Monday, 7 December 2009

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Homeless - Lozz Duke

I thought I'd stepped into a nightmare
When I past him on the street
His face was a grim storm,
Penetrated by his eyes of gray-blue fire
Pouring out the years of back break and heart ache,
Seeping out poorly managed anger into the landscape around him

But underneath his bubbling skin,
A turmoil of ideas, sounds and words
Breaking the ice-thin,
In a wonderful harmony,
Over a hard past
And an ever more difficult future

Christmas - Mary Braithwaite

How can we know who God is?
If he is Creator of all these nature designs-
impossible to understand and deep in beauty,
my response is to respect.
There may not be a Creator/Designer but if there is
I must respect.
But , He may not mind a joke about Himself.
Then, this immense Creator..
He sent His Son and people CRUCIFIED HIM??
Excuse me?
Sorry, as for now the only Gods I know
are my parents as they created me.
Or.. the power and wonder of love may be God.
As for the God of EVERYTHING?
I do not know, I do not understand,
I can only respect.

Brian and the Bugger Gnomes - Peter Matthews

Brian is a Yorkshireman and a keen gardener. In the north, people of a certain age take to gardening with an ease not so readily found in the south. It’s a hobby. There’s little else to do.

On a cool October evening, Brian set about to finally try and reap the rhubarb harvest filling allotment, one of three his wife, Caroline, had purchased for him upon his fiftieth birthday. It was half four and the sky had lost its daylight lustre, now taking on a rich ochre built from pinks and purples that hurt his eyes. The task was taking longer than expected but he had promised his wife a fine rhubarb crumble supper before the day was out and knew better than to let her down. Caroline was not one to suffer disappointment easily. This, coupled with his awareness that, as afternoon succumbed to evening, she had almost certainly already prepared a crumble topping, made him continue through his fatigue.

Brian bent low and tugged on yet another green stalk, his filth dregged nails digging into the vegetable’s flesh as he struggled to gain purchase. His lumbago and orthopaedic left shoe did not make for an easy reap, it hurt to lower himself but he had to for a better grip. A sharp pain ripped through his sides. He immediately straightened but acted too fast out of shock and so winded himself.

“Bloody Nora! I’m too old for this. It’s too…too bleedin’ hard.”

Brian looked to his basket, three hours of toil and he had barely collected enough rhubarb for a single bowl of crumble, and Caroline often required a second helping.

“Oh but Oh. Oh what I’d give for a helping hand to get me rhubarb in before the day is out…”

A rumble.

What was that?

From the blackberry bush at the foot of his allotment. Another rustle followed, this time coupled by a faint, high pitched giggle. Brian looked up, his grey brow more knitted than his jumper. What was that? Wind? Was it the wind? It was indeed a possibility; but the position of his allotment, cornered betwixt hedging and stonewall made this unlikely. Plus, as he noted with a quickly sucked forefinger, there was barely even a breeze.

A further giggle. This was louder than the last and did not peter out in the same manner as its predecessor; instead it swelled to the merry sound of a rich jovial guffaw and a swift clearing of gob at the back of the throat. Brian turned to face the other allotments, but there was no one. All the other gardeners had long since left. He was indeed alone. This realisation brought a chill to the back of his neck and the hot air from his nostrils steamed the bottoms of his milk-bottle glasses as fear deepened his exhalations.

Then a voice.

“Allo Brian! Been ‘avin t’trouble wit’ the pullin’ o’ your rhubarb I see?”

“Aye, I am a bit as it happens. Who? Who might you be?”

“Be not afraid ol’ shaver”, the high voice implored without losing an ounce of its merriment, “I mean ye no harm. I offer only solutions. Brace y’self and if I may, I shall present meself. Are ye braced?”

Brian checked his braces, they were satisfactorily taught.

“Aye voice, I t’am braced and braced well. Now voice, advance , slowly mind, and let yourself be known”

The brambles thrashed wildly as something struggled to emerge from between the coiled mash of berries and thorns. Brian took a step back, anxious of the potential threat that may materialize from the foot of his garden patch. The bush fiercely shook again causing resting birds on its top to take flight and green leaves to cut loose from its branches and fall to the soil beneath. And then, silence.

