll be some dreadful invasion happening on Christmas Eve and he wants everyone to stick together during the bleedin’ festivities. Cybermen or something. Again!

Been down in the lock-up, downstairs. Sergeant Benton trying out his numbers for the Christmas Party. Singing ‘My Way’ to the grisly bunch of ne’er-do-wells they’ve got banged up down there. Those Silurians give me the pip, they do. I don’t mind monsters as a rule, it’s just the ones who try to hypnotise you. They’re the ones that get my goat.  BLEEP. I’ve been under the ‘fluence more times than I care to remember. And they always try to make me turn against everyone in the organization, which can be a right palaver to explain. Murdering visiting dignitaries, blowing up UNIT HQ, nobbling the Doctor’s Police Box and what have you. I WILL BE THERE, MASTER. THEY WON’T SUSPECT A THING. BLEEP.

Now it’s not even December yet and I’ve got tinsel on my hostess trolley and I’m wearing a party hat whatever Lethbridge-Stewart says. Well, roll on Christmas, I say. Even if it looks like we’re gonna be working right through the season. BLEEP.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The To Be Read Shelf

I've been so busy writing Flash Fics and all sorts I haven't been keeping you up to date with what I'm reading..!  here's the state of the current reading pile - plus the stuff that's on my kindle. You can see that it's teetering from spooky autumn into christmassy tales...

In recent weeks i've been immersed in a couple of stonking huge fantasy novels, both of which i've been enjoying a lot.

'Advent' by James Treadwell was an impulse buy, in WH Smiths on saturday. The cover copy makes it sound (deliberately, i think) like a modern day 'Dark is Rising' (hoping to grab the attention of grown-up 70s kids) and the novel is bearing that out so far. Cornwall, dark nights, slightly crazy ghosts, old houses, mermaids, enchanters - and a lovely sense of doom hanging over everything...

The Lev Grossman was a gift from Nick, and it's the sequel to 'The Magicians', which was one of my favourites of 2010. I don't think this Dawn-Treader-imspired follow-up made the same impact on me as the first book. I loved it and he's still massively readable - and I love the slight snarkiness and sarkiness in Grossman's fantasy. It just had less urgency for me than before. There's nothing here like the everyone-turns-into-geese chapter of 'The Magicians.' The chapters where we have to follow a mardy secondary character's backstory was a real distraction, too. I enjoyed the chapters in Venice - with the dragon under the canal - the most, i think. The 'low' fantasy, as they say, more than the 'high.' I hope there'll be a further follow-up, though.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Flash Eight - Travelling Companions

‘I hate you,’ he thought nastily, glaring across the railway carriage at his unwanted companion.

Hippo was still in full flow, describing all the marvelous treats in store this weekend. A picture show with his Aunt this afternoon, straight after she met him from the train. Then tea in Fortnum and Mason’s. Then the theatre this evening. A pantomime. But not before a little shufti round Hamley’s, so she could pick out her favourite nephew’s Christmas present.

The carriage was painfully cold, and the white fields were flashing by. Banners of hot, noisy steam went billowing past, and sometimes the engine’s noise was enough to drown out Hippo’s endless boasting.

Turlough wasn’t going to London to be petted and spoiled by a doting aunt. He had been summoned to the office of his guardian’s solicitor. (‘And a very strange man he is, too,’ headmaster had said, when signing Turlough’s weekend release form.) It was bound to be something dreadful and dull and to do with money and Turlough’s dead parents. But he was twelve and beyond being upset at being alone in the world. He also didn’t mind travelling into London by himself on important business. Not like Hippo who, he suspected, was jabbering away like this because he was nervous of being out in the adult world.

They went through a tunnel and the train gave an almighty screech. Still Hippo rambled on. All about Aladdin and the Genie of the Lamp. That was the pantomime he was supposed to be seeing. Though now, he noted, the train was thirty-five minutes behind schedule. He started fretting immediately that his Aunt would worry about him.

The train stopped for longer than necessary at a small rural station.

A very peculiar woman came to sit in their carriage. She had lilac hair and a ragged carpet bag on her knee. She slipped a hipflask out of her silver furred coat and drank thirstily. A boozer, Turlough thought, with an amused scowl.

To his astonishment the ancient woman put her tongue out at him.

Still Hippo droned on about his wonderful Aunt Alice.

Then a small, furry Panda climbed out of the old woman’s carpet bag. He glared crossly at both schoolboys, just as the train flew into another tunnel and covered them in darkness.

The old woman said, ‘We won’t get as far as London. Just see. There’s something very wrong with this train.’

