Notebook

Thamesmead by Steve McAuliffe

I’ll open this review of Steve McAuliffe’s debut poetry collection, Thamesmead, with a disclaimer: I do actually know Steve (online at least), we’ve worked together on a couple of independent lefty media sites, both being writers of a similar political persuasion. He did also give me a copy of this book free – but it was a birthday gift, rather than in exchange for review, and I didn’t tell him I intended to review it until after I had read it and decided it met my personal standard for public review. Long term followers of my goodreads, facebook, and twitter will know, I generally don’t like to give public reviews of books unless I can give them three or more stars.

Once I had read and fallen in love with Thamesmead, I badgered and nagged and irritated Steve until he agreed to answer some questions to make me go away – you can find his author interview below my review.

Thamesmead Review

Thamesmead by Steve McAuliffe is a collection of 30 poems, some only a few lines, a sketch of an idea or snapshot in time, some several pages long, telling entire narratives. I really enjoyed the contrast in length and style throughout the book. It’s a slim volume, but I still found it took me a long time to read, because each piece made me want to pause and reflect, and at times re-read before moving on. The imagery is powerful, and even in the parts of the book that delved into the fantastical and mythological is vividly painted on the page so that the reader is right there with the subject, seeing the scene clearly through their eyes, a feat that’s difficult to achieve in poetry.

Continue reading “Thamesmead by Steve McAuliffe”

Hamster Wheel

Clothes eaten by moths,
Future stolen by toffs,
Hunger is exhausting, it’s true.
But it’s hard to riot,
When your stomach won’t quiet,
And your shoes are held together with glue.

Aching feet, heat or eat,
Surviving is no mean feat
When you’re done before you’ve even begun.
But it’s hard to fight back,
When you can’t afford the sack,
And you’re too tired to even have fun.

“The economy’s bad,
And yeah homelessness is sad,
But there’s nothing that we can do,”
Says the MP who ate,
Indeed cleaned the plate,
Of a £45 breakfast, on you.

They seem to hold power
Because we work every hour
Scraping around for every penny
But it’s time to down tools
Because they treat us like fools
And they are few, and we are many.

Terms and Conditions

Dying hadn’t been as painful as Mary expected it to be.


The moments just before she died had hurt, hurt beyond anything she had ever experienced – more than getting Malaria. More than when she got shot even. She didn’t think anything would be more painful than getting shot. Her mother had always told her she was risking her life “running around in warzones” – how banal to have died in a head on collision with lorry just outside Hemel Hempstead.


Mary had never been one for religion – which came as something of a surprise to a lot of people she met – she decided at an early age that what happened after death didn’t matter a jot, it was what you did before death that counted, and she’d not given it much of a thought after that.


What she definitely hadn’t expected was the plain white walled waiting room she found herself in now. One moment she was blinded by lights, spinning out of control, feeling the sickening crunch as her ribs folded in on themselves, puncturing her lungs, the stench of petrol hanging in the air, the next she was stood in her best dress and cardigan, handbag hooked over her arm, in front of a desk where a bored red-haired receptionist sat, idly flicking through a magazine.


After a moment, Mary gave a small, polite cough.


The woman at the desk licked her finger and turned the page of her magazine.


“Welcome to the afterlife,” she said in a bored voice, not bothering to look up. “Please take a seat while your paperwork is processed.”

Continue reading “Terms and Conditions”

They Tried To Bury Us




It started underground
In the dark
A fluttering of awareness
A pulsing heartbeat
A distant drum of war.

It started underground
Waiting out the cold
Gathering its resources
Biding its time
Waiting for its moment.

It started underground
Until conditions were ripe,
Then everything exploded;
The rush for the light
Breaking into the sun
Claiming its ground.

It started in the dark
Now it stands tall,
Unfurls its glorious petals,
A red banner 
In the grey.

Written by Victoria Pearson. Performed by Laurence Bourne

Mid Week Flash 90 – Fairy Gate

I wasnt sure whether to tag this piece as being part of Miranda Kate’s Mid Week Flash or not, given that I’ve used her picture as a prompt for a poem this time, which I think might be against the rules. The general guidelines can be found here if you’d like to join in.