“Here I be Brain! Ho ho! You’ve never seen the likes of me before I should say!”

Brian grabbed his shovel, pointing his blade in the direction of the voice, “I have yet to see the likes of you now sir! Show yourself I say!”

“Lower your gaze Brian McKaye! Lower….there we are! Ohoy there, ho ho!”

And there he was, a little man in a little hat leaning casually against the edge of Brian’s wellington boot, his long white beard tucked into his green rubber overalls. Between his teeth he clamped a long clay pipe, something he then dutifully removed to introduce himself.

“I am Merry Ben, King of the Bugger Gnomes. We travel from allotment to allotment looking to aid t’gardeners who are having t’ trouble pulling out their root vegetables.”. Merry Ben returned the pipe to his mouth and began a triumphant jig around Ben’s foot, skipping his booted feet and swinging his elbows back and forth.

“The Bugger Gnomes?”

“Yeah, don’t worry so much about that.” The little man gave a quick puff on his clay pipe, “Anyway Brian, I see that your back is one of aches and knots. Poor chap. With a little help from meself and the Bugger Gnome gardenfolk, we can have the remainder of your rhubarb up in a jiffy! And you and t’good wife shall have a fine crumble before the evening is out. What do ye say?”

What do I say? What can I say? Ta Merry Ben! Thank you!

“Splendid.” Merry Ben tipped the cinder out from his pipe and placed it in the front pouch of his overalls. He reached upwards into his tall gnome hat and pulled out a tiny quill and parchment. “Before we do out. Sign here, here and here, just next to the little crosses. That’s it, ta.”

“I can’t read it.”

“No, err, you wouldn’t. It’s in Gnomish. It’s nothing really, just the usual Health and Safety stuff y’know, oh and a bit for HR thrown in there ‘n all. Making sure you’ll allow black, disabled gypsy Gnomes tend your garden without ‘hindrance, prejudice or intolerance’, that sort of thing.”

Well, Brian was a Yorkshireman and had never even heard of such things as prejudice and intolerance. Were they a kind of black pudding? He thought, Aye, was that new type, the one with not such much fat in it? Wasn’t that an intolerance pudding?

“As a Yorkshireman I have never heard of such things as prejudice and intolerance” he told Merry Ben, “But they do sound like pretty awful things.” and so he signed as required and returned the quill and parchment to the little man. The gnome gave a little smile, pursed his white whiskered lips and whistled a mighty whistle. It started as a deep guttural utterance and, as his little chest contracted through loss of air, it gradually raised in pitch to a sharp piercing squeak, heightening until Brian could no longer hear it.

Once again the bush art the foot of Brian’s allotment began to shudder. One by one similarly attired gnomes emerged marching from beneath the brambles, each with a tiny gnome shovel in his hand. This continued until there were at least eighteen Bugger gnomes lined up and marching on the spot before of Brain. Merry Ben stood at the head group, he addressed his gnome army.

“Bugger Gnomes...Garden!”

Then something strange happened. The Bugger gnomes bookending the line each pulled a small penny whistle from their caps and began to strike up a tune. This appeared to be a cue for those carrying tools to set about work, singing in unison.

“We are the Bugger Gnomes,
The Bugger Gnomes we,
And we shall pull your rhubarb with a one, two, three.

With a highly-lighly-lighly,
A highly-frayo-loo,
Pull hard Bugger Gnomes,
We’ve a job to do.”

Brian watched in amazement as the Bugger Gnomes went about gardening. They threw little grappling hooks to scale the mighty rhubarb stalks, dug deep trenches around each plant and hacked at its trunks with tiny scythes. One by one each rhubarb stick was chopped and dragged to Brian’s wicker basket as he looked on with glee. (in rapture?)
“At this rate we’ll have enough rhubarb for a rhubarb crumble supper with seconds to spare for both Caroline and meself!” Brian exclaimed as he rested on a nearby pumpkin and taking a long and hearty swig from the ginger beer in his thermos.