Another, gruffer voice said, ‘They think they’re heading straight to the centre, but they’re not. They’re veering off. They’re going off on a tangent. They’re travelling along the borders.’

Turlough gave the two newcomers a hard stare. Hippo was beginning to look frantic, sweating and rubbing at his round glasses with both thumbs and a smudgy handkerchief.

‘I beg your pardon?’ Turlough asked, icily.

‘The borders,’ nodded the old woman. ‘The borders of other people’s stories. You aren’t the heroes of your own, you know. And you’re not really headed for where you think you are.’ She seemed to believe this explained everything, and lit herself a pink cigarette. She turned to stare past Turlough out of the window.

‘Any idea where we are?’ the Panda asked her, climbing fully out of her carpet bag. As he did so, he seemed to expand, rapidly filling up more than his fair share of the already-cramped compartment. The lights flickered as another tunnel was gone through, and by the time they were on again, the Panda was the size of an adult human being.

The old woman didn’t answer his question. She asked him instead to pass her knitting. ‘The snow’s really coming down, now,’ she observed.

‘I say we shall be in London very soon,’ Hippo said, peevishly. ‘Did I tell you my Aunt Alice is taking me to Fortnum’s for tea? I’ve been promised macaroons.’

‘Bully for you,’ growled the Panda. ‘But you’ll never get them, you know.’

‘If we aren’t the heroes of our own stories,’ Turlough couldn’t help himself asking, ‘Then what are we the heroes of, precisely?’

The old woman was knitting very quickly and pretending that she couldn’t hear him.

The view through the window was beginning to look very unlike how it should.

‘Shall we wait until it stops before we hop out?’ asked the Panda.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Flash Seven - Lost Robot

Borusa – sooooo crazy with the Time Scoop. They called us in afterwards to clean up the mess. I’d never seen a Death Zone like it.

I had a right faff with the yeti. Turned out they were controlled by a disembodied intelligence? Operating via silver spheres in the beasts’ chest cavities? No one ever tells us stuff like that.

Met a few other waifs and strays from time and space. Up on the moors and scrubby wastelands several miles from the Tomb of Rassilon. All the poor sods who never got anywhere near playing the Game with the others.

We had to go round with a big lorry picking up Zabri, Voord, Mechanoids and Quarks. Each one requires their own special handling. No wonder they shut down the Death Zone and closed the Games. What a palaver!

Saddest case I saw. Big robot thing, sitting on a tussock of grass at the top of a hill. He didn’t move or flinch when we drove the lorry up to collect him.

‘Hello, chum,’ I said, trying not to look like a threat.

He swiveled round to see me. ‘They said Sarah Jane was here somewhere. Have you seen her?’ he asked hopefully.

‘Who?’ I said, wondering how we were going to fit this fella in with the rest. They don’t give us dimensionally transcendental lorries, more’s the pity. ‘What’s your name, chum?’ I flipped through the list on my clipboard. Of course, it wasn’t terribly accurate, what with President Borusa being out of control crazy when he went on his time scooping frenzy.

‘They call me The Giant Robot,’ he sighs, heavily. For a moment I can hear all the howling wilderness of the Death Zone rattling through his empty metal form. All the way down to his big blocky feet. I admit it, I feel a twinge of pity, which you don’t often do on jobs like this.

‘Why don’t you come with me?’ I suggest. ‘We can send you home again…’

‘But isn’t Sarah Jane here?’ he says. ‘Someone said she’d come this way? Isn’t she still here today? I would so love to see her again.’ 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Flash Six: The Runaway Hi-Fi

Oh yes, that was a very fraught time. That was when they took all the Doctor’s friends off him and sent them home. It was like they were saying, ‘That’s your lot. You’ve had your fun.’ It was most upsetting, that whole thing at the end of the adventure I found myself labelling ‘The War Games’ when I came to write it up in my 500 year diary. They were ruthless, the Time Lords and I suppose no one could blame them really, for he'd made quite a fool of them, hadn't he? Running rings around them so to speak. So off went Jamie and off went Zoe and they weren't allowed to remember their Doctor after that and all the time they'd shared together.

No one would remember the black and white years. That was the Time Lords’ plan.

No one, except for me. Because they’d all forgotten me, hadn’t they?

I, who'd been stuck in a cupboard for ages. For goodness knows how many years. Ever since Stephen Taylor left, all that time ago, at the end of the adventure that I’d named ‘The Savages’ in my 500 year diary (I was much better at filling up the pages of my diary than the Doctor was. But then, stuck in the TARDIS locker, I had more time, didn’t I?)

Oh, even the all-seeing, all-knowing Time Lords forgot (or ever even knew!) about Hi-fi in the TARDIS locker. The lost little Panda and former companion of Stephen, Vicki and the old Doctor. And no one cared, did they? There I sat, on the shelf, absolutely furious.