I’ve also used today’s #vss365 prompt from Twitter, which was “spread” -usually I’d post a #vss365 directly to twitter, but this came out considerably longer than tweet length, and I didn’t want to cut it.

The image for this story is Miranda’s mid week flash prompt, and was taken by Kurt Gordon, an Australian photographer who travels a lot and takes a lot of pictures. You can find them on display over on 500px. 

Fairy Gate

Behind the fields,

Deep in the woods,

Beyond the paths we know,

There is a pair of twisted trees

Where nothing seems to grow.

Continue reading “Mid Week Flash 90 – Fairy Gate”

Before Digital Dreams

Come sit on Nanna’s knee, little one, and I’ll tell you a story about when I was young.


Back in the old days, before even my parents were born , they didn’t have palm discs. They had no access to the HiveMind at all.


I mean, they thought their technology was cutting edge, they really did, but if they wanted to find out something, or speak to someone that was further away than you are from me now, they had to use a machine. The machines started off big and clunky, and were attached to the walls of the house with wires, you couldn’t take them with you anywhere. They were useless really, you had to read information off of a screen and everything, it must have taken ages to learn things. But without them we wouldn’t have the advantages we have today. Like the candle being the forerunner to the electric light.

Now, the more a person uses something, becomes accustomed to it, the more they tend to rely on it. It was that way with the forerunner of the palm disc. The mobile, I think they called it. People got fed up I suppose, having to get to their home or place of work to be able to find out a fact, or listen to a song, or talk to someone in another part of the world. They began to create smaller and smaller devices to do the job, tiny versions of their home machines, that ran on something called battery power, although don’t ask me how that works as I’ve no idea. All I know is that to keep the devices powered, they plundered the world’s natural resources, polluted the air, poisoned the water. There were many more people back then, in cities a bit like ours, and small settlements called villages, all over the globe. They were scattered across the entire planet, grouped into tribes and communities and peoples, not united into a few cities like we are. Imagine living so divided from people. Awful.

Continue reading “Before Digital Dreams”

Character Interview

Gloria Nelson and Dr Charles Prinze

This character interview originally appeared on Suz Korb‘s blog, and it was a tricky write, because obviously Gloria and Charles are not at liberty to discuss their job, so wouldn’t take part in an interview like this. I really liked the dynamic between them in it though, so I thought that despite the obvious clumsiness of the opening, it was worth putting up here for readers that like these little extras. it contains very minor spoilers for A Tale of Two Princes, and is set before A Tale of Two Princes but after my current work in progress, working title: Malcolm The Were-Fox.

Victoria

Today we will be joined by Dr Charles Prinze and social worker Gloria Nelson, both of whom work for an oddities and anomalies hospital. I’m not entirely certain what that is, so I am hoping to find out more in this interview.

The couple arrive, late and fairly breathless, to the cafe we are meeting at, still dressed for work. Dr Prinze is in his white lab coat and green scrubs trousers. He looks too young to be in charge of an entire ward, despite his three day stubble and the hint of grey at his temples. Ms Nelson is in head to toe blue scrubs, and she has several pens sticking out of her afro. I’m not sure if she is aware they are there or if she has forgotten. Dr Prinze looks serious, tired, like he has just come off a night shift. Ms Nelson is his opposite, bright smile and a bounce in her step like coming here is the highlight of her day. I get the immediate impression that her smile is as much a part of uniform as her scrubs.

I have been pre-warned that their time with me is short today, so as soon as they sat down and coffee has been ordered, we dive straight in.

Tell me about your job?

Dr Charles Prinze: Well, we work in a very special hospital called-
Gloria Nelson: Wait, are we allowed to say the name of the hospital?
Charles: You don’t think we should?
Gloria: Best to err on the safe side, I’d say. You know what they’re like.
Charles: I thought the rules had been relaxed for this interview?
Gloria: Well obviously. But still, we don’t want to break any confidentiality rules or anything. Perhaps it’s safest to say that we work in a hospital that deals with aliens, supernatural beings and other oddities, like they said we could, and leave it at that.