Within minutes the job had been done. “Thank you Bugger Gnomes!” Brian said as he shook each one by the hand, “How can I ever repay you? Hang about! I know. Here, take a stick of rhubarb with you lads. For your long journey. It’s the least I can do. By ‘eck, I’ve got enough, here take two. Fair thee well strange gnome folk, may your journey bring you every good fortune.” Brian happily passed Merry Ben two sticks of rhubarb, “You might want to put a couple of spoonfuls of sugar on that, it can be quite tart.” He picked up his basket and began to make his way home.

“Not so fast! Ho Ho!”


“We don’t want your rhubarb Brian. Though tis a very fine offer. If you’ll just give us our payment, we’ll be on our way....Ho ho!”


“Aye. Payment. You signed the agreement?”

Merry Ben reached back into his hat and produced the parchment signed earlier and passed it up to Brian. He read it once more.

“Gnome, gnomie gnomie gnome? Gnomie, gnomie gnomie gnome?”

“Not that, that’s Gnomish. The small print.”

“Once the agreed task has been performed to completion by the Bugger Gnomes a one-off payment is expected upon the demand of the Bugger Gnomes King. The payment of course being in the form of....”


“No. No! I would never, never...”

“Ho Ho! But you did! Why do you think we’re called Bugger Gnomes? A ‘mis-gnomer’? Ho Ho! Now pay up.”

Brian tried to make a run for it with his heavy wicker basket, but his lumbago, orthopaedic left shoe and the weight of his rhubarb slowed him down. He lost his balance and fell head first deep into the mud. After a struggle he managed to look up. Everything had gone dark, his thick glasses were caked solid in earth. He felt a sharp tug around both his welly boots, so strong that it forced both his legs to snap painfully together. The Bugger Gnomes had taken their opportunity. His legs were new bound together with the grappling strings the gnomes had used to climb the rhubarb plants. Merry Ben jumped from the garden, ran swiftly up Brian’s back and used him as a platform to bark orders to his men below.

“Bugger Gnomes Ho! Onward home!”

The little men were working hard now, dragging Brian back into the bramble bush from where they had emerged. He tried to stop them but their shear strength in numbers was proving too much, he looked desperately for something to grab onto, something that would help him resist their pull but there was nothing. The wily Bugger Gnomes had plucked every last rhubarb stalk, the field was bare and all Brian could do was flail his arms in vain, clawing for support. The gnome flautists struck up their tune once more.

We are the Bugger Gnomes,
And as Bugger Gnomes we’re fair,
We’re gonna take our payment,
In our Bugger Gnome bramble lair.

With a Bugger-rugger-ding-dong,
And after we’re done,
You won’t sit down for a month to come.

Brian cried out in despair as he felt the prickle of bramble thorns through the corduroy trousers at the top of his wellington boots, the gnomes had already reached the blackberry bush! He struggled to kick out but his feet were too tightly bound. There was no escape. He was to be buggered. There was a long tug on Brian’s hair. It was Merry Ben.

“Bugger Gnomes halt!”

The Bugger Gnomes stopped immediately in their tracks.

Brian heaved a sigh of relief through his mud-caked nostrils. A reprieve! He wouldn’t be buggered by Bugger gnomes after all! Of course! Why would they bugger him? He was too old for that! Why would they want him, with his lumbago and hairy old arse? They’d come to their senses, and just in time too.

“Bring the rhubarb sticks along lads. We may need them....Ho Ho! Onwards once more! Bagsy me first go.”

With another tug on Brian’s hair the gnomes proceeded to drag him further into the bush at the foot of the allotment. They continued with their song.

We are the Bugger Gnomes,
Singing our Bugger Gnomadic verse,
We’re gently and polite so please don’t fight,
Struggling will only make it worse.

With a pull-down-of-your-corduroys
And swift one-two-one-two
We’ll make sure your rhubarb gets back to you!


Back at home the clock on the drawing room mantle struck eleven. Afternoon had passed to evening had passed to night and Caroline had not heard from her husband for several hours. Where was he? He only needed to collect a few stalks of rhubarb for Pete’s sake! She paced the room chewing her bottom lip. She’d tried to distract herself; she’d made a crumble, had a shower and put on her favourite pyjamas. But there was no getting away from it. She was hungry! It’d been over six hours since she’d eaten and now Brian’s prolonged absence was causing hunger pains.

