[Note, Red is a twisted fairytale, but it is not intended to be read by children. May also be a little NSFW, depending on the work.]
She buttoned her dress slowly; gnarled fingers, stiff with arthritis, struggling over each wooden button. It wasn’t the dress she had been wearing when she met him – that had been lost somewhere over the decades, a casualty of either the children or grandchildren playing dress up, perhaps, or else of the moths. It was similar though, pale yellow and button down, though the body it wrapped itself around was much different.
He probably wouldn’t notice the similarity anyway, men rarely noticed things. Over their many years together, she had changed many times – her hair, her body shape, her face, even the way she walked. He had never remarked on it. Perhaps that was just his way of being sensitive. Or maybe it was denial.
I’m genuinely sorry to keep doing this to you. But remember how I told you back in my Lockdown Blues post, that back in 2019 I promised myself 2020 would be the year I pushed out of my comfort zone and do more things that scare me? And I started trying to make some music, because though that wasn’t what I envisioned, it is really scary? Well I’ve done that again. Sorry.
So here’s my latest ukulele song. I’ve been playing since February (it’s now late August), and you can tell I’m very much a beginner, but I had fun doing it.
I’ve never been a musical person. But back in February I got a little blue ukulele for my birthday. I never intended to inflict my “music” on you, but then coronavirus happened and the whole world went a bit weird and now – despite being unable to sing and virtually unable to play – I’ve written a blues song about being locked down with 4 kids (I’ve also started a cult, but that’s a different story!).
If you’re on this post you’ve probably seen the #TheCultOfV hashtag and wondered what it was all about. Or you’re just looking for a cult to join and stumbled across this one I guess. In which case welcome, and I’m glad you found The Cult of V instead of one of those cults that’s all about doing unspeakable things to vulnerable people and generally being an arse, I guess.
I’m an accidental millionaire; I was never supposed to be rich. Council estate lad done good. I was working in a factory when my mate Tim showed me a picture of his dog after a few too many and Pupr was born.
If I were your phone screen Would you gaze at me Adoringly As your fingertips Softly stroke my face? Would you share That secret smile That you save only for me? Would you lose Entire days Staring into me Exploring all the depths I contain? If I were your phone screen Would you reach for me When you can’t sleep Would I be the first thing you turn to When you wake Would you fall asleep With me in your hand? If I were your phone screen Would I feel like you are here?
You can read more of my poetry free here, or find some in my books.
If you enjoy my writing and want to throw some change into my tip jar, you can find it here.
We labour under the midday sun, stumbling over the cracks in the parched earth. There is never enough water.
They say this was an ocean once – water as far as you can see in any direction. I can’t picture it. All we have here are the bleached skeletons of long dead beasts that roamed this place long ago. And the plastic. Everywhere the plastic.
I have broken the rules again. Sorry Miranda! I’ve gone over the wordcount limit for Miranda Kate’s – Mid-Week Flash (The General Guidelines can be found here if you’d like to join in) but, in my defence, I’m using both the prompts from week 98 and from week 100 in combination today, so if I get a 750 word limit for each prompt I’m well under 😉
(Reading this back now it’s obviously heavily influenced by Death and Albert from the Discworld by Terry Pratchett, but that wasn’t conscious when I was writing it!)
Here are the prompt images:
Johnny Come Lately
I was at rock bottom when he found me. Literally, lying on a piss stained concrete floor, puking black blood, caked in my own filth. Must’ve looked like a feral animal.
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 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.
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.”