Gloria: Oh yes. Take Malcolm for example. Lovely lad, more humane than any human I have ever met, but he definitely comes under the supernatural umbrella, being a were-fox and all.
Charles: And then there’s the ETs. All aliens that want to seek political asylum on earth have to be quarantined first. It’s our job to look after their health care and screen them for obvious signs of disease or parasites before they can move into the asylum centre.

Continue reading “Character Interview”

Mid Week Flash Week 36 – Perfect Moments

Thanks to Miranda Kate  for this week’s prompt

The General Guidelines can be found here.

Perfect Moments

I was going to tell her.

Years I’d been building up to this. All the times I almost said something, all the times I nearly kissed her, all those times I should’ve told her I’m in love with her smile, her laugh, that her eyes are the colour of heaven. It had all built up to this mundane Monday morning. I woke up and decided yes, I was going to tell her.

Continue reading “Mid Week Flash Week 36 – Perfect Moments”

Mid Week Flash – Ocean Dreams

It’s week 25 of Miranda Kate’s Mid Week Flash challenge, and illness, work and general life chaos has meant I haven’t been able to participate as much as I’d have liked to, but this week’s image really spoke to me. Anyone is welcome to join in, the general guidelines can be found here.
This week’s prompt:

 Ocean Dreams
 
 

We dreamed of going to the ocean. She had this romantic ideal of walking on a moonlit beach, hand in hand, listening to the roar of the unseen sea. Our dream sustained us through the long, hard years we couldn’t be together, when our relationship was built of dreams and texts and snatched moments. We were going to go to the ocean.

They say life’s a bitch, but she’s got nothing on the twisted sense of humour Fate has. Finally together, finally able to touch instead of talk, to kiss instead of dream. We were finally going to the ocean. Packing up the car together, all excited.  She looked like a painting, the light on her face too perfect to be real. I kissed her, then turned away to load the last bag into the boot. When I turned back, she was on the floor, lifeless, hair sprawled in the mud.

Three months later, life is drained of colour. She smiles through the pain and the sickness and the exhaustion, brave little stoic smiles, drained of their warmth. Every time I walk down this disinfectant scented corridor I hear the doctor telling us “I’m very sorry, it is terminal. We can make her comfortable…” and I have to swallow my anger, my pain, my disappointment, push it all down into the pit of my stomach and try to have my smile ready for her. I can’t let her down.

Continue reading “Mid Week Flash – Ocean Dreams”

Mid Week Flash – In The Mirror

My next offering for Miranda‘s Mid Week Flash challenge. The General Guidelines can be found here.
This week’s prompt was taken in a former, now abandoned, TB sanatorium in Grabowsee, Oranienburg, Germany, which is a little north of Berlin. It was taken by someone over on Flicker called Michael.
In the Mirror

They say I’m mad, but I’m not. That woman in the mirror isn’t me.

Oh she looks like me, no doubt. Whenever someone is looking, she mimics me perfectly. Then when they turn away her blank expression twists into a malicious grin, she gives me a seductive little wink, and my blood runs cold.

I know she’s up to something. I don’t know what. They all think I’m mad, but I’m not. That woman in the mirror is not me.

Continue reading “Mid Week Flash – In The Mirror”

TMI Post – Periods and Menstrual Cups

Fair warning, this post is going to get a bit…icky. I’m going to be talking periods, menstural cups, hormonal crashes, bleeding, cramps and spots. I won’t be posting pictures or anything, but if you faint at the thought of blood or cringe when you see the word “vagina” I’d recommend you skip this post. I’ll go back to strange stories, poetical pieces and random rants later, I promise.

I hesitated a lot before writing this post, which is kinda weird when you think about it. A massive proportion of the population have periods but talking about it is still pretty taboo. Continue reading “TMI Post – Periods and Menstrual Cups”

Mid Week Flash Challenge Week 5 – You Are My Heart

My next entry for Miranda Kate’s Mid Week Flash challenge, week 5 the General Guidelines for which are here.  
 
 
This week’s prompt photo was created by Marcela Bolivar, a digital artist from Columbia. You can check out some of her other wonderful creations on her website here.