Then a ringing. The door!

Caroline ran to the porch. There stood her husband; bloody, badly scratched by brambles and weeping in the moonlight. His trousers were round his ankles. He let out a soft whimper.

“Bugger Gnomes.”



“What? You’ve been gone hours. Brian you look a mess. What a state. You only went out for rhubarb. Get your trollies back up. I can only hope that Mrs. Raven at no. 42 didn’t see you, it’ll be all round the estate by next week.”

Brian looked at her. Too weak to move. Too pained to answer.

“What happened to you? Brian....Where’s my rhubarb?”

Brian collapsed head first into the house, trousers still down by his ankles. With a stick of rhubarb up his jacksey he had answered both her questions in one.

The Pianist - Holly Prest

Time stops, a soul moves.

Weak arms and a strong heart burn,

Squinting eyes in the smoke,

Buckling legs.

Timbers fall as white hot flames crack,

Wood creaks,

Sounds alter, intentions finding their release in brilliant light.

Lost words and shouts,

Serenity runs in the air,

Change hangs

Perfectly late hits of brittle hammers on aging strings.

Everything is black and white.

Lush hills, proud crops, clovers,

Kestrels soar under a thunderous sky,

Dandelions, skeletons reborn on the wind.

Suspense or normality – Can Gardner obtain both? - Lauren Forbes

For many people in order to become a thriller writer you must be ruthless, careless and sly, but for others all you need is a creative imagination and the ability to take on a role and become someone else. Lisa Gardner is a successful writer of thriller novels that include severe cases and unimaginable crimes, making it hard to believe that underneath all the violence and ferocity she could be such a nice, genuine person. After claiming to have a normal house, normal parents and normal childhood in her youth you have to begin to wonder how much normality can affect a person and whether or not this allows a different perspective on life to be created within a smaller, well hidden part of your mind. All of these factors could contribute to allowing a person to create such wonderful, gripping novels, but when it comes down to it, it could just be that Lisa Gardner knows how to write a brilliant suspense novel.

After being born and growing up in Oregon, U.S.A, Gardner started her writing career under the false name of Alicia Scott and produced her first book, titled “Walking after midnight”, in her junior year of college. Following receiving a mere $3000 for the book, which took roughly three long, hard years to complete, she decided to settle down in to a ‘real career’, ending up working as a management consultant that she progressed to loathe and despise. It was due to this factor that Gardner began to spend all her free time writing romance novels, until one day she decided she needed a change and tried her hand at writing a suspense novel. The end result was “The Perfect Husband”, a book that masters all the expectations of a suspense novel and takes the reader on a tense journey from beginning to end, awarding Gardner with the Reviewer’s Choice Award in 1998. What followed after this successful book is a long list of gripping and engaging thriller novels that both wow and suspend the reader until the very last word.

Carrying on from her first victorious book was “The Other Daughter”, which is Gardner’s most successful book to date, once again winning Gardner the Reviewer’s Choice Award in 1999 and also the 2000 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Suspense. “The Other Daughter” is set in Texas where a serial killer is put to death, whilst alongside this storyline takes place the tale of a nine-year-old girl who is abandoned in a hospital. The narrative follows Melanie Stokes as she is adopted by a wealthy family, grows up and discovers something that brings fear and terror into her life. The suspense is rigid and unbending throughout, whilst tension and anticipation walk hand in hand alongside the plot, creating a spine tingling novel that cannot be put down. In this novel Gardner delves into the darker, more sinister side of family life, where the enraged and lived pace and suspense is continuous and present in every word. Melanie Stokes is a strong and independent character that passes as a very likeable person throughout the book. Through the detailed descriptions used of her personality and enjoyable sense of humour the audience can relate to her easily, making the downside of her story more emotional and gripping for the readers. The story is a roller coaster journey, with frequent ups and downs and the occasional loop, all of which the readers embark on with Stokes. On the other hand, Dr. Harper Stokes is a mysterious and captivating character, allowing enough suspicion to arouse in order that the audience begin to question him, but not enough that they completely doubt him, making the end result shocking and scandalous. All the characters within the book play a crucial role in developing the story and making it a well worth read that becomes completely glued to your hands until the moment you finish it.