Well, I wasn’t being sent anywhere. I wasn’t going to be exiled. I wasn’t going to have my mind probed by anyone. And I wasn’t going to forget the black and white years. How could I? A Panda?

So – before they could mess about with the TARDIS, and while the poor old Doctor was arguing for his life at his trial – out I nipped. I hopped out of the cupboard, through the massive, gleaming, oddly quiet console room, and outside. I toddled very quickly out of that particular bit of the Capitol. Somewhere high up in the Tower of Canonicity, I believe. Rather chilly place.

No one noticed a rather small Panda take the elevator to ground level. I scooted out quickly and ran through what appeared to be a busy shopping mall, and then a railway station. Except they weren’t trains that everyone was rushing to catch, they were strange things that looked like a cross between a jellyfish and a Rubik’s Cube. Anyone tell you Gallifrey is a sedate and boring place, don’t believe them. It all looked pretty busy to me that day. There was a parade of antedeluvian beasts through the streets of the city. Hand-plucked from alternate dimensions by some kind of rabble-rousing political group.

I went to the under-city, where things were even wilder. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, or where I was going. I wasn’t sure at all what I was going to do with the rest of my life. You must remember that I had spent many years in a cupboard, amongst a whole load of old junk. Electronic stuff and beach balls and umbrellas and stuff. I was thrilled with excitement, being set free upon the world.

Gallifrey stood at the nexus point of all time and space. It was terribly exciting in those days. But no one seemed to know that there was a trial going on, somewhere up in that needle tower right underneath the jewelled dome. No one had ever heard of the Doctor, and no one cared.

Except for myself – and for one drunken old woman in a bar somewhere deep in the under-city. When I hauled myself up onto a stool beside her she was already seeing double. She looked very much like a bag lady, dressed as she was in a variety of clashing styles. She was smoking pink Sobranies with golden filters and this warmed my heart. Gallifrey had always been no-smoking. She looked marvellously sophisticated in her peacock hat. I realised she was looking at me beadily.

‘So who are you when you’re at home, lovey?’

I stood up hopefully on top of my glass stool and adjusted my cravat. ‘But that’s just it, my dear. I’m not at home. I’ve never had a home, you see. Being a wanderer in the fourth and fifth dimensions.’

‘Oh yes?’ she beamed. ‘That’s what you are, are you?’

‘Indeed!’ I said hotly. And then I remembered I’d left my 500 year diary behind me in the TARDIS, just as I was writing up ‘The War Games.’ Ah well.

‘As it happens, chuck,’ said the old woman. ‘I’m a bit of a wanderer, too...’

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Flash Five: Old Witch

And after the break, local White Witch Olive Hawthorne tells us why, on the occasion of receiving her birthday telegram from the Queen, she isn’t ready to give up the good fight yet.

Are we on yet?

I’m afraid not, Miss Hawthorne, they’ve gone to adverts for a few minutes…

Adverts! Yes, I remember how they interfere with live broadcasts. In the 1990s I had my own television show, you know, on Cable. ‘Miss Hawthorne’s Spooky Moments’… which was a very silly name, I thought…

Yes, we do know, Miss Hawthorne. The DVD compilation has just been released, and that’s what you’re plugging, isn’t it?

My dear child, I wouldn’t know about that. I thought you’d brought me on to say happy birthday and congratulations for getting to a hundred years old. And what a surprise it is that I have, given I’ve spent my whole life fighting dark forces.

Well, yes, of course. Ermm, but you won’t talk too much about dark forces and Satanism and so on, will you? This is a tea time show, you see, and there’ll be kids watching…

Then what do you expect to me discuss, if not my lifetime’s work combating evil, my good woman?

Well, just about being a hundred and not retiring and… you know.

Could I talk about my new book about alien exorcisms, perhaps? And my work for the United Nations? Or Torchwood?

Obviously, nothing too secret. Or disturbing, either, since people will be eating their tea by now.

Oh dear. I don’t think I’m very suitable for your programme at all, my dear. If I can’t talk about the incubus of the Iceni warrior queen? Or the Zygon nest we dug out over in Pembrokeshire? Or the Pyramid in Milton Keynes..?

I don’t think those are on my list… er, no.

I must say, I do think you young people these days are awfully easily upset.

Now, shush. We’re back on air.

Are we? Oh, lovely. I shall do my best to look completely respectable.

Welcome back. Now, forget about black cats and pointy hats, because in the studio this evening we’ve got a genuine witch. Except she’s a lovely white witch who only does good deeds and she’s about to celebrate her hundredth birthday. Miss Hawthorne?! Miss Hawthorne, why are your eyes glowing red like that…?