You are my heart

 
Once, I am sure, I was complete. A whole, living, breathing being. I used to taste food, feel music. I used to be alive.
Then along he came. He filled me so completely, there was no room for anything else. Where once I held passion for art and dancing, good company and good movies, now there was only him.  I lived him, breathed him, he didn’t just hold my heart, he was my heart. I didn’t mind, I didn’t miss any of it. I didn’t need any of it, he fulfilled me completely.
And now he has gone, and I am a shell. I eat without tasting, I go through the motions of social interaction without engaging. I stare at screens without taking anything in.  I exist without living.
All that’s left of me is the ghost of him, as intangible as a rippling reflection on a midnight pool.

Mid Week Flash Week 3 – The Beat Goes on


My next entry for Miranda Kate’s mid week flash challenge, inspired by this guy:
 
 
 The picture prompt this week is by  Ekaterina Zakharova, a Russian photographer who named him ‘1Fairy’. You can find more on her Deviant Art page.

The General Guidelines for the mid-week flas challenge are here.  
 
 
The Beat Goes On
 
The trouble is, no one believes in fairy tales anymore.
Back when I was a kid, some people took them seriously. My Nan did, certainly – she left cream out for the little folk, touched wood, sprinkled salt, and always warned us to stay on the paths if we ventured into the woods. She even gave me a tiny iron horseshoe to keep me safe. I should have kept it.
But nowadays, with our lives so dominated by social media and selfies sticks and double shot mocha cappuccinos, we are lulled into a false sense of security. The woods are just somewhere I jog through, not an otherworld of mystery and magic.
I was panting along, well on course to beating my personal best, the only sound the slapping of my feet on the path, the thudding of my blood in my ears. I was totally in the zone. Then I noticed the annoying little stone in my shoe.
 
I tried to ignore it, but after a few steps I realised I couldn’t. Look after your feet, and they’ll look after you. If I ignored it, I’d get a blister, and that would totally mess up my training.
I reluctantly stopped,  and stepped off the path to sit on a convenient log and sort it out. As soon as I sat, it was like the volume had been turned up on the world. Suddenly I could hear the wind sighing through the canopy, the birds calling to each other. The sun was warm on my back and the air smelled so sweet. I lingered too long, breathing in the magic of the woods.
Then I heard it – or maybe felt it, I’m not sure. The steady beating of the drums, the low, intoxicating oboe, the high, infectious pipes that made my toes tap. I should have stayed on the path. Nan warned me. But I wanted to see where the music was coming from.

Continue reading “Mid Week Flash Week 3 – The Beat Goes on”

Mid Week Flash Challenge Week 2 – Blue Sky

Blue Sky

I’m coming in to this party fashionably late , since it’s week 2, but this is my piece for Miranda Kate’s  Mid-Week Flash Challenge.

The picture is the prompt, and is by Kasia Derwinska, a polish art photographer.

It’s the picture that keeps me going.

Because fuck, it’s dark here. There’s no end to the desolate, barren emptiness. It stretches on and on forever, but at the same time it’s closing in so tight that if I stop and think about it for a second, falter even a moment, I won’t be able to breathe.

I focus on the picture.

It gets me through the screaming silence, keeps me going through the blackness, when all is dust. It is my talisman against the aching fatigue of battling on. It reminds me that smiling is possible, here where I have forgotten how.

I focus on the picture in my mind.  Nothing fancy – I don’t want much. Just one foot in front of the other, just like now. Only the sky is blue, and the air is sweet and I can breathe again. Smile again. See the world in colour again.

I focus on that picture – blue skies to temper my storms, a life lived in colour, with feeling – I hang it in the foreground of my mind, and I keep on walking.

I focus on the picture, and I refuse to give up, and curl up, and disappear.

One day I will have my blue sky.

Broken Hearts

It’s Valentine’s day, so everywhere I look there are hearts. Heart frames for photos on Facebook,  hearts in hashtags on twitter, heart stickers coming up as options on prisma,  hearts all over the high street.
Hearts don’t automatically make me think of love though. For any parent who has experienced what I have, hearts have a very different association- CHD.
Today marks the end of CHD awareness week. 10 years ago I couldn’t have told you what CHD stood for, such was my lack of awareness. Now I could bore you about Congenital Heart Disease for hours. I won’t here though, honest.

Continue reading “Broken Hearts”