Another greatly successful book of Gardner’s is “Gone”, which tells the story of Rainie Quincy and her disappearance that all seems self influenced up until ransom notes start appearing, increasing the suspense and drama in the novel to her normal well achieved standard. Making it clear that money, fame and power are driving the kidnapper into this terrible crime the audience join Quincy and his daughter, Kimberly, as they race against time, trying everything they can to rescues their loved one. Rainie bravely battles with her merciless captor, making her a great role model to women and encouraging people to sway towards her. Rainie herself is a strong, self-independent character who struggles with alcoholism and past events that hang over her head, refusing to let her get on with her life. These issues all contribute to the tension and anxiety that is present during the scenes with the kidnapper, allowing suspense to be close to tangible and the character to be more likable through her flaws. Opposite to the innocent victim, the hostage taker is a malicious and evil character that will stop at nothing, including murder, to achieve what he wants. The suspense is created through the constant ignorance created by the author, allowing suspicion to arise in all possible areas.

Gardner is a good representative to female victims, which are a very common theme within her books. The majority of her novels contain a lead female character that is victimised and singled out and that are treated in ways that make even the bravest of people flinch at the thought. Although this is the case, Gardner allows each female victim to overcome the problem and fight back against her attacker or captor. This presents a good image to all of Gardner’s female readers and especially any of them that have been victimised as it creates a positive picture that victimised women can overcome their fears and problems. It allows Gardner’s female readers to become more sympathetic towards the female characters within the book, permitting a compassionate outlook to be attained by these readers that ends in a positive outlook on how victimised women can accomplish a normal life style after a disturbing incident. It is fair to say that Gardner, showing women to be the stronger sex emotionally and showing how they can overcome anything, takes a fairly feministic approach. This general outlook that is present within all her books allows an optimistic method to be produced and lapped up by her readers, especially the female ones.

Gardner is always generous to her readers, offering them more than just her wonderful books. Here, she has allowed her readers a little insight into her mind and offers her opinions happily:

1. How would you describe your style of writing?
Suspense. I try to make a story believable by making the characters

2. Which of your books would you say is your favourite and why?
I would have to say any book that I just finished writing.

3. Which of your books was the hardest to write and why?
My most recent book, SAY GOODBYE, was difficult to write. The
topic of predators was especially hard to research.

4. Which of your books was the easiest to write and why?
I have yet to have a book be easy to write. I’ll have to let you
know when that happens.

5. How old were you when you started writing?
I began writing when I was 17 and published at 19

6. Where do you get your inspiration from?
True life and true crimes. I find inspiration in news stories.

7. How do you create your characters and are they based on people you know?
Each of my characters are their own entity. Portions of people I know may be in
many of my characters.

8.Would you relate yourself to any of your characters?
I can’t say that I have written myself into a character. My voice lies in the written
words and story. That is how I become part of my novels.

9. How long, on average, does it take for you to write a book?
I write one book a year, with about 3 months dedicated to research and 6 months
to write the pages. The other 3 months in the year are spent on book promotion
and trying to enjoy my family.

10. What is your next planned career move? What is next for you?
I do not expect any big changes in my career. Like many authors,
I hope to land higher in “lists” and to write a better novel each time.


i want to join you asleep
at the edge off sunrise
and groan gently
across the breeze
into your eyebrows.

i want to carry you across
the finish line
in a camera shot finish
without you even
stirring slightly once.

want to score the winning goal
at wembley in injury time
and have you asleep
smiling on my shoulder
all the way home.

Want to look at the frozen tide
which is calling me awake
at 5 in the morning
and then contrast it
with the restless movement of your head.

but across the frozen wastelands
in the nearness of your lips
i could taste their moistness go cold
as i reach to kiss you
while watching the sunrise.

i could feel their blood redness
turn a cold purple
as you groan once
and then sub-consciously
turn away to look at the ground.

i want to join you asleep
at the edge off sunrise
and groan gently
across the breeze
into your eyebrows.

but your tears carry
me across the tide
in silence
until sadness is but a memory
and i can't turn back.