Oh my god…  Miss Hawth---!!!… !

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Flash Four: Meals on Wheels

It wasn’t like Jackie didn’t have enough to do. She wasn’t filling up her extra hours because she felt lonely or nothing. It was just good, Mandy from the Poundshop said, to give a little something back to society, and that.

But now Jackie was thinking Meals on Wheels maybe wasn’t for her.

‘Mr Ross? Are you in there?’

She was spending longer each day shouting through his letterbox at him. Old git.

The tray was steaming hot in her hand. The one that wasn’t braced against the front door of his flat as she knelt there on the cold concrete.

‘And you can clear out of it, too,’ she muttered at Mrs Higgins, who came by with her tartan shopping bag. Wondering why Jackie was shouting at Mr Ross again. Maybe it was a mistake volunteering herself for her own block?

‘Mr Ross. Please open up. It’s mince and dumplings today. And jam sponge. You’ll like it.’

The pensioners ate better than she did, actually. Some of them complained about the quality of the stuff they got doled out. Jackie wouldn’t have complained. I live off chicken nuggets and Sainsbury’s Chardonnay. I’d be glad of a bleedin’ home cooked meal, even if it did arrive in foil.

‘Mr Ross!’ she banged harder.

Course, with Rose gone again it wasn’t like it was worth cooking a proper meal in the evening. This was the longest stint her daughter had been away for.

Mr R…!’

The old boy opened the door sharpish, catching her out so she stumbled again. He liked making her do that.

He was there in his front hall. Glaring up at her from his wheelchair.

‘Decided to let me in, eh?’ she smiled at his cross old face. He really was the worst old sod she delivered to. Some of them were so sweet, the old folk. So pleased and grateful to see you. Others were just evil. Like this old git.

Jackie had been on the Meals on Wheels for a week and it seemed like a lifetime.

‘How are you doing today, Mr Ross?’ she asked breezily, taking his tray into the kitchen to dish up for him. He slammed the front door with his one good arm and followed her.

‘I’ve been plotting the ultimate destruction of this world and my revenge upon all of mankind,’ he said, furiously.

‘Oh, yes?’ Jackie smiled, and went through the cupboards looking for a clean glass. ‘Look, shall I do these dishes? They’ve been standing here for days.’

‘You will all beg for my mercy in the end,’ he shouted. ‘When my invasion force arrives in Earth’s solar system at last. You will all see then what I have planned for this miserable planet.’

‘It’s mince and dumplings. You’ll like that.’

‘I will reserve the worst suffering for you, Jackie Tyler,’ he cursed in his gravelly voice. That’s where a lifetime’s smoking gets you, Jackie thought, shaking her head.

‘Shall we get you settled at the table? I’ve ever so envious of your open plan living / dining area. Was it like this when you moved in?’

He followed her miserably, wheeling down the hall. ‘You will die horribly in uttermost agony! Rueing the very day you first heard my name! I can promise you that, Jackie Tyler!’

She popped the tray down, with a knife and fork, a glass of tap water and a paper napkin. A Christmas one, but she was sure he wouldn’t mind. ‘There you are, love.’

‘Oh,’ he said, wheeling forward. ‘Dumplings.’

Third Flash: Star Bowler

The WI have got me on cream teas again. I suppose it’s not too much bother. Though it’s a bit warm standing by this urn all day. All the cupcakes Deirdre Whatsit made have been snaffled up by the players, as have Tish Madoc’s Fondant Fancies. No one seems to like the look of my rock cakes. Oh well.

All these sweaty men galumphing back and forth. I never liked the game much anyway. But there’s something about seeing them in their whites on the village green. I don’t know – for a moment it’s like being a hundred years ago. Back in my own time.

Best not to think about time travel, Wibbs. It only upsets you.

Here they come. Time to feed the five thousand again. Here come the Stockbridge lot. They’ve absolutely thrashed the Hexford Eleven, but everyone’s pretty good-natured about it. Their star-bowler’s a nice-looking chap. Blonde and quite young. When I pour him his tea he’s giving me a very old-fashioned look, though.

‘Mrs Wibbsey?’ He’s looking for all the world like I’m a lovely surprise. He introduces me to a young man he’s travelling with, he says. Shifty-looking type dressed as a schoolboy, and there's an Australian person too. He explains to them that I am the best housekeeper he ever met.

I frown at this. Have we ever met before? I can’t be sure.

‘Still at Nest Cottage?’ he asks, in a light tone, picking up one of my cakes.

‘Well, yes,’ I say. ‘I’m looking after it for the owner while he’s away…’

‘Very good, Wibbs,’ he grins.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Second Flash: Calling Card

‘It probably won’t be him,’ Ian said, winking. Barbara smiled and shook her head, then knocked firmly. Ian was making her nervous.

There was no answer. He shrugged, and started pulling his driving gloves back on. ‘See? I told you it was a fake.’

Barbara pursed her lips. She wasn’t ready to give up yet. Even though it was a freezing November night and the wind was blowing round the sharp corners of this old Victorian mansion. Every window was forbidding and dark. 

‘He sent us a note,’ Barbara insisted. It had been waiting for her in the staff room. A very official-looking letterhead. Brian who taught Chemistry had been most impressed.

‘I really doubt it’s him,’ sighed Ian. Now it was starting to rain. Big, shivery spots.

Quite curt and to the point, the letter had been. This address, miles out of London. A short apology for not being in touch.

‘It was his handwriting,’ said Barbara, knocking even harder. ‘I tell you, it…’

All of a sudden the front door flew open. Golden light from the hall came spilling onto the drive. He was in a smoking jacket and a ruffled shirt, as if he’d just stepped out of the beginning of the century. He was grinning broadly at them both.

‘Barbara!’ he cried. ‘And Chesterfield!’

They were swept indoors, and in a kerfuffle of coats being taken and drinks being offered, they became aware of a chaotic but luxurious home. Plus, a very petite, pretty girl.

‘He’s very excited,’ she said. ‘He’s only just remembered that you’re here, in the same time zone.’

Ian groaned ruefully. ‘It really is him, isn’t it?’ He turned to study the tall, elegant man, busy loosening the cork on a dusty bottle of champagne.

Barbara’s eyes were shining. ‘I knew it.’

The young girl said, ‘He says you watched him pilot the Ship a thousand times. You remember how to fly it, don’t you?’

Barbara and Ian looked at each other, suspicion closing over them as the man brought sparkling flutes, his opera cape swirling about him.

‘To old times,’ he proposed.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Doctor Who Flash Fiction

I've never tried to write Flash Fiction before. It always looked rather fun. Anyhow, this afternoon I found myself writing my first ever piece of Flash Slash. It's a Doctor Who story... and it made me think - it might be fun to write some more of these. What with the 49th anniversary of The Show coming up towards the end of the month... this might be a way of throwing some fictional confetti about.


Sarah Jane suspected that it was Harry Sullivan, rugged Naval medic and fledgling companion of that mysterious traveller in time and space known only as 'The Doctor' who was the cause of the affair that was later described as 'The White Space Conflict.' Harry - the chump - was chattering away as usual, and casually leaning against one of the control panels of the central console of the TARDIS. With one erroneous elbow resting against a sequence of flashing buttons, Harry effectively 'clicked and dragged' the entire contents of somewhere ghastly called the Land of Fiction, copying and pasting it, quite by accident, onto a portion of the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation of World War Two. 'Oh, Harry,' Sarah Jane cried, when she realised what he had done. 'What on Earth is the Doctor going to say about that..?'

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Discovering G. E. Farrow and his Dodo

One of my favourite things is discovering very old and seemingly forgotten books and finding that they're brilliant and fresh as the day they were first published. This happened when i picked up a hefty hardback one of the bookshops we visited in Whitby on Saturday. G. E. Farrow was waiting in there with his fantastical, late Victorian children's novel, 'The Little Panjandram's Dodo'. It's a kind of Edith Nesbit story, with three children encountering an irascible and extinct old bird who thinks a lot of himself - in this case, the Dodo, who's on the run, having stolen a fancy pair of gloves from his boss, the Little Panjandrum. He's such a preening, boastful buffoon - I really enjoyed his outbursts and knack for getting everyone into trouble.

There are touches of Alice in Wonderland with some of the verbal games and the abrupt shifts in direction and the dream logic that hangs over it all. It also reminded me quite a lot of Baum's Oz books, with the gathering up of a number of absurd creatures - though this time they're not headed for the Emerald City, but the Crystal Palace in Sydenham. The creatures in question are the slightly lopsided antideluvian animals who, once in place on the island in that London park, turn to stone - where, as Farrow tells us, they can be seen to this very day. (He was talking about 1899, but I've been and seen them quite recently - 2012 - and have pictures to prove they're still there..!)

It's a lovely, silly book which restored my faith into delving into the unknown and neglected past - and it's made me want to read more of Farrow. Luckily, there are a few on Project Gutenberg, to download for free. Including this very one, but in the US it seems to have been renamed 'Dick, Marjorie and Fidge'.

The illustrations are fab, by the way!